We have 2 models in front of us, the Connect Home and the Connect Home Pro. The only difference is speed – the regular Connect Home uses a 2×2 array and has a maximum bandwidth of AC1300 while the Pro sits at AC2600 with a 4×4 array. Other than that, both units offer MU-MIMO 802.11ac wifi and smartthings compatibility. They both feature one ethernet jack input and one output, so if you have a lot of hard wired devices you will need to add a switch.
As we mentioned earlier, this is a mesh wifi system, so adding additional units is a breeze. Each puck is good for approximately 1500 square feet, and you can place them however you like. You can set any one of them as your main router, and every additional unit after it functions in the exact same way from it’s SSID to WPA security settings. Along with WIFI, each device also acts as a wireless smartthings hub.
Now you might be wondering, what is smartthings? To answer that question, let’s take a step back and talk about what a smart home actually does. No, it won’t make you dinner or fold your clothes. But I’m sure you’ve heard of things like the Nest thermostat and Amazon’s echo. A smart home is simply designed to help assist or automate a lot of otherwise boring and mundane tasks to help make your daily life that much better.
The nest thermostat is one of the best examples – it can help save you money on electricity by only running the heat or air conditioning when there is someone home. You get the perfect comfortable temperature and it saves energy during the 8+ hours you’re away at work or school.
Another example is a smart lightbulb such as the Philips Hue. You can have it paired up with a motion sensor so that lights automatically come on when you enter a room, and turn off when you leave. As well, you can have them brighter and cooler during the day and dimmer and warmer during the evening.
All of this sounds neat, but it’s not quite enough to convert most people just yet. That’s where different ecosystems such as Smartthings come in. Instead of individual gadgets each doing their own thing, you can now share their information with each other to provide an even more cohesive experience.
Let’s take this scenario for example. It’s the middle of winter, it’s dark, and it’s pouring rain. You’ve just finished a day of work, and you’re on your way home. 30 minutes before you arrive, the heater has kicked in and it starts warming up to your favourite indoor temperature of 21 degrees. Or 70 degrees F for you yankees.
You park your car, carry a suitcase in one hand, and a few bags of groceries in the other. As you walk near your door, A Kevo Smart Lock recognizes your smart phone’s presence and unlocks the door with a simple tap of your finger. You open it, step inside, and smart LED bulbs gradually come on automatically. Take a few more steps in, and the door automatically locks behind you.
Because we’re in Canada, there was obviously a hockey game in progress. You ask out loud “alexa, what’s the score of the latest Canucks game?.” 0-3, replies Alexa. Typical Canucks. So instead, you decide to catch up on some TV.
“Alexa, Theatre mode.” “Alexa, continue the last episode of Game of Thrones.”
As you sit down on your couch, your Somfy automated blackout blinds start descending, lights dim, and Netflix starts loading up where you left off on Game of Thrones.
Now, how does all of that sound? Call it smart, call it lazy, or even call it creepy. But the fact is, smart home technology is finally at a point now where all of that and more is possible thanks to ecosystems like Smartthings. By combining multiple sensors and devices together, you can automate entire scripts with a simple voice command, timer, or push of a button.
If mundane daily tasks aren’t your thing, then don’t worry. Another common use for smart home devices is security. WiFi enabled cameras combined with smoke detectors, motion detectors, and water sensors let you keep a tight grasp on your property even if you’re thousands of miles away on vacation. You can easily set up temporary door codes for friends who may be house sitting, or call the police if you detect an unauthorized intruder.
Overall, the strongest feature of the Samsung Connect Home is the sheer compatibility it offers. Smartthings is able to pair up and communicate with Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, Logitech Harmony, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and many WiFi devices such as Nest, Philips Hue, and Belkins WeMo.
And if that STILL wasn’t enough, there’s a developer mode. That’s right, in an uncharacteristic move by Samsung, they actually let you code in custom device handlers. The average dimmable and color temperature adjustable smart bulb, for example, costs anywhere from $40 to $60. With a custom device handler easily found on the Smartthings forum, you can even pair up Ikea’s Tradfri bulbs that cost just $18 each.
Coming back to the physical device itself, we found the performance pretty good. We didn’t have a 1500 square foot house to test, but we had pretty good coverage in our office building. Range was reliable on the same floor, but would drop down to just 1 bar if we went to a different floor. It was, however, still strong enough for us to add another Connect Home and extend the range. Adding additional units is easy enough – simply find a place still within range and plug in power.
We think the router functionality is adequate for 90% of users out there, but it does lack a few features extreme power users may want. It comes with guest network access, device prioritization, and a network restrictor, but that’s about it.
If you’re someone with a fiber optic internet connection, you stream a lot of local media files wirelessly, or you like to tinker with custom firmware, then you may be better off separately combining a more configurable wireless router and the previous generation Samsung Smartthings Hub without a router built in.
In the end, we think the Samsung Connect Home is a step in the right direction for an easier smart home experience. It offers a good combination of simplicity, tinkerability, and sheer compatibility that makes it a solid foundation for the future so you’re never locked into one specific protocol.
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