What if all the devices in your life could connect to the internet? Not just computers and smartphones, but everything: clocks, speakers, lights, door bells, 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.
The 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 Spot.
Our current Editors' Choice for home automation hubs, the Wink Hub 2 works with devices that use Z-Wave, Zigbee, Lutron Clear Connect, Kidde, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi. It is also for the future. That includes just about everything in the smart home spectrum, from Philips Hue lighting and the Netgear Arlo camera, to Google Home. It's the most reliable, widely supported hub we've tested.
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.
While we've yet to find a smart switch that does absolutely everything, the $29.99 iHome iSP6X SmartPlug comes pretty close. It lets you easily controlsgadgets and appliances from your smartphone, while delivering an unparalleled level of third-party smart home integration. Not only does it support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice control, it also works with Apple HomeKit, Nest, Samsung SmartThings, and Wink. It lacks energy monitoring, but makes up for it with robust scheduling options, an intuitive app, and painless installation.
Smart Home Surveillance Cameras
The iCamera Keep Pro from iSmartAlarm ($199.99) is a full-featured home security camera that not only works as a standalone device, but can be incorporated into an iSmartAlarm DIY security system. The camera is full of useful features including a powerful 1080p image sensor, motion and sound detection, mechanical pan and tilt, time-lapse and event-triggered video recording, and a motion-tracking feature that allows the camera to follow a person around the room. Throw in free cloud storage, an SD card slot for local storage, and support for IFTTT integration, and you've got a killer indoor security cam.
When we reviewed the original Wyze Cam, its performance, features, and very affordable price earned it our Editors' Choice award. With its latest iteration, the Wyze Cam V2, the folks at Wyze Labs made some improvements, including motion tracking, enhanced audio capabilities, and a more powerful CMOS sensor. It's still the smallest home security camera we've tested and an incredible bargain at $19.99.
Check out The Best Home Security Cameras for more.
A different take on the home security camera, the SkyBell HD is a video doorbell that lets you see and speak with whoever is outside. It may look like the original SkyBell Video Doorbell we reviewed back in 2015, but that's where the similarities end. This version delivers highly detailed video at 1080p with color night vision, and captures several of seconds of footage prior to a triggered event. It also integrates with numerous third-party smart home devices, and comes with free cloud storage for recorded video, a rarity in this category.
Smart Locks and Home Security Systems
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.
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 Smart Home Security Systems for more.
Smart Heating and Cooling
When we reviewed the Ecobee3 in 2015 it earned our Editors' Choice for its sleek design, numerous features, and ease of use. We also loved the inclusion of a remote sensor to help reduce hot or cold spots in different rooms. We're happy to report that the new Ecobee4 boasts all the same features as itpredecessor, and more, thanks to the addition of built-in Amazon Alexa voice service capabilities. That means you can have the thermostat do everything that the Amazon Echo and its siblings can, such as control smart devices, shop, play music, and hear the latest news and weather, all using Alexa voice commands.
Check out The Best Smart Thermostats for more.
The Nest Learning Thermostat has built-in 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.
Available exclusively at Lowe's and designed for small to medium spaces, the Hisense 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner With Wi-Fi can be controlled using your smartphone and easily moved from room to room. At $369 it's a bit more expensive than most similarly powered non-connected portable air conditioners, and it doesn't work with other smart home devices. But it's very quiet, easy to install, and does a great job of cooling. And it stays connected to your Wi-Fi network much more reliably than other options we've tested.
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 2.0). 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.
Lighting is a fun, accessible entry point in building a smart home, but smart bulbs—especially color-changing ones—cost a lot more than you might expect. That makes the $34.99 Eufy Lumos Smart Bulb White and Color an intriguing option. It doesn't offer nearly as much in the way of third-party integration as the Philips Hue bulbs, but it lets you select from over 16 million colors, it doesn't require a hub, and it supports voice commands via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
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.
Check out The Best Smart Light Bulbs for more connected lighting options.
Smart Kitchen Appliances
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, displayshows 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.
When it comes to smoking ribs or other meats in the backyard, you've typically got two choices, charcoal or gas, and neither is perfect. It's possible that the Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker is, since you control the temp remotely, using apps for iOS or Android. You just wait for the app to tell you when the food is ready. Inside there is 725 square inches of cooking space on four chrome racks that are easy to clean. Fill the smoker box with wood chips and it will work for nearly seven hours without a refill.
The Perfect Bake Pro takes out the guess work and risk when baking. It's a baking scale connected to an app to help newbies (and seasoned bakers alike) get everything just right when it comes to kitchen chemistry. Just follow the app as the scale measures everything you add. As long as you can tell salt from sugar, you're probably going to be just fine.
Traeger has been manufacturing pellet grills for thirty years, but the Timberline 1300 is its first connected model, and it's a beauty. Designed using input from longtime customers and professional pit bosses, the Timberline 1300 features Wi-Fi, which allows you to control cooking temperatures, set timers, and access a huge database of recipes from anywhere using your mobile device and a thoughtfully designed app. It also uses a patented smoke delivery system to ensure food gets the right amount of smoke and is cooked perfectly every time.
Check out The Best Gadgets for High-Tech Grilling for more.
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.
The Neato Botvac D7 Connected is smarter than your average robot vacuum. In addition to laser navigation, it features interactive cleaning maps, a simple and intuitive app, and class-leading integration with third-party smart home devices and services. When you add in excellent battery life and cleaning performance, the D7 justifies its hefty $799 price.
A vacuuming robot isn't enough these days. Don't you want your floors mopped clean as well? iRobot's relatively inexpensive Braava Jet 240 will do exactly that. It's small, quiet, and perfect for apartment dwellers without a lot of floor space or time to clean it when they get home. It sprays a jet of water to clean deep, and can even do damp sweeping, like a Swiffer.
Smart Health and Fitness Devices
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.
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.
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.