This year is very much the year of the smart home. No matter what your smart home device is, these sleek gadgets all have one thing in common: they will help make your humble abode seem all the more tech literate. Whether it’s integrating with Alexa, Google Home, or other smart devices, all of these gadgets offer that little bit of extra connectivity that makes them unique.
On this list we’ve included lighting, TVs, and even simple smart plugs to get you started. Truly, there are smart home devices on this list for all budgets. In fact, if you’re just starting out with smart home devices, it may be best to err on the side of caution and get a more affordable device to see if home automation really is for you. On the other hand, some of the other devices on our list are useful in and of themselves, so even if you don’t opt for the “smart” features, they’re still bound to please.
Here’s the top 10 best smart home gadgets for 2018.
1. LED Bias Lighting Kit
While it may not be the “smartest” item on our list in terms of connectivity, these simple bias lights use a simple trick to achieve lighting that is similar to the picture on the TV: a USB cord. After they’re connected, they display colors that cohere with what’s on screen and while they’re not Wi-Fi powered, it’s hard to deny that the effect sure seems “smart.” The manufacturer claims that they help reduce eye strain which in my experience is true, though it’s more accurate to say they make for an enhanced viewing experience. After years of binge-watching, who is going around saying, “My eyes are SOOO strained”? No one.
They’re easy to set up (takes about 10 minutes) and make for a great gift for the smart home beginner or someone who has it all besides the little stuff.
Price: $19.99 (5 percent off MSRP)
- Excellent lighting effects
- Helps reduce eye strain
- Creates great ambiance for watch movies or TV shows
- Easy set up
- Extremely tight fit around 60″ TVs
- A small percentage of users had issues with stickiness
- Not really all that “smart”
2. Wi-Fi Smart Power Strip
For those who want to dabble in smart home gear that has a lot of flexibility, this Wi-Fi power strip gives you four different ports to control. That’s about as cheap as it gets! Of course, it’s not as reliable nor functional as the more expensive WeMo stuff (which lets you control your plugs on any network, not just locally). Still, for many, this is a great way to get a ton of flexibility. That said, if you are looking to hook up to Apple Home Kit, Alexa, and other devices, this probably isn’t the best way to go. This power strip offers simple functionality, a decent app (some found it unreliable), and at a very good price. It’s a great entry point, but not for users with more robust smart systems.
- Offers surge protection
- Praised as easy to set up
- Each socket can be controlled individually using the app
- Jinvoo app can also create timers to set up scheduling
- A small percentage of users had connection issues
- Some found setup to be difficult
3. WeMo Smart Plug
While it may only offer a single plug, this WeMo smart plug has some features you may not think you need, but actually add a lot of functionality. For instance, it can be activated remotely (via any network) meaning that if you say, set a space heater up to connect to this, all you’d have to do is activate it remotely to arrive to a nice warm home. This also makes the device more reliable in general. Beyond this, Wemo’s app offers a ton of functionality. It connects to Alexa, Nest, and has many integrations available. It also has a “random” mode, for simulating one being home when they are away.
One limitation of this device, however, is that it cannot dim lights; it’s either on or off! That said, most will find it very functional and with some cleverness or a power strip, it can certainly power more than one thing. Full disclosure: WeMo sent me a smart plug for review purposes and it is a very handy device (I connect mine to a power strip to power a variety of lights).
- Pricey compared to power strip
- Can connect to to plug over LTE (remote powering on and off)
- Slim form factor
- Connects to Alexa & Nest
- Random mode is great for those who want their lights randomized to simulate being home when away
- App receives frequent updates
- Cannot dim lights
- Some users had issues with the device after a power reset
4. H20 Vibe Showerhead Jet
This fun smart home device is another simple one that isn’t truly “smart,” but many love it for its practicality. The H20 Vibe showerhead is simply a Bluetooth speaker tucked into a shower head. This allows users to play music directly above them as they shower. It’s a great gift for kids and anyone who enjoys music in the shower. Of course, it’s not exactly an audiophile’s solution as the speaker is only a bit better than a phone (of course, the placement is far superior). This shower head also is large meaning it offers great coverage in the water department as well.
Price: $34.95 (5 percent off MSRP)
- Huge showerhead
- Great for people who don’t want to take their phone into the shower
- Built-in microphone for making calls
- Battery life of over eight hours
- Speaker easy to remove from shower head
- A small percentage of users had issues with durability
- A few users had Bluetooth connection issues
5. LiFX Wi-Fi Smart Bulb
Now this is one cool light. The LiFX Wi-Fi smart bulb is set to give Phillips Hue a run for its money. For one, LiFX bulbs are a bit brighter, at around 1100 lumens. Plus, the colors are much more vivid than what Hue’s cooking. That said, despite these advantages, this light isn’t the brightest bulb in the lamp. While it offers much more value than any of its competitors, most people will need at least two to get enough light for an average size room. Full disclosure: LiFX sent me three units for review purposes and while I love the look, I have to say, one simply would not be enough for most people. That said, if you are willing to spring for two, the LiFX app is awesome and effortlessly treats them as one light meaning you can color your room as you see fit, whether that’s with different or identical colors.
The app also has a ton of fun features including syncing to music (it does an acceptable job), cycling through colors, and a “flicker” mode that kind of looks like sitting next to a fire. These lights may be pricey, but they bring a ton of value and fun to the table. They’re fancier Phillips Hue and that’s saying something.
