Best Smart Home Devices For A Connected World

·25 min read
Photo credit: amazon
Photo credit: amazon

It wasn't that long ago that smart home technology had a bad case of the meh's, with many consumers taking a "why bother?" view. These days, the better question is, "why on earth not?" Think about it. Why wouldn't you wanta smart thermostat that slashes energy costs while keeping your home comfy and cozy, or a smart video doorbell that lets you see who's at the door from anywhere?

Examples like these are the promise of today's smart home, and it's one the Lab experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute stand firmly behind. We've tested hundreds of smart products, including home essentials like smart light bulbs and light switches, smart locks and smart security systems, and smart thermostats to home appliances like smart air conditioners, robot vacuums, and more.

Our evaluations are based on a combination of usability and performance criteria: How easy is the device to set up? Can it talk to other smart home equipment in the home? Is the app intuitive? What's the feature set? We crunch all that data into one bottom-line assessment: Does this product solve real problems and provide real benefits?

How to find the best smart home tech

Before you go all-in on the smart home experience, there are a bunch of factors to consider. You'll have to keep in mind before buying:

  • Lifestyle: A home product is only smart if it works for you. Look for devices that will genuinely enhance the way you live — smart light bulbs if you travel often, smart locks if you have kids or frequent house guests, and smart appliances if you’re remodeling the kitchen and looking for the latest cooking innovations.

  • Installation: Most of the best “starter” smart home products (like bulbs, plugs and doorbells) are inexpensive and DIY-friendly. Others may require professional installation, including some smart locks and thermostats that call for extra wiring. So you may need to factor the cost of hiring a pro into your budget.

  • Controls: Think about how you want to control your smart home. Most devices come with apps that you control from your phone. That’s convenient, but the apps on your phone can add up fast; using a smart home hub can streamline everything onto a single app, plus most hubs also allow you to control smart devices by voice command.

  • Compatibility: Many smart home products work nicely together. For example, you can program lights to turn on when the doorbell rings. But to create those scenarios, you need to make sure the devices run on the same wireless network. This is another reason to go with a smart home hub—it makes finding compatible products easy.

Below are the best smart home devices you can buy in 2021, including top performers from Lab tests, home tests, and consumer tests:

The best smart speakers and hubs

While it's easier than ever to set up a smart home, the process isn't foolproof. Case in point: you could add a suite of smart devices, only to discover that they don't work well together. That's where smart home "hubs" come in, and all the major players have their own version — Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung, and more. It makes sense to stick with what you know, so if you’ve been a Siri loyalist from the beginning, go with Apple's hub. Early Alexa adopters who live for Prime deliveries will be best served by Amazon. If you’re an Android user who lives for Google Assistant, we’re not here to change your mind.

Whatever the brand, all hubs basically function as command central for your entire smart home ecosystem, allowing you to control all the devices from a single smart phone app. Hubs also make it easy to find compatible devices through their "Works With..." search feature. Finally, many hubs double as a digital assistant, delivering all kinds of voice-controlled support, from checking the weather to calling a car service.

Best Smart Speaker

Amazon Echo

The space-age spherical design isn't the only thing new about the latest Amazon Echo. The digital assistant also comes loaded with smart enhancements that earn high marks with our engineers, including the advanced onboard hub, making it easier than ever to set up any Zigbee-enabled device. (What the heck is Zigbee, you ask? Short answer: a widely used smart home protocol, so you won't have trouble finding compatible devices, from locks to light bulbs.)

We also like how the Echo's adaptive speaker adjusts to ambient noises in the room to deliver perfect sound quality every time. For homeowners on the go, the Amazon Guard feature provides peace of mind when you're away from home by alerting you to concerning sounds — breaking glass, for example, or the alarm on your smoke detector.

Best Smart Hub Mesh Network

Samsung SmartThings WiFi

Your smart home is only as strong as the WiFi it runs on. Mesh networks ensure a clear signal in every room. According to our engineers, the Samsung SmartThings WiFi does this as well as any mesh network, with puck-shaped devices that plug into any outlet; an external AC adapter works with two-prong outlets, a nice feature for older homes.

