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Typically connected to your Wi-Fi router, a Z-Wave controller communicates with and controls all smart devices synced with it. This allows you to remotely manage and update them via your smartphone, tablet, or computer. The communication between devices allows your Z-Wave controller to orchestrate the entire system.

As part of this review, we’ve taken a deep dive into some of the most popular devices on the market. Our standout Z-Wave controller is the Samsung SmartThings Controller while VeraEdge Z-Wave Controller is also worth a mention. If you are programming your own smart home with a home automation platform, then the Aeotec Z-Stick is a great device to get started.

Harnessing the power of low-energy radio waves, Z-Wave is a protocol that was designed solely for the purpose of home automation and remote control applications. 

Applications

With Z-Wave, one can control many aspects of their home. On the security front, you can control your garage door, smart locks, and smoke detectors; from a utility perspective you can control lighting, power outlets and monitor water and energy.

Having a single app or hub to help control your home life just makes your smart home setup seamless. 

How it works

Z-Wave makes use of something known as a mesh network.

As opposed to standard radio frequency networks such as a Wi-Fi network, the connection between devices within a mesh network becomes stronger as the number of devices increases. 

In average radio frequency networks, more devices lead to further congestion and in some cases, unstable connection.

Z-Wave technology also makes use of voice control technology. With the rising trend of home assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant, having the ability to control your home devices is a great addition.

9.6
Top Pick
A mature z-wave controller

Dubbed the “easiest path to a DIY smart home”, the Samsung SmartThings Hub is one of the most beginner-friendly options available.

Top Features

  • Version 3 compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

  • Support for ZigBee, Z-Wave, and WiFi connectivity.

The Samsung SmartThings Controller features support for ZigBee, Z-Wave, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Having the ability to connect with all 3 protocols is a huge plus since these are the three main connectivity protocols in the home automation market.

The SmartThings device itself features a minimalistic design which will fit in nicely within a home decor.

Overall, the new Samsung SmartThings controller is a definite level up from previous versions. With wireless connectivity, this controller remains to be what many consider to be the easiest path to a “DIY smart home”.

Tech Specs

Memory: 512 MB (RAM) + 8GB (Flash)
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1, ZigBee, Z-Wave
Ports: RJ45 x 2, Power x 1
Power Source:AC100-240v, 50~60 HZ
What we liked
  • Wireless ethernet connectivity
  • Intuitive and functional smartphone app
  • SmartThings device features a minimalistic design
What we didn't like
  • No back-up battery. This means in the case of black-outs, your smart home hub is going dark as well.
  • Lack of native support for some product families such as Google’s Nest, August Smart Lock, and Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem
  • Upgrading from major device versions can be tricky
9.2
Runner-up
A reliable smart home controller

Connect all your smart home devices from a single mobile device or computer

Top Features

  • Modern and intuitive web and mobile app

  • Fast processor for efficient handling of multiple devices

  • No monthly subscription fees

The VeraEdge Z-Wave Gateway presents the opportunity to connect all your smart home devices from a single mobile device or computer. With the app, one can quickly set schedules, ideal temperatures, and co-ordinate switches for your equipment.

The software features a modern and intuitive design, accessible via smartphone or computer.

It has a responsive display that can report on important vitals, such as temperature and light levels throughout your home.

Installing the device is quite straightforward, as it comes with pre configured settings for faster setup, delivering a more plug and play feel.

Overall, the Vera Edge is one of the best choices when looking for a Z-Wave controller.

Tech Specs

Processor:  600MHz MIPS SoC
Memory: DDR2 128 MB
Connectivity: Z-Wave Plus™ and 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
Power Source: AC100-240v, 50~60 HZ
What we liked
  • Preconfigured Device Settings for Setup
  • Intuitive and Informative User Interface
  • Supports over a thousand devices & WiFi protocol
  • Responsive display that reports on important vitals
  • Secure Device with PIN management
What we didn't like
  • Requires expertise for designing complex scenes
9.1
A powerful smart hub

The Wink Hub 2 is affordable and a large improvement over its predecessor

Top Features

  • Allows you to connect to over 400 smart devices

  • Wink Hub 2 supports Bluetooth LE, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Kidde, and Lutron Clear Connect.

