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As more consumer get smart home devices to improve the efficiency of their home lives, it's important to consider the many ecosystems, especially since not all are equally compatible. Everything from a smoke detector and smart display, to a thermostat and robovac can be "smart." By which we mean, they're often programmable through your phone, controllable through Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, or integrate to a smart home hub like the Philips Hue bridge. We've researched and reviewed a number of smart home devices, evaluating them on how easy they are to set up, how well they integrate with other devices in terms of ecosystem, and any other extra features they may have.
If your needs are more specific, you should also check out our list of best smart doorbell cameras and best robovacs.
Vocally tells you of smoke or CO2 leaks
Works with other Nest products
Performs routine self tests
Works better as a team than standalone
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.
Compatible with over 5,000 smart devices
Subpar audio quality
The Google Nest 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 Nest Hub is a great compromise. You’re still getting the best features of any Digital Assistant device, without breaking the bank.
"Whether listening to music or watching streaming video content, the Nest Hub is remarkably competent." — Andy Zahn, Product Tester
Learns and adapts to personal habits
Support monitoring from smart home
Requires some installation
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.
Automatic temperature adjustment
5GHz Wi-Fi support
Alexa compatibility and smart home system integration
Interface can be buggy
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.
Simple and convenient design
Easy to set up
Wi-Fi connection can sometimes be finicky
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.
Holds up to 30 bins of dust
D-shape body for edge cleaning
Customize room cleaning
Works best when paired with Braava
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.
Mops large spaces
Large water tank
Supports voice commands
Works best when paired with Rooma S9+
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.
Connect up to 50 bulbs to one hub
App to customize lighting
Lots of scenes and integrations
Requires hub to work
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.
"For fully customizable lighting throughout your home or apartment, the Philips Hue is the best lighting setup to use. It even integrates with your TV or PC to match media or gaming experiences." — Ajay Kumar, Tech Editor
If you're trying to make your home smart, one of the best starter devices to get is the Nest Protect. It works best with other Nest devices, but it's one of the easiest to add to your home, telling you where smoke or CO2 is detected. It supports smartphone integration, and can interact with a variety of other devices to give you the emergency information you need. No smart home is complete without a hub. The best smart display is the Google Nest Hub. It boasts a big, crisp display, is compatible with over 5,000 smart devices, and supports voice commands.
Our team of trusted experts put our top picks for the most essential smart home through a rigorous testing process, ensuring they can remain connected and useful in a variety of home networking environments. Regardless of whether the product is a robovac, thermostat, or home automation hub, our experts put these products through their paces to make sure you get the absolute best for your home.
Andy Zahn has been writing for Lifewire since 2019. He has expertise in smart home and general consumer tech. He liked the Google Nest Hub for its useful integrations and excellent display and camera.
Ajay Kumar is Tech Editor at Lifewire with over seven years of experience in the industry. Previously published on PCMag and Newsweek, he's reviewed thousands of consumer tech products, including smart home devices, phones, tablets, hubs, and smart lights. He personally uses the Philips Hue lights to set the scene in his living room and bedroom.
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.