The Best Smart Home Devices for 2021


 The Best Smart Home Devices for 2021

The transition started a couple of years ago, out of necessity. After peering beneath my bed skirt to retrieve a fallen item, I was horrified to discover a thick coating of dust on the floor. My old-school corded upright vacuum was too bulky to fit all the way under, so I picked up a robot vacuum to handle the dirty work for me. 

Then I got a dog, which led to the purchase of a smart air purifier to help combat allergies and asthma, and a pet camera to keep an eye on my fur baby (and my home) from my phone, 24/7.

Since then I've been reviewing smart home gadgets for PCMag, and my little Florida beach bungalow has transformed into a test bed for the latest home tech, growing smarter by the week. Now I walk into the bedroom and tell Google Assistant to turn on the lights. I ask Alexa to reorder protein powder and dog food and it arrives on my doorstep two days later. I adjust my thermostat through an app on my phone, from the comfort of bed before I get out of it in the morning. I receive severe weather warnings and recipe ideas on the screen of the smart display in my kitchen. Even my air fryer sends me a notification when it's done preheating. 

These days, there's a smart version of pretty much every home device you can think of. In general, these products connect to the internet, so you can control them from your phone via a companion app. Most also work with various forms of voice control. 

Many smart home companion apps support scheduling, so you can easily program your devices to perform a certain action at a certain time. After having a bike stolen, for instance, PCMag's editor Wendy Sheehan Donnell programmed her smart garage door to automatically close every night at a specific time. 

With Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, you can set up routines to program your devices to work together and do multiple things at once, like adjust the temperature and lighting when you get home. With Apple HomeKit, you can control your devices with Siri voice commands, or from an Apple Watch, and create scenes to trigger several devices at the same time. Using IFTTT, a service supported by many of the top smart home brands, you can link various internet-connected devices and easily program them to respond to real-world events, such as setting your lights to turn on automatically at sunset.


What follows is a rundown of the best smart devices we've tested for every room of the house. There are so many products that we've arranged them by room to help keep things organized, but that doesn't mean you can't use most of these gadgets just about anywhere.

And make sure to check back soon, as we're regularly testing new products and adding them to this guide.

 
FRONT YARD: CREATING A WELL-LIT AND SECURE ENTRANCE
Front Yard
(Illustration: Bob Al-Greene)
At the ultimate smart home, you're met with technology before you even step through the front door. Some of the most useful connected home gadgets reside in the front yard. 

To illuminate your abode, you'll want some outdoor-friendly smart lights. The Ring Smart Lighting System is an excellent option; it lets you create a network of motion-based security lights for the outside of your home. You can add components as needed, including floodlights, pathway lights, spotlights, and step lights. 

Most of Ring's smart lighting components are powered by battery, so they're simple to install. Each works independently as a motion-activated light, but to make them smart you have to connect them to a Ring Bridge. Once connected, you can control the lights with Alexa voice commands or from your phone via the Ring app, create groups so all the lights turn on when one detects motion, and link them with Ring security cameras like the Stickup Cam Battery. Once linked, you can have the camera record video when a light detects motion.

Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera
Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera
Speaking of outdoor security cameras, our top pick overall for keeping tabs on your home from your phone is the Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight Camera. This high-resolution, weather-resistant security camera not only captures motion-triggered video, but casts a bright light on whatever is moving around on your property. It's wireless and installs in minutes, delivers detailed 2K video with color night vision, provides accurate and intelligent motion detection, and offers plenty of integration options.

For those times you want to check whether it's a delivery person or an unwanted solicitor knocking on your door, a video doorbell will let you see who's there without getting up from the couch. Beyond this convenience, video doorbells can serve as a first line of defense against property theft, home invasion, and porch pirates. They not only let you see and speak with the person outside, but they also record footage of visitors that approach your door while you're away or unable to answer. Our favorite budget-friendly model, the Ezviz DB1C Wi-Fi, delivers sharp HD video with a wide viewing angle, offers local and cloud video storage, and supports IFTTT as well as Alexa and Google Assistant voice commands.

Another piece of technology you'll want on your front door is a smart lock. Arguably the most important part of a truly connected home, these devices offer both security and flexibility, letting you come and go as you please, and monitor who is entering and leaving your home while you're away. Our current favorite is the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock, which is easy to install and stands out for its automatic locking and unlocking abilities, robust third-party integrations, and stylish design. 

For the highest level of protection, consider a professionally monitored smart home security system. One of our top picks, ADT Command, is a hefty investment, but it offers virtually everything you need for maximum protection. Compared with Vivint, another Editors' Choice winner, ADT is a bit pricier but offers superior customer service. 

SimpliSafe Home Security System
SimpliSafe Home Security System
For a more affordable alternative, do-it-yourself smart home security systems are ideal for homeowners who want to save money by monitoring their homes themselves. The SimpliSafe Home Security System, our favorite DIY option, lets you secure and monitor your home from afar without spending a bundle or signing a long-term contract. Just keep in mind that DIY systems leave it up to you to take action when an alarm is triggered. 

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