  • It comes with an app that facilitates quick setup and ease of installation

The second iteration of the Wink Hub is affordable and a large improvement over its predecessor. It comes with options for both wired Ethernet or Wi-Fi wireless connectivity. 

The Wink Hub 2 allows you to connect to over 400 smart devices to coordinate control over your smart home. It supports the most number of smart home automation protocols including Bluetooth, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Kidde, and Lutron Clear Connect. 

To interact with all your compatible devices, the Wink Hub 2 comes with a user-friendly app and provides ease of installation for multiple devices. It features auto-discovery and guided setups which is a plus for less technical users. 

The Wink Hub 2 lacks a back-up battery which means if electricity runs out, then you wouldn’t have access to your smart home hub.

The requirement for a monthly subscription is worth taking into consideration when making your purchase.

Tech Specs

Device Support: Bluetooth LE, Kidde, Clear Connect, Z-Wave, ZigBee
Setup: Auto-discovery + guided setup
Connectivity: 2.4GHz (Wi-Fi), 5GHz (Wi-Fi), Ethernet port
Memory: 512 MB
What we liked
  • The Wink Hub 2 comes with a user-friendly app and ease of installation for multiple devices.
  • The Wink Hub 2 also supports most major protocols, including but not limited to Z-Wave and Zigbee.
What we didn't like
  • Like the Samsung SmartHub, the Wink Hub 2 does not have a back-up battery.
  • No USB ports
  • Monthly subscription fee is required
9.0
Top DIY pick
A z-wave powerhouse

A small but powerful home automation tool that anyone interested in home automation should review

Top Features

  • The Z-Stick can connect to devices up to 150 meters away

  • Update Z-Wave enabled devices over-the-air

  • Compatible with the majority of home automation software platforms

For those of you that love to get their hands dirty with home automation projects, you should definitely take a look at the Aeotec Z-Wave Z-Stick by Aeon Labs.

This device is the ultimate DIY Z-Wave gateway. Using a laptop or Raspberry Pi as well as home automation software, you can build your very own home automation hub. 

It is important to note that the stick is not a fully fledged smart home hub. It is a tool that you need for your home automation software (such as OpenHab or Home Seer) to send and receive Z-Wave signals.

The Z-Stick can connect to devices up to 150 meters away, all from a USB device connected to your laptop or Raspberry Pi. Additionally, it allows you to update Z-Wave enabled devices over the air, ensuring that the devices you own always have the latest updates. 

While the Z-Stick is very easy to set up, it is not a standalone hub so will require work in installing and configuring home automation software on a dedicated device.

Tech Specs

Power Supply: USB DC 4.75V to 5.25V / Built-in rechargeable lithium battery 3.7V, 100mAh
Operating Distance: Up to 500 feet/150 metres outdoors in normal mode or 1310 feet/400 meters outdoors in PA mode

Weight:
2.5 oz
8.9
A Z-Wave extender for your home entertainment

If you have the Logitech Harmony Hub for your home entertainment setup, then this Hub Extender allows you to also control Z-Wave and Zigbee devices.

Top Features

  • The Harmony Hub can control almost any home theatre setup that you have at home, with thousands of compatible devices.

  • It turns your phone or tablet into a universal remote.

  • The extender allows you to connect to Zigbee and Z-Wave devices

The Harmony Home Hub and Extender are one of the most versatile and flexible items available on this list. 

The device can control almost any home theatre setup, turning your very own phone or tablet into a universal remote. According to pcmag, “The compatibility list for home entertainment devices hit over 270,000 across 6,000 different brands”

Tech Specs

Connectivity: Wi-Fi: Supports 802.11g/n, WPA Personal, WPA2-AES and 64/128-bit WEP encryption
Dimensions: 4.16 in (10.48 cm) x 4.88 in (12.8 cm) x 1.0 in (2.54 cm)
What we liked
  • The Harmony Home Hub offers great device compatibility
  • It offers excellent Home Theater Support
  • Supports Alexa’s Voice Control
What we didn't like
  • Requires the purchase of two devices to control Z-Wave equipment
  • More expensive than other devices listed
8.9
Best Outdoor Pick
A Z-Wave heavyweight

This wireless Z-Wave controller is the perfect choice if you need to support devices with heavy load.