But the real beauty of the system is the onboard router that's outfitted with not just Zigbee, but Z-Wave and Bluetooth as well; in essence, this means there's no conceivable smart home device that you won't be able to set up via Samsung SmartThings WiFi. From there, you'll have total control of your entire smart home through the SmartThings app, which our testers found easy to set up and user-friendly.

Best Smart Mesh Network

Asus ZenWiFi

If you're just looking to beef up your home's internet coverage with a mesh network, the Asus ZenWiFI impressed us with its combination of value and simplicity. Setup is a snap, thanks to the two-piece plug-and-play system that installs in minutes and provides up to 5,500 square feet of coverage, which is more than enough for most homes.

You can then monitor and control everything that's happening on your home's network through the Asus mobile app, a feature parents of teens are sure to appreciate! But you'll still need a separate hub to sync up and control your smart home.

The best smart home basics

Home automation used to be a niche, high-end category designed for luxury housing — think whole-house entertainment systems and closed-circuit video surveillance. But the technology has gone solidly mainstream. In fact, for as little as $20, you can now experience its wonder, security, and convenience with an array of handy smart home gadgets.

Best Smart Light Bulb

Philips Hue

Smart bulbs are often called the gateway product to the smart home experience, because they're so easy to install — as easy as screwing in a light bulb, in fact! From there, you can do all kinds of things through an app or via your voice-enabled smart speaker. That includes dimming the lights, changing colors, and programming them to turn and off while you're away from home.

The Philips Hue starter kit includes four A19 60W LED smart bulbs, along with the Hue Bridge, which allows you to control your home's lighting through the Hue app. You can choose from an enormous menu of customized light settings, with millions of color variations, including 50,000 shades for white alone. Our testers found the three-step setup to be simple to follow and scheduling routines is also straightforward. That means it won't be long before your lighting is easing you to sleep at night, then doing the same with your morning wake up.

Best Smart Switch

C by GE

Smart switches extend the control of smart bulbs to all the lighting in your home — and to any other switch-wired devices, such as ceiling fans or automated shades. GE's Wi-Fi-connected smart switch is particularly intelligent, combining a dimmer and motion-sensor into a single device. Our engineers also gave it points for compatibility, since the switch works with all kinds of bulbs.

You can control the switch by voice using Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomeKit. As for installation and setup, you don't need a separate hub, but a neutral wire is required for hookup, so this might be a case where it's worth brining in an electrician, especially if you're doing a bunch of switches. Some reviewers write that the Android version of the app needs fine-tuning and that setting up automation for a room is a bit confusing at first.

Best Smart Thermostat

Ecobee Smart Thermostat with Voice Control

Smart thermostats control your home's temperature automatically, reducing heating and cooling costs and helping achieve optimal climate conditions throughout the year. The ultra-sleek Ecobee with Voice Control earned top marks for versatility. As the name implies, you can control it by voice via the integrated Alexa speaker. Room sensors enable you to monitor and control the temperature in specific areas, like a nursery or home office.

Our testers found the Ecobee comparatively easy to set up and use. They also like the energy consumption tracking and geofencing features, as well the thermostat's ability to regulate indoor humidity during the dog days of summer.

The best smart home security

The following smart home devices provide peace of mind when you’re away from home — and more comfort and convenience when you’re in it! Whether it’s to check in on an elderly parent or a sleeping baby, send the housekeeper or dog walker an entry code for the front door, or lock up for the night when you’re cozy in bed, these devices add next-level practicality to any smart home.

Best Smart Security Camera

Arlo Pro 3 Spotlight Camera

Smart cameras let you keep eyes on your home when you're far from it. That's helpful for checking in on four-legged friends — and rebellious teens too! The Arlo Pro was a top performer in our tests, perfect for indoor or outdoor use alike. Installing Arlo is as simple as screwing in the magnetic base and popping on the camera.

