July 17, 2024

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Building Bridges to the Digital Age

Best Smart Home Devices of 2024

15 min read

$130 at Amazon


Best smart display for Alexa

Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd gen)

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$20 at Walmart

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Best smart plug

TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini

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$80 at Amazon

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Best smart thermostat

Amazon Smart Thermostat

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$300 at Amazon

A Ring Alarm security kit is displayed on a small table with a hand pressing one of the buttons. A Ring Alarm security kit is displayed on a small table with a hand pressing one of the buttons.

Best DIY home security system

Ring Alarm Kit

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$170 at Walmart

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Best outdoor floodlight camera

Eufy S330 Floodlight Camera

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In a world with smart light bulbs, video doorbells, speakers and other smart home devices, it’s easy to make your daily routine a little more seamless. Whether you want to use voice control to turn on your TV or a smart lock to keep your home more secure, we found the best smart home devices on the market from Ring, Amazon, Google and more. With Fourth of July sales already in full swing, we’re rounding up all of the Fourth of July smart home deals to shop for the holiday.

Picking the right devices can be difficult. 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 roommates or family members 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.

Don’t miss out on our reviews of Apple’s HomePod Mini, Google’s Nest Audio and Nest Doorbell with battery, Amazon’s fourth-gen Echo speaker and Echo Show 15, and we’ll update this list as new products launch.

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Tyler Lizenby/CNET

We curated this list to address the best option in a range of the most popular smart home categories. 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. This is a general list of the best overall smart home devices, not specifically geared towards specific smart home platforms. (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. 

Best smart home devices

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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. 

Read more: Best Smart Speakers of 2024

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. 

Read more: Best Smart Displays of 2024

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 few third-party options 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.

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Amazon’s midtier smart display is the best one in its line. 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.

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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 under $75, 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.

Read more: Best Wi-Fi Routers in 2024

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 4×4 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. 

Read more: Best Smart Plugs of 2024

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.

At $80, 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.

The Arlo Pro 5S outdoor security camera is a solid device that continues the brand’s history of cameras with impressive performance, excellent 2K resolution, and a wide 160-degree field of view that lets you see more than most of the competition. Of course, along with its great specs, things like night vision, two-way talk, and more are all here, but so is a helpful built-in spotlight. All these features offer excellent use cases, even as deterrents to would-be burglars. However, you’ll need to add a $3-a-month subscription to access features like smart notifications that distinguish among people, animals and vehicles, plus motion zones and more.

While the Arlo Pro 5S is pricier — $250 for a single camera — than many most affordable outdoor cameras from brands like Blink or Wyze, it’s a good investment for anyone serious about upping their security game.

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Ring’s latest home security system beats the competition for two simple reasons: It’s surprisingly affordable, with the eight-piece kit for $300 and competitive device-by-device pricing, and it offers a ton of value for that price. Not only do you get a range extender included, but you also 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 $5 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 Kit.

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While many of Arlo’s cameras are expensive, if not overpriced, the Arlo 2K Video Doorbell is much more reasonable. But not due to the lack of build quality or features.

The Arlo 2K 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. 

Read more: Best Video Doorbells of 2024

There isn’t a free cloud storage option, and at 5 inches tall, this is one of the larger doorbells. Still, we strongly recommend the Arlo Video Doorbell enough to say that it’s our current favorite video doorbell overall.

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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.

Read more: Best Smart Locks of 2024

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.

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Eufy has been making some really impressive security cameras lately, like the Eufy S350, and the Eufy S330 Floodlight Camera is just as great. It has all of the things we want from an outdoor security camera, such as extremely bright floodlights, crystal clear video, smart tracking and compatibility with all three major voice platforms. 

With its 3,000 lumens of power, you can illuminate your entire backyard. However, it’s also dimmable, which is useful if you still want your neighbors to like you. What might be a negative for some is the requirement for the Eufy S330 Floodlight Camera to be hardwired. With as many smart features and powerful lights, constant power is a must. But if you can make the power needs work, this is a fantastic option for your outdoor space — and you won’t need to pay for a subscription to use all the features.

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.

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Choosing the best smart home devices is a bit different than choosing headphones or a streaming service, 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Sonos is listed on CNET’s best smart speakers, while Wyze is among the best smart plugs as well as offering great smart lightbulbs. Many companies, like Sonos, have made smart versions of products they’ve long made. Honeywell makes a quality smart thermostat and several of the best smart locks come from companies that have made locks for decades.

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