The Best Smart Home Devices: Turn your dumb house into a smart home with our pick of the most essential home-tech

 
Steve Hogarty
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The Nest thermostat knows when you leave the house but, more impressively, it can predict when you'll be coming home too

Best for Heating: Nest Thermostat
£279 – nest.com

Whap this doohicky on your wall and not only will your guests be fooled into thinking you’ve installed a HAL-9000, but your house will stay toasty warm and energy efficient. The Nest thermostat learns your routine, keeping an eye on your manual thermostat adjustments for a week or so and learning how long your home takes to warm up and cool down, before building an automated heating schedule that anticipates when you’ll want to feel cosy. When coupled with the motion-sensing Nest Protect smoke detectors, it can even turn off radiators if nobody’s at home.

Best for TV and Movies: Amazon Fire TV
£79 – amazon.co.uk

Stream movies to your television from a wide variety of different services – Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer and Channel 4 to name a few – using the Amazon Fire TV. It’s the faster version of the diminutive Fire TV stick, and connects via HDMI to transform your dumb television into a smart one. The latest update adds Alexa, the virtual assistant that also powers the Amazon Echo, meaning you can now ask your television how much the moon weighs by speaking into the remote control. What an incredible and unlikely future we have found ourselves in.

Best for Hangover Curries: Amazon Echo
£148 – amazon.co.uk

Not only can Amazon’s smart speaker play music and respond to voice commands, but rather more crucially it can reorder curries from JustEat when you’re grotesquely hungover and incapable of leaving the house or picking up an iPad. It can also summon an Uber, read audiobooks, answer questions, and is compatible with most smart home technology, such as Hive plugs, Nest thermostats and Philips Hue bulbs. It’s warmer and more human-sounding than the vaguely robotic Google Home, and is also available in a miniature version called the Echo Dot – useful if you want to kit out every room with a little robo-butler.

Best for Trivia Questions: Google Home
£129 – madeby.google.com

Google’s incursion into the smart home space has one key advantage over the Amazon Echo, in that it can stream music and video to any television or speaker in your house that has a Chromecast plugged into it. The Echo, by contrast, has yet to fully integrate with Amazon’s Fire TV devices. Beyond that, it’s the more clinical and rough-edged of the two smart speakers, still able to take control of the smart home via spoken commands, albeit with fewer features and a less personable attitude. The in-built Google Assistant is rapidly becoming cleverer however, and being plugged into Google’s decentralised, web-spanning and knowledge-absorbing cloud-brain gives Home the potential to become far more powerful than it is today.

Best for Hoovering Up Crumbs: Neato Botvac
£649 – neatorobotics.com

While Roomba has become the household name in automatic vacuum cleaners, it’s Neato that’s pioneered a new generation of app-enabled robo-hoovers. The Neato Botvac sends you polite notifications to tell you when it’s finished cleaning, and alerts you if it encounters any trouble on its tiny mission to eradicate crumbs. You can send commands and set schedules from the app, and for the backseat hooverer, you can even take manual control of the Neato Botvac and steer it around like a toy car.

Best for Audio, Especially at Parties: Sonos Play:5
£429 – sonos.com

Sonos is a byword for connected home speaker systems, and with the launch of the re-engineered Play:5 last year, the company’s flagship speaker is more powerful, better sounding, faster connecting and better looking than ever. Purists will love that the front logo doesn’t interfere with sound quality, as it’s been designed to be “acoustically transparent”.

Best for Orwellian Security: Canary
£159 – canary.is

Home security cameras have been around for some time, their sales numbers buoyed by the release of alarmist home invasion documentaries such as Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. But its only in recent years that they’ve become well-designed, discreet and web-enabled. The Canary monitors your living room using a motion sensing camera, alerts you to unwelcome visitors, and can be made to emit a burglar-spooking 90 decibel alarm remotely using the Canary app. By registering your family’s phones, it will politely stop recording when trusted people are home.

Best for (Outdoor) Orwellian Security: Canary Flex
£199 – canary.is

Once the preserve of paranoid housewives, home security cameras have seen a resurgence in popularity as part of the smart home movement. The Canary Flex is a weatherproof, high-def, outdoor security camera that beams live footage to your smartphone wherever you are. Night vision and motion alerts give you peace of mind when it comes to home intruders and ghosts, while the two-month battery life makes it a reliable guardian for your front door.

Best for Colourful Lighting: Philips Hue
£14.95 – meethue.com

These LED lightbulbs from Philips can glow in any colour you can name and some that you can’t. They’re controlled wirelessly, meaning they can be adjusted from your phone to create your preferred lighting conditions. When connected to Apple’s HomeKit, you can ask Siri to change the bulbs to things like “light blue” or “the colour of the darkest recesses of my consumerist soul”.

Hive Active Light
From £19 – huehome.com

British Gas-owned Hive started out life as a smart thermostat, before expanding its ecosystem to include smart plugs, sensors and light bulbs. The smart bulbs come in three flavours: one that can shine in any colour you can conceive of (ideal for discos and horror-themed parties), another that switches from warm yellows to cool blues and whites, and one that’s dimmable. You can control the bulbs using your phone, the Hive sensors (which can detect when doors are opened), or with voice commands through the Google Home and Amazon Echo smart speakers.

Best for Not Losing Things All of the Time: Tile
$25 – thetileapp.com

Attach a Tile to your keys (or to anything you’re likely to lose) and you can ring them from your phone, and vice versa. Lose them outdoors and your phone will remember the last place you had them. If they’re stolen, you can call upon every phone using the Tile app to scan for your lost item.

Best for TV if you're an Apple Person: Apple TV
£129 – apple.com/uk

Naturally the slickest of the three major connected TV devices, the Apple TV is Cupertino’s most recent attempt at creating a one-stop telly shop for all of your entertainment needs. Siri can search across all of your streaming apps to find films, music and shows, while the sleek touchpad remote is easily the best little black rectangle you’ll ever point at your big black rectangle. It also has the loveliest screensavers you’ve ever seen. Just top notch.

Best for TV on a Budget: Google Chromecast
£30 – google.com

Google caused a stir when it first released its cheap-as-chips HDMI dongle, which turns any TV into a smart TV. A two-finger salute to more expensive rivals, it proved that you only really need your phone and your wi-fi to power your TV’s entertainment. Compatible with more devices than the Apple TV, it’s the perfect solution for households who aren’t locked into the iOS ecosystem.

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