Best smart home devices: Your shopping list for the best connected tech

The best of the best from our extensive reviews

​The best smart home devices
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Here at The Ambient, we’re dedicated to testing and recommending the best smart home devices. We have guides to pretty much every category – and are always updating the reviews and recommendations within those.

This is our compendium of the best smart devices from our buying guides and our extensive testing. If you're looking to build out a smart home but don't know where to begin, or even what smart home system is for you, consider this your cheat sheet.

If you're already all in on Team Alexa, Team Google or Team Apple (HomeKit), knee deep in Samsung's SmartThings or completely platform agnostic - then this list is your guide to the very best smart home gadgets you can buy right now.


Jump to the information you need


The best smart speakers

Sonos One is one of the best Alexa smart speakers

Best smart speaker: Sonos One

Buy Now: Amazon, sonos.com | $199

The Sonos One is still the dedicated smart speaker to beat, offering both Alexa and Google Assistant under one roof (although you have to commit) in one of the best-sounding speakers reasonable money can buy. Punchy but balanced, it’s Sonos’ versatile sound through and through, wrapped together with the leading smart home assistants.

Sonos upgraded some of the internals last year with a new Gen 2 model, though it's hardly worth upgrading to if you're using the older model.

Read our full Sonos One review.

Google Nest Hub is a cheap smart home hub

Runner-up: Google Nest Hub

Buy Now: google.com | $89

It may be dwarfed by other smart speakers in size and sonic prowess, but Google’s 7-inch-screen-toting smart speaker strikes the perfect balance of design and features, while giving the Google Assistant the face it always deserved (without a pesky camera to worry about).

The 1024 x 600 resolution is sharp enough for the types of things you’ll be doing with it – namely smart home control, music playback, and maybe a spot of YouTube – and doubles as a great digital photo frame when sat idle. All with a well-designed interface that makes it the best smart display out there by a mile.

Read our full Google Nest Hub review.

best smart speaker on a budget - echo dot is a great option

Budget pick: Amazon Echo Dot

Buy now: Amazon | $49.99

You know its name. Alexa has never been as accessible or enjoyable to use than in the Echo Dot. It's the cheapest Echo you can buy, and the latest version gets a new and improved look. It won't make your music sound great, but the speaker is good enough for other tasks – and maybe even a podcast here and there.

For an additional $10 you can slap a digital clock on the front.

Read our full Amazon Echo Dot review.



The best smart thermostats

ecobee's thermostat is a top smart home device

Best smart thermostat: Ecobee SmartThermostat

Buy Now: Amazon, ecobee.com | $249

Move aside, Nest. With its latest offering, the SmartThermostat, Ecobee is the new champion of connected temperature control. Unimaginative name? Sure. But Ecobee's latest and greatest fixes some of our biggest complaints with the Ecobee4 while still boasting built-in Alexa and a (now more responsive) touchscreen.

Better yet, it plays nice with every major smart home platform you can think of, while the separate, redesigned room sensors make Ecobee more aware of what's happening in the home and target the rooms that are actually occupied. Some of its people-detection is flaky, and it's certainly not cheap, but Ecobee's climate controller is the best of the bunch.

Read our full Ecobee SmartThermostat review.

Nest learning thermostat - a great device

Runner-up: Nest Learning Thermostat

Buy Now: google.com | $249

Named because of its ability to learn and create a schedule based on your behavior, the Nest Learning Thermostat should stop you worrying about heating or cooling at all. It learns by studying and then mimicking your manual actions, fine tuning the schedule as it goes along.

Sadly, you don't get zone options or individual radiator control with Nest. However, there are third-party smart radiator valves you can use, which enable the thermostat to act as a maximum temperature controller.

Nest Thermostat E is an affordable great smart heating device

Budget pick: Nest Thermostat E

Buy now: Amazon, nest.com | $169

If you don't mind foregoing some of the cosmetic features of the Nest Learning Thermostat, the cheaper E model is plastic but fantastic. The big omission is Farsight, which on the Learning Thermostat displays information readable across a room. Instead the E gets a frosty display with a lower resolution, but it's still easy enough to read.

