The best smart home devices of 2020 – CNET

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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 only want one device to solve a specific problem, e.g. B. an intelligent connector that gives a lamp some automation. You could also be invested in a smart speaker powered by Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, or you may be one of the rarer breeds of Siri and Apple HomeKit followers.

I tend to see the voice assistants as a starting point for building a smart off-the-shelf, as they offer multiple family members or roommates a convenient way 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 | The best smart home gifts of 2020: Amazon Echo Dot, Google Nest Hub and more

However, our list focuses closely on the best product in each smart home subcategory. If you're looking for the best smart thermostat or smart lighting kit, no matter what language platform it works with, we've got you covered. What this list is not 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.

Ry Crist / CNET

Amazon's entry-level model, Echo Dot, had the decisive advantage over the competing Google Home Mini speaker. With the launch of the newer, renamed Google Nest Mini, we officially call the smart entry-level speaker a tie. Both speakers cost around $ 50 on a normal day, and you can find both at regular discounts.

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

Continue reading: The best smart speakers of 2020

With Google Assistant, it is easier to reproduce the natural flow of conversations. The difference, however, is that the daily interaction with the individual speakers is not so noticeable. Most often you ask an intelligent speaker about the weather, set a timer and possibly let it play a song or two. Both devices are good at all.

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

Google has another game card that you can read below.

Read our Amazon Echo Dot test (third generation).

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Google's new Nest Mini Smart speaker is in some ways better than its predecessor, the Google Home Mini.

Google has improved the audio quality in the Nest Mini and improved the bass output. It has also added a wall mounting notch to the bottom if you want that. An interesting new presence detection method, which uses the loudspeaker and the microphone to determine the proximity to the Nest Mini, triggers LED displays, which help you to recognize the otherwise concealed volume controls.

That's all fine, but what the Nest Mini puts over the edge is the machine-learning chip embedded in the tiny speaker. According to Google, the Nest Mini can use this chip to find out which commands you give it most often and then starts processing 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 enter certain voice commands even when the internet is down, and response times are also excellent. In all this, the machine learning chip reconciles the Google Nest Mini with the Amazon Echo Dot and its unique audio input socket. Now let's look at a speaker who 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 with the Nest Hub (formerly Home Hub) in terms of both the design and the way the Voice Assistant is used.

The Nest Hub gives you the same Google Assistant features as the Google Home speaker range, plus 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 well-known cooking websites, and it works seamlessly with Google-supported smart home cameras and video doorbells to feed their cameras display on the screen.

Continue reading: The best smart displays of 2020

As a precaution, Google refrained from integrating a video camera into the hub itself to address privacy concerns, and likely led 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 enables 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 indication 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. Thanks to the voice-activated YouTube integration, which is not available on Amazon, these Google Assistant displays are also ahead of other useful videos. Regardless, Echo Show 8 is the best smart display for those of you who are committed to an Alexa-only 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 any good if they can't connect.

That's why a mesh router that sends a strong, fast signal all over your house can be a particularly smart upgrade – especially if you live in a big house. And we think Nest Wifi is the smartest choice of the ones we tested. With the $ 269 two-piece starter kit, the 1,800-square-foot CNET Smart Home could be filled with decent signal strength, and our connection was never broken while running speed tests after speed tests. The range extender also functions as an intelligent loudspeaker. So if you make a reliable connection from room to room, you can improve the presence of Google Assistant in your home.

Continue reading: The best WiFi routers in 2020

Nest Wifi doesn't support the latest, fastest version of Wi-Fi called Wi-Fi 6, but you really won't notice the difference that Wi-Fi 6 makes unless you're already paying for super-fast internet speeds of 500 Mbps or faster more. What you become What makes Nest Wifi special is its easy installation, the simple network controls that are located in the Google Home app right next to your smart home controls, and the expanded Wi-Fi functions such as device prioritization, WPA3 security and 4X4 MU-MIMO Support Nest Wifi speeds up devices that use multiple WiFi antennas, such as the MacBook Pro.

Nest Wifi is obviously best suited for Google Smart Homes. So Alexa users will likely want to stay with Eero or Netgear Orbi, our honorable mentions in the Mesh category. However, if you just need a solid WiFi that you and your growing number of devices with internet access can trust, Nest Wifi is at the top of your list.

Read the Nest Wifi test.

Chris Monroe / CNET

We often refer to Smart Plugs as an entry point for everyone who wants to try a connected home device. They are cheap, easy to install, and offer an easy-to-grasp function to turn the power on and off remotely.

