10 Smart Appliances That Are Worth It (And 2 That Aren’t)
Twenty years ago, if you asked someone to open the front door with their phone, they would look at you like you were nuts. But today, we don't give a second thought to operating doors, speakers, thermostats, appliances and so much more with our phones, touchpads and voice commands. We examined the reviews of the most tech-savvy gear experts to find the top smart home devices you'll want to bring home, and what you should leave in your cart.
Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links.
Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen)
Small but mighty, Amazon’s best-selling voice-controlled smart speaker with Alexa gives you music, news, information, the ability to make phone calls and control compatible smart home devices—all for under $40!
Trusted Reviews writes: “The Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) is a vast improvement on the originals…If you’re looking to put Alexa in more rooms, then this is the device to buy.”
The Brilliant Control
Brilliant takes the place of any light switch in your home and becomes the control center of your smart home. It is easy to install and within minutes turns your lights into smart lights and with built-in Alexa, gives you voice control over any other compatible connected devices.
PCMag writes: “It has a 5-inch color touch screen with user-friendly button controls that let you play music, control lighting, set thermostat temperatures, and see who is at your door, among other things.”
Google Nest Hub Max
Is it a digital photo frame? A screen for streaming YouTube? A music player? The answer is yes to all of the above… and more. Google took “Max” literally, upgrading the Nest Hub’s screen size and speaker power, and added one big bonus (see below).
The Verge writes: “[The Nest Hub Max] has something the smaller version lacks entirely: a camera. Everything else about it is the same, from its two far-field microphones to its modern, fabric-wrapped design, to its remarkable ability to automatically adjust the screen to the lighting in your home so your photos look more like they are printed on paper than displayed on a screen.”
TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini
This plug basically turns anything you plug into it into a smart device. Using the Kasa app, you can turn things on or off with your smartphone. It also works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana supported devices for voice commands. Did we mention it is less than $20?
CNET writes: “You can find a lot of smart plugs out there. TP-Link’s Kasa Mini is our favorite. It includes a single outlet that connects to your network via WiFi. The app is well-designed and lets you program the plug to turn on or off on a schedule or even based on your location. It works with Google Assistant and Alexa, and it doesn’t cover up the adjacent outlet on a standard two-outlet wall fixture.”
Philips Hue Smart Dimmer
Great for DIYers who don’t like to get too dirty—this wireless dimming device pretty much works out of the box. Paired with a Hue Hub it can control up to ten Hue lights throughout your home. And it works with Alexa, making it a very, very, very upgraded version of The Clapper.
TechRadar writes: “[If] you’re prepared to fully invest, there are few other smart home gadgets that feel as convenient as Philips Hue’s light bulbs, lamps, and switches.” Plus you’re guaranteed to use it every day, just like these 61 other useful Amazon products.
The SmartThermostat brings the heat in more ways the one. Its powerful quad-core processor lets you stream Spotify to an external speaker. Add Nelly’s “It’s Getting Hot in Herre” to your thermostat’s playlist.
Digital Trends writes: “[The] thermostat’s integrated smart speaker improved, delivering rich sound and wider range…While, at its core, the Ecobee SmartThermostat remains true to its name—it is most definitely a smart thermostat—this new model is positioned to play a broader, more substantial role in your smart home.”
SimpliSafe 9 Piece Wireless Home Security System
Multiple home security reviewers give this DIY protection bundle the thumbs up. Review after review raves about its ease of set-up and the amount of home coverage it provides: It comes with a base station, keypad, four entry sensors, two motion sensors, and one camera. (Monitoring comes with a monthly charge, it should be noted.)
Safehome.org writes: “Setup is a breeze, and you’ll be up and running in less than an hour. Choose from five security systems, and add à la carte options to your heart’s content. With emergency monitoring for as low as $14.99/month — it’s simple, safe, and affordable.” Once you invest in yours, find out the 10 places smart homeowners install security cameras.
August Smart Lock Pro + Connect
You can lock and unlock your door from anywhere and see who comes and goes right from your phone. It works in conjunction with your existing lock and keys, so set-up is super simple—no messy drilling required.
Tom’s Guide writes: “[Its] deep integration with other smart-home systems (such as Alexa, Google, and Siri) make it the most-connected of all the smart locks we’ve tested. Although we wish it had a built-in alarm, August otherwise has covered all the bases, making this smart lock our top pick.” It won’t hurt to add these 22 inexpensive ways to theft-proof your home, either.
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen)
The powerful processor delivers fast streaming of movie and TV — but really, what beats laying on the couch and telling the TV to change channels and it does? High-tech laziness at its finest!
PCMag writes: “The new Fire TV Cube looks the same as the original, but with a new six-core processor, it’s a lot more powerful. Once again, it features far-field voice recognition with eight microphones for hands-free interaction. And with Local Voice Control, common commands are processed faster because the information doesn’t have to be sent to the cloud.”
Vitamix Ascent Series
Long the standard of blenders that can turn anything into a smoothie, this series has Self-Detect technology, which senses the size of the container you connect to it and automatically adjusts time and blending speed.
Business Insider writes: “When you are busy hustling around the kitchen preparing a large meal, you don’t want to babysit the blender. This is where the built-in timer comes in handy. You just start the blender, and you can easily monitor how long your ingredients blend on the digital display.” These are the 15 kitchen products people can’t stop buying on Amazon.
Smart Home Devices Not Worth Buying:
Does this product description sound like something you need? “The Egg Minder syncs with your smartphone to tell you how many eggs you’ve got at home (up to 14) and when they’re going bad.” Didn’t think so. Not sure if you need more eggs while you’re at the store? Take a gamble and buy a carton anyway. Worst case scenario, you have a lot of eggs so you make a big omelet tomorrow morning.
Igloohome Smart Deadbolt 2S
For close to $200, we expect more than just good looks; Techhive’s called out the Igloohome Smart Deadbolt for an “extreme difficulty” getting it set up and “some troubling concerns over support.” Ugh. To protect your home, you’re better off sticking with these 20 secrets home security installers won’t tell you.