The E is also not compatible with as many systems (about 85% compared to Learning's 95%). There's a compatibility checker on the website so you can see if it supports your system.

Read our full Nest Thermostat E review.



The best smart bulbs

philips hue is our pick for the best smart light

Best smart light bulb: Philips Hue

Buy Now: Amazon, meethue.com | From $14.99 up to $200+

Hue bulbs are still the best around, with white temperatures between 2200K and 6500K and colored bulbs packing 16 million colours. They're fast and responsive, and some of the quickest to turn on and off in our testing. The fittings are fairly universal, as well.

To get the purest Hue system, you'll need the Philips Hue Bridge, which offers the most complete control over your bulbs, colors, brightness and schedules. It's possible to use Hue bulbs without the Bridge, either using a different hub or the new Bluetooth bulbs, but it limits your options to basic on/off functionality for up to 10 bulbs.

Read our full Philips Hue review.

lifx smart bulbs are the best wi-fi smart lights

Runner-up: Lifx

Buy Now: Amazon, lifx.com | From $9.99 up to $249.99

Lifx's bulbs aren't much cheaper than Hue's, but the fact they connect using Wi-Fi means you don't have to fork out for a bridge. And numbers stack up with Lifx bulbs boasting 16 million colors – 1,000 shades of white alone – and a maximum brightness of 1,100 lumens.

Just screw in one of the bulbs and you're good to go, with all pairing worked out with the smartphone app and Wi-Fi network.

Read our full Lifx Mini review.

one of the cheapest best smart light bulbs - sengled

Budget pick: Sengled Element

Buy now: Amazon, sengled.com | From $9.99

Hue and Lifx can be expensive – and that's where Sengled comes in. Its bulbs start at $9.99 and although most of its lights still require a bridge, Sengled has started making Wi-Fi bulbs too, for added convenience.

It is also the cheapest light maker that works with all the big names - Alexa, Google, SmartThings, and HomeKit - and has lots of accessories, including light strips and those pretty filament bulbs.

Read more about Sengled in our roundup of Best Smart Light Bulbs.



The best smart plugs

Best smart plug: TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini

Best smart plug: TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini

Buy now: Amazon, kasasmart.com | $14.99

The Kasa is still our number one pick, mainly due to the sheer value. It's perfectly small, yet offers all of the basic features you could want: scheduling, Alexa/Google Assistant integration, and an Away mode that will turn your device on or off randomly so that people think you're home.

There's no energy tracking and no HomeKit, but if those don't matter to you, the Kasa presents a cheap way of filling your home with smart plugs. Because let's face it: you're not going to stop at one.

Read our full TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini review.

The best smart home devices: The top picks from our buying guides

Runner-up: Amazon Smart Plug

Buy now: Amazon | $24.99

The first smart plug actually made by Amazon; this socket takes all of the hassle out of setup.

You don't even add it manually to your devices, lest do any signing in or other messing about, as your home Wi-Fi is saved in the Alexa app.

Just note that Alexa isn't built into the plug, so you'll need an Echo or other Alexa-packing device (even your smartphone will do) to control the plug.

Best cheap smart plug: Wyze Plug

Budget pick: Wyze Plug

Buy now: wyze.com | $14.99

Wyze is all about saving the pennies, and its smart plug is no exception. The plug comes in a pack of two for $15 – so $7.50 a piece, although they can't be purchased separately. They hit all the basics – app control, scheduling, Alexa/Google Assistant control – but little beyond that.

Still, for less than $8 each, it's hard to argue.

Read our full Wyze Plug review.



The best smart home cameras

The best smart home camera is the arlo ultra

Best smart home camera: Arlo Ultra

Buy Now: Amazon / arlo.com | $399.99

The latest Arlo isn't cheap, but quality comes at a price here. This is a 4K camera with stunningly clear footage, letting you zoom in on small details and capture faces. With the added HDR, even at 1080p your footage is better looking than what the Arlo Pro 2 can manage. The 180-degree field of view also helps, as does the integrated spotlight to get you full-color night vision.

