There are loads of dumb devices in your house that you wish were a bit smarter. Lamps that aren't compatible with any smart bulbs, fans that require you to push a button to turn on, AV kit that doesn't ever power down. The good news is you don't need to replace them in your quest for full home automation - it's really easy to make all of your devices smart, and talking to Alexa and co. by using a smart plug.
The best smart plugs offer an array of extras - such as digital assistant integration, energy monitoring, timers and more - but even the most basic ones make your old tech connected and remotely controllable.
The premise is pretty simple - like those timers your mum uses when she goes on holiday, smart plugs simply slot directly into your mains and you then plug your kit into the socket they have built in. Sure, it makes your plug sockets look a little bulky but that's a small price to pay for all of the extra control options.
Smart plugs: Considerations before buying
Most, if not all, smart plugs are Wi-Fi enabled so, as long as you've got a smartphone with a signal, you should be able to ping them a message to turn on or off. There's usually a dedicated app for this - or there's a section in a brand's smart home app - to do this.
However, if you want to take things further and add your smart plugs to your home automations - be sure to check whether the one you're considering buying has Alexa / Google Assistant / HomeKit compatibility, or can be controlled using smart home hubs such as Wink, or automation apps such as IFTTT, Yonomi or Stringify.
Because, while the basic function is turning things on/off remotely (or without getting up off of the sofa, at least) smart plugs really come into their own once you start syncing them up with the rest of your connected tech. For example, think of what devices you'd like powered down following a "Goodnight" voice command, or think of what tech you might want killed at the mains if your smart detector detected smoke.
As well as power up or down controls, smart plugs also offer additional extras such as energy use monitoring - with some devices even giving you a monetary value of how much your devices are costing to run.
We've tested the top smart plugs on the market across a range of budgets, with an array of different features. Here are our favourites...
TP-Link has been in the smart plug game for years and, with the HS110, has fully embraced the digital assistant revolution with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatibility.
The HS110 isn't quite as wide as the Eve Energy, nor as fat as the WeMo Insight but that's not to say it's a slender affair either. You'll have no problems plugging in something else next to it on a double socket, but it does come out the wall a fair bit and is there really any need for such a bright Wi-Fi signal light? Makes it a non runner for people needing a bedroom smart plug who don't like lights in their dark room.
Where it does get things right though is in the very-easy-to-use Kasa app - which also houses any other TP-Link smart home kit you might have. From here you can monitor kWh energy use, as well as runtimes, over daily, weekly or monthly time periods.
Also within the app you'll find options for setting up count-down timers (a great idea for kettles, hair straighteners and the like) and schedules. There's also an Away mode feature where you can set regular recurring days or times where you want things powered on or off.
While the HS110 isn't one of the more expensive options on test you could - if you want to save a bit of money - get the HS100 instead, which has all the features minus the energy consumption monitoring.
- Alexa and Google Assistant on board
- Easy to use Kasa app
- Power consumption details
- Bulky(ish) design
- Bright light is annoying
- No cost monitoring
Elgato Eve Energy
If you're going all in for an Apple Home then the Eve Energy could be the smart plug for you. If you're not homely with HomeKit, forget about it. For, while the Elgato smart plug can be controlled within the Eve app, - it will only work remotely if it's living on a HomeKit platform. It has no Wi-Fi, you see, and so requires to be linked (using Bluetooth) to an Apple HomeKit Hub - whether that be your iPad, Apple TV or HomePod - for all the extra functions.
Once paired with your Apple Home app you'll have no issues controlling it remotely and the Eve Energy is actually one of the most feature packed smart plugs out there. Inside the Eve energy you'll not only find energy consumption data for whatever's plugged into it - along with detailed graphs over scaling time periods - you'll also get cost details and yearly projections for usage too.
On the design front, the Eve is one of the more basic looking smart plugs - that's a good thing though. As usual, the European version is less bulky as the plug insertion is hollowed out. For US, Canada and the UK (plenty of other countries available too) you're essentially dealing with a square box with a little light that shines green when it's on.
It's actually one of the widest smart plugs we've tested and, here in the UK at least, you'll have trouble getting something else plugged in next to an Eve Energy as doesn't leave too much room on a double switch.
It's also the second most expensive plug we've tested - costing $49.95, so consider whether you really need all of the extra data before you buy.
