The best smart home devices of 2020 – CNET

Smart home time-lapse 1-3-497077

Smart home time-lapse 1-3-497077

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

If you have already started connecting the various devices and devices in your home, you know that there are many ways to solve the problem. You may just want a device to solve a specific problem, e.g. B. a smart plug with which a lamp is installed regularly. You may also be investing in a smart speaker with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant support, or even a Siri and Apple HomeKit smart home service.

I tend to think of voice assistants as the starting point for building a commercially available smart home. They provide a convenient way for multiple family members or roommates to interact with the various devices in your home. Many, but not all, of the products on our list of the best smart home products work with multiple voice assistants.

Continue reading: The best intelligent garage door controls of 2020

However, our list focuses closely on the best product in each smart home subcategory. If you want to know the best intelligent thermostat or the best intelligent lighting kit, regardless of which language platforms it works with, you have come to the right place. What this list isn't, is a roadmap for a single, coherent smart home installation (you won't get far if you try to pair an Amazon smart speaker with a Google smart display). You can find information on this in our platform-based lists linked below:

In each subcategory entry I also added a link to the best list for that particular product type. If you're looking for more lighting or lock options, you'll find a list of our favorite products if you'd like to see more choices.

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The Echo Dot for beginners from Amazon had the advantage over the competing Google Home Mini speaker, but with the introduction of the newer, renamed Google Nest Mini, we officially call the smart speaker category for beginners a tie. Both speakers cost around $ 50 on a normal day, and you can find that both are regularly discounted.

The two language assistants are pretty much equal at the moment. Amazon typically offers more capabilities and support for more third-party devices, but the numbers for both language platforms are tens of thousands, which means the difference isn't enough to really miss something important on Google.

Continue reading: The best smart speakers of 2020

Google Assistant can better mimic the natural flow of conversation, but the difference is that it doesn't really stand out in your daily interaction with every speaker. Most of the time, you'll ask an intelligent speaker about the weather, set a timer, and maybe let a song or two play. Both devices are good at all of this.

The Amazon Echo Dot was our choice due to a small hardware advantage. It has an audio output jack. Neither the Google Home Mini nor the Nest Mini. Now the Echo Dot also offers a variant with an LED clock embedded on the edge for a further $ 10. This is a practical function for the quality of life.

Google has another card to play, which you can read below.

Read our Amazon Echo Dot test (third generation).

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Google's new Nest Mini Smart speaker improves on its predecessor, the Google Home Mini, in a few ways.

Google has improved the audio quality in the Nest Mini and given the bass performance more momentum. It also added a wall mounting notch on the bottom if that's what you fancy. An interesting new method of presence detection, which uses the speaker and microphone to determine the proximity to the Nest Mini, can trigger LED indicators to help you better understand the otherwise hidden physical volume controls.

That's all fine, but what makes the Nest Mini over the edge is the machine-learning chip embedded in the tiny speaker. According to Google, the Nest Mini can learn which commands you give it most often with this chip and then begins to process these commands locally and not on Google's servers.

Anything that helps keep control of your smart home in your home is worth it. You can still issue certain voice commands when the internet goes down, and response times are great too. The machine learning chip aligns the Google Nest Mini with the Amazon Echo Dot and its distinctive audio input socket. Now let's see a speaker that has both.

Read our Google Nest mini test.

Amazon may have introduced the Smart Display with the Echo Show, but Google has refined the concept of the Nest Hub (formerly Home Hub) both in terms of its design and in terms of using its voice assistant.

The Nest Hub gives you the same Google Assistant features as the Google Home speaker line and a screen interface that gives you just the right amount of visual feedback. It shows you your spoken commands so you know that Google heard you right, it can skilfully guide you through a recipe from popular cooking websites, and it works seamlessly with Google-supported smart home cameras and video doorbells to their cameras Feeds to display on the screen.

Continue reading: The best smart displays of 2020

Google has carefully chosen not to include a video camera in the hub itself to address some privacy concerns, and has likely prompted Amazon to include a manual video shutter in its new, smaller Echo Show 5 display. If you really want a Google-based smart display that allows video chatting, some third-party options can do it. Even without it, the Nest Hub is the best and cheapest connection between a voice assistant and a display interface on the market.

Read our Google Nest Hub test.

Chris Monroe / CNET

The mid-tier smart display from Amazon is the best in its range. For $ 130, the Echo Show 8 offers excellent audio quality, a clearly visible screen and a convincing sign of privacy with a physical shutter that you can slide over the camera. We still like the Google Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max user interface. These Google Assistant ads also have the benefit of useful videos due to the voice-activated YouTube integration, which is missing from the Amazon product range. Regardless, Echo Show 8 is the best smart display for those of you who are committed to a pure Alexa ecosystem.

