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Millions of homes now contain a smart assistant speaker of some variety and sales of IoT products continue to grow as the market matures and prices come down across the sector. With so many options available, it's hard to know what to buy, and that's where we come in — this is a selection of our favorite smart home gadgets. Whether you want to just dip your toes in the water with a cheap Google Nest Mini or dive into the deep end with smart lights, cameras, thermostats, doorbells, and so on — we’ve got you covered.
Fall 2020 update
This post was updated in October 2020 to include the newest smart home products we think are worth buying. If you have any other recommendations, let us know in the comments and we'll try to check them out.
All prices correct at the time of writing.
Best — Nest Audio
Budget — Nest Mini
This first category is often the gateway to other smart home products, and it largely depends on your choice of ecosystem. In the US and many other countries, there are two distinct camps — Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. If you choose the former, there’s a range of Google Home devices at various price points, from the wallet-friendly Nest Mini up to the audiophile-pleasing (but aging) Home Max. The newest addition to the lineup is the $99 Nest Audio, a long-awaited replacement for the original Google Home speaker. By all accounts, it now represents the best value in the range and you can easily pair two of them for room-filling stereo sound. When Google last updated its excellent Nest Wifi mesh routers, they also included a Nest Mini-esque speaker in each point, so there are now plenty of options in the Google smart speaker space.
If you want something with Assistant capabilities from a specialist audio company, including headphones and earbuds as well as speakers, take a look at our guide to the best audio products you can buy right now. At the high-end, the Sonos One and Harman Kardon Citation One are good options, but if you want something you can take with you, the Bose Portable Home Speaker and Sonos Move both sound great but do not come cheap.
"Alexa, tell me what my future holds."
If you go down the Amazon route, there’s a similar array of Echo speakers to suit any need, including some brand-new spherical versions announced this fall. The latest iteration of the standard Echo speaker costs the same $99 as the Nest Audio and looks like a digital crystal ball. The Echo Dot is a great entry-level unit that can be had for as cheap as $29 during sale periods but there are also more expensive options with better sound if that's important to you. Go with whatever you can afford, on either side, and you probably won't be disappointed.
- Nest Mini — $49 - Google, Best Buy, B&H, Walmart /
£49£24 (until October 7) - Google
- Nest Audio — $99 - Google, Best Buy, B&H / £89 - Google
- Home Max — $299 - Google, Best Buy, B&H, Walmart / £199 - Google
- Nest Wifi & Point — $269 - Google, Best Buy, B&H / £199 - Google
- Echo Dot (4th Gen) — $49.99 - Amazon / £49.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Echo Dot Kids Editon (4th Gen) — $59.99 - Amazon
- Echo Dot with clock (4th Gen) — $59.99 - Amazon / £59.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Echo (4th Gen) — $99.99 - Amazon / £89.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Echo Plus — $149.99 - Amazon / £139.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Echo Studio — $199.99 - Amazon / £189.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- One — $199 - Sonos, Amazon / £199 - Sonos, Amazon.co.uk
- Move — $399 - Sonos, Amazon / £399 - Sonos, Amazon.co.uk
Harman Kardon Citation One — $129.95 Walmart
Best — Nest Hub Max
Budget — Nest Hub
Smart displays are essentially a smart speaker with a screen glued on. Google’s Nest Hub (previously known as the Home Hub before Google Nest became a thing) is the best cheap option. With the largest screen and arguably the nicest design, the 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display is a good buy, but Google's similarly-sized Nest Hub Max is the current cream of the crop thanks to advanced features like facial recognition and gesture control. The third generation of Amazon's Echo Show 10 will be out soon, with a fancy motorized screen that follows you around the room for $250.
