Update: Microsoft is coming for Nest's crown as king of the smart thermostat. The Redmond, Washington-based company announced that it's making a Nest competitor called GLAS that ups the ante for what a smart speaker can do. Will earn a place on our list of the best smart home devices? Only time will tell.
The best smart home devices are dramatically bringing your dumb household into the future, letting you control everything from the front door lock to the bedroom lights with a phone, tablet or even a smart speaker.
Here’s the problem: upgrading to a smart home isn’t as easy as simply buying a single device. It’s a complicated new category of products with dozens of choices that promise a future-ready home, but vary in quality, performance and price.
Because smart homes rely on components being able to communicate with one another, before you stock up your shopping cart with all the latest and greatest smart home gadgets make sure they’re compatible with any other smart devices you own including your phone, tablet and any smart speaker you already own.
Standards and personal preferences aside, we've picked out a list of eight gadgets that we believe are the best smart home products you can buy.
Here are our recommended best smart home devices to get your existing house, apartment or other domicile up to speed:
- Best smart speaker: Amazon Echo
- Best smart home hub: Wink Hub 2
- Best smart light bulbs: Philips Hue
- Best smart thermostat: Nest Learning Thermostat
- Best smart security camera: NetGear Arlo Q
- Best smart power switch: iHome ISP5 Control Smart Plug
- Best smart lock: August Smart Lock
- Best smart smoke detector: Nest Protect
Choosing the best smart home ecosystem
If you're starting your smart home from scratch, you'll want to consider which smart home ecosystem you'll want to build off of. There are quite a few out there, including Apple HomeKit, Google Home, Samsung SmartThings, the Amazon Echo platform, IFTTT, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and more.
You’ll also want to consider the ecosystem that you’re already plugged into. For example, avid Android owners might have more luck with Google Home than with the Amazon Echo or Apple’s new HomePod. On the contrary, those that need quick and easy ways to order things online might prefer the Amazon Echo.
Speaking of, let's get into our list of the best smart home devices with...
Best smart speaker: Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo is stunning, sleek and slowly becoming more sentient
First up on the list is the Amazon Echo, and for good reason. The Echo is proven tech, and was a trailblazer when it was first launched in 2015 – now, Google and Apple have finally followed suit with their own products, and while the Google Home is a great product, it’s just not as versatile (yet) as the Amazon Echo.
The Echo integrates with your Amazon account, after which you can ask it to do things like order food, and, of course, control your other smart home devices – making it a super useful addition to your smart home devices list. On top of that, it’s well-designed and should suit any home.
Best smart home hub: Wink Hub 2
HQ for your smart home command center
While most smart speakers these days can act as a smart home hub, you might not want to go the smart speaker route – and if not, then a smart home hub can be a seriously helpful way to tie together all your smart home devices. That said, perhaps the best choice of smart home hub is the Wink Hub 2.
The device is great for a number of reasons, namely that it supports a huge range of standards – including Z-Wave, ZigBee, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Kidde, and Lutron Clear Connect. It also works with Amazon’s Alexa, and IFTTT. Perhaps the only downsides are that the device does not have any USB ports or backup battery power, both of which appear on some other hubs.
Best smart light bulb: Philips Hue
iPhone-controlled lightbulbs, anyone?
One thing that you might want to do as soon as you decide to make your home a smart home is switch out the light bulbs – something easier said than done considering how many different options out there. Of them all, however, we think the best smart light bulbs are Philips Hue range of smart bulbs.
If you opt for Philips Hue bulbs, you will need to get the Philips Bridge, which is kind of like a hub for your lights. The advantage, however, is reliability, and the fact that the system is compatible with a range of different standards and home control systems including Apple HomeKit, Nest and Samsung SmartThings.
Best smart thermostat: Nest Learning Thermostat
The superhero your smart home deserves
Automating your heating and air conditioning can be a great way to save time and money, and there are a few great smart thermostats out there.
Perhaps the most famous and, in our opinion the best, is the Nest Learning Thermostat. As the name suggests, Nest gets to know your habits and adjusts accordingly – meaning it’ll switch off when you don’t need it, which ultimately saves you money.
On top of its great features, the thermostat also looks stylish, and offers an extremely easy-to-use interface – which is an important thing to consider.
Best smart security camera: NetGear Arlo Q
A well-made and smartly designed security camera
Home security is an important thing to consider, and there are a ton of connected security cameras out there. One of the best is the NetGear Arlo Q, because of the fact that it has a nice design and reliable motion-detection that starts recording when it detects an object moving about.
If you buy the camera, you’ll also get a free basic 7-day cloud recording service, and you can access that recorded footage through the accompanying app – which is excellently designed. There are a few downsides, however, which include the fact that the device does not store footage offline, and doesn’t have an ethernet port – an annoying caveat if you have a spotty Wi-Fi connection.
Best smart power switch: iHome ISP5 Control Smart Plug
As universal as they come
While there are great smart replacements for many devices, a much simpler option is simply using connected plugs in your power outlets. Doing so will give any device that plugs into a power outlet basic smart features like the ability to turn the device on and off, or the ability to monitor the device's power usage.
There are quite a few smart plugs out there (seriously, so many), but the best is the iHome ISP5 Control Smart Plug. It's Wi-Fi enabled, and works with HomeKit, Nest and Wink – so it should play nice with your other smart home devices.
Best smart lock: August Smart Lock
We mentioned security before, but a security camera is only helpful if someone has already broken in to your house. You also might want to prevent that from happening in the first place, which is where come into play. The best smart lock is the August Smart Lock, which can attach to your existing deadbolt.
The lock is also compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, Nest and IFTTT – so it should easily connect to your other smart home devices.
Using the lock, you can do things like lock and unlock the door from your phone, say to let friends and family into the house when you're not home, and have it automatically detect when you’re nearby, so it’ll unlock without you having to put down all the groceries.
Best smart smoke detector: Nest Protect
Nest doesn’t just make great smart thermostats: it also offers smoke alarms, which can connect to the rest of your smart home. That said, the Nest Protect looks great, and it offers great connectivity through Wi-Fi and IFTTT.
Using the Nest Protect you can make sure that you’ll always be aware if there’s a fire, even if you’re on the other side of the world. The accompanying app is well-designed and easy-to-use ... though hopefully you won’t have to use it.