Smart Devices vs. Smart Systems

Before we get into our list, it’s important to define our terms. A smart system is the overarching command center that controls your individual products — think Alexa or Google Assistant. Essentially, a smart system is what you speak to when you want something to happen. A device, on the other hand, is an individual product that reports back to that system — think, Amazon Echo or Philips Hue lightbulbs.

Best Smart Home Systems

When looking to purchase a smart-home system, you want to look into reviews and its integrations.

While the reviews will show you how good or bad the technology is, the integration information will show you how many products you can actually connect your system to. 

As you’re researching integrations, you should also consider any smart devices you already have that might be compatible or incompatible with the system. Today, most good smart home systems are powered by state-of-the art technology and offer a long list of third-party integration possibilities. For example, Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant connect to smart thermostats like Nest or Ecobee — not just thermostats made by their own companies.

If your devices all connect well together, work well, and are easy to use, your smart home experiences will run much more smoothly.

Here are four major smart home systems that we recommend.

1. Amazon Alexa

With more than hundreds of millions of compatible devices, Alexa is undoubtedly one of the most comprehensive smart home ecosystems available today. While you have likely heard of using Alexa in Eco-speaker form (“Alexa, what’s the weather today?”), you might not know that Alexa is now built into plenty of other smart products, including thermostats and TVs.

Alexa makes every aspect of your smart home easy to access and control. You can use Alexa to speak to apps like Spotify just as easily as you can ask her to turn off the lights. Since Amazon’s ecosystem is one of the most prevalent in the industry, most smart products integrate seamlessly with Alexa, including products made by Philips, Samsung, Nest, and Schlage — Alexa can now close your garage, lock your doors, and adjust your home’s temperature. To know if Alexa will work with a certain device, just look for the ‘Works with Amazon Alexa’ tag.

Ultimately, Alexa’s ability to integrate and speak to most other smart devices and apps makes her one of the best choices for your smart home.

2. Google Assistant

If there’s any true runner-up to Alexa, it’s Google Assistant. Even though Google Assistant has less third-party integrations, it can often answer questions and complete commands Alexa can’t, thanks to Google’s major ownership of the search engine space. Google Assistant has an accuracy score of 92.9% while Amazon Alexa scores at 79.8% (ZDNet). Ultimately, Assistant wins when it comes to understanding how people naturally speak.

For instance, if you the Assistant “I don’t like this song” on Spotify, it will skip to the next one, while Alexa will simply tell you, “Thumbs up and down are not supported on Spotify.” Small differences like this could sway you towards Google, since it’s often more helpful (and less literal) than Alexa.

Assistant can also integrate with products from most major brands, including Philips, Belkin, August, Nest, and popular apps such as Spotify and Uber.

3. Wink Hub

Wink Hub is touted as the “first smart home hub designed for the mainstream consumer.” Unlike Alexa or Assistant, Wink doesn’t have any brand loyalty, allowing you to pick and choose different smart product brands and merge them seamlessly with one another.

Wink Hub 2 supports smart home protocols including Bluetooth LE, Kidde, Lutron ClearConnect, Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, and more. If you’re looking to create a fully integrated smart home with kitchen and wall appliances in-sync, this might be your best option. You can also download the Wink Hub app and control commands, like light switches or garage door, from your phone on-the-go.

4. Samsung SmartThings Hub

This Samsung system unites a wide variety of smart devices from different brands including smart thermostats, Wi-Fi router, lightbulbs, and security devices. Users with the smart system get a SmartThings Hub wall mount and can get full access to the smart devices connected to the hub through the SmartThings IOS or Android app.

Samsung’s SmartThings Hub has been growing its own smart-device offerings for the past few years. In fact, the Hub’s product lineup includes the addition of the SmartThing Wi-Fi plug, SmartThings Lightbulb, and SmartThings Cam.

Through the SmartThings Hub, you can also set compatible smart devices to do various actions like turning on or off when you walk in or out of a room. While you can give voice commands to the SmartThings wall hub or app, you can also integrate and Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to the system.

Best Smart Home Devices

  1. Amazon Echo (4th Generation)
  2. Philips Hue
  3. TP-Link HS220
  4. Ecobee SmartThermostat
  5. NetGear Arlo Q
  6. Char-Broil Digital Electric Smoker, Deluxe
  7. ConnectSense Smart Outlet
  8. Ecovacs Deebot N79S
  9. LG Smart TV

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