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Smart home devices: The best ones you can buy
Smart homes are becoming more popular than ever, whether it’s a smart display or a new smart security camera. Prices continue to become more and more affordable, and the smart home gadgets themselves are easier to use. Devices have come far enough that you can now control many of them from a phone, tablet, or just the sound of your voice. They can turn our lights on and off, give us music, news, and weather by just speaking to a gadget, and much more.
The biggest downside to tumbling down the smart home rabbit hole is figuring out what equipment you need. In this quick guide, we take a look at some of the best smart home gadgets you can currently buy so you can turn your analog house into a smart home.
Best smart home gadgets
Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best smart home gadgets regularly as new ones launch.
Best iOS smart home hub: Apple HomePod Mini
Some smart home gadgets require a hub device to work, and Apple’s HomeKit is the pickiest ecosystem of all. While you can control most devices from your iPhone, you’ll need a HomePod Mini if you want full iOS support from a smart speaker. The HomePod Mini isn’t necessarily brand new, but it’s fully replaced Apple’s larger HomePod as the smart speaker of choice.
It now comes in five colors, including the orange hue seen above, and the HomePod Mini costs just $99. Like all Apple products, Siri is the assistant of choice, and you can pair multiple HomePod Minis to fill your home with sound. You even get a few free trials of Apple services when you pick one up.
See also: Best smart home hubs you can buy
Best smart speaker: Amazon Echo 4th Gen
There are lots of smart speakers on the market that work with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. For our money, the best smart speaker you can buy is the current fourth-generation version of the Amazon Echo. This Alexa-based spherical speaker has a 3-inch woofer and a pair of 0.8-inch tweeters that offer solid audio performance; it’s not the best speaker in the world in terms of sound, but it will get the job done.
It also has multiple microphones designed to pick up voice commands, even from 30 feet away or in a noisy room. Alexa supports tons of smart home gadgets, and the Amazon Echo can connect to all of them to help turn your house into a smarter home. Of course, you can just use it on your own to ask it to play music, give you the news and sports scores, organize your calendar or even play games and trivia.
Keep in mind that the Echo is best for those who are already pretty engaged in Amazon’s ecosystem or simply want the platform that has support for the widest variety of smart home devices.
See also: Best smart speakers you can buy
Best smart display: Google Nest Hub (2nd Generation)
The Google Nest Hub (previously known as the Google Home Hub) is just about the perfect smart display you can get, though there’s still no camera on board. Its 7-inch 1,024 x 600 resolution display is perfect for the bedroom or kitchen, which are the best two places in your home to have this product.
The newly updated 2nd-generation Nest Hub packs a suite of new sleep tracking features, though they’ll come at a cost in 2022. However, the Nest Hub is $30 more affordable than the first version, which helps to offset the cost.
You can ask Google Assistant to check the weather and it will show it on the screen with graphics and video. It will do the same for news requests as well. You can manage your day with this display, access YouTube to show you how-to videos and recipes, and much more.
See also: The best smart displays you can buy
Best smart bulb: LIFX Smart LED Light Bulb
Smart bulbs in your home can be quite convenient. Controlling lights while you’re away is a good way to make people think you’re home. Remotely turning on lights when you’re on your way home is a great way to avoid walking into a dark house. LIFX bulbs are some of the nicest smart home gadgets to own because they do not require any kind of hub or controller to work.
These smart bulbs can also connect to other smart home gadgets that you might not be aware of. For example, if have the Nest Protect smoke and CO alarm sensors installed and they detect a fire, LIFX bulbs will pulse red and then turn themselves on to full brightness, illuminating your way to get out of the house. Yes, this smart home gadget can help save your life.
Best smart plug: TP-Link Smart Plug Mini
The beauty of a smart plug like this TP-Link one is that it works with any appliance or light. You won’t need an extra hub like the Samsung SmartThings device for this smart plug to work either. Whatever is plugged into it can be turned on/off using the included app or a smart speaker assistant like the Google Home or Amazon Echo.
The included TP-Link app allows you to schedule a time for devices that are plugged into the smart plug. You can also set an away mode that turns lights or appliances on at random for some extra security. The compact design is so small it doesn’t block adjacent outlets.
See also: Best smart plugs
Best smart garage opener: Chamberlain Smart Garage Hub
Garage doors seem like a perfect fit for smart home gadgets. The Chamberlain Smart Garage Hub is designed to connect to your current garage door opener. In addition to raising or lowering your garage door with your smartphone, this device can send you alerts when it opens and closes for some better security. It’s definitely one of the best smart home gadgets you can buy if you own a car and a garage.
Best smart door lock: August Smart Lock Pro
One of the best uses for smart home gadgets is better security, and there’s nothing safer than being inside a locked house. The August Smart Lock Pro is designed to not only make coming in and out of your house easier but makes it safer as well. August has even added Wi-Fi on the latest generation of its smart lock so you can set it up with no fuss.
You can lock and unlock the door from anywhere with the app, and you can control who can access that door remotely. If you own an Amazon Echo speaker, you can use Alexa voice commands to control the door lock. The door can even lock automatically when you leave and unlock upon your return.
Best smart doorbell: Arlo Essential Video Doorbell
Along with a smart lock, another one of the best smart home gadgets to get is a smart doorbell for security. Arlo has quickly made a name for itself with its powerful Ring alternative. As long as you have existing doorbell wiring, you can set the Arlo up quickly and take full advantage of its security features. You can not only receive motion alerts, but you can also video call with door guests or send prerecorded messages.
See also: The best video doorbells
Arlo’s video doorbell has an extremely wide 180-degree field of view, and a built-in siren serves as a powerful deterrent for would-be burglars. The Arlo Doorbell is also designed to handle heat, cold, and inclement weather so you can pick one up no matter where you live.
Best smart security camera: Arlo Pro 4
People who want even more home security need wireless cameras they can put almost anywhere. The Arlo Pro 4 wireless cameras are designed to work both inside and outside your house and include night vision and two-way audio support for scaring off any intruders. If that’s not scary enough, the Arlo Pro 4 also has a built-in spotlight to light up the night. These smart home gadgets let you watch live video streams in 2K HDR quality from anywhere, or you can watch up to seven days of recorded video on your smartphone.
The Arlo Pro 4 cameras aren’t cheap, but you can take advantage of significant discounts with larger multi-camera bundles. With a battery life of three to six months, the Arlo Pro 4 should last plenty long between charges and you can get back to 100% in just a few hours.
Best smart smoke and CO alarms: Nest Protect 2nd Gen
The Nest smart home gadgets division of Google is best known for its smart thermostats, but it also makes smoke and CO alarms as well under the Nest Protect brand. Not only can these devices alert you if you have a fire or if CO is filling up your house, but they can also link to the Nest Thermostat, via Google Assistant, and automatically shut down your heating equipment if such an event takes place.
Best smart thermostat: Ecobee SmartThermostat
The Ecobee SmartThermostat is supposed to help you save money on your energy bills. The company claims it could save you as much as 23 percent a year on your heating and power bills.
The Ecobee comes with a separate room sensor that can measure room temperature as well as occupancy, so when people are in the room, the sensor will inform the thermostat and adjust the temperature to the right degree. The thermostat is easy to control via an app from anywhere. If you prefer voice commands, it takes just seconds to ask Alexa to lower the temperature. This may be the most important of the smart home gadgets you can buy as it will actually save you money in the long run.
These are the best smart home gadgets you can currently get in our opinion, although there are plenty of other great options out there as well. We’ll add more products to the list once they launch.