Summary List Placement Smart home devices are becoming increasingly common, but the most popular devices can still be a little pricey. Thankfully, there are some awesome budget smart home devices out there. For example, the Google Nest Mini will get you a Google Assistant smart speaker for under $50, while Philips Hue offers a great starter kit. Sign up for Insider Reviews' weekly newsletter for more buying advice and great deals.
The beginnings of a smart home are becoming increasingly common in households nationwide, starting with the smart speakers. The idea is simple – with even affordable smart home devices, you can control your home using your voice, your phone, or without having to do anything at all. That makes your home more customizable, more automatic, and arguably more convenient. But, smart home devices can still be relatively expensive – and if you want to add smart home devices to your entire home, the bill can really add up. That's exactly why we've put together this guide. When buying smart home devices, there are a few things you'll want to consider. First of all, you'll want to make sure that the devices you buy are compatible with the rest of your devices. If you use Android and mostly other Google devices, you'll probably want devices that work with Google Assistant. If you use Amazon devices around the house, you'll want products that work with Alexa. And, if you're an Apple user, you'll want to only buy devices that work with Apple's HomeKit. There are other smart home ecosystems out there, but they're a little smaller, and to find compatible devices, you'll probably need to do some research. You'll also want to think about price – and not just the price of a single device. If you plan on ultimately replacing all of your lights with smart bulbs, you'll need to figure out how many bulbs you need, what kinds of bulbs you want, and how much each bulb costs. The same is true for things like smart speakers, which you might want around the home, and smart plugs. Thankfully, building a smart home doesn't have to break the bank. Here are the best budget smart home devices out there to get you started. Here are our top picks for the best budget smart home devices:
Best budget smart speaker overall: Amazon Echo Dot with Clock Best budget Google speaker: Google Nest Mini Best budget smart lights: Philips Hue Starter Kit Best budget smart switch: Belkin WeMo Mini Best budget smart security camera: TP-Link Kasa Spot The best budget smart speaker
The Amazon Echo Dot with Clock has Alexa built right into it, meaning that you can use it to easily control your smart home devices and find out information from the web. If you're looking for a highly intelligent smart speaker that you can use to control your smart home devices, then the Amazon Echo Dot with Clock is easily the way to go. The Echo Dot has Alexa built right into it, meaning that you can use it to control smart home devices, find out information from the web, and even play music — all at under $50. The device also has a clock built into it, so you can check the time without having to ask Alexa. The Echo Dot is currently on its third generation, and it looks pretty stylish. The device is available in a few different colors, and features a fabric covering around the outside to make it look more homely. On the top, you'll get controls for volume and to mute the microphone. The Echo Dot won't sound as good as a much larger smart speaker, but it still doesn't sound bad at all — and it sounds a whole lot better than the original Echo Dot. The bass is relatively solid for a speaker this size, while the mid range sounds good, and there's a decent amount of clarity and detail. Pros: Inexpensive, Alexa built in, decent sound for the price, works with range of smart home devices Cons: None at this price Read our full Amazon Echo Dot with Clock review here The best budget Google speaker
The Google Nest Mini is small and stylish, plus it has Google Assistant built into it, so it'll work with the rest of your Google-powered devices. If you prefer to use Android and other Google devices, then it's worth getting the Google Nest Mini instead of the Amazon Echo Dot. The Nest Mini is small and compact, like the Echo Dot, plus it comes in a range of colors — some bright and fun, and others sleek and stylish. Of course, the best thing about the Nest Mini is the fact that it has Google Assistant built into it. Google Assistant is considered by many to be the smartest digital assistant out there, and you can use it to control your smart home devices and more. Google Assistant also integrates with your other Google products — so you can use it on your compatible phones, TVs, speakers, and so on. As you would expect, the Nest Mini isn't quite as good-sounding as much larger speakers, but it's still able to pump out a solid sound for the price and the size. Notably, for this model, Google added a much better bass response compared to the previous-generation model. Google Assistant is compatible with a huge range of smart home devices, meaning that you should be able to find devices that work with you across all product categories. I've personally used the Echo Dot for a few years, and it still works just as well as the day I got it, plus Google Assistant has continued to get smarter over time. Pros: Inexpensive, Google Assistant built in, decent sound Cons: None at this price Read our full Google Nest Mini review here The best budget smart lights
