Where to begin, where to begin...

Your smart-home options are booming, and big players like Google, Microsoft, and maybe even Apple seem to be just about ready to take things to another level altogether. Still, if you're looking to get started now, where can you turn? Click on through, and we'll show you.

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Insteon Starter Kit

We liked Insteon's fee-free network of connected devices when we reviewed it last year, but thought that it needed a fresh jolt of modern energy. Then, along came Microsoft, which recently announced it'd be teaming up with Insteon to bring home automation straight to the live tiles of Windows-powered phones, tablets, laptops, and PCs. Keep your eyes on this new power duo.

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CNET Editors' Rating
3.5 stars Very good

SmartThings

SmartThings has been a home automation darling for the past few years, with a smart suite of sensors, an open API, and a robust network of dedicated tinkerers figuring out new ways to put the system to use. As smart ecosystems go, its one of the most connected that we've tested, with compatibility (both official and unofficial) for a huge number of smart devices.

With big plans for 2014 already under way, and starter kits starting at around $200 with no monthly fees, this smart setup makes plenty of sense to us.

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CNET Editors' Rating
4 stars Excellent

Oso Technologies' PlantLink

Wish that thumb of yours was a bit greener? The PlantLink wants to help. Stick it in the soil near whatever it is that you're trying to grow, and it'll give your plant the power to tell you when it needs water, which might just be enough to bring your horticultural reign of terror to an end.

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CNET Editors' Rating
3.5 stars Very good

Connected by TCP LED Lighting Kit

Looking to automate your lights without breaking the bank? The Connected by TCP kit is just what you want. With simple automation controls through a free app, along with surprisingly rugged, high-quality bulbs, this affordable kit is one of our recent smart-home favorites.

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CNET Editors' Rating
4 stars Excellent

Quirky+GE Aros Smart Air Conditioner

Summer's here, and if you're looking for a smarter AC solution, we suggest you check out the Aros Smart Air Conditioner, from the team at Quirky+GE. With GE's brawn and Quirky's brain, the result is a connected appliance that left us impressed.

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CNET Editors' Rating
4 stars Excellent

Quirky+GE Pivot Power Genius

For an even more affordable entry point to Quirky's smart slate, check out the Pivot Power Genius. Aside from the clever way it bends, this power strip's smarts lie its top two sockets, which you'll be able to control or schedule remotely through the free Wink app.

We wanted a bit more from this power strip in 2013, and in 2014, Quirky came through with news of SmartThings integration and a dedicated IFTTT channel, to boot.

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CNET Editors' Rating
3.5 stars Very good

Belkin WeMo Insight Switch

WeMo products are easy to use and easy to afford, and the WeMo Insight Switch takes things a step further by working to save you money after you buy it. Like the original WeMo Switch, you'll be able to control anything you plug into it remotely, but with the Insight Switch, you get the added ability to track its energy consumption, and even shut it off after too much usage (great for keeping the kids' video game habits at bay.)

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CNET Editors' Rating
4 stars Excellent

Philips Hue LED

This popular, color-changing LED might seem like a complete novelty (and in many instances, it absolutely is). But once you play with those colors -- including a full palette of natural tones to go with the more audacious shades -- we think that these smart LEDs might win you over.

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CNET Editors' Rating
4 stars Excellent

Korner

For DIY security at its most simple, you might want to check out Korner, a crowdfunded product that's currently in the final week of a highly successful Indiegogo campaign. With a singular focus on unobtrusive entry sensors and no fees for early backers, this kind of minimum coverage might make a lot of sense.

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CNET Editors' Rating
0 stars Not yet rated

Scout

Scout is another DIY security option from the world of crowdfunding (independent crowdfunding, in this case). We love the high-class looks, the intelligent features, and the attractive price point.

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CNET Editors' Rating
0 stars Not yet rated

Piper

Piper is yet another DIY security gizmo that won us over this year. With a wide range of smart sensors (including a fish-eye camera that will keep an eye on things at home), this compact little gadget is big on connected brainpower.

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CNET Editors' Rating
4 stars Excellent

Dropcam Pro

You can't talk about DIY security without mentioning Dropcam, especially now that Google's apparently considering working the cool little camera into its own smart-home ambitions. Even without Google stepping in, we think this camera is a home run, and love the idea of motion sensing Dropcam Tab accessories due out later this summer.

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CNET Editors' Rating
4 stars Excellent

Yale Real Living Touchscreen Deadbolt

Of course, if you're concerned with smart security, then a smart lock might be the smartest starting point of all. We like the Tale Real Living Touchscreen Deadbolt. Available with either a Zigbee or a Z-Wave transmitter, this lock is compatible with a wide number of systems, which should help to future-proof your home just a bit.

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CNET Editors' Rating
3.5 stars Very good

Staples Connect

At $99, the Staples Connect is a relatively affordable smart hub, and a sensible place to start if you're looking to integrate a wide variety of smart devices under one roof. Don't own any devices yet? Check out the variety of starter kits you can pick up online or in stores.

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CNET Editors' Rating
3.5 stars Very good

Revolv

Revolv is another master smart-hub option. Like the Staples Connect, the Revolv offers a variety of smart-home starter kits, and might make sense for someone looking to make a big start in home automation.

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CNET Editors' Rating
3.5 stars Very good

Where to Buy

SmartThings Know and Control Your Home Kit

Part Number: STS-KYH-001
MSRP: $299.00 Low Price: $199.00 See all prices

Where to Buy

Oso Technologies PlantLink

Part Number: CNETOso Technologies PlantLink

MSRP: $79.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Where to Buy

Connected by TCP LED Lighting Control System

Part Number: LCS3LD11
MSRP: $142.99 Low Price: $143.61 See all prices

Where to Buy

Quirky Aros Smart Window Air Conditioner

Part Number: PAROS-WH01
Low Price: $249.00 See all prices

Where to Buy

Quirky Pivot Power Genius

Part Number: PPVPG-WH01
MSRP: $79.99 Low Price: $79.37 See all prices

Where to Buy

Scout Home Security System

Part Number: CNETScout Home Security System
Pricing is currently unavailable.

Where to Buy

Blacksumac Piper

Part Number: CNET-piper

MSRP: $239.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Where to Buy

Staples Connect Hub

Part Number: HA1000

MSRP: $99.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Where to Buy

Revolv Smart Home Solution

Part Number: M1

MSRP: $299.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

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