Rich BrownFormer Senior Editorial Director - Home and Wellness
Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
ExpertiseSmart home, Windows PCs, cooking (sometimes), woodworking tools (getting there...)
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
ExpertiseSmart home technology and wireless connectivityCredentials
10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Many of us are still working from home these days or work in a hybrid. And in that same time, homes have transformed into smarter, more helpful spaces, complete with smart lightbulbs, speakers, video doorbells, security cameras and more, evolving into a complete ecosystem of smart home devices.
Picking the right devices can be complicated. You might just need one gadget to address a particular issue, like a smart plug to put a lamp on a schedule. Or you may be thinking about how to build on what you already own, like an Alexa- or Google Assistant-powered smart speaker, or even Siri and Apple's HomeKit smart home service. Voice assistants can be a great starting point for building a do-it-yourself smart home. They offer a convenient way for family members or roommates to interact with the various devices without having to manage basic access within each app. Many, but not all, of the products on our list of the best smart home devices will work with multiple voice assistants.
Our list focuses narrowly on the best product in each smart home subcategory. If you want to know the best smart thermostat or the best smart lighting kit, regardless of which voice platforms support them, we have you covered. What this list is not is a road map for a single, coherent smart home installation (you won't get far trying to pair an Amazon smart speaker with a Google smart display). For that, please refer to our platform-based lists linked below:
In each subcategory section, we've also added a link to the best list for that particular product type. If you're looking for more options for lighting or locks, you'll find a list of our favorite products if you'd like to see a broader selection. We regularly update this list as we review new products. Without further ado, here are the best of the best smart home devices you can buy right now.
Amazon's fourth-gen Echo is still impressive well over a year after its initial launch -- and even if you pay its full $100 price (you can often find it on sale if you keep an eye out). Between its new sphere-like profile, powerful sound output and a few forward-looking features, the Echo is still king of the countertop.
Google's Nest Audio speaker, which also launched in 2020, is a solid competitor with the Echo, and Apple's recent HomePod Mini plays well in the Apple sandbox, but Amazon wins out in two key categories: Its speaker is far more powerful -- the bass is particularly impressive -- and it features a built-in Zigbee receiver and Amazon Sidewalk Hub that make connecting devices like lightbulbs and locks much more seamless and reliable.
Meanwhile, Alexa and Google Assistant are pretty much at parity right now. While Amazon boasts about more skills and support for more third-party devices for its voice assistant, the numbers for Google Assistant also land in the tens of thousands, meaning you really don't miss out on anything significant either way.
Google Assistant does a better job at mimicking natural conversation flow, but the difference isn't really that noticeable in your day-to-day interaction with each speaker. Most of the time you'll ask a smart speaker for the weather, to set a timer and maybe have it play a song or two. Both devices are good at all of that.
Google has another card to play, which you can read below.
Google's Nest Mini smart speaker isn't as powerful as the new Echo, obviously, but it's a great budget-friendly option for Google users.
The audio quality in the Nest Mini is respectable, given its price and profile. It also has a wall-mounting notch on the underside, if that's what you're into. An interesting presence detection method that uses the speaker and microphone to determine your proximity to the Nest Mini helps it trigger LED indicators that help you make better sense of the otherwise obscured physical volume controls.
That's all fine, but the thing that puts the Nest Mini over the top is the machine learning chip embedded inside the tiny speaker. With that chip, Google says, the Nest Mini can learn what commands you give to it most often, and it will then begin to process those commands locally, rather than on Google's servers.
Anything that helps to keep control of your smart home inside your home is worthwhile. Letting you continue to issue certain voice commands even if the internet goes out, and improved response times are great, too. While the Nest Mini doesn't have the audio output jack that allows you to connect Echo Dots to better-quality speakers, it's still one of our favorite devices -- particularly for people who already use Google services such as Gmail and Calendar with any regularity.
Amazon may have introduced the smart display with the Echo Show, but Google refined the concept with the Nest Hub (formerly the Home Hub) both in terms of its design, and in the way it leverages its voice assistant. Now there's a second-gen model, released in 2021, with a lower price and more features.