Price: $54.84 (10 percent off MSRP)
- Stunning array of colors
- Solidly bright at 1100 lumens
- Cool effects, themes, and modes
- Works with standard lightbulb socket
- Reasonably robust
- Bulbs can be grouped for easy coordination
- Some had issues connecting to Apple Homekit
- A small percentage of users had issues keeping bulbs connected
6. Schlage Z-Wave Connect (Touchscreen Deadbolt)
For those running an AirBnb or who are just plain sick of fiddling with keys, the Schlage Z-Wave offers a ton of value. Full disclosure: Schlage sent this unit for review purposes. For those who have many people coming and going, its advantages are undeniable. The touch screen is solid and built to last. Installation is reasonably straightforward, and it is compatible with Alexa. Among the easier ways to use it are to simply dole out key codes to all relevant parties, which is about as easy it gets (certainly easier than the more expensive August smart lock system, which forces you to download an app and register).
The one drawback of this device is that it can drain battery pretty quickly. Be sure to have it professionally installed if you’re not on the handy side; it’s key that the lock encounter as little resistance as possible or it will drain the battery fast.
- Stores up to 30 different key codes
- Built-in alarm with three alert settings
- High quality and durable touch screen
- Works with Amazon Alexa
- ANSI Grade 1 durabilty and security
- Needs an Alexa hub to work with Amazon Alexa
- Battery can drain rapidy if lock has to try repeated times to close
- May require professional installation or battery will drain very rapidly
7. Arlo Q by Netgear – 1080P Security Camera
The Arlo Q is a netcam that offers a ton of value and features. Among the most important are seven days of free cloud back-up. This is huge and not seen in the competition. This means that one can simply let this camera run and check out all of their footage up to a full week. This means that your security really does last a reasonable amount of time (especially given vacations and how one cauld easily have something stolen off the porch and not notice for a few days.).
It’s easy to set up, and has sound and motion activation. This is a great solution for those looking to do security mobilely and with peace of mind.
Price: $177.24 (20 percent off MSRP)
- Indoor & outdoor camera is fully weatherproof
- Seven days of free cloud back-up
- Fast setup time of around 20 minutes
- Offers Apple TV app
- Sound and motion activiation
- A small percentage of users had issues with syncing (delay problems)
- Can’t use SD card for continuous recording
- Fair amount of clicks to get to live view
8. iRobot Roomba 690
This Roomba charges itself, navigates well, and offers a cleaning job comparable to a decent vacuum operated by a competent person. Of course, it’s not totally automated. One will need to monitor their Roomba to ensure that it doesn’t suck up wires, liquids, or any other unwanted things. Unfortunately, it’s smart enough to vacuum what it needs to vacuum, but not smart enough to know its limits. He’s a quiet little guy, however, and a great addition to a house with a lot of floor space. If you expect a simple cleaning and have the square footage to make it worth it, this little cleaning buddy offers a ton of value. Just don’t expect too much: Roomba can’t climb stairs and much like having a baby, one will have to make their home “Roomba-safe.”
Price: $324.99 (20 percent off MSRP)
- Robust set of sensors for navigating around one’s home
- Can clean debris on carpets or hard floors
- Can recognizes high traffic areas and clean them extra thoroughly
- Automatically recharges itself
- Excellent for people with pets
- Quiet for a vacuum
- Filter can require somewhat frequent cleaning
- Can suck up cords causing issues
- Requires set up and walkthrough (to see how it handles terrain, variables within your home)
- If encounters liquid (or semi-solid substance), it can spread it all over one’s house
9. Sonos PLAY:5 Wireless Smart Speaker
Sonos most recent upgrade to their Play series sounds better than ever. Boasting excellent sound quality (with better bass response than ever), effortless Alexa connectiity, and touch sensors for volume and track control, it truly has it all. Plus, it comes with that classic, minimal Sonos look one can’t help but love. This is a great speaker for those who want the sound quality, ease-of-use and connectivity to home system and the outside world (the Sonos app is about as robust as they come, connecting to virtually any and all music services). Full disclosure: Sonos did send me a unit for review purposes.
- Great sounding wireless system
- Connects to any Alexa-enabled device
- Easy set up
- Works with Amazon Music, Pandora, and Spotify
- Touch sensors for volume and track control
- Solid subwoofer (additional sub unit is not necessary)
- A small percentage of users had connection issues
- A few users found the app buggy
10. Sony 4K Smart TV
This Sony TV brings some smarts to the table, and more importantly, some of the best image quality on the market. It boasts numerous excellent features, but the star of the show is its defintion, contrast and HDR upscaling. This means that virtually anything watched on this TV (4K HDR or not) will benefit tremendously from being displayed on it.. Users love it for its stunning visuals, solid smart home features, and abiltiy to be controlled through Amazon Alexa. That said, it’s not perfect. While it is a great deal for this feature set, a few drawbacks include requiring calibration upon arrival and having a somewhat laggy menu system (Android TV). Beyond this, however, once it’s setup, it’s smooth and beautiful sailing.
- Native 120hz refresh rate for smooth graphics and sports
- Unreal contrast, color, and detail
- HDR functionality for top of the line dynamic range
- TV can be controlled through Amazon Alexa
- Praised as being, “Like an IMAX”
- Upscales 1080P beautifully
- Some users had issues with random turning off
- User interface can be choppy
- Requires calibration for display to look good