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

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 what smart home system is for you, consider this your cheat sheet.

Whether you're using a hub, relying on voice commands from the likes of Alexa and Google Assistant or having a professional system installed - these are the very best smart home gadgets you can buy right now.


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The best smart speakers

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

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, 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 for 2019 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.

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

Runner-up: Google Nest Hub

Buy Now: google.com | $129

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.

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 idea. 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

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 thermostats

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

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 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 is the best of the bunch.

Read our full Ecobee SmartThermostat review.

The best smart home devices

Runner-up: Nest Learning Thermostat

Buy Now: Amazon, 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 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.

The best smart thermostats for your home

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 HVAC 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

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

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 coloured 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 10 bulbs.

Read our full Philips Hue review.

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

Runner-up: Lifx

Buy Now: Amazon, lifx.com | From $24.99 up to $249.99

Lifx's bulbs aren't 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.

Best smart bulbs

Budget smart home 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, it's started making Wi-Fi bulbs too, for added convenience.


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 | $17.99

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 plug for your automated smart home

Runner-up: Belkin WeMo Mini Smart Plug

Buy now: Amazon, belkin.com | $29.99

Compact and compatible with all the major platforms – yes, even HomeKit – the Belkin WeMo is a close second. Features are solid, though there's no energy monitoring and the app isn't one of the best we've used.

There's scheduling, and an Away mode like the Kasa that will deter any chancing burglars by making it appear that someone is home. Overall, a solid smart 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 $10 each, it's hard to argue.

Read our full Wyze Plug review.


The best smart home cameras

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

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 for relying less on 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 best smart home devices: The top picks from our buying guides

Runner-up: Ring Stick Up Cam

Buy now: Amazon | $179.99

The Ring Stick Up Cam got a refresh in 2019 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), battery ($99) and solar ($149). It's a nice design, super easy to install and the app is very straightforward and nice to use. 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 home security camera: Smart wireless and wired cameras tested

Budget pick: Kasa Spot

Buy now: Amazon | $49.99

It might look basic, but the Kasa Spot surprised us with the quality of its video and reliability of performance – all for less than $50. It's not 4K, but at 1080p the footage is plenty sharp, and the 130-degree field of view is generous for the price.

Night vision is also here and works great, as does the two-way audio with your phone – though note that this camera is meant for use indoors. Alexa and Google Assistant are both supported.

Read our full Kasa Spot review.


The best smart locks

Best smart home devices

Best smart lock: August Smart Lock Pro + Connect

Buy Now: Amazon / august.com | From $279

The Smart Lock Pro is August's third-generation model, which is quieter and offers double the lifespan of the previous version while still using four AA batteries.

The Smart Lock Pro replaces the inside end of your deadbolt and connects to your Wi-Fi via the included August Connect bridge, offering full control of the lock from wherever you are. It's not all about the smart stuff either; you can still use your existing key from the outside, which makes a neat backup in case it all goes wrong.

It will auto-lock and will unlock based on your proximity to your house, saving you the hassle of fumbling for keys. You can also give mobile app keys to friends, pet-sitters and the like via the August app – and you can revoke that access when required as well. Apple's HomeKit, Amazon' Alexa, and Google Assistant all offer the ability to control the lock via spoken commands.

Read our full August Smart Lock Pro review.

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

Runner-up: Yale Assure Lever

Buy now: Amazon | $279

Technically, this is also half an August lock; while the lock was designed by Yale, the brains of the operation are all August. This is a keypad lock that will turn any regular, non-deadbolt lock into a smart one.

The benefit here is that you can extend its powers to the whole home instead of only the front and back doors. If you'd prefer, you can use it with a Z-Wave module instead of August's, to make it compatible with your setup. There's als support HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Assistant.

Read our full Yale Assure Lever review.


The best smart doorbells

Best smart home devices

Best smart doorbell: Ring Video Doorbell 2

Buy Now: Amazon, ring.com | $199

There are plenty of smart doorbells on the market now, but the easiest to recommend is the Ring 2. First, it's cable-free and works via a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, so you don't need to worry about having wires hanging from your doorframe – which, believe it or not, is pretty rare in the smart doorbell world.

In terms of tech there's full HD 1080p camera with a 160-degree field of view at 15fps, which is a little low, but it's a doorbell after all. There's also two-way audio, but recorded motion and rings will cost you £25 per year.

There are other hidden costs too; you’ll need to purchase a plug-in Chime if you want to hear the doorbell in the house. You can, however, make do with the loud ring from your smartphone, if you don't want to fork out.

Read our full Ring Video Doorbell 2 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, 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 2, 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 $5-a-month Nest Aware subscription adds 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 full Nest Hello review.

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

Budget pick: RemoBell S

Buy now: Amazon, remoplus.co | $99

It doesn't have many bells and whistles, but if you're looking for an inexpensive video doorbell that can show you who's outside and store recordings, the RemoBell S delivers. You get two-way talk, HD (1536x1536) video, night vision, motion zones, push notifications, live viewing, and three days of free video storage.

Read our full RemoBell S review.


The best smart smoke alarms

Best smart home devices

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: "Be aware. 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: The top picks from our buying guides

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 routine such as flickering your lights, unlock 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.


The best robot vacuum cleaners

The best robot vacuum cleaners 2020: Roomba, Neato, Dyson, Roborock and more

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 eventually 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.

Read our full iRobot Roomba S9+ review.

best robot cleaner hardwood

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: The top picks from our buying guides

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 Lurton Caseta Dimmer is one of, if not the, most versatile smart switch around. It works with all the major platforms - HomeKit included - and supports three-way switches.

Installation is a breeze although you do need the hub to make it work. On the switch there's a button for dimming the light and one for increasing the brightness - with an optional remote control that comes in the box. Ugly? Maybe a little, but incredibly functional.


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.

TAGGED    smart home    buyers guides

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