The best smart home gadgets 2020: upgrade your abode with top tech


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If you’re in the market for the best smart home gadgets that money can buy in 2019 – kit from the likes of Nest, Philips, Samsung and many more – then we’re here to help with our indispensable guide to what’s hot and what’s not right now.

You’ve got a lot of choice now, when it comes to picking the best smart home devices, and that’s why we’re here: whether you’re after a smart thermostat or a smart bulb, we’ve got the pick of the smart home devices and the common sense buying advice you need.

Read more: Philips Hue review and guide: lighting the way towards our smart home future

It’s worth noting that if you are looking for the best smart home devices to invest in, you should spend some time shopping around – we’re seeing some fantastic price reductions happen throughout the year, so hunt down the best deal you can.

These are the best smart home gadgets to buy

(Image credit: Amazon)

Best smart home hub: Amazon Echo Plus

Control just about anything with your voice

Reasons to buy
+Superb smart home AI+Broad compatibility+Fantastic voice recognition

You could argue Amazon helped kickstart the smart home revolution with its Echo, an unassuming talking speaker that has since inspired rival products from Apple, Google, Samsung and just about everyone else. Now the 2nd-gen Plus is here, representing the best Echo yet.

Of course you get those tens of thousands of voice commands to play with, so you can bring up everything from your favourite tunes to the weather forecast, but the Echo Plus also comes with a Zigbee-compatible hub: that means not every smart home gadget needs its own hub to work with the Echo.

On top of that, most smart home gadgets obey Alexa voice commands as well, so this really does deserve a place at the centre of your smart home operations. As an added bonus, you get the best audio quality possible from an Echo.

Best one-box kit: Samsung SmartThings Starter Kit

A great smart home starter kit

Reasons to buy
+Everything you need in one box+Works with plenty of devices+Reasonably well designed
Reasons to avoid
Some products better than others

If you want to go all-in on the best complete smart home kit, you can do a lot worse than SmartThings from Samsung: it covers a host of sensors and devices, works with plenty of third-party kit, and is intuitive and simple to use across the board.

The starter kit comes with a Hub to connect everything together, a smart plug and three sensors of varying descriptions, and it’s easy to add other gear as well – this kit can help control your Philips Hue or Lifx lights, for example, and you can also control everything using Amazon’s smart assistant Alexa if needed.

We’re impressed with how many devices tie into the Samsung SmartThings system as well as the regular improvements that Samsung pushes out to its software. As far as all-in-one, all-encompassing solutions go, SmartThings is difficult to beat as the best smart home starter kit in 2019.

(Image credit: Nest)

Best smart thermostat: Nest Learning Thermostat E

Both super-sexy and smart

Reasons to buy
+Attractive design+Works well with other devices+Gets smarter over time

The smart thermostat market continues to get more competitive, but the Nest Thermostat E manages to stand out. It features all the smarts of the original Nest, but just cuts back with a few cheaper materials and a less vivid display – and that makes it excellent value for money.

As you would expect, it works seamlessly with other Nest devices like the Nest Protect and the Nest security cameras, and you can connect smart home gadgets from a host of other manufacturers too. It works with a wide range of heating systems, and is simple to use (though get a professional to install it).

The key selling point is the intelligence built into the thermostat though, which will gradually learn about you and your family’s activities and your preferred heating schedule, saving you as much money as you can on your energy bills while keeping you warm. Undoubtedly one of the best smart home devices of 2019.

Best colour bulb: Philips Hue

The best colour bulbs, bar none

Reasons to buy
+Many vibrant colours+Plenty of bulb designs+Voice control included
Reasons to avoid
On the pricey side

The best smart lights have to be one of the best smart home gadgets you kit out your living space with, and Philips Hue has been leading the charge for years (since 2012), getting better over time. The recently revamped app adds even more features and functions as well as improving usability along the way too.

With Alexa and Google Assisant voice control, some impressive third-party apps, integration with a lot of other systems (like HomeKit and SmartThings), and a wide range of different bulb shapes and styles to pick from, Philips Hue really is the player to beat in the smart lighting space – as far as colour bulbs go, anyway.

An honourable mention for Lifx, which also puts out some very nice bulbs too. The Lifx devices are also great to look at, easy to control, and compatible with a wide range of other smart home kit, so they’re a decent alternative. What’s more, they interact directly with your Wi-Fi, without the need for a hub.