Our engineers like that the Arlo is fully wireless, so you can place it anywhere that's in range of your home's Wi-Fi. Integration with Google Home and Alexa enables easy remote access and you'll also receive alerts straight to your phone. Arlo is unique from other home security cameras in that it can capture color videos at night, good for catching prowlers in the act. Though to save the video recordings, you'll need to purchase a subscription after three months.

Best Smart Video Doorbell

Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wired

A video doorbell lets you answer the front door from anywhere, and often chat directly with visitors. It can also help deter package thieves. That combination of convenience and security makes video doorbells one of the most practical smart home products. Our testers singled out Arlo for its crisp picture quality, during day or night, and its 180º viewing angle, good for taking in more of the front porch. A $3 per month subscription plan gets you 30 days of video storage.

Arlo's advanced camera can distinguish people from animals, cars, and other moving objects, to keep irksome false notifications to minimum. It's compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and it works with IFTTT (If This Then That), allowing you to create chain reactions through your smart phone, for example turning on the porch light when someone rings the doorbell.

Best Smart Lock

August Home WiFi Smart Lock

At its best, smart home technology is all about simplifying your life. The August WiFi Smart Lock is a prime example. Installation is a cinch, with the cylindrical device attaching to your existing deadbolt on the inside of your door. Downloading the app is seamless and intuitive — no separate hub needed. From there, you'll be able to control the lock from anywhere, share access with other users, and program the lock to open and close automatically as you approach your home and enter inside.

The August WiFi Smart Lock pairs with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit, enabling voice control, maybe to check that the front door is locked from bed. If you add in the August Doorbell Cam Pro, you'll also be able to communicate with visitors and let them inside, all through the same August app.

Best Smart Security System

SimpliSafe 9-Piece Wireless Home Security System

Putting in a home security system used to mean pricey professional installations and no-break multiyear contracts. DIY solutions have wrested control from the big alarm companies, without compromising security. SimpliSafe was one of the earliest disrupters and its Home Security kit is still a favorite with our engineers, because of its value and versatility.

The $200 kit includes everything you need to get started: the base station, a wireless keypad, motion sensors, and panic button. Installation is peel-and-stick easy and setup of the system through the mobile app is straightforward. We also like that you can easily add more components into the system, including smoke detectors and temperature sensors, to protect against freezing pipes. And if you decide you want to layer in professional monitoring, plans start for as little as $15 per month.

The best smart home entertainment

If you’re looking for the latest and greatest in home entertainment, you’ll have no choice but to go smart! From flat screen TVs to streaming devices, the best models on today's market are all infused with smart technology to maximize your viewing and listening experience.

Best Smart TV

LG 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV

In the age of cord-cutting, smart TVs with full streaming capabilities are more or less the standard. To find the best sets, our engineers also looked hard at factors like resolution, sound quality, viewing angle, ease of interface, and more. LG is a clear favorite on all fronts, with this impressive OLED lineup. Whatever the size, these LG TVs all boast whip-fast response times with low input lag for easy use. The interface runs on WebOS, meaning the menu of apps runs along the bottom of the screen, for quick scanning. Granted, you pay a pretty penny for such high-quality TVs, with prices starting around $1,300. But the LG OLED picture quality is second to none, especially if you do a lot of watching in the dark.

Best Smart Universal Remote

Logitech Harmony Companion

A universal remote is the cure for clicker overload, allowing you to control all your electronics (TV, sound bar, streaming devices, and more) from single device. The Harmony Companion is the best option for many households. The robust two-piece system, including the remote and separate hub, allows you to control up to eight components of your home’s entertainment system, plus any other smart devices in your home, like lights, motorized blinds, or the front lock.

Our tester also liked the Harmony Companion's easy integration with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, allowing for full voice control, maybe to adjust the volume in the dark. Another nice convenience is how the Harmony app turns any smartphone or tablet into a universal remote, so you can control your entertainment system when you’re away from home.