- Nest Hub — $89.99 - Google, Best Buy, B&H, Walmart / £49 - Google
- Nest Hub Max — $229 - Google, Best Buy, B&H / £179 - Google
- Echo Show 2nd gen — $229 - Amazon / £199.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Echo Show 5 — $89.99 - Amazon / £59.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Echo Show 8 — $104.99 - Amazon / £89.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) — $249.99 - Amazon / £239.99 - Amazon.co.uk
Lenovo Smart Display
Best — Nvidia Shield TV
Budget — Chromecast with Google TV
With the release of the new Chromecast with Google TV, we get the remote we've long called for and Google can now compete with the likes of Roku and Amazon at the budget end of the media streaming market. If you want the best Android TV experience possible, the more powerful 2019 Nvidia Shield TV is what you're after. If you want to play Stadia on your TV, the Chromecast Ultra is currently the only compatible option right now, although Google is now only selling it as part of the Stadia Premiere Edition pack (the new Chromecast won't get support until early next year). For a more comprehensive TV viewing experience, we recommend a Caavo control center.
- Shield TV — $149.99 - Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Walmart / £149 - Amazon.co.uk
- Shield TV Pro — $199.99 - Amazon / £199 - Amazon.co.uk
- Express — $29.99 - Roku, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H / £29.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Streaming Stick+ — $49.99 - Roku, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H, Walmart / £49.99 - Argos
- Fire TV Stick — $39.99 - Amazon / £39.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Fire TV Stick Lite — $29.99 Amazon / £29.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Fire TV Stick 4K — $49.99 - Amazon / £49.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Chromecast with Google TV — $49.99 - Google, Best Buy, B&H / £59.99 - Google
- Chromecast — $29 - Best Buy, B&H /
£30£25 (until October 14) - Google
Caavo — $159.99 - Caavo
Best — Hubitat
Budget — Samsung SmartThings
When a Google Home or Amazon Echo isn’t quite enough to build the smart home of your dreams, a hub could be necessary. They can combine various smart home protocols such as Z-Wave and Zigbee, giving you more flexibility than a standard WiFi-only setup. Samsung’s SmartThings Hub was our top pick last year, and it remains a good budget option with a wide range of first-party sensors. It's also even cheaper if you own an Nvidia Shield TV as you can simply plug in a SmartThings dongle for the same functionality as the standalone hub. If you want a more robust solution, however, we'd recommend Hubitat. It's not for the faint of heart since it's not the most user-friendly system around, but if you can get past that it has an unrivaled feature set and is great value for money, with Zigbee and Z-Wave support plus local logic storage.
Budget — C by GE
Best — Philips Hue
Extravagant — Nanoleaf Canvas
Connected light bulbs are an inexpensive introduction to smart home tech that can add a lot of character to your environment. There’s often little between different brands, with many of them controllable with just a Nest Mini thanks to WiFi connectivity. In part due to the added versatility and reliability of the Zigbee protocol that underpins it, but also because its range of different lighting options is now so vast, the Philips Hue range is our number one pick. LifX is also a decent choice for those wanting simple WiFi-controlled lights without the need for a separate bridge.
Rita's LifX lighting in action.
Our favorite budget bulbs come from C by GE, though, with both white and color bulbs that are sync easily with Google Home over Bluetooth without the need for WiFi. Anker's smart home brand Eufy also has some nice affordable smart bulbs that I've been using for a little while now, while budget smart home disruptor Wyze also sells a cheap and cheerful lighting solution.
If you're looking for some more creative or artistic lighting installations, the Nanoleaf Canvas and Aurora Light Panels are among Rita's favorites. Then there's the LifX Beam, which lights the way in my living room. And Corbin recently tried out TP-Link's Kasa Smart Light Strip and was impressed with the ambient backlighting it created for his desk. Mobvoi's Cololight is another interesting option for attractive accent lighting. Twinkly's LED fairy lights offer up something a little more festive if you're looking for some smart Christmas tree lights for later in the year.
