What is the best Z-Wave Controller?

Update February 2017:

The Home Automation industry is constantly changing with new products and company mergers popping up in the news basically every day. Firmwares have been patched , flagships were succeeded by newer models, new product launches flopped, CEO’s were fired … and so on. That’s why we have decided to give this article a major overhaul to really reflect the current state of the market. 

What has (not) changed after our initial article publication?

  • The SmartThings Hub is still our Number One and will most likely stay there for a while.
  • Samsung has bought SmartThings
  • Google’s Nest bought Smart Home Startup Revolv making the very promising SmartHome Hub an abandoned project.
  • Homeseer has released its new flagship  – The Hometroller S6
  • We have updated our tips for choosing the right product

 

The market for Z-Wave controllers can be a bit overwhelming at first glance but we compiled a comprehensive list of the most suitable controllers for being the central component of a majority of home automation systems . We created a short review of every product to summarize the most important key points. We will also guide you through the process of pairing different protocols in another tutorial soon. Most of these controllers already support multiple automation protocols which is the foundation for pairing a vast number of various devices and brands.

Tips

Choosing the right Z-Wave Controller is not an easy decision. There are three main questions you should ask yourself:

1. How many devices do or will I need to control?
2. How many different Home Automation Protocols do or will I need to combine?
3. How much freedom do I want to have in terms of customization and orchestration

If you only have Zwave devices in your possession and don’t need complex scenarios you will be happy to hear that any controller in this list will suffice. You should have a look at the design and the user interface of the corresponding apps to narrow down your decision.

If you have a lot of different devices that are using various protocols you will need to resort to a controller that supports multiple protocols and therefore will be the glue to hold your complete infrastructure together.

In most cases the SmartThings Hub is the right choice. It struggles a bit when it comes to customization and the ability to create complex scenarios. However, the Plug & Play nature of the beautifully designed device will appeal to a majority of users.

For those of you who need a bit more freedom and like to tinker a bit with technology will be very happy with the VeraLite. It allows for scripting and the creation of complex event triggered scenarios.

Who is still not happy with the features of the VeraLite might need the Hometroller S6, which is a device for people who only want the best of the best. It is based on years of experience of the leader in Home Automation – HomeSeer. It will give you even more possibilities in terms of orchestration and the combination of different home automation protocols and devices.

Anyway, feel free to have a detailed look at the reviews of our candidates below.

Our Winner: Samsung SmartThings Hub

Samsung SmartThings Hub

Samsung SmartThings Hub

 

This thing is indeed smart and supports ZigBee, Z-Wave and WiFi devices. The combination of these 3 protocols is absolutely future proof since we consider them as the three technologies that will play the most important role for the Home Automation market in the upcoming years.
You just plug the Hub into your router via an Ethernet cable and you are able to control it with any device that is connected to the same network and provides a web browser that is not Internet Explorer 6. Just kidding, even IE 6 should work.
The Samsung SmartThings Hub will present you with a very well designed web interface that very easy to use. The nice clean and minimalistic device should seamlessly fit into any home.
The fact that it is currently the Nr.1 Best Seller for Home Automation Controllers at Amazon speaks for itself.

Pros

  • Very simple to install
  • Nice design
  • Nice and modern interface
  • Beautiful smartphone apps
  • Supports ZigBee, Z-Wave and WiFi
  • Very low price tag

samsung_smartthings

buy_from_amazon

 

 

The Cool Kid: Mi Casa Verde VeraLite

 

VeraLite Z Wave Controller

MiCasa Verde Veralite

 

Note 01-12-2014: Due to the release of the new VeraEdge the price of its predecessor VeraLite has dropped.  It is still a very viable option for people who don’t need the new features of its successor including Z Wave Plus and the support for more nodes. But we guess the 50 devices that the VeraLite supports are more than enough for most home automation use cases.

The Vera Product Range is well known amongst Z-Wave users. This very sophisticated controller also adds the possibility to control all connected devices with your smartphone provided they are connected to the same network. The energy monitor supports you in optimizing your monthly costs and cutting your energy bill. Moreover the Mi Casa Verde community has become quite big which makes it easier to find questions for your problems in their support forums.

Pros

  • Very simple to install
  • Nice design
  • Nice and modern interface
  • Very low price tag

Cons

  • Supports only Z-Wave

buy_from_amazon

 

The New Kid on the Block: VeraEdge Z-Wave Controller

veraedge_home_automation_controller_normal

VeraEdge Home Controller

We already wrote about the newest product release from Vera Control in one of our recent news articles. Since the 1st of December 2014 the new VeraEdge is available for purchase and succeeds the “old” VeraLite.  It uses the newest Z-Wave technology called “Z-Wave Plus” which offers a lot of advancements including longer battery life, faster operation, better RF coverage and easier installation. Moreover it supports up to 220 devices on one network which is 4 times the number of devices the VeraLite supports. A Smartphone app lets you monitor every connected device on the go. Vera Control has also tweaked the hardware specs of the controller but still kept the price relatively low. Incase you have any problems the support community at the micasaverde forums always offers valuable help and can answer frequently asked questions.

