Here at Smarthome, we bring you as much informational content as we can.
Equally important for us, though, is to ensure you’ve got a good overview of which products are worth spending your hard-earned money on.
We’ll jump straight in today with a look at 15 of the most effective smart home tech across all major categories. Our mission is to help you not confuse you, so we’ve limited it to a single standout product for each area of your smart home.
Enjoy and treat yourself!
15 Smart Home Products You Actually Need Now
We’ll get started with the basic foundation of any connected home, a hub, and then work our way across all aspects of your home.
We’ve stayed inside the house, but if you need some ideas on smartening up your garden in more ways than cutting the grass, check out our recent look at 9 Essentials For Your Smart Garden.
1) Best Smart Home Hub: Wink Hub 2
One of the drawbacks many new converts to smart home technology encounter is getting all that kit to work in perfect harmony. While you generally need a hub to help you do that effectively, all gateways are not created equal.
While Samsung SmartThings hub is perhaps the industry standard, it’s got stiff competition from Wink in the form of this rebooted home hub, our overall pick for a number of reasons.
This nimble and neatly-designed sliver looks somewhat like an inverted router. It’s slim enough to slip just about anywhere you want and has an immediate benefit over the competition since they mostly require tethering to your router with an Ethernet cable. Choose between 2.4GHz or 5GHz WiFi for connection depending on which works best for you.
With both Zigbee and Z-Wave radios onboard, you’ll enjoy superb compatibility. Wink Hub 2 can also communicate with devices using Bluetooth LE and Lutron Connect covering most main bases bar HomeKit but you can’t have it all.
Both setting up and using the app is straightforward.
Unless you’re already heavily invested in LIFX bulbs – Hub 2 does not support these – you’ll be spoiled for choice and able to control over 400 smart devices remotely from Nest and ecobee to Philips, Arlo and much, much more.
- Works across all major smart home ecosystems to give you the most versatile control of any home hub
- Uses both 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi for further flexibility
- Compatible with multiple communication protocols including both Zigbee and Z-Wave
2) Best Smart Thermostat: Nest Learning
As the name makes abundantly clear, Nest Learning Thermostat, now into its third iteration, is highly intelligent and capable of adapting to your habits for truly automated climate control.
Nest has completely eliminated this fussing by ensuring its enduringly popular Learning Thermostat picks up on how hot or cold you like it and automatically fine-tunes saving you time and energy.
When you want to take the helm, use the nimble app on your smartphone to save jumping out of your seat. If you’re a voice assistant fan – and who isn’t these days? – grab a Google Assistant or Alexa-enabled device and you can tweak your HVAC system using nothing but voice commands.
Remote access and Home & Away mode means you can keep your pipes from freezing over when you’re on extended vacation and then return to a perfectly regulated home when you return.
The app is first-rate and you’ll get solid energy monitoring metrics to help you save even more money and recoup the cost of your thermostat through reduced electricity bills.
For one of the most seamless and completely automated approaches to thermostats in a crowded market, Nest Learning is well worth the modest investment.
- Take charge remotely in-app or use Alexa and Google Assistant if you favor hands-free control
- Kiss goodbye to the tedium of manual scheduling since Nest Learning picks up on your temperature preferences and adjusts itself accordingly
- Energy-efficient addition to your smart home helped further by the Nest Leaf giving you a visual clue when you’re at the optimum temperature for slashing those power bills
3) Best Smart Lock: August Smart Lock Pro and Connect
If you’re looking to replace your old, outdated door locks, August offers a robust choice of smart entry systems with our favorite being the Pro.
Unlike some smart locks, the Pro slots neatly over your existing hardware making for stress-free installation along with the advantage of keeping your keys should you want manual access. This is actually a fantastic back-up mechanism against losing your smartphone and potentially being locked out of your own home temporarily.
If you’re not convinced about leaving the locking of your doors in electronic hands, you’ll soon appreciate the convenience factor and you can always check the status in-app to make sure everything is fully secure. Automatic unlocking also comes in handy when you’re juggling bags from grocery shopping, you’ll also be able to integrate your smart lock with other kits for increased benefits…
The Pro version is well worth the extra costs since you’ll also get the freedom of voice control with Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri. Pro from the base model. We’ll never nudge you toward a pricier product when a cheaper one works just as well as evidenced by our recent look at cheap smart home products. In this case, though going Pro pays serious dividends.
