Smart home devices are one of the best ways to add automation, organization, and entertainment to the parts of your life that need it most. Whether you want a voice assistant to help you keep up with daily tasks and scheduled reminders, or you’re in need of a streaming device to catch up with all your favorite shows, there’s likely a web-connected product to tackle the job.
When it comes to jump-starting your own smart home, there are a number of devices that fall under the “smart” umbrella that you can find just about anywhere. In this roundup, we’ve broken down this hardware into several categories, with some product recommendations for each tier.
The first thing you’ll want to get is a virtual assistant to help you control your smart devices with just your voice. You can opt for a smart speaker, which only has audio, or you can go with a smart display, which has a touchscreen that lets you visually interact with your assistant as well.
The Amazon Echo is Amazon’s smart speaker that features Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant. The Echo 4th Generation has excellent sound quality, so you can clearly hear your playlist from music streaming services like Amazon Music, Apple Music, or iHeart Radio. The redesigned Echo 4 retails for $100, and it comes in charcoal, twilight blue, and glacier white. Amazon’s latest smart speaker also functions as a Zigbee hub, allowing you to control other Zigbee-specific smart home gear, such as lights, locks, and cameras.
If you want a more affordable Echo speaker, the Echo Dot with Clock retails for only $60 and does almost everything the Echo does, except its speakers aren’t quite as powerful (and it doesn’t have a Zigbee hub). The Dot with Clock has an LED display on the front face that can show you the time, the weather, or a timer. One of the reasons these gadgets should be on your smart home shopping list is that they work with many of the other products you buy. Alexa responds to short commands that make life easier and more fun. You can set alarms, ask questions, order pizza, shop, play games, and more — just by using your voice. Plus, compatible gadgets let you depend on Alexa to tweak aspects of your smart home by doing things like turning down the thermostat or turning on a light.
If you’d prefer a smart display that has a screen and lets you make video calls, see song lyrics, and watch your security camera and video doorbell feeds, the Echo Show 5 is a great option because it’s even more affordable than a regular Echo speaker. The Show 5 is a compact display, though, and if you’re looking for a larger screen, the Echo Show 10 may be a better option. Featuring a rotating base that adapts to your movements, Amazon’s Show 10 is designed to follow and respond to your face and body, keeping you in the frame during video calls.
On the other hand, maybe you’d rather go with a smart speaker not associated with Amazon, but love the easy-to-move design of the Echo Dot. In that case, look no further than the streamlined Nest Mini. The Nest Mini (2nd Gen) has an eco-friendly design, and it comes in chalk, charcoal, a bright coral color, or a bright blue color. Similar in size and shape to the Echo Dot (3rd Gen), the Nest Mini 2 is powered by Google Assistant, which, in many ways, is smarter than Alexa. The multilingual assistant can control your smart devices, create a shopping list, answer questions, and much more. Plus, it connects to oodles of smart home devices for voice control. However, Alexa is compatible with more smart devices.
Want a larger, louder speaker? The Nest Audio is Google’s newest smart speaker. Featuring premium sound, adaptive audio, and an attractive design, you can find Google’s premium smart speaker in chalk, charcoal, sage, sand, and sky. If you want a Google Assistant-powered smart display, we really like the Nest Hub Max. It has a 10-inch display, gesture control, built-in security features, and it even has a built-in Nest Cam.
Check out our picks for the best smart speakers
When your home has a smart lock, there’s no need to worry about fumbling for your keys when it’s dark or having to leave a key under the mat for a pet sitter. Today’s options install in minutes and offer convenience and peace of mind.
We like the August Smart Lock 3rd Generation because it retrofits over your existing deadbolt, making it super-easy to install. Alternatively, we’re also fans of the Wyze Lock. Wyze products have a great track record when it comes to reliable, intuitive features at bargain prices, and its smart lock is no exception.
Similar to the August Smart Lock, the Wyze Lock retrofits over your existing deadbolt and can be configured to detect your phone when you’re in range, automatically locking/unlocking your door when you’re approaching. Compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, you can even use voice commands to control the lock from indoors or with the Alexa/Google Home app.
Check out our picks for the best smart locks
Security camera and video doorbell
Investing in a video doorbell lets you see who’s knocking at the door without getting up from the couch. A security camera can provide added peace of mind too, as most outdoor models allow you to watch the happenings around your house from anywhere, all through an app on your phone. Many provide two-way audio, night vision, and motion alerts as well.
Nest is one of the leading brands in the smart home market and offers both indoor and outdoor security cameras. The Nest Cam Indoor, for example, comes with a magnetic stand and has a speaker, so you can talk to a person or pet even if you’re not nearby.
The Arlo Pro 4 is our favorite camera overall. The lens delivers crisp day and night images, a built-in speaker and microphone for natural two-way audio, and a weatherproof casing. Our favorite video doorbell is the Ring Video Doorbell 3. The bell runs on battery power, detects motion, features two-way audio, and can be customized with the Ring app.