Philips Hue bulbs are reliable and work well, plus they're compatible with a huge range of smart home ecosystems. Philips Hue has been a top player in the smart light bulb game since the beginning, and for good reason. Philips bulbs connect through a hub, making them more reliable and meaning that you can still use them even when the internet goes down. This starter kit comes with the Philips Hue hub, along with two bulbs. That makes for a slightly more expensive upfront cost, but means that you'll pay a whole lot less for more bulbs as you grow your smart home. Philips Hue in general is pretty easy to use. Once you have connected your bulbs, through the Philips Hue app, you can turn your lights on and off, dim them, and so on. This kit only comes with white bulbs, but you can also buy and connect color bulbs. Of course, most people probably don't want to use the actual Philips Hue app — and they don't have to. Philips Hue is compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple HomeKit — so no matter what smart home ecosystem you prefer, you'll be set. But, what about the downsides? Well, if you do use the Philips Hue app, it can be a little confusing, and as mentioned, there's a slightly higher startup cost than if you bought Wi-Fi connected bulbs like those from LIFX. Still, reviewers in general love Philips Hue bulbs. I've been using Philips Hue bulbs for around three years now, and have bulbs in each room of the house, can control them with my voice, and even have some smart switches that can control Philips Hue bulbs. It's a great setup — and I would recommend it to anyone interested in getting started in the smart home. Pros: Inexpensive if you buy lots of bulbs, works with a range of smart home ecosystems, easy to set up, lots of compatible devices Cons: More expensive startup cost, Hue app isn't the best The best budget smart plug
The Belkin WeMo Mini is available for under $20, and works with all three of the major smart home ecosystems. Smart plugs allow you to turn your older dumb devices into smart ones. Simply plug the smart plug into a wall outlet, and then your appliance or device into the smart plug — after which you can turn on and off the power using your phone or your voice. As far as smart plugs go, the Belkin WeMo Mini is small, inexpensive, and relatively well-designed. Some smart plugs are big and chunky, and while the WeMo Mini isn't small, it is designed in a way to allow you to still use the outlet above or below it — and there's even enough room to plug two WeMo Mini devices into a two-gang outlet. The device also has a power button on it, so you can control it manually if you want too. The WeMo Mini works with a number of smart home platforms too. It works with Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit, so matter what your setup is, you should be able to get it to work. But, what about the downsides? Well, it's hard to really consider downsides considering the price, but some more expensive switches have energy monitoring, which is a feature that this plug does not have. It's also a little unsightly, despite being designed in a way that makes it very functional. Still, despite that, I've been using a WeMo Mini consistently since I got one a few years ago. It works great plugged in to a hot water heater for tea fans — turn the heater into the on position the night before, then set the plug to switch on in the morning and you'll have hot water without having to wait around. Pros: Cheap, slim enough to not block other outlet, physical power switch, highly compatible Cons: Still a little ugly, no energy tracking The best budget smart security camera
The TP-Link Kasa Spot may not be the highest-resolution camera out there, but it still has a decent-quality video, and works with Alexa and Google Assistant. If you want to heighten your home security on a budget, it's worth considering the TP-Link Kasa Spot security camera, which will bring a security camera to your smart home at under $50. The camera is relatively small and stylish, and allows you to keep tabs on your home straight from your phone. The camera offers a solid video quality for the price. For a camera this cheap, you might expect it to limit resolution to 720p, but you'll get a 1,080p resolution in the Kasa Spot. The camera also supports night vision, and has a wide 130-degrees field-of view. The camera will integrate with some smart homes too. It works with both Alexa and Google Assistant, which is pretty impressive for a camera in this price range. There are some compromises in this price range. Notably, the camera isn't compatible with HomeKit, so Apple users will need to keep looking. Still, despite that, reviewers love the camera, with The Ambient having given the camera an impressive 4 stars. Pros: Inexpensive, Alexa and Google Assistant, relatively high-quality video Cons: No HomeKit support
