As much as I enjoy reviewing the best smart home devices, I’m rather selective with which ones I actually integrate into my daily life. With hundreds of smart home brands, I’ve had to pare down to my favorites.
That’s not to say that products I don’t use aren’t also excellent. I simply face some limitations: I live in a simple one-bedroom apartment that accommodates neither video doorbells nor smart thermostats, and a girl can only have so many smart lights and smart speakers.
Thanks to my current set up, which consists of several of the best Alexa compatible devices and best Google Home devices, my apartment is voice-equipped and rather clever, if I do say so myself. Routines with both assistants add a helpful automation that I think anyone can achieve with the right hardware.
Here are all the smart home devices I use in my apartment, plus what I use them for and why I think they’re strong enhancements to the average living space.
1. Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
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The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is my favorite smart home device, period. When the orb-shaped Alexa speaker launched, I knew I needed it on my nightstand. With time on it’s side, I easily can see how much more sleep I could get when I wake up discombobulated in the wee morning hours. Better yet, its placement beside my bed lets me voice activate one of the best Alexa skills, Nature Sounds. There’s something about the rumble of a thunderstorm that sends me straight to dreamland.
Between its decent sound, affordable price and useful LED display, I’d consider the Echo Dot with Clock the best device overall for most smart home beginners.
2. Google Nest Hub Max
When it comes to the best Google Home speakers, the Google Nest Hub Max is my preferred choice because it’s a great-sounding speaker as well as a smart display. I use the Nest Hub Max for streaming music through Spotify on a daily basis, while the display greets me in the morning with a overlook of my schedule and tech news I might’ve missed overnight.
Personally, I’m over video calls these days, so I don’t use Nest Hub Max for Google Duo or Zoom. But I will use it to watch a quick episode of Clone Wars on Disney Plus while I’m folding laundry or tidying up my room.
3. Wemo WiFi Smart Plug
My Himalyean Salt Lamp sparks joy by itself, but it’s even better paired to my Wemo WiFi Smart Plug. One of the best cheap smart home devices, the $25 Wemo WiFI Smart Plug can control lights and appliances from anywhere. I don’t go many places, but I appreciate the convincing of turning the lamp on or off using my voice or Alexa app.
I also appreciate how the Wemo WiFi Smart Plug has a physical on/off button on the right side that lets you control any device without your voice or smartphone. While smart home automation is often convenient, there are times when it might be easier for me to operate an appliance at its power source.
4. Nanoleaf Shapes
The Nanoleaf Shapes light panels are modular hexagon tiles that connect together like custom puzzle pieces, pair to both my voice assistants and provide a healthy dose of chaos to my boring work-from-home setup. With all their brightness settings, color patterns and pulsing music modes, these mountable panels aren’t like any of the best smart lights around.
As the statement piece of smart home devices in my room, Nanoleaf Shapes are ideal for people who like getting funky. I’d say a pack is worth the splurge for anyone needing a little inspiration in their space these days.
5. Philips Hue White Filament smart bulb
Of all the Philips Hue lights out there, I selected an edison-style bulb for my nightstand light fixture. Unlike most of the brand’s other bulb models, the Philips Hue White Filament bulb features transparent glass with a visible coil. I’m attracted to the vintage design, especially when I set the bulb to a warm and dim mode.
While you can pair this bulb to the Hue Bridge (which I recommend for users with several smart lights,) it can be programmed and used with Bluetooth, too.
6. C by GE Direct Connect Light Strip
No room is complete without decorative light strips. I’ve placed the C by GE Direct Connect Light Strip beneath my island countertop and window sill as lighting accents that flood my floors so I can always see where I’m walking, even late at night. In fact, I prefer light strips to overhead lights most of the day.
These lights offer a full color range as well as a variety of temperatures. Now, I know there are plenty of great light strips out there, but I find C by GE’s strike the best balance of features, ease-of-use and price.
7. C by GE Wire-Free Remote Control
The issue with having such an intelligent apartment is that when I have guests over, they often get tripped up with my preset smart home scenes. That’s why I have a C by GE Wire-Free Remote Control for controlling the C by GE Direct Connect Light Strip, in addition to Google Assistant voice control. This battery-powered remote sits on my coffee table, specifically so that I don’t need to open my phone or speak aloud while watching TV.
The concept of a remote might not feel very smart in the scope of voice-activated butlers and automated routines, but I’ve found it’s a useful option more often than not.
Be sure to check out our smart home guide for recommendations of products you’ll want to make your home smart. Who knows? I might add something from there to my own smart apartment in due time. There’s no shortage of innovation in the smart home market, after all.
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Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.