To help you find the best smart home devices, we’ve tried out dozens of products, testing them for functionality with popular smart assistant software and wide integration with related smart products. During our testing, we looked for models that were easy to use, with voice-activated connectivity to Alexa, and WiFi and Bluetooth compatibility. Additionally, we favored products with full smart home integration, multiple layers of privacy control and good warranties.
Of the seven smart home devices on our list, Amazon’s 3rd gen Echo Dot boasted the highest cost to benefit ratio, with best-of-class integration with Alexa, a light sensor that automatically adjusts the display’s brightness, amazing sound and some truly innovative privacy controls. It also boasts easy integration with thermostats, locks, lightbulbs and other smart home appliances. Keep reading to learn more about the Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen) and the other smart speakers on this list.
- 1 Top 7 Best Smart Home Devices Compared
- 1.1 #1 Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – Top Pick
- 1.2 #2 Google Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Gen) – Honorable Mention
- 1.3 #3 Echo Show 5 – Best for Visuals / Best Value
- 1.4 #4 Gosund Smart Plug Outlet – Best for Controlling Multiple Appliances / Good Value
- 1.5 #5 Kasa Smart Light Switch – Best for Lights and Fans / Best for Home Safety
- 1.6 #6 TaoTronics Smart Bedroom Humidifier – Best Smart Humidifier
- 1.7 #7 Anki Vector Robot – Best for Helping Around the House / Best Robot
- 1.8 How We Decided
- 2 Smart Home Devices Buying Guide
Top 7 Best Smart Home Devices Compared
#1 Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) – Top PickWHY WE LIKE IT: An icon in the industry, offering best-in-class Alexa support, integration with a wide variety of smart home appliances and a nifty sounding speaker that easily streams audio from all major platforms. This is simply the best product for those of you looking for a budget-friendly way to get in on the smart home craze.
The Amazon Echo Dot is one of the most popular smart home devices for some very good reasons. It is extremely budget-friendly, the cheapest item on this list, while still offering functionalities in line with higher priced devices. The Echo Dot features best-in-class Alexa support, which allows for easy control of connected smart home appliances, and an innovative alert system that lets you know if something is wrong in your house, such as a carbon monoxide leak or glass shattering from a broken window. It’s also a great sounding speaker, with easy music streaming from all major platforms.
The smart speaker does have some small drawbacks, however, as we found that the unit occasionally has trouble picking up a voice from across a large room, but the low price point makes it affordable to purchase multiple units for placement around the house. Additionally, the product does not contain a smart home hub, which could make it difficult if you’re living with different product ecosystems in your home and are looking for a way to unite them all.
#2 Google Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Gen) – Honorable MentionWHY WE LIKE IT: This thermostat features an advanced AI that learns what temperatures you prefer and programs itself accordingly, sensors that can be placed throughout the house for detailed room-to-room control and support for Alexa, Google Assistant and smartphones. This is the gold standard product for detailed temperature control.
The Google Nest Learning Thermostat is the easiest-to-use smart home device for temperature control that we encountered, boasting full support for Alexa, Google Assistant and smartphones, meaning you can use Alexa to make changes while at home and use your phone while away. The product also offers an advanced AI that learns what temperatures you prefer and adjusts accordingly, taking into consideration outside weather conditions, Energy Star compliance and other factors. The stainless steel design is attractive and the whole thing works via WiFi, with no dongles or cables.
The product also works seamlessly with integrated sensors that allow for multiple temperature conditions throughout the home, though these sensors cost a bit extra. While it is supremely easy to use, the installation does require some minor rewiring, which could be confusing for some homeowners.
#3 Echo Show 5 – Best for Visuals / Best ValueWHY WE LIKE IT: A powerhouse of a smart display, featuring a compact 5.5” screen that is perfect for Skype and streaming TV, full Alexa support, integration with a wide variety of smart home appliances and some nifty privacy controls. This is the perfect gadget for people who like visual cues as they go about controlling their home.
The Echo Show 5 is a smart display/bedside clock hybrid device, with a high resolution 5.5” screen that is perfect for video calls or streaming television, a decent sounding speaker and full Alexa support. It also integrates nicely with a wide variety of smart home appliances, allowing you to use the touchscreen to manually adjust security cameras, light bulbs, thermostats and the like. The company also throws in four free months of their Amazon Music Unlimited service, further increasing the product’s value proposition.
The product does have a camera built-in, but it is only 1MP. If you want a higher resolution you’ll have to purchase the Wyze camera bundle, which costs extra. There is also a kid-friendly FreeTime service, which filters out explicit content and sets bedtime limits, but it requires a monthly payment of $2.99 in order to access.
#4 Gosund Smart Plug Outlet – Best for Controlling Multiple Appliances / Good ValueWHY WE LIKE IT: These outlets excel at transforming any garden variety home appliance into a smart gadget, offering seamless smartphone control via an app, an automated scheduling system and some innovative features to help you save money on your electricity bill. This purchase contains four outlets, making it an ideal product for those of you looking to transform lighting fixtures or other appliances into smart devices.
The Gosund Smart Plug Outlet features a true plug-and-play design, which allows for seamless on/off control to any appliance that uses an electrical outlet. The app is well designed, offering support for 50 outlets at once, and this package comes with four outlets, making it a great value. Any appliance using one of these outlets can be programmed to turn on and off up to a month in advance, helping you save money on electricity bills.
These outlets do integrate nicely with Alexa and Google Assistant, further simplifying use, but does require an additional purchase, such as an Echo or Google Home. Additionally, we wouldn’t recommend plugging them in outdoors, as they are not waterproof and a rainstorm could short them out.
