Smart home gadgets – the best smart home devices you can buy
Smart homes are still a bit of a niche, but they are growing in popularity pretty quickly. There are several reasons for this. First, pricing continues to drop on smart home gadgets. Second, smart home gadgets are becoming easier to use and more reliable. It also helps that today’s consumer is already accustomed to using smartphones and tablets at home. Today’s smart home devices can be controlled with ease by a phone, tablet, or even your voice. They can turn our lights on and off, give us music, news, and weather by just speaking to a gadget, and much more.
The biggest downside to tumbling down the smart home rabbit hole is figuring out what equipment you need to do it. In this quick guide, we take a look at some of the best smart home gadgets you can currently buy so you can make your analog house into a smart home. Some of these products work with just a smartphone app, but others can be controlled by your voice, either via Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa or sometimes both.
Best Smart Home Hub: Samsung SmartThings Hub
Many smart home gadgets, but not all, require a hub device to work. Samsung’s SmartThings Hub is perhaps the best of these kinds of products, and the company recently released the third generation model of the SmartThings Hub.
The hub will allow you to control a large number of smart home devices, including smart bulbs, cameras, locks, and much more. Samsung also sells a number of SmartThings add-on products to help extend your smart home experiences, including motions sensors for lights and cameras, smart plugs for lights and more. While this new version of the hub lacks a battery backup as the second generation version did, it’s the best current product for people who want to link up their smart home gadgets.
Best Smart Speaker: Amazon Echo
There are lots of smart speakers on the market that work with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. For our money, the best smart speaker you can buy is the current second-generation version of the Amazon Echo. This Alexa-based circular speaker has a 2.5-inch downward-firing woofer and a 0.6-inch tweeter that offers solid audio performances; it’s not the best speaker in the world in terms of sound, but it will get the job done.
It also has seven microphones designed to pick up voice commands, even from 30 feet away or in a noisy room. Alexa supports tons of smart home gadgets, and the Amazon Echo can connect to all of them to help turn your house into a smarter home. Of course, you can just use it on your own to ask it to play music, give you the news and sports scores, organize your calendar or even play games and trivia.
Keep in mind that the Echo is best for those who are already pretty engaged in Amazon’s ecosystem or simply want the platform that has support for the most smart home devices. If you prefer Google’s take on smart speakers, you’ll want to check out the Google Home.
In many ways, the Google Home is better at voice-controlled functions thanks to the power of Google Search It just doesn’t support shopping nearly as well. It also isn’t quite as strong when it comes to smart home gadget support, but this is quickly changing.
Best Smart Display: Google Home Hub
The Google Home Hub is just about the perfect smart display you can get, with one major feature left out – a camera (although you arguably won’t miss it). Its 7-inch 1,024 x 600 resolution display is perfect for the bedroom or kitchen, which are the best two places in your home to have this product.
You can ask Google Assistant to check the weather and it will show it on the screen with graphics and video. It will do the same for news requests as well. You can manage your day with this display, access YouTube to show you how-to videos and recipes, and much more. The one flaw is that it doesn’t have a camera, so there’s no video calling, but on the plus side, it means this display only costs $149.
Best Smart Blub: LIFX Smart LED Light Bulb
Smart bulbs in your home can be quite convenient. Controlling lights while you’re away is a good way to make people think you’re home. Remotely turning on lights when you’re on your way home is a great way to avoid walking into a dark house. LIFX bulbs are some of the nicest smart home gadgets to own because they do not require any kind of hub or controller to work.
These smart bulbs can also connect to other smart home gadgets that you might not be aware of. For example, if have the Nest Protect smoke and CO alarm sensors installed and they detect a fire, LIFX bulbs will pulse red and then turn themselves on to full brightness, illuminating your way to get out of the house. Yes, this smart home gadget can help save your life.
Best Smart Plug: TP-Link Smart Plug Mini
If you have smart home gadgets — or just lights — that you just want to turn on or off, TP-Link has a smart plug you can use with your phone or with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa (via a smart speaker). Best of all, you won’t need an extra hub like the Samsung SmartThings device for this smart plug to work.
The included TP-Link app allows you to schedule a time for devices that are plugged into the smart plug. You can also set an away mode which turns lights or appliances on at random for some extra security. The compact design is so small it doesn’t block adjacent outlets.