Being able to check in remotely gives you an extra layer of security, but as with all smart entry systems, convenience is the key selling point and August has this locked down as firmly as your smart home will be.
- August Connect bridge comes included for added value and functionality combined
- Compatible with all major digital assistants including Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant
- Keep your hardware and keys while also benefiting from the remote control with voice smarts if required
4) Best Smart Security Camera: Netgear Arlo Pro Wireless HD Security Camera System
Security cameras are perhaps of the most crowded segments of the domotics market. Looking for the best one can be overwhelming. Cut straight to the chase and pick up this full system from Arlo Pro, and you’ll rest easier whether home or away.
Unlike a lot of smart home kit, the Arlo app lets you take the helm on a web browser, tablet, and Apple TV as well as using your smartphone. The interface is clean and you’ll find it easily navigable even if you’re not the biggest tech fan.
Rechargeable batteries power these units and you can swap them out quickly so you won’t leave your home exposed. You’ll get plenty of usage before they need a burst of juice, too.
You can communicate with two-way audio through your cell phone and you’ll get instant alerts whenever the unit detects either sound or motion. As a fantastic line of defense against any security breach, a piercing siren rated at over 100 decibels should see any potential burglar heading quickly down the driveway leaving your home protected.
Video is crisp, clear, and high-def. You’ll have access to a week of footage that’s stored in the cloud and the wide viewing angle lets you keep close tabs on what’s going on inside and outside your home around the clock.
While some smart home gear falls under the umbrella of luxury, there’s simply no substitute for a solid home security system if you want to sleep safer and sounder even when you’re on the other side of the world relaxing on holiday.
- Wire free camera so you won’t need to call in an electrician
- Compatible with digital assistants and IFTTT along with other tech in your connected home
- Weatherproof cameras go anywhere and come complete with two-way audio and sharp HD video accompanied by a piercing siren
5) Best Smart Alarm: Ring Alarm Security Kit
How about if you want to ramp up security but don’t feel the need for a camera or have one already in place? Well, the legendary Ring offer a DIY kit to keep you safe thanks to the sensitive motion detectors that will ensure you get an instant alert whipped over to your phone if triggered.
Ring are security specialists so you’ll be buying into that sterling brand heritage at a price you’ll find surprisingly low. Monitoring is not mandatory but if you want to get that professional touch, it comes in at just $10 a month with no restrictive contract to worry about.
This alarm works most effectively when used in tandem with other Ring products so consider adding to your kit over time. You can also throw in some extra sensors so you’ll get complete flexibility, but with everything you need to get going on a budget.
Installation couldn’t be much simpler and you won’t need to call in a contractor. All you need to do is plug it in and pop up the sensors, and you’ll enjoy battery back-up in the event of any power outages that might otherwise compromise your system.
Whether you want this alarm kit with or without professional monitoring, and whether you just want the alarm operating independently or fully integrated into your connected home, you’ll get total freedom from Ring in one affordable kit.
- No need for professional installation or monitoring so fewer upfront costs and no ongoing charges either although you can choose to invest in Ring Plus
- Build out this kit with additional sensors and reap the benefit of nimble integration with other gear in your automated home
- Monitor all your Ring security equipment using a single, streamlined app
6) Best Smart Speaker: Amazon Echo Plus Second Generation
We could have compiled a full top 10 list of smart speakers but we’ve limited ourselves to the standalone favorite, Amazon’s mighty Echo Plus, now into its second iteration with uprated audio.
Ironically, it’s usually on the sound front that smart speakers fall down. Amazon addressed this to some extent by upgrading the subwoofer even if the underwhelming tweeter is still in place. There’s also still no mid-range driver in place. Although it can’t really compete with the Sonos One in terms of pure audio, that’s not the key selling point here…
If you think of Echo Plus as a vehicle for full voice control throughout your smart home and a Zigbee hub rolled into one, it all starts to make a lot more sense. After all, not many people will be using a small speaker like this as their primary tool for serious music sessions.
As you’d fully expect, Alexa comes out to play in fine fettle with Echo Plus. With 7 mics to pick up your commands even from afar and even over a noisy background, you can get to grips with her stable of skills while also pressing her into action to control other compatible devices.