More like this (3)
Amazon's Blink Mini is one of the most affordable home security cameras, but the cloud storage subscription fee makes it less of a bargain
The Amazon Blink Mini home security camera is very affordable and easy to set up...The Amazon Blink Mini home security camera is very affordable and easy to set up and use, making it a solid entry-level option for indoor security. Camera footage quality is good at 1080p in full color and it has a black-and-white night mode. Amazon Blink Mini cameras also offer clear two-way audio, but they do need to be plugged into an outlet. At $34.99 for a single Amazon Blink Mini camera, it's an affordable option, but you must factor in the cost of a cloud storage subscription or purchase of a separate local storage device. Check out our guide to the best home security cameras for more options. Table of ContentsWhether you're worried about intruders or you want to check on kids and pets when you're away from home, it's worth considering an indoor security camera system. The technology has improved in leaps and bounds over the last few years, and competition has driven prices down. At just $34.99 for a single camera, the Amazon Blink Mini is an enticing entry-level option for indoor coverage. Compact and easy to set up, the Amazon Blink Mini camera offers color 1080p video, two-way audio, and configurable activity zones. As you'd expect with an Amazon product, there's also support for Alexa. Unfortunately, the Amazon Blink Mini has some strings attached, quite literally, as it must be plugged into an outlet. You'll also have to subscribe to cloud storage, which is free until the end of the year but will cost $3 per camera per month thereafter. The local storage option, via the forthcoming Sync Module 2, must be purchased separately and will also cost $34.99, driving the total price up to about $70 total. I tested a single Amazon Blink Mini camera in my home to find out how it performs. There's no doubt it's a solid entry-level option, but the prospect of extra costs dents its ambitions as a budget security camera. Specifications 1080p resolution 110-degree field of view Night vision with infrared Two-way audio USB storage (not included) 60-day cloud storage $3 per month or $30 per year per camera WPA2 Activity zones Design You can buy a single Amazon Blink Mini for $34.99 or get two cameras for $64.99. The box includes a camera, already attached to a mount with a ball joint, which means you can simply place it on a shelf, table, or counter and position it how you want. You also have the option of mounting it on a wall or ceiling, and the two necessary screws are supplied. The need to plug it into an outlet limits your placement options. The Amazon Blink Mini is not a wireless camera, and it comes with a 2-meter USB-to-Micro-USB cable and a power adapter. The camera is small at around 2 inches square and very lightweight at just 1.7 ounces. It has a black face containing the camera lens, sensors, microphone, and a tiny blue LED that lights up when it's recording. There's a speaker on top of the curved white plastic enclosure. The power cable plugs securely into the back. The Amazon Blink Mini is an indoor camera, so there's no water resistance. It feels quite cheap, but then again, it is cheap. It's designed to be placed somewhere and forgotten, so durability shouldn't be a problem. Setup is easy The Amazon Blink Mini is very quick and easy to set up. The difficult part is deciding where you're going to place it since you need a free power outlet to plug it into. Once it's plugged in, you simply download the Blink Home Monitor app for Android or iOS and tap the plus icon at the top right to add a camera. There's a QR code on the back of each camera that you can scan to connect it to your network. If you have a shelf or table to sit the Amazon Blink Mini on, then it's simply a case of adjusting the angle, and you're done. You can also mount the camera on a wall or ceiling. I found the mount a little fiddly to open, but there are two mount options and the necessary screws are provided. You also have the option to flip the camera image in the app for ceiling mounts. This is probably the quickest home security camera setup process I've experienced. Out of the box, it was ready to go in five to 10 