Table of Contents: Masthead StickyEcho (4th Gen) (small)
Amazon’s popular Echo speaker has finally gotten a makeover.
Nearly six years after Amazon quietly unveiled the original Echo, the company has completely changed the speaker’s look, marking a big departure from the glowing cylinder that we’ve come to associate with the Echo since late 2014.
But the latest Echo is far more than just a cosmetic upgrade. Amazon’s most recent entrant to the smart speaker space also features a boost in sound quality, its own dedicated Amazon-designed processor that should make Alexa more responsive, and other extras, like a temperature sensor and a built-in smart home hub.
Taken together, the improvements represent the most significant upgrade to the standard Echo we’ve seen in years, helping it stand out in Amazon’s lineup. It’s a much more notable update than 2019’s third-generation Echo, which didn’t add much to the speaker other than improved sound quality.
But the new Echo also launched as Google and Apple have been investing more heavily in their own smart home speakers. Just days after Amazon unveiled the new Echo in September 2020, Google introduced its $100 Nest Audio. Apple, meanwhile, announced a smaller and less expensive version of its HomePod smart speaker for $100 called the HomePod Mini.
Here’s a closer look at what it’s been like to use the new Echo.
Amazon Echo 2020 specifications
Amazon Echo 2020
5.7 inches x 5.7 inches x 5.2 inches
Charcoal, white, and blue
3-inch woofer and dual 0.8-inch front-facing tweeters
3.5mm line in/out
Integrated smart home hub, temperature sensor
To say the new Amazon Echo looks different than its predecessor would be an understatement. Gone is the cylindrical shape that’s been a hallmark of the smart speaker series so far. Instead, the new Echo takes the form of a compact, fabric-laden orb that glows at its base when Alexa is listening.
The new Echo looks less like a traditional speaker than its predecessor, and that’s a good thing. It has more of a standout look that differentiates it from rivals, like the Nest Audio, and the spherical shape enables it to fit more naturally into my home decor. The placement of the glowing ring at the bottom of the speaker rather than at the top also feels less distracting.
But unlike the Nest Audio, which comes in black, white, green, pink, and blue, the Echo is only available in three colors: charcoal, white, and blue. For a device that most people will be prominently displaying in the living room or kitchen, it would have been nice to see a broader range of color options like those offered by Google.
Amazon’s new Echo has received a big boost when it comes to its most important job: serving as a home speaker. Amazon says its new speaker can now detect the acoustics of the room it’s in and adjust the audio accordingly, just like the $200 Echo Studio.
The new shape also gives the Echo better sound projection and richer bass thanks to its surface area to volume ratio, the company says.
The upgrade is certainly noticeable when compared alongside the third-generation Echo. Across the board, music sounds louder and much more open and full-bodied compared to its predecessor, with better bass as well.
The older Echo sounds a bit shallow in comparison, and isn’t able to fill the room with audio nearly as well as its successor. This is true whether I listen to pop, rock, or hip-hop on the new Echo.
It’s not quite as loud and clear as the $200 Sonos One, but it certainly comes a lot closer than the standard Echo ever has before.
Smart home hub
If controlling smart home devices is one of the primary reasons you’re interested in Amazon’s smart speaker, the new Echo will feel like a step up.
Amazon has built a smart home hub into the device much like it did with the Echo Plus speaker it introduced in 2017. That means you can quickly set up devices that use Bluetooth low energy or the ZigBee protocol – one of the major protocols that allows smart home devices to communicate with one another – without requiring a separate hub or bridge. It will also support Amazon’s long-range Wi-Fi network called Sidewalk when the feature launches on June 8.
Getting a Philips Hue light bulb up and running with the new Echo requires virtually no set up since it’s compatible with Zigbee. I simply screwed the light bulb into my bedroom lamp and asked Alexa to discover new devices.
After a few short moments, Alexa confirmed that my Echo had discovered the new light and added it to the “My devices” section of the Alexa app.
The third-generation Echo, on the other hand, requires a bridge in order to connect to the same Philips Hue light bulb. The Echo also has a leg up over Google in this regard since Google devices don’t offer voice setup for smart home devices and require you to connect through the company’s app.
The Echo series may be nearly six years old, but Amazon is only just introducing its own custom processor for its smart speaker line. Amazon’s new AZ1 processor promises to make Alexa faster and more responsive when processing requests. This functionality wasn’t available at launch but has since begun rolling out to the fourth-generation Echo and Echo Show 10.
However, the fourth-generation Echo is only slightly faster than the third-generation Echo at answering basic questions in my experience, often only beating it by less than a second.
The new Echo also comes with another unexpected addition: a temperature sensor. This makes it possible to not only ask Alexa for the weather outside, but also the temperature indoors.
For many, the decision to side with an Echo device or Google Nest device will largely depend on what ecosystem best suits your needs.
Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant can both handle many of the same tasks, but also offer their respective perks. Alexa, for example, supports a wider variety of smart home devices, as the company says there are more than 140,000 gadgets that work with Alexa. Google, on the other hand, supports more than 50,000 internet-of-things devices.
Alexa also has some extra skills, including the ability to detect sounds, like breaking glass and alarms, when you’re not home. Google requires a Nest Aware subscription for this, whereas Amazon offers these features as part of the free tier of its Alexa Guard service. And of course, Alexa makes it incredibly easy to shop on Amazon via your voice.
The Google Assistant, however, has generally performed better when it comes to answering general knowledge questions, which should come as no surprise considering it has the world’s most popular search engine at its disposal.
In a 2019 test conducted by Loup Ventures that involved asking the Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri 800 questions, Google answered 93% of those queries correctly. Alexa answered 80% of them correctly while Siri correctly responded to 83%.
Google’s smart speakers also have extra features, like an interpreter mode that translates full conversations into another language, which is more sophisticated than Alexa’s ability to translate individual phrases and words.
Privacy is also crucial for a microphone-equipped device meant to sit in your living room or bedroom. Amazon, Google, and Apple have all come under scrutiny in the past over their previous policies when it comes to sharing saved recordings with human annotators for the purposes of improving their voice assistants.
Both the new Echo and Google’s Nest Audio include a physical button for turning off the microphone.
But unlike Google and Apple, you must opt out if you don’t want your voice recordings to be used by Amazon to help improve Alexa’s functionality. You can do this from the Alexa app under the Alexa Privacy section in the settings menu.
Google doesn’t retain audio by default, and announced last September that users would have to opt in to a setting that enables the search giant to share recordings with human reviewers to improve the Google Assistant.
That said, both Amazon and Google have announced privacy updates over the course of the past year. Amazon now allows you to choose to automatically delete your voice recordings after Alexa has processed your request.
You can also delete all of your previously saved voice recordings just by asking Alexa, or you can ask Alexa to send you a link to privacy settings for your device in the Alexa app.
Google also launched new features earlier this year for telling its voice assistant to forget an utterance that was detected by accident and asking the Google Assistant for more information about Google’s data collection policies.
Google recently announced a Guest Mode for the Google Assistant as well, which, like Incognito Mode, prevents Google from saving queries to your account or offering personalized responses.
The bottom line
With improved sound, a sleek new design, and a built-in hub for setting up smart home devices, the new Echo feels like a significant upgrade for Amazon’s smart speaker.
The standard Echo model has inherited some features from its more premium predecessors, such as the $200 Echo Studio’s ability to adjust audio to match a room’s acoustics, and the integrated smart home hub that debuted on the $150 Echo Plus from 2017.
As a result, the new Echo feels like the right balance of quality audio and convenience for most people in need of a basic smart home speaker that’s not quite as high-end as the Studio, but more powerful than the $50 Echo Dot.
That could make it more difficult for rivals, like Apple and Sonos, that specialize in offering superior sound quality to compete with Amazon’s latest Echo. It also feels like an execution of the vision that Amazon has been working toward for a while when it comes to the Echo: a home speaker that doesn’t make big compromises when it comes to audio quality or smart home features.
