Smart homes are still a bit of a niche, but they are growing in popularity pretty quickly. There are several reasons for this. First, pricing continues to drop on smart home gadgets. Second, smart home gadgets are becoming easier to use and more reliable. It also helps that today’s consumer is already accustomed to using smartphones and tablets at home. Today’s smart home devices can be controlled with ease by a phone, tablet, or even 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 to do it. In this quick guide we take a look at some of the best smart home gadgets you can currently buy so you can make your analog house into a smart home. Some of these products work with just a smartphone app, but others can be controlled by your voice, either via Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or sometimes both.
- Read more – Best Google Assistant devices for your home
- Read more – Best Amazon Alexa devices for your home
Best Smart Home Hub: Samsung SmartThings Hub
Many smart home gadgets, but not all, require a hub device to work. Samsung’s SmartThings Hub is perhaps the best of these kinds of products, and the company recently released the third generation model of the SmartThings Hub.
The hub will allow you to control a large number of smart home devices, including smart bulbs, cameras, locks, and much more. Samsung also sells a number of SmartThings add-on products to help extend your smart home experiences, including motions sensors for lights and cameras, smart plugs for lights and more. While this new version of the hub lacks a battery backup as the second generation version did, it’s the best current product for people who want to link up their smart home gadgets.
Best Smart Speaker: Amazon Echo
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 second-generation version of the Amazon Echo. This Alexa-based circular speaker has a 2.5-inch downward-firing woofer and a 0.6-inch tweeter that offers solid audio performances; it’s not the best speaker in the world in terms of sound, but it will get the job done. It also has seven 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 Echo is best for those who are already pretty engaged in Amazon’s ecosystem or simply want the platform that has the most smart home device support. If you prefer Google’s take on smart speakers, you’ll want to use check out the Google Home.
In many ways the Google Home is better at voice-controlled functions thanks to the power of Google Search, it just doesn’t support shopping nearly as well. It also isn’t quite as strong when it comes to smart home gadget support, but this is quickly changing.
Best Smart Display: Google Home Hub
The Google Home Hub is just about the perfect smart display you can get, with one major feature left out — a camera (although you arguably won’t miss it). 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. You can ask Google Assistant to check the weather and it will show it on the screen so 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. The one flaw is that it doesn’t have a camera, so there’s no video calling, but on the plus side, it means this display only costs $149.
Best Smart Blub: 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
If you have smart home gadgets — or just lights — that you just want to turn on or off, TP Link has a smart plug you can use with your phone or with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa (via a smart speaker). Best of all, you won’t need an extra hub like the Samsung SmartThings device for this smart plug to work. The included TP Link app allows you to schedule time for devices that are plugged into the smart plug. You can also set an away mode which turns lights or appliances on at random for some extra security. The compact design is so small it doesn’t block adjacent outlets.
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 our of your house easier, but makes it safer as well. You can lock and unlock the door from anywhere via a smartphone, and you can also control who can access that dor as well. If you own an Amazon Echo speaker, you can use Alexa voice commands to control the door lock. You can even set it to automatically lock the door behind you when you leave and unlock it when you return. The August Smart Lock Pro, which also requires an August Connect Smart Hub to work, is priced starting at $229.99.
Best smart doorbell: Ring Video Doorbell Pro
Along with a smart lock, another one of the best smart home gadgets to get is a smart doorbell for security. The Amazon-owned Ring company has been the leader in this field for a while now. Its Ring Video Doorbell Pro can replace your existing wired doorbell and lets you see, hear, and talk to any wanted or unwanted visitors on your smartphone, tablet or even a smart TV. It supports up to 1080p video with clear images, even at night. Amazon Echo owners will get notifications if someone is approaching the door, via motion sensor hardware. The Ring Video Doorbell Pro is priced at $249.
Best smart security camera: Arlo Pro
People who want even more home security need wireless cameras they can put almost anywhere. The Arlo Pro 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. These smart home gadgets let you watch live video streams from anywhere, or you can watch up to seven days of recorded video on your smartphone. One Arlo Pro camera is priced at $164 but you can take advantage of significant discounts with larger multi-camera bundles.
Best smart smoke and CO alarms: Nest Protect
The Nest smart home gadgets division of Google is best known for its smart thermostats, but it also makes smoke and CO alarms 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: Ecobee4
The Ecobee4 smart thermostat is supposed to help you save money on your energy bills, with the company claiming that installing this thermostat could save you as much as 23 percent a year on your heating and power bills. The Ecobee4 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 controlled with a smartphone app, but it has a built-in support for Amazon Alexa if you want to use voice commands. The Ecobee4 smart thermostat (with one room sensor included) is priced at $199. 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.