ProsClass-leading hardware features; very easy setup; reasonable price; huge range of compatible devices; amazing support
ConsSmartphone app could be more responsive and better organized; some "Works with Wink" products are better than others
There are a few ways to judge the performance of the Wink Hub 2. First, we can look at ease of setup and device installation. Second, we can look at performance via the Wink app. And third, we can look at how the device works independent of the app, either via a schedule, triggers, or another control method, such as the Amazon Echo voice assistant. We’ll consider each of these in turn, starting with setup. To test the Wink Hub 2, we used the following third-party devices:
- one Amazon Echo
- two Amazon Echo Dots
- five Lutron Caseta dimmers
- four Lutron Pico remotes
- four GE Link BR30 bulbs
- five Cree Connected bulbs
- one Commercial Electric smart downlight
- two Leviton Decora Z-Wave dimmers
- one Leviton Decora Z-Wave switch
- one Leviton plug-in dimmer module
- one Leviton plug-in appliance module
- one Ring Stick Up Cam
- one Carrier Cor thermostat
- one Schlage Connect smart lock
Device installation was fairly straightforward. We already had a large number of devices working on the original Hub, and the Wink Hub 2 walked us through transferring our device over. The one sticking point was that our Lutron Caseta switches all needed to be manually reconnected one at a time, but at least the Wink App made this clear from the start. We also tried adding a few new products from scratch to the Wink Hub 2, and setup worked well, but we're a bit surprised it isn't even a bit faster. The Wink Hub 2 may be quicker than the original Hub, but new users may still be flummoxed by the process, thinking that their products are not connecting when in fact it just requires a bit of a wait. We were also a little surprised that the WiFi setup was more complicated than with the original Hub, and we're pretty sure Wink has designed the Hub 2 to favor a hard-wired connection. We don't blame the company, as it removes a significant source of technical problems. That being said, once we got up and running via hard-wired connection, it was overly complicated to switch to a wireless connection.
In terms of performing operations via the Wink App, controls were very fast, but this was true of the original Hub too, at least for lighting, which had gone "local" with a firmware upgrade in early 2016. What the Hub 2 offers is faster control of other devices, particularly locks, which were never locally controlled before. We can confirm that the Hub 2 was much faster locking and unlocking our Schlage Connect lock. Unfortunately, we found that the App still seemed laggy, displaying the wrong status for certain products, or only showing status changes long after the change took effect. For example you might tap the App to shut off a light, which would happen instantaneously, but the App would continue to show the light as on for 10 seconds or so.
Another issue we have with the Wink App is that while it's cheerful and cute, it's not particularly well organized. Given how many types of devices the Wink Hub 2 can control, we're simply shocked that Wink has continued to separate out schedules by device type. This just isn't how people operate devices while they're at home; they're much more likely to do so by room. Want to schedule your living room lights to turn on, blinds to close, and thermostat to turn up the heat at sunset? That's going to require three different schedules, thank you very much. We also think Wink should add a schedule option for locks. We totally understand that scheduling the unlocking of doors isn't safe, but scheduling the locking of doors makes a lot of sense, and yet isn't possible in the current App.
Luckily, all of these troubles fade away once you combine the Wink Hub 2 with an Amazon Echo. Simply put, this is the future of home automation. Where the Wink App may stumble in controlling devices, the Echo almost always gets it right, and does it faster too. As far as we're concerned, users should be setting up schedules with the Wink App, and then never looking at it again, using Echoes to control devices on a daily basis. It's amazing to think that when the original Hub was launched, there was no Echo, and when the Echo launched a few months later, it didn't heavily advertise its compatibility with Wink. Simply put, these two products were made for each other! We'll also give a shout out to our favorite lighting products, the Cree Connected bulb and the Lutron Caseta dimmers, which are simply best-in-class in terms of ease-of-use and performance.
We can't quite say the same of all third-party devices, and indeed Wink is let down most by certain products that it's forced to back via its website and tech support representatives. We've found issues with a number of our lighting products, specifically the GE Link bulb, which loses its association with the Wink app and requires reinstallation whenever the Hub is turned off or loses power, and the Commercial Electric Smart Downlight, which sometimes does the same thing, and is an absolute pain to get reconnected. We wouldn't recommend either light at this point. We also feel that security cameras just aren't all that well integrated into Wink, in part because they can't directly communicate with the Hub (they use WiFi to send data, which Wink doesn't use for devices). The Ring Stick Up Cam we sampled is best described as a work in progress in terms of functionality. While its fully-wireless design is very appealing, aggressive battery management is needed to keep it running, which limits what Wink can do with it. Basically, it's only useful as a motion sensor in the Wink environment.
In drawing conclusions about the Wink Hub 2, it's hard to escape the fact that the Hub 2 is only as good as the devices you pair with it. And that makes it a difficult product to rate, and likely a very difficult product to make money on (indeed, as of early 2016, Wink still wasn't profitable, but perhaps the Hub 2 will help it turn a corner in that regard). But in surpassing both its predecessor and all of its competitors, the Hub 2 has become the Smart Home hub to beat. It's sleek, easy to use, offers robust hardware, and is backed by the most dedicated team of tech support agents we've ever encountered. Seriously, they really want you to get the most out of this product! Alas, the Wink App, which for many consumers will be the main method of interaction with Smart Home devices, is in desparate need of a revamp. It's utilized the same basic layout for years, but times have changed, and the App needs changing too. Luckily, that's something Wink can continue to work on, meaning today's buyers of the Hub 2 will be able to enjoy an even better experience down the line.
The Wink Hub 2 is available for $99 shipped from Amazon, as of our publication date, and not surprisingly is selling quite well.
For advice on the best gear to buy when setting up your own Smart Home, see our Smart Home Buyer's Guide, our Smart Lighting Buyer's Guide, and for an overview of what Smart Home tech can do for you, see our Complete Guide to the Smart Home.