There are a dizzying variety of smart home devices on the market today; some of them incredibly useful, and some of them simply a gimmick. When it comes down to it, the appeal of smart home devices is to improve upon the regular versions of common household items (lightbulbs, smoke detectors, etc) while controlling them in a manner we’ve never been able to before; providing a more beneficial aspect to your home (and looking kind of cool while using them).
With that in mind, here are some of the must-have Smart Home Devices that are some of the best (and most beneficial) products on the market today:
6. Logitech Harmony Hub
To be perfectly honest, this addition to the list may just fit in the cool category we spoke about before. Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Depending on your cable provider, you may already be able to control your tv remote with your phone or tablet. And while that’s a very cool option, the Logitech Harmony Hub allows for that and a whole lot more.
With Harmony, you’re able to set automations (or activities) that allow for greater control over your various entertainment devices like A/V Receivers, Roku & Apple TV’s, or game systems like Xbox One or Playstation 4. And the Harmony Hub can also control some smart home tech like Phillips Hue bulbs, and allow them to turn on in conjunction with your activities.
The Harmony Hub sells for $99 on it’s own, or $129 and up if you want a compatible remote control. Harmony also has a few other tricks up it’s sleeve, and they go in conjunction with our number 5 must-have Smart Home device..
5. Amazon Echo & Dot
It’s no surprise that Alexa would be gracing this list, and for good reason: In terms of Smart Home device control, the Amazon Echo and Dot simply cannot be matched at this time (although Google Home is making some very impressive progress).
Alexa, the digital assistant that is the headline feature of the Echo and Dot, is a huge hit – she practically stole the show at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, and she was the top holiday item for Holiday 2016. And it’s all for good reason – Amazon has done an incredible job at making the device easy and fun to use, but also incredibly useful.
Alexa utilizes “skills” that give her integration with a multitude of smart home devices: things like Phillips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, and yes – the Logitech Harmony Hub – allow you to control those devices with just your voice. This means you simply can tell Alexa “Alexa, turn on my TV” and your tv connected to the Harmony Hub will turn on almost instantaneously. Ask her to change your temperature. Ask her to turn on your lights. Alexa can – and will – become a centerpiece of your smart home.
The Amazon Dot is an incredibly affordable device that starts at $49. The Amazon Echo has a larger, better sounding Bluetooth speaker built in with more microphones for better understanding – but it also has a larger price tag at $179.
4. Nest Protect Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detector
I’m including this in my list over other Nest products like their smart thermostat or the Nest Indoor/Outdoor Cam, simply because I truthfully believe this is the best product they offer. A good smoke detector should never be overlooked, and a carbon monoxide detector is one of the most essential safety items you should have in your home.
Nest offers a battery version of course, but the wired version is a great option for those homes that have the connections and don’t want to worry about changing batteries (although Nest makes that easy with low battery reminders).
The Nest app makes it easy to manage the Protect, while the device itself has sensors to determine if you are home or away and can work in conjunction with other Nest devices.
3. Phillips Hue
Phillips Hue has become almost ubiquitous with smart lighting. Yes, there are other options out there. But for sheer compatibility and ease of use, Hue stands above and beyond other offerings.
Phillips offers a dizzying array of options for the Hue family; from regular white A19 bulbs to BR30 flood lights to LED lightstrips. And the compatibility they offer with other smart devices result in them being the go-to (if not the top) purchase for those wanting to get started in the smart home category.
You will need a Hub to operate any lights you purchase (and any you purchase in the future), so you can’t simply purchase a single light and be done with it. Besides, once you experience a Phillips Hue light, you’ll be surprised at how quick you end up with more!
The Phillips Hue Starter Kit comes with the Hub and 2 A19 white bulbs for $69. You can also opt for the White & Color Starter Kit for $199.
2. Ring Doorbell
Keeping your home secure is one of the biggest reasons to opt for some of the best smart home tech out there. It’s not just for aesthetics – they can provide real value when it comes to security and peace of mind. One of the realities of home ownership is that you won’t always know -or be expecting – the people who come to your door. Between solicitors, delivery men – and yes, possible criminals – you always want to know who is at your door.
For that reason alone, a smart doorbell is a smart choice. The Ring Doorbell is my pick for a must-have smart doorbell. Yes, there are other options out there (Skybell being the most notable one) and you will find that some people have particular issues with the Ring, but I have found in using the Ring hardwired in my home that it is a easy to use, well performing device.
Being able to see who is at your door is a huge benefit – for the times when you’re not home, and even for the times you are. You’ll know if the delivery driver threw your package, or if your pesky neighbor is snooping around again, or if your kids arrived home from school on time. And of course, you don’t have to risk opening the door for someone who is there for the wrong reasons. You can set it to detect motion depending on the zones you pick (up to 30 feet away or as close as 5 feet) so you will know if someone is approaching before they even press the doorbell itself.
The Ring Doorbell offers 720P video recording and Battery operation (with the option of being hard-wired) for $199. The Ring Doorbell Pro offers up 1080p recording – but has to be hard-wired to an existing doorbell – for $249.
1. Samsung SmartThings Hub
This might seem like an odd choice for the number one spot (especially over various security offerings) but the Samsung SmartThings Hub deserves the number 1 spot for a very good reason: it’s what can turn your home into a Smart Home.
Having various smart home technology around the house can make things easier for everyone. But if you want to control things away from home and on the go, you have to use one app to manage one device, then another app to manage another device, and so on. It can become tedious – and far from”smart”. A Hub like SmartThings can change that. Now when I mentioned the Logitech Harmony Hub before, I said we would be referencing Hub’s and their importance later in the article. Think of a Hub as the brain to make everything work well and work together.
The SmartThings Hub can utilize a staggering number of smart home devices on the market and bring them together to allow you to create automations: routines that can be set for specific times, or when certain actions occur – like the ringing of a doorbell, certain lights turning on, etc. While things like Nest, Ring, Harmony Hub use a mix of wifi, bluetooth and IR to function, other devices on the market utilize what is called Z-Wave or ZigBee (think of them as radios on a frequency, like FM/AM). These products range from motion sensors, water leak sensors, to security systems, electrical outlets and light switches.
The Samsung SmartThings Hub has Z-Wave and ZigBee built in, and can control all of those devices, allowing them to work together. It is a powerful and capable device that is truly able to unite all your devices, turning your home from a place that has a lot of cool tech, into a true Smart Home.
The Samsung SmartThings Hub is available for $99.
Honorable Mention: Smart Thermostats
We chose to leave out Smart Thermostats as a must have product as there are some real benefits, but some caveats to them that would be too much to cover this time. We will cover them in a later blog post.
Do you have any of these devices? How do they work for you? What are some of your “must-have” smart home products? Let us know in the comments below!