Smart devices keep you informed on the status of your laundry, garage door, lights, and even room temperature. Keep tabs on who’s entering your home or create custom settings based on your schedule. A home filled with the best smart home devices provides extra security and control over almost every gadget and appliance in your house.
You’ve got some decisions to make, though, from the smart devices you’d like to install to the operating system that connects them all. It’s often easier to manage your devices if they’re all compatible with one another. Otherwise, you’ll end up using several apps to control all of your smart devices. You also have the option to set up a smart hub to integrate everything into a single control interface.
We’ve rounded up the best smart home devices and included some tips to help you decide which ones will work best for you.
— Best Hub: Brilliant Smart Home
— Best Doorbell: Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2
— Best Thermostat: Ecobee Smart Thermostat
— Best Lock: August Smart Lock
— Best Speaker: Echo Show 8
How We Picked the Best Smart Home Devices
Smart devices are a broad category, so we took very general things into mind, like compatibility/connectivity, installation, and value and performance.
Compatibility/connectivity: Many brands have made the jump into smart devices. We looked for products that were compatible with a wide range of brands/systems.
Installation: We looked for DIY-type smart devices but also included models that are worth the extra price of professional installation for the convenience and performance they offer.
Value and performance: Smart devices seemed like a gimmick at first. We skipped gimmicks in favor of models that add value in convenience, energy savings, or comfort.
The Best Smart Home Devices: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Hub: Brilliant Smart Home
Why It Made The Cut: This hub’s wide compatibility lets you control a whole host of smart devices from a single interface and app.
— Dimensions: 5.3 x 6.4 inches
— Weight: 2.03 pounds
— Compatibility/connectivity: Alexa, Ring, Sonos, Hue, Google Nest, Wemo, SmartThings, Apple HomeKit, and more
— Compatible with 18 smart systems
— Built-in Alexa voice control
— Comes in 1, 2, 3, and 4 switch panel designs
— May require professional installation
The Brilliant Smart Home is the best smart home hub that unites all of your devices under a single control panel and app. It connects with 18 smart systems, from Ring doorbells to the Philips Hue app and Ecobee thermostats to Google Nest. If you’re a smart home device aficionado, the Brilliant Smart Home hub makes it easier to control everything.
The hub arrives with Alexa voice control built in. However, you can also control everything through the Brilliant Home app instead of individual apps for your thermostat, lighting, and music. That also gives you one app to check on things when you’re away from home.
The Brilliant Smart Home can also create “scenes” that change throughout the day, on a schedule, or with voice or tap commands. The display can also be used to video chat or display photos. It comes in a single-, double-, triple-, or quadruple-switch panel design based on what’s available in your home.
But, this isn’t the easiest device to install. Unless you have some electrical experience, you’ll most likely need to hire a professional. Plus, it’s pricey, and depending on what devices you’re controlling, it can require scrolling through menus on the interface to find certain devices.
Best Smart Doorbell: Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2
Why It Made The Cut: The Pro 2 provides a great field of view, captures head-to-toe video, excellent audio, voice control, and package alerts.
— Dimensions: 4.49 inches L x 1.9 inches W x 0.87 inches H
— Weight: N/A
— Compatibility/connectivity: WiFi with a minimum upload speed of 1Mbps
— Simple installation
— Real-time audio, video, and notifications
— Detects motion up to 30 feet away
— 1536p HD+video
— Bird’s eye view to watch more area of your property
— Requires a monthly subscription for full benefits
The Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 takes the prize for the best smart doorbell. This model’s easy, DIY installation, excellent video and views, and motion detection provide better security and control over what happens at your front door.
The Pro 2 offers real-time audio, video, and notifications. You can connect it to Alexa-enabled devices and use two-way talk or video (if the compatible device is able) from where you are in your home. You can also sync it with compatible smart door locks and use the Ring app to open or lock your door.
This model detects motion up to 30 feet away. With the bird’s eye view (a feature currently only found on the Pro 2), you can also visually track people within that 30-foot radius as they move about your property.
The downside with this model is the upfront expense. It’s pricey. And, to get full use of the features, you have to purchase a monthly subscription. For example, only with the subscription will Ring save video for up to 60 days. Read a full review of the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 here.
Best Smart Thermostat: Ecobee Smart Thermostat
Why It Made The Cut: The Ecobee adapts to your schedule, an improved speaker, voice control with Alexa or Siri, and energy-efficient modes.
— Dimensions: 4.29 inches L x 4.29 inches W x 1 inch H
— Weight: 1.74 pounds
— Compatibility/connectivity: Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Apple Watch
— Learns and adapts to your family’s heating and cooling patterns
— Uses HVAC system to optimize temperature and energy use
— DIY set up with great customer support
— Modes detect occupancy room by room
— Works as a speaker
— Unattractive design
— Updates may make changes to the settings without notification
The Ecobee Smart Thermostat puts the ‘s’ in smart. As the best smart thermostat, it’s designed with a wide range of automatic controls, easy voice control, and versatile use options. This upgrade from the Ecobee4 includes a better speaker that sounds more like a true music speaker rather than a thermostat with a speaker. It’s compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, and Apple Watch.
This thermostat also learns your use patterns and adapts the temperature settings to follow those patterns. The Follow Me setting detects where you’re going throughout the home to make appropriate environmental adjustments. There are modes that also detect occupancy to turn things off when you’re not at home and switch them on when you enter the door. In addition, if tapped into a humidifier, the Ecobee also uses relative humidity to adjust the temperature for more accurate environmental control.