- Single bulb white — $9.99 - Philips / £14.99 - Philips
- Single bulb filament — $24.99 - Philips, Amazon / £17.99 - Philips
- Single bulb color — $49.99 - Amazon / £49.99 - Philips
- Bridge — $59.99 - Philips / £49.99 - Philips
- Mini white single — $23.24 - Amazon / £19.99 - Lifx, Amazon.co.uk
- Mini color single — $43.81 - Amazon / £44.99 - Lifx, Amazon.co.uk
- Beam — £156.00 - Amazon.co.uk
C by GE
Wyze bulb — $7.99 - Wyze
TP-Link LED light strip — $59.99 - Amazon
- Aurora Light panels (Rhythm Edition) — $199.99 - Nanoleaf, Amazon / £179.99 - Nanoleaf, Amazon.co.uk
- Canvas — $199.99 - Nanoleaf, Amazon / £179.99 - Nanoleaf, Amazon.co.uk
Twinkly LED String Lights — $136.99 - Amazon
Plugs and switches
Best — Eufy Energy Monitoring Smart Plug
Budget — Wyze Plug
If your lights or other gadgets aren’t of the smart variety, you could improve their IQ by plugging them into a smart outlet. Take this as a fun example of what you can do with a smart plug. They range from basic WiFi-connected plugs that can be turned on or off with a Google Assistant Voice command to more sophisticated products like the Eufy monitoring plug that can tell you how much energy you’re using. Other good affordable options come from trusted brands like Wyze and Aukey. With a power strip like this Kasa one from TP-Link, you get six smart outlets in one. As with its lights, IKEA also offers enticing budget alternatives, especially useful if you already have the Gateway.
The likes of Philips Hue also do switches that go with their light collections, but TP-Link and C by GE both do Google Assistant compatible ones that turn dumb lights smart, too. On the budget end, the ingenious SwitchBot is an adorable little robot (above) that can be attached to pre-existing switches.
Eufy energy monitoring smart plug — $22.99 — Amazon
Wyze plug 2-pack — $14.99 - Wyze
Aukey plug 2-pack — £22.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Smart Plug — $15.99 - Amazon / £14.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- Kasa Powerstrip 6-outlet — $75.60 - Amazon / 3-plug UK — £28.22 - Amazon.co.uk
- Kasa switch — $16.99 - Amazon
C by GE
Switchbot — $29 - Amazon
Best without plan — Arlo Pro 3
Best with plan — Nest Cam IQ
Budget — Wyze Cam
Using connected devices so we don’t have to get off the sofa to turn the lights on is all very well and good, but home security is probably a more worthy use case. The Arlo Pro 3 is like its predecessors in that it's not perfect, but it's still the best of the bunch in the no-plan field. The company's latest model includes a floodlight for brightening up exterior locations. If you’re willing to pay a monthly subscription, the indoor Nest Cam IQ is rich in features such as 4K recording while the outdoor version is similarly fantastic but expensive. Anker's Eufy Cam E makes for a serviceable cheaper option.
Wyze is now the dominant player in the budget price range, with its camera offering HD video and night vision for a miraculous $20. The Pan model adds 360-degree horizontal mobility and 93-degree tilt into the mix for only 10 bucks more — how they can sell them for so cheap is beyond us, but we’re not complaining.
Arlo Pro 3
- 2-cam system — $399.99 - Amazon / £549.99 - Amazon.co.uk
- 3-cam system — $543.63 - Amazon / £749.00 - Amazon.co.uk
- Floodlight — $219.99 - Amazon / £259.99 - Amazon.co.uk
Best — Simplisafe
Budget — Wyze Sense
After spending some time using Simplisafe for my smart home security needs, I can easily recommend it as the best system I’ve tried. As the name suggests, it’s incredibly simple to set up and the different package options help you kit out your home with exactly the right hardware. My starter kit came with a base station, keypad, camera, motion sensor, and entry sensor, but the custom build tool allows you to add only what you need without adding too much to the cost — there are a ton of other sensors to choose from. The extra peace of mind that 24/7 external monitoring brings can be had for just $14.99, and there are no contracts so you can cancel whenever you like — perfect for when you go on vacation. If you're tied into the Google Nest ecosystem, Nest Secure is solid but it does not come cheap.
