What Is Smart Home Technology?
What if all the devices in your life could connect to the internet? Not just computers and smartphones, but everything: clocks, speakers, lights, doorbells, cameras, windows, window blinds, hot water heaters, appliances, cooking utensils, you name it. And what if those devices could all communicate, send you information, and take your commands? It's not science fiction; it's the Internet of Things (IoT), and it's a key component of home automation and smart homes.
Home automation is exactly what it sounds like: automating the ability to control items around the house—from window shades to pet feeders—with a simple push of a button (or a voice command). Some activities, like setting up a lamp to turn on and off at your whim, are simple and relatively inexpensive. Others, like advanced surveillance cameras, may require a more serious investment of time and money.
There are many smart home product categories, so you can control everything from lights and temperature to locks and security in your home. They also happen to make fantastic gifts, whether you're shopping for the holidays or buying a housewarming present. Here's a rundown of the best products we've tested for every room of the house.
Smart Home Hubs and Controllers
Amazon Echo Familyp>The Amazon Echo is a Bluetooth speaker powered by Alexa, Amazon's handy voice assistant. Alexa works with a number of smart home devices directly, as well as with If This Then That (IFTTT) to control plenty of others via "recipes" you can create yourself. It'll take some work, but you can use Alexa to control most of the gadgets in your house by the sound of your voice. If you already have a favorite speaker, the inexpensive Echo Dot can connect to it and add Alexa functionality. And if you want a touch screen to see search results and make video calls, check out the Echo Show or Echo Show 5.
The Brilliant Control is a unique wall switch that uses Wi-Fi to connect to and control various smart devices in your home. It has a 5-inch color touch screen with user-friendly button controls that let you play music, control lighting, set thermostat temperatures, and see who is at your door, among other things. It works with many popular smart home platforms including Ecobee, Nest, Philips Hue, Ring, and Sonos, and it has built-in Amazon Alexa voice support that allows it to do almost everything an Echo device can do. It's fairly pricey and requires wiring knowledge to install, but it's a smart addition to a high-tech home.
Logitech Harmony Elite
Don't like talking and prefer controlling things the old fashioned way: by pushing buttons? The Logitech Harmony Elite is the ultimate universal remote for a reason: it controls a lot more than just TV and stereo. The pricey unit connects with the included Harmony Home Hub to control other Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, Z-Wave, or infrared devices in your house.
Samsung SmartThings Wifi Smart Plug
If you're looking for an inexpensive way to turn regular, non-connected home appliances into smart home devices, put the Samsung SmartThings Wifi Smart Plug at the top of your list. At $17.99, it's one of the more affordable smart plugs we've come across, yet it offers a few features you usually only find on more expensive plugs including power usage reports, voice control, and flexible scheduling. It also supports IFTTT applets, and it will integrate with other smart devices if you pair it with a SmartThings hub.
TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip HS300
Joining TP-Link's growing family of Kasa Smart connected devices, the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip HS300 can be controlled from your phone and with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana voice commands. It uses the same app as other Kasa devices and supports IFTTT applets to interact with third-party devices, and you can monitor energy usage for each of its six outlets.
Smart Home Surveillance Cameras
The Arlo Ultra raises the bar for all outdoor cameras. It's the first model we've seen that streams and records video in true 4K, or Ultra High Definition (UHD). At $400, it's also one of the most expensive cameras out there, but it's loaded with cool tech including automatic zooming, motion tracking, color night vision, an integrated spotlight and siren, one-click 911 connectivity, a 180-degree field of view, and more. It's also completely wireless and a snap to install. You'll have to sign up to one of Arlo's subscription plans to take advantage of all that the camera has to offer, but it still merits top honors for outdoor security cameras.
