The best smart home devices of 2020

Cupertino, March 19, 2020

If you've already started connecting different devices and devices around your home - you may think about it more now that you are quarantined at home - you will know that there are many ways to approach the problem. You might just want a device to solve a particular problem, such as a smart connector ($ 25 on Amazon) to put a lamp on a regular schedule. You may also be investing in a smart speaker based on Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant or even on the smart home service Siri and Apple HomeKit.

I tend to think of voice assistants as the starting point for building a smart do-it-yourself home. These provide a convenient way for many 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 will work with more voice assistants.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

However, our list focuses on the best product in each smart subcategory. If you want to know the best smart thermostat or the best smart lighting kit, regardless of the voice platforms it works with, we have you covered. What is not on this list is a roadmap for a single, consistent, and consistent home installation (you won't be far off trying to pair an Amazon smart speaker with a Google smart screen). To do this, please see our listings based on the platform, linked below:

In each sub-category entry, we also added a link to the best list for that type of product. If you are looking for more options for lighting or locks, you will find a list of our favorite products if you want to see a larger selection. We regularly update this list as we review new products.

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Echo Dot, at the entry level of Amazon, had the edge over the competing Google Home Mini speaker, but with the arrival of the newest, rebranded Google Nest Mini, we officially call the category of smart speakers at the entry level. Both speakers will run you about $ 50 in a normal day and you can find both discounts on a regular basis.

The two voice assistants are almost equal. Typically, Amazon boasts more skills and support for multiple third-party devices, but the numbers for both voice platforms are in the tens of thousands, which means the difference isn't enough because you'll lose nothing significantly with Google.

Read more: The best smart speakers of 2020

Google Assistant does a better job of mimicking the natural flow of conversations, but the difference is that it's not so visible in your daily interaction with each speaker. Most of the time you will ask for a smart weather speaker to set a stopwatch and can play a song or two. Both devices are good at all.

Amazon Echo Dot was our choice because of a small hardware advantage. It has an audio output jack. Google Home Mini has neither Nest Mini. Now, the Echo Dot also offers a variant with an LED clock built around its edge, for another $ 10. This is a convenient feature of quality of life.

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

Read our Amazon Echo Dot (third generation) review.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Google's new Nest Mini smart speaker improves on its predecessor, the Google Home Mini, in several ways.

Google has improved the audio quality in the Nest Mini, giving it more bass performance. He also added a cradle to the wall at the bottom, if you are in it. An interesting presence detection method that uses the speaker and microphone to determine your proximity to the Nest Mini helps trigger LED indicators that help you better understand otherwise obscure physical volume controls.

It's all good, but the thing that puts Nest Mini over the edge is the machine learning chip built into the little speaker. With that chip, Google says that Nest Mini can find out what commands you order most often, and then it will start processing those orders locally rather than on Google's servers.

Anything that helps keep control of your smart home inside your home is worth it. Allow yourself to continue issuing certain voice commands, even if the internet is off, and improved response times are also great. However, the self-learning chip puts the Google Nest Mini on a par with the Amazon Echo Dot and its distinct audio input connector. Now let's see a speaker that has both.

Read our Google Nest Mini review.

Amazon may have introduced the smart screen with the Echo Show, but Google has refined the concept with the Nest Hub (formerly Home Hub) in terms of both its design and the way it uses its voice assistant.

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 the spoken commands, so that you know that Google has heard you correctly, it can easily lead you through a recipe from popular cooking sites and works perfectly with Google's supported smart home cameras and video cameras. from the door to display the camera flows on the screen.

Read more: The best smart displays of 2020

Google has cautiously abandoned the fact that it has included a camcorder on the hub itself, overcoming some privacy issues, and probably asking Amazon to include a manual video shutter on its new small screen, the Echo Show 5. If you really want a smart Google-based display that allows video chat, a few third-party options can do this. Even without this, Nest Hub is the best, most accessible marriage of a voice assistant and a display interface on the market.

Read the Google Nest Hub review.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Amazon's smart midtier display is the best in its line. For $ 130, the Echo Show 8 has excellent audio quality, an extremely visible screen and a convincing nod to privacy with a physical shutter that you can swipe over to your camera. We still like the interface on Google Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. These Google Assistant displays also have the benefit of useful video due to the voice-enabled YouTube integration that lacks the Amazon line. Regardless, for those of you who engage in an Alexa-only ecosystem, the Echo Show 8 is the best smart screen.

