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Best smart home devices 2021: ranking the best smart lighting, heating, and more we've tested

Best smart home devices
Image Credit: Philips Hue (Image credit: Philips)

The best smart home devices ensure you can turn your thermostat up, dim the lights, lock your doors, and play your music with a simple voice command – creating a seamless, smart environment that makes your life easier and,  the epitome of what a modern house should offer. 

The best smart home devices can be controlled either by your smartphone or by a voice assistant both when you’re at home, and when you’re away from the property, although to do this you usually require one of the best smart home hubs. So if you’ve forgotten to switch the lights off, or left the heating running full blast, you can easily rectify this with a few taps on your smartphone.

The best smart lighting and the best smart plugs and switches are the easiest and cheapest way to start building your smart home while adding one of the best smart speakers into the mix enables voice control too. Alternatively, you can go all out, creating an intricate network of connected devices that can work together, for example having lights that turn on when one of the best home security cameras or best video doorbells detects motion, or one of the best smart thermostats that know when it’s chilly outside, and cranks the heating up a few degrees automatically.  

Smart homes rely on components being able to communicate with one another, so you'll need to make sure they’re compatible with any other smart devices you already own including any of the best smart displays or smart speakers. So whether you’re just beginning your smart home journey, or looking to complete the technology-laden home of your dreams, it can easily become one daunting shopping experience. 

To help you we've curated a list of devices that we’ve tested and have proved to be the best smart home products you can buy right now. 

Best smart home devices 2021

Best smart home devices 2021 ranked

Best smart home devices: Eufy Video Doorbell 2K

Image Credit: Eufy (Image credit: Eufy)

1. Best video doorbell: Eufy Video Doorbell 2K

Battery-powered and subscription-free, this is the best smart doorbell you can buy

Reasons to buy
+No monthly subscription needed+Battery operated option+4:3 ratio at 2K resolution
Reasons to avoid
-Delay in voice chat and video-Some downtime to recharge

The Eufy Video Doorbell is the best wireless smart doorbell camera on the market in terms of price, reliability and performance. It blows the competition away thanks to the fact it records in 2K, so the footage is extremely detailed, and a 4:3 aspect ratio means you can pretty much see the full length of the person on your doorstep.

The battery-powered doorbell is good if you’re renting a place and can’t take out the old doorbell that’s already installed - it works wirelessly with the help of a hub that connects to your router, you can simply throw it on any outdoor surface and get it to work for up to six months at a time.

There’s no need to sign up for a monthly subscription to get the most from the Eufy Video Doorbell 2K, either. Rather than the video being stored securely online, up to 16GB of footage – around two week’s worth – can sit on the bundled base station, so there’s no ongoing cost.

We really liked the layout of the app, and the fact that the system can be integrated with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant only makes things even better for smart home enthusiasts.

But should you buy it? If you want a system that doesn’t cost anything to maintain and love being in charge of how/where the video is stored, the Eufy Video Doorbell is great. It gives you complete control with no overhead cost.

Read the full review here: Eufy Video Doorbell 2K

Best smart home devices: Amazon Echo Studio

Credit: Amazon (Image credit: Amazon)

2. Best smart speaker: Amazon Echo Studio

An affordable smart speaker that offers some seriously good-sounding audio

Reasons to buy
+Gigantic, Dolby Atmos sound+Cheaper than Apple/Google speakers+Great new Alexa features
Reasons to avoid
-Larger than your average Echo

For years, we gave smart speakers a pass in the audio department because we figured there was just no way for a speaker to both be smart and sound good. That was, until we found the Amazon Echo Studio. 

In the Echo Studio, Amazon has made its best speaker yet. It's ambitious, flexible, serves multiple purposes and comes at a low price point that only a company with the scale of Amazon could competitively achieve.

It’s a bombastic speaker, packed full of not just smart home and assistant tech, but smart audio considerations too. At its best, its 3D audio effects breathe new life into your favorite songs, and that's saying nothing of its ability to connect to your Amazon Fire TV devices to offer more immersive sound.

The Echo Studio also doubles up as a ZigBee hub, so it can connect to 1,000s of smart home products, right out of the box, making it ideal for a smart home.

