Worldwide sales of smart speakers with speech assistants have grown enormously over the last year alone, and the same can be said about the smart home sector as a whole. The technology that underpins the products will continue to improve as prices come down and new categories will continue to jump up, but there is much out there that is worth investing in right now.
With that in mind and to make sure you get used to Do not get married (or be gifted) a dud this holiday, we've put together a list of the best smart home computers you can buy. Whether you just want 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 covered you.
Voice-controlled smart speakers
The Best – Google Home Max
Budget Selection – Google Home Mini / Amazon Echo Dot
This first category is often the gateway to other smart home products and it depends almost entirely by 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 previous one, there are a variety of Google Home Devices at different price points, from the wallet-friendly Home Mini, the aging original Home, right up to the sound-filled Home Max that costs more than a pretty 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 suitable for any needs. Echo Dot is a great entry level device that can be as cheap as $ 29 during sales, so it's the usual Echo, Echo Plus, and even the new Echo Sub so you can add some bass. Choosing a product here is mostly about price – get the most expensive you can realistically afford. If music is a key concern, only Home Max or Echo Plus with Sub will really do your songs justice, but if you just want to be able to ask the strange question and check some other connected devices, a Home Mini or Dot will only do well.
If you want something about Alexa or Google Assistant features, but built by a company that knows a bit more about audio, including headphones and earphones, as well as speakers, check out our guide to the best audio products you can buy right now.
- Home Mini –
$ 49$ 29 (until February 2nd)
- Home – $ 129
- Home Max – $ 399
- Echo Dot – $ 29.99
- Ekko – $ 69.99
- Echo P l US – $ 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 posts, now like Google has come into the field of games. Smart monitors are essentially a smart speaker with a screen glued (almost literally at the appearance of the Google Home Hub). The original Echo Show has been out for more than a year, but the first generation was unbeatable and expensive. The new model looks and sounds better, but there is more competition in the Google Assistant Smart Display Room.
Google's own home theater (above) is the cheapest among them so it's is a good place to start, but Lenovo, JBL, and now LG also has cameras for video calls and speakers. With the biggest screen (10 inches) and without a doubt the finest design, Lenovo is probably your best bet.
Google Home Hub – $ 139 from Google, $ 149 an dre places
Amazon Echo Show
- 2. gene- $ 229.99
- 1st gene – 129.99
Lenovo Smart Display
JBL Link View – $ 249.99
LG WK9 ThinQ View –
- FRYS – $ 296.99
- B & H – $ 246.99
Best – Nvidia Shield TV
Budget – Roku Express
Another new category for this year, as we did not find space in any of our other lists, are media streamers. The cheap Google Chromecast has been the obvious choice in this room for many years, and while still good, there are definitely some better options out there right now, especially if you prefer a physical remote control. At the budget end, it's the excellent Roku Express, which works well with both Google and Amazon apps. If you're heavily attached to Amazon Prime, a Fire TV Stick is just as good and both have 4K options that expel the more expensive Chromecast Ultra when it comes 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 if you do not believe me). It handles 4K HDR video content, but is also a capable game streaming device. So if you're plump for the slightly more expensive edition of the additional game controller (it already comes with a voice gap), you'll have access to a wealth of entertainment options that rival ATV boxes 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 connector and you can now stream music from a variety of services to your faithful old speakers.
Nvidia Shield TV
- with remote control – $ 179.99
- with remote control and controls – $ 199.99
- Express – $ 29.99
- Streaming Stick + –
$ 59.99$ 49.99
- Fire TV Stick – $ 39.99
- Four TV Stick + – $ 49.99
- Chromecast Audio –
$ 35$ 15
Best – Samsung SmartThings Hub
Extraordinary Retrieval – 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 top choice this year, and it is still number one thanks to a cheaper third generation device launched this year and still strikes out the competition.
You may have noticed that there are no budget options here, and that's because it's really nothing cheaper than SmartThings Hub which we think is worth buying. If you already have a Nvidia Shield TV, you can make it 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, which combines a hub with a powerful universal remote control that can be used to control the entire entertainment setup via IR plus some smart home computers.
- Hub – $ 69.99
- Wi-Fi 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 light bulbs are a useful and inexpensive introduction to smart home, with many decent alternatives that work 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 connectivity. Our favorite is LifX +, since it offers more than 16 million colors, but also improves camera night vision by providing extra infrared light. If you want something cheaper, a Philips Hue Startup Kit is a good choice, plus it uses ZigBee, so it will continue to work, even if the Internet is unleashing. IKEA's cutters, dimmers and switches are now working with Google Assistant so they are a good budget choice, even if you need to distinguish $ 30 for Gateway so it's worth it if you want more smart lights and plugs in your home on the cheap.
