Wink has expanded from Quirky's simple app to control GE + Quirky products like the Aros A/C unit and the Pivot Power Genius to a full-fledged smart home-focused spin-off company that supports both Quirky's own products and those from outside vendors. The new, $80 Wink home automation hub is the focal point for this new company's ambition of controlling your house.
Wink isn't the first company to try for a unifying automation platform, but its hub is definitely the most affordable and versatile option we've come across. It works with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron ClearConnect, and Kidde's RF-equipped devices, and Wink's open, competitor-friendly style promises more and more product integrations to come. In comparison, the $300 Revolv Hub, the $100 Lowe Iris Hub, the $100 SmartThings Hub, and the $130 Insteon Hub are either priced too high or have limited compatibility with third-party devices (or both).
Factor in the Wink Hub's $80 price (you can find it at Home Depot and on Amazon for $50 through Labor Day) and it becomes even more appealing. I did have trouble pairing select products, and the app isn't a perfect replacement for some of the more sophisticated standalone smart home device apps, but this low-cost hub comes pretty darn close to the whole-home security and automation ideal.
At a glance
The Wink Hub is finished in glossy white plastic and comes with a built-in stand and detachable power adapter. The case plastic doesn't feel particularly durable and the hub is a bit larger than I'd like, but it isn't as distracting as Revolv's red teardrop-shaped hub. A simple LED indicator light is located on the hub to alert you to its status.
You'll need to refer to the manual to decode every LED message. When it flashes pink it means that it's disconnected from the Wi-Fi network, a flashing yellow light means that it's trying to connect to the network, and so on. The basic signaling system is no better than that of your average cable model or Wi-Fi router, and while it's not that intuitive, keeping it spare likely helps Wink keep the price down.
The Wink Hub can translate Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee, Lutron ClearConnect, and Kidde networking protocols. There are also a number of products that can work on the Wink app that don't need the hardware hub to communicate. Wink differentiates between these products with a sticker on the packaging that reads either "Wink app compatible, Wink Hub required" or "Wink app ready, no Wink Hub required."
Wink's current list of hub-enabled products includes Bali automated blinds, GE Link LEDs, GE Profile Series Remote Enabled Built-In Convection Wall Ovens, the Kidde 2-in-1 Wireless Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm, Kwikset SmartCode 910 Deadbolts, and an assortment of others.
Devices that only need the app include Chamberlain's MyQ Garage Door Opener, the Dropcam Pro, the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat, Philips Hue LEDs, and others, including existing Quirky + GE products.
To compare the breadth of support, Revolv's $300 hub has plans for seven different protocol integrations, but it currently only has Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and Insteon procotols activated. It also has a variety of third-party partnerships, including some that Wink doesn't currently offer, like the Nest Learning Thermostat, Sonos, Belkin WeMo products, and Yale locks, but the Revolv is also significantly more expensive.
The $130 Insteon Hub is limited to its own protocol and products. Lowe's Iris Hub costs $99 and has a variety of compatible products, but only works with Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and ZigBee. Plus, you have to pay a $10 monthly fee to get the most from it.
SmartThings has IFTTT compatibility and is continuously adding new third-party partnerships, but it only works with Z-Wave and ZigBee-compatible devices, and it costs $100.
The free app acts as the user interface for the hub and any other Wink-compatible products -- no Web app or other Wink Hub access points. I downloaded the app on an Asus Nexus 7 tablet and on an iPhone 5. The account holder can extend access to other users on a product-by-product basis and make updates over time, as needed.
Connecting the hub to the app is straightforward. Simply open the app, select the hub under the product list, and follow the instructions. The instructions included plugging in the hub (the app suggests placing it at least 3 feet away from the router), enabling Bluetooth on your phone, and providing your Wi-Fi network details. Done.
Now you can add other products -- the process works in much the same way. Select a product from the list and follow the step-by-step instructions to set it up. I connected an assortment of devices: some that needed the Wink Hub and other that could connect directly to the Wink app.