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Hive Welcome Home Standard review: You'll pay a price for Hive's smart home automation system

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Hive's Welcome Home Standard ZigBee automation kit includes a thermostat, two smart plugs, two door sensors, one motion sensor, four LED bulbs and a hub. Set schedules, create custom automations and opt in to alerts in the responsive and smartly designed Hive app. Enlist your voice platform of choice -- Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant -- to control your devices without ever picking up your phone. 

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6.7

Hive Welcome Home Standard

The Good

Hive's Welcome Home Standard automation kit is very easy to install and use, thanks to its well-designed app.

The Bad

While there's no upfront cost, you have to pay a $25 contract-based monthly fee to use Hive.

The Bottom Line

The Hive Welcome Home Standard system is solid, but its odd pricing system hurts its overall appeal.

It sounds pretty good, right? Not so fast.

Hive, like ADT, Vivint and other professional companies, locks you into a multiyear contract. In Hive's case, it's two years, or 24 months of required $25 monthly payments. (The Welcome Home Standard Plan is currently US-only; Hive is based in the UK, where a Welcome Home plan costs £5.99 per month.) There is no upfront cost for the hardware, but the total cost after two years comes to $600 for the Standard kit I tested -- and even more if you use Hive for longer than two years. 

Weirdly, Hive isn't a professional system -- it's strictly do-it-yourself and self-monitored. So, unlike ADT and others, you won't get free installation, professional monitoring or any other advanced features for your money. 

Given that I could piece together my own DIY system for less, I'm really not sure why I (or anyone else) would buy Hive's otherwise impressive automation kit. 

Hive's home automation system is smart, but pricey

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Is Hive's Welcome Home Standard a good value?

Spoiler alert: Not really. Here's a quick comparison with some other DIY automation and security systems. 

Wink

Wink grand total: $457

Samsung SmartThings

SmartThings grand total: $490

Yes, you'd have to pay $457 or $490 up front for Wink or SmartThings, but Hive charges you $25 per month... forever. However long you use the system, you have to pay that monthly fee. And because you have to agree to a 2-year minimum contract, you're going to pay at least $600 no matter what. 

But what about performance?

Here's the thing that gets me. Hive's system performed well. The devices were easy to pair with the app and they were similarly easy to control after the initial configuration. I really can't say the same for Wink or SmartThings. 

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Setting up devices in the Hive iPhone app.

Screenshot by Megan Wollerton/CNET

Here are the basic steps to install your Welcome Home Standard system:

  1. Download the Hive app on your Android or iPhone and create an account. 
  2. Select "Install devices" from Hive's dropdown menu, and then "Add another device."
  3. Let the app scan for the device. It should locate it within a minute or so.
  4. You're done.

That's really it. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you've connected all of your Hive devices. You can control them in the app immediately, including scheduling lights to turn on or adjusting thermostat settings. Two device automations are simple to create in the Actions section of the app, such as, "When the motion sensor detects activity, turn on the entryway light." 

The system also works with Amazon Alexa speakers and the Google Home. That means you can ask Alexa or "OK/Hey, Google" to adjust the thermostat, lights and so on for you -- no phone required. It also integrates with IFTTT for advanced automation with products from other manufacturers like Nest and Ring

It's complicated

Clearly, I have mixed feelings about Hive's Welcome Home Standard automation kit. Yes, it's easy to use, but that price...? Not so good. 

Even if the value was there (if it included professional monitoring, for instance), having a contract term for a do-it-yourself product really defeats the purpose of DIY. If Hive looks good to you and you don't care about the monthly charges, it's a decent option. Still, I'd suggest looking at other options before you settle on Hive.

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6.7

Hive Welcome Home Standard

Score Breakdown

Features 5Usability 7Design 8Performance 7