Worldwide sales of intelligent speakers from speech assistants have seen enormous growth in the last year alone, and the same can be said of the smart home sector as a whole. The technology that supports the products will continue to improve as prices come down and new categories will continue to jump, but there is much to be invested in there right now.
To that end, and to ensure that you do not end up gifting (or being gifted) a dud this holiday season, we have collected a list of the best smart home devices you can buy. Whether you just have to dip your toes in the water with a cheap Google Home Mini or dive into the deep end with smart lights, cameras, thermostats and door bells, we've got you covered.
Voice-controlled smart speakers
The best – Google Home Max
Budgetary Choice – Google Home Mini / Amazon Echo Dot
This first category is often the entrance to other smart home products, and it depends almost exclusively on your choice of ecosystem. In the United States, like in many other countries, there are two different camps – Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. If you choose the first one, there are a variety of Google Home Devices at different price points, from the wallet-friendly Home Mini, the aging original home, to the full-blown home Max, which costs more than a beautiful penny. Home Hub arrived as part of a new product category with many of the same features, but we will come to it later.
If you go down the Amazon route, there is a similar range of Echo speakers to suit your every need. Echo Dot is a large entry level device that is available for as cheap as $ 29 in sales periods, so there is the regular Echo, Echo Plus, and even the new Echo Sub, so you can add some bases. Choosing a product here is mostly about price – get the most expensive one you can realistically afford. If music is an important concern, only Home Max or Echo Plus with Sub will really make your tunes justice, but if you just want to be able to ask the odd question and control some other connected devices, a Home Mini or Dot will do just fine.
If you want something with Alexa or Google Assistant features, but built by a company that knows more about audio, including headphones and earphones, as well as speakers, see our guide to the best audio products you can buy right now.
- Home Mini –
$ 49$ 29 (until February 2nd)
- Home – $ 129
- Home max – $ 399
- Ekkotot – $ 29.99
- Echo – $ 69.99
- Echo PlU.S – $ 149.99
- Echo Sub – $ 129.99
Best – Lenovo Smart Display (10 ")
Budget – Google Home Hub
This category has grown to its own since last year's position, now that Google has entered the game area. Smart screens are essentially a smart speaker with a screen glue on (almost literally at the appearance of Google's home center). The original Echo Show has been out for more than a year, but the first generation was inseparable and expensive. The new model looks and sounds better, but there is more competition on the Google Assistant Smart Display room.
Google's own home center (above) is the cheapest among them, so it's a good place to start, but Lenovo, JBL, and now LG also has options with cameras for video calls and speakers. With the biggest screen (10 inches) and without doubt the best design, Lenovo is probably your best bet.
Google Website – $ 139 from Google, $ 149 elsewhere
Amazon Echo Show
- 2nd gene- $ 229.99
- 1st gen – 129.99
Lenovo Smart Display
- 10-inch –
- 8-inch –
JBL Link View – $ 249.99
LG WK9 ThinQ View –
- FREEZE – $ 296.99
- B & H – $ 246.99
Best – Nvidia Shield TV
Budget – Roku Express
Another new category for this year that we could not find on any of our other lists are media streamers. The cheap Google Chromecast has been the obvious choice in this room for years, and while still fine, there are definitely better options out there right now, especially if you prefer a physical remote control. In the budget period there is the excellent Roku Express, which works well with both Google and Amazon apps. If you're heavily bound to the Amazon Prime, a Four TV Stick is just as good and both now have 4K capabilities that challenge the more expensive Chromecast Ultra with regard to features.
If you want the ultimate media streaming experience, you want a Nvidia Shield TV – it's the best Android TV box around (see Ryan's review again if you do not believe me). It handles 4K HDR video content, but is also a standby streaming device. So if you're plump for the slightly more expensive version with the extra gaming controller (it already comes with a voice remote), you have access to a host of entertainment options that rival ATV boxes simply can not beat.
