The best smart home appliances you can buy right now (winter 2018)



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Worldwide sales of smart voice-aid loudspeakers have grown dramatically just last year, and so can the smartphone industry as a whole. The technology that supports the products will continue to improve as prices fall, and new categories will continue to emerge, but there is a lot worth investing in right now.

With that in mind, and to ensure that you do not just give away (or be gifted) this holiday season, we've put together a list of the best smart home appliances you can buy. Whether you just want to dip your fingers in the water with a cheap Google Home Mini or dive into the depths with smart lights, cameras, thermostats and doorbells, we're watching.

Intelligent voice-controlled speakers

The best – Google Home Max
Budgeting – Google Home Mini / Amazon Echo Dot

This first category is often the gateway to other smart household products and depends almost entirely on the choice of ecosystem. In the US, as in many other countries, there are two distinct fields – Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. If you choose the first, there are several Google Home gadgets at various price points, from the Home Mini, which is a portfolio, the original Home, to the pleasant Home Max, which costs more than a fair penny. The Home Hub came as part of a new product category with many of the same functions, but we'll get to that later.

If you go the Amazon route, there is a similar set of Echo speakers to suit any need. The Echo Dot is a great entry level unit that can be purchased for as low as $ 29 during the sales periods, then there's Echo, Echo Plus and even the new Echo Sub so you can add some bass. Choosing a product here is mostly about the price – get the most expensive you can actually afford. If music is a fundamental concern, only Home Max or Echo Plus with Sub will actually do your songs justice, but if you just want to ask the odd question and control some other connected devices, a Mini or Start Point will do well.

If you want something with Alexa or Google's features but created by a company that knows a little more about sound, including headphones and earphones, check out our guide to the best audio products you can buy right now.

Google

  • Mini HomeUS $ 49 US $ 29 (until February 2)
  • House – $ 129
  • House Max – $ 399

Amazon

  • Echo Dot – $ 29.99
  • Echo – $ 69.99
  • Eco PIwe – $ 149.99
  • Echo Sub – $ 129.99

Smart Displays

Best – Lenovo Smart Display (10 ")
Budget – Google Home Hub

This category has grown by itself since last year's post, now that Google has entered the field of play. Smart screens are essentially a smart speaker with a screen glued (almost literally by the look of the Google Home Hub). The original Echo Show has been out for over a year, but the first generation was tacky and expensive. The new model looks and sounds better, but there is more competition in the Google Assistant Smart Assistant space.

The Google Home Hub (above) is the cheapest among them, so it's a good starting point, but Lenovo, JBL and now LG also have options with cameras for video calls and loudspeakers. With the largest screen (10 inches) and arguably the best design, Lenovo is probably your best bet.

Google home hub – $ 139 from Google, $ 149 somewhere else

Amazon Eco Show

  • 2nd Generation – $ 229.99
  • 1st generation – 129.99

Lenovo Smart Display

  • 10 inches – $ 249.99
  • 8 inches – $ 199.99

JBL Link View – $ 249.99

LG WK9 ThinQ View

  • FRYS – $ 296.99
  • B & H – US $ 246.99

Media Streamers

Best – Nvidia Shield TV
Budget – Roku Express

Another new category for this year, for which we can not find space on any of our other lists, are media streamers. The cheap Google Chromecast has been the obvious choice in this space for years and although it's still okay, there are definitely some better options out there, especially if you prefer a physical remote. At the end of the budget, there's the excellent Roku Express, which works well with Google's and Amazon's apps. If you're very connected to Amazon Prime, a Fire TV Stick is as good as the two now have 4K options that outweigh the more expensive Chromecast Ultra in terms of features.

If you want the best streaming media experience, you'll want an Nvidia TV Shield – it's the best Android TV box around (see Ryan's re-evaluation if you do not believe me). It deals with 4K HDR video content, but is also a capable streaming gaming device. So if you opt for a slightly more expensive edition with the added game controller (which already comes with a remote voice), you'll have access to a variety of entertainment options that rival ATV boxes simply can not beat.

As a bonus option, why not give a new life to an old sound system with a cheap Chromecast Audio? Connect them through a 3.5mm jack and now you can stream songs from a variety of services to your old and reliable speakers.