Read our Amazon Echo Show 8 review.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Wi-Fi is everything – especially when you start spreading things like smart speakers, smart lights, smart plugs and everything else from room to room. After all, these connected doodads won't do you much good if they can't connect.

For this reason, a mesh router that sends a strong, fast signal around your home can be a particularly smart upgrade – especially if you live in a large house. And of those we've tested, we think Nest Wifi is the smartest choice. 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 cut our connection when we ran one speed test after another. In addition, the range extender also functions as an intelligent speaker. So if you make a reliable connection from room to room, you can use it to distribute the Google Assistant footprint in your home.

Continue reading: The best WiFi routers in 2020

The Nest Wifi doesn't support the latest, fastest version of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 6, but you really won't notice the difference that Wi-Fi 6 makes unless you already pay for super-fast internet speeds of 500Mbps / s or more. What you become Note the easy installation, the simple network controls that are right next to 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 the nest can run Wifi increases the speed of devices that use multiple Wi-Fi antennas, such as B. the MacBook Pro.

The Nest Wifi is obviously best suited for Google Smart Homes, so Alexa users are likely to want to stick with the Eero or Netgear Orbi, our honorable mentions in the Mesh category. However, if you just want solid WiFi that you and your growing number of devices with an internet connection can trust, put Nest Wifi high on your list.

Read the Nest Wifi review.

Chris Monroe / CNET

We often refer to smart plugs as entry points for everyone who wants to try a connected home device. They are cheap, easy to install, and perform a function that is fairly easy to grasp and remotely turn power on and off.

Continue reading: The best smart plugs of 2020

You can find a lot of smart plugs out there. The Kasa Mini by TP-Link is our favorite. It contains a single outlet that connects to your network via WiFi. The app is well designed and allows you to 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 does not cover the adjacent socket of a standard wall lamp with two sockets.

Read our TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini Test.

Philips Hue Smart lightbulbs have been our first choice for years and for good reason. The company's product range is the widest in this category and includes standard A19 lamps, floodlights, light strips, lights and, last but not least, a whole range of outdoor lighting options. This type of diversity makes it easy to integrate the lighting scheme for your entire home into the Hue service.

Continue reading: The best smart lights of 2020

The Hue line became known for its color changing light bulbs, but for most people the best entry is the standard white light bulb. For $ 70, you get two light bulbs and the hue hub to put them online. Do you already have an Alexa or Google Assistant device? With $ 30, you get the new Bluetooth version of the lamps without the need for an additional hub.

Special mention: Wyze Bulb. This $ 8 smart bulb works with Alexa and Google Assistant and doesn't need a hub. It's not quite as fully featured as Philips Hue (it only comes as a standard A19 lamp, no HomeKit support), but it's the best deal in this category.

Read our Philips Hue White LED test.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Like its competitor, including the head of the Nest learning thermostat, the Ecobee SmartThermostat is a WIFi-based thermostat that allows you to control your heating and air conditioning system at home with an app or with your voice. A few functions help you stand out.

Ecobee stands out from its previous products by incorporating a remote temperature sensor in the box with the thermostat. The thermostat itself can read the ambient temperature of the room and adjust it accordingly. If you want the temperature to adjust to the conditions in another room, just switch it to the remote sensor. This is a useful accessory if your thermostat installation point is not in a central location or if you want to make sure that a kindergarten or home office is the center of the Ecobee's temperature readings and not a distant hallway.

Continue reading: The best intelligent thermostats of 2020

You can buy the same accessories for a Nest thermostat, but Ecobee comes with one. Ecobee is also more agnostic when it comes to working with voice assistants than its Google competitor. Where Nest works with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa (may remain as a legacy feature before Google buys Nest), Ecobee supports Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.

Perhaps the most unique is the Ecobee SmartThermostat self an Amazon Echo speaker. You won't be impressed with the audio output to play music, but as a basic extender for Alexa in your home, the Ecobee does an admirable job. Maybe you really want Alexa in this far away hall.

Read our Ecobee SmartThermostat test.


The Arlo Pro 3 is our new favorite smart home camera that takes over the crown of its predecessor, the Arlo Pro 2. Getting started with Arlo cameras is not cheap. The cheapest starter pack for Arlo Pro 3 costs $ 500 and includes two Pro 3 cameras and the required wireless base station. If you can overcome this initial investment, you can take advantage of the most versatile video camera on the market.

