Best Smart Home Automation Devices & Gifts

We got hands on and reviewed the best smart home devices of 2016. Here's what we found.

Thanks to smart home devices, you can now connect nearly everything in your home to the internet and manage & monitor it remotely. Whether it’s lights, locks, home security or even your refrigerator you can now control it with your voice or through your smartphone. You can’t deny that home automation devices provide safety and convenience.

With how convenient and practical IoT and automation devices are it’s no wonder they’re on everyone’s holiday wish list. But with so many new and different types of devices it can be difficult to choose the best one. So, whether you’re looking to make your house a smart home or give the gift of automation we’re here to help. We’ve tested and reviewed the best smart home devices and systems for every room of the house. Here’s what we found!


Smart Hubs For Total Control & Management

The Best SmartHome Hub: Samsung SmartThings


If you’re looking to control a bunch of different smart home devices, you’ll need a central hub to manage them. Out of all the hubs we tested Samsung’s SmartThings was the best, most reliable, and most compatible. It works with devices that use Bluetooth, Z-wave, Zigbee, and WiFi as communication protocols which covers nearly every major IoT product. Some supported products include Google Home, Amazon Echo, Honeywell, and Phillips Hue. If you’re looking for a reliable hub that will work with all your devices this is our recommendation.

Read Samsung SmartThings Reviews & Buy on Amazon

Amazon Echo Is More Than Just A Speaker

Amazons Echo is more than a Bluetooth speaker it’s a powerful central voice command center for all your automation devices. The Echo Dot is its speakerless counterpart. Both are compatible with IFTTT recipes and powered by Alexa, Amazon’s version of Siri, allowing you to control and automate your home with your voice. The main drawback, it may take some work for you to get setup and it’s not as compatible with other smart devices as the SmartThings hub. However, it performed incredibly well in our tests and the Echo’s 7 microphones reliably picked up our voice even through loud music.

Read Amazon Echo Reviews & Buy on Amazon

Wink Hub

Wink isn’t as well-known as Samsung SmartThings or Amazon Echo but it still makes a great central hub for your automation devices. Affordable, easy to install, and featuring support for Alex, IFTTT, and numerous wireless communication protocols Wink makes automation easy. Its biggest drawbacks are the lack of battery backup and USB ports. Overall this highly compatible hub is an affordable alternative to SmartThings that can be integrated with all your devices including Alexa voice control.

Read Wink Hub Reviews & Buy on Amazon


Security & Surveillance Cameras

The Best Surveillance Camera: Alarm.com Indoor Camera

Alarm.com’s Indoor wireless HD camera with infrared night vision lets you look in on your home with live streaming video and motion activated recordings. When motion is detected the camera starts recording and sends you email or text alerts. You can either immediately view these through the app or save them to view later. We recommend pairing this camera with a home security system like Frontpoint Security’s. By pairing with a home security system, you can automate your cameras to begin recording if motion is detected, or a door has been opened. Frontpoint also lets you store up to 1,000 clips via secure cloud storage for free.

Learn more about Frontpoint, our #1 rated security company.  Visit Frontpoint’s website or Call (855) 903-7510

Nest Indoor Camera: Video Surveillance Without A Contract

If you don’t want to invest in a total home security system but want to keep an eye on your house, Nest’s Indoor camera is a great option. The surveillance camera can stream live 1080p video with night vision and digital zoom. When connected to z-wave based hubs like Google Home, or Nexia Bridge, you get alerts if movement is sensed and two-way communication lets you listen and speak to what you see. The convenient wall mount allows you to place the camera on any surface in your home and the stand allows for easy placement on tables. If you’re looking for remote cloud storage, you’ll need to purchase a Nest Aware subscription for $10/mo. Not too bad when you consider you get 24/7 secure cloud recording with up to 30 days of history, person based alerts, and the ability to highlight Activity Zones you want the camera to keep a close eye on.

Read Nest Indoor Cam Reviews & Buy on Amazon

Nest Cam Outdoor: Weatherproof Protection

The Nest Outdoor Cam is similar to its indoor counterpart but with the addition of a weatherproof power supply and casing. This Wi-Fi camera streams HD video with a 130-degree view for live monitoring from any web enabled device. You can easily set alerts that notify you when motion is detected. If you check your feed and notice someone you can speak and listen to them through the App thanks to the smart cams built in speaker and mic. With a Nest Aware subscription, the Nest Cam continuously records up to 30 days of video so you never miss what happened. This was one of our favorite outdoor cameras we tested and makes a fantastic holiday or birthday gift.