We can do better than illuminate your home efficiently, but with some more comprehensive products designed for creativity. Last year's top election, Nanoleaf Aurora (above) is still impressive, but there are also some great new opportunities. Nanoleaf now has the 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 stripes – no hook or hook in the home ever needs 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
- Simple bulb – $ 14.99
- Starter Kit – $ 99.99
- Game (single) – $ 69.99
- Game (pair) – $ 129.99
Plugs and Switches
Best plug – Wemo Insight
Budget plug – IKEA Cordless
Best switch – Ecobee Switch +
Budget switch – Switchbot
If your lights or other gadgets are not of the smart variant 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 plugs that can be turned on or off with a Google Assistant Voice command to more advanced options like the Wemo Insight Plug, which can tell you how much energy you use. If you get a smart power cable like Kasa from TP-Link, you get six smart outlets in one. As with the lights, IKEA now offers tempting budget options – especially useful if you already have Gateway.
Another way to turn the electronics on and off is to use a smart switch. What 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 lightswitch has essentially Amazon Alexa integrated so it can be used to control other things around home.
At the budget end, the brilliant SwitchBot is a cute little robot (over) that can be attached to existing stupid switches to make them clear. It's not the most elegant solution, but it's pretty smart. There is also a slide that looks like a cloud (below), which is what all the 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 the world of 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 associate with Google Assistant, Nest Learning Thermostat is the best option, but Nest Thermostat E is the best choice for those who have a budget.
For those who do not live in a home or apartment with channel thermostats, there are other options for controlling your channel-free alternating current or heat pump. Both Sensibo and Cielo Breez are good alternatives with the help of Google Assistant.
There are also products out there to help you regulate more than just the temperature of your home. Netatmo has two interesting products in this area. The health trainer measures moisture, air quality, noise and temperature. The more expensive weather station looks at the same measurements with indoor and outdoor modules, and also takes into account internal ventilation and external barometric pressure.
Ecobee4 – $ 239
- Thermostat E – $ 169
- Learning Thermostat – $ 249
- Healthy home coach – $ 99.99
- Weather Station – $ 179.99
Best Without Plan – Arlo Pro 2
Best with Plan – Nest Cam IQ
Budget – Amcrest
Use connected devices so we do not have Standing up the couch to turn on the lights is all very good and good, but home security is probably the most worthwhile operating condition. Arlo Pro 2 had some thought issues when it first came out, but now leads the way in the field thanks to 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 space, single camera option, but if you do not really want to crush the bank, Amcrest has a lot of cheaper cameras that still give you confidence.
Arlo Pro 2 ( 2 camera 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 advertisements would make us believe, the burglars always call the doorbell first to see if anyone is home . We are then presented with the solution – a smart doorbell. Something with a camera is the safest option, so you can see who's on the door and then have a two-way version with them. Skybell Trim Plus is one of the best, although features among the big players are quite similar – it offers free shooting, as opposed to many competing products in a similar price bracket. If you already have Ring, Nest or August products, they have very similar door bells to complete your setup. If you want some of the smarts for less money, you can get a first generation Call Video Doorbell for just $ 100. Alternatively, why not try a sound-only doorbell like this from Arlo. You'll get a phone call to the phone when it rings, so you can respond faster, plus if you already have a porch camera, it can be used as video feed for the best of both worlds.
Skybell Trim Plus – $ 199.99
- Video Doorbell – £ 9.99
- Video Doorbell 2 – $ 199.99
- Video Doorbell Pro (with cover) – $ 249.99
Nest Hello – $ 229
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 a old-fashioned metal key to enter your house as a past person – who are you? Clearly, 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-fledged, and the best looks in my mind, so the Smart Lock Pro + Connect WiFi bridge with Alexa integration is my top choice. In a similar way, Nest has collaborated with Yale for a lock with Google Assistant smarts and Schlage also has an option that works with Google and Alexa setup. The third generic August Smart Lock without the bridge is available for around $ 125 now, making it a great budget option.
- Smart Lock Pro + Connect – $ 232.95
- Smart Lock – $ 124.87
Best – SmartThings ADT
Budget – Ringalarm
There has not been much movement in this category in the past year, with Samsung's joint effort for security company ADT and Nest Secure is 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 if you are already tied into the ecosystem. It is also far cheaper than its competitors.
Samsung SmartThings ADT Starter Kit – $ 199.99  Nest Secure – $ 399
Wink Lookout – $ 199
Ringalarm – $ 199
For more tips on the best gadgets to buy this holiday season, check out the rest of our 2018 purchase guides, including best phones, best sound products and best Chromebooks.