Following is a preliminary review based on a week of operation of the Wink Hub 2 home automation hub, by Flextronics. This device sports several impressive features and I wanted to get the information I have to date posted. I will continue to update and add to this review as I put this device through its paces, and attempt to work through a few of the noted issues.
Preliminary: Top pick for those who favor ease of use, reliability, and local control over device and integration flexibility
The idea of a smart home is as exciting to some as it is frustrating to others. While there are a multitude of central controllers out there from which to choose, the original Wink hub has consistently been on my short list of recommended hubs – particularly for those with less patience for instabilities and arcane setup procedures and who are willing to forgo support for the latest bleeding edge peripheral devices.
I must admit, before I even opened the box to this next generation Wink Hub 2, I had high hopes for the device. By most accounts, Flex had put together a solid offering with this product. The question I was hoping to answer with this review is whether or not the Wink Hub 2 could be the best choice for some – or even most user’s home automation and control needs.
And spoiler alert – the answer is a resounding maybe.
Along with many other home automation enthusiasts, I have been waiting to see how the American-based international electronics manufacturing giant Flex (formerly Flextronics) would approach the Wink product line. Flex acquired the Wink platform for $15 million in November 2015 from the invention incubation company Quirky, two months after Quirky filed for chapter 11. Arguably, at that acquisition price, Flex’s intention could have been to cut investment and focus solely on squeezing out profits from continued sales, while putting the Wink platform on a slow death march.
I was very pleased however in September when Flex unveiled the all-new Wink Hub 2. My primary reasons were twofold, and had little to do with the impressive technical features of the device itself:
- The release of new platform hardware is a strong indicator of Flex’s continued support of the Wink product line.
- Competition in any industry is almost always a good thing for consumers, and this is certainly true in today’s home automation market. You can safely bet that SmartThings, Vera Home Controls, HomeSeer, and likely a plethora of other home automation controller players took note of this updated product offering.
Although the added features of the Wink Hub 2 are more evolutionary than revolutionary from an architecture perspective, the updates address what I consider to be Wink’s most glaring issues relating to its cloud-based dependency and Wi-Fi connectivity stability. With the Wink Hub 2, Flex steps up the original Wink’s game, by adding 5GHz and wired connectivity options, an improved and hopefully actually functionally practical BlueTooth LE radio, and most importantly, faster processing and more memory for increased speed and reliability for local control of schedules and automations.
The Wink Hub 2 two offers several improvements over its predecessor:
Added Features and Components
|The Wink Hub 2 includes the capabilities of the original Wink Hub plus:
Flex boasts that the new Wink Hub 2 offers a slimmer look and more elegant finish that the original hub, and I do agree they have hit the mark here. Of the top rated home automation controllers I have reviewed to date, the Wink Hub is the first hub I would feel comfortable placing on a bookshelf in my living room.
The Wink Hub 2 package contents include the 7.25″ x 7.25″x 1.25″ hub itself, a 12V, 1A AC/DC power adapter, ethernet cable, and the Wink Hub 2 Quick Start Guide. The back of the unit is as minimal as the rest of the hub, and only includes ports for the power adapter and ethernet cable. There is a small paper clip sized reset button on the bottom of the unit.
Initial set-up requires that you download the Wink mobile app via the Apple App Store or Google Play Store and connect your hub to your home network either directly via its ethernet port or via Wi-Fi. I was impressed with how easy it was to connect the hub to my Wi-fi network thanks to the hub’s auto-discovery feature, which eliminates the old-school and arduous manual task of first joining your mobile device to a local hub network before proceeding with Wi-Fi configuration.
For existing first generation Wink hub users, the Wink app can automatically transfer existing smart products, automations, and personal settings from the original device to the Wink Hub 2, in a matter of minutes. Since I did not have a current Wink setup, I was unable to test this capability, but initial user reports appear to indicate that this feature works well. While this hub migration capability may sound like a trivial and necessary feature, it is something that SmartThings Hub users have been clamoring for for years now.
In addition to support of manual device actions via and Apple IOS or Android mobile device, Wink provides fairly simple and intuitive controls for more advanced groupings and automations through what they term as Robots, Schedules and Shortcuts:
Robots: Event-based rules to allow devices to automatically work together and respond to triggers in your system. For example, you can create robots to turn your front porch light on when your Wink app detects that you have arrived home at night, or turn on and off your closet light based on the closet door sensor being opened or closed.
- Schedules: Time-based rules for operating your devices at certain times, days, or weeks, or based on local Sunrise/Sunset times.
- Shortcuts: Allow you to control multiple devices with a single press or automated action. For example, you can create a goodnight shortcut that lowers the blinds, adjusts the thermostat, turns off the lights, and locks the doors. You can also enable and disable Robots from a shortcut. Shortcuts are also how you interact with your Wink devices via IFTTT services and the IOS Apple Watch or Android Wear interfaces.
