Wink Hub 2 Review
The Wink Hub 2 is a hub that we have had a lot of experience working with in our home and we find it very easy to use once you have it set up. It is one of our recommended smart home hubs because it can control a wide variety of devices and it is easy to use.
It is great for the person who wants the flexibility to add a wide variety of devices from an equally wide array of manufacturers. Be prepared to tinker a bit to get everything working well, but once it is all set then you shouldn't have to mess around with the system very much.
TheIOTpad highly recommends considering Wink if you are in the market for a new smart home system.
What We Like:
- Works with a wide variety of devices: Z-Wave, Zigbee, WiFi, and Bluetooth LE support — lots of officially Wink-Certified products
- Connecting Wink to new devices is easy, especially with Auto-discovery and guided setup
- Local Control makes commands quick — avoids delays due to round-trip server calls
- Allows multiple users/phones to control devices
- Clean app interface is easy to navigate
- Requires monthly subscription to operate
- Programming automations (called Robots) can be complicated for non-techies
- No voice control without adding Amazon Echo or Google Home
- It is quite large at 7.25" x 7.25" x 1.25" thick
- Should be located at least 15-feet away from WiFi router and other WiFi devices
- No battery backup
Before You Buy:
- Make sure you can position the hub at least 15-feet away from your Wi-Fi router to prevent interference.
The form of the device is a thin and curved white plastic case that is nicely designed. We were a little surprised by the size: 7.25" x 7.25" x 1.25" thick. The box stands quite tall and we would much rather have a shorter case that would blend in with other electronics a little better. It is by no means ugly — just a little large for our taste.
There is a thin bar LED light along one side that glows solid blue when everything is working correctly. This LED also provides error codes based on the color and flashing pattern. The most common error you will see is the "Breathing yellow," which means the network is disconnected. You can find the full range of error codes on the manufacturer's FAQ page.
When you do your un-boxing, you will find the hub, a power cable, a white Ethernet patch cord, and the product manual.
Wink is one of the first smart home hub manufacturers that requires users to pay for a subscription, which costs $4.99 per month (as of late 2020).
Wink says that you can sign into multiple phones with a single account so you shouldn't have to purchase a subscription for each person in your household. However, we think the fee should be charged per home and you should be able to allow anyone to control your home within that subscription, much like other companies offer Family Plans.
While $60 per year may seem crazy to pay since other hubs are free to use, you should understand why they need to charge for their service. When you connect a device or wish to operate a device remotely, your phone sends a command to the Wink servers through the internet and then the Wink servers send that command down to your home and device. It costs money to run those servers, yet Wink only makes money when you first buy one of their products.
Other companies, like Google or Amazon, use data about how you use your smart home to help advertise to you or to sell you other products. Some companies, like Apple, sell products with higher margins and more turnover so they can afford to operate their services.
Wink claims that they do not sell your data. In addition, you don't have to buy new Wink products every few years so it is challenging to continue operating their servers without some revenue coming in. Therefore, you must pay to use their services.
We decided to list the required subscription as a flaw above since no other smart home company requires a subscription, but you may find this to be a benefit if you prefer that companies don't use your data to their benefit.
The Wink Hub 2 connects to your network (and the internet) via an Ethernet cable or WiFi, supporting both 2.4GHz and 5GHz so you should have no problem connecting to devices around your home. You can place it anywhere since it doesn't require a wired internet connection, but it must be near an electrical outlet for power. We suggest connecting it to the Ethernet port on your router for a more reliable connection. However, Wink recommends locating the hub at least 15 feet away from your router so you may need a longer cable.
Once you are connected, the Auto-discovery feature makes setting up a new device a breeze, but you can also fall back on manual discovery if you have problems. More on that a bit later.
|Protocols||WiFi, Bluetooth LE, Z-Wave, Zigbee, Lutron Clear Connect, Kidde, Ethernet|
|Voice Control||No — can be added with Alexa or Google Assistant|
|Vacation Mode||Yes (Home Sitter)|
Radios / Protocols
The best part about the Wink system is that is will connect to a very wide array of devices since it supports ZigBee and Z-Wave, which are industry standard IOT communications protocols. This allows you to choose from a huge number of peripherals — you aren't locked into their own proprietary devices. You can even connect to Bluetooth devices. In addition, the Wink Hub 2 can connect to the Amazon Echo and Google Home if you want to add voice control.
You can easily grant access to other people so they can control all of the devices on your network. Every user must have their own email-confirmed Wink account. First, you open the app and navigate to the hub. Tap the settings button (three blue dots or gear symbol in the upper-right) then select the hub you want to allow someone else to access. Scroll down to Users and tap "Add a User". Enter their email address and follow the prompts.
You can also share access to individual devices by following the same procedure above from a specific device page in the app. This allows you to provide control on a very granular level if you don't want someone to have access to everything.
Wink doesn't have built-in voice control capability, but they have partnered with Amazon to allow the hub to be controlled by the Amazon Echo, Echo Plus, or the Amazon Echo Dot. You can also link to the Google Home for voice control.
We think controlling your lights with voice commands is a bit gimmicky, but it is quicker and occasionally convenient if your phone is out of reach and you don't want to get up — it is also very helpful when you have your arms full and you need to turn the lights on.
In older models, the hub would suffer from a lag when using the app to control devices from within the home. This happened because the app would send the command from your phone or tablet to Wink servers, which would send the command to the hub, then the hub would tell the device to adjust. The Wink Hub 2 corrects this lag by allowing the app to communicate directly with the hub when you are in the house. This eliminates the server communications and your devices respond much quicker.
Another great feature is Geo-fencing, which uses your phone's location to help control your home. This allows you to set up automations that perform tasks based on your location since you almost always have your cell phone with you. For instance, you can program the system to turn on the lights in your house once you are within a block of home. Or you could tell the system to set the thermostat to 72-degrees when you leave the office.