As a bonus choice, why not breathe new life into an old audio system with a cheap Chromecast Audio? Connect them via a 3.5mm jack, and you can now stream 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
- Quick – $ 29.99
- Streaming Stick + –
$ 59.99$ 49.99
- Four TV Stick – $ 39.99
- Four TV Stick + – $ 49.99
- Chromecast Audio –
$ 35$ 15
Best – Samsung SmartThings Hub
Extravagant pick – Logitech Harmony Elite
When a Google Home or Amazon Echo is not enough for you, a hub may be the answer. They can combine various smart home protocols like Z-Wave and Zigbee, giving you more flexibility than a standard WiFi setup. Samsung's SmartThings Hub was our best choice this year, and it is still number one thanks to a cheaper third generation device launched this year and still out of competition.
You may have noticed that there is no budget choice here and that's because there's really nothing cheaper than SmartThings Hub, which we think is worth buying. If you already have a Nvidia Shield TV, you can turn it into a hub with Samsung SmartThings Link dongle and save yourself a few pennies. If money is not an object and you do not need sensors over Zigbee or Z-Wave, you may be interested in a Logitech Harmony Elite that merges a hub with a powerful universal remote that can be used to control your entire entertainment program via IR, plus some smart home devices.
- Hub – $ 69.99
- WiFi router with built-in hub – $ 119.99
- Link (for Nvidia Shield) – $ 39.99
Logitech Harmony Elite –
Best – LifX +
Budget – IKEA Cordless
Extravagant Pick – Nanoleaf Canvas or LifX Tile
Connected bulbs are a useful and inexpensive introduction to the smart home, with lots of decent options working with different protocols. There is often not much between different brands, with most of them verifiable with just a Google Home Mini thanks to WiFi connection. Our favorite is LifX +, as it offers more than 16 million colors, but also enhances your night vision vision by providing additional infrared light. If you want something cheaper, a Philips Hue starter kit is a good mid-range plus it uses ZigBee so it will continue to work even if your internet is falling out. IKEA's cutting bulbs, dimmers and switches now work with Google Assistant so they're a good budget choice, even if you're going to shell out $ 30 for Gateway so it's worth it if you want more smart lights and connectors in your home at the cheap.
We can do better than just lighting your home efficiently, though with some more detailed products designed for creativity. Last year's top choice, Nanoleaf Aurora (above) is still impressive, but there are also some attractive new opportunities. Nanoleaf now has Canvas, a bright square that can be customized and respond to sound. LifX also has similar Tile squares as well as Beam light bars and Z LED strips – no hook or crane in your home ever has to be left in the dark. For the players out there, Philips Hue Play can create ambient backlighting to enhance your game sessions.
- Mini White Single –
- + Single –
$ 79.99$ 59.99
- Tile Kit – $ 249.99
- Beam – $ 149.99
- Single pear – $ 14.99
- Starter Pack by Bridge – $ 99.99
- Game (single) – $ 69.99
- Game (pair) – $ 129.99
Connectors and connectors
Best plug – Wemo Insight
Budget Plug – IKEA Cordless
Best switch – Ecobee Switch +
Budget contact – Switchbot
If your lights or other gadgets are not of the wise variety, you can improve their IQ by connecting them to a smart outlet. Take this as a fun example of what you can do with a smart plug. They range from basic WiFi-connected connectors that can be turned on or off with a Google Assistant Voice command for more sophisticated options like the Wemo Insight Plug that can tell you how much energy you're using. If you get a smart power strip like Kasa from TP-Link, you get six smart sales in one. As with the lights, IKEA now offers attractive budget options – especially useful if you already have Gateway.
Another way to turn on and off your electronics is to use a smart switch. Philips and IKEA also do switches that go with their light collections, but the best out there is Ecobee Switch +. It may look a bit like an intercom, but this dimmer has essentially Amazon Alexa integrated so it can be used to control other things around the home.
In the budget period, the brilliant SwitchBot is a cute little robot (over) that can be attached to existing stupid switches to make them clever. It's not the most elegant solution, but it's pretty smart. There is also a light hub that looks like a cloud (below), which is what all hubs should look like if you ask me.
- Plug – $ 29.99
- Insight Plug – $ 49.99
- Mini Smart Plug – $ 15.82
- Kasa Powerstrip – $ 79.99
Ecobee Switch + – $ 89.95
- Button – $ 29
- Hub – $ 49
Best – Ecobee4
Budget – Nest Thermostat E
Not much has changed in smart thermostats, with Ecobee4 still the best out there. It is Alexa enabled, like Switch +, and comes with multiple sensors to place your home for optimal temperature measurements. If you need something to match with Google Assistant, Nest Learning Thermostat is your best option, but Nest Thermostat E is the best choice for them on a budget.
