There are a few good home automation hubs out there. I’ve used Vera extensively in the past, recently switched to Samsung SmartThings, and love it! Here’s why.
My Adventures with the Vera 2
A few years ago, I got the MiCasaVerde Vera 2 Z-Wave home automation hub and I’ve gone to town with all kinds of home automation. I’ve written a lot of Z-Wave Home Automation tutorials if you’re interested.
Well, over the years, the old Vera 2 started showing its age. The firmware for it stopped being able to receive updates as Vera stopped supporting the device in favor of their newer models. Also, the Vera 2 became more unreliable as it would stop responding and need to be rebooted ever few days. That’s pretty unacceptable in a home automation hub. It almost defeats the purpose of home automation when the hub needs to be manually rebooted periodically.
Other Options for a Smart Home Hub
As I was in the market for an upgrade, I had my eye on the Vera Plus which was Vera’s latest and greatest model. Plus, it was only $150 which was $50 cheaper than what I paid for my Vera 2 a few years ago.
But then I started thinking… do I actually need to stick with Vera? Z-Wave is a somewhat open protocol that other company can and do support. What’s stopping me from which over to another platform that also supports Z-Wave devices? I read some reviews and comparisons between Vera, Samsung SmartThings, and the Wink Hub. They got me interested.
Product Adoption & Community Support
Then, I got the Google Home. You can read my review about it. Right on the box, it says it support Samsung SmartThings. That got me thinking… while all these smart home hubs have their pros and cons, the most important factor of a home automation platform/ecosystem is high adoption with an active developer community.
Vera has always been a very niche community. It was never a well-marketed product. Most people I talk to have never heard of it. As a result, support for integrations with other devices and services was quite scarce.
It was obvious to me that the Samsung SmartThings was going to be the best choice when it comes to adoption and community.
At the time I was looking into this, the Vera Plus was $150 and the Samsung SmartThings Hub was $100. Then, the SmartThings hub went on sale for $50 leading up to the holidays.
At that point, it became a no-brainer for me. SmartThings was already looking like the better choice and then it became 1/3 the price of the Vera Plus. So, I pulled the trigger and got it!
SmartThings First Impressions
After getting the SmartThings hub and using it for a while, here are some of my initial thoughts.
Mobile app interface is the way to go. Vera UI5 had an old web interface that was not mobile friendly which meant you had to be sitting at a computer or holding a laptop in order to work on your home automation. But now with SmartThings, it’s all in the Android or iOS app.
A lot of devices just work right out of the box. I was surprised how many devices were support and could easily connect and get working right away.
SmartThings has a strong community of users and developers. After lots of Googling, I’ve found answers to just about every question. I can definitely tell that SmartThings has a higher adoption rate and thus a stronger, more vibrant community of users.
You’re not limited to the devices that the app says it supports… you can usually Google it and find some code to copy and paste to create custom SmartApps and Device Handlers in the API web interface.
SmartThings is fast. Devices respond quickly to triggered routines. The Vera usually involved some amount of waiting.
SmartApps are really nice. Some things I used to do in the Vera by creating lots of scenes and triggers, I can now handle with one single SmartApp with a little configuration in there. This allows me to keep a lot of the basic lights on and off depending on triggers or circumstances in the Smart Lighting SmartApp instead of cluttering up my list of Routines.
The presence detection and home security monitoring in SmartThings is very cool. Just add a new user in your account for your spouse, and have them install the SmartThings app logging into their own user. Now, you can use these phones as presence detectors. You can set your home security monitoring to arm when you’re away, and disarm when you’re home (and of course arm again while you’re sleeping). I setup something like this myself a while back using Tasker, but that was a lot of work and was often buggy.
Transitioning from Vera to SmartThings
The transition of devices from Vera to SmartThings was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
At first, I thought I would have to open up the add/remove devices screen on the Vera to exclude all my devices so they would be discoverable by SmartThings. I started doing that for the first set of devices.
Then, I discovered that the SmartThings app has a built-in feature for general exclusion. In the app, pull out the left slide-out menu, tap on the item that says “Hub is Online”, tap on Z-Wave Utilities, and tap General Device Exclusion. When that’s running, then toggle a Z-Wave switch that was tied to the old Vera, and it will be excluded and will then become discoverable in the “Add a Thing” scan for new devices.