If you have a third-generation Echo, you probably don’t need to upgrade immediately. But if you have an older model or were thinking about purchasing a second Echo anyway, you’ll certainly appreciate the upgrades.
Pros: Improved sound, attractive new design, built-in smart home hub makes it easy to set up devices
Cons: Not as much choice when it comes to color selection compared to Google, Amazon still saves and uses your voice recordings by default
Hundreds of smart home devices are compatible with Google’s voice assistant, Google Assistant.
You can control these devices with voice commands or automated routines in the Google Home app.
Look for the “Works with Google Assistant” logo to find devices certified by Google.
A voice-controlled smart home lets you turn on lights, adjust the thermostat, and more with a few simple commands. Google Assistant has consistently led the smart-home field in terms of voice recognition, depth of features, and regular updates. It’s a natural choice for Android phone owners and anyone who uses a lot of Google services.
Some smart-home devices have Google Assistant built-in. Others require a separate device, like a phone or a smart speaker. The Google Home app offers deeper control, with the option to set up routines that can be automated or triggered by specific phrases.
This guide to the best Google Assistant-enabled devices is based on extensive testing, supported by in-depth research of reputable reviews covering trusted brands. All come highly recommended and work seamlessly with Google Assistant.
Here are the best Google Home devices you can buy:
The best Google Assistant-compatible smart display
Compact and clever, the Google Nest Hub is a great control center for any Google Assistant-led smart home.
The affordable Google Nest Hub is a versatile smart display that fits neatly into any home. It has a 7-inch touchscreen and a speaker that’s powerful enough to fill most rooms. It can display your calendar or a weather report, stream movies or TV shows, and play music or podcasts. If you use Google Photos, it doubles as a digital photo frame. It also works well as a simple control hub for smart-home devices, offering touch controls and live camera feeds.
The second-generation Nest Hub has ultrasound technology built-in so that it can sense your presence and respond to gesture controls. This means you can wave to stop a morning alarm or to skip a music track, for example. If you use it as a bedside display, then it can sense and analyze your movement and breathing during the night, though our reviewer found it can’t replace a wearable sleep tracker.
With Google Assistant built in, you can ask the Nest Hub to provide recipes, read the latest news, or give you a breakdown of your day. There are three far-field microphones to pick up any voice commands or questions you have for Google Assistant. There’s a mic-off switch for when you want privacy. Any linked smart-home devices added via the Google Home app can be controlled on the touchscreen or with voice commands.
The Google Nest Hub doesn’t have a camera, which is good from a privacy point of view, but means you can’t use it for video calls. The screen also has a relatively low resolution of 1,024 x 600 pixels, so it’s not the best device for watching movies.
The best Google Assistant-compatible smart speaker
Featuring a new design and improved audio quality, the Google Nest Audio has a highly responsive Google Assistant inside.
While Google’s smart speakers have always been smart, you could argue that the design and audio quality have lagged behind the best smart speakers. That changed with the Nest Audio, which is 75 percent louder than the original Google Home speaker and offers much deeper bass. There’s also a new rounded rectangular shape with a choice of cloth finishes that blend in nicely with any décor.
Google Assistant is ready and waiting for your music or podcast selections. You can also set timers, check your calendar, or issue smart-home commands to any devices linked to your Google Home app. The Nest Audio packs three far-field microphones to ensure Google Assistant always picks up your voice, and there’s a switch on the back that allows you to turn the microphone off when you want privacy.
If sound quality is your top priority, something like the Sonos One may be a better pick, but it is far more expensive. The Nest Audio also lacks a few extras that Amazon’s latest Echo offers, such as a 3.5mm port or smart-hub connectivity. Ultimately, the Nest Audio is a solid smart speaker offering good sound, and there’s nothing better for Google Assistant access.
The best Google Assistant-compatible streaming stick
With app support and a remote that supports voice controls, the Chromecast streaming stick serves up 4K and HDR content.
The Google Chromecast fits into an HDMI port on your TV and allows you to stream all sorts of content in up to 4K resolution. It also supports other high-dynamic-range formats, including HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. You can install apps for streaming services like Netflix and Prime Video. It’s also ideal for YouTube TV subscribers and offers easy access to your Google Play library.
A compact remote control makes navigation easy and features a dedicated Google Assistant button to help you find content. You can search by genre, actor, mood, and more. You can also ask Google Assistant questions, get the latest weather, or bring up a live feed of any security cameras you have added in the Google Home app.
While it does support a wide selection of streaming services, 4K HDR support is currently missing from a few of them and there’s no Apple TV app. We also ran into a few minor glitches in our testing, but this is Google’s best Chromecast yet and your best bet if you want a streaming stick with Google Assistant built in.
The reliable Philips Hue range has some of the smartest lighting around and works seamlessly with Google Assistant.
There are plenty of good reasons that the Philips Hue range tops oursmart-lighting guides. Its bulbs, strips, and fixtures support all kinds of colors, adjustable color temperature, and easy dimming via the Philips Hue app. There’s a wide choice of scenes, which serve as shortcuts to the mood you want to achieve, whether you’re relaxing in front of the TV or throwing a party.
Using Google Assistant voice commands, you can turn lights on or off; select specific scenes; and change the brightness, color, or color temperature. If you set up a routine in the Home app, then you can say “Hey, Google, Good Morning” and have specific Hue lights turn on. You can also have lights turn on or off automatically based on who is at home.
The Bluetooth and hub-connected Philips Hue lights work with Google Assistant, but the Bluetooth bulbs are often slower to respond and support fewer voice commands. The main drawback to Philips Hue lighting is the relatively high price. We recommend the Philips Hue Starter Kits, which come with two or three bulbs and the Hue Bridge.
The big selling point of the third-generation Nest Learning Thermostat is its ability to learn about your behaviors and routines. It can balance your temperature preferences with the need to save energy wherever possible. The app is excellent and very easy to use. There’s support for geofencing, so it knows when you’re at home or away, and it works with a wide variety of HVAC systems.
You can issue voice commands through Google Assistant on your phone, smart speaker, or smart display to check on and change the temperature or to switch the heating off. You can simply ask to make it warmer or cooler, or you can get specific with a request to raise or lower by 2 degrees, for example, or set the temperature to 72 degrees.
The Nest Learning Thermostat is quite pricey, and you’ll want to check compatibility with your HVAC system. The more basic Google Nest Thermostat is cheaper, but it doesn’t have this model’s learning capability.
The best Google Assistant-compatible security camera
Google’s Nest Cam IQ captures high-quality video day or night, tracks motion, and can recognize faces.
The Nest Cam IQ comes in outdoor and indoor models, both in a minimal design that’s easy to install. The cameras support two-way audio, activity zones, intelligent alerts, motion tracking, and facial recognition. HDR enhances the video quality, there’s a 4K-image sensor for zooming in on people’s faces, and there’s infrared for when night falls.
You can bring up live feeds on a smart display or on a TV with a Chromecast using Google Assistant voice commands. You can also set up routines in the Google Home app to automate your cameras and have them turn on automatically when you leave home. While both Nest Cam IQ models work with Google Assistant, only the indoor version has Google Assistant built in.
The Nest Cam IQ is expensive and requires a Nest Aware subscription, which starts at $5 per month for 30 days of cloud storage. It’s also worth noting that Google is set to revamp its security camera lineup this year, replacing the Nest Cam IQ with something new. For now, though, this is the best security camera with Google Assistant.
TP-Link’s Kasa Smart Plug can make any device smarter and allows remote control through Google Assistant voice commands.
You can make older devices smarter by plugging them into a smart outlet or plug. The Kasa Smart Plug supports automation, remote control, and voice control. The compact design ensures that it doesn’t block adjacent outlets. The Kasa app is very easy to use. This is also one of the most affordable smart plugs on the market, so you can put them all over your home for a low price.