In less than an hour of powering up my Wink Hub 2, I was able to add several of my existing wall switches, door/window sensors, flood sensors, and a Nest thermostat to the hub. The Wink mobile app is relatively intuitive, and I was able to quickly create Schedules to turn my certain lights on at sunset and off at sunrise, and also created a Robot to trigger turning on and off additional lamps based on the state of a room wall switch. Even more impressively, with just a few button presses using the Wink’s built-in capabilities, I was able to create a Robot to automatically turn on my front porch lights anytime my phone was detected entering my home’s geofence area between sunset and sunrise.
In just a matter of minutes, I also was able to enable the Wink Skill on my Amazon Echo Alexa app. The Alexa – Wink integration worked very well for me, and after telling Alexa to discover my newly added devices, I was able to control them by their assigned names, using simple English commands such as “Alexa, turn on front porch light”, “Alexa set entry light to 20%”, and “Alexa, set hallway temperature to 75”.
To test the local control capabilities of the Wink Hub 2, I disconnected my home network router from the internet by removing it from my cable modem. As promised, my connected light switches responded quickly and reliably when controlled by iPhone which was still connected wirelessly to my network. I also found that Robots/automations performed consistently and reliable without the internet connection.
After using the Wink Hub 2 now for about a week now, I am pleased with its intuitive and stable operation. When connected directly to my router using the included ethernet cable, my hub has been 100% reliable. My sunrise and sunset lighting rules and simple Robot/automations have executed flawlessly during the past week.
Issues/Areas for improvement
I’m still evaluating the Wink Hub and working through my system configuration, but after nearly a week of operation, following are my biggest issues encountered to date. I will continue to update and revise this list as I become more familiar with the platform and hopefully work through some of these concerns:
- Somewhat arduous process for adding devices. Despite the mobile app’s generally simple and streamlined UI, the procedure for adding devices seems more arduous than necessary. For example, when adding a Z-Wave light switch, after choosing “Add a Product” on the app main page, you must then specify that you are choosing to add a light, and then must choose between dozens of lighting types, such as GE In-Wall Smart Dimmer (Z-Wave) or a generic Z-Wave, or Zigbee. Although there are some exceptions to how fully this can be implemented, determining which type of device has been added after the fact as SmartThings and other hubs do would be a welcome addition. Although the Wink does support adding a device via its UPC barcode I did not typically use this method, since my devices were already installed in my home.
- The selection of compatible Wink devices is comparatively limited. I was unable to add several of my favorite Z-Wave devices, such as the Sensative Strips Door/Window Sensor and the Aeon Labs Z-Wave speaker/doorbell that work quite well the SmartThings Hub and the HomeSeer Zee S2 controllers. Although the Wink Hub 2 supports basic functionality of my top recommended HomeSeer HS-WD100+ and HS-WS100+ Z-Wave in-wall switches and dimmers, the Wink Hub does not support the double and triple tap capabilities of these switches and there is no available interface for a user to add this capability.
- Lack of virtual switch/mode support. My existing home automation setup relies extensively on distinct modes. Modes can greatly simplify home automation processing rules, and are sometimes supported by other controllers, such as the SmartThings Hub and HomeSeer through virtual devices. For example, I use a “Rain Mode” virtual switch that is set via IFTTT to disable garden watering when rain is in the forecast. I also use fairly complex logic to set an electricity time-of-use virtual mode switch that overrides certain home automations during periods that my utility company has scheduled increased rates. I also use home and away modes that can be set manually or by phone presence. Later, if a door, window or motion event is detected when I’m away, I receive defined notifications. Aside from using an existing physical switch to represent the modes in my system, I have not found a comparable straightforward approach to accomplish these actions with Wink, although admittedly I need to further investigate options here.
- Limited developer resources. Although Wink does provide a RESTful API for integration with the Wink platform, it was not apparent to me that Wink provides anything remotely similar or as capable as the integrated custom device handler and smart app capabilities of the SmartThings Hub.
- Limited community support. When working through my Wi-Fi and virtual switch issues with the Wink Hub, I sorely missed the active and often vibrant forums supporting other popular controllers, such as SmartThings, HomeSeer and Vera.
- Slow wireless reconnect time. Despite being approximately 20 feet from my router, in my testing, the Wink Hub 2 would take excessively long (approximately 10 minutes or longer) to reconnect wirelessly when I rebooted my router. While testing, I had dozens of other Wi-Fi devices also connected to the (highly recommended) ASUS RT-AC88U Wireless-AC3100 Dual Band Gigabit Router and through all of this, the other devices consistently reconnected quickly after router reboots.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Although this is a preliminary assessment, and I will continue to update and add to this review as I put this device through its paces, I currently do recommend the Wink 2 Hub For those who favor ease of use, reliability, and local control over device and integration flexibility.
The Wink Hub 2 is a reasonably priced device supporting an impressive protocol collection of Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron ClearConnect, Bluetooth LE, and Kidde. The local control capabilities of the hub worked well for me and I am comforted to know that my schedules and automations will continue to operate even if my internet connection or the Wink cloud is unavailable.
