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The best smart home devices for 2021

There are thousands of smart home devices on the market these days. In fact, from our phones to our fridges to our teeth, it’s tough to find something at your local Best Buy that isn’t web-connected. Smart home devices aren’t just trendy tech toys either. Brands like Ring and Arlo are designed to keep you and your family safe, offering peace-of-mind surveillance straight from your mobile device.

For those looking to jump on the smart home wagon, we’ve rounded up some recommendations to help you get started. Learn more about these top smart devices, and what they can do for you and your home.

1. A voice assistant

Nest Hub Max front
John Velasco/Digital Trends

The first thing you’ll want to get is a virtual assistant to help you control your smart devices with just your voice. You can opt for a smart speaker, which only has audio, or you can go with a smart display, which has a touchscreen that lets you visually interact with your assistant as well.

The Amazon Echo is Amazon’s smart speaker that features Alexa, Amazon’s virtual assistant. The Echo 4th Generation has excellent sound quality, so you can clearly hear your playlist from music streaming services like Amazon Music, Apple Music, or iHeart Radio. The redesigned Echo 4 retails for $100, and it comes in charcoal, twilight blue, glacier white, or red (limited time offer). Amazon’s latest smart speaker also functions as a Zigbee hub, allowing you to control other smart home gear, such as lights, locks, and cameras.

If you want a more affordable Echo Speaker, the Echo Dot with Clock retails for only $60 and does almost everything the Echo does, except its speakers aren’t quite as powerful (and it doesn’t have a Zigbee hub). The Dot with Clock has an LED display on the front face that can show you the time, weather, or a timer. You can also go with an Echo Flex, which is a mini Echo that plugs into your wall, and only costs around $25. One of the reasons these gadgets should be on your smart home shopping list is that they work with many of the other products you buy. Alexa responds to short commands that make life easier and more fun. You can set alarms, ask questions, order pizza, shop, play games, and more — just by using your voice. Plus, compatible gadgets let you depend on Alexa to tweak aspects of your smart home by doing things like turning down the thermostat or turning on a light.

If you’d prefer a smart display that has a screen and lets you make video calls, see song lyrics, and watch your security camera and video doorbell feeds, the Echo Show 5 is a great option because it’s even more affordable than a regular Echo speaker. The Show 5 is a compact display, though, and if you’re looking for a larger screen, the upcoming Echo Show 10 (available February 25) may be a better option. Featuring a rotating pedestal that adapts to your movements, Amazon’s latest Show is designed to follow and respond to your motion, keeping you in the frame during video calls.

On the other hand, maybe you’d rather go with a smart speaker not associated with Amazon, but love the easy-to-move design of the Echo Dot. In that case, look no further than the streamlined Nest Mini. The Nest Mini (2nd Gen) has an eco-friendly design, and it comes in chalk, charcoal, a bright coral color, or a bright blue color. Similar in size and shape to the Echo Dot (3rd Gen), the Nest Mini 2 is powered by Google Assistant, which, in many ways, is smarter than Alexa. The multilingual assistant can control your smart devices, create a shopping list, answer questions, and much more. Plus, it connects to oodles of smart home devices for voice control. However, Alexa is compatible with more smart devices.

Want a larger, louder speaker? The Nest Audio is Google’s newest smart speaker. Featuring premium sound, adaptive audio, and an attractive design, you can find Google’s premium smart speaker in chalk, charcoal, sage, sand, and sky. If you want a Google Assistant-powered smart display, we really like the Nest Hub Max. It has a 10-inch display, gesture control, built-in security features, and it even has a built-in Nest Cam.

Check out our picks for the best smart speakers

2. A smart lock

August Smart Lock Pro Review

When your home has a smart lock, there’s no need to worry about fumbling for your keys when it’s dark or having to leave a key under the mat for a pet sitter. Today’s options install in minutes and give you convenience combined with peace of mind.

We like the August Smart Lock 3rd Generation because it retrofits over your existing deadbolt, making it super-easy to install. You can usually find the 3rd-gen August Smart lock for around $100. Alternatively, we like the Schlage Encode as well. The deadbolt allows users to lock and unlock a door by keypad or voice controls through a compatible Amazon Alexa device.

Check out our picks for the best smart locks

3. A security camera and video doorbell

Netgear Arlo Pro 3
Terry Walsh / Digital Trends

Investing in a video doorbell lets you see who’s knocking at the door without getting up from the couch. A security camera can provide added peace of mind too, as most outdoor models allow you to watch the happenings around your house from anywhere, all through an app on your phone. Many provide two-way audio, night vision, and motion alerts as well.

Nest is one of the leading brands in the smart home market and offers both indoor and outdoor security cameras. The Nest Cam Indoor, for example, comes with a magnetic stand and has a speaker, so you can talk to a person or pet even if you’re not nearby.

The Arlo Pro 3 is our favorite camera system. Yes, it’s expensive (retails for $649), but the system delivers crisp day and night images, along with natural two-way audio in a two-camera weatherproof system. Our favorite video doorbell is the Ring Video Doorbell 3. The bell runs on battery power, detects motion, features two-way audio, and can be customized with the Ring app.

Check out our picks for the best video doorbells, best home security cameras, and best home security systems

4. A thermostat

Your heating and cooling system is probably a part of your home you don’t think about too often — until the temperature’s not quite right. A smart thermostat could make climate controls even more integrated into your life.

Our favorite smart thermostat is the Ecobee SmartThermostat. It has Alexa built-in, and it comes with a room sensor to help heat and cool your house more efficiently.

Check out our picks for the best smart thermostats

5. Light bulbs or switches

Philips Hue light bulbs

You may already use energy-efficient light bulbs in your home, so installing smart bulbs is the next logical step to take. Besides saving money, they let you customize the way your home looks and even turn lights on and off from another location, as long as you have internet access and the complementing app.

Philips Hue bulbs respond to voice commands and settings changes from your smartphone app. Some bulbs, like Sengled A19 smart bulbs don’t require a hub, which can make it easier (and cheaper) to set up smart lighting in your home.

You don’t have to opt for light bulbs with smart technology to get some “smart” features. Combine regular bulbs with smart light switches instead. With this switch, you can turn lights on and off using voice commands, and you can avoid the trouble of having to switch out smart bulbs. We will say that intelligent light switches can be frustrating because they require some extra legwork for installation. We recommend WeMo’s Smart Light Switch for the most painless installation.

If you install smart plugs around your house, you’ll be able to use your voice to control all of your connected devices. Users love this feature and find it can be extremely handy in different circumstances. This is convenient for holiday decorations when a tree might make it difficult for you to reach the light plug; using your voice is much easier than risking ornaments falling off as you crawl underneath your tree.

Read more about our picks for best smart light bulbs, best LED light bulbs, and best smart plugs for inside the home

6. A robot vacuum

Image of Roomba i7+

It might sound like an unnecessary luxury, but we can’t recommend adding a robot vacuum into your cleaning routine based on the time it will save you alone. Like the Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 950, some of these vacuums have mopping capabilities, too, so you don’t have to break out the sud bucket. Our all-time favorite robot vacuum on the market is the Roomba s9+. It is the superior robot vacuum thanks to its self-emptying feature and its ability to contain allergens. Plus, it will keep your floors spotless.

Check out our picks for the best robot vacuums

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