One of the easiest ways to make your home smart is by using a so-called "smart plug," which lets you control various small appliances without needing to be in the room — or the country, for that matter.
Because smart plugs are easy to use and very affordable, starting at less than $30 per switch, anyone with a smartphone can get in on the convenience (and, dare we say, fun) of smart home technology. At their most basic, smart plugs let you control otherwise "dumb" devices, such as floor lamps and coffee makers, using your smartphone.
After testing a dozen plugs, we chose the TP-Link Kasa HS107 as our top pick. It's small enough so that you can fit two of them in an outlet, and has useful features such as an Away mode, which turns your lights on and off to make it look like you're home. Our best value pick is the Aukey Wi-Fi Smart Plug, which works with Alexa and Google Assistant, and costs just $24 for a pack of two.
TP-Link's Kasa single-socket smart plug was our favorite such device … until the Kasa two-socket plug came along. Not only does the dual plug have one of the better designs among plugs we've tested, but its app is the most feature-packed, too. The rectangular device has three-prong sockets at both ends, so you can control two devices independently from a single outlet. This plug is narrow enough that it won't block the second wall outlet, in case you want to plug in something else, but the fit will be tight.
You manually control each plug via two LED-lit buttons on either end of the front of the switch, while a light in the middle lets you know if the plug is connected to your Wi-Fi network. The Kasa will work with devices of up to 15 amps, so you can plug in things such as coffee makers and portable heaters.
Like with TP-Link's single-plug device, you can easily create schedules, including setting up an Away mode, which will randomly turn the lights on and off to make it look like you're home; this is perhaps the plug's best feature. Kasa's app also lets you group other products from TP-Link, such as security cameras and lights, and control them with Alexa, Google Assistant or Cortana. At just $8 more than the Kasa single plug, the double version is a worthy investment.
Aukey's plug is not only very compact, but it's very inexpensive, too: You get two for $24, about half that of most other plugs. While it only works with Alexa and Google Assistant, Aukey's app has a good number of automated features for the price.
iHome's outdoor plug can withstand the elements, which makes it great for powering all those tree lights and outdoor displays you put up every December. It only has one plug, though, so you may need several to get juice to all of your lights.
Although it's the most expensive of the plugs we tested, the Lutron Caseta offers something the others don't: the ability to dim your lights. Plus, Lutron's app has some great scheduling features, and it works with a lot of other smart home systems. Note that you'll also need a Wi-Fi bridge in order to control this with your phone. Lutron sells a kit with two plugs, the bridge, and a remote control for around $150.
Most smart plugs only let you plug in one device at a time, but the Geeni Surge lets you power up to eight—four using the regular plugs, and four via USB. What's more, you can control them independently using the Geeni app, or through Alexa or Google Assistant. Still, it's not perfect: The plugs are too close together, and the app has some sections that aren't in English.
Other Smart Plugs Tested
TP-Link's HS105 smart plug has a compact design, which makes it possible to add two to an outlet. We liked the Kasa app, which was easy to use and has a robust set of features, such as the ability to create schedules and an Away mode that turns your lights on and off at random intervals while you're out of your house.
While the iHome ISP6X smart plug doesn't have the Away feature we like so much in the TP-Link app, the iSP6X works with many more smart home systems, including Nest, Wink and Samsung SmartThings.
The Wemo Insight Switch not only lets you turn your devices on and off but also provides information on your usage and electricity consumption, and even shows a running total of how much that device costs to run. All of this is wrapped up in a beautiful, user-friendly app. It works with Nest, Amazon Alexa and IFTTT.
The Wemo Mini is thin enough so that you can fit two of them per outlet. While it doesn't have energy monitoring like the Insight, the Mini does work with the same smart home systems, and has a helpful switch on the plug itself.
At this price, the Eufy Smart Plug Mini is a pretty good bargain, but there's still room for improvement. Despite the "mini" moniker, this plug is not as compact or attractive as TP-Link's single-outlet plug. Still, it's $7 less expensive, and I like that it also has an Away mode, which makes it look like you're home by randomly turning connected devices on and off.
The Eufy Home app (Android and iOS) also shows energy usage and lets you set schedules and timers. You can also control the Smart Plug Mini via Alexa and Google Assistant, which is a necessary feature. However, you can't link the plug with other Eufy products, such as smart bulbs or robot vacuums.
Aukey's dual-socket smart plug costs $10 less than TP-Link's, but the value just isn't there in this plug. Both sockets are on the front of the device, separated by a single power button. However, this button controls both sockets, so you can't turn them on and off individually like you can with TP-Link's dual outlet. (At least you can control each socket separately in the Aukey app.) Also, the button and the sockets are close together, so the button might get covered up if you connect a lamp that has a bulbous plug.
Setting up the plug was fairly simple, but I didn't like that the app (Android and iOS) makes you type in your Wi-Fi password in the clear — which is unsafe if someone's watching. You can create schedules for both sockets to turn on and off and link them to Alexa and Google Assistant, but overall, the app is much less sophisticated than TP-Link's.
How We Test Smart Home Plugs
Reviewing a smart plug isn't as simple as plugging it in. Well, it almost is. In addition to making sure the plug actually turns on the thing that's plugged into it, we also evaluate the plugs on several factors:
- Design: Can you fit more than one plug into an outlet? Does it have a physical on/off switch or indicator lights?
- Setup: How easy is it to connect the plug to your Wi-Fi network, and to its app?
- Scheduling: How robust is the scheduling feature in the app?
- Features: Are there any other features that distinguish the plug from others?
- Smart Home Connectivity: How many other smart home systems does the plug work with? Alexa and Google Assistant should be givens.
What To Look For When Buying a Smart Plug
There are tons of smart plugs available on Amazon and other online retailers, many of which cost less than $30, and work with Alexa. So how do you decide which is best? Here are some things to consider.
1. Will it block my other outlet? Some smart plugs are so big that if you plug them into a wall outlet, it will block the second outlet. That's a design fail. TP-Link's HS105, the iHome ISP6X, and the Belkin WeMo Mini are all plugs that are small enough to keep the other outlet free.
2. Will it work with more than Alexa? It's great to be able to say "Alexa, turn off my lights" and have the smart plug shut off your table lamp. But the better plugs will also work with Google Home, and some—such as iHome's—also work with Apple HomeKit.
3. Is the app any good? Many of the cheaper plugs have cheaper apps, which make it difficult to schedule when the plug should turn off and on. We've even found some that haven't been fully translated into English. While you'll need to download the plug's app before you purchase the plug, this step could save you a lot of frustration.
Smart Plugs vs. Smart Switches vs. Smart Lights
When does it make sense to get a smart plug versus a smart wall switch or a smart light bulb? For one, most smart plugs can be used to control more than just lights. For example, you could plug a coffee maker or floor fan into a smart plug, and have it turn that device on at a given time.
If you're using a smart plug primarily for lighting, it's best for floor and table lamps because you can use less-expensive bulbs. However, if you want bulbs that can change color or color temperature, then a smart bulb may be a better way to go. If all your lights are controlled by a wall switch, then you'll want a smart switch.