Read the full review: Amazon Echo Studio

Best smart home devices: Google Nest Hub Max

Image Credit: Google (Image credit: Future)

3. Best smart display: Google Nest Hub Max

A great new entry into the world of display-led speakers.

Reasons to buy
+Excellent screen+Good, music-friendly speaker+Neat design
Reasons to avoid
-No Netflix support

The Google Nest Hub Max is a larger version of the Google Nest Hub (initially known as the Google Home Hub), a smart speaker with a screen. It also has a front-facing camera and can plug into the Google-owned Nest platform to act as a smart home camera. This part of the Google Nest Hub Max needs a little work judging by our experience. 

The Google Nest Hub Max can also be used to manage and control hundreds of smart home devices such as smart lights, thermostats, and smart plugs, from a range of different manufacturers, putting an end to having to use several different apps.

It sounds good enough to act as a mini Hi-Fi, Google Assistant feels responsive and the large screen lets you watch YouTube while you cook. 

Although the Google Nest Hub Max had some slight issues at launch, it's still not just a great smart display but a great smart speaker and a way to stay entertained while you wait for your onions to sauté. 

Read the full review: Google Next Hub Max Review

Best smart home devices: Philips Hue lighting

Image Credit: Philips Hue (Image credit: Philips)

4. Best smart light bulb: Philips Hue

iPhone-controlled lightbulbs, anyone?

Reasons to buy
+Widely supported+Easy to install+Excellent app
Reasons to avoid
-Somewhat expensive

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.

UPDATE: One of the things we like the most about Philips Hue is the range is constantly being updated. The range was recently expanded with a range of Edison-style smart bulbs, the Lightstrip Plus and the Philips Hue Play Light Bar, which creates special lighting effects as you watch movies and play games, as well as a new selection of Edison-style smart bulbs. 

Read the full review: Philips Hue

Best smart home devices: Nest Thermostat E

Image Credit: Nest

5. Best smart thermostat: Nest Thermostat E

Cheaper than the Nest Learning Thermostat, but just as smart

Reasons to buy
+Elegant design+Easy to use+Helps save money
Reasons to avoid
-Frosted display can be hard to read

When you think of the 'smart thermostat', what comes to mind? For most people, it would probably be the Nest Learning Thermostat

Nest was among the first companies to inject machine learning into heating and cooling your home, and since then has been hailed as the best smart thermostat manufacturer. Now, it’s back with a new, more affordable take on the smart thermostat in the Nest Thermostat E.

The Nest Thermostat E proves that you don’t have to shell out for a smart thermostat. It does away with a few, unnecessary features, but it keeps the majority of the smarts and saves you a whole lot of money.

There are few situations in which the Thermostat E isn’t the best choice for you. For example, if you have a high-end multi-stage heating or cooling system, the Learning Thermostat may be a better choice. Still, if the Nest Thermostat E is compatible with your setup and you don’t care about the lack of farsight or slightly lower quality display, then it’s an excellent option.

Read the full review: Nest Thermostat E

Best smart home devices: Arlo Pro 3

(Image credit: Arlo)

6. Best smart security camera: Arlo Pro 3

The best security camera on the market, with one major flaw

Reasons to buy
+Stylish design+Easy to use and setup+Lots of features
Reasons to avoid
-Limited usefulness without subscription

It’s easy to see why Arlo is a popular choice with those who take home security seriously. There’s no doubt this is one of the most advanced systems we’ve tested with a wealth of useful features including a built-in siren and control via the web.

Sure, the Arlo Pro 3 does not have a 4K resolution like the more expensive Arlo Ultra - but the quality is still a pretty impressive 2K. You’ll get a 160-degree field-of-view, and as expected these days, the cameras have night vision and two-way audio. There are other smart features too, like automatic zooming and motion tracking, which should help ensure the camera picks things up when it needs to. The camera can zoom up to 12x, and offers HDR support as well.

The Arlo Pro 3 integrates with the rest of your smart home too. It supports Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, plus you can use it with HomeKit. Which is great, but unfortunately,  some features are trapped behind a paywall. 

You do get a three-month trial, and the subscription is only $3 per camera per month, for the basic Arlo Smart subscription, but if you don’t pay it you’ll lose access to things like object detection, cloud recording, and more. Arlo used to offer a seven-day free event-based cloud storage option, but unfortunately, that option isn’t available for the Arlo Pro 3.  