Battery life is good, with around three weeks between charges, and the new upgraded base station is very welcome. The biggest downside is that most of the best features - people/animal/package detection, smart-action areas, lock-screen previews - are behind a paywall that will cost you $1.99 per camera, per month. The entry price is just for one camera and a base station. You can extra cameras as you build out your security system.

Read our full Arlo Ultra review.

the updated ring stickup cam is a great smart home device

Runner-up: Ring Stick Up Cam

Buy now: Amazon | $99.99

The Ring Stick Up Cam got a refresh last year that made it cheaper and updated the design, while still offering a top raft of features: 1080p HD video, motion detection, night vision, two-way talk, and a wide viewing angle that spans 150 degrees horizontally and 155 degrees diagonally.

The Ring Stick Up Cam can work indoors and out, and comes in three different variants: plug-in ($99.99), battery ($99.99), and solar ($149). It's a nice, compact design, super easy to install and the app is very straightforward. The only major drawback is you really need a cloud account to make the most of the device.

Check out our Ring Stick Up Cam review.


best cheap home security camera: Eufy

Budget pick: Eufy Indoor Cam 2K Pan & Tilt

Buy now: Amazon | $49.99

It might look like it belongs on the ceiling of a department store, but this bulbous blob of white plastic is superb at keeping close watch over multiple, contiguous rooms in your home.

Its pan and tilt feature gets you 360 degree coverage that can record and stream up to 2K video, plus it has on-board AI smarts that can tell the difference between a person, a pet or general motion.

These are high-end features you pay monthly fees for with Ring, Arlo, and Nest, but it's all free here, and thanks to the option of local storage you also don't need to pay for cloud storage (although it's on offer).

The Eufy Indoor Cam works with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and HomeKit, including HomeKit Secure Video and is a really handy little gadget with top quality video and super clear night vision.

It only works on 2.4GHz WiFi but that's pretty much it for Cons. If it's too rich for your blood, its non-swiveling sister, the Eufy Indoor Cam 2K, costs just $39.99.

Read our Eufy Indoor Cam 2K Pan & Tilt review.



The best smart locks

The best smart home devices: smart lock from August

Best smart lock: August Wifi Smart Lock

Buy now: august.com | From $249

The August Wifi Smart Lock is a completely redesigned version of its original, highly-rate retrofit smart lock. It's almost half the size and 20% slimmer, now resembling a regular thumb turn on your door rather than a giant smart device.

Despite its smaller size, the lock packs an extra feature - integrated WiFi, so there's no need for a bridge or smart home hub to control it when you're away from home. The WiFi feature is optional however, if you'd rather just stick to Bluetooth control when you're nearby.

You get August's signature auto-unlock feature, where your door will automatically unlock itself as you approach, along with all the other features that make August the most fully-featured smart lock on the market, including auto-lock settings and DoorSense that tells you if your door is open or closed before you lock it.

Lacking is a built in keypad - although you can purchase a Bluetooth one that is simple to install, and there's no Z-Wave in this version, but you can still connect to SmartThings, as well as Alexa, Google, and HomeKit.

Read our full August Wifi Smart Lock review.


great smart lock is the Schladge Encode

Runner-up: Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt

Buy now: Amazon | $249

If you're happy to go the extra mile and completely replace your deadbolt with a smart door lock, the Schlage Encode is our recommendation.

It's not the most innovative or stylish lock out there but it uses WiFi - so no hub required - making it by far the simplest full-replacement lock to set-up. It also still works with a regular key and has a built-in touch pad, so you've got loads of ways to get in.

What makes it stand out is excellent integration with Alexa and Ring. If you have a Ring doorbell you can remotely unlock or lock your door from your video feed of your front door - which is very handy. The only other smart locks that work with Ring require you to have the Ring Alarm.

Other top features are remote unlocking, auto-locking, voice control, and the ability to share and mange up to 100 access codes - all things that make having a smart door lock really useful when you're in a pinch.

If you need HomeKit or want compatibility with a SmartThings hub, Schlage's Sense (HomeKit) or Connect (Zigbee/Z-Wave) are your best bet.

Read our complete Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Deadbolt review.


