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Top Smart Home Devices That’ll Make Your Life Easier in 2021

Written by Brian Funes | April 25, 2021

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Thanks to artificial intelligence and automation, smart home devices have significantly reduced the number of menial tasks and chores that require our direct involvement. With the power of the internet, we can now tap, swipe and/or speak the completion of chores and simple tasks into existence. These devices can often seem overly complex for non-techies; fortunately, smart home setup is a reality that the average person can easily implement for themselves. Below are some of our top smart home recommendations in 2021 for streamlined and easy living.

Arlo Video Doorbell - Wired

Arlo Video Doorbell - Wired

Price: $149.99 $119.99 at Best Buy
Used for: Identifying guests and monitoring deliveries
Compatible With: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

The Arlo Video Doorbell is an essential part of starting your smart home off on the right foot. Knowing who is at your door without having to be anywhere near it is safer and more sophisticated than having to look through a peephole, right?

The advanced AI of this doorbell is able to distinguish between people, animals, vehicles, and packages that are within the zone of the camera, and the square aspect ratio captures a clearer picture than most landscape oriented cameras. Just keep in mind that you must pay a subscription fee (starting at $3 per month) for many of these doorbell’s features, which can be a financial inconvenience found in many home security devices.

One of the most convenient perks of this doorbell is the option of activating pre-recorded messages if someone is at your door. While you do have the ability to directly talk to a would-be visitor, if you’re busy in a work meeting or having a phone conversation, the one-touch message response can alleviate the stress of navigating multiple interactions at once.

To get started you’ll have to create an account with Arlo and download the Arlo app. From there, you’ll receive easy-to-follow instructions on assembly and Wi-Fi setup of your new HD video doorbell. Once your doorbell is set up, when someone presses the button you can see who that person is right from your smartphone or smart display like the Amazon Echo.

Expert Advice: Investing in a Wi-Fi mesh network and having internet speeds of around 100 Mbps is crucial, especially since connection reliability and range can get dicey with various smart home gadgets demanding bandwidth at once.
Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera

Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera

Price: $129.99 $99.99 at Best Buy
Used for: Home protection
Compatible With: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, IFTTT (If This Then That), Samsung SmartThings

Part spotlight, part 1080p HD camera, there are many things to love about the Arlo Essential Spotlight Camera. Use this camera to supplement your video doorbell with a second angle above your garage, or utilize its bright LED spotlight and color night vision capabilities for some backyard coverage. The built-in siren will also serve as a great deterrent for uninvited guests who have overstepped their boundaries.

The Arlo Essential Spotlight camera plays nicely with voice commands from Alexa and Google Assistant, and can work in tandem with smart lights and smart locks when placed in a routine with the IFTTT application. You’ll need to download the Arlo app to get things started. Like most security cameras in the industry, the camera does come with additional subscription fees for features that you’ll definitely want and need, such as watching recorded videos and other more advanced options. If the investment is outside your comfort zone, cheaper alternatives like the Wyze v3 camera are also worth your consideration and time.

August Wi-Fi Smart Lock

August Wi-Fi Smart Lock

Price: $249.99 $206.99 at Best Buy
Used for: Home protection, setting up smart device routines after door is locked/unlocked
Compatible With: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings

If you’re looking for a lock with a fairly simple installation process, the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is a great foray into smart lock technology and is loved by just about every tech reviewing site. The sleek-designed lock avoids attracting attention and doesn’t require a connected bridge for operation thanks to its built-in Wi-Fi, which plays nicely with Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. All you need to get started is the August mobile app (for Android and iOS), and a pair of CR123 batteries (which the unit comes with). The IFTTT app also lets you set up clever routines such as adjusting the smart lights and thermostats of your home after unlocking the door, or arming your home security system when activating the lock.

What people don’t love about this smart lock aside from the price point and lack of a number pad is the lock’s relatively short battery life. Staying connected to Wi-Fi has a price, and batteries last about 3-6 months depending on how frequently the lock is used. Don’t ignore the August mobile app when you get that low-battery notification, because you won’t be able to enter your house without a functioning lock!