Pros

  • Z-Wave Plus
  • Very simple to install
  • Simple design
  • Nice and modern interface

Cons

  • Supports only Z-Wave

 

buy_from_amazon

 

 

Pro Tip: HomeSeer HomeTroller S6

 

homeseer_hometroller_s6_zwave_plus

Last but not least, the Ferrari of Z-Wave controllers. The HomeSeer HomeTroller S6 does come with a high price tag but for a reason. Apart from Z-Wave this controller can be upgraded with interfaces for ALL major protocols like Insteon, UPB, X10 and more. Attention: By default the controller is not shipped with a Z-Wave hardware interface. You will need to purchase it separately. But the good news is , its not very expensive:

The S6 is the ideal device if you have a bunch of different devices and want to streamline that fragmentation with one single access point. It also supports all kinds of Android and iOS devices which means you can control everything with your phone. And by everything we mean Lighting, Thermostats, Door Locks, Audio/Video, Security, Irrigation and more. Home owners can access the HomeTroller S6 at home or via the cloud with just about any smartphone, tablet or table-top touchscreen. The free standard cloud-based “myHomeSeer Remote” service provides easy remote access without storing your sensitive data in the cloud.
Needless to say that the HomeTroller also supports complete voice control, turning your home into the command & control center of Tony Stark. And to be honest , this is why we are looking into home automation anyway, right? Jarvis , one coffee please.

Pros

  • Supports all major protocols
  • Z-Wave Plus
  • Voice Control
  • Very good support
  • No monthly fees
  • HomeSeer is the market leader in Home Automation

Cons

  • High price tag
  • Hardware interfaces for the protocols are sold separately

homeseer_hometroller_s6_zwave_plus
buy_from_amazon

 

Other candidates worth mentioning

We have significantly updated our list and tried to represent the general consent of the majority of home automation users and what they think of the different controllers. However, there are still other devices that are worth to be mentioned here , although they might didn’t get much attention yet from the consumer base. Be aware that this is just a personal opinion and perhaps the Zipabox for example is exactly what you want. That’s why we kept the links to amazon.com in place in case you want to have a look at the product in detail.

Revolv Smart Home Automation Solution

revolv_smart_home_automation_solution

Revolv Smart Home Automation Solution

Update January 2015: This device was once the most promising Home Automation controller in our list with both offering state-of-the-art smartphone and desktop apps as well as providing the support for 7 (3) major protocols. But as we already mentioned in our introduction, things went a different way. Nest bought this company and the Smart Home Hub is basically abandoned right now. There is no support from the manufacturer anymore and the activation of the 4 additional radios will most likely never happen. We are very sure that Nest will release a beast of a controller in the near future with the acquired technology, but for now they have left an angry customer base behind, which is reflected by the most recent reviews for the Smart Home Hub on amazon. Perhaps they will even continue support for it in a couple of months. No one knows for sure right now, and if you are willing to take the risk and are happy with the features the Hub offers right now, you can still purchase used ones on amazon for a reasonable price.

This nice little gadget was designed to bring order to the home automation jungle. The Revolv Hub is currently able to talk not only to Z-Wave devices but also to Insteon and Wi-Fi devices. An upcoming firmware update will add ZigBee to the club while Revolv promises that this won’t be the last protocol supported by the Smart Home Automation Solution since the controller already has 7 different radios built inside which just need to be activated by the aforementioned software updates. Ever dreamt of pairing your Philips Hue Wireless Lighting with your Nest Smart Thermostat by only using one controller? Revolv’s solution will make your dream come true. It is also one of the very few devices that support Z-Wave and Insteon.

Pros

  • Very simple to install
  • Nice and modern interface
  • Supports Z-Wave, Insteon and WiFi

Cons

  • Higher Price Tag

buy_from_amazon

Zipato Zipabox

zipabox_zwave_controller

Zipabox Z-Wave Home Automation Controller

This Z Wave Controller has a very unique design but also very sophisticated technology. It has been created by the Romanian Company Zipato which is not yet very well known amongst home automation users yet but this could probabaly change with this product.  Like the VeraLite controller the Zipabox also uses a Cloud Interface to store configuration data,schedules and timers. In order to function properly the controller therefore needs constant internet access and connectivity to the Zipato servers. Btw, after several complaints about the network connectivity of their own managed servers Zipato has switched to Amazon based Cloud Servers which has hugely improved the stability of the service resulting in an overall quality jump of the ZipaBox. The cloud based web interface makes it also possible to connect with every device that has internet access and a modern browser. Nowadays this should include all smartphones and tables making it possible to manage your home automation on the go. If the web interface doesn’t feel really appealing you can also switch to the iOS or Android Apps that have been developed for the Zipabox. It also supports other protocols than Z-Wave with the help of extension modules.

