This D-Link USB Hub has many features that will wow consumers, but it falls short in some very important categories. This hub is a second version of the original Staples Connect Hub, but with improvements. It looks great and has great features. However, some of those features are clunky. It works with bug names like Nest, WeMo, and IFTTT, but it needs help to do so. Take a stroll with me as I run down the strengths and weaknesses of this new home automation product from D-Link.
Second Edition Staples Connect Hub is Better Than the Original with a Great Price
The new D-Link USB Hub for use with home automation systems is much better than the original Staples Connect Hub. D-Link, as is customary for them, they’ve kept the price extremely reasonable at about 60-80 bucks. Actually, even with the shortcomings, which I will discuss later, this item comes in at a price point that I don’t think can be beat. Sure, there are others devices out there that are better and easier to use, but they also cost at least twice as much.
The Staples Connect D-Link USB Hub Has More Radios than a Radio Station
The tech world knows that if you’re going to compete in the home automation market, your devices must be able to communicate wirelessly. The days of wired controls are almost gone. With this hub, you can control your home automation devices using the ZigBee wireless network created by the hub. Control commands pass through the air using a Bluetooth radio to communicate with your cell phone or tablet. Those are just the new radios in Version two. The original already had Z-Wave, Wi-Fi, and Lutron radios. As of this writing, there are no home automation protocols or devices this hub shouldn’t work with.
Nobody Gets Left Out With the D-Link USB Hub
Every other home automation product that I’ve looked at leaves someone out in the cold (usually me with my Windows Phone). Almost all of them work with either Android or iOS. Some work with both. However, not many work with Windows Phone (Windows 8). This makes the Staples Connect D-Link USB Hub the most compatible with mobile devices across the board. This makes the one or two outstanding shortcomings something I can overlook. There’s also a complete web portal for your mobile device is out of touch with the Net.
Did Somebody Say Shortcomings?
Yes. Yes, I did dear reader. When I first started looking into the Staples Connect Hub, it wasn’t able to easily communicate with some of the biggest names in the industry, namely Belkin’s WeMo, Nest, and IFTTT. SmartThings works pretty flawlessly with IFTTT, but this one needs a somewhat complex workaround. Another shortcoming is that the device currently only works with some substandard D-Link cameras. The one bright spot here is that by the time you read this, an improved app will have been released that makes the hub compatible with Nest.
Setup and Placement is Hassle-Free
Getting up and running with the Staples Connect D-Link USB Hub is quick and easy. Compatible devices pair up quickly with minimal cajoling. The app itself is clean and intuitive, not cluttered. Even better, once you set everything up, you can unplug the hub from your Wi-Fi router and stick it wherever you want, out of site, although D-Link did a great job of sticking everything in an attractive package, so it won’t stick out like an ugly sore thumb if you choose to keep it in sight. This means it’ll keep working even if the Internet goes down.
The D-Link Hub isn’t the only that allows you to configure it and then put it wherever you want. The Wink Hub does as well. However, I’ve seen and read about people having serious issues getting it to work properly. Everything I’ve seen says that D-Link did a better job and came out with a product that works as advertised all the time. From what I’ve seen, it also pairs up with devices easier and faster than other hubs like the Wink. Testers reported no problems connecting with devices using ZigBee, Z-Wave, or Lutron home automation protocols.
Customize Actions Using Modes
Although not unique to this product, I like the “Modes” feature. There are three modes the system can work in-Home, Away, and Vacation. Once the setup process is completed, it’s time to setting up actions. Due to the three modes, your action choices are considerable. For example, you can set the system up to call you and sound an alarm if a window is opened when the system is in “Away” or “Vacation” mode, but do nothing when in “Home” mode.
There are also “Manual” and “Automatic” activities. Manual activities are those that you start by tapping a button in the app. Automatic activities are those that happen when you get close to something. For example, you can set up automatic activities such as heating and lights coming on when you perform the manual activity of opening the garage door.
No Internet Needed
Unlike products from other companies, the Staples Connect D-Link USB Hub doesn’t need to be connected to the Internet for it to initiate actions, one of the benefits of no IFTTT compatibility. Unplug the hub, disable your Wi-Fi router and you can still control every connected device in the house. Wink and SmartThings can’t make that claim. The only time this statement is untrue is when the action requires communication with the cloud. Otherwise, once you set it up, it can go anywhere inside the house within range of all connected devices and there is no need to keep it connected physically to your router.