A final sweetener, the old and dated design has been tweaked and Echo Plus comes with a tactile fabric finish, and it’s not too much taller than your coffee mug.
While the original Echo is still worth considering, we’d urge you to dig very slightly deeper and treat yourself to the new and improved Plus.
- New and improved audio with the music you stream beamed through 360 degrees
- You’ll get an integrated Zigbee hub making this a great starting point if you want to try out smart home technology without much financial commitment
- Exceedingly strong voice control from Alexa
7) Best Smart Display: Google Home Hub
Check out our in-depth article on Google Home Hub for a more thorough look at this classic from the mighty G.
Other smart displays have bigger screens – Echo Show’s 10-inch trumping the 7-inch Home Hub – and also outperform this unit on the audio front. Why, then, have we plumped for Home Hub as our preferred smart display?
In general, we prefer a multifunctional smart device and you’ll get plenty of scope with Home Hub. Although connectivity doesn’t yet encompass Zigbee or Z-Wave, with just WiFi and Bluetooth, you can still control a broad cross-section of devices in your connected home. Doing this in-app is easy but, as with Echo devices, it’s the digital assistant you’ll be primarily buying Home Hub for and on this front, Google surpasses itself.
Search is as intelligent as you’d expect from the global giant while voice print recognition gives you a wonderful degree of personalization. The Family Link app allows you to make this hub completely kid-friendly so it’s a great way to ease your children into using virtual butlers safely.
There’s no camera onboard, but you’ll get an ambient light sensor putting paid to that annoying glow that blights many larger smart displays, particularly tedious if you’re trying to watch a movie but a thing of the past with Home Hub.
At the end of the day when you factor in the whole package, Google Home Hub is a fantastic addition to any connected home in 2019.
- Ultra-compact footprint so blends in rather than dominating the room
- Syncs brilliantly with Google Photos so doubles up as a personalized digital frame
- User-friendly and secure Google Assistant experience with search comprehensive and tailored to your voice print
8) Best Smart TV: LG OLED 65-Inch 4K Smart TV
While all that essential equipment can help you construct the skeleton of a fully automated home, it’s when you’re kicked back in the evening you deserve to enjoy the complete smart experience. The legendary LG OLED is now updated and an even worthier addition to any respectable home theater.
With an upgraded processor, picture quality is better than ever before with 4K and HDR content supported.
We are partial to the 65-inch as the best fit for most homes, but you can opt for a scaled down to a 55-inch or a truly colossal 77-inch beast. Various configurations are available with a choice of soundbars or you can just roll with the smart TV itself. Even without the soundbar, you’ll get immersive audio thanks to Dolby Atmos.
With ThinQ, you’ll get Google Assistant baked in rendering this beefy set a winner not just in terms of unparalleled picture quality but also in terms of AI-fuelled smarts. Thanks to the voice assistant, you’ll be able to control more than just your TV making this a neat component of any automated home as well as a killer television in its own right.
It’s no surprise that the LG OLED secured Endgadget’s Best of CES 2018 award and we really can’t recommend this TV strongly enough. Treat yourself: you deserve it.
- AI-powered TV with ThinQ giving you voice control and full smarts through LG’s nifty Magic Remote
- Updated Alpha 9 processor giving you more depth, sharpness, and precision to make that action movie pop off the screen
- 4K HDR viewing as good as it gets until 8K drops
9) Best Smart Plug: Insteon Remote Control Dual Outlet
Smart plugs are a common entry-point for anyone starting to tread the smart home route. If that’s you, we’d urge you to check out this awesome dual outlet from the ever-reliable Insteon, in business for almost 15 years and still going strong.
If you’re planning to invest in this smart plug, it’s a wise move to pick up the hub along with it. This will enable you to start adding other Insteon devices and exercise full control throughout the impressive ecosystem.
Both outlets are independently controllable and you can take command from the outlet itself, another Insteon device or your smartphone. Kit yourself out with the requisite Echo or Google Assistant device, and you can also turn small appliances like your lamp on and off hands-free.
If you’re worried about your children poking and prodding, this outlet is completely tamper-proof so you can rest easy.
