Hal 9000 taught us that absolutely nothing can go wrong when machines are allowed to run our lives. But J.A.R.V.I.S. was pretty cool. Maybe that’s why more people are scrambling to get doorbells for keeping tabs on their neighborhood, home assistants that do anything they say, and entrusting their home security to an interactive device. If you’re one of those looking to plug into the internet of things and make your life easier, here’s some of the best smart home tech to help you raise the IQ of your domicile.
A Note on Compatibility
Buying the best smart devices might be great, unless they can’t all play together. Getting a thermostat that doesn’t listen to your speaker, and won’t even recognize your display is going to add difficulty, rather than increase ease. So before you buy, be sure each piece works within your system.
Mesh Wi-Fi Routers
Eero Pro 6
The first place to start building your smart home is with outstanding Wi-Fi. If your devices can’t connect to the router, then they’re not going to be able to turn on your air purifier or activate the electric fence you installed to keep those kids off your lawn.
The Eero Pro 6 uses the quickest wireless protocol available today, Wi-Fi 6. It’s capable of screaming fast speeds of 500 Mbps, or even more. This is literally faster than thought, meaning it’s not just smart, it’s smarter than you. Unfortunately, it only reaches about 2,000 square feet.
Another Wi-Fi 6 option that’s especially good for gamers who also want to connect all their whatsits and doo-dads. Asus has strong security, a bombproof history, excellent customer care, and lifetime software updates. It also covers about 2,500 square feet. If it were a person, it would be way out of anyone’s league.
Google Nest Wifi with Point
For those making Google smart homes, the Nest Wifi is an excellent option. It has massive coverage of more than 2,200 square feet, with range extenders called “points” that each add another 1,600 square feet. Better, the points double as speakers for issuing commands or playing music. However, it doesn’t use Wi-Fi 6, so it’s a tad slower than the other options.
Spend the extra money and get the real Echo, not the Dot. The Echo is what you’d choose if someone put a gun to your head and demanded to know the best smart speaker out there. It is the most receptive to voice, so you don’t need to shriek at it like a minor lord from the Dickensian English countryside. It also has more bumpin’ bass than its counterparts.
Google Nest Mini
In a Google home, you’re best off with a Nest Mini. It’s tiny, but fierce, and has a learning chip that teaches it the commands you give it the most so it can learn your habits. These are also a lot smaller and cheaper than the Amazon options, but lack the playback clarity. Though, they do love Android devices.
Apple HomePod Mini
If you are the type who stands in line for every iPhone release, go ahead and get the HomePod Mini. It’s similar to the Echo, though doesn’t have the musical chops, but does adore Apple devices in all their overpriced, proprietary glory.
There’s very little to say about smart home displays. These are the screens where you play God, dimming your children’s lights to make them think the house is haunted, or turning up the heat so your Tinder date doffs his/her sweater. Both display choices have big screens, intuitive controls, and solid speakers. Choosing comes down to whether you’re an Amazon Adherent or a Google Devotee. Good luck out there, Apple fans.
Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Gen)
Google Nest Hub Max
Smoke and CO Detector
Google Nest Protect
To paraphrase Vizzini, “Never mess around with smart sensors when death is on the line.” The Nest Protect is the best smart smoke and carbon monoxide choice, hard stop. It tells you what room you need to check, gives a warning before it hits the siren, and is the only option that tests itself. Get this, or get a dumb one. Otherwise, you could be literally playing with fire.
Google Nest Learning Thermostat
The name alone should tell you a little about what’s good in the Nest Learning Thermostat. Like an obsessive boyfriend, it learns your habits and then begins to schedule temperature changes so you don’t need to. Unlike the boyfriend, the end result is heat and cooling where you want it, rather than hackneyed love poems written in blood. The Nest feels good, is easy to use, and works with just about every system, not just Google.
Ecobee SmartThermostat with Voice Control
The Ecobee thermostat is excellent for anyone who prefers Alexa as their home companion. This works like an Echo speaker, and has a sleek modern look that is a little less cute and a little more Wall Street Shark when compared with the Nest. It isn’t as smart as the Nest, but is comparable in every other way, including temperature sensors that can be placed in hot or cold spots to keep your house’s heat even.
Though the price tag of the Command will make your wallet beg you not to take its babies, there’s not a more comprehensive smart security system available. ADT, known from blue stickers on houses everywhere, provides customer service so personal you’ll be shocked they don’t invite you to holiday dinners. There’s also loads of devices that work with Command. Customers can choose from a huge list of products that are official ADT gear, or most Z-Wave options from third-parties. The apps that go along with ADT are intuitive, friendly, and work on most anything. You’ll pay for a subscription and monitoring service as well as the initial cost, but what you get is one small step shy of ED-209 telling intruders they have 20 seconds to comply before opening fire.