Read Nest Outdoor Camera Reviews & Buy on Amazon

Netgear Arlo Pro: Wire-Free Outdoor Camera

The Arlo Pro is Netgears 100% wireless and weatherproof smart security camera. It features a 130 degree viewing angle, HD live streaming and recording, 2-way audio, motion detection, and night vision. Making it highly comparable to the Nest Cam. Through its USB port you can add local backup storage in addition to the 7 days of free cloud video storage that are included. It does require the purchase of an Arlo base station, but this provides real time alerts as well as a 100-decibel security siren to scare off criminals.

Read Arlo Pro Reviews & Buy on Amazon


Home Security Systems For Complete Safety & Convenience

The Best Home Security System: Frontpoint Security

Frontpoint is the #1 customer rated home security company in the industry. Their high-tech systems come pre-programmed, are easy to install, offer 24/7 professional monitoring and are compatible with numerous smart home devices. When testing we found the security system easy to set up and reliable. After placing the sensors we called to activate the system and their knowledgeable and friendly customer support team walked us through the activation process. Frontpoint easily earned our award for best home security system. New customers receive a 30 day money back risk free trail, up to $300 off equipment, and a free sensor.

For more information read our Frontpoint review or Call (855) 903-7510

Vivint Sky: Powerful Automation & Home Security

Vivint is one of the largest home security companies and despite their rocky reputation they undeniably offer one of the most robust systems on the market. Recognized as a leader in automation the Vivint Sky system features 24/7 professional monitoring, professional installation, and compatibility major IoT smart home devices. Compatible devices include Nest Thermostat, Amazon Echo, Ping camera and other Z-wave based smart devices. If you don’t mind spending a little extra for a professionally installed security system, that is sleek and smart home ready, Vivint is a great choice.

Learn more about Vivint Sky. Read our Vivint Reviews or call (800) 372-9259

Scout Alarm: No Contract Security Monitoring

Scout is part of the new breed of security providers with proprietary equipment and no contract professional monitoring. Their sleek system functions well and the set-up process was simple and only took us a couple of minutes. The system features remote access that allows you to control your system from your smartphone. The app lets you receive updates if a sensor is triggered, arm and disarm your system, and monitor you home no matter where you are. Professional monitoring is optional and does not require a long term contract option. Hassle free set-up and sensors that can be easily moved makes this system portable and easy to expand. Compatibility with Nest, IFTTT, Philips Hue, Lifx, and Amazon Echo allow this system to make your life easier and more safe. This is a great solution if you are looking for no contract home security with robust automation capabilities.

Learn more about Scout Alarm. Read our Scout Alarm Review or Visit their Website.


Entryway Protection With Smart Locks & Doorbells

The Best Video Doorbell: SkyBell HD

This smart video doorbell that lets you see, hear, and speak to a visitor at your door no matter where you are. SkyBell’s camera is comparable to the best security and surveillance cameras. Features include HD video, 2-way voice, live video, motion detection, color night vision, and free video recording. It’s compatible with numerous leading home security and smart home devices. Major partners include Frontpoint security, Alarm.com, Amazon Echo, iControl, Nest, and Kwikset. Hands down our testers agreed SkyBell was the best video doorbell. Its main drawback is that it can be tricky to clip the device to the mount during installation but installation only took us 20 minutes.

Learn more about the SkyBell HD Video DoorBellor Read SkyBell Reviews & Buy on Amazon

The Best Smart Lock: Schlage Touchscreen Deadbolt

Compatible with most z-wave automation systems and able to be installed with only a screwdriver, the Schlage Connect Touchscreen is our winner of best smart home lock. The lock supports multiple access codes so everyone who needs entry can have their own. Whether it be a housekeeper or your child you’ll know who and when they came and went. Featuring a built in alarm with three stages of urgency based on suspicious activity, tampering, and break-in you’ll always know what’s going on. Afraid to abandon your physical key? Don’t worry the Schlage also has a key slot in case of emergency.

Read Schlage Deadbolt Reviews & Buy on Amazon

Ring Video Doorbell Pro Lets You Appear Home When Away

The Ring Video Doorbell is available in 4 colors and connects easily to your existing doorbell wiring for a quick install process. Once installed, the doorbells motion sensor will alert you when someone is at your door whether they ring the doorbell or not. 1080p HD resolution and two-way voice capability lets you see and talk to whoever is outside through your app. Letting you appear home even if you are away. For $3 a month or $30 a year you can subscribe to cloud recording that saves up to 6 months of recorded events. Our favorite part of this doorbell it’s compact and looks like a standard doorbell when installed.