Best Smart Streaming Device

Roku Streaming Stick+

Even with a smart TV, you'll still need a separate streaming device to bring content onto the screen. Streaming sticks are the simplest, most cost-effective solution, and the Roku Streaming Stick+ is the one our engineers like the most. For starters, it works with practically every streaming app, so whether your latest binge is on Netflix, Hulu, Disney, HBO Max, or Amazon Prime, Roku won't leave you in the lurch.

Our testers also found the Roku super simple to set up — just plug it in, connect to the WiFi, and you're ready to start streaming. There's also a long-range wireless receiver, so you can stream in rooms that are on the other side of the house from your main router. Last but not least, Roku's full 4K HDR capabilities mean it won't become obsolete anytime soon. The best smart home entertainment

The best smart appliances

Connected technology is changing the way we interact with major appliances in the home. Want to watch TV on the refrigerator? You can do that. Care to preheat the oven on the car ride home from the supermarket? Not a problem. While convenience is a big benefit of these high-tech enhancements, there are practical takeaways too, like helping with the care and maintenance. The following picks show why it's worth spending more on smart appliances.

Best Smart Washing Machine

LG Smart Front Load Washer

With smart laundry appliances, you'll receive alerts to your phone when washing and drying cycles are complete. We like this extra-roomy front-loader from LG, along with its matching matching (LG DLEX9000V). The machines are Alexa and Google compatible for voice control ("Hey Google, how much time is left on the dryer?") and there's even the option of a second smaller pedestal washer, enabling you to do two loads at once. One final advantage of the WiFi connectivity: if something does go wrong with the appliances, LG can do use remote diagnostics to identify the problem. That should avoid those annoying follow-ups visits from the repair person, since they'll be able to bring any necessary parts with them.

Best Smart Refrigerator

Samsung Family Hub French Door Smart Refrigerator

The Family Hub raised the bar for smart appliances with its debut in 2016, and thanks to continued advancements, our engineers still consider it the smartest fridge money can buy. First off, it's a massive cooler, with ample storage and lots of helpful organization. What really sets the Family Hub apart, however, is the built-in LCD screen that acts as a high-tech command central for any household. Use the digital calendar to keep track of family schedules, post messages, maintain a running shop list, and more. The Family Hub also integrates with other smart home devices, so you can do things like answer the front door through your video doorbell or adjust the temperature through your smart thermostat. You can also play music and stream video content. There are even built-in cameras inside the Family Hub, making it possible to check if you're out of milk from the dairy aisle of the supermarket.

Best Smart Dishwasher

Miele Smart Dishwasher

Let's talk basics: This Miele earns the Good Housekeeping Seal because it has all the features we look for like energy efficiency, fingerprint-resistant stainless steel and a quick cycle that cleans a load in under one hour.

Then there's the added intelligence. The Miele is unique in that it features a "PowerDisk" of powdered detergent and rinse aid that you place into a special dispenser. That's super convenient, but it also means the machine will automatically dispenses the correct amount of detergent into the dishwasher based on the cycle you've selected and the amount of soil on your dishes. Through the Miele app, you can start, stop, and monitor this dishwasher wirelessly from your smart phone and get an alert when the Power Disk is running low. There's even an option to order more disks through the app.

Best Smart Range

GE Smart Slide-In Double Oven Range

Isn't it a pain when recipes tell you to adjust the oven temperature after 30 minutes? With this 30-inch slide-in gas oven (also available in electric), you simply whip out your phone and make the change through the GE Appliances Kitchen app. The WiFi-connected range also works with Alexa and Google, so you can make changes by voice command, say when your hands are covering with raw chicken for tonight's dinner. High-tech features aside, the GE range also features a double oven, so you can cook two dishes at different temperatures at the same time.

The best smart small appliances

Small appliances also get better with technology, starting with the ability to control the devices from afar. Our latest tests have even revealed whole new product categories that have emerged out of advancements in cooking and clean up. Here are six to consider.