By naming individual Kasa plugs (for example, “hall lamp” or “living room fan”) and adding them to the Google Home app, you can use voice commands through Google Assistant to turn devices on or off. You can also schedule them to turn on and off automatically in the app. Google Assistant routines also automate them. You might set the hall lamp to turn off when you say, “Hey Google, Goodnight,” for example.
These basic smart plugs have the features most people want, and they work reliably with Google Assistant. The only caveat is that you need a good Wi-Fi connection, and they only work on the 2.4GHz band. They also lack built-in surge protection.
You can add voice controls to your existing lights with the Belkin WeMo range of switches. A direct Wi-Fi connection means there’s no need for a hub. The app allows you to schedule lights, set timers, and dim your lights. You can also change the brightness with your finger by running it along the channel in the middle of the switch. You can always find the switch in the dark thanks to the backlight, and there’s a clever night mode that dims the light appropriately, so you aren’t blinded if you get up in the night.
Add the WeMo Wi-Fi Dimmer Switch in the Google Home app, and you can use Google Assistant voice commands to turn the switch on or off or to dim or brighten your lights. According to Belkin the switch automatically adjusts the dimming range to suit your bulbs. Use routines in the Home app to automate the switch, so a voice command like “Hey, Google, Goodnight” turns the lights off.
While it’s fairly straightforward, the Belkin WeMo Wi-Fi Dimmer does have to be wired in. It only works with one-way connection switches and requires a neutral wire. Belkin also has a WeMo Smart 3-Way Light Switch which works with Google Assistant, but it doesn’t support dimming.
The best Google Assistant-compatible smart lock
Easy to install and offering Google Assistant support, the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock allows you to set up secure keyless access.
The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock works with some existing deadbolts. You simply replace the interior portion, which means you can still use your keys outside. Installation is quick and easy, but you need a reliable Wi-Fi connection on the 2.4 GHz band. With the app, you can lock and unlock your door from anywhere, track people coming and going, and receive alerts when the door is left open. There’s also geofencing support for automatic locking and unlocking when you leave and return.
The support for Google Assistant means you can lock or unlock the door with voice commands. You can also ask if the door is closed and locked. If you add a routine in the Google Home app, you could have a particular Google Assistant voice command lock your door.
This fourth-generation device features a more compact design than previous versions, and August continues to release new features, such as optional biometric verification using the fingerprint or face unlock on your smartphone. However, This is a relatively expensive smart lock, and the battery life isn’t the greatest. Both Tom’s Guide and PC Mag gave it 4.5 out of 5.
The iRobot Roomba S9+ is a clever robot vacuum that performs well on carpet and hard floors, supports lots of Google Assistant voice commands, and can even empty itself.
The iRobot Roomba S9+ is our pick for the best robot vacuum for hard floors and performed impressively in testing. The Roomba S9+ rarely gets trapped and has good path-finding skills. It has a large dustbin built into the charging cradle, so it can empty itself when it returns to charge. You won’t have to empty the bin often, which is great because emptying the dust is an unpleasant necessity after every clean with most robot vacuums.
Add your iRobot account to the Google Home app for a wide array of potential voice commands through Google Assistant. You can ask the Roomba S9+ to start, stop, pause, resume, return to home base, clean by room, and more.
The high price is an obvious downside, and this is quite a loud robot vacuum when cleaning. We also found the corner cleaning performance a bit lacking. There are some additional ongoing expenses, too; you must replace filters every couple of months, the side brush every three months, and the dirt disposal bag every month or so. You may also consider the slightly cheaper Roomba i7+ which supports the same Google Assistant voice commands.
Here are a few tips and things to keep in mind when you go shopping for new Google Assistant-enabled devices.
Works with the Google Assistant: The first thing to look for when buying a smart-home device is the “Works with the Google Assistant” logo. This is Google’s official certification program, and the presence of this logo on the box means you can add it via the Google Home app and control it with voice commands through Google Assistant.
Google Assistant built in: While a device may work with Google Assistant, you may not be able to talk to it directly. Devices like smart speakers and displays have Google Assistant inside, with microphones to pick up your voice commands. The majority of products that work with Google Assistant need a phone, smart speaker, smart display, or another device capable of hearing your voice commands.
Google Home app: To gain voice control of a device through Google Assistant, you will need to link your account via the Google Home app. The procedure is pretty straightforward, and Google Home can often automatically detect devices on your home network. You will usually need login details, and you will have to agree to share access and some data with Google.
Internet connectivity: Smart-home devices require a strong internet connection for Google Assistant to work well. Think about where in your home the device will live and whether it can get a good wired or Wi-Fi connection in that spot.
What else we considered
Here are a few options that may still work well for your smart-home setup.
Google Nest Hub Max: This smart display offers everything that the smaller Nest Hub does but adds a bigger and better screen, louder audio, and a camera for video calls. Read our Google Nest Hub Max review for more information.
Roku Ultra: This versatile streaming device supports just about every service you can think of, works reliably, and has Bluetooth connectivity. You can pair it with Google Assistant to control it with voice commands. Read our Roku Ultra review for more information.
Sonos One: For such a small speaker, the Sonos One offers a fantastically rich sound and can get very loud when you need it to. It also has Google Assistant built in for questions, commands, calls, and more.
Wyze Bulb: Wyze offers a basic white smart bulb that’s very affordable and works well with Google Assistant. You can ask Google Assistant to turn bulbs on or off, tweak the brightness, and change the color temperature.
Google Nest Thermostat: This affordable smart thermostat offers remote control of your HVAC system, geofencing, and support for Google Assistant.
Wyze Cam v3: Perhaps the most affordable camera on the market the Wyze Cam v3 offers full-color 1080p footage and has an IP65 rating, two-way audio, and night vision. You can also turn it on or off and access a live feed with a Google Assistant command. Read our Wyze Cam v3 review for more information.
Wyze Smart Home Plug: You can remotely control this compact smart plug, and it supports scheduling and automation. You can also turn it on or off by asking Google Assistant.
C by GE Smart Dimmer Switch: This versatile smart light switch brings remote control to your regular lights, and you can tweak the brightness from the app or via a Google Assistant voice command. The functionality is good, but the design isn’t as attractive as our top pick.
Schlage Encode Smart Wi-Fi Deadbolt: You can remotely lock and unlock this smart lock with the app. It has a number pad for setting up to 100 access codes. Google Assistant voice commands enable you to lock or unlock your door and check its status.
Roborock S6: This was the best-performing robot vacuum in our testing and it’s a lot cheaper than the Roomba S9+. But the Google Assistant integration is very basic, simply allowing you to start or stop cleaning with voice commands. Read our Roborock S6 review for more information.
It’s one of the few ACs that uses ultra-efficient inverter technology, so it’s very inexpensive to run.
It did the best job cooling my home and has useful smart functions.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
You don’t need me to tell you how hard it is to get anything done when you’re sweating away in a hot, humid room. A good window air conditioner is a must in these situations. Fortunately, most of today’s units are Energy Star-certified to not only cool your room but to also do it efficiently and economically.
One of the most efficient ACs available is the LG Dual Inverter Smart Window Air Conditioner, which uses state-of-the-art inverter technology to keep your energy costs down while keeping your room at a comfortable temperature.
I recently tested 10 ACs for our guide to the best air conditioners, and this one took home the title of “best for large rooms” after our rigorous evaluation. I’ve also used this unit for more than a year now in my own home; below are my experiences with it.
Design and specs
The LG Window Air Conditioner (model number LW1517IVSM) has a 14,000 Btu capacity, which makes it ideal for rooms of about 800 square feet. It’s Energy Star-certified with a Department of Energy-tested combined energy efficiency ratio (CEER) of 14.7, which makes it one of the most efficient air conditioners available. The estimated yearly energy cost is $68.