TV Nvidia Shield

  • with Remote Control – $ 179.99
  • with Remote and Controller – $ 199.99

Roku

  • Express – $ 29.99
  • Streaming Stick +$ 59.99 $ 49.99

Amazon

  • Fire TV Stick – $ 39.99
  • Fire TV Stick + – $ 49.99

Google

  • Chromecast Audio $ 35 $ 15

Smart Hubs

Best – Samsung SmartThings Hub
Extravagant Pick – Logitech Harmony Elite

When a Google Home or Amazon Echo is not enough for you, a hub might be the answer. They can combine several smart home protocols, such as Z-Wave and Zigbee, offering more flexibility than a standard WiFi-only setting. Samsung's SmartThings Hub was our primary choice this year, and remains number one thanks to a cheaper third-generation device that was released this year and still outperforms the competition.

You may have noticed that there is no budget choice here, and this is because there really is nothing cheaper than the SmartThings Hub that we think is worth buying. If you already have an Nvidia Shield TV, you can turn it into a hub with the Samsung SmartThings Link dongle and save a few cents. If money is no object and you do not need sensors on Zigbee or Z-Wave, you might be interested in a Logitech Harmony Elite that combines a hub with a powerful universal remote control that can be used to control your entire entertainment setup via IR. plus some smart home appliances.

Samsung SmartThings

  • Hub – US $ 69.99
  • WiFi Router with Built-In Hub – $ 119.99
  • Link (for Nvidia Shield) – $ 39.99

Logitech Harmony Elite$ 349

Smart lights

Best – LifX +
Budget – IKEA Trådfri
Extravagant Pick – Nanoleaf Canvas or LifX Tile

Connected lamps are a useful and inexpensive introduction to the smart home with many decent options that work with different protocols. Generally, there is not much between different brands, with most of them controllable with just a Google Home Mini, thanks to Wi-Fi connectivity. Our favorite is the LifX +, as it offers more than 16 million colors, but also enhances night vision of its security camera, providing additional infrared light. If you want something cheaper, a Philips Hue starter kit is a good mid-range option, as well as using ZigBee to keep it running even if your internet drops out. IKEA's low-priced lamps, dimmers, and switches now work with the Google Assistant so they're a great budget, though you'll have to shell out $ 30 for the gateway, so it's only worth it if you want multiple smart lights and plugs into your house on the cheap.

We can do better than simply light up your home effectively, however, with some more elaborate products designed for creativity. The main choice last year, the Nanoleaf Aurora (above) is still impressive, but there are also some attractive new options. The Nanoleaf now has Canvas, a light square that can be customized and reacts to the sound. The LifX also has similar Tile squares as well as light bars and LED Z strips – no nook in your house needs to be left in the dark. For gamers out there, Philips Hue Play can create ambient backlight to enhance your gaming sessions.

LifX

  • Mini White Single –
  • + Single – $ 79.99 $ 59.99
  • Tile Kit – $ 249.99
  • Beam – $ 149.99

Philips Hue

  • Single Lamp – $ 14.99
  • Starter Pack with Bridge – $ 99.99
  • Play (Single) – $ 69.99
  • Play (Pair) – $ 129.99

IKEA Trådfri

Nanoleaf

Plugs and Switches

Best plug – Wemo Insight
Budget form – IKEA Trådfri
Best Switch – Ecobee Switch +
Budget Switch – Switchbot

If your lights or other gadgets are not of the smart variety, you can improve your 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 Wi-Fi-enabled plugs that can be turned on or off with a Wizard's voice command for more sophisticated options, such as the Wemo Insight Plug, which can tell you how much power you're using. If you get a clever power strip like Kasa from TP-Link, you'll have six smart outlets in one. As with the lights, IKEA now offers attractive budget options – especially useful if you already have the Portal.

Another way to turn your electronic components on and off is to use a smart switch. The likes of Philips and IKEA also make switches that combine with their light collections, but the best there is is Ecobee Switch +. It may look a bit like an intercom, but this lightswitch essentially has the Amazon Alexa integrated so it can be used to control other things at home.

At the end of the budget, the ingenious SwitchBot is a lovely little robot (above) that can be plugged into pre-existing donkey switches to make them smart. It's not the most elegant solution, but it's very smart. There is also a hub that looks like a cloud (below), which is how all hubs should stay if you ask me.

Belkin Wemo

  • Plug – $ 29.99
  • Insight Plug – $ 49.99

TP-Link

  • Mini Smart Plug – $ 15.82
  • Kasa Powerstrip – $ 79.99

IKEA Trådfri

Ecobee Switch + – $ 89.95

Switchbot

  • Button – $ 29
  • Hub – US $ 49

Thermostats

Best – Ecobee4
Budget – Nest Thermostat

Not much has changed in the world of intelligent thermostats, with Ecobee4 still the best of them all. It is powered by Alexa, as the Switch +, and comes with several sensors to put in your home for optimal temperature measurements. If you need something to connect with Google Assistant, the Nest Learning Thermostat is your best option, but the Nest Thermostat E is the best choice for those on a budget.

