Back to school 2019: top smart home tech for students

There's nothing like some super smart gadgets to spice up your domestic life and ward off home sickness

 Back to school 2019 Best smart home tech for students
(Image credit: Ring)

Moving away from home doesn't have to be a huge lifestyle and tech downgrade – it could be the start of something great, especially given all of the amazing smart home tech available in 2019 that is ideal for students. 

T3 has worked tirelessly to bring you the ultimate guide to making your new student accommodation, be it a house or student halls, in to a futuristic paradise without breaking the bank. By using this guide going back to school will be easier than ever.

From the brand new Amazon Ring Door View Cam to Google Home to the innovative Philips Hue White light bulbs, nothing here is out of reach for ordinary students, helping make sure that your house is safe and kitted out while you work and play.

In order to select these gadgets, we've spent time testing them all thoroughly, making sure that they're perfect for student life. Ring's Door View Cam, for example, is designed to create as little damage to doors as possible during installation, helping to avoid having an angry landlord on your case.

So, read on to find out exactly how you can spruce up your lovely new home away from home...

Best student smart home tech 2019.

Ring's newest camera is the perfect student companion. 

(Image credit: Amazon/Ring)

1. Ring Door View Cam

Instantly improve your home security set up with Ring's latest.

Camera: 1080p video with night vision
Field of view: 155° horizontal, 90° vertical
Motion detection: Adjustable
Operating conditions: Weather resistant. Temperature range: Indoors: 0°C to 40°C; Outdoors: -20.5°C to 48.5 °C
Power source: Battery
Compatibility: Door thickness: 34-55 mm; Door Peephole Diameter: 12–14 mm
Reasons to buy
+Excellent video quality+Stylish design

Amazon's Ring has quickly become known for making high quality smart home gadgets and its fifth video door bell, the Door View Cam, is perhaps its best. Designed specifically to make as little damage to existing doors as possible (there's no drilling, for example), the Door View Cam sits over almost any standard peephole and, well, makes it better.

The Door View Cam offers two-way talk alongside 1080p video – the same quality as Ring's other, more expensive devices – which includes night vision and can be viewed from the smartphone app using its £2.50/month Ring Protect subscription. Setup is handled in minutes and can be done by even the most non-technical person. And, of course, its completely compatible with Amazon's Alexa smart assistant.

But, we hear you ask, wouldn't this become annoying if you lived with other doors right opposite? Well, Ring has thought of this and lets users set Privacy Zones which the View Cam will essentially ignore, this avoiding too many notifications when Jeff over the hallway leaves the house for the 50th time today.

The Ring Door View Cam is, we think, one of the best accessories a student could wish for, avoiding any serious damage to doors while offering a safety-focused video doorbell option.

Best student smart home tech 2019

Bring a sparkle to any room with the Philips Hue smart bulbs.

(Image credit: Signify)

2. Philips Hue White and Colour Ambiance A19 Kit

The perfect way to spice up your uni room.

Bulb type: LED
Style: Twin pack
Wattage: 9 watts
Usage: WiFi controlled, remotely operated lights
EU efficiency rating: A+
Expected lifetime: 25,000 hours
Reasons to buy
+Controlled through an app+Great energy efficiency+Loads of different shades

You may have already seen these funky little accessories around and about, so you know the gist. For the uninitiated: Philips has created a set of lights, called the Hue, that fit into (most) normal light fittings but can be controlled through a smartphone app and smart assistants, like Alexa. This basically means that one of the most fundamental aspects of any house – the lighting – is getting a 21st century makeover.

The base-level starter kit offers two LED lightbulbs that offer around 50,000 shades of white light, meaning you can set the mood exactly right. There are even options to use the Hue as an alarm, gradually increasing the amount of light in the room until you wake up. Really, it's that smart. 

We recommend going for the slightly more expensive option that includes the Hue Bridge, an accessory that lets up to 50 lightbulbs connect to each other and be controlled via a smartphone app. The full setup will set you back about £80, but the cost is easily worth it.

back to school Best student smart home tech 2019

The latest, and cheapest, Amazon Echo Show is well worth buying.

