Thanks in large part to the popularity of smart speakers like the Amazon Echo, the collective eagerness for more connected home products has only grown. Smart home devices have gotten more affordable, easier to install, and better at delivering real value to our lives. In 2018, we tested dozens smart home products. There were our favorites.
Best Smart Lock: Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt
While no one's doubting the effectiveness of a standard door lock, there's a lot to be said for the latest smart locks. Our top pick, the Schlage Sense, is incredibly easy to install and troubleshoot thanks to an interactive step-by-step guide in the app. It's intuitive to use, had the fastest average lock and unlock times of those we tested (clocking in at about two and a half seconds), and comes jam-packed with useful features.
Best Smart Plug: iDevices Switch
If you’re looking for a smart plug, the iDevices Switch is the way to go. On top of Android and iOS compatibility, the Switch offers in-depth energy monitoring and seamless integration with the two most popular smart home ecosystems: Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit. Looks aren’t everything, but the iDevices Switch is easily the most attractive smart plug we tested. Along with its sleek, minimalist casing, it offers a unique “night light” LED strip that can be set to any color of the rainbow. Mercifully, the Switch only occupies a single outlet on your wall panel, and its own outlet is positioned on the right-hand side—a real advantage if you want to place it snugly behind a couch or bookcase.
Best Smart Indoor Security Camera: Logitech Circle 2
The first-generation Logitech Logi Circle was our favorite indoor security camera for its easy setup, wire-free convenience, free 24-hour cloud storage, and well-designed app with its handy Daily Brief feature that creates a montage of the day’s events. The new Circle 2 keeps all of that, plus packs much-improved night vision. The camera also supports Apple HomeKit, which is rare for a security camera, as well as Alexa, Google Assistant, and the clever Logitech Pop buttons. The app is intuitive and it’s easy to save clips and photos to your device’s camera roll for sharing. We love how push notifications come with preview images so you can see at a glance if you need to open the app and view the whole clip. The Circle 2 comes with free 24-hour storage, and you can upgrade to a Basic plan that includes 14-day storage starting at $3.99/month or Premium, which offers 31-day storage and a handful of other advanced features starting at $9.99/month.
Best Smart Outdoor Security Camera: Nest Cam Outdoor
As long as you don’t mind it being tethered to a power outlet, the Nest Cam Outdoor is the best smart outdoor security camera you can buy. That said, it's definitely a case of getting what you pay for, because the Nest Cam Outdoor is also one of the most expensive options we tested. While the upfront price is comparable to rivals, a subscription to the awesome Nest Aware cloud storage service will cost you anywhere from $50 to $100 per year. Nest Aware totally makes this camera. It adds tons of super useful features, including notifications that differentiate between people and pets; customizable activity zones that prevent areas with frequent, benign motion from triggering alerts; and the ability to create clips that you can share with family, friends, or law enforcement. Coolest of all, it adds a video history feature that records to the cloud 24/7. With a fast enough connection, you can scrub through the remote footage like it’s on a local DVR. It’s absolutely magical.
Best Smart In-Wall Switch: Leviton Decora Smart Switch (WiFi)
If you want the very best smart switch, then you need to get Leviton's Decora Smart WiFi Switch. In our testing, setup was a breeze and it was easy to get it connected to both Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant. The companion My Leviton app wasn't the most intuitive of the bunch, but it worked reliably across both Android and iOS. Aside from the app, the switch scored perfect marks for its responsiveness to app and voice commands (as most of the switches did) and its remote control capabilities. And since it works over WiFi, it doesn't require any extra hubs or hardware to get started, making your startup cost only $45. Lastly, it also supports three-way switches, meaning you can have multiple smart switches control the same light, which isn't something its competitors can do.
Best Smart Doorbell: Ring Video Doorbell 2
The Ring Doorbell 2 was the most reliable of all the smart doorbells we tested by a large margin. Its smartphone app connected to the doorbell’s live feed faster and more consistently than the others, had fantastically clear night vision, and notified us of motion or a doorbell press quickly, whether we were home or away. The ability to define the motion detection areas and sensitivity was also useful. If you have, say, a flag on your porch, you can tell the Ring to ignore the area where it tends to flap around and prevent endless notifications. And the fact that it can be wired in but also has a battery means there’s no reason to sweat a power outage.
Best Smart Thermostat: Emerson Sensi Touch WiFi Thermostat
While Nest and Honeywell may be better known smart thermostat brands, we would recommend the Emerson Sensi Touch thermostat to anyone with a C-wire. Of the smart thermostats we tested, the Sensi Touch had the least stressful installation process, a helpful app, and functionality across multiple “smart” assistants. The installation directions in the Sensi app were fantastic and foolproof: the Sensi app actually checks which wires are connected (which tells you if a wire isn’t touching its contact properly), and then checks the viability of that wiring configuration. Very reassuring for those of us who aren't electricians.