The appliance has four modes of operation: standard (with four cooling speeds), energy saver, fan, and dehumidifying. It can be controlled via a smartphone app or the included remote control, though the app offers more functionality.
Everything you need for installation is in the box, including window security brackets and insulating foam to provide a good seal. You’ll need to use your own tools for the installation. In particular, it’s helpful to have Phillips-head and flat-blade screwdrivers, an adjustable wrench, a level, a tape measure, a knife, scissors, and a pencil on hand.
Installation was a major pain and took me two hours. Here are the steps:
Unscrew the cabinet from the AC and remove the innards.
Put window sash seals on the window.
Attach the curtains to the unit, which involves awkwardly screwing in eight screws that don’t line up well.
Put the cabinet in the window.
Install the sill brackets.
Screw the cabinet into the sill brackets.
Stretch the curtains out to fit the window and screw them in.
Reinstall the AC’s innards.
Add the foam strip to the gap between the window panes.
Install the window security bracket.
Install the heatproof foam insulation over the curtains.
Attach the face, which involves holding it awkwardly and making sure the vent and cord stuck through and that and everything was lined up just right.
All this to say, I recommend having a friend help you with the heavy lifting.
After the grueling installation process, I was relieved to find that connecting the AC to the LG SmartThinQ app was seamless. It paired with my Android phone in no time, and I found the controls useful. You can set a schedule for when your AC runs, adjust the thermostat, and more.
The LG LW1517IVSM is special because it utilizes dual inverter technology. Most air conditioners turn the compressor on or off to regulate the temperature. Inverter ACs feature variable-speed compressors that make micro-adjustments to the temperature. In Department of Energy’s tests, this LG model achieved efficiency scores 25% better than the minimum Energy Star requirement.
But, how does it perform? When I test ACs, I set the heat in my house to 75 degrees and then blast the AC on high to see how much it reduces the heat in a 650-square-foot room. This LG model performed better than any other AC I’ve tested, reducing the temp by 3.3 degrees in an hour.
Additionally, I used the LG LW1517IVSM all summer in our family room, where we spend most of our time. It kept us perfectly cool in the humid Michigan heat. We typically use “energy saver” mode, which takes full advantage of the inverter technology.
Another reason why this model is excellent for our family room is its quiet operation. On high it registered 53 decibels, which is only slightly louder than your average home or quiet office. Plus, the transition between motor speeds was smooth. I never noticed any jolting, obnoxious sounds during my months of use.
Cons to consider
The biggest negative with the LG LW1517IVSM Window Air Conditioner is the installation process. And, in Michigan, it gets so cold you can’t leave window ACs in place during the winter. So, I have to relive the trauma of moving this 100+ pound behemoth each fall and spring.
I appreciate how the unit connects easily to my phone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it to connect to Amazon Alexa. I also wish I could sync the unit with my ecobee SmartThermostat, but without Alexa as an intermediary, I wasn’t able to get that to work either.
You’ll also have to make sure you have windows large enough to accommodate this beast. Measure and make sure you have a width of at least 27 inches but no more than 39 inches. The window should also open to a height of 16 inches.
What are your alternatives?
I’ve tested dozens of ACs over the years, and despite the above cons, I still think the LG Dual Inverter Smart Window Air Conditioner is among the best. That’s why I made it a top pick in our guide to the best air conditioners. That said, it’s best if you have large windows, a large space to cool, and are willing to front-load the cost of an expensive air conditioner (though it will save you money in the long run).
If you’re looking for similar energy efficiency that works for smaller rooms and windows, the only unit I think comes close to achieving the energy efficiency of the LG model is the Midea U Inverter. It’s a lot easier to install and has a unique design that allows you to open and close your window as needed while it’s installed.
The LG LW1517IVSM is one of the best window air conditioners you can buy. It’s efficient, powerful, quiet, and easy to use.
If you have a room you want to cool that’s 800 square feet or so and that has a double-hung window at least 27 inches wide, the LG Dual Inverter AC is your best option for getting the job done. There are several ACs out there that cost less than this LG unit, but long-term, you will save on energy costs with this model.
If you don’t have $550 available to purchase an AC, many sellers offer plans with affordable monthly payments and 0% APR for those who qualify.
What model should you get?
While it might be tempting to pick the most powerful model, we recommend choosing the right air conditioner for your room size. If the room is too big, the AC will constantly run on top speed, which will cause your utility bills to skyrocket. If the room is too small, it will feel cold and clammy as the room cools faster than the AC can wick the moisture away.
Fortunately, the LG Dual Inverter is available in several sizes:
Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, is compatible with a wide range of smart devices.
You can control Alexa-supported devices with voice commands or automate them with routines.
Look for the “Works with Alexa” logo to find devices certified by Amazon for reliability.
Voice recognition has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years and voice assistants have been integrated into more and more products. A huge number of popular smart home brands include Amazon Alexa compatibility as a standard in their devices now.
Some you can talk to directly, others can be controlled by issuing voice commands to Alexa through another device, such as a smart speaker or tablet. A few can be automated with routines in the Alexa app.
This guide to the very best Alexa-enabled devices available today is the product of extensive testing bolstered by research into the most trusted brands and reputable reviews. Most of these devices appear in other Insider best-of guides, and they span a wide variety of smart-home categories. What they all have in common is that they work seamlessly with Alexa.
Here are the best Alexa-enabled products that work with your Amazon Echo:
For versatile and reliable smart lighting, the Philips Hue range cannot be beat and responds well to voice commands through Alexa.
Consistently a top pick in our smart-lighting guides, Philips Hue boasts a very wide variety of different bulbs, light strips, and fixtures. The Philips Hue starter kit comes with two white bulbs and the necessary bridge. You can change the color temperature and brightness from the accessible Philips Hue app, and color bulbs support every color you can imagine. Presets called scenes make it easy to achieve the ambience you’re looking for.
Use the Alexa Hue skill and you can control your Philip Hue lights with your smart speaker. You can turn lights on or off or select specific scenes. Alexa can also change the brightness, color, or color temperature. You can also set up an Alexa routine to trigger Hue lights. For example, you might issue the command “Alexa, goodnight” to have all your lights turn off.
While both the Bluetooth and hub-connected Philips Hue lights work with Alexa, there are limitations with the Bluetooth bulbs. They only work with certain Echo smart speakers and displays, and they are slower to respond and less reliable than lights connected to a Hue Bridge. The other big drawback with Philips Hue lighting is the relatively high price.
While most smart thermostats require a smart speaker to work via voice commands, the Ecobee Smart Thermostat with Voice Control has Alexa built in and its very own speaker. This means you can issue voice commands directly to the thermostat to tweak the temperature, control other Alexa-enabled devices in the home, or even have it play music.
The smart sensor inside the Ecobee can take temperature readings and sense occupancy in the room to automatically adjust the heat or AC in your home. You can also set up schedules using the app to turn off the AC at night or have the heat come on just before you wake each morning. It supports dual-band Wi-Fi and works well with most popular home-automation systems. The app also enables you to view and change the temperature remotely.
It’s important to check compatibility before you buy because this Ecobee Smart Thermostat doesn’t work with every HVAC system. We also ran into some issues with remote sensor connections to additional rooms, which you’ll need if there are large temperature variations throughout your home. This is an expensive smart thermostat, but you generally need to pay extra for voice controls and it’s rare to find one with Alexa built in.
Capable of capturing clear and crisp footage, the indoor or outdoor Arlo Pro 3 camera also has a smart alert system and Alexa voice controls.
With a versatile mounting system and IP65 weatherproofing, the Arlo Pro 3 is suitable for indoor or outdoor use. This security camera produces top-quality video footage at a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels with HDR to even out contrasts in lighting and ensure that subjects are always clear and recognizable. The configurable smart alert system is accurate and provides swift and informative notifications. There’s also infrared night vision, two-way audio, motion and sound triggers, and a siren.
