Worldwide sales of intelligent voice-assisted loudspeakers recorded exceptional growth only in the last year, and the same can be said of the smart home industry as a whole. The technology behind the products will continue to improve with lower prices and new categories will continue to grow, but right now there is a lot to invest right now.
With this in mind, and to ensure you do not end up giving away (or being gifted) a real disaster in this holiday season, we've put together a list of the best smart home devices you can buy. If you simply want to dip your toes in the water with Google Home Mini at low cost or dive deep inside with smart lights, cameras, thermostats and bells, we have you covered.
Intelligent voice-controlled loudspeakers
The best – Google Home Max
Budget choice: Google Home Mini / Amazon Echo Dot
This first category is often the gateway to other smart home products and depends almost entirely on the choice of the ecosystem. In the United States, as in many other countries, there are two distinct fields: Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. If you choose the first one, there is a wide range of Google Home devices in various price points, from the wallet-compatible mini home, to the aging of the original Home, up to Home Max that meets the Audiophile and costs more than a penny. Home Hub has arrived as part of a new product category with many of the same features, but we'll get there later.
If you go down the Amazon route, there is a similar range of Echo speakers to suit any need. The Echo Dot is a great entry-level unit that can be purchased at an inexpensive price of $ 29 during sales periods, so there are the regular Echo, Echo Plus and even the new Echo Sub so you can add a bass. The choice of a product here mainly concerns the price: take the most expensive one that you can realistically afford. If music is a fundamental problem, only the Home Max or Echo Plus with Sub will really do justice to your music, but if you only want to be able to ask strange questions and control some other connected devices, a Mini or a Home Point will do it. all right.
If you want something with the functionality of Alexa or Google Assistant, but built by a company that knows a little more about sound, including headphones and earphones and speakers, have a look at our guide to the best products audio that you can buy right now.
- Mini house –
$ 49$ 29 (until February 2)
- Home – $ 129
- Casa Max – $ 399
- Echo Dot – $ 29.99
- Echo – $ 69.99
- Echo Pthewe – $ 149.99
- Echo Sub – $ 129.99
Best – Lenovo Smart Display (10 ")
Budget: Google Home Hub
This category has grown since last year's post, now that Google has entered the field of play. Smart displays are essentially an intelligent speaker with a glued screen (almost literally from the look of Google Home Hub). The original Echo Show was out over a year, but the first generation was inelegant and expensive. The new model looks and sounds better, but there is more competition in the Smart Viewer space of Google Assistant.
The Google Home Hub (above) is the cheapest of these, so it's a good starting point, but Lenovo, JBL and now LG also have options with video cameras for video calls and loud speakers. With the largest screen (10 inches) and probably the most beautiful design, Lenovo is probably the best solution.
Google Home Hub – $ 139 from Google, $ 149 elsewhere
Amazon Echo Show
- 2nd gen- $ 229.99
- 1 Jan – 129.99
Lenovo Smart Display
- 10 inches –
- 8 inches –
View JBL Link – $ 249.99
LG WK9 ThinQ View –
- FRYS – $ 296.99
- B & H – $ 246.99
Better – Nvidia Shield TV
Budget – Roku Express
Another new category for this year, for which we could not find any space on any of our other lists, is that of media streamers. The cheap Google Chromecast has been the obvious choice in this space for years and, although it's still valid, there are definitely some better options right now, especially if you prefer a physical remote. At the end of the budget, there is the excellent Roku Express, which works well with both the Google and Amazon apps. If you're heavily tied to Amazon Prime, a Fire TV Stick is just as good, and both now have 4K options that beat the most expensive Chromecast Ultra in terms of functionality.
If you want the ultimate multimedia streaming experience, you'll want an Nvidia Shield TV – it's the best Android TV box (see Ryan's review if you do not believe me). It manages 4K HDR video content but is also a capable gaming streaming device. So, if you pay for the slightly more expensive edition with the added game controller (already supplied with a voice remote control), you will have access to a wide range of entertainment options that rival ATV machines simply can not beat.
As a bonus, why not give new life to an old audio system with a cheap Chromecast Audio? Connect it via a 3.5 mm jack and now you can listen to music from a range of services to your trusted old speakers.