Best Smart Sous Vide

ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide

French for “under vacuum,” sous vide is a way to cook meat, fish, and other foods in a temperature-controlled bath. Boasting 1100 watts, Joule can reach desired cooking temps in around 15 minutes. It's super convenient when cooking for a crowd, since you can prepare steaks, filets and other dishes hours in advance, then flash sear them right before dinner is served. Joule is the device that maintains the pinpoint temperature for the duration of the cooking time. Our testers like its sleek, streamlined design — at 11 inches long, it's compact enough to fit into a kitchen drawer, unlike most other sous vide machines. Instead of clipping to the side of the pot, its magnetic bottom holds it upright in the pot. And there are no buttons or controls on the device, which makes it especially "smart." Instead, everything is done through the intuitive and easy-to-master Joule app that's loaded with recommended cooking times, recipes and pictures to illustrate anticipated results.

Best Smart Slow Cooker

Instant Pot Smart WiFi 8-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

Sure, part of the beauty of a slow cooker is that you don't have to constantly check in on it. But there are times when remote control comes in handy, like when you need to adjust the temperature on a meal part way through the cooking time. That's why our testers like Instant Pot's WiFi-connected version, which was one of the first of its kind. As with the basic Instant Pot, it's multiple appliances in one, including a slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, and yogurt maker. The app makes it easy to search hundreds of pre-programmed recipes, then monitor the progress and receive notifications when the meal is ready.

Best Smart Robotic Vacuum

Samsung Robot Vacuum

Robotic vacuums do the dirty work for you — literally. Okay, they're not quite as powerful as a full-size upright or canister vacuum, but sucking power continues to improve with the machines. That's certainly true with the competitively priced Samsung, which delivers solid daily cleaning on carpets and bare floors while you're doing other stuff. Thanks to the WiFi-connectivity, you can also control the POWERbot through the SmartThings app or voice-enabled devices like Bixby, Amazon Alexa, or Google Assistant — nice if you have company coming around last minute and want to give the place a quick sweep while you stop off at the grocer.

Best Smart Countertop Oven

June Life Smart Countertop Convection Oven

Versatility sets this countertop cooker apart from other smart ovens on the market. June claims a dozen cooking modes in all, though in fairness that includes a lot of stuff any toaster oven can do, like toasting, roasting, and reheating. Where June goes next-level is with modes like air frying, dehydrating, and indoor grilling. If you're a little unsure in the kitchen, the June app's assisted cooking feature provides step-by-step video guidance through more complicated recipes, like the oven risotto or malted chocolate pie. Our testers found the touchpad controls to be highly intuitive and responsive. In fact, the entire design package is very well thought out, plus June is constantly tweaking and improving the software, so the experience promises to only get better.

Best Smart Indoor Garden

Gardyn Home Indoor Smart Garden

Gardyn is a fully-automated indoor system that lets you grow crops of fruits and veggies year round. After assembling the Gardyn frame, simply pop in the pods for the plants of your choice — assorted greens, herbs, fruits, and flowers. Built-in cameras monitor plant growth and prompt you with any suggestions. For example, during our testing cycle, Gardyn noticed that some of our pods weren't getting enough sunlight, so it had us try a new location. It also did a good job monitoring water levels and irrigating plants automatically.

The best smart climate control

Most of your energy dollars go towards climate control. Through machine learning and other forms of artificial intelligences, smart home technology is able to keep heating and cooling costs in check, while also maintaining just the right temperature and humidity levels throughout the year.

Best Smart Window AC

LG Smart Wi-Fi Air Conditioner

Smart thermostats are nice for central cooling, but what if you're in a small house or apartment and want to kick on the room AC remotely so it's cool when you get home? That's the magic of LG's 8,000 BTU window unit, which enables you control the temperature, scheduling mode, and fan speed adjustment all from the LG SmartThinQ app. The AC is also compatible with both Alexa and Google Home, for easy voice control when you're within ear shot. With thousands of 5-star reviews on Home Depot, many users like that this model comes with a handheld remote too.