You get the same Google Assistant features in the Nest Hub that you get with the Google Home speaker line, along with a screen interface that gives you just the right amount of visual feedback. It will show you your spoken commands so you know Google heard you correctly, it can deftly walk you through a recipe from popular cooking websites, and it works seamlessly with Google-supported smart home cameras and video doorbells to display their camera feeds onscreen. Google's Soli is also onboard for Sleep Sensing and Quick Gestures like pausing media with an air tap in front of the display.
Google prudently opted out of including a video camera on the Hub itself, getting ahead of some privacy concerns, and likely prompting Amazon to include a manual video shutter on its new, smaller Echo Show 5 display. If you really want a Google-based smart display that allows for video chatting, a fewthird-partyoptions can make that happen, as well as the larger and more expensive Nest Hub Max. Even without it, the Nest Hub is the best, most affordable marriage of a voice assistant and a display interface on the market.
Amazon's midtier smart display is the best one in its line. For $130, the Echo Show 8 has great audio quality, a highly visible screen and a convincing nod to privacy with a physical shutter you can slide over its camera. The second-gen device launched in 2021 and it honed many of the features that earned the first edition an Editor's Choice award. We still like the interface better on the Google Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max, but for those of you who are committed to an Alexa-only ecosystem, the Echo Show 8 is the best smart display for the price.
The Google Nest Wifi is an excellent mesh router system with impressive top speeds, strong performance at range, easy-to-use features and stable band steering. The range-extending Nest Wifi Points come in your choice of three colors and double as Google Assistant smart speakers.
Similar mesh systems with comparable coverage can be had for less than half as much. Unlike the range extenders, the Nest Wifi Router only comes in white, and it only includes a single spare Ethernet jack.
Wi-Fi is everything -- particularly once you start spreading things like smart speakers, smart lights, smart plugs and smart all else from room to room. After all, those connected doodads won't do you much good if they can't, you know, connect.
That's why a mesh router that's built to spread a strong, speedy signal throughout your house might make for a particularly smart upgrade -- especially if you're living in a big home. Of the ones we've tested, we think the Nest Wifi is the smartest pick. At $269, the two-piece starter kit was able to fill the 5,800-square-foot CNET Smart Home with decent signal strength, and it never once dropped our connection as we moved around conducting speed test after speed test. On top of that, the range extender doubles as a smart speaker, so as you spread a reliable connection from room to room, you'll be spreading Google Assistant's footprint in your home with it.
The Nest Wifi doesn't support the newest, fastest version of Wi-Fi, called Wi-Fi 6, but you really won't notice the difference Wi-Fi 6 makes unless you're already paying for super-fast internet speeds of 500 Mbps or more. Our upgrade pick, the Eero Pro 6, is the best choice if you want to serve up that kind of speed. What you will notice with the Nest Wifi is the ease of installation, the simple network controls that sit right alongside your smart home controls in the Google Home app, and advanced Wi-Fi features like device prioritization, WPA3 security and 4x4 MU-MIMO support, which lets the Nest Wifi boost speeds to devices that use multiple Wi-Fi antennas, like the MacBook Pro.
The Nest Wifi is obviously best for Google smart homes, so Alexa users will likely want to stick with the Eero or Netgear Orbi. But if you just want solid Wi-Fi that you and your growing number of internet-connected gadgets can rely upon, put the Nest Wifi right at the top of your list.
We often point to smart plugs as the entry point for anyone interested in trying out a connected home device. They're cheap, they're simple to install and they perform a function that's pretty easy to grasp, toggling power on and off remotely.
You can find a lot of smart plugs out there. TP-Link's Kasa Mini is our favorite. It includes a single outlet that connects to your network via Wi-Fi. The app is well-designed and lets you program the plug to turn on or off on a schedule or even based on your location. It works with Google Assistant and Alexa, and it doesn't cover up the adjacent outlet on a standard two-outlet wall fixture.
You can snag the Wyze Bulb directly from the company's website at $17 for two, or $34 for four, plus shipping. That's a pretty great price, and it belies the excellent quality of the device you get. You don't need an extra hub to use them or to connect them to voice control with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant (or IFTTT). Just screw them in, turn them on, pair them with the Wyze mobile app and bask in the glow of a dirt-cheap smart light.
