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October 7, 2017

Samsung Connect Home review

by John_A

Research Center:
Samsung Connect Home

It’s a commonly held belief that the next big shift in smart home technology will be convergence — for good reason. Once you’ve added smart lighting, security and multi-room audio to your home, you may find your router is buried under a mass of proprietary communications hubs.

Multi-device controllers like Wink and SmartThings (now owned by Samsung) have helped to reduce the clutter. Samsung Connect Home takes convergence one step further by bringing together whole home Wi-Fi with a SmartThings controller. It’s an obvious progression, but one that has taken some time to reach the marketplace.

With SmartThings, Samsung has acquired great experience and execution in smart home control. It makes a lot of sense to take that proposition to the masses by packaging it in a router. But with little heritage in home networking, Samsung will need to be on form to compete with leading whole home Wi-Fi systems like NETGEAR Orbi , Linksys Velop and Google WiFi in a crowded marketplace. Read on t find out how well it did in our Samsung Connect Home review.

Samsung Connect Home mashes Wi-Fi and smart home control but convenience comes with compromise.

Samsung Connect Home is a compelling concept, controlling your home network and smart devices via a single, compact hub. Switch on lights, adjust room temperature, fire up the guest Wi-Fi and more.

Connect Home can operate the same extensive list of devices as a SmartThings Hub. It includes voice assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo, smart lighting systems, including Philips Hue and LIFX, ecobee and Nest Learning Thermostats, security systems and speakers.

Like other whole home Wi-Fi systems, Samsung Connect Home takes a modular approach to networking. A single hub, priced at $169.99, supports wireless coverage in homes up to 1,500 square feet. For larger homes, a $379.99 three-hub mesh network extends coverage up to 4,500 square feet.

AC1300 network speeds (up to 866 Mbps at 5 GHz, 400 Mbps at 2.4 GHz) are match competitors such as Google Wi-Fi ($129/$299 for a three pack) and the first-generation eero ($199/$499), but are slower than NETGEAR Orbi and Linksys Velop.

Samsung Connect Home Compared To

Netatmo Healthy Home Coach

Amazon Echo Show

Google Home

Canary Flex

Netatmo Presence

Robomow RS622

Myfox Home Alarm and Security Camera

Netatmo Welcome

Nyrius Smart Outlet

Netgear Arlo Security System

August Smart Lock

Nest Protect

Emerson Sensi Thermostat

Kwikset Kevo

Revolv Smart Home Hub

For speed as well as smarts, the $249.99 Samsung Connect Home Pro offers the same wireless coverage with AC2600 speeds (up to 1733 Mbps at 5 GHz, 800 Mbps at 2.4 GHz) and a premium finish. Those with large homes (and deep pockets) can create a mesh network with up to five Home Pro hubs for extensive coverage.

Cute and compact hardware, packed with connectivity

The days of the monolithic, ugly wireless router are numbered. Whole home Wi-Fi systems like Samsung Connect Home are compact, aesthetically neutral devices designed to be scattered around the home rather than hidden in the basement or in a closet.

Most systems released in the last couple of years have been cut from similar cloth – white, puck-shaped hardware sporting twin Gigabit Ethernet ports (one for connection to your modem and a second for wired network devices), a power input and a reset button. No twinkly status lights, no spiky antennas but also no USB ports for storage sharing and, with just two ports, limited hardwired connectivity.

With integrated smart home device support, the lack of ports is less of a problem for Samsung Connect Home than its competitors. Packed with connectivity, it supports Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth 4.1 & Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac wave2).

Under the hood, the Connect Home and Pro systems are a little different in architecture. Connect Home is powered by the Qualcomm IPQ4018 (700MHz Quad Core) processor with 512 MB RAM, while the pricier model gets a boost from a 1.7 GHz dual-core Qualcomm IPQ8065.

Frustrating setup experience, requiring live Internet connection

Setup is performed with the Samsung Connect smartphone app, available for iOS and Android. The app frustratingly requires a live Internet connection, as you’ll need to sign up for (or log into) a Samsung account during the process. If your phone has data service then life should be more straightforward as long as it can connect to the router. However, I was unable to complete setup on either the Connect Home or Connect Home Pro using a Google Pixel XL smartphone running Android Oreo. It simply couldn’t detect the Wi-Fi hub.

The kind of setup experience that might see this product being returned to retailers in droves.

As that was the only device I had with mobile data, I was forced to dig out an old Moto X handset, connect that to the Pixel’s mobile hotspot for data service, then download and launch the Samsung Connect app to complete installation. The kind of hackery Dr. Frankenstein would be proud of, certainly, but also the kind of experience that might see this product being returned to retailers in droves.

Even when the router was configured, with the Pixel XL connected to its wireless network, the smartphone remained unable to detect and manage Connect Home’s settings. Samsung’s engineers clearly have some work ahead of them.

Fortunately, once the main router was set up, adding the two satellite hubs to the network was simple. Plug in, a few taps on the Connect Home app, a quick connectivity test and you’re done.

A home hub for all your connected devices

The Samsung Connect app manages both your home network settings as well as smart home devices from a wide range of manufacturers. As a bonus, if you own other Samsung devices with network connectivity, such as a newer Smart TV, washing machine, or fancy fridge, you can connect directly to those using your phone as a TV remote to schedule washing cycles and more.