Amazon Echo 4th Generation Smart Speakers

Amazon Echo 4th Generation Smart Speakers

Price: $99.99 at Best Buy
Used for: Listening to internet radio or streaming services, answering questions, and making calls and voice commands for device activation
Compatible With: N/A

Out of all the items on this list (minus the smart display), picking the right smart speaker can be one of the hardest decisions to make. What’s so complicated about a speaker, you say? Aside from dispensing sound, these speakers are also connected to the internet and come with a built-in voice assistant based on the speakers you choose. They essentially function as the brain of your smart house operation and are what allows all compatible smart devices to relay information to one another.

For simplicity’s sake, we are recommending the Amazon Echo 4th Generation Smart Speakers. These smart speakers support the majority of smart devices on the market, have an audio quality that tops its predecessor at a cheaper price point, come with Alexa assistance, and has a built-in Zigbee hub (meaning, Alexa can control third-party Zigbee products directly without relying on their applications). The Amazon Echo also lets you do many of the fun things you’ve probably seen in commercials: Ask Alexa what the weather is, play a specific song, call a relative, set alarms, and much more.

Just remember to read the instructions because Alexa is very particular with how you phrase your questions and won’t execute if you’re even slightly off on your delivery.

Tech Advice: Amazon, Apple, and Google are the most common ecosystem choices, and each of these ecosystems have existing compatibilities with the current market of smart devices. Apple Homekit hubs are great if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, but aren’t compatible with as many smart devices as Google or Amazon smart speakers are.
Google Nest Hub Smart Display

Google Nest Hub Smart Display

Price: $89.99 $69.99 at Best Buy
Used for: Listening to internet radio or streaming services, voice commands for device activation, answering questions, making calls
Compatible With: N/A

The level of consideration you need to take when choosing a smart display is just as important as when you’re choosing smart speakers. Smart displays have all the same features as a smart speaker, except they have an added visual component that many consumers find helpful.

With that said, you can’t go wrong with the Google Nest Hub Smart Display. Like the Amazon Echo Speakers listed above, this display is also compatible with the majority of smart devices on the market. There's a lot of utility packed inside that 7-inch screen size, and while the audio quality isn’t as crisp as some of its competitors, the screen quality is surprisingly good and the microphone can easily capture voice commands from across the room. Another interesting detail about the Google Nest Hub Smart Display is that it doesn’t have a camera. This could be a negative for some people, but for those uneasy about smart devices listening in on every conversation, you won’t have to worry that this display is watching you as well.

The ultimate pro of having a smart display as the brain of your household is that you can visually SEE your routines and device integrations all in one place, instead of having to refer to smartphone apps on a smaller screen. The ability to see that someone is at your doorstep from a smart doorbell notification versus hearing you have a guest from a speaker is a valuable perk, and smart displays have even begun functioning as bedside clocks and picture frames.

Tech Tip: Do you buy a smart display or smart speakers? It mostly depends on your use case because you certainly don’t need both. The money spent for either is also around the same amount, so it really comes down to preference.
Philips Wiz Smart Wi-Fi LED Color Bulb

Philips Wiz Smart Wi-Fi LED Color Bulb

Price: $12.97 at Home Depot
Used for: Hands-free lighting, mood-setting, timed lighting sequences
Compatible With: Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings

Smart light bulbs have been around for nearly a decade now, but their prices are finally starting to dip to a more accessible point for the average consumer. Even better, there are now smart bulbs that don’t require an expensive hub for operation like the Philips Wiz Wi-Fi LED Smart Color Bulb, which is a great entry to smart lighting with minimal investment. Once you get the initial setup of the lights handled within the free Wiz app, you can communicate with your smart bulbs using Wi-Fi voice commands through Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, SmartThings, and IFTTT.

With the Philips Wiz Wi-Fi LED Smart Color Bulb, enjoy an extensive color palette featuring millions of colors that are perfect for work, play, and everything in between. Schedule your lights to dim or brighten depending on whether it’s time for rest or action. Wirecutter also enjoys the bulb’s Vacation Mode, where your lights will turn on and off while you’re away at random times to give the impression that someone is home.