The bulbs are also just great lights, with scalable white settings that offer a candlelike 2,700K output all the way up to whiter daylight tones that approach 6,000K. That these bulbs offer this flexibility at their price is impressive -- and they're super bright, too.
At $60, Amazon Smart Thermostat is the least expensive smart thermostat we've tested. You'll need a compatible Alexa-enabled smart speaker or display to use voice commands, but you don't have to enable an Alexa skill since this is an Amazon-branded product.
Even if you don't want to use voice control, the thermostat is impressive, saving an average of $50 on a yearly energy bill. Its design is simple and modern, and the touchscreen interface is efficient.
The downsides: The Amazon Smart Thermostat isn't compatible with Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit and there's no remote temperature sensor accessory. You also either need a C-wire or you have to buy and install the C-wire adapter.
Still, that incredible price tag sets it apart from the rest of the options on the market.
Wyze's $40 indoor camera -- which can pan and tilt to let you see a whole room -- is one of the best camera values on the market. Not only does it give you top-notch control to see a large space, flexible settings enable the camera to scan spaces periodically, follow motion and more. Beyond that, you can use all the standard features like two-way talk and cloud storage.
Wyze also stands apart with its free cloud storage options -- which allow you to store clips for up to 14 days. You can also store footage locally on an SD card, or pay $3 a month to gain better smarts and better cloud storage. If you're looking for a nanny cam, a pet cam or just a standard indoor security camera, the Wyze Cam Pan v2 is one of the best you'll find.
Arlo's $160 Pro 4 outdoor security camera is a solid device with impressive performance, boasting 2K resolution and a 160-degree field of view that outshine most of the competition. On top of its great specs, the camera includes extra goodies like two-way talk, a siren and a spotlight, all of which offer excellent use as deterrents to would-be burglars. Add a $3-a-month subscription and you'll get smart notifications that distinguish among people, animals and vehicles, plus motion zones and more.
While the Pro 4 is pricier than some of the most affordable outdoor cameras from brands like Blink or Wyze, it's a good investment for anyone serious about upping their security game.
Ring's latest home security system beats the competition for two simple reasons: It's surprisingly cheap, with the eight-piece kit starting at $300 and competitive device-by-device pricing, and it offers a ton of value for that price. Not only do you get a built-in Wi-Fi 6 Eero gateway, but you get a Z-Wave radio for a variety of smart devices, cellular backup, local processing and storage, backup internet (in case of power or internet outages) and much more than in your standard DIY security array.
Monthly subscriptions range from $4 to $20 a month, which is on the lower end of the DIY home security spectrum, and it includes more smarts than most such subscriptions. If you're looking to give yourself a solid base to start building out a smart and secure home, you can't do much better than the Ring Alarm Pro.
When you consider that the Nest Hello clocks in at $229, Arlo's $150 Video Doorbell offers a lot for the price. While many of Arlo's cameras are expensive, if not overpriced, the Arlo Video Doorbell is much more reasonable.
The Arlo Video Doorbell is priced well, it performs well and the Arlo Smart cloud service is competitively priced, starting at just $3 per month. With Arlo Smart, you get a ton of features, from advanced motion alerts to 30 days of cloud storage and much more.
You'll get a 180-degree viewing angle and a 1:1 aspect ratio to show packages left at your door. A built-in siren helps it function in part as a security camera, too.
There isn't a free cloud storage option, and this is one of the larger doorbells at 5 inches tall. Still, we strongly recommend the Arlo Video Doorbell enough to give it an Editors' Choice Award and say that it's our current favorite video doorbell.
Smart locks make people nervous because they insert another point of failure between you and your physical security. With a smart lock, a malicious hacker, or even a plain old technical failure or connectivity issue could all of a sudden compromise the entry point of your home.
There might be some truth to that. A keyless design with no physical failsafe could indeed lock you out, but the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock isn't one of those locks.
The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is a breeze to install. It fits over the internal thumb latch of most existing deadbolt designs, and you can set it up in 10 minutes. Because it doesn't replace the lock mechanism itself, you can still use your original, physical key. It's good looking too, and 45% smaller than older August models.
The lock itself connects to your phone via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and from the August app, you can assign and revoke timed virtual keys to anyone you like, from your in-laws to your dog sitter, at no extra cost. Many other locks will charge extra for virtual keys.