minutes. The mobile app The Blink Home Monitor app is very straightforward. The default home tab shows your cameras, and you can tap the video icon to jump into a live view or tap the camera icon to grab a single frame. There's also a "Disarmed" or "Armed" toggle at the bottom for quickly turning your system on or off. At the top right, there's a settings icon that takes you to the settings page for the camera. This is where you name the camera, enable or disable motion detection, set activity zones, decide on retrigger time, sensitivity, and clip length. The activity zone is a grid system, where you can pick which grids you want motion to be detected in, rather than a box you draw. Other options include night vision settings, audio, video quality, and the option to turn that blue recording LED off. The next tab along the bottom shows recorded videos in a chronological list. There's a very basic filter to help you sort videos. Remaining cloud storage is shown at the top and you can choose how long to keep clips for. The final tab is a settings cog at the bottom right that enables you to configure your Blink account. If you look under "System Settings," you'll find the option to schedule your camera system. There's no built-in geofencing, but you can use IFTTT to automatically arm your system when your phone leaves home. As an entry-level camera, there's nothing fancy here in terms of person recognition, or smart alerts, but you do get Alexa support. By enabling the Blink SmartHome skill in my Alexa app, adding the Blink Mini, and setting a security PIN, I was able to tell my Echo "Alexa, tell Blink to arm the Office Cam" and it worked just fine. The command to disarm prompted a request for my PIN. If you have a Fire TV or Echo Show, you can also ask Alexa to display the live feed on it. The Amazon Blink Mini comes with a free trial of the Basic Blink subscription plan that gives you 60 days rolling cloud storage or a total of 120 minutes of video until the end of 2020. After that point, it will cost you $3 per month or $30 per year for each camera or you can opt for the Plus plan at $10 per month or $100 per year for unlimited cameras. Amazon also plans to release a Blink Sync Module 2 for $34.99. This will link to your Wi-Fi network wirelessly (there's no Ethernet port) and store video from up to 10 Blink cameras. However, it doesn't have any onboard storage, so you'll also need to supply your own USB flash drive, up to 64GB in size. If you already have a Blink system, the good news is that you can add a Blink Mini to your Sync Module and retain your free cloud storage. Sadly, if the Blink Mini is your first camera from Blink, you will need a subscription for cloud storage. If you don't pony up when the trial runs out, you'll just have the live feed option with alerts. Unless you have a Blink system already, you need to plan for the cost of the Sync Module 2 and USB flash drive or the Blink subscription. How well does it work? The full HD 1080p footage you get from the Amazon Blink Mini is good and in full color. By default, it records in standard quality, but you can set it to best in the app if this isn't good enough for you. I assume it uses more battery and bandwidth. I couldn't really see much difference in the resulting video. While the daytime video is generally clear, I found that the window area would often be overexposed. This is a cheaper camera, so there's no HDR. The night vision footage isn't as crisp, and it's only offered in black and white. During testing, the default sensitivity seemed to be spot on. The Blink Mini always captured the movement of a person or cat and I didn't get any false positives. The grid system is good for limiting motion triggers if you're covering a larger area. There's a bit of a delay between the video recording and the alert on your phone. It can also take a few seconds to load the live feed, but for the most part, I was pleased with how quickly the Blink Mini responded. It generally caught a few seconds before the motion trigger, so I got the full view of what happened. Clip length can be adjusted in five-second increments between five seconds and 30 seconds. You can also tweak retrigger time, which starts at 10 seconds and goes up to 60 seconds. The Amazon Blink Mini also offers two-way audio. There's a talk button that you hold down in the live feed in the mobile app so you can talk. The audio quality is impressive, and I found voices came through loud and clear. There's a slight lag, but you can carry on a conversation quite easily. Cons to consider It would be nice if the Amazon Blink Mini could distinguish between pets and people, or recognize different individuals, but we don't expect those kinds of features at this price. It also lacks sound detection as a trigger option. The lag between an event occurring and the alert being triggered on your phone can be