Smart Home

The best smart home devices for 2020

So, you want to turn your “dumb” house into a smarter one. You’re not alone. Analysts expect the smart home devices industry to reach $151.38 billion by 2024.

But the question is, where do you begin? The thousands of smart gadgets on the market can overwhelm smart home beginners who are ready to enjoy better-equipped abodes. This straightforward list features six must-have devices to get you started, and we’ve called out some of our favorites within each category. Soon, you’ll be sitting back and relaxing while Alexa or Google Assistant controls your home and manages your daily schedule.

Further reading

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 display screen 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 3rd 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 Echo 3 retails for $100, and it comes in charcoal, heather gray, sandstone, or a bright twilight blue color. If you want a more affordable Echo Speaker, the Echo Dot with Clock retails for only $60 and does everything the Echo does, except its speakers aren’t quite as powerful. 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 at a retail price of $80, 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 Echo Show 8 is only $20 more.

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 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, the Nest Mini 2 is powered by Google Assistant, which is in many ways 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. 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 lockAugust 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 Nest x Yale lock as well. The keyless touchscreen deadbolt allows users to lock and unlock a door from just about anywhere, and create passcodes to manage access for family members, friends, and guests.

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 cameras for both indoor and outdoor use. 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. It is expensive (retails for $500), but it offers a crisp day and night-vision image and natural two-way audio conversation in a two-camera weatherproof system. Our favorite video doorbell is the Ring Video Doorbell 2. Even though it’s been out for a while, it runs on battery power and it has a slew of features.

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, and 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.

If you want to keep your regular non-smart bulbs, but you still want smart lighting, you can opt for smart light switches instead. You can still voice-control your lights and power your lights on and off remotely. The benefit? A smart light switch is a permanent way to get smart lighting, as you don’t have to change it out (like you have to change out a bulb). The downside is that you have to deal with a little bit of hassle upfront, as smart light switches take some effort to install. WeMo’s Smart Light Switch is one of our favorite options.

Some people also like smart plugs because they allow you to voice-control the power on virtually any electronic device. Smart plugs are especially useful during the holidays, as they let you turn your holiday lights on and off with your voice.

Check out our picks for the best smart light bulbs, best LED light bulbs, and best smart plugs for inside the home

6. A robot vacuum

A robot vacuum can be absolutely life-changing, as it can clean your floors for you. Some robot vacuums, like the Ecovacs Deebot Ozmo 950, also have a mopping feature, so your robot can vacuum and mop your floors. However, our absolute favorite robot vacuum of 2019 is the Roomba s9+. It is basically the Ferrari of robot vacuums — it empties itself, locks in allergens, and it cleans the floors better than most upright vacuums.

Check out our picks for the best robot vacuums

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