Pros

  • Very simple to install
  • Nice and modern interface
  • Can be extended to support multiple protocs

Cons

  • Higher price tag
  • Design looks a bit cheap

buy_from_amazon

12 Comments

  1. Major diff between smarthings hub and Vera Lite is smarthings you have to pay monthly fee to get the features you may really want, where as the vera lite there is no monthly fee to use it.

    • Sorry no monthly fee, but yes you have to have your hub connected to the internet, if their server goes down or your internet goes down.. well yah hello problems. One of the reasons i did not go with their hub was due to this, I told them at no point should my hub need to have a hole in my firewall to connect to them to make it work, that is dumb dumb dumb. This sounds like a get them hooked charge them for additional cool things later type of switch gimmick. What if the company goes bankrupt they close website and now your 99 dollar hub is useless.

      • Hello Iowa,

        yes I think the Cloud technology is what divides the customer base. Some love it – the others hate it. Always depends on your personal preference, if you want to have access to all features from everywhere (perhaps suited for people who travel a lot) , or if you want to shield your home automation network from the outside.

        Thanks for your comment.

      • Dude, you don’t need to connect to them, just build your vpn and get into your network without going over their website. You can even block your vera from going to the internet completely.

        • Charles,

          I’m interested in finding integrating vpn into a smart home security and automation system. Any suggestions on where I could find this kind of information?

          • Darren, just in case you haven’t received an update yet, several routers will allow you to make a VPN connection. The setup can be tricky, but it’s worth it. Another, much simpler option is to use something like Chrome Remote Desktop or TeamViewer. These two pieces of software will actually give you full remote control of your computer. Windows also has its own Remote desktop feature, but Chrome is the easiest to use.

  2. Martin – Many thanks for including us in the article. As you’ve indicated, our controllers tend to be a bit more expensive than those from many competing companies. This is due, in large part, to fundamental differences in design. HomeTrollers are powerful stand-alone controllers that leverage the internet for remote access only. Most competing “smart hubs” are internet-dependent devices that store your sensitive data in the cloud and rely on the cloud for all automation and access. With these systems, an internet outage results in a “brain-dead” home!

    A couple quick product comments

    1 – HomeTroller S4 (and S5) have been discontinued and were replaced by the S6 last fall. This new unit includes a faster dual-core processor, twice the RAM, embedded Windows 7 and comes in at just $899.95 for the standard version (PRO version is also less expensive at $1,199.95. The S6 includes a full complement of USB and Serial ports for using with scores of technologies and interfaces.

    2 – HomeTroller-SEL was also introduced last Fall, retailing for $399.95 (699.95 for PRO version). This compact unit also includes a dual core processor, 3 USB ports and runs on Linux. As with the S6, SEL units are compatible with a wide range of technologies.

    3 – HomeTroller Zee S2 is slated for release this quarter and compared to the original version, will have a faster processor, double the RAM and include a built-in 500 series (Z-Wave Plus) interface. Pricing will remain $199.95.

    For more information about these, please check out our website – Thanks!

    • Mark,

      The HomeTroller Zee S2 looks like a great device! Is it free to access remotely via the Android app? I am building a vacation beach cottage and would like to be able to access cameras, thermostat, etc. remotely. I would also like to receive motion sensor alerts via text message. Is this all really free – no monthly service charge?

      Thank you.
      Kyle

  3. New to automation but interested in the wireless remote home door locks.
    While reviewing a couple of installtion & setup manuals, anti-theft enabled controller was mentioned that would enhance the locks security.
    Searching the internet resulted in very poor results including inadequate definition of this reature & manufacturers defining this function in their devices.
    Any ideas on this topic?

  4. I would like to point out that the vera lite does support zigbee and insteon making it compatible with all major protocols.

    for the person with the door lock security question I have read a lot about the door locks and actually have 2 of the quickset zwave locks. They work great and are easy to setup but one thing is the batteries only last about 6-months to a year in them which is disappointing but when you think about it is a motorized lock so I guess that is bad. On security I feel in my opinion that they are good because I look at the them as keeping people from just walking into the house if someone wants to get in they will break the side light glass next to the door and unlock it.

    The nice thing about the door locks is I have my Vera-lite setup to notify me of the door being unlocked if I am away from the house which in my mind is better than anything because if the door unlocks and no one is in the house I can call the police from anywhere and have them check it out.

Leave A Reply

Make your neighbor jealous!

Get Our eBook for Free!

Building a Smart Home is not an easy task. To make your life easier we have compiled a 5000 word eBook full of wisdom that will help you becoming an expert in Home Automation in a matter of days. This eBook is a gift for all our Newsletter Subscribers. We just need your E-Mail address and then we are ready to go.

Your information will never be shared with any third parties