annoying, but this is an issue that every security camera system we've tested so far has had. The main problem with the Amazon Blink Mini is hidden costs because it is billed as a budget option. Just $34.99 for a single camera is reasonable, but the need to add a subscription for cloud storage is a turn-off. You can avoid the subscription route by buying the Sync Module 2 when it arrives and a USB flash drive, but that's going to more than double the price. Having to plug the Blink Mini into a power outlet is going to be another issue for some people. This limits where you can place it and makes fitting a little tougher, though it's nice not to have to worry about battery life. The bottom line The Amazon Blink Mini is a solid, entry-level, indoor home security camera that captures good quality footage. It's very easy to set up and use. While the mobile app works well, it's fairly basic in terms of functionality. You will also have to buy the Sync Module 2 when it comes out or sign up for a Blink subscription to get cloud storage for clips. Should you buy it? If you already have a Blink system, the Blink Mini is a cost-effective way to add more cameras. It's also a good pick if you have Alexa devices in your home, as it integrates easily. However, if this is your first Blink device, then you need to factor in the extra cost of a subscription or Sync Module 2 down the line. If you have a bit more money to spend or you're put off by the added cost of the storage subscription and/or module, you may want to consider another option from our guide. Which model should you get? The Amazon Blink Mini seems like the best bargain for $34.99. Even with the extra cost of a Sync Module 2 at $34.99 and a USB flash drive, it looks to be a better bet than the Blink Indoor Cam, which costs $79.99, comes with the original Sync module, but only offers 720p footage. The Blink XT2, at $99.99, is the one to pick for outdoor coverage. What are your alternatives? The obvious alternative is the Wyze Cam for about $25. It offers similar quality footage and comparable features, but can also take a MicroSD card for local storage and comes with free, rolling, 14-day cloud storage. If you want top-quality footage and special features, the Google Nest Cam IQ Indoor is a popular alternative, but it's way more expensive at $300 for a camera, and you'll need a subscription on top. Pros: Good quality 1080p video, two-way audio, motion detection, activity zones, easy to use, Alexa support Cons: Requires subscription for cloud storage, Sync Module 2 sold separately, lacks smart features Join the conversation about this story »
Smart displays add a screen to the typical smart speaker experience, so you can ask the...Smart displays add a screen to the typical smart speaker experience, so you can ask the digital assistant questions and see answers on the screen. You can also view videos and photos on smart displays, as well as control compatible smart home devices. The Amazon Echo Show is the best smart display for Alexa fans because it works with most major smart home devices, has a good-sized screen, and supports Amazon Prime Video and Hulu playback. For Google Assistant fans, the Lenovo Smart Display is the best choice with its large display, wide smart home compatibility, Google Calendar and Google Maps support, as well as the ability to play YouTube videos. Smart home hubs are going through a transition. Gone are the days when owning a smart home hub meant having a small plastic square that lived next to your internet router. These days, hubs often come in one of two form factors: a smart speaker or a smart display. Plenty of smart displays have been released over the past few years, and they're getting better and better, so there are now quite a few great options. Smart displays can come in handy for a ton of different reasons. For starters, they can be used to control your smart home and offer visual, on-screen controls. On top of that, they can show you things like the weather and upcoming appointments that you might have on your calendar. You can pull up the latest photos from friends and family. You can also use a smart display to video chat with your friends and family, as well as play video from select services. There are a number of things to consider when buying a smart display. Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is your smart home ecosystem. If you're set up with an Android phone and devices connected to the Google Home app, then you're going to want a smart display that uses Google and controls Google devices. If, instead, your home is set up with Alexa and Alexa-compatible devices, then you'll want a display that has Alexa built into it. Sorry, Apple users, there's no Apple-branded smart display yet (although plenty of users have turned old iPads into one), but all of the devices on this list have iOS apps. Currently, no smart displays are compatible with all the popular streaming services, and it varies in terms of the services that are supported. Google smart displays can stream YouTube videos and stream some other video content from your phone with the Cast function, while Amazon smart displays can stream Prime Video and Hulu shows and movies. Most can pull tunes from Spotify and Pandora. However, both ecosystems are working to increase the number of streaming partners available on their smart displays. There are other things to keep in mind, too. For example, you'll want to think about how big of a display you want, whether you want a device with a camera for video chatting, and how much you want to spend. Before you buy a smart display, you may want to read our smart speaker buying guide to learn about what they can do, the devices they support, and a note on privacy concerns — all of these things apply to smart displays, too. Here are the best smart displays you can buy: Best Alexa smart display overall: Amazon Echo Show Best Google Assistant smart display overall: Lenovo Smart Display Best sounding Google Assistant smart display: JBL Link View Best budget Alexa smart display: Amazon Echo Show 5 Best budget Google Assistant smart display: Google Nest Hub Prices and links are current as of 03/24/2020. Added details about the new Lenovo 7-inch Smart Display model, along with more related buying guide links. Updated by Steven Cohen.The best Alexa smart display overall The Amazon Echo Show features a nice, large screen with stereo speakers, plus it can stream videos, control your smart home, show weather forecasts, and display your calendar. If you're looking for a smart display in the Amazon ecosystem, then look no further than the second-generation Amazon Echo Show. It has a nice big screen with a high resolution, decent speakers, and it can do a ton of stuff. The 10.1-inch screen has a resolution of 1,280 x 800 pixels, which is a good enough resolution for a screen of this size. Sure, it's not a 4K resolution, but you're probably not going to be watching 4K movies on the device anyway. Another thing that sets this smart display apart from others is that it has stereo speakers instead of a mono speaker, so it should sound quite a bit better than most of the other options. As an Alexa device, the speaker can take advantage of all of Alexa's skills. You can ask Alex to control your smart home devices with your voice, to buy things on Amazon, to answer questions, to show you the weather, and to play video content from Hulu or Prime Video. You can also touch the screen to adjust controls with your fingers if you prefer, as well as browse the web on the screen. So what are the downsides? Well, while the audio is powerful on the speaker, the frequency response is a little sculpted, which won't appeal to everyone. It's also a little pricier than some of the other smart displays. Still, despite those downsides, the Echo Show has gotten great reviews. PCMag scored it 4 out of 5. Pros: Nice display, stereo speakers, highly functional Cons: A little pricey, sculpted sound The best Google Assistant smart display overall The Lenovo Smart Display uses the Google Assistant for voice controls, works seamlessly with Google services like Maps and YouTube, plus it offers a great screen and a nice design. If your home is connected to Google's ecosystem and you use an Android phone, Gmail, YouTube, or Google Maps and Calendar, then we recommend the 10-inch Lenovo Smart Display. The device comes in two models, including an 8-inch version and a 10-inch version, but if you want the best overall experience, the 10-inch version is the way to go. The Smart Display has quite a nice screen with a high resolution of 1,920 pixels x 1,200 pixels, which is better than what you'll find on most other smart displays. The screen also offers nice, bright colors and vivid images. You can watch YouTube videos, use YouTube TV for live shows, and stream video from a few other services. Under the display, the Lenovo Smart Display is pretty powerful, thanks to the smarts of the Google Assistant. You can control most popular smart home devices with your voice, and it supports standards like Google Cast, so you can play media from your other devices on the display. Last but not least, the Smart Display is relatively stylish and well-designed with a nice bamboo backing and a speaker to one side. Perhaps the main downside to the Lenovo Smart Display is the fact that the audio performance isn't the best. The bass response isn't overly strong, and the audio doesn't get that loud. Still, audio performance aside, the Smart Display has gotten pretty good reviews. We even preferred it over the original Echo Show, largely because of the ability to use Google's great apps like Maps, calendar, and YouTube. Tom's Guide gave it a 4 out of 5, while CNET gave it an even better 