One feature that we'd like to see on all smart home hubs is the ability to run a vacation mode. The vacation mode should keep the thermostat at a set temperature (ignoring the programmed schedule), it should turn lights on and off randomly, and it should also randomly control radios or TVs to make it look like you are home.
Wink's version of vacation mode is called Home Sitter. This feature automatically turns lights on and off to make it look like someone is home. Simply open the app and toggle the Home Sitter feature to ON and let the service take it from there. Unfortunately, Home Sitter only works with lighting so you cannot control other devices.
IFTTT Control - If This, Then That
IFTTT is a web service that helps integrate communications between different devices, software, and services. You can take two things that normally don't communicate and make them work together.
Battery backup is not included so you will lose control of the hub and your devices when the power goes out. This generally isn't a big deal because most other devices don't work without power. However, it would be nice for security devices to maintain a connection to the hub during an outage.
If the power does go out, all of your devices should re-connect to the hub when the power is restored. In the event that things aren't working when the power is back on, then you should try to reboot your WiFi router.
We don't consider this to be a major fault, but if you need battery backup for your system then you should look at other options.
Two of the main benefits of the Wink Hub are the Z-Wave and Zigbee radios. These allow it to connect to a very wide range of different components. You should be able to connect any Z-Wave or Zigbee device to your Wink and control it with the app. You may not have access to all features for non-certified products, but you should be able to make them work. Simply navigate to the product category and click to add a Generic Z-Wave or Zigbee component.
For best compatibility and full functionality you should look for Wink-Certified products. Certified products go through extensive testing and you will have access to strong customer support. Wink has certified products from a long list of popular brands including Amazon, Google, Schlage, Lutron, Leviton, GE, Nest, Ecobee, Honeywell, Ring, Kidde, Sonos, and many more. These are all big names in the industry so you won't have a problem finding good components to add to your system.
The Wink App
Wink's app is visually appealing and well designed so you can quickly control your devices. As you can see, the color scheme is blue with white and gray. The categories have nicely designed icons that some may find a bit cartoonish, but it is clear what they control. It is also very easy to find your way around the app.
There are a few sections available along the bottom of the app:
The Home menu gives you access to the different product categories so you can go in and make adjustments. Once inside a category you can set up each device, group devices, create schedules, and monitor activity.
The Shortcuts menu is the place to create (you guessed it) shortcuts to help you do common or repetitive tasks. Shortcuts can be simple single commands or longer commands that adjust multiple devices. For instance, you can create a Wake Up shortcut that turns the lights on, raises the temperature, and turns on the coffee pot's outlet.
The Robots menu is where you setup and enable automations. We'll get to robots in a moment, but this is where you can create complex commands that trigger when something else happens. For instance, you can have a series of actions take place when the sun sets, when you arrive home, or when you leave home.
Finally, the Activity menu opens a running log of everything that has happened in your home and who did it. Want to know when the kids got home from school? You can see the exact moment they unlocked the door.
Setup is fairy simple and the manufacturer website walks you through the steps.
First, download the app (iOS App Store) (Google Play Store) and create an account. Click "Add a Product" in the app and select the Wink Hub 2. Plug the hub in and connect it to Ethernet if desired. Follow the instructions in the app to connect the hub to your account.
Once the hub is set up, you can add devices through the auto-discovery feature or by using the guided setup to manually configure your components. Certified products appear in the menus, but there is also an option to add generic Z-Wave or Zigbee devices. The app walks you through the setup process step by step, but sometimes it takes a few tries for the system to discover the device.
Programming the Wink Robots, which is the nickname used for automations, took a bit of getting used to. You select a series of events that have to be true from a list of options and then you tell the device what to do (this is commonly called if-this, then-that). You can require multiple events (ifs) to be true; for instance it must be less than 65-degrees in the house and it must be after 3PM on a Wednesday. You can also have multiple commands happen (thats); e.g. turn the thermostat up to 72-degrees and turn the porch light on. This may be complicated for non-techies, but setting up your Robots can be quite fun once you get the hang of it.
Of course, the Wink website provides more detailed and thorough support than we can provide.
The original Wink Hub was slightly larger then the new Wink Hub 2. It has the same Zigbee and Z-Wave support, but it only works with 2.4GHz WiFi (no 5GHz or Ethernet port). The older version doesn't include a Bluetooth radio. The original hub doesn't have auto-discovery all device setup is manual.
Should you upgrade from the original controller to the Wink Hub 2? If your system is working well then we don't see a reason to upgrade. However, if you want to connect with an Ethernet port, use 5GHz WiFi, or make use of the device auto-discovery feature then you may want to consider upgrading. The newer version is also a bit better looking in our opinion.
If you decide to upgrade, be sure to use the auto-transfer feature that moves all of your devices and settings from the old hub to your new hub.
We are not aware of any security issues with Wink products. The recall noted above was apparently caused by an incorrect security configuration, but doesn't appear to have resulted a security breech — rather, many hubs simply failed to connect to Wink's servers. Check out the Wink Security page for more information on how they handle security.
About the Manufacturer
Wink is a relatively stable company, but it hasn't always been this way. According to Wikipedia, the company started at an invention incubator named Quirky and then spun off as its own company in 2014. A configuration problem with the original hub required a recall and caused some serious financial problems in 2015. However, Wink stood by their product and performed a voluntary recall to fix the issue. The company was sold in 2015 to Flextronics, who sold the company in 2017 for a substantial profit. It appears their problems are behind them.
As discussed above, the company relies on user subscriptions for revenue. That may indicate they are struggling for revenue, but it may also provide a stable source of revenue going forward.