Overall, I am extremely happy with my move from Vera to SmartThings. I’ve already been able to connect so much more than I ever could have done with Vera and it’s just a much more enjoyable experience. If you’re thinking about moving off of Vera, or getting into home automation for the first time, I highly recommend Samsung SmartThings.
If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, etc., please let me know below in the comments. Thanks!
24 thoughts on “Samsung SmartThings vs Vera – Why I Switched”
Nice writeup, I have only ever used vera and have been curious of other products. Everything Samsung I have ever bought has failed so I have no interest in them per se but as friends ask me about my HA stuff I try not to lock them into getting vera because simply put, I don’t know what the ‘best’ is. I did want to point out the presence detection of smarthings sounds exactly like the one for vera (add user, install app done).
I understand what you mean buy having experience with some of Samsung’s junk, but I felt like SmartThings was a breath of fresh air that gave me a little better impression of Samsung.
You compared the new SmartThings against an old Vera, and not with the upgraded Vera. So of course Samsung is better.
Yes, you have a good point. I don’t have first-hand experience with the latest Vera, but from what I’ve researched, the latest version of Vera is just an upgraded UI and minor improvements. Many people have said that it’s not that much better in terms of functionality.
I am a long time Vera user, I will tell you the points for the new Vera Plus, it supports z wave, ip and zigbee; is not cloud based like SmartThings, if you lose internet, you lose connection, on Vera as long as I have power and my router is on, I have local connection and control of all my devices. I haven’t find any device that won’t work on any hub, as long as they are certified.
Being a ST user for nearly two years, I am looking at the Vera line of product for the very reason you mentioned — local processing. Not that ST is bad, but I have been asked to install home automation in two houses located in the country that have poor internet. Knowing that ST requires the cloud, I have to look at alternatives.
It appears that Vera has matured greatly in 2016-17. And, one of my complaints about ST is the UI being limited to a smartphone. I don’t like it. Plus, if you want a more robust set of rules for ST you have to go to a third party like the CORE programming language. Which can be a PITA on a phone.
Do you have any points for Vera you would like to contribute?
I like Samsung products and thinking about a Hub for controlling a door lock for kids. Controlling lights and temp my be in the future. But Cameras are a must. Seems like Samsung will charge to store video. Doesn’t look like Vera does. Also Samsung web site says battery run and worse is a 100′ range. My rear door to my front bed room on the second floor were my internet is has to be over 100′. Any suggestion on wireless cameras for either system. Would like to be able to move camera as well remotely.
The SmartThings app said something about how the video recording feature was in beta and is free for now. I’m not sure exactly what they’re planning on doing to make it not free, but for now, it works and it takes video when there is an intruder alert triggered. If Samsung decides to charge for it, then I’m sure there will be dozens of community-made smart apps that we could pick from that would give us this feature for free (but would have to use some cloud storage like Dropbox or something).
The SmartThings has battery backup, but it doesn’t rely on batteries. It has a power cable. I think the range it’s talking about might be talking about Z-Wave range, or maybe wifi range, but cameras all use wifi, so if you get wifi in a spot, then a camera could go there.
The 2 cameras that are officially supported by SmartThings (without the use of community code) are Netgear Arlo and Samsung SmartCam HD Pro. I have the Samsung ones. They just need a power cable and they connect via wifi. I’ve heard the Arlo cameras are really nice and they actually connect to a base station instead of individually connecting to wifi.
The main advantage Vera has that I see is local processing. If ST would add local processing of events it would completely disrupt the industry. Right now, their service is unstable. And if internet is out, the lights don’t work. I don’t have Vera experience yet, but I’m looking at it, with the PLeG pluggin it may suit my needs.
For that reason I’ve tried other controllers with local processing.
Truly epic fail. They sell it at a premium price, but it’s far less capable in terms of Logical Event Processing and Geofencing and the like. Plus they fleece you for their ‘plugin’ model. Most of the plugins are third party and simply don’t work well. None of them solved some of the major short comings of the system, being the terrible Event Rules Engine. And depending on the model you buy, they’ll limit how many plugins you can install. Finally, a horrible UI/UX experience.
This system is just way too simplistic. Again the failure comes in the lack of a robust Event Rules Engine. At least it didn’t feel as ancient as Homeseer, but it did feel more like a toy.