Check out our picks for the best video doorbells, best wireless security cameras, and best home security systems
Your heating and cooling system is probably a part of your home that you don’t think about too often — until the temperature’s not quite right. A smart thermostat could better integrate climate controls into your life.
Our favorite smart thermostat is the Amazon Smart Thermostat. Developed in partnership with Resideo, the makers of Honeywell Home Thermostat Technology, the sleek and simple interface allows you to adjust the temperature from the thermostat by using the Alexa app. Speaking of Alexa: Amazon’s intuitive voice assistant will study your temperature preferences so it can automatically raise and lower the temp — even while you’re away. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the $60 price makes it one of the least expensive thermostats on the market.
For the Google lovers of the smart realm, the Nest Thermostat (2020) is another solid pick. An attractive aesthetic that blends in with all kinds of home decor, the $130 thermostat can be controlled with the Google Home app, Google Assistant voice commands, and the tried-and-true method of using human fingertips to make adjustments. We also love that the Nest allows you to monitor the energy efficiency of your entire HVAC operation, letting you use this intel to create automated schedules for heating and cooling your home.
Check out our picks for the best smart thermostats
Lightbulb or switch
You may already use energy-efficient light bulbs in your home, so installing smart bulbs is the next logical step to take. Besides saving money, they let you customize the way your home looks and even turn lights on and off from another location, as long as you have internet access and the complementing app.
Philips Hue bulbs respond to voice commands and settings changes from your smartphone app. Some bulbs, like Sengled A19 smart bulbs don’t require a hub, which can make it easier (and cheaper) to set up smart lighting in your home.
You don’t have to opt for light bulbs with smart technology to get some “smart” features. Combine regular bulbs with smart light switches instead. With this switch, you can turn lights on and off using voice commands, and you can avoid the trouble of having to switch out smart bulbs. We will say that intelligent light switches can be frustrating because they require some extra legwork for installation. We recommend WeMo’s Smart Light Switch for the most painless setup.
If you install smart plugs around your house, you’ll be able to use your voice to control all of your connected devices. Users love this feature and find it can be extremely handy in different circumstances.
Read more about our picks for best smart light bulbs, best LED light bulbs, and best smart plugs for inside the home
It might sound like an unnecessary luxury, but we certainly recommend adding a robot vacuum into your cleaning routine based on the time it will save you alone. Like the Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 950, some of these vacuums have mopping capabilities, too, so you don’t have to break out the suds bucket. Our all-time favorite robot vacuum on the market is the iRobot Roomba s9+. It is the superior robot vacuum thanks to its self-emptying feature and its ability to contain allergens. Plus, it will keep your floors spotless.
Check out our picks for the best robot vacuums
Last but not least is smart connectivity for the one device in the home that everyone gathers around — the TV. When it comes to watching your family’s favorite shows and movies, one of the best smart TV accessories you can get is the incredible and affordable Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max.
Unlike traditional streaming devices, the Fire TV Stick occupies no space in an entertainment center. Instead, it connects directly to an available HDMI input on a flatscreen and is light enough to hang out of the port. Once setup is complete and you’re connected to Wi-Fi, you can use the Fire TV Stick to stream movies, shows, and music from a number of popular platforms, including Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video. And, as the name indicates, you get to enjoy these flicks and episodes in full UHD resolution (where 4K streaming is available).
Best of all, with a Fire TV Stick, you can include your Alexa-powered Echo speaker for some truly smart workarounds. You know when you’re feeling lazy, and, even though the TV remote is a few feet in front of you, the laze in the air demands you don’t move an inch to grab it? Well, if your Echo Dot is nearby and there’s a Fire TV Stick plugged into your TV, sink deeper into your couch cocoon, dear friend, for Alexa can execute a number of TV commands that it will obey, including power on/off, volume adjustments, input switching, in-app searches, and more.
If you’re looking for other streaming options, check out Google and Roku. In the Google corner, there’s the traditional Google Chromecast, as well as the Chromecast with Google TV. The former is a dongle-based device that connects to an HDMI input on your TV. Then, you grab your smartphone, fire up apps like Netflix and Spotify, and “cast” video and audio content from your mobile device to the TV. The O.G. Chromecast is also one of the least expensive streaming devices you can buy.
The Chromecast with Google TV offers the casting capabilities of the original Chromecast, but with an entirely new, remote-navigable interface that recommends content based on your movie and TV watching history.
Then there are Roku streaming devices. Offering thousands of apps (known as Channels), the Roku marketplace is your one-stop shop for major services like Netflix and Hulu, as well as a bounty of third-party services. Like Westerns? There are several apps for just Western content. Horror movies? Same deal. And hey, did you know that Roku also makes great TVs?
One of our favorite Roku devices is the Roku Streaming Stick+. Offering 4K and HDR support, this model is one of the best inexpensive streaming devices for both picture quality, performance speed, and content availability.
Check out our picks for the best streaming devices