Useful Inexpensive Gadgets –
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 home security devices. 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 Speakers and Displays
Amazon Echo Family
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 pairings you can create yourself. It’ll take some work, but you can use Alexa to control most of the gadgets in your house with the sound of your voice. If you already have a favorite speaker, the inexpensive Echo Dot With Clock 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 8 or the Echo Show.
Google Nest Hub Family
If you prefer Google Assistant to Amazon Alexa, you’ll want to invest in Google’s Nest Hub line of speakers and smart displays. The big Google Home Max offers truly room-filling sound, while the Google Nest Hub Max is an attractive, bright smart display that puts Google’s services front and center. The smaller Nest Mini and Nest Hub are also solid, more affordable alternatives for putting Google Assistant in every room of the house.
If you can’t decided between Amazon and Alexa and Google Assistant, you don’t have to. The Sonos One supports both popular voice assistants, and sound-wise, it’s head and shoulders above other smart speakers in its price range. It also connects with other Sonos speakers like the Arc, Beam, and Move to deliver superior sound quality and voice assistant access throughout your home (and backyard).
ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2
If you’re looking to add some smarts to small home appliances such as coffee makers, lamps, and TVs, the ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 is an excellent choice. This versatile dual-outlet smart plug can be controlled with an Android or iOS mobile app and works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri voice commands. It lacks IFTTT support, but you can make it work with other smart home devices using HomeKit Scenes and Automations, and it monitors energy usage for both outlets.
D-Link mydlink Outdoor Wi-Fi Smart Plug (DSP-W320)
With the D-Link mydlink Outdoor Wi-Fi Smart Plug DSP-W320, it’s easy to control outdoor devices such as decorative lighting and pool pumps with your phone and a mobile app. Equipped with two outlets and a USB charging port, this weatherproof plug installs in minutes, supports Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands, and will work with other smart home devices using IFTTT applets.
See The Best Smart Plugs for more.
Home Security 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), and 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.
See The Best Outdoor Home Security Cameras for more.
Wyze Cam Pan
The Wyze Cam Pan offers all of the features of its predecessor, the Wyze Cam V2, 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. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another pan and tilt camera at this price, let alone one packed with so many features.
Check out The Best Indoor Home Security Cameras for more.
When we reviewed the original RemoBell back in 2017, we liked that it was completely wireless, easy to install, and that it delivered sharp 720p video, but were disappointed with its bulky aesthetics, lack of on-demand video, and laggy performance. The new RemoBell S is a much slimmer device that gives you on-demand HD video, free cloud recording, support for Alexa and Google voice commands, and interoperability with other smart home devices using IFTTT applets. Although the RemoBell S uses your existing doorbell wiring, it is still relatively easy to install and delivered sharp video and responsive motion detection in our tests, and its price is hard to beat.
See The Best Video Doorbells for more.
We liked the original Nanit Sleep System a lot, but not enough to award it our Editors’ Choice. The 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. It’s expensive, but it delivers a wealth of data you can’t really put a price on, making it our top pick.
Head over to The Best Baby Monitors for more.
Smart Locks and Home Security Systems
August Wi-Fi Smart Lock
August’s smart locks have been some of our favorites since we reviewed the company’s first offering in 2014. The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is the company’s smallest model to date, and its first to offer embedded Wi-Fi. It also supports Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and numerous other third-party platforms and devices, following in the suit of its predecessors and earning our Editors’ Choice.
See The Best Smart Locks for more.
Vivint Smart Home
With Vivint you get around-the-clock home monitoring with an incredibly swift response when an alarm goes off, as well as a variety of optional home automation services, all of which can be controlled from a smartphone, a PC, and a 7-inch touch-screen control panel. Vivint Smart Home systems and components aren’t cheap, but once you decide on a plan you don’t have to lift a finger; Vivint technicians come to your house, install everything, and give you a comprehensive tour of how it all works. That all adds up to our Editors’ Choice for home security systems.
See The Best Smart Home Security Systems for more.
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.
See The Best DIY Smart Home Security Systems for more.
Smart Heating and Cooling
Ecobee Smart Thermostat With Voice Control
The Ecobee Smart Thermostat With Voice Control is the company’s fifth-generation model, and as is the case with each Ecobee release, it offers more features than its predecessor. 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.