4.5 out of 5. It should be noted, however, that Lenovo now offers a slightly updated version of its smart display in a smaller 7-inch size. The new model provides similar functionality but adds in a few new features, including improved stereo speakers and a color tone sensor to automatically adjust image quality. Though we still recommend the larger model first, the new 7-inch version is a good pick for buyers who want a smaller smart display option. Pros: Nice design, great display, smart features Cons: Audio performance could be better Read our full review of the Lenovo Smart Display The best sounding Google Assistant smart display The JBL Link View is smart and has a relatively high-quality display, but the best thing about it is its excellent audio performance. If audio performance is important to you, and you want a Google-powered smart display, then the JBL Link View is the one for you. The Link View is only the latest in a line of great smart devices in JBL's Link smart speaker series. It comes with an 8-inch screen with an HD resolution, plus it comes pre-loaded with the Google Assistant, which is arguably the best digital assistant out there. Perhaps the best thing about the JBL Link View, however, is its audio performance. The Link View boasts a deep and powerful bass response, well-tuned mids, and relatively clear and detailed high-end. It would be nice to have been able to adjust the EQ of the speaker, but most people will be perfectly happy with the frequency response that it offers anyway. You can put those speakers to work for multiple things, too — the Link View comes with a robust recipe system that makes it perfect for the kitchen. The price of the Link View recently dropped into very affordable territory at many retailers, making it a great time to jump on this device. There are some downsides to the JBL Link View — mainly that the display is a little smaller than others. Despite that, however, the Link View has gotten some pretty great reviews — CNET gave it 4 out of 5, while Digital Trends gave it a still excellent 7 out of 10. Pros: High-quality display, good audio performance, nice smart features Cons: Display could be bigger The best budget Alexa smart display The Amazon Echo Show 5 offers many of the same features as our best overall Alexa pick, but costs less and features a compact design that makes it suitable for bedside use. Looking for an Alexa-powered smart display on a budget? The Amazon Echo Show 5 replaces our previous favorite, the now-discontinued Amazon Echo Spot, because it's cheaper and more useful, although, admittedly, it's not as cute. The device is smaller than our overall Alexa pick, the bigger Amazon Echo Show, but it is sleek and has many of the same features as its bigger brother — and more than what the Echo Spot offered. The Echo Show 5 is also ideal for a small space like on your nightstand, serving as an alarm clock. The Echo Show 5 has a 5.5-inch screen (960 x 480 resolution) inside a rectangle casing that measures 5.8 x 3.4 x 2.9 inches, and weighs 14.5 pounds. It's compact enough to use in the bedroom or kitchen. Heck, put it in the bathroom and we don't think it will look out of place. You can use the device to control your smart home, ask Alexa questions, and connect it to other apps and services. Alexa continues to get smarter, too, so the device will likely gain more features as time goes on. Unlike the bigger Echo Show, the camera in the Echo Show 5 has a lower resolution (1 megapixel vs. 5), so your video calls won't look as crisp on the receiver's end. What we do like is that you can enable a built-in shutter for privacy, as well as turning off the mics. Hate the sound quality? Just connect an audio cable from the device to an external speaker of your liking. Most expert reviewers give the product a high rating. CNET gave it 4 stars (out of 5), calling it "a solid smart display that's particularly compelling as a smart alarm clock." But Digital Trends said, "[It] is so much more than a smart alarm clock," giving it also 4 stars. PCMag and The Verge also approve, but Wired gave it a mediocre score, saying the "smaller screen robs it of some of the magic inherent in the larger Echo Show" and that Alexa isn't as good as Google Assistant. — Les Shu Pros: Compact design, feature-rich, user-friendly, affordable Cons: Low-quality speaker and camera, low-resolution display The best budget Google Assistant smart display The Google Nest Hub integrates perfectly with the Google Assistant and other Google services, plus it has a nice-sized screen and isn't overly expensive. There are some nice budget Google-powered smart displays, too, like the Google Nest Hub. The Google Home is a serious bargain for what it offers. It comes with a 7-inch screen that can show weather, maps, news, YouTube videos, and more. Plus, it has the Google Assistant to control your smart