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Our Top Picks
Best Smart Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detector: Nest Protect at Amazon
“Sends a message to your phone if the alarm sounds or the batteries are low.”
Best Smart Display with Google Assistant: Google Home Hub at Best Buy
“Bringing you all the perks of an Amazon Echo at a reasonable price.”
Best Smart Thermostat: Nest Learning Thermostat at Amazon
“The Nest learns and adapts to your own personal habits and preferences.”
Runner-Up, Best Thermostat: Ecobee SmartThermostat at Amazon
“A study in ease and the capabilities of smart home products.”
Best Smart Plug: Amazon Smart Plug at Amazon
“You can set automatic turn-on and turn-off times for things like table lamps, fans, or even small appliances.”
Best Smart Home Security Camera: Ring Stick-Up Cam at Amazon
“Not only will this work via the app on your phone, but it will also work on a desktop computer.”
Best Robot Vacuum: iRobot Roomba S9+ at Amazon
“A top-of-the-line cleaning robot that hopes its convenience outweighs its cost.”
Best Smart Mop: iRobot Braava Jet M6 at Amazon
“The robot mop can handle sticky spills, kitchen grease, and other messes throughout multiple rooms and in large spaces.”
Best Smart Light System: Philips Hue at Amazon
“Boasts a highly intuitive user experience with a simple app and easy-to-install component parts.”
Our Top Picks
Best Smart Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detector: Nest Protect
To continue with the trend of home safety and security, Nest also offers the best Smart Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detector: Nest Protect. Protect will vocally tell you exactly where a smoke or CO leak is detected. It also sends a message to your phone if the alarm sounds or the batteries are low, allowing you to turn the alarm off directly from your phone. Nest Protect performs routine self-tests, but you can also perform tests from the app and share access to any member of the household.
As expected, Protect works with other Nest products, including both the Cam and Learning Thermostat. This is especially critical with the Thermostat, because leaky heating systems are a common source of carbon monoxide, and the Thermostat can be set to automatically turn off the heat in the event the Protect detects a CO leak. It can also shut off fan-based environmental systems to prevent smoke from circulating, and the Cam can be set to capture video in the event of an emergency. While each of Nest’s smart home products can stand alone, they seem to work best as a team.
Interested in reading more reviews? Take a look at our selection of the best smart smoke detectors.
Best Smart Display with Google Assistant: Google Home Hub
The Google Home Hub doesn’t quite measure up to the Amazon Echo, but only due to a few minor shortcomings. The speakers sound a little thin and the display lacks a front-facing camera, so you can’t video chat with loved ones. But if those don’t sound like deal-breakers to you, then the Google Home Hub is a less-expensive alternative to the Echo that does everything else just as well.
The Hub is compatible with over 5,000 smart devices and over 400 trusted brands, allowing you to control house lights, adjust the thermostat, or set up home security cameras. Additionally, it features the voice-activated Google Assistant: just say, “Hey Google,” and make a request. You can play music, set reminders, check traffic conditions, and much more. The screen itself is a bit small at only seven inches across, but still offers crisp resolution that shows off your photos.
In short, if you’re looking for all the perks of an Amazon Echo at a reasonable price, and won’t be bothered by subpar audio quality, then the Google Home Hub is a great compromise. You’re still getting the best features of any Digital Assistant device, without breaking the bank.
Best Smart Thermostat: Nest Learning Thermostat
Nest exploded onto the scene in 2013 with the launch of its self-learning smart thermostat. Less than a year later the company was acquired by Google, suggesting the powers in Silicon Valley are eyeing a huge market for home automation, with thermostats as the hub.
The Wi-Fi-enabled Nest Learning Thermostat is designed to optimize the heating and cooling of your home. But instead of merely adjusting to whatever temperature you input, the Nest learns and adapts to your own personal habits and preferences. After a week of use, for example, Nest will read that you like to turn the heat down at night and will begin to do so automatically. It may also turn the heat back up in the morning, or engage the efficient “Away” mode while you’re at work. And best of all, everything can be monitored and controlled from your smartphone, including usage reports that show you when and how you’re consuming energy.