Router controls are a little less intuitive and can be tricky to hunt down on the app, but the selection is reasonably comprehensive. Like most whole-home Wi-Fi systems, Samsung Connect Home isn’t going to serve the needs of advanced users looking for every possible network optimization tweak and widget available, but there’s a decent array of features that’ll suit mainstream home admins. They include bandwidth prioritization, port forwarding, guest networking, and light parental controls for restricting online access at dinner or bedtime.

While the app looks slick, it doesn’t take too long to uncover issues, particularly around device connectivity. For example, the My Devices section can be very slow to update when new devices are added to the network, meaning you never quite trust what’s being reported.  Worse still, without a live Internet connection, the Connect Home seems unable to provide any visibility of local network devices.

Samsung appears to be adding missed features and performance improvements with firmware updates – hopefully that work will continue over the coming months.

As a SmartThings hub, Connect Home does a decent job, but for some reason, devices must be set up manually. Samsung sent a SmartThings electrical outlet and multipurpose sensor for review, but Connect Home was unable to automatically scan and detect the devices. Once manually configured, though, both performed as expected with quick response times from the app.

Overall the Samsung Connect Home successfully combines home networking and smart home control in a single, compact hub – a real technical achievement. But this convenience comes with compromises and quirks that can cause frustration when using.

Strong wireless coverage, weak mesh networking speeds

We placed three hubs around a four-floor, 2500 square foot home. The main hub was positioned next to the cable modem in a second-floor bedroom. One satellite hub was placed a floor above in the attic, while the third was installed two floors below, in a basement where Wi-Fi coverage is patchy.

At short range, Connect Home performs really well. Average wired speeds of 893 Mbps and 385 Mbps are very good for this class of device. The Samsung Connect Pro boosted wireless speeds by 30 percent, with the average hitting an impressive 498 Mbps.

Whole Home Wi-Fi Systems Ethernet Speeds

Model
Average Ethernet Speed (Mbps)
Linksys Velop
943
Samsung Connect Home
893
NETGEAR Orbi
858
Ubiquiti Labs AmpliFi HD
802
Eero (1st Gen)
761
Google WiFi
754

Test Clients: 2 x Intel NUC Core i5 PCs 

Whole Home Wi-Fi Systems Short Range Wireless Speeds

Model
Average Short Range Speed (Mbps)
Samsung Connect Home Pro
498
Samsung Connect Home
385
Ubiquiti Labs AmpliFi HD
364
NETGEAR Orbi
337
Google WiFi
297
Linksys Velop
159
Eero (1st Gen)
156

Test Client: MacBook Air with D-Link DWA-192 AC1900 USB Adapter plus Intel NUC Core i5 PC

Wandering around the house with a Microsoft Surface Pro 4, the Samsung Connect Home was able to sustain a strong connection in both the attic and basement, but mesh networking speeds were less impressive. Average speeds of 181 Mbps close to main hub in the bedroom dropped to 61 Mbps in the basement and just 41 Mbps in the attic. As I usually struggle to receive a Wi-Fi signal in the basement, Samsung’s debut certainly offered a boost, but speeds were behind competing systems.

Whole Home Wi-Fi Systems Long Range Mesh Wireless Speeds (Wireless Backhaul)

Model
Average Mesh Wireless Speeds (Mbps)
 
Bedroom (Main)
Attic (Sub 1)
Basement (Sub 2)
NETGEAR Orbi
322
217
228
Linksys Velop
309
250
163
Google WiFi
285
123
90
Ubiquiti Labs AmpliFi HD
216
157
59
Eero (1st Gen)
211
67
82
Samsung Connect Home
181
44
61

Test Client: Microsoft Surface Pro 4 plus Intel NUC Core i5 PC 

Like some other whole home Wi-Fi systems, Connect Home’s performance can be bolstered by connecting the satellite hubs to a wired network, reducing wireless congestion. Doing so accelerated speeds up to 80 percent but, given the low base, it wasn’t enough to stand out.

Warranty information

Samsung Connect Home and Connect Home Pro are supplied with a limited, one-year warranty.

Our Take

Samsung Connect Home successfully combines whole home Wi-Fi and smart device control in an attractive, compact hub with smartphone app control. It’s a brave technical challenge that Samsung delivers with reasonable success, but frustrations with device configuration, weaknesses in the Samsung Connect app and mesh network speeds well behind competitors prevent us from giving the system a full endorsement.

Is there a better alternative?

With a slew of whole home Wi-Fi systems hitting the market over the last twelve months, you can find high-performing mesh networking kits available for a range of budgets, although none offer the convenience of true smart home device control like Samsung Connect Home.

At $399 and $499 respectively, NETGEAR Orbi and Linksys Velop remain top picks on performance although you’re paying top dollar for the best network speeds and that’s before you add a $99 SmartThings Hub into the mix.

While not hitting the same heights on performance, the $299 Google WiFi and $289 TP-Link Deco systems offer great value with smooth smartphone app controls and great looking hubs.

How long will it last?

Samsung Connect Home embodies an experimental new product category for the company and, as such, we’d be a little concerned about the sustainability of this product line.

That said, Samsung’s developers are pushing out firmware updates with enhanced features and fixes while the company is heavily marketing the products in big box retailers so, in the short term, things look good.

Should you buy it?

If your current router is creaking under the weight of proprietary smart home hubs and you’re happy to ride the rollercoaster of firmware updates to fix hiccups, Samsung Connect Home offers real convergence if not the best performance.

At this point, however, you might be better off sticking with a whole home Wi-Fi system from an established networking brand and adding the excellent SmartThings hub.

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