Smart Home Control with the Wink Hub 2
Update April 16, 2020: We no longer use our Wink Hub 2. Read why here.
We purchased our first Wink smart home Hub in 2014, from Home Depot, not too long after it first became available. At the time we had been experimenting with other smart home hubs, including SmartThings, Lowe’s Iris and Staples Connect, and Wink was one of the first to start connecting devices we had already had for some time, such as our Chamberlain MyQ and Nest Thermostat. We were really excited about the Wink Relay, which promised to allow us to control all these things from a little panel in our kitchen, so we wouldn’t need to open our phones. We also loved the fact that Wink had a dedicated customer support line with real people in New York answering the phone whenever we needed.
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However, as we kept connecting more and more devices to our Wink Hub, we began to run into some problems. Because the platform was cloud based, it would take forever for some devices to turn on or off using the Relay or the Tapt Smart Switch. The Tapt Smart Switch in particular very rarely worked, making the lamp it was connected to only really accessible through the app. The Wink Relay also had latency problems with the embedded switches, and sometimes would just freeze or restart for no reason. While we loved having the ability to call the support line, we found ourselves spending way too much time talking to them. Finally in April of 2015, Wink bricked our Hub along with thousands of others in a much publicized botched security upgrade, and the company very publicly put itself up for sale. We found an alternative hub with local control, the Zipato Zipabox, and were ready to jettison our Wink platform entirely.
Then we got our first Amazon Echo, and found that Wink was one of the smart home hubs natively integrated with it. What this means is that our Echo was able to immediately discover our devices attached to the Wink, so we could start accessing them, and we could just say “Alexa, turn on kitchen,” to turn on all our kitchen lights. Once we connected to the Echo, all the latency problems disappeared and our Wink-connected devices basically responded immediately to our commands. Suddenly we were not in such a hurry to turn it off.
Wink was acquired by Flex, and in October last year, they released their second generation hub, the Wink Hub 2. We bought it as soon as it was released and are pleased the upgrade.
Wink did a really great job of helping original users like us upgrade to the new platform. They included a really easy to use migration tool that discovered all of our connected devices and moved them to the new hub, a huge time saver. If we had been forced to re-pair all of our Z-Wave switches, that would have taken at least a couple of hours, if not longer. They automatically re-set our first hub back to its original settings, so we could have given it (or sold it) to someone else, but we decided not to bother. It would have been nice if Wink offered original customers like us some kind of upgrade (or perhaps recycling) program to convert to the new platform, like Iris did, but we were okay with buying the new hub.
One of the best improvements of the Hub 2 is its local control of connected devices, storing schedules and triggers in its own memory, making our smart home far more responsive. This also means that if our Internet goes down for some reason, we can still operate these devices through the app, as long as we are connected to our home WiFi network. We have been really pleased with the better and more reliable performance so far.
More radios support more devices
The Wink Hub 2 added an Ethernet port, 5 Ghz Wifi, and Bluetooth LE radios to its new platform, allowing it to support even more devices. The addition of Bluetooth LE in particular is great as a lot of new devices are using it. We are really happy that Wink added support recently for the Switchmate smart switches, which we have been recommending to a lot of friends who don’t want to hassle with replacing in-wall switches. We have added our Switchmate to our robots and schedules and it is working nicely.
Wink Relay Improvements
Wink has tremendously improved the stability and functionality of the Wink Relay and we have benefited from these software upgrades. It now includes an intercom feature, and customizable wizards that you can program to do certain tasks on the buttons or touchscreen. You can even call an Uber with a single click. Now that most of our home is controlled through our Echo, we rarely use our Relay, but at least now it displays the correct time and status of our connected devices. Wink has really reduced the price of the Relay, selling them in a 2-pack for $149 or alone for $69 on Amazon.
In summary, we are really pleased with the Wink Hub 2 and have started adding more devices back to it from other platforms. It has a sleek new design and is incredibly faster and more stable than the original. In addition to its distribution through Home Depot, Wink is also selling at Wal-Mart, which should really increase the reach of its products. We would still like to see some improvements to the Wink App, but in general we are happy with controlling most of our devices with our Amazon Echo anyway. Our only real concern is the long term viability of hubs in general, but for now, Wink is doing a good job controlling our smart home.