The best smart home gadgets 2018: upgrade your abode with top tech

From Hue to Hive, Nest to Netatmo, this is the cream of the Internet of Things crop

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Shopping around for the best smart home gadgets is certainly a lot easier than it was a few years ago. Big name brands like Nest, Philips, Samsung and many more now have a host of top-notch smart home kit on offer, covering everything from lights to automated blinds.

Now the problem is there's too much stuff to sift through – with so much choice, how do you know the right smart home gadgets to you? We're about to guide you through the very best devices for the home that we've crossed paths with, to make your picks a little easier.

Amazon Echo best smart home gadgets

Amazon Echo

Best smart home hub: Amazon Echo

Control EVERYTHING with your voice

Reasons to buy
+Ultimate smart home AI, for now+Broad compatibility+Fantastic voice recognition
Reasons to avoid
-The competitors are catching up fast

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.

Those competitors have their uses, but the Amazon Echo remains the top dog – especially given its refresh in 2017 (the standard, smaller Echo remains the best value for money in our opinion). You get tens of thousands of voice commands to play with, compatibility with a whole host of other gadgets, and even a choice of tasteful colours.

With variants like the Dot and Show giving you plenty of choice, no home should be without an Amazon Echo. You turn it on, and it just works – the Amazon Echo seems such a simple and obvious device now, but Amazon beat everyone else to market.

Samsung SmartThings Starter Kit best smart home gadgets

Samsung SmartThings Starter Kit

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 smart home with a complete 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 you need to.

We're impressed with how many devices tie into Samsung SmartThings 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.

Nest Thermostat best smart home gadgets

Nest Thermostat

Best smart thermostat: Nest Learning Thermostat

Both super-sexy and smart

Reasons to buy
+Attractive design+Works well with other devices+Gets smarter over time
Reasons to avoid
-Not the cheapest

The smart thermostat market is busier than ever, and the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat has got plenty of competitors out there – not least the Nest Thermostat E. We reckon this is still the very best out there though, if not necessary the best value for money.

This being a Nest device, it works seamlessly with other Nest devices like the Nest Protect and the Nest security cameras, and you can tie in smart home gadgets from several other manufacturers too. It works with a broad range of boilers and heating systems (and hot water tanks), and is simple to operate – though it should be installed by a professional.

The key selling point is the intelligence built into the thermostat though, which will gradually learn about 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.

Philips Hue best smart home gadgets

Philips Hue

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

Philips Hue has been leading the charge with smart lighting for years now – well, since 2012 to be exact – and the series has only got better over time. The recently revamped app adds even more features and functions as well as improving usability at the same time.

With Alexa 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.

Lifx bulbs best smart home gadgets

Lifx bulbs

Best white bulb: Lifx

Smart lighting done right

Reasons to buy
+Simple, smart operation+No hub required+Works with Amazon Alexa
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.

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.

Sonos speakers best smart home gadgets

Sonos speakers

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 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 assistants like Alexa now integrated into the newer speakers, they're hard to beat.

iRobot Roomba 980 best smart home gadgets

iRobot Roomba 980

Best connected vacuum cleaner: IRobot Roomba 980

The ultimate robo-vac machine

Reasons to buy
+Does a very good cleaning job+Remembers its way around+Lengthy two-hour battery life
Reasons to avoid
-Can struggle with cables

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: in both the quality of the cleaning and the quality of the companion app.

The Roomba 980 is the top of the range, which means you have to pay the most money but you also get the best clean and the smartest mapping. It's 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.

Sure, you still have to empty it out, but you can't expect your robot vacuum to do anything... or at least not yet. The newly announced Roomba i7+ can actually empty its bin into a disposable bag for you, though we haven't tested it yet.

Belkin WeMo Insight Switch best smart home gadgets

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.

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 smart home gadgets

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.

Not only does the remote handle your infrared and Bluetooth-controlled TV and media systems, but it will work with your Wi-Fi-enabled smart home kit as well: 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 works with.

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.

Netatmo Weather Station best smart home gadgets

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.

You can analyse all the data on Netatmo's app (available on iOS, Android and the desktop) 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.

Nokia Sleep best smart home gadgets

Nokia Sleep

Best sleep tech: Nokia 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 Nokia Sleep is the gadget to go for.

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, giving you a detailed breakdown of the times you went to bed, the times you got up, and the deep sleep and light sleep you got in between.

In terms of the broader smart home picture, the Nokia 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 smart home gadgets

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 smart home gadgets

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.

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. A quick check on your phone tells you.