Wyze Cam Pan
Founded by former Amazon employees, Wyze Labs has been around for less than two years, but in that time it's managed to snag two Editors' Choice awards for its first two product offerings, the original Wyze Cam and its successor, the Wyze Cam V2. The company's latest offering, the Wyze Cam Pan, continues the trend. Priced at just $29.99, it offers all of the features of the earlier models, such as motion and sound detection, time-lapse recording, and free cloud storage, and it adds mechanical pan and tilt and support for IFTTT applets. That makes it our Editors' Choice for affordable home security cameras.
The Ring Video Doorbell Pro offers almost everything you'd want in a smart doorbell. It's fairly easy to install, sports a slender design with interchangeable faceplates, and delivers sharp 1080p video day and night. It also uses pre-buffering technology to show you what transpired prior to a motion trigger, and lets you view live video on an Amazon Echo Show device using Alexa voice commands, making it one of the most versatile video doorbells you can buy.
Smart Locks and Home Security Systems
August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
The Smart Lock Pro + Connect is the latest offering from August Home, and as with the original August Smart Lock and HomeKit Enabled models, it's a winner. This third-generation smart lock offers all the bells and whistles you get with the HomeKit model, and adds a few new features, including August's DoorSense technology, Z-Wave compatibility, and Wi-Fi connectivity. It's easy to install and can be controlled remotely or with Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri voice commands, and it retains the sleek aesthetics of its siblings. It's pricey, but it's the best smart lock we've tested.
If you're looking for a mature provider when it comes to smart home security, you've probably heard of ADT. While ADT Pulse is certainly much more expensive than a DIY system, it offers capabilities those systems simply can't, including 24/7 monitoring and customer support. It's the most complete, full-featured home security system we've tested, and doubles as an automation platform for your other smart home devices.
SimpliSafe Home Security System
If you prefer a DIY approach to smartening up your home security, check out the SimpliSafe Home Security System. SimpliSafe finds the sweet spot between a basic self-monitored DIY security system and a professionally installed and monitored solution. The system is easy to set up and use, and keeps your home safe from intruders and environmental threats like fires and floods. It's a seamless solution that succeeds quite well at what it sets out to do—secure your home simply and flexibly, letting you monitor everything remotely with (or without) an affordable monthly plan.
Smart Heating and Cooling
Ecobee Smart Thermostat With Voice Control
The new Ecobee Smart Thermostat With Voice Control is the company's fifth-generation model, and as is the case with each Ecobee release, this new model offers more features than its predecessor, the Ecobee4. Enhanced Alexa and multimedia support, more powerful audio components, and dual-band Wi-Fi are just a few examples of what this thermostat has to offer. Throw in a user-friendly app, lots of third-party support, and an easy installation process, and you've got one of the best smart thermostats you can buy.
Nest Learning Thermostat
The Nest Learning Thermostat has Wi-Fi so you can remotely control the temperature from phone, tablet, or PC. This latest generation also has a larger display and a few more sensors than its predecessors, in addition to geofencing support and a furnace monitor. If you find it a bit too pricey, Nest also offers the Thermostat E, which has most of the same smart features for $80 less.
The GE Energy Star 115-Volt Electronic Room Air Conditioner AHC08LY is an 8,000-BTU Wi-Fi-enabled window unit that you can control with your phone or with your voice. It offers support for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri voice commands, and it works with other smart home devices via Apple HomeKit and IFTTT applets. It also uses your phone's location services to cool down rooms in your home before you arrive and offers flexible scheduling options and energy usage reports. You'll pay a bit more for this model than you will for a non-connected AC, and you might need some assistance installing it, but the GE AHC08LY is hands-down the smartest room air conditioner we've come across.
Philips Hue Family
Want complete wireless supremacy over the lights in your home? The Philips Hue line delivers with bulbs that let you control not only the intensity of the light, but also the color. It can get pricey, to be sure, but the Hue ecosystem has been around long enough that it works with just about every other system out there, from Alexa, to IFTTT, to Siri (using the Philips Hue Bridge). Not interested in colorful lights but still want that incredible granular control over an all-white bulb? Philips has the Hue White coming in at an almost bargain price, at least for smart bulbs. It even has bulbs you can use outdoors.
