Update: For Prime Day, you can pick up a Kasa smart plug at a discounted price. Amazon is selling the device for $11 -- $5 off its original price of $16.
Among the other things you can do with Alexa — of which there are many — you can use Amazon's voice assistant to control your smart home. However, with the hundreds of smart- home devices that work with Alexa, it's tough to know where to start. Here are our favorite picks for those looking to start an Alexa-powered smart home for less than $500.
Amazon Echo Dot ($49)
The Echo Dot is Amazon's least expensive Alexa-enabled device; through it, you can control other smart-home devices, get news and weather updates, read recipes, make phone calls and more. The hockey-puck-size Dot is also small enough to disappear into almost any room of your house. You can also listen to music using the Dot, but the quality isn't great; we'd recommend linking it to a Bluetooth speaker.
TP-Link HS105 Smart Plug ($22)
Smart plugs can make many "dumb" devices smart. That's because they let you turn on lamps and appliances remotely using your smartphone, or set a schedule. TP-Link's HS105 is not only cheap, but also one of our favorites for its vacation mode. And you can tell Alexa to turn it on or off.
Sengled Element Starter Kit ($39)
We like Sengled's Element smart bulbs because not only is the starter kit inexpensive — you get two bulbs and a hub for $40 — but extra bulbs are very affordable, too. If you get bored with its plain white bulbs, the company also makes color lights to help you set the mood.
In addition to setting schedules with the Sengled app, you can also control the lights via Alexa, or create a routine within the Alexa app to activate the lights and other smart-home products at the same time.
Fire TV Stick ($39)
Amazon's Fire TV Stick is its least expensive streaming device and gives you access to tons of content — especially if you're an Amazon Prime subscriber. It lets you search for (and play) shows, movies, actors, genres and more using Alexa, which you can access either with the Fire TV remote or a connected Alexa device. Plus, if you have an Alexa-compatible security camera (such as the Arlo Q), you can view its feed on your TV via the Fire Stick. The Fire TV stick only supports 1080p, so if you have a 4K set, get the $49 Fire TV.
TrackR Pixel ($25)
Are you always misplacing your keys? If they're connected to the TrackR Pixel, you can ask Alexa to find them for you. The Pixel has a small compact design, loud 90-dB alarm, LED lights, and a replaceable battery. It also has a geofencing feature, but we found its performance to be inconsistent in our tests.
Netgear Arlo Q Security Camera ($149)
Our favorite security camera not only shoots clear 1080p video, but gives you a lot of control over motion- and sound-detection settings, such as setting zones where the camera will ignore movement. If you have a Fire TV device, you can tell Alexa to show a feed from the Arlo Q camera right on your big screen; great if you're watching a movie in your bedroom, but want to check in on what's happening downstairs.
Ecobee3 Lite ($169)
You could splurge on the $249 Ecobee4 — which has Alexa built in — but the $169 Ecobee3 Lite works just as well. The Ecobee3 Lite also has our same favorite feature as the more expensive model: You can link the Lite to satellite sensors, which detect both temperature and occupancy, to ensure that all of your rooms are being heated or cooled to your preferences.
Get the BEST of Tom’s Guide daily right in your inbox: Sign up now!
Upgrade your life with the Tom’s Guide newsletter. Subscribe now for a daily dose of the biggest tech news, lifestyle hacks and hottest deals. Elevate your everyday with our curated analysis and be the first to know about cutting-edge gadgets.
Michael A. Prospero is the U.S. Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide. He oversees all evergreen content and oversees the Homes, Smart Home, and Fitness/Wearables categories for the site. In his spare time, he also tests out the latest drones, electric scooters, and smart home gadgets, such as video doorbells. Before his tenure at Tom's Guide, he was the Reviews Editor for Laptop Magazine, a reporter at Fast Company, the Times of Trenton, and, many eons back, an intern at George magazine. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College, where he worked on the campus newspaper The Heights, and then attended the Columbia University school of Journalism. When he’s not testing out the latest running watch, electric scooter, or skiing or training for a marathon, he’s probably using the latest sous vide machine, smoker, or pizza oven, to the delight — or chagrin — of his family.