Where ADT is a comprehensive juggernaut, SimpliSafe goes for an à la carte solution. There are multiple pre-made packages, or you can build your own. In addition, buyers can opt to set this up and use it themselves, or they have the choice of signing a contract for off-site monitoring. There’s no real sticker shock to hit you with SimpliSafe, and you can add video cameras, doorbell cams, locks, and other saucy accoutrement as you so choose. It’s affordable DIY security that nonetheless guards all your family jewels, and your kids if you like them enough. It works with most speakers, but not Apple’s HomeKit. Feign surprise.
Outdoor Security Cameras
Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera
Arlo’s spotlight cam provides 2K pictures so clear you’ll swear they were directed by Michael Bay, sans moronic plot. The Pro 4 is the best wireless camera around, even if you’re required to pay extra for an Arlo Secure subscription just to make it work. There’s loads of specialized alerts to let you know whether the camera is seeing vehicles, people, animals, or packages. It also works with every type of assistant. Yes, even Apple.
Ring Stick Up Cam Plug-In
Ring’s camera offering is what you use when you also want an intercom system, and don’t mind a power cord. You’ll get two-way audio so that you can deny entry to the riffraff, or just feel like the creepy ball at Jabba’s palace. The video is only 1080p, but this can identify whether it’s seeing a person or, well, not a person. Not the most refined, but it does have greater privacy and security than any other camera on the market today. But, Ring is not a Google fan.
SmartDry Wireless Laundry Sensor
Odds are good you’re pretty cocky when it comes to drying laundry. You just slap it in the machine, push the button, and it’s fine. Well, you’re wrong and making your mother cry. Try out the inexpensive SmartDry on any dryer and it will literally change how you do laundry. It senses dryness better than most machines, so you aren’t cooking your clothes, wasting money and energy. It shoots you a quick alert when they’re done so you can hop to and fold like a good little stereotypical ‘50s house husband and avoid those embarrassing wrinkles that cost you your promotion.
Philips has gone all-in on the smart light market, and it shows. The best ones are the Wiz Smart Wi-Fi LED Color Bulbs or the Hue White LED, but really you can’t go wrong with a smart light from Philips. They offer loads of color options, and every different kind of make and model of light. You can get strips, floodlights, outdoor options, fixtures, and odds are good while I was writing that last sentence they added a smart strobe light that will be perfect for your next rave.
August Wi-Fi Smart Lock
The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is a strong choice for most people. It’s fairly inexpensive, but has good Wi-Fi connectivity for easy opening from near or far. With automatic detection you can get through the door carrying an armload of groceries or your comrade knocked unconscious battling a zombie horde. It installs in most deadbolt holes without needing an angle grinder, and provides temporary key options should you want to let your housesitter in, but not out.
Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro (with Bridge)
If you’re deadly serious to the point of paranoia about your door lock, then this is the way to go. You can get in via the usual Wi-Fi methods, or can employ the fingerprint scanner. If that doesn’t tickle your security-obsessed fancy, there’s also a keypad with nice rubber keys for entry. Pricey, and probably overkill, but when you have Nashville’s penultimate Hummel figurine collection, you can never be too safe.
Arlo Essential Video Doorbell
Once upon a time, doorbells just made a bell sound. Now, options like this Arlo provide intercom audio, a siren for scaring away missionaries trying to save your soul, motion detection, and video storage for a nominal fee. It also has one of the broadest camera ranges, so it can see packages on your doorstep. Comes in wired and unwired options.
The Hello is good for homes that don’t have doorbell wiring, but it also has a lot of smart features out of the box. These include vehicle, animal, person, and package alerts, which normally require a subscription fee. True, these features aren’t as impressive as the ones you pay for, but they’re still nice for a starter doorbell. Yep, we’ve reached an age of “starter doorbells.”
Kasa Smart Plug by TP-Link
The whole Kasa line is smashing, so if you’re thinking about a smart power strip or a smart extender cable, grab up a Kasa and you’ll be a happy little plugger. These are inexpensive, reliable, work with every home assistant that isn’t made by Apple, and can be scheduled for operation based on sunrise and sunset times.
Smart plugs are still plugs, and are therefore about as smart as your average cat. However, the Wyze packs some nice features under the hood, such as device usage tracking, which normally would cost more. It works with all home assistants, except the obvious one that rhymes with Rapple, and has two-factor authentication, making it harder to turn off should a would-be intruder manage to hack your mainframe.
Furbo Dog Camera
Last, but most important to any parent of a fur baby is the Furbo Dog Camera. It’s a nanny cam that lets you look in on your pooch after you’ve abandoned it alone in the house all day. To try to make amends, you can load the Furbo with treats that pop out and feed your pup to assuage your guilt for your neglectful treatment.