Wyze Wi-Fi Smart Plug (2-Pack)

Wyze Wi-Fi Smart Plug (2-Pack)

Price: $19.97 at Home Depot
Used for: Making non-smart devices smart, scheduling power to your plugs
Compatible With: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

The most unassuming item on our list is in fact one of the most powerful. Smart plugs have the ability to transform appliances of the past into coordinated pieces of your smart home, and you can do this with the Wyze Wi-Fi Smart Plug.

Once you set up your smart plugs through the Wyze app, you’ll be able to control when that outlet receives power from your smartphone or through voice commands with Alexa and Google Assistant. The benefits measure from mildly impressive (turning off outlets for the night so that plugged-in appliances don’t draw phantom energy and monitoring energy usage of each appliance) to downright convenient (scheduling your coffee maker to brew a cup of caffeine before you wake up). Through the app, you can even group multiple Wyze plugs together so that all appliances turn on/off with one command.

The only downside is that the Wyze Smart Plug is not compatible with Apple Homekit, so you’ll have to fully rely on the Wyze app for all your needs if you’re in this camp.

Google Nest Smart Programmable Wifi Thermostat

Google Nest Smart Programmable Wifi Thermostat

Price: $129.99 $99.99 at Best Buy
Used for: Remote temperature control, reducing cooling/heating costs
Compatible With: Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa

If you’re looking for a quality entry-level smart thermostat, a strong option that gives you all the essential functions of a smart thermostat without the full price tag is the Google Nest Smart Programmable Wifi Thermostat. While you do need the Google Home app to adjust the temperature remotely, the Nest Thermostat is also compatible with Alexa and can be adjusted with voice commands if you have a smart speaker like the Amazon Echo.

You won’t have the convenience of this thermostat learning your temperature preferences automatically like some of the more expensive models, but you can set your home, away, and sleep temp preferences manually just the same. Its heating and cooling system monitoring will also suggest tweaks to your temperature schedule for optimal climate control, and will even tell you if a filter should be replaced. While the thermostat does have Geofencing, where the thermostat can detect the location of your phone (aka your location) and adjust the climate accordingly.

Ecovacs Deebot N79S

Ecovacs Deebot N79S

Price: $249.99 at Walmart
Used for: Cleaning carpet and floor
Compatible With: Amazon Alexa

As convenient as robot vacuums are, they are also one of the more expensive purchases you can buy for a smart home. Some, like the iRobot Roomba s9+ can run more than $1,000. Meanwhile, cheaper robots will spare your wallet at the cost of having poor suction capabilities and leaving dust on the ground.

The Ecovacs Deebot N79S is a great compromise that is listed at an entry-level price, but tackles dirt on multiple surfaces with more gusto than other robots at its price point. It has a three-stage cleaning cycle that sweeps, lifts, and vacuums dirt off your carpet and floor. The N79s comes equipped with two side brushes, a main roller brush and a powerful suction motor.

To get started, just connect the N79s to your Wi-Fi network using the Ecovacs app on Android or iOS. The N79s also has Alexa compatibility, letting you initiate and end cleaning, as well as returning the device to its dock with simple voice commands.

Withings Body + Composition Wi-Fi scale

Withings Body + Composition Wi-Fi scale

Price: $99 at Best Buy
Used for: Weight management
App Required: Health Mate App, Compatible with Apple Health

The Withings Body + Composition Wi-Fi scale does exactly as its namesake implies and tracks your weight and body composition with the accompanying Health Mate app. Aside from weight tracking, the Health Mate app lets you set target goals, track your nutrition, and set up a profile for up to eight people on one scale. Compositional info such as fat mass, muscle mass, bone mass, and water retention, are also included in your daily readout. The scale even gives you a localized weather forecast, incentivizing you to step on the scale to start your day.

And for those who need to flex their smart home devices even at the scale, yes, the Withings Health Mate app works with Alexa once you utter the magic words “Alexa, ask Withings."

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