Yeelight Smart LED Bulb
We've reviewed a lot of smart light bulbs, and while we've yet to find one that does it all, the Yeelight Smart LED Bulb comes pretty darn close. It's dimmable, offers 16 million colors, and connects to your home network wirelessly, without the need for a hub or bridge. It supports Apple HomeKit, IFTTT, and Alexa, Google, and Siri voice commands, and it's relatively affordable at $25.99. It also offers a user-friendly app that lets you configure lighting effects and create lighting schedules. All of this makes it one of the best deals around for affordable smart bulbs.
Ecobee is the first company to embed Amazon Alexa in a light switch with its $99 Ecobee Switch+. The Switch+ is more than just a smart wall switch that connects to your Wi-Fi and can be controlled using a mobile app: It can do everything an Amazon Echo does, such as tell you the current news, weather and sports scores, play music, and control other smart home devices. It also works with Apple's HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT applets, and the SmartThings Hub, and it will eventually double as a remote room sensor for an Ecobee thermostat.
Smart Kitchen Appliances
Anova Culinary Precision Cooker Wi-Fi
If you're interested in sous vide cooking—where food sealed in plastic is immersed in a hot bath to cook to perfection—you need an immersion circulator to get started. The Anova Culinary Precision Cooker uses Wi-Fi connectivity so you control it from anywhere, even when you're not home. A big dial lets you set the desired temperature to within a tenth of a degree, display shows the set and current water temperature, and an app keeps you notified of the cooking process every step of the way. It makes cooking sous vide as simple as can be.
Traeger Ironwood 650
Whether you're a barbecue novice or a professional pitmaster, cooking with the right grill can mean the difference between failure and success. With the $1,200 Traeger Ironwood 650, you never have to worry about things like flare-ups, uneven cooking temperatures, or constantly feeding wood into a smoker. Fueled by real hardwood pellets, the Wi-Fi-enabled Ironwood 650 can be used for barbecuing, roasting, and smoking, and it's easy to use. It doesn't offer all of the features of its bigger sibling, the $2,000 Timberline 1300, but it's more affordable and still delivers outstanding food.
Amazon Basics Microwave
Smart kitchen appliances are usually "smart" because they work with an app in some way. You can control them with your phone or tablet, like the Tovala Steam Oven or the Smarter Coffee. That functionality also typically means they're more expensive than their traditional equivalents. The AmazonBasics Microwave subverts both of those expectations. At $59.99, it costs about the same as any other small 700-watt microwave, and instead of direct app control, you can simply use Alexa voice commands to cook. It isn't terribly powerful, and you need a separate Echo device in order to use the voice functionality, but it's priced similarly to models that don't do nearly as much, making it a great buy.
Ecovacs Deebot N79S
Even if you hate cleaning, shelling out several hundred dollars for a robot vacuum can seem a little extravagant. But at $229, the Ecovacs Deebot N79S is relatively affordable, and offers more for the price than any other vacuum we've tested. In addition to long battery life and manual steering, it supports features we typically see in far more expensive models such as app control and Amazon Alexa compatibility. It also delivers a stronger clean than other vacuums we've tested in this price range.
iRobot Roomba s9+
iRobot's latest vacuum, the Roomba s9+, takes what we like about the i7+ and puts it in a new shape that's better at reaching difficult areas, with four times the suction power. And with plenty of sensors and camera-based navigation, it learns the layout of your home over time. At $1,399.99, it's the most expensive robot vacuum we've tested to date. But its powerful suction, smart navigation, and ability to empty itself out makes it the best one you can buy and our Editors' Choice for high-end models.
iRobot Braava Jet m6
Robot vacuums are great, especially if you have a lot of carpeting or throw rugs, but if you have mostly hardwood or tile, you might want to consider a robot mop instead. They don't get much better than iRobot's latest, the Braava m6. With long battery life and the ability to cover 1,000 square feet in a session, the m6 is suitable for both apartments and larger homes. And if you have a mess that doesn't require mopping, that's OK, because the m6 sweeps too. It can even detect carpets and map out your home, so you can send it to specific rooms.