The best smart doorbells

The best smart doorbell: Ring 3 Plus

Best smart doorbell: Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus

Buy now: ring.com | Amazon | From $229.99

The latest and greatest Ring doorbell cam, the Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus, keeps all of Ring's best features - fully-featured app, good HD video quality, super easy install, and best in class storage plan - and throws in an innovative solution to the problem of always missing the first few seconds of action while the camera wakes up.

This is Ring's new Pre-Roll feature, which shows you four seconds of footage from before motion is detected from your smart doorbell, so you can get more context behind exactly what triggered an alert.

This footage is just black and white, low frame rate footage that's actually captured by a different camera to the main Ring video recordings. In fact, the setup features a three-camera array. But it means you get all the action, which could be crucial in a porch-pirate pickle.

There are other improvements here, including lots of new privacy features such as the option to turn off audio recording and even shut down the camera when you're home, plus more motion zones and a People Only mode to cut down on unnecessary alerts.

Read our full Ring Video Doorbell 3 review.

The best smart home devices: The top picks from our buying guides

Runner-up: Nest Hello

Buy Now: nest.com | $199

If you're looking to slap something a little nicer on the front of your home, and you've got the wires to prove it, the Nest Hello is a svelte little doorbell with some great features.

You've got nice clear 1600 x 1200 HD video at 30fps and decent night vision. The 4:3 aspect ratio gives you a full look at the person ringing too (many, like the Ring 3 Plus, go for 16:9 instead).

In terms of features, the Hello is dressed to impress. Quick replies from the app let you send a message to someone at the door, while motion, sound and person detection will send you alerts as needed.

The additional $6-a-month Nest Aware subscription adds 30 days of video history and facial recognition to that, and if you have a Google Home it can even announce who's at the door. The Hello needs a wired connection to work and there's a wireless chime in the box.

Read our Nest Hello review.

The best smart home devices: Arlo Video Doorbell is cheap

Budget pick: Arlo Video Doorbell

Buy now: Amazon, arlo.com| $150

While the 2nd generation, entry-level Ring doorbell is only $99 and can be battery-powered, if you have wiring spend the extra $50 for the Arlo Video Doorbell.

This is a top-quality device for a really cheap price, bringing nearly all the bells and whistles of its higher-priced competitors, including smart notifications that distinguish between people, animals, vehicles and even packages, rich notifications that save you time, awesome video quality, pre-recorded responses, and a snappy live view.

Like all video doorbells, there are some latency issues and the audio needs a bit of work, but this is a great doorbell camera that won't break the bank and is worth considering even if you've not bought into the Arlo ecosystem (it doesn't require a hub).

Check out our Arlo Video Doorbell review.



The best smart smoke alarms

Best smart home devices: Nest Protect

Best smart smoke alarm: Nest Protect

Buy Now: Amazon, nest.com | $119

The Nest Protect is set to detect both fast and slow fires, plus carbon monoxide. It comes with wired and battery versions, and the latter will last a couple of years between replacements, which is highly impressive.

The alarm on the Protect is a human voice. At first signs of something awry, she’ll say: "Heads up! There's smoke in the [room]". If it’s major it’ll be: "Emergency! There's smoke in the [room]."

You'll also get a notification to your smartphone if smoke is detected, and another if the alarm sounds – which is useful if you're in a different room, and a bit of peace of mind if you're away as well.

The best smart home devices: OneLink smoke alarm

Runner-up: First Alert Onelink Smoke & Co

Buy now: Amazon | $119.99

The second-gen Onelink smart smoke alarm makes big improvements over the HomeKit-only original. It now works with any smartphone, also works with Alexa, and comes in hardwired and battery-powered versions. It also wirelessly connects with all Onelink alarms as well as other compatible alarms.

You can use HomeKit to set up a routine such as turning on your lights, unlocking the front door, and circulating the HVAC fan when smoke or fire is sensed. Also, push notifications and actions won't occur until the alarm has been going for 90 seconds, to avoid sending you false alerts or unlocking your door just because you burnt dinner.