Nest is a well-designed, intuitive little gadget, and since it launched in 2013, a number of competitive learning thermostats have hit the market, but it’s still the best one out there.
Still can’t decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best smart thermostats can help you find what you’re looking for.
Runner-Up, Best Thermostat: Ecobee SmartThermostat
Comfort should be effortless. To that end, the feature-loaded Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control is a study in ease and the capabilities of smart home products. Ecobee’s latest smart thermostat does more than just control the temperature: Its Smart Sensor automatically adjusts the temperature of a room based on the number of people in it. With a quad-core processor and 5GHz Wi-Fi support, it has a new, ultra-vivid display and can do almost anything a smart speaker can. Built-in Bluetooth lets you stream Spotify, and you can pair external speakers for boosted audio quality.
While it offers Alexa compatibility built-in, it can also be integrated into a variety of smart home systems including Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT, Google Assistant, and Amazon. Make use of Alexa to change the temperature, put on music, or control the thermostat from afar.
Best Smart Plug: Amazon Smart Plug
Part of Amazon’s most recent batch of new smart home products, this Smart Plug brings some of the brand’s smart home capabilities to your ordinary devices. The jury is still out a bit on the user reviews, but with Alexa becoming increasingly ubiquitous — and “smart” devices replacing the regular light bulbs, doorbells, and thermostats in many of our homes — this plug brings that convenience to the lamps, appliances, or other small electronics you already own.
The Smart Plug is Alexa-compatible, ostensibly adding voice- and smart control to anything you plug into it. That means you can set automatic turn-on and turn-off times for things like table lamps, fans, or even small appliances. What’s extra cool here is that Amazon has built a lot of scheduling functionality right into your Alexa app, so all you have to do is plug in the outlet, then plug a device into the outlet, and you’ll be able to control the device. You won’t need to set up any third-party smart hubs (although it’s convenient for those who already have them), and it’s extra easy to set up provided your Wi-Fi is reliable. Another great feature is that the plug itself is so slim — it only takes up one single outlet, which is a rare design feature for many smart outlets.
Best Smart Home Security Camera: Ring Stick-Up Cam
Ring has made a name for itself in the smart home security world, focused mostly on smart doorbells with video surveillance functionality built right. The newest offering, their stick-up security camera, branches out a bit from that core business model by offering a versatile, place-anywhere video security solution. And because it is a new release, you can expect some solid, modern features. First, it records 1080p HD video and offers a two-way talk function to communicate with whoever is near the camera. There’s an accompanying app that works pretty well (it’s the same one you’ll find with the older smart doorbell systems), and you can set up motion-activated notifications. What’s cool here is that not only will this work via the app on your phone, but it will also work on a desktop computer — something that is surprisingly rare.
As mentioned, the mounting functionality is pretty versatile because it works via a stick-on base. That means you can place it pretty much anywhere you have a flat surface, indoors or out. You can also choose from a variety of power options, wired through standard outlets or through Ethernet, or battery-powered for placement out of reach of your outlets. Beyond these core features, some cool extra functions are the connectivity via Alexa, custom motion zones (smaller areas of the field of view that trigger motion notifications), and the ability to view, save and even share your videos.
Still can’t decide on what you want? Our round-up of the best smart home security cameras can help you find what you’re looking for.
Best Robot Vacuum: iRobot Roomba S9+
The housecleaner that’s always on hand, the iRobot Roomba S9+ is the company’s latest, a top-of-the-line cleaning robot that hopes its convenience outweighs its cost. For those willing to invest, the S9+ takes care of housekeeping so you don’t have to: Its docking port serves as a charger and empties its dustbin. It can hold up to 30 bins of dust and dirt, meaning you don’t have to empty it after every use.
Unlike previous models, the S9+ has a D-shaped body to be able to reach all edges of your room. Meanwhile, its Corner Brush sweeps up even the tightest corners. It boasts PerfectEdge technology as well, which uses sensors to guide the robot tightly along your walls. Through the iRobot app, you’ll be able to customize when each room is cleaned, and the robot’s Smart Mappings helps it learn the layout of your house so it knows where to go and how to tell different areas apart. The S9+ is meant to be paired with iRobot’s Braava Jet M6, which mops up after the Roomba has vacuumed.