Read Ring Pro Reviews & Buy on Amazon

August Video Doorbell: The Ultra Compatible Option

Like the Ring and SkyBell products, the August Video doorbell lets you see and speak to visitors using your smart phone. It also has comparable features like slick design, motion detection, HD video, real time alerts and live video. Where the August doorbell stands out is in its compatibility. This video doorbell works with Amazon Alexa, Phillips Hue, Apple Home Kit, IFTTT and Nest to name a few. During our review, we noticed that video lagged occasionally but when everything was working this smart doorbell was awesome.

Read August Video Doorbell Reviews & Buy on Amazon

August HomeKit Enabled Smart Lock

Easy-to-install and Apple HomeKit enabled, August Smart lock mounts over your existing deadbolt turning it into a smart lock. Now your lock can be controlled from your phone. This lets you unlock your door, create keys for guest, and monitor who’s coming and going. If you’re a fan of Apple products your love that this lock is heavily integrated with them. It also supports IFTTT and a slew of other smart home devices and hubs. Despite its strange appearance, we quickly came to enjoy the convenience this smart lock provides.

Read August Smart Lock Reviews & Buy on Amazon

Kwikset Smartcode 916 Touchscreen Deadbolt

Smaller than the other locks we tested the Kwikset Smartcode 916 turns your deadbolt into a smart home accessory while letting you keep your existing keys. It features a built-in alarm and Secure Screen, which requires you to punch in two random digits before entering your code. This lock ensures a burglar can’t guess your code and if they do break in that an alarm will sound. One of the drawback to Kwikset’s lock is that it doesn’t feature a standalone app. However, it does connect to most major Z-wave or ZigBee based hubs allowing for app control. This is a great gift to help someone ease into the wide world of smart locks.

Read Kwikset Smartcode Reviews & Buy on Amazon


Smart Thermostats For Energy Savings & Convenience

The Best Smart Thermostat: Ecobee3

The Ecobee3 is one sleek smart thermostat. It features a futuristic touchscreen interface and intelligent design that does more than just monitor the temperature of your home. It makes sure all the rooms of your house are maintaining the right temperature. Through a tiny wireless sensor you place in typically cold rooms the thermostat monitors and keeps their temperature at a comfortable level. Out of the smart thermostats we reviewed the Ecobee3 was a unanimous favorite. The device is compatible with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Echo, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT. It was easy to install since it connects to existing HVAC wiring taking us approximately 10 minutes to get up and running. If you’re looking for a sleek smart home thermostat that can control the temperature of several rooms in your home this is the one for you!

Read Ecobee3 Reviews & Buy on Amazon

Nest Learning Thermostat: No Hassle Energy Savings

Nest is one of the most popular thermostats on the market. Their 3rd gen Learning Thermostat features a larger display than its predecessor. However maintains its ability to self-program and be controlled from your smartphone through WiFi. This smart thermostat really sets itself apart with its ability to learn your preferences. After a short period of use it picks up on your habits and creates a schedule around them. This is used to manage your heating and cooling so your home maintains a comfortable temperature without wasting energy. Installation is similar to other devices (it attaches to your existing HVAC wiring) and takes approximately 30 minutes. Our favorite feature was the surprisingly handy Farsight. When Farsight is setup the device illuminates to display the temperature, weather or time when you enter the room. While not cheap, this device will fit right in to any smart home.

Read Nest Learning Thermostat Reviews & Buy on Amazon

Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat

The Honeywell WiFi Thermostat is easy to set-up and features a huge bright LCD screen. It sets a program based on a couple simple questions it asks you about temperature preferences and is ready to go. The customizable display can show indoor temp, relative humidity, outdoor temp and much more. While not as “smart” as the Nest thermostat it will learn a little bit about your schedule as you use it. The thermostat is affordable compared to others making it easy to add to several zones of your home. While Honeywell has slowed update releases for the device it still works well as an affordable alternative to the Nest or Ecobee.

Read Honeywell Smart Thermostat Reviews & Buy on Amazon


Smoke, Heat, & Carbon Monoxide Sensors

The Best Smoke Alarm: GE Wireless Smoke & Heat Sensor

When it comes to smoke and fire in your house it’s nice to know someone is watching and ready to alert emergency personal. That is why we recommend purchasing smoke sensors as part of a complete home security package. This allows professionals to monitor your home 24/7 for fire as well as intrusion and medical emergencies. The best alarms detect trouble before it gets out of control by monitoring for heat as well and smoke. The GE Wireless Smoke & Heat sensor does professionally monitor both. If you’re looking to add smart smoke alarms, we recommend adding this GE smoke sensor to a Frontpoint system. New Frontpoint customers receive this GE Smoke Alarm for free and up to $300 off their system.