Read our Amazon Echo Show 8 review.

Chris Monroe / CNET

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

This is why a router with a mesh, designed to spread a strong and fast signal throughout your home, could make a particularly smart upgrade - especially if you live in a big house. And, of the tested ones, we think that Nest Wifi is the smartest choice. At $ 269, the two-piece starter kit was able to complete the CNET Smart Home of 5,800 square meters with decent signal strength and never gave up our connection, while we went through the speed test. after the speed test. In addition, the range extension doubles as a smart speaker, so as you spread a trusted connection from room to room, you'll spread the Google Assistant fingerprint with you.

Read more: The best Wi-Fi routers of 2020

Nest Wifi does not support the newest version of Wi-Fi, called Wi-Fi 6, but you won't really notice the difference that Wi-Fi 6 makes if you don't already pay for super fast Internet speeds of 500 Mbps or more . What you you notice the ease of installation, the simple network commands that are right next to your smart home controls in the Google Home app, and advanced Wi-Fi features such as device prioritization, WPA3 security, and 4x4 MU-MIMO support, which allows the Wifi nest to increase speed devices that use multiple Wi-Fi antennas, such as the MacBook Pro.

Nest Wifi is obviously best suited for Google smart homes, so Alexa users will probably want to stay with Ebi or Netgear Orbi, our honorable mention in the mesh category. But if you just want solid Wi-Fi, which you can rely on and your growing number of internet-connected gadgets, put Wifi Nest at the top of the list.

Read our Wifi Nest review.

Chris Monroe / CNET

We often point to smart jacks as an entry point for anyone interested in trying a connected home device. They are cheap, easy to install and perform a fairly easy to understand function, disabling remote start and stop.

Read more: The best smart plugs of 2020

You can find lots of smart plugs out there. Kasa Mini from TP-Link is our favorite. Includes a single outlet that connects to your network via Wi-Fi. The application is well designed and allows you to program the jack to activate or deactivate a program or even depending on your location. It works with Google Assistant and Alexa and does not cover the adjacent output port on a standard two socket wall device.

Read our TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini review.

Philips Hue smart bulbs have been our choice for many years and for good reason. The company's product range is the largest in the category, including standard A19 bulbs, flood lights, lights, headlights and, most recently, a range of outdoor lighting options. This type of variety makes it easy to bring the lighting scheme for your entire home on Hue service.

Read more: The best smart lights of 2020

The Hue line has become important with its color changing bulbs, but the best way for most people to get started is with its standard white bulbs. For $ 70, you can get a set of two bulbs and the Hue hub to get them online. Already have an Alexa or Google Assistant device? $ 30 will give you the new Bluetooth version of the bulbs, without an additional hub required.

Honorable mention: Wyze Bulb. This $ 8 smart bulb works with Alexa and Google Assistant and does not require a hub. It's not as fully featured as the 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 review.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Like its competitor, the head of Nest Learning Thermostat, among them, Ecobee SmartThermostat is a WIFi-based thermostat, which allows you to control the heating and air conditioning system for homes with an application or voice. Some features help it stand out.

Ecobee has separated from its previous products by including a remote temperature sensor in the box with the thermostat. The thermostat itself can read the ambient temperature in any room and can be adjusted accordingly. If you want it to adjust the temperature according to the conditions in another room, simply pass it on 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 nursery or home office is the center point for Ecobee's temperature readings, rather than a hallway. removed.

Read more: The best smart thermostats of 2020

You can buy the same accessory for a Nest thermostat, but the Ecobee includes one in the box. Ecobee is also more agnostic about collaborating with voice assistants than its competitor owned by Google. If Nest will work with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa (maintained as an inheritance feature before purchasing Google Nest), Ecobee supports Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.

Perhaps the most unique, the Ecobee SmartThermostat is per se an Amazon Echo speaker. Ecobee does an admirable job of not being impressed by the audio output for playing music, but as a basic Alexa extension around your home. Maybe you really want Alexa in that distant hallway.

Read our Ecobee SmartThermostat review.


Arlo Pro 3 is our new favorite smart home camera, taking the crown from its predecessor, Arlo Pro 2. It's not cheap to start with the Arlo cameras. The most affordable startup package for the Arlo Pro 3 costs $ 500 and includes two Pro 3 cameras and the required wireless base station. If you can get over the initial investment, you will be able to take advantage of the most versatile camcorder installed on the market.