By adding the Arlo skill to Alexa, you can arm and disarm your camera system with voice commands and stream a live camera view to any Alexa-compatible display. There’s always a bit of a delay when streaming security cameras, but the Arlo Pro 3 is relatively quick compared to others we tested. The Arlo skill doesn’t allow you to review recorded videos through Alexa voice commands, which is something you can do with Ring cameras. But in terms of features and overall performance, the Arlo Pro 3 is the best security camera we’ve tested.
Apart from the limitations of the Arlo Alexa skill, you also need a subscription to unlock the smart features and record video in the cloud. Plans start at $2.99 per month per camera or $9.99 per month for up to five cameras. That gives you 30 days of rolling footage. The Arlo Pro 3 also requires a SmartHub to connect. However, the new Arlo Pro 4 offers all the same functionality as the Pro 3 and connects to Wi-Fi directly without a hub.
Affordable, compact, and easy to use, the Kasa Smart Plug from TP-Link enables you to turn devices on or off with a voice command to Alexa.
Smart plugs or outlets are often a viable alternative to upgrading older devices, as they enable automation, remote control, and voice control. The Kasa Smart Plug features a relatively compact design, so they block adjacent outlets. The Kasa app is simple and straightforward to use. These smart plugs are also surprisingly affordable, so you can pick up a multi-pack and deploy them throughout your home.
You can name individual Kasa plugs — for example, “hall lamp” or “living room fan” — and then use Alexa voice commands to turn them on and off. You can also create schedules; set timers; or use Alexa groups and routines to group them together with other devices, such as smart lights. They also support IFTTT, so you can have them turn on when a camera detects motion, for example.
The Kasa Smart Plugs may be basic budget smart plugs, but they’re very reliable and work well with Alexa commands. You will need a good Wi-Fi connection, and they only work on the 2.4GHz band. They also lack any built-in surge protection.
The versatile Belkin WeMo Wi-Fi Dimmer can control, dim, and schedule almost any kind of light and is relatively easy to install.
If you want to add voice controls to your existing lights, you can do it with the Belkin WeMo Wi-Fi Dimmer. With a direct Wi-Fi connection, there’s no need for hubs. You can also set up schedules and timers in the app. You can dim your lights both from the app and by dragging your finger down the channel in the middle of the switch. The backlight makes it easy to find the switch in the dark, and a special night mode dims the light so it’s easier on your eyes in the dark.
By using voice commands through Alexa, you can turn the switch on or off and change the brightness of your lights. Belkin says it automatically adjusts the dimming range to suit whatever type of bulbs you are using. You can also group the switch with other devices and set up automated routines in the Alexa app.
The Belkin WeMo Wi-Fi Dimmer has to be wired in. It is relatively straightforward but only works with one-way connection switches and requires a neutral wire. Belkin does offer a WeMo Smart 3-Way Light Switch which also works with Alexa but doesn’t support dimming.
Scoring 4 out of 5 at TechHive and 7.8 out of 10 at CNET, the Belkin WeMo Wi-Fi Dimmer Switch is highly rated.
The best Alexa-enabled smart lock
Designed to provide secure, keyless access to your home, the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is very easy to install and offers strong smart-home integration.
The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is designed to work with your existing deadbolt. It replaces the inside portion, so you can still use your original keys. Installation can be completed in less than 15 minutes, but you will need a good Wi-Fi connection on the 2.4 GHz band. Using the app, you can lock and unlock your door from anywhere, track who is coming and going, and get alerts when the door is left ajar. It also supports geofencing, so it can lock and unlock automatically when you leave and return.
Because it supports Alexa voice controls, you can lock or unlock the door and check if the door is locked by asking. Alexa will also alert you when the battery is running low. Short battery life is a definite downside here, and it’s a relatively pricey smart lock.
August has slimmed the design down in this fourth-generation device and continues to roll out new features, such as optional biometric verification using the fingerprint or face unlock on your smartphone. Both Tom’s Guide and PC Mag gave it 4.5 out of 5 ratings.
It’s tough to find a robot vacuum that performs well on carpet and hard floors, but the iRobot Roomba S9+ nails both and even empties itself.
After extensive testing, the iRobot Roomba S9+ claimed the title for best on hardwood floors in our best robot vacuum guide. It also performs well on carpet. Navigation is impressive, and the Roomba S9+ rarely gets stuck. It can also empty itself when it returns to the charging station, which means you don’t have to deal with dust and dirt after every cleaning cycle.
The Alexa skill for iRobot Roombas is excellent. Most robot vacuums with Alexa support are limited to simple commands. With the Roomba S9+, however, you can start, stop, pause, resume, return to home base, check status, locate, schedule, clean by room, and more.
Drawbacks include the high price, the relatively high volume when cleaning, and the middling corner performance. You also have to replace filters every couple of months, the side brush every three months, and the dirt disposal bag every month or so, which adds additional expense. If the S9+ is too expensive, consider the slightly cheaper Roomba i7+, which has the same expansive Alexa options.
Plug the Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K directly into an HDMI port, and you can stream a world of content. As the name suggests, this streaming stick supports 4K, but it also enables HDR playback, covering both HDR10+ and the Dolby Vision formats. Provided your TV can handle it and your Wi-Fi connection is fast enough, that means you can watch shows and movies with the highest quality picture that’s currently possible.
The small remote control that comes with the Fire TV Stick 4K has a microphone button that you can press to talk to Alexa. You can ask Alexa to find 4K movies or search for a specific TV show. You can also get the latest weather or bring up a live feed of your security camera.
While it offers the best value for Prime subscribers with easy access to Prime Video, you can install Netflix, YouTube, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, HBO Max, and many more apps. Prime Video also offers additional subscription channels like Paramount Plus and Cinemax. There are, however, a few apps and services it doesn’t carry, so check before you buy to avoid disappointment.
Amazon revamped the exterior of its fourth-generation Amazon Echo speaker, opting for a spherical design floating atop a ring that lights up blue when you talk to Alexa. This is more than a cosmetic upgrade, but a new speaker setup inside ensures a deeper bass and a much richer sound than previous Echo speakers. Now it can fill a room with music.
Amazon developed the AZ1 Neural Edge processor inside to boost Alexa’s responsiveness. Whether you’re asking the speaker to play a podcast, read the news, or update you on your latest orders, you’ll get a swift answer. Alexa can also listen for sounds, like breaking glass or alarms, and alert you.
The Amazon Echo can’t compete with speakers like the Sonos One on sound quality, but it’s half the price. As a smart speaker, it performs admirably and even has a temperature sensor and smart-home hub built in. Some privacy concerns are addressed by a mic-off button. You have to opt out of certain settings to ensure your voice recordings aren’t used by Amazon or to avoid Amazon’s Wi-Fi sharing program, Sidewalk.
The Sonos Beam speaker brings powerful sound to your home theater and works seamlessly with Alexa.
Even the best TVs struggle to do justice to cinematic soundtracks, which is why additional speakers are an essential part of any home theater setup. Perhaps the easiest way to boost your audio quality is to add a soundbar beneath the TV. The Sonos Beam is a great choice. It boasts rich sound and the versatility to handle music and podcasts when the TV is off. You can also add two Sonos One speakers to achieve a surround-sound setup.
Another selling point is the presence of Alexa, enabling you to search for and control music and podcasts, change the volume, and ask questions. There are five far-field microphones in the Sonos Beam, so Alexa always hears you. There’s also a button to turn the microphone off when you want privacy.
It’s an obvious pick if you already have Sonos speakers, as it will sync seamlessly. However, the Sonos Beam is quite pricey, and it lacks Bluetooth streaming and support for another sound format, DTS.
Here’s a brief explainer on some of the things to be aware of when shopping for Alexa-enabled devices.
