The Samsung Connect Home Pro tries to be a Wi-Fi router and a smart home hub at the same time, but ends up being merely adequate at both tasks.
The gadget belongs to the new class of whole-home Wi-Fi systems, also known as mesh routers, that uses multiple wireless nodes working in tandem to propagate wireless signals throughout the home.
In other words, it can improve poor wireless reception and eradicate Wi-Fi blind spots. But this works only if you install at least two Connect Home Pro units - up to five units can be installed.
This model is actually the higher-end of the two Connect Home models available. The basic Connect Home has a slower processor and fewer antennas. Its maximum data transfer speed of 867Mbps is lower than the Pro's theoretical throughput of 1,733Mbps. Both models can perform as a smart home hub.
Like most whole-home Wi-Fi systems, the Connect Home Pro has just two Ethernet ports. It lacks a USB port for attaching a hard drive, and its antennas are hidden within a compact body that looks more like a home appliance than a router.
Set-up is done with the Samsung Connect app (available for iOS and Android) and requires a Samsung account.
There is no Web-based interface. It offers limited networking features such as a guest network, port forwarding and parental controls. For instance, only one device in the network can be assigned with the highest bandwidth priority, while the parental controls let you restrict access to the Internet for devices for a specific duration, but not filter by websites or keywords.
PRICE: $298 (1 unit)
ETHERNET INTERFACE: 2 x 10/100/1000 Gigabit LAN
STANDARDS: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Zigbee, Z-Wave, Bluetooth 4.1
SECURITY: WPA2, WPA2-PSK
VALUE FOR MONEY: 2/5
Adjusting the bandwidth priority or parental controls using the app is also harder than it should be. There are no centralised controls to enable these settings for multiple devices. Instead, you have to click on each connected device to see these options.
In my speed test, the Connect Home managed 228Mbps in the living room, where it is located, and 180Mbps in the bedroom. This is not as fast as the 300 to 400Mbps that I have seen in other mesh routers. Its signal strength in my bedroom is also lower than its competitors'. While other routers in the same test had around 60 per cent signal strength, the Connect Home Pro was 20 to 30 per cent.
A likely reason for its lacklustre performance is its smart home hub. Samsung says using the smart home hub may reduce the speed of the router because one of its antennas is shared with the hub.
As for the smart home hub, which runs on the Samsung SmartThings platform, I had only a handful of compatible third-party smart home devices, such as Philips Hue light bulbs and Netgear Arlo cameras, with which to test it. This was supplemented by a bunch of smart sensors from Samsung.
Using the Samsung Connect app, I could create custom rules for these devices, such as turning on my Philips bulbs every day at sunset. Going further, one could link other smart devices, such as Samsung's smart sensors, which come in various types that can detect motion or measure temperature, to act as a trigger for other smart devices.
For instance, a door sensor can tell the Connect Home Pro the door has been opened, which then commands the Hue lights to turn on. With the right set of smart devices, one could create many scenarios.
But Samsung's smart home platform is in its infancy. The list of smart devices is confined to Samsung's latest consumer electronics, like smart TVs and robot vacuums, smart sensors, and a few third-party devices from Bose, Netgear and Philips. It is also pricey to outfit a smart home properly - the sensors range from $38 to $88 each.
Strangely enough for a whole-home Wi-Fi system that works best as a pair or as a trio, Samsung does not sell the Connect Home Pro as a bundle in retail stores. The exception is Singtel, which lets its broadband subscribers buy a pair at $24 per month with a 24-month contract ($576 altogether).
• As a mesh router, it is pricey and slower than its rivals. But the smart home functionality has its appeal, especially with more compatible devices on the cards.