Each additional Arlo Pro 3 costs $ 199. It's expensive, but it's roughly equivalent to a single Nest Cam Outdoor, another prestigious outdoor Wi-Fi surveillance camera. If you already have an Arlo Pro base station from a previous kit, the Arlo Pro 3 will work with it.

We have always liked Arlo cameras because of their battery-powered, weatherproof design that makes them suitable for indoor and outdoor use. You can power it with a cable or the included battery for up to six months. An easy-to-install magnetic base also gives you almost unlimited flexibility in positioning any camera. You can also stand alone on a horizontal surface without a base. In short, you can place these cameras anywhere or move them between locations with incredible ease.

New in the Arlo Pro 3 is a higher-resolution video feed than in the predecessor (2K compared to 1080p) and a siren integrated in the camera in contrast to the base station. Now you have an outdoor deterrent to potential intruders. Use it for the sake of your neighbors with restraint.

Do you just want an affordable indoor camera? The Alexa-supporting Wyze Cam Pan, worth $ 30, is our current favorite. No other camera comes close to the Wyze in terms of functions for the dollar. For an indoor and outdoor installation for the whole house, the Arlo Pro 3 receives the nod.

Read our Arlo Pro 3 review.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Cameras are one thing, but if you are really concerned about security throughout your home, the SimpliSafe 3.0 kit is the best choice. It starts at $ 229 for the base station, a keyboard, a motion sensor, and an opening / closing sensor. It's a start, but one of the things we like most about SimpliSafe is the ability to customize your setup from a choice of eight different sensors, from smoke to glass breakage.

Unlike many security systems for the whole house, SimpliSafe does not need a contract to bind you to the service plan. You can opt for a professional surveillance package for $ 15 a month, but it's not required. You can cancel it at any time.

Continue reading: The best home security systems of 2020

Competing systems from Ring, Nest, ADT and Vivint all offer similar looking combinations of hardware and à la carte service. However, they either offer too few functions if you do not opt ​​for a service package, or start at a significantly higher price than SimpliSafe without compensating for the difference in better hardware. The only system we like is Abode, which has a higher starting price but a deeper integration with other smart home devices. Check out Abode if you don't mind paying a little more in advance and you want it to work with other products. As an independent product, SimpliSafe is our first choice.

Read our SimpliSafe test.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

The hard-wired Nest Hello video doorbell connects to your Wi-Fi network so you can see in real time who is at the door. In addition, video clips worth three hours can be recorded and saved free of charge. The most compelling thing about it, however, is the owner-controlled facial recognition feature.

Continue reading: The best video doorbells of 2020

Face recognition has its controversy, but the way Google uses it in the Nest Hello doorbell seems to be the way to go, at least until the next privacy scandal. Unlike many commercial systems that are retrieved from existing databases to match, Nest Hello allows you to create your own personal face recognition database based on the people who come to your door. Once you've tagged the most frequent visitors, the app will finally recognize them and notify you when they show up at your door.

The normal list price of the Nest Hello is $ 230, which is at the upper end of the scale.

Read our Nest Hello Test.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Smart locks make people nervous because they are another point of failure between you and your physical security. With an intelligent lock, a malicious hacker, or even a simple old technical error or connectivity problem, your home's entry point can suddenly be compromised.

There could be something true about that. A keyless design without physical resilience might lock you out, but the August Smart Lock Pro is not one of those locks.

Continue reading: The best intelligent locks of 2020

Installing the August Smart Lock is child's play. It fits over the internal thumb latch of most existing latch designs and can be set up in 15 minutes. Since the locking mechanism itself is not replaced, you can still use your original physical key.

The lock itself connects to your phone via Bluetooth. With the August app, you can assign and revoke timed virtual keys to anyone, from your parents-in-law to your dog sitter, at no additional cost. Many other locks charge additional virtual key fees.

The August Connect accessories included in this package connect the lock to the Internet by transferring it to your wireless network. From there, you can not only control the lock from anywhere, but also connect to Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri (make sure each of them requires a PIN to accompany the unlock command).

Another accessory of the Pro model is the tiny opening / closing sensor. In this way you can use the lock to determine whether it is locked or unlocked and whether the door itself is open or closed. It is currently the most complete product on the market. In August, a new Smart Lock will come out later this year, which is 45% smaller than the existing design and has an integrated wireless network. We are excited to see how long the battery life lasts with an integrated W-Fi connection, but overall the new lock sounds promising.

Read our August Smart Lock Pro test.

Originally released last year. Updated as we review new products.