One again, Wyze has delivered an incredible value proposition with its Wyze Sense security pack. For just $20, you get two contact sensors, a motion sensor, and a bridge to add to your Wyze Cam, all of which are adorably tiny (see above). As Ryan explains in his full review, the Wyze kit absolutely gets the job done if you’re just looking for basic security and monitoring for the lowest possible price.
Best — Arlo Video Doorbell
Budget — Wyze Video Doorbell
As the commercials would have us believe, burglars always ring the doorbell first to see if anyone’s home. We’re then presented with the solution — a smart doorbell. Something with a camera is the most secure option, allowing you to see who’s at the door and then have a two-way conversation with them. The Arlo Video Doorbell is probably the best around, although if you already have products from Nest, they have a very similar doorbell to complete your lineup (albeit for a bit more money).
Best — August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
Budget — Wyze Lock
So you've got a smart security camera and a doorbell but you're still using an old-fashioned metal key to get into your house like some person from the past. Clearly, you need a smart lock, and there are some good ones out there. Rita is a big fan of Nuki smart locks, which among the best for those who live outside the US. August smart locks are fully-featured, and the best looking in my opinion, and so the Smart Lock Pro + Connect WiFi Bridge with Alexa integration is my top pick. In a similar vein, Nest has teamed up with Yale for a lock with Google Assistant smarts and Schlage also has an option that works with Google and Alexa setups, which Stephen gave an 8.5 in his review. Yet again, Wyze makes it into this category with its budget lock — they just can't be beaten on price.
Thermostats and AC
Best — Ecobee SmartThermostat
Budget — Nest Thermostat E
Ecobee already ruled the roost when it came to smart energy solutions, and then it launched the SmartThermostat which proved to be even better. It supports Alexa and the Google Assistant and comes with multiple sensors to place around your home for optimal temperature measurements. The Nest Thermostat E is a good choice for those on a tight budget, especially if you're tied into the Google Nest ecosystem. If you don't live in a home with ducted thermostats, there are alternatives for controlling your ductless AC or heat pump, such as Sensibo Sky and Cielo Breez Eco, both of which come with Google Assistant support. Netatmo has some interesting products that regulate more than just the temperature in your home, such as the Healthy Home Coach that measures humidity, air quality, noise, and temperature. The more expensive Weather Station looks at the same metrics with indoor and outdoor modules, also taking internal ventilation and external barometric pressure into account.
Ecobee SmartThermostat — $249 - Amazon
- Healthy Home Coach — $99.99 - Netatmo / £89.99 - Netatmo
- Weather Station — $179.99 - Netatmo / £149.99 - Netatmo
Best — Coway Airmega 400S
Most stylish — Molekule Air Mini+
Budget — Blueair Classic 280i
We've tested a few air purifiers in recent months and the best among them is the Coway Airmega 400S (pictured, left). This HEPA purifier monitors air quality in real-time and adjusts its filtration speed accordingly. It's powerful enough to cover 1,560 square feet in your home and can be controlled either from its app or with your voice (Google Assistant or Alexa). For smaller spaces, the Blueair 280i is another good option, but by far the most attractive is the Air Mini+ from Molekule that looks more like a speaker than an air purifier. For air purification on a smaller scale, the Wynd Essential Smart Personal Air Purifier will create a nice bubble of clean air around you without breaking the bank.
Robot vacuums are one of the most convenient smart home gadgets you can buy, although it's a shame they aren't all able to shout and swear like this one. We've tested a few decent options at various price points, and the Eufy RoboVac 30C does a fine job on the budget end. The included boundary strips allow you to cordon off areas you don’t want it to go, good for avoiding cable tangles and the like. The Eufy RobooVac 15C Max is practically the same except that it's 500Pa more powerful. It doesn't come with the boundary strips, but it has all the same smarts.
For the ultimate smart vac experience, you want the Roborock S6 MaxV — this thing can hoover, mop, and even has built-in cameras to help it avoid pet poop and other obstacles. There's also the older S6 model — which Ryne reviewed and was suitably impressed by — and the cheaper S5 Max. Roborock also does a decent stick vacuum (H6) for those harder to reach nooks and crannies.