The best smart home gadgets for newbies | Technology –

Home automation has never been more accessible, but with lots of intriguing ways to smarten up your living space, where’s the best place to start?

If you’re a smart-home newbie who wants to jump in, but you’re overwhelmed by all of the options, don’t worry — CNET has you covered. These are four of the best gadgets out there to get your nascent smart-home up and running.

Lutron Caseta In-Wall Wireless Smart Lighting Kit

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (outstanding).

The good: Lutron’s in-wall smart switches are reliable performers that work with Alexa, Nest, IFTTT, Apple HomeKit and more. The well-designed Lutron app is easy to use, and offers plenty of helpful features, including geofencing, scene management and a security mode that’ll help make it look like you’re home when you’re not.

The bad: Lutron won’t let you program your lights to fade on or off over a custom length of time, and the Lutron Bridge requires a hardwired Ethernet connection to your router.

The cost: $159.

The bottom line: These are the best-performing, most fully featured smart switches available, and well worth the money if you’re serious about connected lighting.


Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (outstanding).

The good: Ecobee’s Ecobee4 Smart Thermostat has a responsive display, a remote sensor and tons of smart integrations, including a built-in Amazon Alexa speaker.

The bad: The price is slightly high, particularly if you don’t care about the Alexa speaker or the Ecobee4’s other smart capabilities.

The cost: $174.49 to $198.97.

The bottom line: There’s no comparison — the Ecobee4 is the best smart thermostat available today.

Amazon Echo Dot (2nd Generation)

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (outstanding).

The good: The second-gen, mini-size Amazon Echo Dot smart speaker is just as smart as the full-size Echo at half the cost. It boasts more skills and third-party integrations than its rival, the Google Home Mini and it includes an aux-out jack for quick, direct connections with external audio setups, which the Home Mini lacks.

The bad: The Home Mini offers noticeably better sound quality out of the box, and Google Assistant is better at pulling from the internet to answer a variety of questions.

The cost: $19.99 to $34.99.

The bottom line: The Echo Dot takes Amazon’s popular smart home speaker and wraps it in an ultra-affordable package — but the Google Home Mini is a very worthy competitor.

Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug

Rating: 4.0 stars out of 5 (excellent).

The good: At $30 (or less), the new WeMo Mini is competitively priced, and the smaller design won’t block adjacent outlets. Native compatibility with IFTTT, Google Home, Apple HomeKit and Amazon’s Alexa make it one of the most well-connected smart plugs you can buy.

The bad: The WeMo Mini won’t track energy usage like other smart plugs will. And, though you probably won’t use it very much, the WeMo app is sluggish and glitchy at times.

The cost: $23.99 to $31.98.

The bottom line: There’s plenty of new competition out there, but the WeMo Mini is one of the easiest smart home gadgets for us to recommend.


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