Each additional Arlo Pro 3 will cost $ 199. This is expensive, but it's just like a single Nest Cam Outdoor, another outdoor Wi-Fi security room. If you already own an Arlo Pro base station from a previous kit, the Arlo Pro 3 will work with that as well.

We have always liked the Arlo cameras for their weather-resistant design, powered by batteries, which makes it suitable for indoor or outdoor use. You can charge them with a cable or battery included, rechargeable, up to six months. An easy-to-install magnetic base also gives you almost infinite flexibility in how you want to position each room. Also, they can stand alone without a base on any horizontal surface. In short, you can put these cameras anywhere or you can move them between locations with incredible ease.

What's new with the Arlo Pro 3 is a higher resolution video feed than its predecessor (2K vs. 1080p) and a built-in siren in the room, unlike the base station. Now you have an outdoor deterrent for any intruder. For the sake of the neighbors, please use it with restraint.

Do you just want an accessible interior room? Wyze Cam Pan supporting Alexa $ 30 is our current favorite. No other room comes close to Wyze in terms of dollar features. However, for an indoor / outdoor installation, for the entire house, the Arlo Pro 3 gets its head.

Read our review for Arlo Pro 3.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Cameras are one thing, but if you're really worried about security around the house, the best bet is the SimpliSafe 3.0 kit. It starts at $ 229 for the base station, a keyboard, a motion sensor and an open / closed sensor. This is a start, but one of the things we love most about SimpliSafe is the ability to customize your configuration from a selection of eight different sensors, from smoke to glass break.

Unlike many entire home security systems, SimpliSafe does not require any contract to block you in its service plan. You can opt for a $ 15 per month professional monitoring package, but it is not required and you can cancel at any time.

Read more: The best home security systems of 2020

Competing systems from Ring, Nest, ADT and Vivint offer all similar combinations of hardware and book service, but all offer fewer features if you don't sign up for a service package or start significantly higher. price points than SimpliSafe without making the difference in hardware better. One system we like is close to Abode, which has a higher starting price, but deeper integration with other smart home devices. Look at Abode if you don't mind paying a little more and you want it to work with other products. As a standalone product, SimpliSafe is our top choice.

Read our SimpliSafe review.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

The Hello Bell Outbound Video Bell is connected to your Wi-Fi network, so you can see who is at the door in real time. It can also capture and store three video clips for free. But the most convincing thing is the facial recognition feature controlled by the owner.

Read more: The best video bells of 2020

Facial recognition has its controversies, but the way Google uses it in the doorbell of Nest Hello seems like the right way to do it, at least until the next data privacy scandal. Unlike many commercial systems that extend from existing databases to match, Nest Hello helps you build your own personal face recognition database based on the people who come to your door. visitors, the app will finally recognize them and alert you when they appear at the door.

The normal listing price of Nest Hello is $ 230, which is at the high end of the ladder.

Read our Nest Hello review.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

Smart locks make people nervous as they introduce another point of failure between you and physical security. With a smart block, a malicious hacker or even an old technical problem or a connectivity problem could suddenly compromise your home's entry point.

There may be a truth to this. A keyless design, without any physical security, might block you, but the August Smart Lock Pro is not one of those blockages.

Read more: The best smart locks of 2020

August Smart Lock is a breeze to install. It matches the internal lock of most existing deadbolt models and you can configure it within 15 minutes. Because it does not replace the lock mechanism itself, you can still use the original physical key.

The lock itself connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and from August, you can assign and revoke timed virtual keys to anyone you like, from your action to your dog sitter at no extra cost. Many other locks will incur an additional cost for virtual keys.

The August Connect accessory included in this package ensures the Internet is blocked by obtaining it in the wireless network. From there, you can not only control the lock from anywhere, but you can also connect it to Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri (make sure each requires a PIN to accompany the unlock command) for added convenience.

Another accessory with the Pro model is the small open-closed sensor. This allows the lock to tell you if it is locked or unlocked and allows you to know if the door itself is open or closed. It is the most complete product available on the market so far. August also has a new smart block that will come out later this year, which is 45% smaller than the existing design and has an integrated wireless network. We look forward to seeing how the battery life is maintained with a built-in W-Fi connection, but overall the new lock looks promising.

Read our review for August Smart Lock Pro.

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