For those of you who do not live in a home or apartment with channeled thermostats, there are other options for controlling your channel-free AC or heat pump. Both Sensibo and Cielo Breez are good opportunities with support from Google Assistant.
There are also products out there to help you regulate more than just the temperature in your home. Netatmo has two exciting products in this area – the healthy home builder measures humidity, air quality, noise and temperature. The more expensive weather station looks at the same measurements with indoor and outdoor modules, taking into account internal ventilation and external barometric pressure.
Ecobee4 – $ 239
- Thermostat E – $ 169
- Learning Thermostat – $ 249
- Sund Home Coach – $ 99.99
- Weather Station – $ 179.99
Best without plan – Arlo Pro 2
Best with the plan – Nest Cam IQ
Budget – Amcrest
Using connected devices so that we do not have to get up from the couch to turn on the lights is very good and good, but home security is probably the most valuable use. Arlo Pro 2 had a couple of teeth problems when it first came out, but now leads the way in the no-plane field thanks to its battery-powered cameras that can be placed anywhere. If you're willing to pay a monthly subscription, Nest's Cam IQ is rich in features, with the indoor modules offering 4K. Logitech Circle 2 is a good mid-range single-cam option, but if you really do not want to break the bank, Amcrest has a number of cheaper cameras that still give you peace of mind.
Arlo Pro 2 (2-cam system) – $ 434.99
- Cam IQ Indoor – $ 299
- Cam IQ Outdoor – $ 349
Accommodation Circle 2 – $ 149.99
Amcrest ProHD– 59.98 $
Best – Skybell Trim Plus
Budget – Arlo Audio Doorbell
As the advertisements would make us believe, burglars always call the doorbell first to see if anyone is at home. We will then be presented with the solution – a smart doorbell. Something with a camera is the safest solution so you can see who's at the door and then have a two-way conversation with them. Skybell Trim Plus is one of the best, although features among the big players are almost equal – it offers free shooting, unlike many competing products in a similar price tag. If you already have Ring, Nest or August products, they have very similar door bells to complete your lineup. If you want some of the smarts for less money, you can get a first-generation Ring Video Doorbell for only $ 100. Alternatively, why not try a sound-only doorbell like this from Arlo. You will receive a phone call to your phone when it rings so you can respond faster, and if you already have a porch camera, it can be used as a video feed for the best of both worlds.
Skybell Trim Plus – $ 199.99
- Video Doorbell – $ 99.99
- Video Doorbell 2 – $ 199.99
- Video Doorbell Pro (with cloud storage) – $ 249.99
Nest Hi – $ 229
Best – August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
Budget – August Smart Lock
So you have a smart security camera and a doorbell, but you still use an old-fashioned metal key to enter your house as a past person – who are you? Obviously you need a smart lock and there are some good out there. Rita reviewed Nuki's smart lock this time last year, and she says it's the best choice outside of the United States. They have since released a new version as well. August smart locks are full features, and the best in my opinion, so its Smart Lock Pro + Connect WiFi Bridge with Alexa integration is my top pick. In a similar being, Nest has collaborated with Yale for a lock with Google Assistant Smart, and Schlage also has an option that works with Google and Alexa settings. The third generic August Smart Lock without the bridge is available for around $ 125 now, making it 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 – Call alert
There has been no movement in this category in the past year, with Samsung's joint efforts with the security company ADT and Nest Secure are still two of the best options out there, while Wink Lookout serves as a budget option. Ring has also released its own alarm system this year, which may be worth checking out if you're already tied to the ecosystem – it's also far cheaper than its competitors.
Samsung SmartThings ADT starter kit– $ 199.99
Nest Secure – $ 399
Blink Lookout – $ 199
Ring the Alarm – $ 199
Get more tips on the best gadgets to buy this high season by checking out the rest of our 2018 purchase guides, including the best phones, the best audio products, and the best Chromebooks.