- Consumption and cost data is rich
- Simple design
- Easy setup on HomeKit
- Wide design may cause issues
- HomeKit is essential
Belkin WeMo Insight Switch
Belkin's WeMo Insight Switch is the most expensive we've tested but it does have the potential to be the heaviest hitter of the lot. Out of the box you'll get Alexa, IFTTT and Works With Nest compatibility and, if you throw a WeMo Bridge into the mix (at $39.99), it'll sync up to HomeKit too.
Like the TP-Link smart plug, it has an oversized power light - although the good news there is that it doesn't light up once a couple of minutes have passed. This light also doubles up as a touch-sensitive power button, which is a nice touch.
The Insight Switch is by far the fattest smart plug on test and, if you want to plug in anything next to it you'll have to do that first so it can wedge in over the top.
The WeMo app, which is feature rich but flakey, offers up an array of stats from power-on timers, to scheduling, to an away mode, to details on power consumption and cost. Using the away / home status from your Nest app, you can also set rules to have things automatically power down.
One unique inclusion on the WeMo Switch is the Micro USB port on the top of the plug. We've no idea what it's for. No-one has. Not even Belkin. But it's there.
- Great integrations
- Plenty of consumption data
- HomeKit compatibility... sort of
- App is a bit rubbish at times
- Need to pay extra for HomeKit bridge
Hive Active Plug
We’re big fans of Hive’s smart home ecosystem, but when it comes to the Hive Active Plug, things don’t fully stack up. Despite being Zigbee powered, you’re still limited to using the Hive Plugs from within the Hive ecosystem, which means using the Hive Hub. That’s not a huge problem, but means that non-Hive users are much less likely to jump in.
The recently revamped design actually gives them an edge over the competition, maintaining a small footprint, with the glowing on/off button adding to an overall look you won’t be ashamed to have on show.
In terms of features things are pretty basic. You can remotely control the Hive Active Plug from within the Hive app, and set up schedules, so you can have lamps and appliances automatically switch on, while you’re away. Hive has its own Actions section of the app, where you can create IFTTT-style recipes, and you can easily set up rules, such as turning on lamps when it gets dark, for example. Environmental factors are a new part of the Hive Actions set-up, and you can add unlimited numbers of devices into these recipes.
Hive plays nicely with Alexa and Google Assistant, and your Hive Active Plugs will sync-up in either smart home set-up. You can use Hive’s plugs as part of your Groups and Scenes, making them versatile additions to your smart home set up.
There are no advanced features found on other smart plugs, such as power consumption tracking, and this is a big miss, especially from an energy company that’s pushing smart meters elsewhere in the business. But the real killer here is the price. At $44 per plug, it’s not the most expensive on test but, when you consider the basic range of features, it’s really hard to fully recommend the Active Plugs, even to existing Hive users.
- Alexa and Google Assistant
- Well designed
- No consumption tracking
- Needs Hive Hub
Lightwave Smart Power
Lightwave has been helping with home automation for years and, with its newly launched second-generation sockets that went live last year, the British company is now fully on board with Alexa, Google Assistant and HomeKit, as well as IFTTT.
A different approach to the other contenders in this list, Lightwave's smart plug isn't actually a plug at all - it's a connected that socket that replaces your existing mains points. Coming in either single or double gang options, the new Lightwave RF switches essentially make your dumb sockets smart.
You'll have to fork out £185 for the starter kit, which includes the Link Plus hub and a double gang socket – you can then hook up more doubles (£59.95) to the hub... singles are still only available in the first-gen range, but are coming soon we're told.
The switch comes in white metal or stainless steel or white metal and the Lightwave app syncs up with the Link Plus hub to send over the commands. But the big selling point, as always, is the HomeKit / Alexa / Google Assistant integrations that let you ditch the pretty-basic app and open up a world of scenes, automation and voice controls.
Installing a new power socket is obviously not as easy as plugging in a plug – but there are easy to follow instructions and even the most novice electrician wannabe should be fine. The switch, once paired up to the Hub, works without issues and the app does allow for away from home controls, as well as timers; obviously hit up Home or the Alexa app for more complex functions.
The price-tag is obviously a lot higher than the standalone plus on test but, if you're thinking of going all-in with Lightwave - the company also makes smart light switches, thermostats and radiator valves - then it is a neat solution, that will blend seamlessly into your home.
- Blends in seamlessly
- Syncs up with smart light switches
- Full set of digital assistants
- Very costly
- Requires wiring
- Energy use and cost info