Best Smart Mop: iRobot Braava Jet M6
As far as iRobot is concerned, cleaning should be convenient rather than a chore. That’s where its Braava Jet M6 comes in. The robot mop can handle sticky spills, kitchen grease, and other messes throughout multiple rooms and in large spaces, cleaning under and around furniture to tidy up hard-to-reach places — all you have to do is to attach a mop or sweeping pad.
The latest in the Braava line includes a larger water tank and a docking station, to which it will navigate itself whenever it needs a charge. Once powered up, it will then return to finishing its task. Its smart mapping technology allows it to learn the different rooms in your house and navigate between them, based on the cleaning schedule you set in the iRoomba app. It can also be paired with the iRobot Roomba S9+ to commence mopping after the Roomba has finished vacuuming.
You can even use voice commands to control it with an Alexa- or Google Assistant-enabled device.
Best Smart Light System: Philips Hue
Like most smart home solutions, the Philips Hue requires a somewhat expensive hub, or “bridge,” to set up. But for what it offers, the Philips Hue is the best smart lighting system around. For a reasonable price, you get the hub and three smart bulbs, but you can connect up to 50 bulbs to a single hub.
Between the app, single bulbs, tap switches and light strips, the lighting possibilities are really only limited by your imagination. You can string them up for parties and adjust the brightness, change the colors, set timers and create “scenes.” And all this can be controlled from the Philips Hue app on your phone (iOS/Android). Hue also boasts a highly intuitive user experience with a simple app and easy-to-install component parts. If you’re looking for an all-in-one smart lighting solution, Hue is the way to go.
Our writers spent 10 hours researching and testing the most popular home products on the market. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.
What to Look for in a Smart Home Product
Ecosystem – The most critical factor to consider when purchasing a device for your smart home is whether or not it’ll work with your existing setup. Whether you select an Amazon Alexa, a Google Home, or Apple’s Siri to be the controller for your devices, you’ll want to make sure that your new gadgets can communicate.
Hub vs. no hub – Some devices (such as Philips’ Hue lighting system) require a central hub to communicate on your Wi-Fi network. Be sure to check whether or not specific products need you to purchase an additional hub or will work right out of the box.
Smartphone apps – Most smart home devices will need to be set up via your smartphone. Be sure to check whether the device you’re purchasing has an app available for your device of choice before buying.
Test Results: Nest Protect (Best Smart Smoke/Carbon Monoxide Detector)
What We Like
Early warning system prior to alarm sounding
Auto-testing and automatic battery monitoring
Convenient motion-sensor night light
What We Don’t Like
“The Nest Protect won over this skeptic thanks to its ease of setup, legion of backup systems, and simple integration via the Nest app,” our tester declared. Our reviewer particularly liked that it’s “smart enough to distinguish real smoke from shower steam or minor cooking smoke.” Plus, he said the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are “loud and audible from anywhere in the house.” Our tester had little to say in the way of negatives but noted it’s an expensive device. Still, he said “smart home junkies” would not be disappointed with this purchase.
Test Results: Google Home Hub (Best Smart Display with Google Assistant)
What We Like
Great display quality
What We Don’t Like
Sound quality could be better
Can’t power via USB
One of our testers — who set up her Google Home Hub in her kitchen and used it primarily to look up recipes, watch instructional cooking videos, and control her other devices — was immediately impressed with its versatility. “There is so much you can do with it,” she said. “I’m discovering new features every day.” One reviewer also loved its simple setup and its high-quality screen display: “I love how the screen brightness adjusts to [the surrounding] light. You don’t have to fiddle with the brightness settings at night or on a bright day.”
In terms of negatives, our testers felt that its sound quality could have been better and wished it had the capability to be powered via USB instead of a plug. “Pretty much all devices nowadays do that,” one reviewer explained, “and it’s useful in cases where you may want to run it without a full plug (like in an RV).”