Top Features

  • Perfect for tools up to 40 amps

  • App features an intuitive design

  • Controller housed in a lockable, waterproof case to ensure the safety of your wiring

One might think that any switch will work for your home automation needs, however, that isn’t the case. 

The GE Z-Wave 40 AMP Wireless Controller is exactly the device to look to when automating devices with heavy load. 

The controller is weather protected with a waterproof enclosure. It features a robust yet simple design with large indicators and buttons for easy manual operation. It also has enough leftover space for better wire management.

As we are dealing with large currents and load, it is advisable to contract the installation out to a licensed electrician.

It is an ideal device for automating pool pumps, water heaters, and garage doors.

Tech Specs

Weight:4.14 pounds
Dimensions: 5.22 x 6.46 x 9.7 inches
Included Components: Direct Wire 40A Z-Wave ES Smart Switch, Indoor/Outdoor
What we liked
  • Weather resistant casing
  • Robust and simple design with large indicators and buttons for easy manual operation
  • Easy operation of heavy duty devices such as pool filters, garage doors, and water heaters.
What we didn't like
  • Assembly is best completed by a licensed electrician
  • Requires a Z-Wave hub

Example Usages of Z-Wave Controller

Once you have your Z-Wave Controller in place, you can now get creative on how to automate your home. Below are some examples of ways to control appliances in your home from lighting and sprinkler systems to air conditioning units and blinds motors!

FIBARO RGBW LED Strips Regulator

With this device, you can control all sorts of different lighting setups, from LED’s and RGB lighting to halogen lights and RGBW strips.

Additionally, it supports sensors for temperature, humidity, wind, and air quality.

Remotec IR Extender for AC Conditioners

These types of controllers allow you to control up to 250 different brands of Air Conditioners.

It comes with features such as room temperature feedback and other various commands for your air conditioner.

Zooz S2 Z-Wave Plus USB Stick

A perfect example of a Z Wave PC controller is the Z Wave Stick Assistant, allowing you to take advantage of your sensors, switches and plugs.

Although, you will need a dedicated computer or Raspberry Pi to complete the system.

Aeotec Nano Shutter Motor Driver

Z Wave Motor Controllers allow you to wireless connect and control motorized equipment such as shades, blinds, or shutters.

Integrated with a light sensor, you can program your curtains or blinds to open or close automatically.

Common Questions Relating to Z-Wave Controller

What is a Z-Wave plus controller?

A Z-Wave controller allows you to control all the devices that run on the Z-Wave Protocol within your home. 

Think of it as a master remote for all your devices at home, the central hub which allows you to control and communicate with everything.

What is the best Z-Wave controller?

The best Z-Wave controller honestly depends on your needs. There isn’t a simple answer to this question. 

Although many consider the Samsung SmartThings Hub to be the best device out there for controlling your home, there are often times where other devices might be a better option. 

For example, the Insteon Central Controller Hub would be great when you want all your devices under one manufacturer. 

At the end of the day, it just depends on what you want to achieve with your smart home.

What is the difference between Z-Wave plus vsZ-Wave?

As the second iteration of Z-Wave, Z-Wave Plus has many offerings that Z-Wave simply does not share. For example, the Z-Wave plus offers 50% more battery life, 250% more bandwidth, automatic connection and a larger range as it allows devices to communicate up to nearly 200 feet further.

The Verdict

Overall, choosing the Z-Wave controller to orchestrate your smart home is a tough choice as it all depends on what you want to achieve. 

While the Samsung SmartThings Hub is highly regarded by many, make sure to check out all the other options before making your decision.

We hope this guide helps in making your choice!

9.6
Top Pick
A mature z-wave controller

Dubbed the “easiest path to a DIY smart home”, the Samsung SmartThings Hub is one of the most beginner-friendly options available.

Top Features

  • Version 3 compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant

  • Support for ZigBee, Z-Wave, and WiFi connectivity.

Sources

https://www.z-wave.com

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