Dyson V11 Torque Drive
It isn't a robot, but Dyson's V11 Torque Drive is easily the smartest cordless stick vacuum we've seen. It automatically detects what type of surface you're cleaning and switches the motor speed accordingly between carpets and hard floors, for just the right blend of power and battery life. An LCD on top of the handle shows remaining battery life (down to the second), your current power mode, reminds you to clean the filter, and tells you how to clear any blockages. It also filters the air as you clean, trapping 99.97 percent of particles as small as 0.3 microns. And with 20 percent more suction power than the previous model and up to 60 minutes of battery life, it's the best argument we've seen yet for leaving your robot vacuum in the hall closet.
Smart Health and Fitness Devices
We liked the original Nanit Sleep System a lot, but not enough for it to unseat our Editors' Choice for baby monitors, the $180 iBaby Monitor M6S. The new Nanit Plus addresses our issues with the original, like the lack of two-way audio, and brings new, incredibly useful features like breathing monitoring in addition to the sleep tracking offered by the original. It's still expensive at $299, but delivers a wealth of data you can't really put a price on, making it an new Editors' Choice.
Using technology at home to make you healthier just makes good sense. For tracking fat, BMI, water, muscle mass, bone composition, and even pregnancy, look no further than the QardioBase 2. It shares the info it reads with a smartphone app for your easy access. Plus, it just looks great.
Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed
There are many ways to track your sleep these days, from fitness trackers to smartwatches, but perhaps nothing is better suited for the job than your mattress itself. At least, that's the idea behind Sleep Number's 360 Smart Bed, which incorporates biometric sensors to help you snooze better. You use an app on your smartphone to view your sleep trends and health metrics, and to gain insight on how you can sleep better. It's a hefty investment, but if you have the money to spend, the 360 Smart Bed is a comfortable, effective, and highly customizable way to improve your quality of sleep.
Smart Outdoor Gadgets
When we first tested robotic pool cleaners, the Polaris 9550 Sport took top honors thanks to its superb cleaning performance, easy-to-clean debris canister, and multiple programming options. The new Polaris 9650iQ Sport brings more of the same, only this time it offers Wi-Fi connectivity and a useful mobile app that lets you control the cleaner from your smartphone. It's expensive at $1,499, but if you'd rather spend more time swimming in your pool than you do cleaning it, it's worth every penny.
Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller
The latest Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller gives you control over eight or 16 zones depending on the unit you get, with a master valve terminal for systems that have one. It won't water the lawn if it's raining, and you can turn it on and off remotely with your phone. Plus, it integrates with lots of other services and devices like Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, and Samsung SmartThings.
Husqvarna Automower 315X
No stranger to outdoor appliances, Sweden-based Husqvarna offers a variety of robot lawn mowers for yards of all shapes and sizes. We got our hands on the Automower 315X, a high-end, feature-packed model with a premium $1,999.95 price. The 315X works with a well-designed mobile app that lets you use your phone to start and stop the mower, monitor its progress, create schedules, and see where it's been on a map of your property. Its user-friendly programming options, outstanding cutting performance, and quiet operation earn it our Editors' Choice for robotic lawn mowers.
Worx Landroid M 20V Cordless Robotic Lawn Mower (WR140)
As with every robotic lawnmower we've reviewed, the Worx Landroid M 20V Cordless Robotic Lawn Mower (WR140) does not come cheap, but at $999.99 it's one of the least expensive models out there and it does an excellent job of mowing and trimming your lawn. It also has GPS and Wi-Fi radios and works with a slick mobile app that lets you control it from anywhere. In addition to starting and stopping the mower and adjusting cuttings schedules, the app lets you monitor the mower's progress and will send status alerts to let you know what it is currently doing and if there are any issues. It'll even tell you where the mower is in the event that someone decides to liberate it from your property.