Looking to make your home just a little smarter? While still in its infancy, the number of smart home products—devices that let you control your lighting, thermostat, or even your crock pot from your smartphone—is rapidly growing. From GE to Belkin to Home Depot, tons of products and whole ecosystems want to help you control your home via a single iOS or Android app. You can pick and choose your favorite gadgets to assemble an affordable intelligent abode on your own terms, or opt for an entire smart home system that does all the work for you.
Amazon Alexa vs. Google Home vs. Apple HomeKit: What Should You Get?
If you're looking to control your smart home devices by voice command, you have three main choices: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant/Home, and Apple HomeKit/Siri. (Yes, there's also Microsoft Cortana, but it lags so far behind the other three, we don't recommend it for your smart home at this time.) We compared Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri, both on their own and in conjunction with the best-sounding smart speaker with each of the assistants. In short, Alexa generally came out on top, as it works with the most smart home devices, and has the most third-party skills. However, Google Assistant can do some things that Alexa can't—such as control Chromecast TVs—and it's rapidly being built into a number of third-party devices.
Latest News & Updates (August 2018)
- We've reviewed Lenovo's Smart Display (starting at $199), and found it beats the Amazon Echo Show in a number of ways: its touchscreen is larger and sharper, it's better at reading recipes, and it affords you greater control of smart home devices. Read our full review of the Lenovo Smart Display.
- The Echo Show, Echo Spot, Fire TV and Alexa-enabled Fire tablets can now display the most recent videos recorded by August, Arlo, Logitech, and Ring devices, as well as Amazon's Cloud Cam. Previously, you could only view events as they were happening, but with this update, users can now view the last recorded event from those cameras.
The second-generation Echo is smaller and more attractive than the original. Plus, you can change its skins to match your decor. Inside, the new Echo does all the same things the original does: control smart home gadgets, connect to other smart home hubs, read you audiobooks, check the weather, and even let you purchase things online just by using your voice. And, as a speaker, it sounds pretty good, too.
The Arlo Q's 1080p camera boasts excellent quality video, both day and night, has great motion detection, and a flexible scheduling feature. Best of all, though, is that you get a week's worth of video storage for free.
The Ecobee4 has everything we liked about its predecessor, the Ecobee3, such as a slick touchscreen interface and a remote sensor that helps ensure all the rooms of your house are getting heated or cooled properly. But the newest version also has Alexa built in, so you don't need an Echo or an Echo Dot to control your other smart home devices, ask for the weather, or do anything else you can do with Amazon's voice assistant.
Philips Hue White starter kit includes two bulbs and a hub to connect them to other smart home devices. While you can't change these bulbs' colors, you can adjust their brightness (up to 800 lumens), and add up to 50 to a single hub. Philips' bulbs also work with a wide range of smart home systems, including Alexa, Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, Google Home, and Nest.
Philips also has an app, Philips Hue Sync, which lets users synchronize their smart bulbs with multimedia content on their Mac or Windows PC. For example, you can set your lights to flash and change color in time with music, video and movies being played on your computer. Users can also modify the color schemes and themes to suit their tastes.
MORE: LED Light Bulb Guide
August's clever HindSense feature includes a couple of seconds of video before the motion is detected, so it's more likely to capture a usable image. Footage was clear enough that we could see people's faces, and its spotlight helped illuminate whoever was coming to the door at night. Because August's product looks the least like a traditional doorbell, visitors sometimes didn't know to press the device. Still, it integrates tightly with August's excellent Smart Locks, Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant, among other smart home systems — the most of any of the doorbells we tested.
A simple, and inexpensive way to make any device "smart," you can control the power going to the TP-Link HS105 plug from your smartphone, wherever you are. We liked that TP-Link's Kasa app also lets you create a schedule to turn the plug on and off, and has an "Away" mode that will turn your devices on to make it look like you're home. It can also be linked to other smart home devices, such as Alexa and Google Home.
MORE: Best Smart Switches
Not only does the Nest Protect detect smoke and carbon monoxide, but its sensors are designed to pick up both slow- and fast-burning fires. Plus, the Protect will tell you in which room the fire is located, and can be linked to other smart home devices, so that it can automatically turn on your Philips Hue lights in the event of an emergency.
We like August's Smart Lock Pro for its ease of installation, features that let you know if your door is ajar, and deep integration with other smart home devices, from Alexa to HomeKit to Google Home, not to mention August's DoorBell Cam.
MORE: Best Smart Locks
If you have a wide variety of smart home gadgets, you'll need a central system to integrate and control them all. While it has its imperfections, we found the Samsung SmartThings hub to be the best of the lot. It works with a wide range of devices and has a battery backup. Plus, Samsung will integrate this technology into its 2016 4K TVs, meaning you won't need to plug yet another gadget into your router.
MORE: Best Smart Home Hub
Searching or reaching for that elusive garage door opener remote while trying to navigate a dark suburban street, toppled garbage cans or your kids' toys – or your kids – often proves awkward and dangerous. Chamberlain's garage door opener lets you tap your device's screen to open or close your garage from anywhere. Soon, the company also plans to add geofencing capabilities so it can sense when you're near your driveway to automatically open and, when your car is safely ensconced inside, close your existing garage door. Part of the Home Depot/Wink ecosystem and Apple's soon-to-be HomeKit initiative, MyQ can control nearly every garage door opener from all the major brands manufactured after 1993.
The Anova Precision Cooker is a sous-vide machine, which uses a hot water bath to cook your food to a precise temperature. (The food is sealed in a water-tight bag, so it retains all its juices). It's the easiest way to get perfectly medium-rare steaks, juicy chicken, and much more. Plus, it's easy to use, and its app comes with a ton of great recipes from Serious Eats.
It's not easy keeping a house clean, but the Samsung Powerbot R7070 can certainly help. In our tests, this midpriced robot vacuum was one of the best at picking up pet hair and getting the food scraps in the corners. It's easy to schedule, works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and features one of the most user-friendly dustbins of the vacuums we tested.
MORE: Best Robot Vacuums
See Also : 50 Best Amazon Alexa Skills