For those of you who do not live in a house or apartment with thermostats with ducts, there are other options to control your AC without ducts or heat pump. Sensibo and Cielo Breez are good options with Google Assistant support.

There are also products to help you regulate more than just the temperature in your home. Netatmo has two exciting products in this area – Healthy Home Coach measures humidity, air quality, noise and temperature. The most expensive Weather Station analyzes the same metrics with internal and external modules, also taking into account internal ventilation and external barometric pressure.

Ecobee4 – $ 239

Nest

  • Thermostat E – $ 169
  • Learning Thermostat – $ 249

Netamo

  • Healthy Home Coach – $ 99.99
  • Weather Station – US $ 179.99

Sensibo

Sky Breez

Security cameras

Best without a plan – Arlo Pro 2
Best with plan – Nest Cam IQ
Budget – Amcrest

Using connected devices so that we do not have to leave the couch to turn on the lights is very good, but home security is probably the most valuable use case. Arlo Pro 2 had some initial problems when it first came out, but now it leads the way in the flat field thanks to its battery operated cams that can be located anywhere. If you're willing to pay a monthly subscription, the Cam IQs of the Nest are feature rich, with 4K internal modules offering. The Logitech Circle 2 is a good midrange single camera alternative, but if you really do not want to break the budget, Amcrest has several cheaper cameras that still give you peace of mind.

Arlo Pro 2 (2-Camera System) – $ 434.99

Nest

  • Indoor IQ Cam – $ 299
  • Cam IQ Outdoor – US $ 349

Circle Logi 2 – $ 149.99

Amcrest ProHD– $ 59.98

Bells

Best – Skybell Trim Plus
Budget – Arlo Audio Doorbell

As commercials make us believe, thieves always ring the bell first to see if anyone is home. Here's the solution: a smart bell. Something with a camera is the safest option, allowing you to see who's at the door and have a two-way conversation with them. The Skybell Trim Plus is one of the best, though features among the top players are virtually the same – it offers free cloud recording, unlike many competing products in a similar price range. If you already have Ring, Nest or August products, they have very similar bells to complete your schedule. If you want a little intelligence for less money, you can get a first generation video bell for only $ 100. Alternatively, why not try an audio-only bell like that of Arlo. You get a phone call to your phone when it rings so you can respond faster, moreover, if you already have a camera on the porch, you can use this as the video feed for the best of both worlds.

Skybell Trim Plus – $ 199.99

Ring

  • Video Doorbell – $ 99.99
  • Video Doorbell 2 – $ 199.99
  • Video Doorbell Pro (with Cloud Storage) – $ 249.99

Nest Hello – $ 229

Locks

Best – August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
Budget – August Smart Lock

So you have a smart security camera and a doorbell, but you're still using an old metal key to come into your house like a person of the past – who are you? Clearly, you need a smart lock, and there are some good ones out there. Rita reviewed the clever Nuki lock this time last year, and she says it's the best choice outside of the US. They also released a new version as well. The smart August locks are full of features, and what's best in my opinion, so the Smart Bridge Pro + Connect WiFi Bridge with Alexa integration is my primary choice. Along the same lines, Nest teamed up with Yale to get a lock with Google Assistant Smarts, and Schlage also has an option that works with Google and Alexa settings. The regular Smart Lock third generation without the bridge can be purchased for about $ 125 now, which makes it a good budget option.

August

  • Smart Lock Pro + Connect – $ 232.95
  • Smart Lock – $ 124.87

Nest x Yale Lock – $ 279

Schlage Connect the Smart Deadbolt – $ 199.99

Nuki

Alarm Systems

Best – SmartThings ADT
Budget – Ring Alarm

There was not much movement in this category last year with Samsung's joint effort with security firm ADT and Nest Secure being still two of the best options while Wink Lookout works well as a budget alternative. Ring has also launched its own alarm system this year, which may be worth checking if you're already connected to this ecosystem – it's also a lot cheaper than its competitors.

Samsung SmartThings ADT Starter Kit– $ 199.99

Nest Secure – $ 399

Wink Watcher – $ 199

Ring alarm – $ 199

For more tips on the best gadgets to buy this holiday season, check out the rest of our 2018 shopping guides, including the Best cell phones, the best audio products and the best Chromebooks.

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