Works with Alexa: The first thing to look for when buying an Alexa-compatible device is the “Works with Alexa” logo. This is Amazon’s official certification program, designed to give you confidence that the product in question works with Alexa and is responsive and reliable.
Alexa built-in: Just because a device works with Alexa doesn’t necessarily mean that you can talk to it directly. Look for an “Alexa built-in” logo to find devices with Alexa inside. While smart speakers have microphones to pick up your voice commands, most Alexa-compatible products require another device to issue commands through. A smart speaker or smart display is best, though you can also enable Alexa on a phone or tablet via the Alexa app.
Alexa skills: The individual programs that allow Alexa to work with various devices are known as skills. You have to add skills to Alexa to integrate devices. It’s a good idea to investigate the skill for the device you’re considering, so you can learn precisely what it’s capable of. User reviews can also reveal highlights or weak points.
Internet connectivity: Smart-home devices require a strong internet connection for Alexa to work well. Think about where in your home the device will live and whether it can get a good wired or Wi-Fi connection in that spot.
What else we considered
Here are a few devices that missed out on a place in our guide but may still be worth considering if our top picks don’t grab you.
Wyze Bulb: Wyze offers a basic white smart bulb that’s very affordable and works well with Alexa. You can ask Alexa to turn bulbs on or off, tweak the brightness, and change the color temperature.
Google Nest Thermostat: This affordable smart thermostat offers remote control of your HVAC system, geofencing, and support for Alexa.
Wyze Cam v3: Perhaps the most affordable camera on the market, the Wyze Cam v3 offers full-color 1080p footage and has an IP65 rating, two-way audio, and night vision. You can also turn it on or off and access a live feed with an Alexa command. Read our Wyze Cam v3 review for more.
Wyze Smart Home Plug: This compact smart plug offers remote control, scheduling, and automation. You can also turn it on or off by asking Alexa.
C by GE Smart Dimmer Switch: This versatile smart light switch brings remote control to your regular lights and enables you to change the brightness from an app or with a voice command to Alexa. The functionality is good, but the design simply isn’t as attractive as our top pick.
Schlage Encode Smart WiFi Deadbolt: You can remotely lock and unlock this smart lock and it has a number pad for setting up to 100 access codes. There’s also good Alexa integration for voice commands to lock or unlock and check status, and Alexa will warn you when the battery is low.
Roborock S6: This was the best performing robot vacuum in our testing and it’s a lot cheaper than the Roomba S9+, but the Alexa integration is very basic. You can only start or stop cleaning with voice commands. Read our Roborock S6 review for more.
Amazon Fire TV Cube: With support for 4K and HDR content, the Cube is similar to the Fire Stick 4K in terms of functionality. The advantage is that it acts more like an Echo speaker, so you can say “Alexa” and issue commands or ask questions without having to press the mic button on the remote.
Sonos One: For such a small speaker, the Sonos One offers a fantastically rich sound and can get very loud when you need it to. It also has Alexa built in for questions, commands, calls, and more.
Yamaha YAS-209: This soundbar is a bit cheaper than the Sonos Beam and also supports Alexa, making it a good alternative if you want DTS or Bluetooth.
Smart plugs can control multiple connected devices, adding automation to lights or small appliances.
Most smart plugs are simple, but more complex installations can control every outlet in your home.
The Wyze Plug 2-pack is an affordable, flexible option that’s great for smart home novices.
Smart plugs or outlets rank among the most intuitive, flexible, and useful smart devices you can buy. These simple devices can add smart remote control and automation to anything that uses a standard home power outlet.
Smart plugs are the perfect entry point for smart-home devices but are also critical for any advanced smart-home system. You could add a smart plug to every outlet in your home or even replace the in-wall outlets with smart outlets for a seamless system.
Wyze, TP-Link, and Lutron offer a variety of options, whether you want a single smart plug, a power strip, or a whole-house system.
The Wyze Smart Home Plug is an affordable, simple, reliable option for those new to smart-home devices or experts who need basic features.
Sold in a two-pack that’s less expensive than solo competitors, each Wyze Smart Home Plug is small enough to fit a pair into a standard home power outlet. The plugs connect to your home’s Wi-Fi through an app-based setup process and can be controlled with that same app after setup is complete.
The plug supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, so it’s possible to control it through voice commands. Aside from turning plugs on or off, the Wyze app provides basic shortcut and scheduling features so you can automate when devices are powered on. Wyze also supports IFTTT integration for users wanting more complex automation.
While the Wyze Plug is often a great value, sales on competitors can sometimes dip prices lower. The Wyze product ecosystem is expanding but remains a bit limited compared to Philips or TP-Link. Apple’s HomeKit isn’t supported, either.
Still, the Wyze Plug is a smart choice for most people. It’s affordable, effective, and has options for expansion and customization without overwhelming novices.
The best smart plug for future expansion
TP-Link is well-known in the smart-home space, and the Kasa Smart Plug HS103 is among the company’s most popular products.
The TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug HS103‘s feature list is almost identical to the Wyze Plug. The Kasa 103 is small enough to fit two plugs in a standard power outlet at once. It connects over Wi-Fi and is controlled through an intuitive smartphone app.
The plug supports voice control through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and is compatible with those ecosystems. TP-Link’s app includes basic automation and grouping, with more advanced automation available through IFTTT.
How do you choose between the Wyze and TP-Link Kasa plugs? It’s a choice between simplicity and expandability. Wyze’s app has a slight edge in approachability. Its product ecosystem, though not robust, is easy to understand. TP-Link’s Kasa ecosystem is massive and more difficult to navigate, but you can find products that Wyze doesn’t have, like smart LED light strips and light switches.
Smart plugs are useful but are limited to just one or two devices. That doesn’t work in a home office, home theater, or any other room where multiple appliances are plugged in to a power strip. TP-Link’s Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip HS300 is a good solution.
You’ll find six power outlets, each of which can be controlled or automated individually. The surge protector also has three USB-A ports for charging smartphones or tablets, though they’re “dumb” ports that don’t support remote control or automation. For the outlets, you’ll be able to monitor energy consumption via the app.
This smart power strip supports most of the features of the Kasa Smart Plug HS103, including voice control with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, though it’s not compatible with IFTTT. The Kasa Smart app can be used to group devices or set automation schedules. This is a Wi-Fi device, so no smart hub is required.
As with TP-Link’s smart plugs, this power strip is a great value. The price is as low as smart power strips go, yet the features offered are similar to more expensive alternatives.
The best smart power strip for Apple HomeKit
The Eve Energy Strip is an expensive smart power strip with a premium look that will fit in well alongside an organized, minimalist home office.
The Eve Energy Strip is ideal for those who don’t want to pair their $3,000 iMac with unattractive smart-home plugs. Based on its price and design, perhaps it’s not a surprise that Apple HomeKit is the only smart-home ecosystem it supports.
There’s more to the Eve Energy Strip than looks, though. HomeKit integration makes it wonderfully simple for users heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem, and Siri voice control is supported. The power strip connects over Wi-Fi.
The intuitive app supports the usual features, like scheduling and grouping, and throws in energy monitoring. Eve’s energy monitoring interface is easy to understand and can help target devices that are consuming more energy than expected.
Eve’s product ecosystem covers some very specialized use cases. This includes water sensors, window sensors, and a weather station, all of which are HomeKit compatible. None of the company’s products are affordable, but they’re great if you care about the design and durability of your smart home devices.
The best smart plug for Apple HomeKit
The WeMo Mini Smart Plug has some great features, but its HomeKit support is its biggest draw for those who use Apple’s ecosystem.
WeMo’s Mini Smart Plug is among the smallest and most attractive sold right now, but those aren’t the only reasons to buy it. This plug’s killer feature is simple. It supports Apple HomeKit.