However, most people find Google Nest more attractive than the Ecobee. It has a thick bezel to make room for the speaker and sensors, and not everyone loves it. And Ecobee periodically makes software updates that can change your settings without notifying you. Read a review of the Ecobee and other smart thermostats.
Best Smart Lock: August Smart Lock
Why It Made The Cut: The August Smart Lock works with the major smart manufacturers and hubs and offers excellent control over entry to your home.
— Dimensions: 2.8 inches L x 2.8 inches W x 2.75 inches H
— Weight: 1.54 pounds
— Compatibility/connectivity: Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, SmartThings
— Use app or compatible device (phone or watch) to open the doors
— Voice control
— Create temporary guest keys with defined time limits
— Check activity feed to track who’s in and out
— Simple installation
— Can have connectivity issues
The August Smart Lock provides remote control over access to your home, as well as remote and voice control while you’re there. The best smart lock works with your existing deadbolts and hardware, and the August does just that. You install it on the inside of the door over your existing deadbolt, and it controls the lock mechanism.
It’s compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, and Samsung’s SmartThings, creating a wide range of options for voice control. The August will automatically lock your door after a set amount of time, which you can adjust through the app.
The app’s Activity Feed shows when the connected door has been accessed and who has used their key. If you’ve got guests coming, you can provide a temporary key that lasts a few minutes, hours, or days. You can also set the key to only work during certain times of the day for a cleaning service or delivery.
The August provides excellent control over home entry. However, sometimes there can be connectivity issues based on your internet provider, internet speeds, and other internet-related issues. Find out more about the best smart locks.
Best Smart Speaker: Echo Show 8
Why It Made The Cut: The Echo Show 8 plays music (with passive bass radiator), takes photos, and can be used for video conferences, offering much more than the average smart speaker.
— Dimensions: 7.9 inches L x 5.4 inches W x 3.9 inches H
— Weight: 36.36 ounces
— Compatibility/connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth
— 2-inch neodymium speakers
— Customize how to scroll through menus
— Control compatible devices
— Stream music and listen with stereo sound
— Some units have trouble understanding commands
The Echo Show 8 provides so much more than just impressive stereo sound. It’s our choice for the best smart speaker out there for so many reasons, including versatility. Its 2-inch neodymium speakers play music that you can stream through the device from a variety of sources. And you can scroll through menus using the touch screen or turn on a mode that learns gestures rather than touch.
Any device that you can connect to your Alexa app can be controlled through the Show 8, acting as a hub. It also allows you to change what’s on display, from family pictures to the time and/or date. The built-in camera can take stills or be used for video conferencing.
However, the Show 8 isn’t perfect. Some units have trouble recognizing and responding to commands.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Smart Home Device
Voice System (or Not)
Do you want to use Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri? Devices that work with different virtual assistants can make it easy to run your home. However, not everyone needs or wants voice control. Voice control over things like the lights and thermostat are often more convenient than voice controls over the dishwasher or refrigerator. Decide upfront which devices you’d like to use with your voice and which are easier to use through an app.
Hub or Hubless
Some devices require a hub, while others are hubless. Hubs can help you manage several devices from one interface or app, as long as all of your devices are compatible with the hub. It’s even easier if you pick devices made by the same manufacturer because they all use the same app for setup and control. However, hubless operation can be easier to set up and manage if you don’t own a lot of smart devices.
You can also combine different device “families” if they’re all IFTTT ("If This Then That" programming) compatible, and you get an IFTTT-compatible hub. The initial setup might take place with different apps, but the actual functioning takes place through the same hub.
Smart devices don’t always work well with other smart devices. You can end up with all kinds of apps and hubs to control devices made by different manufacturers. Try to decide on one “family” or even two compatible families, and buy smart devices that fit within a single app or two and/or one hub.
Installation and Connection
Some devices may require the help of a professional to get connected, while others are DIY friendly. For example, smart outlet installation may require an electrician, but you can accomplish the same thing with a smart plug or bulb that you can handle on your own.
Check the connection options, too. Some devices are WiFi-only or Bluetooth-only. The layout of your house and strength of your internet connection or the connectivity of the other devices you use could limit your choices.
Q: Does a smart home save money?
A smart home can save you money, but you have to use the devices in the right way. For example, smart plugs and bulbs can let you know if you left the lights on after you’ve left for work. Then, you can remotely turn them off. That kind of control over your garage door and thermostat can save energy over time.
Smart thermostats provide precise control over your temperature settings, learning your habits to adjust the temperature automatically. However, you have to watch the settings to make sure they’re working properly and make manual adjustments so that the automatic temperature control works in your favor.
Q: Does making your home smart add value?
Making your home smart can add value, but it depends on what you do. Small items like a smart thermostat probably won’t make much of a difference in the selling price of your home. However, something like Control4 that unifies all of your smart devices to work together could add resale value.
Q: What should a smart home have?
The automation you want from a smart home depends on what you want to accomplish. Do you want better security? Then, smart door locks and doorbells can do it. Do you want to save money? If that’s the case, smart bulbs and thermostats give you remote control over the energy eating parts of your home. Is comfort and atmosphere important? If you’re more about ambiance, smart light, music, and TV control can let you create a mood to match your own.
Final Thoughts on Smart Home Devices
The Brilliant Smart Home might be pricey, but it’s a way to integrate all of your smart device controls into a single device and app. Keep in mind that it may require professional installation. If you want to save some cash, the Ecobee Smart Thermostat learns and adapts in ways that save you money while making your home more comfortable.
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.