Check out The Best Smart Thermostats for more.
GE Energy Star 115-Volt Electronic Room Air Conditioner (AHC08LY)
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.
Check out The Best Smart Air Conditioners for more.
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. 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.
Best known for its ultra-affordable home security cameras, Wyze entered the smart lighting arena with the aptly named Wyze Bulb, a tunable white LED that is one of the most affordable bulbs we’ve come across. Despite its rock-bottom price, it offers plenty of features including built-in Wi-Fi, support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands, adjustable white color temperatures, scheduling options, and interaction with other smart home devices.
Check out The Best Smart Light Bulbs for more connected lighting options.
Smart Kitchen Appliances
Connected countertop ovens are steadily becoming more common, with a variety of microwave-sized smart appliances out there that can bake, broil, sear, and reheat, among other varieties of food preparation. The Brava Oven is one of the most expensive models we’ve tested, but it’s also the most advanced. It can cook food in ten different ways, has lots of automatic cooking presets for both ingredients and meals, and features built-in cameras for watching your food cook on your smartphone.
Anova Precision Cooker Wi-Fi
Sous video cooking sounds complex, but it’s actually a simple process that makes it easy for anyone to prepare meals perfectly. You seal food in plastic and immerse it in a water bath heated to a precise temperature, made possible by immersion circulators like the Anova Precision Cooker Wi-Fi. Thanks to both onboard controls and Wi-Fi connectivity, you can control the cooking process using the Anova itself, or from anywhere with your phone. It couldn’t be easier to use, and it all but guarantees perfect results, making it an Editors’ Choice for smart cooking appliances.
Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker | WI-FI + Bluetooth | 900W | Anova App Included
See The Best Smart Kitchen Appliances for more connected cooking gear.
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 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.
For more, check out The Best Grilling and BBQ Gadgets.
Robot Vacuums and Mops
iRobot Roomba s9+
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. It’s the most expensive robot vacuum we’ve tested to date, but its powerful suction, smart navigation, and ability to empty its own dustbin makes it one of the best ones you can buy and an Editors’ Choice for high-end models.
Read The Best Robot Vacuums for more.
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 Jet 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.
See The Best Robot Mops for more.
Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo T8 AIVI
The Deebot Ozmo T8 AIVI can both vacuum and mop your floors, and boasts artificial intelligence and visual interpretation (AIVI) technology that allows it to automatically identify and avoid obstacles. It also has a neat Visual Butler feature that lets you view live video of your home from wherever you are, and it works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so you can start and stop cleaning with your voice. It’s expensive, but it’s one of the most feature-rich hybrid floor-cleaning robots we’ve tested.
Smart Health and Fitness Devices
Suited for everyone from beginners to advanced lifters, the Tempo Studio smart strength training machine uses 3D sensors and artificial intelligence technology to suggest the appropriate weight you should be lifting for each move, count your reps, and offer real-time feedback about your form to keep you honest and safe. Like Tonal, it offers on-demand workouts with knowledgeable, motivating instructors. And with a larger screen, form corrections, and live classes, Tempo exceeds Tonal in many ways, and undercuts its price significantly.
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If you’re trying to lose weight, or you want to put on muscle, a smart scale can help you track your progress and stay motivated. The Wyze Scale connects with your smartphone and does a lot more than just tell you how much you weigh. It tracks 12 metrics, including your BMI, body fat percentage, body water percentage, heart rate, muscle mass, protein level, and weight up to 400 pounds. It keeps your data private and offers a mode for those who are pregnant or wearing a pacemaker, earning it our Editors’ Choice for affordable smart bathroom scales.
See The Best Smart Bathroom Scales for more.
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.
See The Best Sleep Tech for Catching Your ZZZs for more.
Smart Outdoor Gadgets
Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller
The Rachio 3 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.
Check out The Best Outdoor Smart Home Devices for more.
Worx Landroid M 20V
As with every robotic lawnmower we’ve reviewed, the Worx Landroid M 20V Cordless Robotic Lawn Mower (WR140) does not come cheap, but 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.
See The Best Robot Lawn Mowers for more.
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