Best white bulb: Lifx

Smart lighting done right

Reasons to buy
+Simple, smart operation+No hub required+Works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant
Reasons to avoid
Smaller range than Philips

We gave the colour award to Philips Hue, so it seems fair that we give the top pick for white bulbs to Lifx. As we said in the previous section, Lifx matches Philips in offering a smart range of bulbs that work with a lot of other smart home devices and systems, which makes it an easy choice for our best smart home gadgets list.

Unlike Philips Hue bulbs, you don’t need a hub device fixed to your router to get the Lifx lights up and running, so that’s one feature in their favour. If you just want to dip a toe into the world of the smart home without paying too much or having to learn any complicated operations, Lifx lights could be for you.

There are of course white bulbs in the Philips Hue range too, with different temperatures and fading settings as well, so it’s a close run between the two manufacturers. You could even test them both out, if you wanted to – you can use them both through Google Assistant, for example.

Best multi-room audio: Sonos

Still the leader of the pack

Reasons to buy
+Good choice of different speakers+Supports plenty of services+A breeze to use
Reasons to avoid
Can quickly get expensive

Like Amazon and Philips, Sonos was pushing out smart home kit before it was fashionable, and the company has slowly built up a solid reputation for high-quality, reliable, and rather expensive wireless audio products. If you can afford them, they’re fantastic.

To be fair to Sonos, its range now covers a whole lot of price points, so you can start small and save up from there (adding new speakers to an existing system is very straightforward). Whichever speaker(s) you end up getting, you’re guaranteed a rich, deep audio experience that’ll really help your music sound its best, and the latest models even come with Alexa, Google Assistant and AirPlay 2 on board.

Two other features make Sonos a clear winner here: the number of supported music services, from iTunes to Spotify to Deezer, and the ease with which you can have your music follow you around the house as you move. With the Google and Alexa assistants now integrated into the newer speakers, they’re hard to beat.

(Image credit: iRobot)

Best connected vacuum cleaner: IRobot Roomba i7

The ultimate robo-vac machine

Reasons to buy
+Excels in its cleaning performance+Top class room-by-room navigation+Automatically empties itself

There are now a host of robot vacuum cleaners to pick from, from the likes of Neato, Dyson, Eufy and more, but iRobot’s Roomba range remains our favourite from the ones we’ve tested: both in the comprehensiveness of the cleaning and the intelligence of the navigation.

The Roomba i7 (and the i7+, with a bigger bin) represent the best of the best: the best clean and the smartest mapping. Its compact, low-profile design means it can slide under cabinets and sofas, and unlike a lot of robot vacuum cleaners it actually copes pretty well with carpets as well as harder surfaces.

It actually gets more efficient as it goes round, and from the app you get to name each room individually (and block off rooms you don’t want the Roomba i7 to touch). This is what the best smart gadgets of 2019 should aspire to.

Belkin WeMo Insight Switch

Best smart plug: Belkin WeMo Insight Switch

Ticks most of the smart plug boxes

Reasons to buy
+Very simple to configure+Works with Nest and Alexa+Easily expandable
Reasons to avoid
Design could use a bit of work

Smart plugs may not seem like the sexiest smart home devices… and that’s because they’re not. But they are useful, allowing you to turn regular, dumb gadgets – like that lamp in the corner of the living room – into intelligent connected tech, so we’re including them in our best smart home gadgets 2019 list.

If you’re after the very best smart plug that money can buy we’d recommend the WeMo Insight Switch from Belkin, though it’s a strong field. It fits in well with other smart home systems (including other Belkin gear), it works with Amazon Alexa, and it will even report back on how much energy you’re actually using.

Just as importantly, the WeMo plug comes with an app that’s a breeze to use, whether you want to turn the socket on and off manually or have it work as a schedule. All in all, a complete package that shows what smart plugs should be.

Logitech Harmony Elite Remote

Best universal remote: Logitech Harmony Elite Remote

Who thought a remote could be sexy?

Reasons to buy
+Sleek, attractive design+Integrated screen+Works with a lot of equipment
Reasons to avoid
Voice control is taking over

Nowadays we’re all spending a lot of time talking to our smart speakers and our smart home devices, but if you’re still a fan of pointing and tapping buttons then the Logitech Harmony Elite Remote is going to be right up your street. It’s a quality device that earns its place on our best smart home devices 2019 list.

