(Pocket-lint) - The Hive Hub 360 offers an alternative central hub for your Hive system, replacing the regular hub (which connects to your router) with something more visually appealing, while bringing a wider range of functions, including listening ability for alerts based on audio (such as glass smashing, assuming a break-in).
If you own Hive products then it's an interesting device – but one you'll have to upgrade to, rather than getting it as part of a starter kit or similar. So, is it worth the money?
Smart speaker-like design
- Black or white cylindrical design
- Measures: 130.5 x 81.5mm
- Loose power cable issue
The Hive Hub 360 looks like a smart speaker, albeit smaller. Cylindrical in shape with copper highlighting, there's a light ring on the top – a bit like the Amazon Echo – and it comes finished in black or white colours.
It has been designed to sit visibly in your home, very different to the previous Hub which was a white plastic box designed to be connected to your router and hidden out of sight.
The Hive Hub 360 is still plastic, but if we had a dollar for every time someone asked if you could talk to it, we'd be building a swimming pool by now. The design looks similar to those Alexa or Google Assistant devices that people are eagerly buying – which isn't hugely helpful as you can't talk to the Hub (well, you can, but it won't respond).
Certainly the new Hub is a nicer looking device than the previous one, but the entire ethos has changed – this is no longer just about providing connectivity to your Hive devices, it's designed to do more. You'll notice from the picture that there are two USB connections on the rear, for example, but these don't do anything yet – they are for 'future updates', says Hive, but there's no telling what that might mean.
There's a slight problem we've encountered with the power cable: the flat Micro-USB cord plugs into the base, but has a bit of a loose fit, so can easily come out. We've had the Hive system go offline because we've moved the Hub 360 to clean under it, for example.
Connectivity and a small power problem
- Power cord easily comes out
- Changes system to completely wireless
- Seems to crash a lot
The Hive Hub 360 replaces the existing Hive Hub and removes the need to connect to your router via a cable. This is convenient in that it frees up an Ethernet socket, but also gives you more freedom of installation – i.e. you can put the new Hub somewhere in your house, rather than it being a slave to your router, so that its listening functions work better and so that it can connect to all your devices more easily.
Setup is a pretty easy process. All you have to do is plug the Hub 360 in and, via the app, you can add it to your Hive system. It will then establish connections to all your devices and take control, leaving you free to remove the old wired Hub. The whole process takes about 20 minutes.
Does it create a stronger connection that the old hub? Yes, it does. We had some Hive devices out in the garden that the old Hub couldn't connect to, while the new Hub 360 has added them no problems. One of the problems with Hive Active Heating when it launched was that it frequently lost connection, rendering it offline. That's been progressively improved with new Hubs and the Hub 360 aims to continues that trend.
There's another advantage offered by having the Hub 360 handle the connections: it means that if you lose your internet connection (i.e. your router goes offline or crashes) then you still have some connectivity with Hive – and Routines will still work (so, for example, a light comes on because a motion sensor detects movement).
However, while the connection is farther reaching than before, we don't think the Hive Hub 360 is all that stable. We've found it to regularly have a red ring on the top (showing that it's offline) or we've opened the app and found everything offline, meaning we have to reboot the hub (although sometimes it will correct itself). This is potentially a software issue that can be addressed with firmware updates, but we're tempted to connect it to a smart plug so we can remotely restart it when it goes offline, just to get around this problem.
Hive Hub 360 additional features
- Enables audio monitoring
Aside from offloading all the connections to a new wireless system, the Hub 360's new design and positioning enables another aspect of home monitoring: audio detection.
The Hive Hub 360 can detect alarms (smoke or carbon monoxide), dog barking and glass breaking. The smoke alarm detection is pretty useful to alert you if something happens at home when you're not there. The dog barking detection also works – we tested it using (you guessed it) a barking dog and, indeed, we were alerted via the Hub 360.
If you don't want these alert features active – because your dog barks a lot when you're at home or whatever – then you can turn off the monitoring and only switch it on when you leave the house.
There have been a couple of false alarms caused by the television during our testing. We've also had a number of broken glass alerts, despite not breaking anything. Despite this over-sensitivity, we imagine that if someone did smash the windows in then we'd get an alert.
You can listen to the recordings through the app in your phone and if they are incorrect you can mark them as such – a feedback system designed to improve the system. We did find this a little slow in the app though. Often the recording wouldn't play, or we'd have to switch to another and back again to get it to play again, which makes the whole thing rather tiresome.
Of course all these audio alerts really depend on you having some way to react to them. The most obvious thing is using an indoor camera – some of which will also offer the same functions. Some of the more advanced devices offer these functions too (Netatmo Welcome will alert you to sounds, for example), but on the whole the Hive Hub 360 gives another method of home monitoring.
Sadly there's no extension into Hive Actions. You can't have an alert from the Hub 360 trigger recording on your Hive View – although the chances of having a camera pointing at the origin of the sound are perhaps unlikely anyway.
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The Hive Hub 360 is an interesting alternative to the regular hub. With several months of testing under our belts, however, our biggest concerns are that this newer Hub sometimes loses its connection with no obvious cause, while the power cable comes out too easily (which can cause offline time as a result).
However, the audio monitoring feature is good. Well, it is if there's something you can then do about it. Often that will be to view your indoor cameras and to make sure you're recording whatever caused the sound.
With a price difference of only £20 to the regular Hub, if you're buying the system piecemeal then the 360 is certainly worth considering. But seeing as most Hive packages come with the regular Hub and not the 360, it's hard to see it as an essential upgrade for existing Hive owners.