These smart home products are more than bells and whistles—they're useful.
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Smart home products can either make your life way easier or unnecessarily complicated. A smart product that is difficult to use isn't smart at all, so our smart home editors have spent years not only testing smart devices, but living with them. We've run into every hiccup, watched countless troubleshooting videos, and performed more factory resets than we'd care to count.
After weeding out the less-than-stellar, we've named some truly helpful, truly smart, products for your home. They're intuitive, reliable, and enjoyable to use for everyone from the tech-junkie to the grandpa who refuses to move on from his flip phone.
While Nest and Honeywell may be better known smart thermostat brands, we recommend the Emerson Sensi Touch thermostat to anyone with a C-wire. It has the least stressful installation process, a helpful app, and functionality across multiple “smart” assistants.
The installation directions in the Sensi app are fantastic and foolproof; it's compatible with HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Alexa; and WiFi connectivity allows users to control the thermostat from anywhere.
There's a lot to love about our top pick, the Schlage Encode. For starters, thanks to the app’s interactive step-by-step guide, installation and troubleshooting are a breeze. The lock and accompanying app are simple and intuitive to use, and jam-packed with useful features. They also have the fastest lock and unlock times.
Not only is the Encode able to store and remember up to 100 permanent, temporary, or recurring passcodes, it’s compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, Ring, Amazon Key, and, of course, Schlage Home. Unlike most other smart locks, the Schlage Encode has WiFi built into the lock itself. That means that, even without a hub, Encode can connect to the internet, voice assistants, and your phone when you’re away from home.
Across the board, the Philips Hue smart bulbs light topped all of our tests, thanks to an easy setup, a robust suite of features, and an intuitive app. Additional support with smart assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri adds tremendous benefit to an already impressive portfolio. Once you throw in the additional rainbow of possible light colors, these are without a doubt the best smart bulbs you can buy.
The only downside is that unlike some other smart bulbs, the Hue bulbs do require a hub in order to work. Additional hardware isn’t usually a strong point, but it’s a small price to pay for the sheer performance and reliability the Hue bulbs offer—especially if you opt for the Starter Kit that comes packaged with the hub.
If you want the very best smart switch, then you need to get Leviton's Decora Smart WiFi Switch. Its setup is a breeze and it is easy to get it connected to both Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant. The companion My Leviton app wasn't the most intuitive of the bunch, but it works reliably across 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 minimal. Lastly, it also supports three-way switches, meaning you can have multiple smart switches control the same light, which isn't something that its competitors can do.
There’s no single killer feature that makes the Apple Watch, our pick for best smartwatch. It’s the fact that it does almost everything better than every other smartwatch we’ve come across. It can be used as a simple way to keep up with your notifications, as an all-out productivity tool, or as a fitness companion tracking your workouts and heart rate with its various monitors and connectivity.
Setting up the Apple Watch to work with your iPhone is almost effortless. Using this watch, with its responsive OLED touchscreen display and rotating Digital Crown (Apple’s marketing mumbo jumbo for the knob on the side of the watch) is just as easy. You can use your finger to navigate apps and menus, scroll through text with the Digital Crown or ask Siri to do some hands-free heavy lifting for you.
If you're on the hunt for the best smartwatch, we don't think the competition comes close. There are some excellent Android watches, but nothing matches the features, design, build quality, and value of the Apple Watch. The only thing to be aware of? You should make sure to get the Series 5 (or the discontinued Series 4, if you can find it), which is a far better product than the first few Apple Watch models.
Even though it’s been around for a few years, the second-generation Amazon Echo is still a great option for anyone looking to bring an Alexa-enabled smart speaker into their homes. It has great sound quality thanks to Dolby audio, a 2.5-inch woofer, and a 0.6-inch tweeter. And it has an auxiliary input and Bluetooth if you want to connect it to a larger speaker. The Echo also uses far-field voice recognition so Alexa can hear you even if you're in the next room.
The second-generation Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller offers a ton of easy to use options and isn't intimidating to install. The model we tested offers control over eight zones, though there's an additional model that supports up to twice that. Smart home junkies will appreciate the integration with Nest, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, and Apple HomeKit. There's even a host of IFTTT recipes available to customize your sprinkler even further.
The Rachio app has a busy interface, but it's easy to navigate. By uploading photos and entering details about things like soils and sunlight, you can then set a manual watering schedule, or have the Rachio app figure one out based on the details you entered.
The iRobot Roomba i7+ is the first robot vacuum that can empty itself. A vacuum in the charging base suctions everything out of the bin into a sealable bag. That means you don't have to see, touch, or smell what your robot vacuum picks up. Also for your convenience, the i7+ has a whole host of smart features. Plus, it’s compatible with Alexa and Google Home. The i7+ can even make virtual maps that can track cleaning cycles and even keep it out of individual rooms.
Fancy tech aside, the i7+ picks up quite a bit. On average, it picked up 10 grams of debris, so in a week, it can keep up with a mild manual cleaning. The i7+ is expensive, but every penny is accounted for in the large number of features and its excellent performance.
The Eufy Robovac 11S is the heir to the much-loved Robovac 11. This robot vacuum does its predecessor proud, offering excellent suction and improved navigation. The slimmer design allows the S to get its brushes into more places.
When we tested, the 11S picked up around 11.6 grams of dirt per run, more than what most iRobot models manage. We also noted that during operation, the 11S was quiet, rarely making enough noise to interrupt a conversation. The combination of good dirt pickup and quiet operation make the 11S one of our favorite robot vacuums.
The Sonos Beam isn't cheap, but it's made with Sonos' signature attention to detail and sweeping penchant for minimalism. It takes an altogether different approach than many of the other soundbars we tested like no included external subwoofer, and no Bluetooth functionality—casting music wirelessly to the Beam requires interfacing with it through the Sonos app and using WiFi.
The Beam is our favorite soundbar because its audio quality is really spectacular. Whether you're watching a movie or listening to music, the Beam just sounds great, delivering good frequency presence from bass to treble. It's easy to adjust for various musical genres, and despite that there's no external subwoofer, there's plenty of bass presence for such a compact bar. It's also one of the only bars we tested to integrate Amazon Alexa in a sensible way. It doesn't have the most features nor the highest driver/speaker count from amongst all the soundbars we tested, but it just does everything with an undeniable polish and delivery.
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