On a basic level, smart devices can save you time, effort and money. For instance, you can more easily control your heating – and thus your heating budget – with a smart thermostat. But you can also use smart tech to organise your life, start good habits and take control of your health.
We’ve rounded up our favourite devices across each of the key categories of smart home stuff, but in each case you can also click through to read our detailed round-ups of each type of product.
Best smart speaker: Google Nest Mini
£49 – View on Google
There are a number of smart speakers available, and they all do roughly the same thing. They’ll act as a virtual assistant, responding to your voice commands, queries and music requests and will also serve as a voice-controlled hub for your other smart gear.
The two biggest smart speakers right now are the Amazon Echo and Google Home, while Apple’s HomePod is also an option if you’re committed to Siri. If you don’t yet have a device, our advice would be to opt for the Nest Mini.
In spite of the name change, the Nest Mini is far from an overhaul of the Home Mini – although you can think of it as the Home Mini 2. The audio has improved, making it a better choice if you want to use it as a standalone speaker, while a machine learning chip makes basic commands quicker to use.
The design is essentially unchanged, aside from a new Sky colour, but there is one welcome tweak: a small indentation on the back for wall-mounting, letting you easily hang the Nest Mini from any nail or screw.
Don’t rush out to grab a Nest Mini to replace an existing Home Mini. But for anyone looking to add Google to more rooms, or get the Google Assistant into their home for the first time, the Nest Mini is the new best, and cheapest, way to do it.
Read our full Google Nest Mini review or find out more in our smart speaker comparison.
Best smart light: Philips Hue
£151/$179.99 – View on Amazon
Smart lighting is one of the first things that comes to mind when people think of smart homes, and it’s easy to see why. Most modern smart lights let you set brightness, tone, and colour, control your bulbs with voice commands, and schedule them to turn on and off at certain times of day or when you enter or leave the house.
Philips Hue is one of the biggest names in smart lighting, and its starter kit is a great way to kick off – it includes three colour-changing bulbs along with the hub you need to control them. There are a variety of pre-set scenes, support for Google Home and Amazon Echo, and the ability to expand functionality even further with IFTTT. You can also buy individual bulbs to expand your set.
If Hue isn’t quite your thing, you can buy LIFX individual smart bulbs that work without any sort of hub, and we also love Nanoleaf’s interconnected Aurora light panels.
Check out some of the other options in our guide to the best smart lights.
Best smart thermostat: Hive Active Heating
£149.99 – View on Amazon
Smart heating may not be especially exciting, but if you’re looking for a great use of tech to help the environment and save you money, you can’t do better. By giving you precise control of how and when you heat your house – and data on your energy usage – you can potentially make a serious dent in your monthly bills.
The Hive Active Heating system is our top pick. The recent addition of multi-zone support is very useful, and the ability to boost heating and hot water is a great feature.
This second iteration of Hive is a giant leap forward from the solid (but somewhat dull) first-generation product. The interfaces of both the app and thermostat are intuitive and quick to use. There are clearly energy savings which Hive can help you make and you can quickly recoup your expenditure if you’re conservative with your temperatures and schedule. And it’s easy to add Hive Active Light as well as smart plugs and switches, too.
Read our full Hive Active Heating 2 review
If you’re not sold on Hive, we’re also big fans of Nest and Honeywell Evohome, and you can find other alternatives in our dedicated smart heating round-up.
Best smart display: Google Nest Hub Max
£219/$229 – View on Google
Smart displays are one of the newer categories of smart devices. Essentially smart speakers with inbuilt screens, these don’t quite have the full functionality of a dedicated tablet, but instead, are simplified devices that offer all the benefits of a virtual assistant with some extra visual aids.
Our current favourite is the Google Nest Hub Max, which is compact enough to fit into most rooms, and offers most of the key features you’d hope for. If you want a slightly smaller display, consider the original Nest Hub, while Alexa die-hards might prefer the Echo Show.
Check out our best smart display guide for more options.
Best smart kettle: iKettle
£129.99/$129.99 – View on Amazon
If there’s a more beautiful vision of our connected future than being able to pop the kettle on from bed, we are too busy dreaming of our morning cuppa to have thought of it. And thanks to IFTTT and Alexa integration, you don’t even need to get your phone out to boil the iKettle; you just tell Alexa to turn it on.
Set-up is a bit of a pain and took us a few attempts – and IFTTT integration took a few more – but once you’re there you can set the iKettle to heat to whatever temperature you like, to stay warm once it gets there, and even to trigger to boil at set times or when you come home from work.