#5 Kasa Smart Light Switch – Best for Lights and Fans / Best for Home SafetyWHY WE LIKE IT: Excels at extending smart controls to appliances that are usually connected to a light switch, like fans and lighting fixtures, offering Alexa and Google Assistant support and an easy-to-use smartphone app that allows for remote scheduling. This is a great product for folks who want easy smart control over their lighting fixtures and fans.
The Kasa Smart Light Switch is a great way to control appliances that are normally connected via a light switch, boasting an intuitive app that allows for remote scheduling, so it can turn devices off when you go to work, for instance. This product also features an Away Mode, which makes lights go on and off at random intervals, giving the illusion you are home even when you are not. The price is on the lower side and the company also throws in a two year warranty, which is nice.
Though the app is extremely easy to use, the installation process does require some light electrical work and needs access to a neutral wire. The product is fully compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Microsoft Cortana, but it does require the additional purchase of an Echo or something similar.
#6 TaoTronics Smart Bedroom Humidifier – Best Smart HumidifierWHY WE LIKE IT: A fully featured humidifier, with the addition of smartphone and voice controls, boasting a large water tank that can run for 30 hours before needing to be refilled, a motor that produces less than 36dB of working noise and a snazzy LED screen. This is just the best smart humidifier on the market.
The TaoTronics Smart Bedroom Humidifier boasts a number of bells and whistles often found in high end humidifiers, including a fully functional LED screen, ultrasonic technology that makes the unit extremely quiet while in operation and a large capacity water container, which allows it to operate for 30 hours before needing to be refilled. It can also be controlled by your smartphone, allowing for adjustments on the fly, even while not at home.
This product does contain a passable filter, but we found it still benefited from using distilled water, instead of coming straight from the tap. Though the humidifier is fully compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, it does require the additional purchase of an Echo or Google Home in order to achieve this functionality.
#7 Anki Vector Robot – Best for Helping Around the House / Best RobotWHY WE LIKE IT: This robot boasts full Alexa support right out of the box, voice control, an advanced AI that learns as you use it, a front facing camera and a movement algorithm that easily avoids household obstacles and charges itself on its own. This is a great product for those of you looking for, essentially, an Alexa-enabled device that follows you around.
The Anki Vector Robot is fully voice controlled and is compatible with Alexa right out of the box, with no need for an additional purchase. It can help you with recipes, take photos on command, play music and, more or less, complete any task that an Alexa-enabled device can do, including the controlling of smart home appliances. It’s also extremely cute, following you around the house, dancing and making conversation. The advanced AI packed inside the robot is neat, allowing it to easily avoid household obstacles and charge all on its own.
Unfortunately, Anki has shuttered their human-led customer service experience, though there is plenty of help available at their self-serve help center. Additionally, some features, such as treads to increase mobility, will cost you extra.
How We Decided
To help narrow to the above list, we set these devices up in our test living area, running them through their paces in order to suss out smart assistant integration and whether or not they completed their dedicated tasks with ease. We were attracted to products that offered support for a variety of smart assistants, including Alexa, Google Assistant and, even, Microsoft Cortana.
We were looking for sturdy build quality and ease-of-life features, such as a dedicated app that was intuitive and gadgets that offered a simple plug-and-play design. If the product boasted control over a variety of appliances, such as is the case with a smart power outlet, we plugged into these devices and tested the on/off functionality and the auto-scheduling technology, among other features.
The above list features a wide array of products, each catering to a different niche of the smart home market. To further narrow down our choices, we really took a good look at what it means to have a smart home, picking products that truly made life easier, safer or, in some cases, just offered a good time, as is the case with the robot.
Smart Home Devices Buying Guide
The Most Important Features to Consider
- Pick What you are Using it for
Take a moment to think about what appliances in your home you’d like to be more intelligent. Are you primarily looking for something to control lighting fixtures and fans? Then a smart light switch, such as the one produced by Kasa, could be right up your alley. Are you looking to control multiple gadgets throughout the home? Then invest in some smart outlets, such as the ones made by Gosund. If you are looking for a good all-around product with plenty of different uses, then go with the Echo Dot, and so on.
- Smart Assistant Integration
All of the above gadgets offer some form of functionality with popular smart assistants, including Alexa and Google Assistant. The Echo Dot, obviously, has Alexa support built-in, as does the Anki Vector Robot. Many products, however, require an additional purchase in order to fully integrate with these smart assistants. Read the fine print and, if needed, pick up an Echo Dot, a Google Home or something similar.
- Consider a Smart Home Hub
If you are just dipping your toes into the smart home craze, a dedicated smart speaker, such as the Echo Dot, should offer everything you need to control the appliances in your house. If you are buying multiple products from different companies, each working in a different ecosystem, then you may want to invest in a smart home hub. These products allow you to control everything, no matter the manufacturer or related software, from one dedicated app, simplifying the entire process.
- Do these products spy on me?
Short answer, maybe. If its a smart speaker, for instance, make sure to buy something that allows you to easily mute the microphones, so you can have control over what information is being fed into the device. Some models also allow you to go in and edit and delete any voice command you’ve given, which could come in handy on the privacy front. If the product features no cameras or microphones, you are in the clear, but be sure to read the fine print.
- What is a ZigBee network?
ZigBee is a wireless technology developed as an open global standard to address the unique needs of smart home devices, often working in lieu of standard WiFi protocols. Many smart home devices, including hubs, offer functionality with the ZigBee network.
- Can a smart home be hacked?
While this is certainly possible, it is highly unlikely, so long as you follow best safety practices, such as keeping your network name and passwords anonymous, being sure to approve only close friends and family for access and purchasing items new, avoiding second hand sellers. Additionally, keep your device serial numbers private.
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