That’s not its only feature, of course. The WeMo Smart Plug also supports Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. It connects over Wi-Fi and has a simple, app-based setup process that’s among the most intuitive around.
Other smart plugs offer the standard range of features for less. A single WeMo is often sold for more than a pair of smart plugs from other brands. Still, the WeMo Smart Plug is the most affordable option for HomeKit fans, making it an easy choice for Apple enthusiasts.
Most smart plugs are designed for indoor use, which means they aren’t resistant to extreme heat or cold and will fail if exposed to moisture. TP-Link’s Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Outdoor Plug KP400, however, has an IP64 weather-resistant certification. It is completely sealed against dust intrusion and can survive splashing water.
In addition to durability, the Kasa KP400 turns a single plug into two. That’s great because the average home never seems to have enough outdoor outlets.
The Kasa KP400’s features are otherwise the same as indoor plugs. It supports Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT. It uses the same Kasa Smart app as other TP-Link Kasa products, so you can expect simple installation, plus support for groups and scheduling. The plug connects over Wi-Fi.
Despite its added durability, the Kasa KP400 is just a few dollars more expensive than indoor plugs, which makes it a great value.
Enbrighten is among the few brands selling smart home outlets designed to be installed directly into a wall. The Enbrighten 55256 Smart Receptacle keeps the typical, flush look of a power outlet, which many homeowners will prefer. It’s also a better option for tight spaces where even small smart plugs could cause clearance issues.
The Enbrighten 55256 connects over the Z-Wave standard, which means you’ll need a Z-Wave-compatible smart-home hub. This smart outlet doesn’t have its own app. Instead you’ll use the interface provided by your hub to control it. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration remain available.
This smart outlet is operating on a different wavelength, both literally and figuratively, from other smart plugs on this list. It’s designed for smart-home systems installed by a DIY enthusiast or a professional. There’s nothing simple or intuitive about it.
Enbrighten offers a range of similar products that support either Z-Wave or Zigbee. While the 55256 is the model we list, we recommend you examine the entire product line before buying. The company’s products are best installed together as part of a system instead of added piecemeal over time.
Unlike other plugs here, the Lutron Caséta Wireless Starter Kit kit comes with a base station that is required to use the outlet. This is a must-have. Lutron uses its own proprietary wireless solution that is not compatible with Wi-Fi, Zigbee, or Z-wave.
Despite this, Caséta’s Wireless Smart Bridge is broadly compatible with many smart home systems. It can be integrated with Apple HomeKit, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings, and Sonos.
The company also offers an extensive selection of powerful smart-home devices, including numerous switches and sensors. Lutron’s Caseta is designed for whole-home integration that will potentially control every light, fan, and switch in a house. It’s a reliable and attractive ecosystem that justifies its high price.
How to choose a smart plug or outlet
There are a few things to think about before buying a smart plug or outlet.
Smart plugs vs. smart outlets
Most of the products listed here are smart plugs. A smart plug is connected to an existing power outlet and other devices or appliances are connected to the plug.
Smart plugs are inexpensive, easy to use, and don’t require permanent installation. They’re great for both homeowners and renters. They do have downsides, however. Smart plugs add bulk to a wall outlet, which can be a problem if you have furniture directly in front of it. They can become confusing to manage as additional plugs are added, since each plug is listed and managed individually.
Smart outlets are an integrated solution that replaces existing hardware in the walls, so they’re not meant for renters. They’re more complex to install and may require a professional. They can be easier to use in the long run, though, if you intend to make every outlet and switch in your home a smart device.
Can you mix and match smart plugs and outlets from different brands?
There are dozens of smart plugs and outlets available. Most are easy to use out of the box but managing them can be a hassle as you try to expand your smart home.
Most smart plugs provide two options for control and management. The first is the app provided by the company that makes the smart plug. This will only work with devices made by that company.
Your second option is a broader platform like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple HomeKit. These can control devices from multiple brands, but the level of control you have over any specific device may be limited.
The existence of platforms like Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit means you can mix and match smart plugs and outlets from different brands. Compatibility between devices is not guaranteed, though, and you’ll need to install the app linked to each brand for initial setup.
You can mix and match if necessary, but your devices may not communicate as well as if they were from the same manufacturer.
What’s the difference between Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Z-Wave?
All smart plugs and outlets are wireless, but they may use different wireless standards. Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and Z-Wave are the most common standards used today.
Wi-Fi, which is by far the most popular, is the same standard used to connect PCs, smartphones, game consoles, and other devices to your local Wi-Fi network. It doesn’t require new installation or setup of a wireless hub because most homes already have a Wi-Fi router. The only problem is network congestion. Large numbers of smart-home devices can clog up a Wi-Fi network, slowing connections or causing reliability issues.
Zigbee and Z-Wave are the other common wireless standards. They require a wireless hub that can communicate with compatible devices. Large homes may need multiple hubs. This adds to the cost and difficulty of setup, but Zigbee and Z-Wave tend to be more reliable when used to handle numerous connected devices.
It’s possible to use devices designed for different standards together if a platform is used as a bridge. For example, Zigbee, Z-Wave, and Wi-Fi connected smart-home devices that are compatible with HomeKit will appear together in the HomeKit app.
With that said, it’s best to minimize mixing different wireless standards for the same reason it’s best to avoid mixing brands. The added complexity can make your smart-home system more difficult and time consuming to manage.
What we’re looking forward to testing
Manufacturers previewed dozens of new smart-home devices at CES 2021 in January. These included several attractive smart plugs that could be worth your attention when they hit store shelves.
Lutron Caséta Outdoor Smart Plug: This is the first outdoor plug for Lutron’s popular Caséta smart-home system. It’s larger, more durable, and more expensive than the TP-Link Kasa plug that we recommend. The Caséta plug is likely overkill for most people but could be perfect for those already invested in Lutron’s other products.
Konka Smart Plug: Konka, a Chinese brand best known for its televisions, announced a full line of smart-home products at CES 2021. This includes both single and dual-outlet smart plugs and a smart power strip. Pricing and availability haven’t been announced.
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Google announced a second generation model of its Nest Hub on March 16.
The smart display includes improved bass and a new feature designed to monitor your sleep.
The new Nest Hub will be available starting March 30, and you can preorder it now for $100.
Nest Hub (2nd gen) (small)
Just over two years since Google introduced its first Home Hub device, the company has announced its latest smart display. The second-generation Nest Hub offers several improvements over its predecessor, along with a new feature: Sleep Sensing.
The smart display is a versatile device that helps you stay connected with the world around you. It features a 7-inch touchscreen panel, and Google says the new Nest Hub provides 50% better bass than the last model. You can use the device with a number of different streaming services – whether you want to hear your favorite song on Spotify or catch a flick with Disney Plus.
The smart display is also easy to control, as its motion sensor picks up your hand movements to tell it to play or stop songs. The new Nest Hub uses Google Assistant technology as well, so you can ask it to do tasks with your voice. You can also use the Nest Hub as a console to control features on other compatible smart home products, such as smart lights.
One of the new Nest Hub‘s main features is its Sleep Sensing capability. The smart display uses its motion sense with low-energy radar technology to detect your movement and breathing when you sleep near the device. It can also monitor snoring and temperature changes.
The Nest Hub then takes all of this data to create an analysis of your sleep. After your night’s rest, you can use the smart display to see how you’ve been doing and whether it has any suggestions for ways you can improve your sleep.
If you want to get your hands on the new Nest Hub as soon as it’s released, here’s how you can preorder it from Google today.
Google Nest Hub price
The Google Nest Hub costs $100 and is available for preorder now through Google and Walmart. Orders are expected to start shipping on March 30. The Nest Hub is available in four colors: chalk, charcoal, mist, and sand.
Walmart currently lists the item with free delivery, and if you preorder now the Nest Hub is estimated to be delivered by April 1.
