In earlier smart home systems you'd have had no choice but to have a smart home hub as part of your system. A small "computer" that sits on your home network and talks to all of your smart devices.
But in recent years more and more products are working without needing a separate hub, so why would you still want one given the choice?
Smart Home Hub Pros
FASTER: Smart home devices that talk to a smart home hub are often much more responsive. That's because your phone talks to the hub and the hub is talking directly to the device itself, no bouncing around the "cloud" waiting for a response.
We've found that some cloud based systems such as Smart Life have a few flaws with things like motion sensors where by the time the motion detector has triggered, updated the cloud and an "on" command sent to the hallway light you've long passed the hallway by the time the lights actually turned on.
LESS WIFI STRAIN: No hub generally means that the smart home device will connect to your network via WiFi, or sometimes Bluetooth.
Adding lots of WiFi devices such as smart bulbs, smart switches, smart cameras etc can put quite a load on your WiFi network and in some instances with larger houses you may start hitting limits of standard routers.
Z Wave & RF Systems such as Fibaro & LightwaveRF however use a different technology that connects to the hub itself rather than your WiFi.
Which also brings us onto...
WORKS WITHOUT INTERNET: No Wifi No Worky! When I moved to my current house, for ease we installed a load of Smart Life smart bulbs, plugs etc. They work great and are an amazingly quick and easy solution, one which we often recommend and still have numerous devices in action today.
However, we once had an issue with our BT phone line affecting our local area which meant we had no incoming internet.... which meant the smart devices couldn't talk to the cloud and none of our lights or sockets could be operated via Alexa like we were used to!
LightwaveRF and Z Wave systems however, whilst they do use a cloud system, they don't rely on it completely and will continue to work in the event of a WiFi / Internet outage.
Smart Home Hub Cons
ANOTHER BOX TO POWER: This is a great argument against hubs as it can be a bit of a pain, at home I have a myriad of boxes and hubs including a LightwaveRF Link Plus & a Tado Internet bridge which I never see or touch, but they're sat there taking up a precious plug socket and network port on my switch!
Okay so it's not the end of the world, but each hub does need a power supply and a network port so bear that in mind when allowing space for your hubs and associated kit.
ADDITIONAL COST: Hubs generally aren't free! There's an initial up-front cost to get started with a lot of systems.
For example with Lightwave, Tado, Philips Hue and many, many more you'll need to buy a starter kit or a separate hub on your first purchase.
Generally though if you're doing more than a handful of devices in your home the overall costs aren't too bad. If you're only adding one or two devices though it can often be a relatively expensive way of doing things.
Smart home hubs do offer some benefits and for larger systems with more than a handful of devices they can prove very effective.
If you're only adding one device to solve one problem then it could be worth looking at no-hub smart home options instead.