(Image credit: Amazon)

3. Amazon Echo Show 5

There has never been a better time to get in on Amazon's coolest Echo.

Display: 5.5-inch with 960 x 480 resolution
Speakers: 1.65 x 4W speaker
Camera: 1 MP
Camera controls: Built-in camera cover and Microphone/Camera Off button
Dimensions: 148 x 86 x 73 mm
Weight: 410g
Reasons to buy
+Much cheaper than the original Echo+Good quality display+Alexa built-in

The original Amazon Echo Show – released in mid-2018 – had all of the right ideas but many felt it was on the bulky and expensive end of the spectrum. Amazon took this feedback on board and introduced the Echo Show 5 a few months ago, dropping the price significantly (from around £220 to £80) and cutting the screen size in half.

The smaller, leaner Show 5 is now a bonafide great purchase, especially for students that want a little device that can be used to make video calls, show off pictures and other media, control Alexa, and more. Privacy concerns about the camera have also been addressed, with Amazon adding a built-in camera cover.

Combined with the Philips Hue bulbs (listed above), for example, and you could create a powerful set up whereby you ask Alexa on the Show 5 to brighten up the room – but just the right amount. 

We really can't recommend the refined Echo Show enough and think it would make a great addition to any student setup going.

Best student smart home tech 2019 back to school

Easily control devices with this super smart plug.

(Image credit: Belkin WeMo)

4. Belkin WeMo Switch

Turn things on and off with this app-controlled smart plug.

Compatibility: iOS 9 or higher and Android 4.4 or higher
Dimensions: 2.9" L x 4.5" H x 2.2" D
Connectivity: Wi-Fi: 2.4GHz 802.11n
Weight: 8.9 ounces
Reasons to buy
+Easily control devices that aren't smart+Apps for iOS and Android

A lot of what makes something extra smart is making things that aren't smart smart. Belkin's WeMo Switch smart plug is a great example. The WiFi controlled plug adapter, which fits neatly into most UK sockets without obstructing other plugs, can help turn off devices remotely – even 'dumb' devices like chargers, kettles, and so on.

The WeMo Switch comes with apps for iOS and Android, compatible with older versions too, letting users control plugs over WiFi, 3G, and 4G seamlessly. It can also work with Nest's devices, like the Learning Thermostat, helpfully importing its "home" and "away" settings and applying it to the WeMo Switch.

That's basically it: the WeMo Switch is great for people who want more control over their wall sockets with as little hassle as possible. Perfect for students, really.

best smart home tech students back to school 2019

Google's Home smart speaker is a perfect student companion.

(Image credit: Google)

5. Google Home

The competitor to Amazon's Echo is every bit as good for students.

Weight: 477g
Dimensions: 96.4 mm (D) x 142.8 mm (H)
Power cable length: 1.8 meters
Connectivity: 802.11b/g/n/ac (2.4 GHz/5 Ghz) WiFi
Sensors: Captive tough and ambient light
Microphones: 2
Supported operating systems: Android and iOS
Speakers: 2" driver and dual 2" passive radiators
Reasons to buy
+Very affordable+Good audio quality

Google's Home speaker line has long-since expanded to include other options – the stripped-back Home Mini and much larger Home Max – but there is still a definite charm to the mid-range option, which comes in at about £80 from most retailers. For one thing, we really love the design; the sloping top is distinctive and the four colours on offer are lovely.

By most accounts, the sound quality from both the Home's internal speakers and its speaker outputs is good quality, working across multiple rooms, too. Commands, handled by Google's stellar Assistant, are correctly interpreted in the majority of cases, even for more complex queries.

The best use-case for the Home is if, like so many of us at T3, you're deeply embedded in the Google ecosystem already. Maybe you use an Android phone, Assistant, and the G Suite set of apps. If that's the case, look no further: the integration between them all is sublime, making for a really great and – dare we say it – Apple-like experience.