The best robot vacuum cleaners

The best robot vacuum cleaners 2020: Roborock S6

Best robot vacuum: Roborock S6

Buy now: Amazon | $649.99

With 14 sensors, a quad-core processor for the simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) movement algorithm, as well as a laser distance sensor (LSD), the Roborock S6 is a powerhouse of a vacuum cleaner. It continuously plans the optimal cleaning route minutes ahead, memorizing room layouts, navigation routes, and areas it cannot reach.

It has a powerful 2,000Pa suction rating with a Carpet Mode that increases suction power when it's gliding over your rugs. Better still, it has a mopping feature, making this a top pick for hardwood floors. You'll also get 150 minutes of cleaning on a full charge, which is pretty great.

Read our full Roborock S6 review.

The best robot vacuum cleaners for pet hair

Runner-up: iRobot Roomba S9 series

Buy now: Amazon | From $1,099

The S Series is Roomba's premium range and includes two models: the S9 and the S9+. The S9+ comes with a disposal tower, meaning you won't have to worry about emptying your Roomba (but you'll eventually have to empty the tower, of course).

The D-shape design gives it an edge over the Roborock when it comes to edges and corners, though the runtime is less at 75 minutes. Should it run out of power, it will return to its charging station to power up before automatically resuming work. The bot will also gradually learn your floor space and produce a map, which you can tweak in the app if it's not quite right.

It can also work in tandems with iRobot's Braava Jet Mop, so you can come home to a vacuumed and mopped home.

Read our full iRobot Roomba S9+ review.

best cheap robot vacuum cleaner: Eufy RoboVac 35C

Budget choice: Eufy RoboVac 35C

Buy now: Amazon | $299

Eufy's bot lacks the smarts of more expensive options, but still does a decent clean. As well as the standard mode there's a BoostIQ mode that'll increase suction power based on the surface. It also uses brushes and bristles rather than plastic or rubber cleaner, which are more annoying to clean hair out of.

But while it might lack the brains, it has another advantage; at just 2.85 inches tall, it's able to clean areas other robo vacs can't get to.

Read our full Eufy RoboVac 35C review.



The best smart light switches

The best smart home devices: Ecobee light switch

Best smart light switch: Ecobee Switch+

From $79.99, Amazon | ecobee.com

The Ecobee Switch+ has an incredibly unique feature: Alexa is actually built in, meaning you can directly ask it to control the lights, as well as all the usual tricks. There's a physical button, but you also get a motion sensor that turns lights on when you enter the room – and switches them off when you're away.

The Switch+ works with Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, Google Assistant, and IFTTT. If you have an Ecobee thermostat, you can even pair the two together to take advantage of the switch's built-in temperature sensor.

One warning: Ecobee's Switch+ won't work with a three-way switch – single switch setups only.

Read our full Ecobee Switch+ review.

The best smart home devices: The top picks from our buying guides

Runner-up: Lutron Caseta Dimmer

Buy Now: Amazon / casetawireless.com | From $99.99

The Lutron Caseta Dimmer is one of, if not the, most versatile smart switches around. It works with all the major platforms - HomeKit included - supports three-way switches and doesn't require a neutral wire.

Installation is a breeze although you do need the (included) hub to make it work. On the switch there's four buttons: on and off, and two toggles for dimming or increasing the brightness.

It comes with a remote control that's basically identical, so you get two control points in one package. Individual dimmer switches cost $72 and can be added to the same hub.

Lutron's Caseta system is also rock solid as it uses a proprietary wireless protocol so isn't dependent on finicky WiFi.



The best robot lawn mowers

The best robot lawn mower 2019: Smarten up your garden the easy way

Best robot lawn mower: Husqvarna 435X AWD

£4,400, husqvarna.com

This is it: the big daddy of robo lawnmowers. With only a 30-minute juice-up time between mows and capable of 70% inclines, the 435X is one powerful machine. Its all-wheel drive and pivoting body design also give it some serious edge.

It does max out at 3,500sqm of garden area, but that’s still a hell of a lot more than most people have got. You can schedule your mowing times using the app, or ask Google Assistant or Alexa to start the job for you.

Read our full Husqvarna 435X AWD review.

TAGGED    smart home    buyers guides

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