Check out our recent study of smart plugs, bulbs, and switches if you’re in any doubt which would make the best fit for you. This adaptable on/off smart plug makes a cost-effective way to smarten up basic tasks in your home and also comes with a valuable safety feature in that you can always switch off a rogue appliance like a coffee machine left on in error.
- Control each outlet separately with no additional module cluttering up the clean lines in your home
- As long as you have an Insteon Hub, you’ll be able to use both Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control
- Multiple methods of control beyond voice command from your smartphone to other Insteon devices
10) Best Smart Dimmer Switch: Insteon Remote Control 8-Button Dimmer Keypad
When it comes to outlets and switches, Insteon does the job in fine style so we’ve stuck with the classic 8-button dimmer keypad to represent the best smart switches have to offer in 2019.
This 4-pack gives you even greater value and allows you to roll out smart lighting at an affordable price-point rather than investing in a whole series of smart bulbs. You can choose to tailor the etching and also the colors of the LED backlights so you’ll get a keypad unique to you if you find the generic style a little bland.
You can control other Insteon devices from your keypad but this also works in reverse so you could, for example, use a mini keypad to control your master keypad with everything marvelously interconnected. You can also use your smartphone or voice control for a complete package.
Insteon works brilliantly for multi-way switches. Look out for our upcoming piece on how multi-switching actually works and why you should think about adding it to your smart home.
For a hard-hitting remote and wall switch rolled into one, this Insteon keypad, also available in 6-button form, was a shoe-in for the best smart dimmer switch and we’d strongly suggest you consider adding one to your home if you don’t have one in place already.
- Multipurpose unit offering you both a keypad controller good for 8 groups devices or scenes along with a highly effective dimmer switch
- Use your favorite digital assistant whether that’s Alexa or Google Assistant as long as you invest in the hub and device for even greater versatility
- Completely customizable with button etching and colors to make this switch your own
11) Best Smart Light Bulbs and Strips: Philips Hue
We recently took an in-depth look into Philips Hue, the starter kit in particular, and demonstrated why this brand is so dominant in the smart lighting vertical.
The enduringly popular Hue bulbs come in 3 variants to suit your needs and budget:
- White Ambiance
- White and Color Ambiance
Whether you opt for a single shade of white, 50,000 different shades or the full and staggering 16 million colors available on the range-toppers, Hue bulbs are an asset to any connected home.
Investing in one of the outstanding starter kits gives you the Hue Bridge along with bulbs. If you choose to buy the bulbs individually, we’d stridently recommend adding the gateway. While you can operate your Hue lighting without this, you won’t get anything like the same experience.
set-up is super-simple and you can then control your lights in-app or using your virtual butler of choice.
Thanks to the Friends of Hue system, you’ll be able to connect your bulbs with other devices and start to experiment with home automation the easy way.
You can also opt for light strips or switches if you want to get a little more adventurous.
While Philips face stiff competition from the likes of LIFX and, increasingly, Scandinavian furniture king IKEA, we’ve got to be honest and say they still occupy pole position when it comes down to smart lighting done the right way.
- Huge range giving you maximum choice whether you want a single bulb or fully interconnected smart lighting throughout the house
- Broad choice of bulbs from white to white ambiance and on through to full color
- You can use Hue bulbs without the bridge, albeit with reduced control
12) Best Garage Door Opener: Insteon Garage Door Control and Status Kit
Imagine coming home from work and not needing to step out of your car to manually open the garage door when it’s raining.
As with all Insteon products, everything is designed to work together in harmony. You can add a button on the keypad we looked at above so you can monitor the status light and keep tabs on security in your garage. If you want to ramp up the safety, consider using a WiFi camera to keep an even closer eye on proceedings around the clock.
There are a few restrictions to be aware of with this opener and status kit. Firstly, you’ll need a hub. Since the module communicates by powerline, you might also require a range extender or dual-band Insteon device so factor this into your budget. You’ll definitely need the extender if you plan to use the Insteon Mini Remote. Other than that, you’ll be able to use your smartphone as a controller.
The other sticking point is that this kit only gels with regular 2-wire garage openers. To clarify this, if your control button boasts a display panel, this kit is not suitable.
As long as those limitations aren’t problematic for you, this Insteon kit is a must for anyone looking to streamline their entry system all the way to the garage door.
