From smart light bulbs and thermostats that think for themselves, home automation today can appear awfully sophisticated. The mixture of devices and apps are definitely a messy beast. Furthermore, installing the equipment is only half the battle. Getting it to work together smoothly and with a singular interface can be something completely different. Here’s the essential gear to get you there. Here are our thoughts on the best smart home systems available on the market today.
We’ve separated the following gear into two categories: all-around smart home systems and security-focused systems. The all-around systems are just that – they are designed to interface with a variety of smart home products. The security-focused systems, on the other hand, are built around sensors and sirens. It is important to note that some of our picks are starter kits, consisting of a smart home hub and a handful of devices. Other are just the hub. You’ll need to add devices of your choosing to the latter, choosing from products certified by the hub manufacturer.
Best Overall Smart Home System
If you’re seeking both breadth and depth of supported smart home products, then look no further than Samsung SmartThings. This system revolves around a small box that connects to your router. The third-generation Hub offers the option of wireless connectivity and Samsung’s Connect Home integrates a mesh router with a SmartThings Hub. You can start adding devices via the SmartThings app. The app is rather simple and intuitive for a smart home control system. You can add devices that Samsung sells directly, or you can choose from an immense number of third-party products that feature the “Works with SmartThings” label.
Most every category is covered, including Amazon’s Echo lineup and Google Home smart speakers., numerous smart lighting products – including Phillips and Sylvania bulbs – the Ring video doorbell and smart locks are also incorporated into the Samsung SmartThings ecosystem. Samsung SmartThings can also integrate with Samsung smart appliances. The lone gap in the SmartThings range of coverage is Nest and August smart home products. Otherwise, it’s hard to find a market that SmartThings doesn’t compete.
On a parting note, we do not recommend an upgrade from the 2nd generation hub due to the pain that such a migration will bring about for users.
Best Security-Focused Smart Home System
Ring Home Alarm Home Security System
Ring’s long-delayed Ring Alarm home security system is finally here. Starting at $199, you get a numeric keypad, a base station with a siren, a motion sensor, and one door/window sensor. It is one of the best security-focused systems on the market today. Furthermore, it has the potential to become one of the best smart home systems period.
This is because the system has every type of radio you’d want in a smart home system: Z-Wave Plus, Zigbee, LTE, and Wi-Fi. It works with a few third-party products today—including an outboard siren from Dome and a smart smoke/carbon-monoxide detector from First Alert.
The presence of Z-Wave and Zigbee radios enables it to support just about any smart home product on the market. Ring says it fully intends to go down that path. The cherry on top of this sundae: you get optional professional monitoring for just $10 per month. No long-term contract and that includes unlimited cloud storage for video clips from Ring’s video doorbells and security cameras.