home and answer questions. As you would expect from a Google-powered smart display, the Google Nest Hub is largely built around allowing you to control your smart home. It offers a quick view for easy access to all the smart home devices that you have set up, and it connects with Nest devices very well. Our senior editor Malarie Gokey uses the Google Nest Hub every day at home to catch up on news briefings in the morning and get alerts about the weather and potential delays on her subway commute. She also loves the YouTube integration when it comes time to call up video recipes while cooking. The Hub also serves as a great clock, as you can have it display the time all day long and use it as an alarm clock. The display automatically adjusts to the right brightness level based on the amount of light in the room, so it automatically turns off at night when you shut off the lights. There are a few downsides to the hub. For example, while the display is pretty big for a device this big, the resolution isn't as high in pixels as others, coming in at 1,024 x 600 pixels. On top of that, the device's speaker is perfectly fine for talking to Google, but it probably won't be your go-to for music playing. There's also no built-in camera, and while that may be good for privacy, it also means you can't make video calls. Still, despite the downsides, the Google Nest Hub has gotten excellent reviews. TechRadar gave the device 4 out of 5, while CNET gave it an even better 4.5 out of 5. Note: Google also has a larger version of this product, called the Google Nest Hub Max. While it has similar features, design, and user interface, the Max has a larger, high-definition screen (10 inches), better audio (2.1-channel sound), and a camera for video calls and home surveillance. It's also physically bigger, of course, and it costs significantly more. Is it better? Only if you have use for the added features, but otherwise, the Nest Hub is still a great buy. Pros: Nice display size, powerful smart home control, Google Assistant, affordable Cons: Display resolution isn't great, audio performance could be better, no camera for video calls Check out our other smart home guides The best smart speakers Smart speakers can do a number of different things, including answer questions, control smart home devices, set alarms, play music, and more. Whether you're a loyal Google fan or an Amazon fan, these are the best smart speakers for your home. The best budget smart speakers Though flagship models can get expensive, there are plenty of smart speaker options available for budget-friendly prices, including Echo and Nest devices. These are the best budget smart speakers you can buy. The best smart locks Home security is a big focus for tech companies. From smart security cameras to smart doorbells, connected technology can allow you to keep a much closer eye on your home. But what about your actual door? It turns out that there are a ton of great smart locks that you can install in your front door. These are the best. The best smart doorbells These days, doorbells can connect to your Wi-Fi network to offer enhanced home security with built-in cameras and microphones. You can even interact with people at the door when you're not home. These are the best smart doorbells you can buy. The best smart light bulbs Smart light bulbs are one of the easiest and most affordable entryways into building a smart home, and a gateway to future smart devices like smart plugs, security cameras and sensors, door locks, etc. These are the best smart light bulbs you can buy. The best smart outlets With the ability to remotely control home electronics and appliances, smart outlets are a smart-home component that smartens up any dumb device, letting you "talk" to it from almost anywhere — through an app on a phone or with a command to a voice assistant ("OK, Google, turn on the coffee maker"). These are the best smart outlets.
Everything in your smart home, from the lightbulbs to the thermostat, could be recording you or...Everything in your smart home, from the lightbulbs to the thermostat, could be recording you or collecting data about you. What can you do to curb this intrusion?During an interview with the BBC last year, Google’s senior vice-president for devices and services, Rick Osterloh, pondered whether a homeowner should disclose the presence of smart home devices to guests. “I would, and do, when someone enters into my home,” he said.When your central heating thermostat asks for your phone number, your TV knows what you like to watch and hackers can install spyware in your home through a lightbulb security flaw, perhaps it’s time we all started taking smart home privacy issues more seriously. Just this week the National Cyber Security Centre issued a warning to owners of smart cameras and baby monitors to review their security settings. Continue reading...