Nvidia Shield TV
- with remote control – $ 179.99
- with remote control and controller – $ 199.99
- To express – $ 29.99
- Streaming Stick + –
$ 59.99$ 49.99
- Fire TV Stick – $ 39.99
- Fire TV Stick + – $ 49.99
- Chromecast Audio –
$ 35$ 15
Best – Samsung SmartThings Hub
Extravagant choice – Logitech Harmony Elite
When a Google Home or Amazon Echo is not enough for you, a hub could be the answer. They can combine various Smart Home protocols such as Z-Wave and Zigbee, offering more flexibility than a standard WiFi-only configuration. Samsung's SmartThings hub has been our best pick-in this year and remains number one thanks to a cheaper third-generation device launched this year and continues to beat the competition.
You may have noticed that there is not a budget choice here, and this is because there is really nothing less than the SmartThings Hub that we think is worth buying. If you already have an Nvidia Shield TV, you can turn it into a hub with the Samsung SmartThings Link dongle and save yourself some money. If money is not an object and you do not need sensors on Zigbee or Z-Wave, you might be interested in a Logitech Harmony Elite, which pairs a hub with a powerful universal remote that can be used to control the whole configuration entertainment via IR, plus some smart home devices.
- Hub: $ 69.99
- WiFi router with integrated hub – $ 119.99
- Link (for Nvidia Shield) – $ 39.99
Logitech Harmony Elite –
Best – LifX +
Budget – IKEA Trådfri
Extravagant choice – Nanoleaf Canvas or LifX Tile
The connected light bulbs are a useful and economical introduction to the smart home, with many decent options that work with different protocols. Often there is not much between the different brands, with most of them controllable only with Google Home Mini thanks to WiFi connectivity. Our favorite is LifX +, as it offers over 16 million colors, but also enhances the night vision of the security camera by providing additional infrared light. If you want something cheaper, a Philips Hue starter kit is a good choice of mid-range, plus it uses ZigBee, so it will continue to work even if your internet connection is interrupted. IKEA light bulbs, dimmers and switches now work with Google Assistant, so they're an economical choice, even if you need to shell out $ 30 for the Gateway, so it might be worth it if you want more intelligent lights and plug the your cheap home.
We can do better to illuminate your home effectively, however, with some more elaborate products designed for creativity. The best choice of the last year, the Nanoleaf Aurora (above) is still impressive, but there are also some interesting new options. Nanoleaf now has the canvas, a bright square that can be customized and react to the sound. LifX also has similar Tile squares, Beam light bars and LED Z strips – no corner or slit in your home should ever be left in the dark. For players out there, Philips Hue Play can create an ambient backlight to improve your gaming sessions.
- Mini White Single –
- + Single –
$ 79.99$ 59.99
- Card kit – $ 249.99
- Beam – $ 149.99
- Single light bulb – $ 14.99
- Starter Pack with bridge – $ 99.99
- Play (single) – $ 69.99
- Play (pair) – $ 129.99
Plugs and switches
The best plug – Wemo Insight
Budget plug – IKEA Trådfri
Best switch – Ecobee Switch +
Budget switch – Switchbot
If your lights or other gadgets are not of a smart variety, you could improve their IQ by connecting them to an intelligent outlet. Take this as a fun example of what you can do with an intelligent grip. These are basic Wi-Fi based plug-ins that can be turned on or off with a Google Assistant voice command to more sophisticated options such as the Wemo Insight plug-in that can indicate the amount of power used. If you get an intelligent multi-socket like Kasa from TP-Link, you get six smart sockets in one. As for the lights, IKEA now offers interesting budget options, particularly useful if you already have the Gateway.
Another way to turn the electronics on and off is to use an intelligent switch. Philips and IKEA also love the switches that go with their lighting collections, but the best is the Ecobee Switch +. It may sound like an intercom, but this light switch has essentially integrated Amazon Alexa so it can be used to control other things around the house.
At the end of the budget, the ingenious SwitchBot is a lovely little robot (above) that can be connected to pre-existing stupid switches to make them smart. It's not the most elegant solution, but it's smart enough. It's also a lighting hub that looks like a cloud (below), which is how all the hubs should look if you ask me.
- Plug – $ 29.99
- Plug Insight – $ 49.99
- Mini Smart Plug – $ 15,82
- Kasa Powerstrip – $ 79.99
Ecobee Switch + – $ 89.95
- Button – $ 29
- Hub: $ 49
Best – Ecobee4
Budget – Nest E Thermostat
Not much has changed in the world of smart thermostats, with Ecobee4 still the best around. It is enabled for Alexa, like Switch +, and is equipped with multiple sensors to be placed at home for optimal temperature measurements. If you need something to connect to the Google Assistant, the Nest Learning Thermostat is the best choice, but the Nest E thermostat is the best choice for those on a budget.
