We’ve rounded up an assortment of different smart home devices to fit various niches within your home, so you can find just what you need to make each part of your home that little bit smarter.
TL;DR – These are the Best Smart Home Devices
1. Ecobee SmartThermostat
Best Smart Thermostat
Choosing the best smart thermostat was no easy task, but we think Ecobee’s latest and greatest housewarmer is the most accomplished. Like any smart thermostat worth its salt, the Ecobee lets you control and schedule your heating using the app or, if you’d prefer, your voice.
What makes the Ecobee SmartThermostat unique is that it has Alexa actually built in, so you can directly ask it to adjust the temperature. The thermostat can regulate temperature using its built-in sensors, but it also comes with a remote sensor that can be placed in any room to regulate its temperature.
There’s another reason the Ecobee SmartThermostat is a top pick: while Alexa is built in, it also plays nicely with Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit (you just won’t be able to talk to those assistants directly through it).
2. Sonos One
Best Smart Speaker
If you’re after a smart speaker with a bit more oomph than the Echo Dot/Nest Home Mini, look to the Sonos One. First of all, it has both Alexa and Google Assistant built in, so you won’t have to choose a side.
Second, it sounds absolutely fantastic. Sonos has a lot more pedigree in the audio space than Amazon, Google or even Apple, and as such delivers a far superior sound experience. If you have the budget, you can instead get the Sonos Move, which also packs in the smart assistant duo but delivers even more of a sonic wallop and in a portable package no less.
3. Amazon Echo Show 8
Best Smart Display for Alexa
Voice may be the future, but there are some instances where seeing information on a screen is going to be more convenient than having it dictated to you.
That’s where smart displays come in, and Amazon’s got them by the bucketful. The Echo Show 8 – named for its 8-inch screen – sits between the larger Echo Show 10 and diminutive Echo Show 5, and in our opinion it gets the screen size and display just right.
It carries the same 1,280 x 800 resolution of its 10-inch sibling, which looks sharper on the Show 8’s smaller screen. Audio quality is great too, and there’s a camera for video calling (you can cover it with the physical privacy shutter).
For Alexa smart homes, the Show 8 works as a great access point to information and controlling all of your other smart home gadgets. It can give you news updates, play video (no YouTube) and music, and display your favorite photos when it’s sitting idle.
4. Google Nest Hub
The Best Smart Display for Google Assistant
If you’re team Google Assistant, the Nest Hub is the smart display we recommend. It lacks some of the extra features of the larger Nest Hub Max, but it has some other benefits. For one, it’s smaller – there’s a 7-inch display – and doesn’t have a camera, making it better suited for putting it in a bedroom or any privacy-conscious home.
It also acts as a portal to all of your connected smart home devices. In fact, we prefer the interface to Amazon’s Echo Show displays.
But its biggest strength may come as a surprise: it’s a really great digital photo frame when sitting idle. Thanks to Google’s ambient light technology, the screen constantly adjusts to the lighting of the room to make your photos look impressively vivid without too much backlighting.
5. Philips Hue A19 Bluetooth Smart LED Bulb
Best Smart Lights
The smart light market has really diversified over the last few years, but in our view Philips Hue is still the best. It offers the widest variety of bulbs, fittings and accessories, and consistently excellent quality.
Hue used to be a pricey proposition – which is why so many brands pounced on the budget market – but that bar has been lowered with the addition of Bluetooth support. While we still recommend buying the Hue Bridge for the best experience, you can now buy a Hue bulb and get connected right out of the box – with some limitations.
Once you’re fully wedded to Hue, there’s a massive world of features to explore in the app: color control, scheduling, routines, and integrations with other smart home devices. And that’s before you even touch the accessories Signify has to offer.
The color-changing bulbs have a 16 million-strong palette, but there are more basic white bulbs on offer, as well as light strips, floodlights, and a bunch of outdoor lights too. Note: if you have an Amazon Echo Plus or the latest Echo Show, you can use it as a Zigbee hub for your Hue lights in lieu of the Bridge.
6. SimpliSafe Home Security System
Best All-in-One Security System
When it comes to home security, you have two options: buy an all-in-one system or build it a la carte. If you’re going with the former, SimpliSafe makes the, well, simplest security system right now.
There are several starter packs with varying numbers of sensors and cameras – starting with ‘The Foundation’ and working up to ‘The Haven’ – but you can opt for a custom package if you’d prefer.
Best idea is to size up your home and the number of doors/windows you want to cover, and go from there. Once you’ve turned your home into a cosy Fort Knox, SimpliSafe sells a smart lock and even a connected smart doorbell, should you want to take things to the next level.
7. TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini
Best Smart Plug
Smart plugs are dime a dozen these days, with loads of great options. Our pick? TP-Link’s compact little number, which delivers most of the essential features for a low price – and it won’t block other outlets either.
You can control it from anywhere using the app, and you won’t need a hub; just plug it in and get going. There’s Alexa and Google Assistant support, but no HomeKit. There’s also no energy monitoring – if that’s important to you, look to the Belkin Wemo Insight.
8. Google Nest Hello
Best Smart Doorbell
This was a tight race, but the Google Nest Hello is our frontrunner when it comes to upgrading your doorbell. Firstly, it’s really smart, recording footage round the clock and tagging any motion events that it feels you need to know about. We also love the facial recognition feature and the pre-recorded responses, which can be read out to any visitors.
You will have to wire it, and it doesn’t come cheap, but you’re pretty much getting the full package here. If the price is too steep, we’d recommend the Eufy Video Doorbell and the Arlo Video Doorbell as cheaper alternatives.
9. Arlo Ultra
Best Smart Security Camera
The Arlo Ultra isn’t only the best of Arlo’s smart cameras – we think it’s the best smart security cam you can buy, hands down. 4K HDR recording delivers an ultra-crisp picture, letting you zoom in on images with a higher amount of fidelity.
It also comes with an integrated spotlight so you can see/scare off any chancing burglars in the dark hours. You can run it off your household wall power or the battery, which should net you 3-4 weeks of power before needing a recharge. Oh, and it’s friendly with Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit.
The only major drawback of the Ultra is how expensive it is, but Arlo’s range has other, more wallet-friendly choices. We’d also recommend the Arlo Pro 3. Outside of Arlo, we’d also highlight the Ring Stick Up Cam.
10. August Smart Lock Pro
Best Smart Lock
August is one of the biggest names in smart locks, and its Smart Lock Pro proves why. It’s easy enough to install, but you’ll want to make sure you buy it with the Connect Wi-Fi Bridge, which opens up features like remote access, so you can lock or unlock it when you’re out of the home, and integration with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Using the app, you can also grant temporary access “keys” for guests so they can get into your home when you’re not there. You’ll also get notifications so you can see who opened the door, but our favorite feature is August’s DoorSense, which will show you whether your door is open or closed at any given time.
11. Amazon Echo Dot
A Cheap Alexa Smart Speaker
Smart speakers are often the gateway drug to the smart home, and there’s no better example than the Amazon Echo Dot. At just $50 it’s an affordable way to put Alexa in your home. The latest version (Gen 3) has a much-improved speaker and a friendlier design that looks less like something that fell off Wall-E.
Alexa is both a smart home controller and a portal to all of the world’s knowledge. “Hey Alexa, what’s the capital of Peru?”, “Hey Alexa, open the blinds” (Note: you will need smart blinds for that one to work. Alexa isn’t telekinetic yet…).
If you’re happy to stump up the extra $10, you can get your Echo Dot adorned with a digital clock.
12. Google Nest Mini
A Cheap Google Assistant Smart Speaker
For the Google crowd, the Nest Mini is your version of the Echo Dot. It also comes in a fabric coating, but unlike the Dot it can be mounted to a wall. The latest model also comes with ultrasonic sensors that detect when someone is nearby and light up the capacitive buttons.
Most of the time you’ll be asking the Nest Mini questions (“Hey Google, what’s the weather forecast for today?”) and commanding it to control your smart home devices.
Whether you opt for the Nest Mini or the Echo Dot depends on whether your allegiance lies with Google Assistant or Alexa. Amazon has more third-party integrations than Google right now, though the latter is fast catching up.
What to look for when buying smart home devices
When it comes to cameras and doorbells especially, some of the more useful features can be locked behind a subscription.
Before you buy a device like this, get clarification on what comes for free, and what doesn’t. Offline storage is ideal, at least as an option, as it means you don’t have to rely on the company’s cloud servers. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can get pricey.
Choose your platform
The smart home is, sadly, a bit of a platform war. Most of these devices will come with their own app and don’t have to integrate with Alexa/Google Assistant/HomeKit, but chances are you’ll want the convenience of controlling all of your devices using a smart speaker.
In that case, be sure to check that any smart home device you buy is compatible with your platform of choice.
Hugh Langley is a tech journalist who’s fascinated by wearables, health tech, the smart home, and more. You can find him tweeting (often nonsense) over at @hughlangley.