Not only does the remote handle your infrared and Bluetooth-controlled TV and media systems, it’ll work with other Wi-Fi-enabled smart home kit too: SmartThings, Insteon, IFTTT, Lifx, Nest, Sonos, Apple TV and Xbox One are some of the brands, services, and hardware that the Logitech Harmony Elite Remote supports.

Using the companion app you can create ‘scenes’ where several devices get controlled from a single button press – for example, you can tap the Good Night scene, and the remote will very helpfully turn your lights off and the security system on at the same time.

Netatmo Weather Station

Best temperature sensor: Netatmo Weather Station

Monitor air quality inside and out

Reasons to buy
+Battery-powered portability+Polished, compact design+Optional wind and rain sensors
Reasons to avoid
Not the most essential bit of kit

If you’re looking for a top of the line weather monitoring kit that can hook up to your Wi-Fi and your smartphone, then our current recommendation would be the excellent Netatmo Weather Station, which should offer everything you need.

The starter set includes an indoor and outdoor unit, both capable of monitoring temperature, relative humidity, air quality (including a CO2 reading), sound pollution, barometric pressure, and more besides. If you want to know something about the conditions in your local environment, this gadget can help, and could earn a place in your best smart home gadgets shortlist.

Adding to its credentials as one of the best smart home gadgets of 2019, you can analyse all the data on Netatmo’s mobile and desktop app in the form of graphs. If you don’t have enough data to hand, Netatmo also offers rain and wind gauges for an even more complete solution.

Withings Sleep

Best sleep tech: Withings Sleep

Improve the quality of your slumber

Reasons to buy
+Comprehensive sleep tracking+App is clean and intuitive+Can work with your smart home
Reasons to avoid
Quite a steep cost

You can track the quality of your sleep and get suggestions on ways to improve it with fitness trackers or phone apps, but if you really want to go to town with the sleep tech then the Withings Sleep is the gadget to go for, and earns a spot on our best smart home devices of 2019 list.

It slips discreetly between your sheets to take detailed readings on how much shut-eye you’re getting and how much good it’s doing you. There’s a free app to go alongside the device itself as well, offering a breakdown of the times you went to bed, the times you got up, and the deep sleep and light sleep you got (or didn’t get) in between.

In terms of the broader smart home picture, the Withings Sleep can also be used as a trigger: switching on the lights when you get up, for example. All this is handled through IFTTT (If This Then That), which is compatible with many well-known smart home devices.

Smarter Coffee

Best small appliance: Smarter Coffee

Brew a cuppa joe from your phone

Reasons to buy
+Operate via an app, if needed+Full bean-to-cup process+Smart assistant compatibility
Reasons to avoid
Can be fiddly to maintain

If you want the smartest coffee maker that money can buy, look no further than the aptly named Smarter Coffee – this is the 2nd generation of the small appliance and it’s more versatile and connected than ever. Consider that it works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and IFTTT and it’s already ahead of most of its competitors.

With an integrated grinder this offers a complete bean-to-cup solution for your morning (or afternoon or evening) cup. On the front of the device you’ve got a simple set of controls for making hot beverages, but everything can be controlled via the accompanying app too, so you can even start the coffee-making process from the comfort of your bed.

It’s by no means perfect: it’s not the easiest to set up, and other coffee makers beat it in terms of the quality of the final results. But if you want decent drinks and the best gadget smarts on offer, then this is likely to end up at the top of your shortlist.

Samsung Family Hub

Best large appliance: Samsung Family Hub

The ultimate piece of smart home kit

Reasons to buy
+Some useful applications+Futuristic in appearance+Sure to impress guests
Reasons to avoid
It’s going to cost you

Few devices ooze smart home vibes as much as the Family Hub refrigerator from Samsung. Get this installed in your kitchen and you’ll really feel like you’ve arrived in the future – primarily thanks to that large tablet screen embedded in one of the doors. You can buy the fridge in several different models, though they all share similar characteristics.

You can use that large front panel to leave notes for other people in the family, jot down items for a shopping list, watch YouTube videos and so on. Get a weather report, play some music, find out what everyone in the household is supposed to be doing by calling up a calendar, and so on and so on. The smart fridge has no shortage of useful functions, and it’s one of the best smart home gadgets we’ve seen in 2019.

There’s technology inside the fridge too, like a camera that sits behind the doors and can be accessed remotely – no longer do you have to find yourself wandering around the aisles of your favourite supermarket with no idea what food you’ve got at home and what you need to get in, because a quick check on your phone tells you.

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