Overall, the Arlo Pro 3 is a worthy successor to the Arlo Pro 2 - and a great option for those who want an outdoor security system that offers good, reliable image quality without overpaying for the Arlo Ultra.

Read the full review: Arlo Pro 3

Best smart home devices: Belkin WeMo Insight

Image Credit: Future

7. Best smart plug: Belkin WeMo Insight

An excellent smart plug that monitors energy usage

Reasons to buy
+Good energy monitoring+Solid smart home integration
Reasons to avoid
-App is poorly designed

The Belkin WeMo Insight Smart Plug is more than just a way to control devices plugged into it. It's also a way to monitor your energy usage, and get estimates on how much powering certain devices in your home is going to cost. 

This is great if you're trying to save some money and be a bit more energy conscious. While the plug is a bit on the bulky side, you may be able to live with it for all the dollars/pounds you save on your monthly energy bill. 

The app could use some work, but all-in-all we have been thoroughly impressed with the Belkin WeMo Insight Smart Plug. It also connects to wide range of smart home platforms, from IFTTT, Alexa, Google Assistant, Works with Nest and (unofficially) Samsung SmartThings.

Read the full review: Belkin WeMo Insight Smart Plug

Best smart home devices: August Smart Lock Pro

Image Credit: August

8. Best smart lock: August Smart Lock Pro

Bulky and expensive, but ultimately well worth the cash

Reasons to buy
+Good compatibility+Nice and strong+Automatic features
Reasons to avoid

The smart home is getting smarter, but not everyone wants to completely do away with their old systems. For example, while there are plenty of smart locks out there designed to completely replace your old lock in favor of a keypad or new keyhole, some people want to keep the ability to use their older keys. 

That, however, is where August comes in with the August Smart Lock Pro, which fits onto your existing deadbolt and allows you to keep using your old key when you (or your landlord) wants to, while still adding the benefits of a smarter lock.

But while August is hailed by many as the best manufacturer of these retrofit smart locks, the August Smart Lock Pro still isn’t cheap: At $229 (around £179, AU$300) for just the lock, and $279 (around £219, AU$380) for the lock with the 'Connect' Wi-Fi adapter, the August Smart Lock Pro is an investment. 

Still, for people who are renting, live with someone who prefer using a key, or who simply want a super easy-to-install and relatively well-designed device, the August Smart Lock Pro is a great option, and one that’s easy to recommend.

Read the full review: August Smart Lock Pro

Best smart home devices: Nest Protect

9. Best smart smoke detector: Nest Protect

Get emergency alerts on your phone, anywhere in the world

Reasons to buy
+Very subtle design+Easy installation+Works well with other Nest products
Reasons to avoid
-Basically a regular smoke detector

Nest doesn’t just make great smart thermostats: it also offers smoke alarms that can connect to the rest of your smart home. The Nest Protect looks great, and offers great connectivity through Wi-Fi and IFTTT. 

The Nest Protect will alert you 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, too - though hopefully you'll never need it.

What do I need to make my house a smart home? 

Before you start assembling your smart home, it pays to think about which smart home system you'll want to start with. There are quite a few out there, including Apple HomeKit, Google Home/Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, the Amazon Alexa platform, IFTTT, ZigBee, Z-Wave, and more.  If you’re already plugged into a system, then it might be wise to stick with that. For example, avid Android owners might have more luck with Google Home than with the Amazon Echo or Apple’s HomePod Mini. Our guide on what to consider when designing your smart home, should be able to help you identify the best smart home system for you. 

To what extent you invest in your smart home is really down to you, and you can personalize it to your level of comfort. You can choose to opt for a handful of devices, for example a smart light and a home security camera so if a potential intruder is detected, your light will switch on and hopefully scare them off. Alternatively, you can go all out ensuring every room is fully automated so you’ll never have to lift a finger again. The great thing about smaller, cheaper smart devices (we're looking at you Amazon Echo Dot) is that there's zero hassle or commitment to a more connected home, but if you change your mind further down the line, you can easily add more and more devices. 

As well as the familiar smart home devices we’ve already mentioned, there’s a whole host of connected gadgets from the best smart locks and the best robot vacuums to popular kitchen appliances like the best coffee makers and the best air fryers - the sky's the limit.