Continue reading: The best smart plugs of 2020

You can find a lot of smart plugs out there. TP-Links Kasa Mini 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, for good reason. The company's product range is the widest in this category and includes standard A19 bulbs, floodlights, light strips, lights and, recently, a whole range of outdoor lighting options. This type of variety makes it easy to apply the lighting scheme for your entire home to the Hue service.

Continue reading: The best smart lights of 2020

The Hue line became known for its color-changing lightbulbs, but most people can best start with their standard white light bulbs. For $ 70, you can purchase a set of two light bulbs and the Hue hub to put them online. Do you already have an Alexa or Google Assistant device? For $ 30, you can get the new Bluetooth version of the bulbs 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 extensive as Philips Hue (it only comes as a standard A19 bulb without HomeKit support), but it's the best deal in this category.

Read our Philips Hue White LED test.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Like its competitor, 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 at home with an app or with your voice. A few features help you stand out.

Ecobee stands out from its previous products by inserting an external temperature sensor into the box with the thermostat. The thermostat itself can read the ambient temperature of each room and set 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 child's room or home office is the center for the temperature measurements of the Ecobee and not a distant hallway.

Continue reading: The best smart thermostats of 2019

You can buy the same accessories for a Nest thermostat, but Ecobee comes with one included. Ecobee is also more agnostic when it comes to working with voice assistants than Google’s competitor. While Nest works with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa (possibly 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 base extension for Alexa in your home, the Ecobee does an admirable job. Maybe you actually want Alexa in this distant hall.

Read our Ecobee SmartThermostat test.

Chris Monroe / CNET

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 the Arlo camera 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. Leaving this initial investment behind will allow you to take advantage of the most versatile video camera available on the market.

Each additional Arlo Pro 3 will cost $ 199. It's expensive, but 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 them with a cable or the included battery for up to six months. An easy-to-install magnetic base also offers you almost unlimited flexibility when positioning the individual cameras. You can also stand on any 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 are a higher-resolution video feed than the predecessor (2K vs 1080p) and a siren built into the camera, in contrast to the base station. Now you have an outdoor deterrent to potential intruders. Please use it with caution for your neighbors.

Do you just want an affordable indoor camera? The $ 30 Wyze Cam Pan with Alexa support is currently our favorite. No other camera comes close to the Wyze in terms of equipment for the dollar. For an indoor and outdoor installation at home, the Arlo Pro 3 is just the thing.

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 keypad, 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 home security systems, SimpliSafe does not require a contract to bind you to the maintenance schedule. You can opt for a professional surveillance package worth $ 15 a month, but it is 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 a similar combination of hardware and a 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 point than SimpliSafe without compensating for the difference in the better hardware. The only system we like is Abode, which offers a higher entry price but a deeper integration with other smart home devices. Check out Abode if you don't mind paying a bit 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 WiFi network so you can see who is at the door in real time. In addition, video clips worth three hours can be recorded and saved free of charge. However, the most convincing is the owner-controlled face recognition.

Continue reading: The best video doorbells of 2020

Face detection is controversial, 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 use existing databases to match, Nest Hello allows you to create a personal face recognition database based on the people who come to your door. Once you tag the most frequent visitors, the app will finally recognize them and notify you when they show up at your door.

The normal price for 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 add another point of failure between you and your physical security. With a smart lock, a malicious hacker or even an old technical problem or connectivity problem can suddenly endanger your home's entry point.

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

Continue reading: The best intelligent locks of 2020

Installation of the August Smart Lock is child's play. It fits over the internal thumb latch of most existing latch designs, and you can set it up in 15 minutes. Because the lock mechanism itself is not replaced, you can continue to use your original physical key.

The lock itself connects to your phone via Bluetooth. With the August app, you can assign and withdraw timed virtual keys to any user, from your parents-in-law to your dog sitter, at no additional cost. For many other locks, additional fees for virtual keys are charged.

The August Connect accessories included in this bundle bridge the Internet barrier by being integrated into 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 needs a PIN to unlock it).

Another accessory for the Pro model is the tiny open-close sensor. In this way you can determine whether the lock is locked or unlocked and whether the door itself is open or closed. It is the most complete product currently available on the market. In August a new Smart Lock will appear, which is 45% smaller than the previous design and integrated into the wireless network. We are excited to see how the battery life will keep up with a built-in WiFi connection, but overall the new lock sounds promising.

Read our August Smart Lock Pro test.