In terms of capabilities, community and ongoing developer support, SmartThings wins hands down. It’s unfortunate they cannot introduce local processing to existing Hub 2s.
Great comment! Thanks for your insight.
I know what you mean about the local processing. My Internet went out once and it was a bit annoying having to turn lights on by myself, but not nearly as annoying as not having Internet!
The biggest drawback to ST is that, so far anyway, I have NOT found a way to easily integrate my hardwired DSC system.
LF, thanks for your in-depth thoughts on the topic. I don’t know what you mean by having to contact support if a device dies. I’m able to remove a device just fine. There are some SmartApps that will give you more ability for rules like you mention. However, the case that you mentioned with order of turning on and off… I believe you can control that in the Logitech Harmony setup. I have seen an occasional hiccup with Z-Wave devices. You make it sound like it’s 50% of the time, but I feel like it works fine 99% of the time. It’s just every once in a while I notice something doesn’t work when it should. I know what you mean by not having time to tinker with it anymore. I have to say having SmartThings, I have to tinker with it MUCH less than when I had Vera.
My system cannot replace or remove devices. So I title them dead and evetually have support remove them. No known solution at this time. ZWave is generally pretty solid. But I do get flakiness often. It took me an hour a week ago to add a new plug in module. Multiple reboots and a lot of colorful words got it added!
But flakiness is abound. I have a morning run of the ST and harmony to basically turn on my sonos tuned to the radio. It works about 75 percent of the time. I also have it shit off at 7am but that never works. Keep in mind this is likely a harmony issue and not a ST issue.
A ZWave sensor often reports open when it isn’t. This happens about every two months. If I used those in an alarm it would go off. But in comparison six years on a DSC alarm and not a single wireless false alarm across 16 sensors.
I am hoping a powerful system comes out that is solid, maybe oomi? Until then smatthings appears to be the least worst option :-).
I had the veralite and switched to Smartthings for the same reason. I quickly noticed that I had to edit code, setup mqtt and node.js servers to do the things I wanted. So I returned the Smartthings and bought a Veraplus. I was able to do all the things I wanted with the Veraplus without having to become a programmer. I am a big fan of the Amazon Echo Dot and have became dependent on my Dots and Imperihome for my mobile app. Something went wrong between Vera and Amazon and my voice automation didn’t work for a week. Out of frustration I bought another Smartthings thinking the support has gotten better. After two weeks of trying to get it to do the things Vera does out of the box I have ordered another Veraplus.
Things Smartthings can’t do without editing code or setting up server.
1. Can’t add or remove pin codes to zwave locks. There are Smart Apps that you can use but you do have to edit code, but even then you can’t add a pin code to all locks at once.
2. Doesn’t work with Envisalink and any alarm system. To get an alarm system to work with Smartthings you have to setup a server that can talk to MQTT messenger service and manualy code each zone and sensor. With Vera you install the app, put in your installer code and bam, everything works.
3. Can’t setup automation with multiple conditions and delays. Well I am sure you can but I haven’t found a way to do it without additional coding.
Smartthings is compatible with some things that Vera is not such as my Harmony remote and Google home. Vera just came out of beta testing for the Echo via Alexa.
My conclusion is that Samsung’s Smartthings is like Microsoft Windows. Vera is like Linux Ubuntu. I will say that the Smartthings community is friendlier than the Vera community, but Vera’s tech support will help if you can’t find answers on the forums. Smartthings tech support is like trying to see an atom. I am sure it there but I can’t see it or find it.
Also Smartthings is cloud based, and Vera is not. If you loose internet connection you can still control you lights but no automation or security will work.
That’s true. It’s one downside for sure.
I’ve had a different experience than you. I found myself needing to write a lot of code to get stuff to work with Vera. But with SmartThings, it just works without as much hassle. Maybe you have some more advanced requirements for you system.
If you haven’t had a chance to try imperihome it’s worth looking into. ST, Vera, and Hue phone apps suck. Imperihome allowed you to intergreat several hubs into one app and it is by far the best phone app out. It alone could be a reason to choose a hub.
Seems quite overpriced to me.
I guess that depends on how much value you pit on autonomous (no cloud) operation. I think its very important if you want to use it as a security service. I think the price is justified as it provides a camera, IR, sensors, a screen, a powerful visual programming environment etc. If i would buy those separately, it would be much more expensive.