For those of you who do not live in a house or apartment with ducted thermostats, there are other options to control your wireless AC or heat pump. Both Sensibo and Cielo Breez are good options with the support of Google Assistant.
There are also products out there to help you regulate more than the temperature of your home. Netatmo has two interesting products in this sector: the Healthy Home Coach measures humidity, air quality, noise and temperature. The most expensive weather station observes the same metrics with internal and external modules, also taking into account internal ventilation and external barometric pressure.
Ecobee4 – $ 239
- Thermostat E – $ 169
- Learning thermostat – $ 249
- Healthy home coach – $ 99.99
- Meteorological station – $ 179.99
Better without plan – Arlo Pro 2
The best with the plan: Nest Cam IQ
Budget – Amcrest
The use of connected devices so you do not have to get up from the sofa to turn on the lights is all very nice and good, but home security is probably the most worthy use case. The Arlo Pro 2 had some initial problems when it came out for the first time, but now paves the way into the field without plan thanks to its battery-powered cameras that can be placed anywhere. If you're willing to pay a monthly subscription, Nest & # 39; s Cam IQs is packed with features, with internal modules offering 4K. Logitech's Circle 2 is a good mid-range single-cam alternative, but if you really do not want to break the bank, Amcrest has a range of cheaper cameras that will still give you peace of mind.
Arlo Pro 2 (2-cam system) – $ 434.99
- Indoor IQ Cam – $ 299
- Cam IQ Outdoor: $ 349
Logi Circle 2 – $ 149.99
Amcrest ProHD– $ 59.98
Best – Skybell Trim Plus
Budget – Arlo Audio Doorbell
As the commercials would like us to believe, thieves always ring the bell to see if anyone is home. We are then presented with the solution: an intelligent bell. Something with a camera is the safest option, allowing you to see who is at the door and then have a two-way conversation with them. The Skybell Trim Plus is one of the best, although the features among the main players are virtually the same: it offers free cloud registration, unlike many competing products in a similar price range. If you already have products from Ring, Nest or August, they have very similar bells to complete your training. If you want some intelligence for less money, you can get a first generation Doorbell Ring Video for only $ 100. Or why not try an audio-only bell like this from Arlo. Get a call on the phone when it rings so you can respond faster, and if you already have a video camera you can use it as a video feed for the best of both worlds.
Skybell Trim Plus – $ 199.99
- Video bell – $ 99.99
- Video doorbell 2 – $ 199.99
- Video Doorbell Pro (with cloud storage) – $ 249.99
Nest Hello – $ 229
Best – August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
Budget: August Smart Lock
So you have a smart security camera and a bell but you're still using an old-fashioned metal key to get into the house like someone from the past – who are you? Of course, you need a smart lock, and there are some good ones out there. This time Rita reviewed the intelligent Nuki lock last year, and she says it is the best choice outside of the United States. Since then they have also released a new version. The August smart lock is complete, and the best thing in my opinion, so its Smart Lock Pro + Connect WiFi Bridge with Alexa integration is my first choice. Similarly, Nest has partnered with Yale for a block with Google's Smart Assistant and Schlage also has an option that works with Google and Alexa configurations. The normal third-generation Smart Lock without the bridge can be purchased for around $ 125 now, making this a good budget option.
- Smart Lock Pro + Connect – $ 232.95
- Smart Lock: $ 124.87
Nest x Yale Lock – $ 279
Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt – $ 199.99
Best – SmartThings ADT
Budget – Ring Alarm
There has not been much movement in this category in the last year, with Samsung's joint effort with the security company ADT and Nest Secure still two of the best options available, while Wink Lookout works well as an economic alternative. Ring has also launched its own alarm system this year, which may be worth checking if you're already tied to that ecosystem – it's also much cheaper than its competitors.
Samsung SmartThings ADT Starter Kit– $ 199.99
Nest Secure – $ 399
Wink Lookout – $ 199
Ring Alarm – $ 199
For more tips on the best gadgets to purchase this holiday season, check out the rest of the 2018 purchase guides, including Best phones, Best audio products, and Best Chromebooks.