Interested in Frontpoint? Call (855) 903-7510 or Visit Frontpoint’s website.

The Best Carbon Monoxide Sensor: Kidde Nighthawk

Carbon Monoxiode is dangerous because it’s odorless and colorless making it nearly impossible to detect. Unless, you have a CO sensor. While the Kidde Nighthawk may not be the fanciest looking sensor, it earned our top pick. The discreet alarm with state-of-the-art technology inside can be plugged into any outlet making it easy to install. It’s also incredibly affordable. Featuring a digital display, battery backup, continuous monitoring, and an 85-decibel siren this alarm will make sure your whole home knows if CO levels rise too high. Plus, it has a 5-year warranty.

Read Kidde NightHawk Reviews & Buy on Amazon

Nest Protect Smoke Alarm With CO Protection

If a complete home security system isn’t for you but you want smoke & CO protection that notifies you in an emergency you want the Nest Protect. The latest smoke alarm from Nest features an industrial grade smoke sensor, self-testing, and lasts nearly 10 years. You receive instant alerts through your app to let you know what’s going on when the alarm sounds. Through the app you can also hush the alarm and check to make sure it’s working properly. One of our favorite features was the early warning feature. With early warning an AI voice lets you know it has started detecting smoke so you can pull the burning pizza out of the oven before a fire occurs and without a noisy alarm. Nest protect makes a great gift and is compatible with many smart home hubs and all Nest devices.

Read Nest Protect Reviews & Buy on Amazon

Rooster Smart Battery For Dumb Devices

For those of us looking for protection on a budget the Rooster Smart Battery answers the call. While not able to connect to other smart devices this very affordable device connects to any existing smoke or CO sensor and makes it a smart device. Simply download the Roost app, connect to your WiFi and plug the device into your smoke alarms existing battery connection. The app allows you to receive alerts from your devices, snooze false alarms, and see the last time each alarm was tested. With a replaceable battery that lasts approximately 5 years Roost takes the worry out of Smoke & CO affordably.

Read Roost Battery Reviews & Buy on Amazon


Brighten Your Life With Smart Home Lighting

The Best Smart Lightbulb: Phillips Hue Starter Kit

Phillips Hue does much more than just light your home. The starter kit comes with 3 full-color LED bulbs that fit in standard light sockets and allow you to control the intensity and color of the light in your house. LED bulbs feature 16 million color options and that’s before you get into the thousand shades of white light. Via the Huetro app and included hub you can control the lighting in your home form any smartphone. The lights can even be set to synch with your music or be controlled through Alexa, Amazon Echo’s voice control. Hue is compatible with most ecosystems out there from Apple HomeKit, to Amazon and IFTTT. If colors aren’t your thing you can purchase the Hue White for the same control without the colors.

Read Phillips Hue Reviews & Buy on Amazon

Stack Downlight Starter Kit

You might not have heard of Stack but they are quickly making a name for themselves in smart lighting. These learning smart lights use motion sensors to detect when you enter a room and use ambient light sensors to adjust the type of white light they produce based on their environment. The starter kit includes two Downlights and one hub (required for complete remote control) that are compatible with Nest, IFTTT, and Echo. They also come with a two-year warranty.

Read Stack Downlight Reviews & Buy on Amazon

LIFX LED: The Smartlight The Doesn’t Need A Hub

The 3rd generation of the WiFi enabled LIFX LED bulb is a brighter and more colorful version of its predecessor. The powerful lightbulbs can put out 1100 lumens of light; that’s bright. Similar to the Phillips Hue it allows you to choose from 16 million different colors and 1000 different shades of white. Unlike the Hue you don’t need a hub to control it. Simply synch the bulb with your WiFi and control your lights anywhere from their app. Our testers thought this bulb was one of the best. But it was also a little more expensive than others.

Read Lifx LED Reviews & Buy on Amazon

GE Link Connected Home LED Lightbulb

The GE Link LED bulb made up for what it lacked in features through its affordable pricing and ease of use. Link lights come in 60w, 65w, and 90w versions. Installation is simple, but you will need the Wink Hub to use the bulbs. Once you set up the hub simply twist in the bulbs, turn the lights on and sync them with the Wink App. You can control individual bulbs or groups of bulbs and set schedules for turning lights on, off, or dimming them all from the app. Overall, we found this to be a great affordable smart bulb even though it lacked some of the fancy features of the others.

Read GE Link Reviews & Buy on Amazon

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