A smart-home system has components distributed all over the house, controlled by a hub that’s connected to the internet via a router. That arrangement enables you to control the system from anywhere you have broadband access. So Samsung’s decision to meld a smart home hub with a mesh Wi-Fi router is a no brainer. But melding is always tricky. You might get something delicious, like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Or you might end up with a disappointment, like the 1962 Amphicar, a car/boat that didn’t excel as either. The Connect Home isn’t a bad product, but it’s much closer to the floating car than the sweet confection.
Samsung has never been a big player in the Wi-Fi router market, and it didn’t have a presence in the smart-home market until it acquired SmartThings in 2014. The SmartThings hub is our current top pick for DIY smart home system because of its power and relative openness. You can create systems that are as simple or as sophisticated as you want, using just one or multiple apps to control third-party products as easily as SmartThings-branded hardware. But Samsung is aiming the Connect Home series at a broader audience and wants it to be easier to use.
There are two versions of the Connect Home, available in three SKUs. Both are dual-band 802.11ac mesh Wi-Fi routers with SmartThings hubs and Z-Wave, ZigBee, and Bluetooth radios integrated into the same enclosure. In this regard, Samsung one-ups the only other router/smart-home hub I’ve tested: You need a $30 dongle to bring Z-Wave compatibility to the Securifi Almond 3.
During setup, one of the nodes in the Connect Home 3-Pack gets configured as a 2×2 MU-MIMO router, which means it uses two spatial streams to transmit and two spatial streams to receive. MU-MIMO support enables it to transmit data to and receive data from multiple clients simultaneously. (You can read more about MU-MIMO in this story.) Samsung classifies the router in the three-pack as an AC1300 model delivering TCP throughput of up to 866Mbps on the 5GHz band and 400Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. The two other devices in the three-pack operate as network nodes to blanket homes up to 4,500 square feet.
Samsung also sent its Connect Home Pro, which I’ll review another time. This 4×4 MIMO router uses four spatial streams to transmit and four to receive simultaneously. Samsung classifies the Connect Home Pro as an AC2600 router delivering up to 1,733Mbps of TCP throughput on the 5GHz band and 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. The box for the Connect Home Pro indicates that it’s a MIMO router—not a MU-MIMO router—but that’s apparently inaccurate. My Samsung contact told me both routers support MU-MIMO. The company says the Pro model is adequate for homes up to 1,500 square feet, but you can pair it with up to five Connect Home or Connect Home Pro units operating as satellite nodes to increase its effective coverage.
Both models have two ethernet ports, and if your home has the infrastructure, you can use one of them for wired backhaul. The smart-home features in all three SKUs are essentially the same, although the Pro comes equipped with a faster CPU.
The SmartThings platform is strong when it comes to third-party hardware. You can use Kwikset, Schlage, and Yale smart locks; smart outlets, switches, and dimmers from GE, Leviton, Lutron, and Remotec; and smart bulbs from Cree, Philips, LIFX, Sengled, and Sylvania. Direct support is a little thinner for security cameras (you can choose from Netgear’s Arlo line and Ring’s video doorbells) and smart thermostats (Ecobee and Honeywell are your only choices; Nest is not supported). Unlike the Almond 3, however, SmartThings doesn’t directly support any smart smoke detectors.
I don’t see any indication that Samsung intends to change its approach to supporting third-party hardware on its SmartThings platform, but the Samsung Connect app the company is encouraging Connect Home buyers to use is a dumbed-down version of the original SmartThings app. It has a more basic rules engine, and it doesn’t allow you to bolt on other apps so you can create more sophisticated automation routines.