Smart kettles are a small but growing field. Expect to see a lot more of these over the next few years as the standard appliance manufacturers get in on the act. For more smart culinary appliances, see our pick of the best smart kitchen gadgets.
Best smart coffee machine: Nespresso Expert & Milk
£299.99 – View on Amazon
If boiling the kettle from the bed is one half of the English dream, then surely brewing a coffee is the other half. Enter Nespresso’s app-connected Expert range.
This is essentially a standard Nespresso machine (admittedly a very fully-featured one) with the added benefit of being able to set a coffee to brew remotely, or on a schedule – so long as you’ve left a pod in the machine and a cup at the ready.
It’ll also let you know how many pods you have left, remind you to restock (and let you buy more within the app), and give you alerts when it’s time to clean or descale the machine. Handy.
If that’s a bit steep for you, you should check out the filter-style Smarter Coffee Machine, or check out our pick of the best coffee machines – including ones without any smart stuff.
Best smart plug: Tapo P100 Mini Smart Wi-Fi Socket
£9.95 – View on Amazon
Smart plugs are an easy way to give a bit of an intellect boost to non-smart tech, letting you remotely switch mains power on or off, set it to a schedule, or trigger it to turn on or shut off based on your location.
Tapo is a new sub-brand from TP-Link and the P100 Mini Smart Wi-Fi Socket is one of the best smart plugs we’ve tested – and one of the best-priced.
The simple, compact design means you’ll be able to fit it into even cramped spots and we’ve found it quick and easy to get set up on the app. Once it’s ready to use, the app allows you to do the usual things like schedules and timers.
There’s even an ‘away mode’ so you can turn a light on and off randomly to make it look like you’re still at home. There’s also a button on the plug if you want to use it manually.
The Tapo P100 supports both Google Assistant and Alexa, so you can control it with your home assistant – with no hub required.
It’s worth noting that you can’t use it with the Kasa app, so it isn’t ideal if you already have TP-Link smart plugs or other smart devices. But, unless you’re already locked into a different system, there’s no reason to spend more on another smart plug.
There are plenty of other great alternatives, including good options from Belkin and Elgato. Take a look at our smart plug roundup for some inspiration.
Best robot vacuum: Eufy RoboVac 30C
£199.99 – View on Amazon
As with any robot vacuum cleaner, the RoboVac 30C will not eliminate the need for a traditional vacuum every so often, but it has sufficient suction power (1500Pa) to keep your floors and carpets clean on the days you’d rather put your feet up and chill.
The ability to connect it to your home Wi-Fi network for remote operation is cool, although nothing new, but we love the voice assistant integration for proper lazy boy cleaning.
Read our full Eufy RoboVac 30C review. The Neato Botvac D7 Connected is another great option if you have a bit more to spend. Check out our guide to the best robot vacuum cleaners for more ideas.
Best smart security camera: Netatmo Presence
£249.99/$299.99 – View on Amazon
Security is one of the most obvious areas where smart tech offers a real benefit, giving you access to live feeds from cameras, cloud storage of footage, and even the potential for smart locks to govern who gets in and out (as long as you trust your chosen company’s cyber-security, of course…).
We’re fans of the Netatmo Presence, which is one of the best all-round outdoor home security cameras you can buy, thanks to a slick design, the ability to double as a floodlight, and the lack of a subscription.
Hive, Ezviz and Netgear also make great smart security cameras, and you’ll find loads more in our security camera buying guide.
Best smart scale: Withings Body Cardio
£149.95/$179.95 – View on Amazon
Scales might seem like unlikely items to have smart capabilities but it makes sense when you begin to think of them in terms of data. A good smart scale will track more than just weight – it’ll include bodyfat percentage, BMI, lean mass, water weight, and more – and it’ll retain all that data for you and make it easy to understand.
The Body Cardio from Withings is our favourite right now thanks to support for up to eight users, syncing with Withings’ other health devices, and the fact that it measures pulse wave velocity – a first for the smart scale market.
You’ll also find great scales from Qardio and Fitbit – check out our full smart scale guide for more.
Best smart toothbrush: Oral-B Genius X
£339.99 – View on Amazon
First up, don’t wince too much at that price tag. It’s currently available on Amazon for £129, so there’s no need to pay full price. What you’ll get is a brush that combines all the features of a high-end electric toothbrush with an app to show where you’re brushing in real-time, track your brushing habit, and keep your dental health on track.
Sure, this is one of those examples where smart functionality isn’t necessary, but it can help you to improve your brushing technique and remind you to brush for the recommended time, twice a day.
Philips Sonicare is the main alternative to Oral-B, but you can see other options in our best smart toothbrush comparison.