How Smart Is Your Home?
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.
There are many smart home product categories, so you can control everything from lights and temperature to locks and security in your home. Here's a rundown of the best products we've tested for every room of the house.
Hubs & Controllers
Amazon Echo and Echo Dot
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.
Wink Hub 2
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.
Logitech Harmony Elite
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.
Read The Best Smart Home Automation Hubs for more options.
Netgear Arlo Pro
When we reviewed the Netgear Arlo back in 2015, we loved that it was completely wireless, weatherproof, and easy to install, but were disappointed that it lacked any audio capabilities. The Netgear Arlo Pro not only adds two-way audio, it offers sound-triggered recording. Other new features include rechargeable batteries, a base station with a loud siren, and USB connectivity for storing video locally on a USB drive. You don't need to pay a pricey subscription to view recordings that are stored in the cloud, and its wireless capabilities give you much more flexibility when deciding where to place your cameras than most competitors.
LG Smart Security Wireless Camera LHC5200WI (With ADT Canopy)
Indoor Wi-Fi security cameras offer a cost-effective way to keep tabs on your home while you're away, but unless they're paired with a comprehensive security system, it's up to you to monitor activities and call the authorities in the event of a break-in. Enter the LG Smart Security Wireless Camera, an indoor Wi-Fi camera that offers 24/7 monitoring via ADT's Canopy service. This camera is ideal for renters, apartment dwellers, and homeowners who want the benefit of professional monitoring without having to commit to a contract or pay for professional installation.
Nest Cam Outdoor
The Nest Cam Outdoor is essentially the same camera as its popular indoor model, but with a weatherproof enclosure and power cord. Otherwise it's pretty much identical in features—it uses Wi-Fi to send a full-time video signal (up to 1080p) you can monitor via the Web or mobile apps. It also provides alerts for motion (in zones you set) or audio. Pay for the Nest Aware subscription and you'll get days of video stored online that turn into clips you can watch whenever you like.
Check out The Best Home Security Cameras for more.
Locks and Home Security Systems
August Smart Lock HomeKit Enabled
The big names in door locks have smart home options, but they haven't pulled it off as well as upstart August. Its easy-to-install, Apple HomeKit-enabled Smart Lock mounts over your existing deadbolt switch to provide connectivity for your door. It speaks via Bluetooth to your smartphone, granting quick access to you or guests. The latest version integrates tightly with Apple devices, but still has support from other services like IFTTT.
See The Best Smart Locks for more.
Vivint used to be APX Alarm Security Solutions, but now has a cool name to go along with expanding beyond security into home automation. We gave an Editors' Choice award to the Vivint Smart Home system, which includes subscription-based remote monitoring by pros that goes for $39.99 to $49.99 per month. If you want expert installation and an extra set of eyes, Vivint is an excellent choice. It can even be controlled with the Amazon Echo.
SimpliSafe Home Security System
If you prefer a DIY approach to smartening up your home security, check out the SimpliSafe system. Its camera is still in beta, but it offers reasonable prices and monthly monitoring of a wide range of sensors. It comes in multiple different packages, or you can customize your own so you can get exactly what's right for your home.
See The Best Smart Home Security Systems for more.
Heating and Cooling
Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation)
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.
For more, see Nest Tips to Help You Take Control of Your Smart Home.
Ecobee3 Smart WiFi Thermostat
As nice as the Nest is, it's not our only top pick. The Ecobee3 Smart WiFi Thermostat is another stylish device you can control remotely. It's not dependent on just monitoring home temperature from one spot—it checks multiple sensors in multiple rooms.
Philips Hue Bulbs
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.
Check out The Best Smart Light Bulbs for more connected lighting options.
Anova Culinary Precision Cooker Wi-Fi
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, display shows 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.
For a different approach to sous vide cooking that doesn't use water, check out the Cinder Grill.
Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker with SmartChef Technology
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.
Check out The Best Gadgets for High-Tech Grilling for more.
June Intelligent Oven
The June is a smart countertop oven that comes with an array of high-tech features including Wi-Fi, a camera, and artificial intelligence that allow it to weigh, monitor, and cook just about anything without requiring much input from you at all. All you have to do is pop in what you want to eat, wait until the oven asks if the food is indeed what it thinks it is, select how you'd like it cooked, and let it do its thing. The results are spectacular for fish, meat, vegetables, and even Eggo waffles.
Perfect Bake Pro
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.
See The Best Smart Kitchen Appliances for more connected cooking gear.
Neato Botvac Connected
Robot vacuums are smarter than ever. Neato's Botvac Connected has a laser-guided navigation system that can't , and its U-shape design means it can get into tight corners and against walls in a way circular robots can't. It also features built-in Wi-Fi for app control with your smartphone, so you can turn it on no matter where you are and come back to a clean home.
iRobot Braava Jet 240
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.
Read The Best Robot Vacuums for more.
Health and Fitness
QardioBase Smart Scale
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 Smart Scale. It shares the info it reads with a smartphone app for your easy access. Plus, it just looks great.
See The Best Smart Bathroom Scales for more.
Rachio Smart Sprinkler Controller Generation 2
The second-gen 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.
Robot lawn mowers don't come cheap, but they definitely come in handy. Check out the Robomow RS622 or one of its siblings for different sized lawns. This model is good for handling up to 23,000 square feet—once you go through the process of setting up a perimeter to let the mower go on its automated cutting pattern. Its dual two-season cutting blades spin at 4,000 rpm, mulching grass back into the soil so there's no need for cleaning up or dumping bags of grass.