If the cons below are of concern for you and you are willing to accept cloud control for manual interactions and some automations, I would recommend the SmartThings Hub (see the DarwinsDen.com SmartThings Hub review) over the Wink 2 Hub. For those concerned about security and performance issues with cloud-based home automation solutions, all of the controllers listed in the Home Automation Controller Comparison Table that are indicated as having Local Control capability, such as the Mi Casa Verde VeraPlus, Universal Devices ISY994i Z and HomeSeer Home Troller Zee S2 are very capable devices and worth evaluating for your home automation needs.
Visit the following reference pages for an overview of which controller hubs and devices may be best for your specific system needs:
- Good reliability based on limited testing and initial user reports
- Relatively intuitive mobile app user interface
- Reliable basic operation without internet connectivity
- Apple Watch and Android Wear support
- IFTTT support
- Amazon Echo support
- Comparatively limited selection of Wink compatible devices
- Lack of virtual switch/mode support
- Limited developer resources
- Somewhat arduous process for adding devices
- Limited community support
- No desktop/browser support
- Slow wireless reconnect time
- No Google Home support
Did you test it with the HomeSeer switches and does the central scene class work?
Hi Chad. I briefly tested the Wink with the HomeSeer switches, and while they appeared to work fine as standard Z-Wave switches and dimmers with the Wink, I saw no indication that any of the Central Scene class capabilities were supported
They really missed the mark in several areas. Creating robots should not remove devices from the list if you have already selected them. This voids the idea of having one device do several things for automation. It takes true automation away. Example. Let’s say I set my unit to trigger a light on when garage door is opened. Let’s say I want that light to change colors a few minutes after it has opened. I can’t. Why because the light is removed from the list of options which again, takes automation away.
The lack of harmony add-on support is another missed opportunity. There shouldn’t be any explanation there because that speaks for itself. You should be able to move objects to certain other areas in the app such as a switch that operates a water heater contractors Why is it lights. Why can’t I move it.
Several other missed marks to me but deploying this product without adequate in-home testing by those who have a lot of automation experience was a terrible mistake.
Thanks for this timely review of Wink 2. I have one for my remote cabin which barely has (costly) internet data service through tethered cellphone. I have been mostly satisfied with it’s performance with timing lights, activating them on command, and notifying me via cellphone notifications of events. I share your observation/frustration that many devices are not supported, including GE’s hybrid water heater control module Connect and the original Quirky Spotter Multipurpose Sensor (1st Gen) which was supported on Wink 1 and is listed on the add screen of Wink 2 but simply displays a message on non-support and advises you to return the Spotter to the place of purchase! Small gripes to be sure. I wonder if you or any of our friends have been able to use the Arriving or Departing conditions in a Robot to actuate something like a light? I have tried but got no actuation. One more comment, the Wink 2 has required downloaded updates at least twice since I’ve owned it – using up my expensive cell data!
Hi Lyss. Thanks for the feedback. I’ve only done a very limited test using a Hub 2 Robot with a geofence location to turn on a light, and although it did work for me, I can’t say it’s much of a data point at this time. Interesting comment about the Wink Hub 2 requiring download updates. Unexpected automatic firmware updates are something that’s easy to overlook when evaluating controllers for mission-critical systems and for remote/limited internet access environment. I wish Wink and SmartThings would let you choose if and when to download these updates, but i’m sure at this point in the game, it’s much easier for them to force everyone to stay in sync with their software – at least as best as they can.
I wanted to dig deeper before reporting back. According to Vinny at Wink, the app wants you to input an address, will not accept GPS coordinates, and uses only the cell towers to determine your location and normally triggers within 100 feet of the address. Therefore, using only the Wink app, the location dependent robots are not very reliable in remote locations where connection to cell towers is spotty as you approach your destination and the destination may not have a street address. Here I should say that I was clueless about IFTTT.com until Vinny told me they might have a recipe which uses WiFi for location. (I thought that IFTTT was built into the Wink 2 hub but was surprised to learn that IFTTT.com provides this web-based functionality.) That said, I created an IFTTT.com account, linked my Wink account, and was able to create my own Applet called “If You enter an area, then activate Wink shortcut”. This uses WiFi or cell data and Android location services to determine your phone’s location. This makes it easy to adjust the circular geofence to include known cell reception areas. The IFTTT.com interface lets you zoom into the circular area where the action will be triggered upon entry. I know I’m answering a question you didn’t ask, but thought I would post the info for others in remote locations.
Great information. Thanks Lyss. IFTTT definitely has its advantages over the geofence capabilities of many Smart Home apps. Even compared with SmartThings, IFTTT supports multiple geofence areas vs. one single location. It’s interesting that the Wink app may be limiting its location accuracy to cell signal vs using the phone’s internal location which should be based on a best accuracy location using GPS, Cell, and WiFi together – as you mentioned IFTTT does.