Because this model has Wi-Fi built in, you won't need to purchase the August Connect accessory to enable remote access. Simply set up your lock with Wi-Fi in the app, and you can not only control the lock from anywhere, but you can also connect it to Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri (be sure to make each of them require a PIN to accompany the unlock command) for added convenience.
Another accessory included with the Wi-Fi Smart Lock model is the tiny open-close sensor. This lets the lock tell you if it's locked or unlocked and lets you know if the door itself is open or closed. It's the most complete product available on the market for now.
Our favorite all-around security camera-maker released a floodlight camera a few years ago that remains a best-in-class product. It has all of the things we like about the Arlo camera line in general: long-lasting battery, a sharp HD video feed, flexible mounting hardware, easy installation and compatibility with all three major voice platforms.
Along with all of that, Arlo has added the most powerful array of LED lighting in its category, leaving competing products from Ring and others in the darkness. The 2,000-lumen light (3,000 if you add the optional Outdoor Charging Cable) will light up your entire backyard if you want that kind of power. It's also dimmable, which is useful if you still want your neighbors to like you.
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How we test smart home devices
Since this is a diverse group of products, there isn't one set procedure we follow. (A test for a smart home display will tell you nothing about a mesh router.) However, everything on this list (and the category-specific best lists) went through hands-on testing.
There are more commonalities, too. Where possible and relevant, we gather data in a standardized and empirical way. For testing Wi-Fi routers, that includes repeating the same speed test at a series of standard distances in the same house for each router that's tested.
For other categories, the testing is more experiential. For devices like smart thermostats, smart speakers, smart plugs and smart home displays, we install and use them in the ways you would. When testing the second-gen Google Nest Hub, our reviewer conducted a two week test of its sleep tracking function in addition to its more obvious around-the-house capabilities.
Relevant company policies also factor into our reviews of these devices, especially when it comes to privacy concerns. Bringing a device into your home that can watch or listen to you or your neighbors comes with corresponding privacy concerns. CNET works to understand the company's privacy policies, make them easy to understand and takes privacy questions directly to the companies like Ring and Google when the answers aren't obvious.
How to choose the best smart home device
Choosing the best smart home devices is a bit different than choosing headphones" target="_blank or a streaming service" target="_blank, since smart devices are often meant to be integrated into a smart home ecosystem. That means one of your first considerations should be compatibility. Consider devices that will work with the same voice assistant. CNET recommends both Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa as two of the best centerpieces for a smart home.
The other thing to consider is your goals and your needs. Are you interested in connecting and automating as much of your house as possible? Then go all in on a connected home. But, if your problem is one person leaving their bedroom light on when they leave the house, a smart light bulb might do the trick.
Best smart home device FAQs
Are smart home devices worth it?
Not to get all philosophical, but that depends on how you define worth. Smart home devices can add a layer of convenience to your life you'd be hard pressed to achieve without them. Left a light on? Ask Google to turn it off. Need to add something to your grocery list? Tell Alexa.
But smart home devices can save you money, too. The best example of this is a smart thermostat, which can save you 10% on your energy bills if you program them right. Other devices like smart bulbs and smart plugs that you can schedule or shut off remotely can keep you from wasting energy when you're away. Motion sensors connected to your lights can do the same trick.
What's the best way to connect smart devices at home?
Connecting smart devices at home is, generally, relatively simple. Smart plugs, pet cams or smart light bulbs set up and connect easily. Even most devices with more involved installations, like smart thermostats, can be installed without too much fuss. (Though calling a professional is always a good idea if you're unsure of yourself.)
If you're looking for the best smart home hub and assistant, CNET has recognized Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa as two of the leading options. Both support thousands of devices, so you're bound to find an option to fit your needs.
Greater connectivity among smart home devices is (likely) going to arrive soon. Matter, a project that aims to provide greater connectivity across smart home brands, is creeping closer to its debut. The frequently delayed effort has sign-on from some of the biggest smart home companies, though it's always best to confirm a device you're considering is compatible and not count on future developments.
Which companies make the best smart home devices?
While Google, Amazon and Apple get the most attention for their smart home hubs and speakers, plenty of other companies are making top of the line products that can be incorporated into a smart home ecosystem.