- Control your garage door remotely on your smartphone with the responsive Insteon app
- Receive instant alerts if your door gets opened in your absence so a nice inbuilt security feature
- Link this door opener with an Insteon keypad for added functionality
13) Best Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector: Nest Protect
While a smoke detector might not be the most thrilling purchase, it could quite literally save your life so might be the wisest investment on this list if not particularly exciting.
Both smoke and carbon monoxide are killers and you’ll pick any traces of both with Nest Protect so you can sleep soundly and with a clear conscience knowing your whole family is safeguarded against the sudden or gradual outbreak of fire.
If you’re concerned about smoke detectors constantly pinging off when you’ve left the grill pan on a few minutes too long or the toaster has overdone your toast, you’ll be able to quickly flick the alarm off from your phone. The alarm also performs self-testing on a daily basis so you won’t need to panic that leaks and smoke will go undetected.
You can choose between a wired and battery-powered model according to what best meshes with your needs.
While this smoke detector is not exactly cheap, Next Protect has sensors rated for a full decade of use so worked out by the year, it’s not an expensive investment and could save your life not just make it slightly easier.
- Picks up invisible carbon monoxide as well as smoke giving you a belt and braces approach to smart home safety
- sensor capable of picking up both slow-burning fires and those that take effect more rapidly
- Take quick action to silence false positives in-app on your smartphone
14) Best Smart Remote: SevenHugs Smart Remote
The fruit of a brutally successful Kickstarter campaign, this impeccable smart remote is ideal if you’re the sort of person who constantly misplaces their phone and hates the idea of numerous remotes cluttering up the coffee table.
As long as you don’t mind the idea of a touchscreen and the lack of tactile feedback you’d get from a conventional controller, this nifty little device might be the smartest treat you invest in this coming year. It’s been around a year or so now but its legion of fans is swelling as word continues to get out about this user-friendly remote that’s easy on the eye if not the pocket.
Rather than needing to switch apps on your phone or grab separate remotes, all you need to do with this controller is point it at whatever device you want to control. The set-up is a cinch and compatibility wide-reaching with access to over a half-million devices and climbing. Very few pieces of smart home kit boast that degree of interoperability.
So, if you don’t mind spending a little to make your life a whole lot easier, the SevenHugs Smart Remote gets our unreserved seal of approval.
- Universal touchscreen remote that you just point at devices to control automatically so flick from your lights to TV and back again seamlessly
- Create single button pushes to control multiple devices at the same time for even greater automation
- Works with a remarkable 650,000 devices so good for commanding almost anything within your smart home without needing a bowl full of bulky remotes
15) Best Smart Bed: Ghostbed
Having reached the end of another relentless day and asked Alexa to prepare your nighttime routine, picture how it would be to slip into a smart bed…
Bear in mind front and center that you’ll need to make a series of separate purchases if you want the full smart bed experience. There’s a power base housing all the tech, a choice of supremely comfy mattresses in varying sizes to suit, a pillow, mattress protector, and sheets. The benefit of this arrangement is that you can simply pick and choose what would work best in your bedroom, and you won’t end up paying for any unwanted components.
You’ll be able to adjust both the top and tail of the bed so you can recline at the precise angle you love without lifting a finger. The wireless remote is not too busy and you’ll be able to manipulate the bed in the dark without too much problem. It even comes with a flashlight on the control itself.
If you’re especially tired and aching after another hard day at the office, the massage function is a welcome bonus. Dual massage settings give you 5 different modes so you can get the spa experience without needing to leave home or foot the stiff bill.
Smart beds are still in their infancy, but for early adopters, it’s the logical way to crown your connected home and add a dual layer of comfort and convenience to bedtime along with a side serving of pampering.
- Full selection of 5 massage modes to relax you toward dreamland
- Nifty LEDs under the bed for mood lighting and USB charging ports so you can keep your phone close at hand and give it a boost while you sleep
- Tweak the positioning to get the perfect night’s rest however restless you are
Well, if you’ve powered your way through this bumper selection of 15 smart home products you actually need now, you’ve got ideas to take you from the garage right through to the bedroom.
Come back next week as we update our home automation blog on a daily basis Monday through Friday with a roundup Saturdays. This means you won’t miss anything, and you can see at a glance what went down the previous week.