If you’re starting out building your smart home, you’d be forgiven at balking at the price. Some of the latest and greatest connected home tech can be eye-wateringly expensive – but luckily there are plenty of cheap smart bulbs, connected cameras, smart speakers and other devices out there.
As the smart home has matured, prices have dropped and there are much cheaper alternatives for many types of products. Now, the likes of Nest, Philips Hue and the like are still pretty expensive and similarly, there’s plenty of white-label dross floating around on Amazon.
What we’ve tried to highlight, however, is some bargain smart home tech from decent brands. We’ve tested most of this stuff, and it gets our thumbs up. It might not be the best, but it’s good for the price. Let’s get our bargain hunting hats on and go shopping.
Budget smart bulbs
Gateway kit: $65, Amazon
There’s no getting around it, Ikea’s smart bulbs are far from perfect. The app is a bit buggy and the performance isn’t great either – but at $10 a pop, they’re worth a shot. Part of their beauty is the flexibility – you can buy the bulbs, wireless dimmer or remote switch and not even have open the smartphone app. If you do want the extra smarts - such as app control and Alexa controls - however, you’ll need to grab a Trådfri gateway ($25).
There’s a growing range of bulbs and they’re Alexa and Apple HomeKit compatible – and we’re promised Google Assistant support at some point. Getting the full gamut of smart home platforms at this price isn’t to be sniffed at.
Perhaps a better deal in the US than the UK, Lifx is one of our favourite smart bulbs. Lifx eschews any of the in vogue smart bulb standards such as Zigbee or Z-Wave in favour of good old Wi-Fi, and it actually works.
There’s no hubs or mess, each bulb just installs and falls under the spell of the Lifx app – and after that Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Nest and IFTTT. It’s a compatibility grand slam. But what about the price?
You can pick up a simple Lifx white bulb for less than $25, and it's $20 for the multi-colour version.
Hive Active Lights
If you’re going big on building your smart lighting then it’s worth giving Hive a shout. The downside is that you need the Hive hub for its smart lighting to work, so that’s $80 out of the box.
However, when you’ve got that, the actual lighting is really cheap. You can pick up bulbs for $20 a pop and the company has just announced GU10 bulbs for $19, with a six-pack for $99. It might not be the pound-for-pound cheapest, but if you’re going big, it could make you a tidy saving.
Check out our round-up of the best smart bulbs.
Cheap smart speakers
Amazon Echo Dot
In all honestly the standard Amazon Echo second-generation could get a nod here at just $99.99, but the Amazon Echo Dot is hard to ignore. At just $49.99 and pretty much permanently discounted as low as $39.99, it’s possibly the ultimate budget smart home device.
A fully-fledged Alexa speaker, it trounces third party pretenders with a seven-strong microphone array that powers its far field listening skills, which makes the Dot super responsive to your commands. You also get Alexa’s full range of features, including Drop In, Alexa Calling and shopping lists. The downside? The audio is crap, but the 3.5mm jack means you can output the audio to an existing system, keeping cost to a minimum.
Google Home Mini
The Google Assistant equivalent to the Echo Dot is the Google Home Mini, which one-ups its rivals in terms of looks. The mesh covered speaker comes in a range of funky colours, including coral and pale grey, and certainly looks the part.
Google Assistant is a great ecosystem, and the Chromecast tie-in works nicely, plus the Google Home Mini will work as a Bluetooth speaker as well. Like the Echo Dot, Google also isn't shy about slashing the price even further on the regular. The one downside, considering the not-hgreat audio quality, is that there’s no audio out, which does let the ensemble down for music listening, somewhat.
Read our round-up of the best smart speakers money can buy.
Best cheap smart plugs
From the range of smart plugs we’ve tested, the TP-Link HS100 represents some of the lowest priced options from the familiar names out there. The HS100 has recently been updated, so there’s plenty of deals around on Amazon, and you should be able to bag a plug for around $24.99
It’s pretty no-frills stuff (it’s a plug), but you get smartphone control without a hub, and it plays nicely with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Powerbear Smart Plugs
$11.99 | Amazon
OK, we haven’t tested these, but with an outstanding price and plenty of positive Amazon reviews, we’re including them in the list. The Powerbear Smart Plugs cost $11.99 a pop, support Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and don’t require an extra hub.
Unlike TP-Link, they don’t come fully endorsed as we haven't tested them yet, but given a lack of actually cheap smart plugs out there, they could be worth a pop.
Budget smart home cameras
We haven’t had chance to test out Wyze Cam yet, but it’s one of those products that seems to defy logic. Designed by former Amazon employees, it’s a 1080p smart home camera, with motion detection, night vision and free access to your recorded clips.
The Wyze Cam is just $19.99 – US only right now – and the company has just launched an updated version, still at the same price. The only thing to be wary of is a truly basement level 10fps recording, but if you’re looking to take your first step with a home camera, it offers staggering value.
There are cheaper smart home cameras out there – but hear us out on this one. The Blink is a totally wire-free, smart camera that runs on a couple of AA batteries. You get 1080p recording, motion alerts and, no monthly fees to access recorded clips and it’s Alexa and Google Assistant compatible. $99 gets you a starter kit with one camera and the Blink Home Security Module, which you’ll need for the system to work.
While $99 isn’t bad for a smart home camera system, each additional camera will set you back, $89 which offers one of the cheapest ways to get your entire home covered.
Check out our round up of the best smart home cameras.
Robot vacuums, smoke alarms, doorbells and everything else
Xiaomi Mi Robot
Robot vacuums aren’t cheap, in fact, the likes of Dyson and Roomba can cost upwards of $800. So forgive us the addition of the Xiaomi Mi Robot at $234 – hardly budget, but in the grand scheme of things, quite the bargain.
It aced our testing, navigating our home – traps and all – with aplomb. There are a few hurdles to overcome – the app is in Chinese for starters and getting new parts (filters and brushes etc) might be tough, but the value is unrivalled. A fantastic buy for smart home bargain hunters.
Google Chomecast Ultra
The Chromecast Ultra is a brilliant 4K streaming option for Netflix subscribers and YouTube addicts – and the best thing is it’s just $69.
It’s a top alternative to the Apple TV 4K, which is double the price, and can tap into tonnes of Ultra HD content via YouTube, free of charge. It also plays nicely with Google Home, so you can control your TV with your voice, too.
Smart smoke alarms are pretty pricey, but Roost offers the chance to smarten up your home on the cheap. It’s a smart battery, which fits into old smoke detectors, but will ping your phone if the alarm sounds.
It’s a bit of a retrofit fudge and it doesn’t require the certificates and rigorous testing smoke alarms do, due to it piggybacking on tested systems – but you can make three smoke alarms smart for the price of one Nest Protect. Bargainous.
One for our UK crew, Now TV is a bargain streaming stick with a difference. Now TV plugs into your telly, and enables you to access Sky’s premium programming on the cheap.
Want to watch all the Super Sunday games? Now TV means you can just buy a day pass for sport, or monthly subs for its entertainment and film packages, meaning you just pay for what you watch. The only problem is that streaming is only in 720p, which is a damned shame and there’s no Netflix or Amazon though Sky tells us Netflix is coming to the service soon.
Ring Video Doorbell
The original Ring Video Doorbell is still going strong, and you can bag a first generation model for around $139.
You still get to see who’s at your door, and access two-way audio, but the video feed is only in 720p – which let’s admit it, is absolutely fine for a doorbell.