Smart home gadgets let you do things such as turn your lights on using your smartphone, stream music to a speaker using Alexa, lock your doors remotely, clean your house, and much more. But smart home gadgets are about more than just convenience. These devices can also help you save on heating and energy costs, let you know if someone’s trying to break in, or if there’s some other emergency.
While still in its infancy, the number of smart home products—from Amazon to Xiaomi—is rapidly growing. We’ve tested dozens of smart home devices, from cameras to lightbulbs to thermostats to smart light switches—even robot vacuums —to find the best of each for your new smart home. Here are some of our favorites.
Latest News & Updates (May 2019)
• Ikea’s Smart Blinds have been delayed, but they’re still coming in 2019. We’ll keep you posted on their release date, price and how they work.
• The Sonos One and the Sonos Beam now work with Google Assistant. The smart speaker and smart soundbar have had Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant built in, but now consumers can also opt for Google’s assistant. While you can’t run both assistants simultaneously, you can switch the Sonos One and Sonos Beam from Alexa to Google Assistant in the Sonos app. However, at the outset, some features not available include: calling, voice match, purchases, interpreter mode, and setting routines in the Google Home app.
• Google is phasing out the Works with Nest program starting August 31. If you have a smart home device directly connected to a Nest product, this interaction will continue to function, but Google is actively working to transition this functionality to its Works with Google Assistant program.
• Google announced a new smart display, coming this summer. The Nest Hub Max ($229) will feature a 10-inch display, a front-facing camera for making Google Duo calls, and dual speakers. Google is also rebranding the Google Home Hub as the Nest Hub, and dropping its price to $129.
The second-generation Echo is smaller and more attractive than the original. Plus, you can change its skins to match your decor. Inside, the new Echo does all the same things the original does: control smart home gadgets, connect to other smart home hubs, read you audiobooks, check the weather, and even let you purchase things online just by using your voice. And, as a speaker, it sounds pretty good, too.
The Arlo Q’s 1080p camera boasts excellent quality video, both day and night, has great motion detection, and a flexible scheduling feature. Best of all, though, is that you get a week’s worth of video storage for free.
The Ecobee4 has everything we liked about its predecessor, the Ecobee3, such as a slick touchscreen interface and a remote sensor that helps ensure all the rooms of your house are getting heated or cooled properly. But the newest version also has Alexa built in, so you don’t need an Echo or an Echo Dot to control your other smart home devices, ask for the weather, or do anything else you can do with Amazon’s voice assistant.
Philips Hue White starter kit includes two bulbs and a hub to connect them to other smart home devices. While you can’t change these bulbs’ colors, you can adjust their brightness (up to 800 lumens), and add up to 50 to a single hub. Philips’ bulbs also work with a wide range of smart home systems, including Alexa, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, Google Home, and Nest.
Philips also has an app, Philips Hue Sync, which lets users synchronize their smart bulbs with multimedia content on their Mac or Windows PC. For example, you can set your lights to flash and change color in time with music, video and movies being played on your computer. Users can also modify the color schemes and themes to suit their tastes.
Nest’s device has the best video we’ve yet seen from a video doorbell cam; its microphone and speaker were excellent, too. Nest’s camera can recognize faces, and even announce them when they come to your door. While it needs a hardwired connection, it continuously records video, so you’ll never miss an event. You can also set up specific zones, so you’ll only be notified when a person or object appears in that area of the frame. While you’ll need to subscribe to the Nest Aware service (starting at $5/month) to get all of its features, they’re worth it.
A simple, and inexpensive way to make any device “smart,” you can control the power going to the TP-Link HS107 plug from your smartphone, wherever you are. The rectangular device has three-prong sockets at both ends, so you can control two devices independently from a single outlet.TP-Link’s Kasa app also lets you create a schedule to turn the plug on and off, and has an “Away” mode that will turn your devices on to make it look like you’re home. It can also be linked to other smart home devices, such as Alexa and Google Assistant.
Not only does the Nest Protect detect smoke and carbon monoxide, but its sensors are designed to pick up both slow- and fast-burning fires. Plus, the Protect will tell you in which room the fire is located, and can be linked to other smart home devices, so that it can automatically turn on your Philips Hue lights in the event of an emergency.