Best Smart Humidifier

Dyson Pure Humidify+Cool Air Purifier

Did you know the ideal humidity level in a home is between 30 and 50 percent? Too high and it can breed dust mites, mildew, mold, and other allergens. Too low and it can cause dry skin and static electricity. True to its high-tech reputation, the Dyson uses sophisticated algorithms to diagnose moisture levels in the room and project humidified air as needed. The two-in-one machine also includes a purifier, so it can check for pollutants and remove most of them with its onboard HEPA filter.

Best Smart Air Purifier

Dyson Pure Cool Purifying Tower Fan


This Dyson does its primary job exceedingly well, using a HEPA filter to capture up to 99.97% of airborne pollutants, odors, and toxins. It then adds in a tons of family-friendly extras. For examples, the purifier has no accessible blades, unlike other fans, so it's safer for small hands. There's a nighttime mode and a sleep timer as part of its 10-speed program control. Our testers also like that you can use the Dyson app to receive real-time air quality reports that include temperature and humidity.

The best smart home outdoors

The smart home isn't just indoors. Some of the best connected technology makes life easier in the yard, garage, car, and other places outside the home. The standouts from our tests take the guess work out of lawn care, keep tabs on the property when you're from home, and control various systems in the home, like the lighting and climate, from the driver's seat of your car.

Best Smart Garage Door Opener

Chamberlain MyQ Smart Garage Door Opener

Have you ever had turn the car around miles from home because you couldn't be sure you closed the garage door on you way out? A smart garage door opener means never again. A longtime leader in the garage door opener category, Chamberlain's smart control solution is tops as well. Our testers found the MyQ to be plug-and-play easy, so you’ll be able to open and close your garage door within minutes through the intuitive app. You can also set daily schedules, and even share access to your garage with up to five users. Eligible Amazon Prime members can also arrange to have packages dropped safely inside the garage.

Best Smart Sprinkler

Rachio 3 Smart Sprinkler Controller

Traditional sprinkler systems can waste a ton of water, and they often don't irrigate when and where your yard needs it the most. Our testers like the Rachio 3 Controller, which leverages artificial intelligence and advanced sensor technology to solve both shortcomings. Not only does it work seamlessly with your in-ground sprinkler system, it can be tied into other smart home products, including any Alexa-enabled device, Apple HomeKit or Google Assistant.

Users reviews are equally enthusiastic, with thousands of 5-star ratings on Amazon. Many agree with our testers that it makes sense for sprinkler zones to be individually controlled, so an area of lawn in all-sun can be watered more frequently than shady patches. The Rachio 3 even coordinates watering with local weather reports, cutting back on irrigation when rain is forecast. That feature helped the Rachio earn a badge from EPA’s WaterSense program.

Best Smart Security Camera

Netamo Smart Outdoor Security Camera

Outdoor cameras are often installed near outdoor lighting fixtures. Why not combine the devices in a single housing? That's the space-saving beauty of the Netatmo, which replaces any outdoor light fixture in your home, while adding in a home security camera. Installation is relatively easy, though you might want to hire an electrician or handyman, especially if it's being mounted high on a wall. Our engineers like the advanced camera technology, which can distinguish between people, cars, and animals. Unlike other cameras, there are no subscription fees to store and save captured videos.

Best Smart Auto

Chrysler 2021 Pacifica

More and more, the smart home starts in the car, with the ability to control devices in the home from the driver's seat — turn on the AC, preheat the oven, or open the front door for an early-arriving visitor. With its built-in Alexa and Android integration, the Chrysler Pacifica delivers that next-level connectivity, and the experience works both ways, allowing you to start the engine from home, a nice convenience on cold winter mornings. The expansive infotainment stack on the spacious, family-friendly minivan also features SiriusXM with 360L, providing access to more than 200 channels, as well as personalized content. All the latest high- tech safety features are evident as well, including blind spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking for pedestrians.

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