If you preorder through Google, you can choose between a number of shipping options, including standard, priority, and expedited. Google’s standard shipping costs nothing. If you preorder with that option today, Google expects the Nest Hub will arrive between April 2 and 6.
Priority shipping will cost you $14 and, if you use this option today, Google predicts it will deliver the new Nest Hub between April 1 and 2. Expedited shipping is the fastest option and costs $21. If you use this option today, Google expects to deliver the new Nest Hub between March 31 and April 1.
We’ll update this article with additional retailer options once they’re available.
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The Roomba s9+ is iRobot’s most advanced vacuum yet; it has powerful suction and even empties its own dustbin.
It’s expensive, but it’s totally hands off; it’ll clean your floors for a month without needing any maintenance.
Over time it makes a map of your home and you can instruct it to clean or avoid specific rooms.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
In 2002, iRobot introduced the first Roomba. Since then, the brand name Roomba has become synonymous with “robot vacuum.” Though dozens of other brands have entered the space, iRobot continues to stay ahead of the innovation curve.
In September 2018, iRobot introduced the Roomba i7+, which was the first robot vac that featured a charging dock that emptied the dustbin. Based on feedback, iRobot made tweaks to the design and features of the i7+ and launched a new top-of-the-line model, the s9+, in October 2019.
The Roomba s9+ is innovative because it has increased suction power, a D-shaped design, two long main brushes with unique positioning, and a longer-lasting battery. I’ve tested the s9+ for several months now – it’s the main vacuum I use when not testing other models – and here’s what I like about it.
Design and specs
There are a few design choices that make the s9+ different from other Roombas. The most obvious one is the D shape, which is supposed to help it get deeper into corners. The unit is remarkably small at 12.5 inches in diameter, but the height is comparable to other units at 3.5 inches.
The small body size is impressive considering that it has two of the longest main brushes I’ve seen at 9.5 inches each. The brushes are located closer to the front of the unit than most other robot vacuum models. The forward design and length of the brushes are supposed to facilitate better corner cleaning and make it easier for the robot to pick up debris on a single pass.
Though iRobot doesn’t give precise suction power measurements for its robots, it claims that the s9+ has suction 40 times more powerful than the Roomba 600 Series and four times more powerful than the next strongest Roomba and s9+ predecessor, the i7+.
The Roomba s9+ comes with a Clean Base that charges the robot and empties its dustbin. The box also contains an extra high-efficiency filter, an extra side brush, and an extra dirt disposal bag.
Setting up the Roomba s9+ took longer than most robot vacuums I’ve tested, but I still had it up and going in under half an hour. After unboxing the elements and finding a spot for the Clean Base, I plugged it in and set the vac on the charging dock.
Next, I downloaded the iRobot app and installed firmware updates. The updates took the bulk of the setup time. Once they were installed, I scheduled the s9+ to clean daily, which was an effortless task taking only a few seconds.
I liked that when I scheduled the vac, it let me choose how powerful the suction is. On its lowest setting, the battery lasts for two hours. On the highest setting, it only runs for about 45 minutes. I chose the highest setting, and since I have more space than the Roomba can clean in 45 minutes, it just returns to the dock to charge and automatically finishes the cleaning cycle once it has enough juice.
Connecting to Amazon Alexa was a seamless process. I just added the iRobot skill in the Alexa app, and it was ready to go.
Cleaning with the iRobot Roomba s9+
The most important feature of any robotic vacuum is its performance. How well can it pick up debris on a variety of surfaces? To test this, I pour a tablespoon each of flour, kitty litter, and coffee grounds along with pet hair on low-pile carpeting and hardwood flooring. Then, I run the vacuum on high for two cleaning cycles, measure the contents accumulated in the robot’s dustbin, and compare before and after photos to estimate how much of the debris the vacuum picked up.
On hardwood, the Roomba s9+ did better than any vacuum I’ve ever tested. All of the kitty litter, pet hair, and coffee grounds were gone, and I only found a trace of flour left over. The performance on carpeting was only slightly less impressive. Gone were the coffee grounds and pet hair. Only around 5% of the kitty litter and 10% of the flour were left behind.
I also tested how well the s9+ does at cleaning corners by sprinkling a teaspoon of flour into hardwood and carpeted corners. Though the D-shaped vac came within an inch of the carpeted corner, it only picked up about 30% of the flour. This is likely due to the powerful main brush not coming into direct contact with debris. On the other hand, on hardwood, the unit did much better, picking up around 85% of the flour and coming within 1.5 inches of the corner.
The s9+ rarely gets stuck. On our testing course, which contains cords and other obstacles, it did not get stuck at all. And, in my daily use, it tends to only run into issues when one of my messy family members leaves clothes on the floor. The s9+ will try to suck them up, and I’ll get a notification that the main brushes need to be untangled. This is easy enough to fix.
In addition to performing well, the Roomba s9+ is packed full of features that work as advertised. My favorite feature is the Clean Base, which serves as the charging dock and empties the vac’s dustbin. The dust is collected in a disposable dirt bag, which you only need to replace every month or two when the app notifies you.
The iRobot app is among the best robot vacuum apps I’ve used. You can use it to do basic tasks, like schedule cleanings, as well as more complex functions. For instance, once the s9+ maps your home, which can take several cleaning cycles, you can schedule it to clean specific rooms at certain times. I also liked that I could set no-go zones that the unit would automatically avoid.
Cons to consider
The biggest negative with the Roomba s9+ is how loud it gets. On its highest suction setting, my sound meter measured 77 decibels, which is comparable to heavy city traffic. The vac was better on its lowest setting at 64 decibels – about the same as a normal conversation. In my testing, I’ve found stronger suction is usually correlated with louder operation, and that appears to hold true with the s9+.
It took at least four cleaning cycles for the s9+ to be able to map the layout of my home. This was annoying because, in the meantime, I couldn’t set no-go zones, and I had some areas with several wires that the vac would get caught up on. Fortunately, I was able to set no-go zones eventually, and the robot did a good job of obeying them.
What are your alternatives?
I just completed an update to our guide to the best robot vacuums so visit that for our most up-to-date recommendations. I’d like to add that Roomba just introduced its most affordable self-emptying Roomba, the i3+ (currently $549.99 on Amazon). At nearly half the price of the s9+, you sacrifice some mapping capabilities and suction power, but it’s still an impressive device that performs better on carpeting than any of the other vacs I’ve tested.
The bottom line
Despite these minor negatives, I think the Roomba s9+ is one of the best robot vacuums available. I especially like that it empties the dustbin itself so I don’t have to remember to stay on top of that between cleanings.
The s9+ is one of the most expensive robot vacuums available. Even the most affordable robovacs are luxury items and do not replace traditional upright models. So, we mostly just recommend the s9+ to consumers who have significant expendable income and want a low-fuss device that automates the chore of vacuuming. The s9+ is also a great option if you simply must have the most innovative gadgets. It’s the top-of-the-line model from the top name in robot vacuums.
Robot vacuums are usually deeply discounted during the major sale days, such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day. So, if the s9+ is just outside of your price range and you don’t mind waiting, keep your eyes peeled for deals.
Pros: Features a useful app with virtual no-go zones, large main brushes, charging dock that empties the unit’s dustbin, does better on hardwood floors than any other vac we’ve tested, good performance on carpeting
Cons: Didn’t clean carpeted corners well in our tests, loud, takes several cleaning cycles to create a floor map
A robot vacuum can remove the small but time-consuming task of vacuuming from your never-ending to-do list. However, you’ll want one that’s powerful, relatively quiet, and doesn’t require constant attention.
That’s why I’ve tested 25 robot vacuums to find the best ones and consulted health experts and engineers on how to use them properly. A robot vac needs maintenance like any other small appliance, so while using it takes just a press of a button, all our experts stressed the importance of regularly cleaning brushes and filters, and running the vac when no one is in the room to keep the indoor air quality clean and avoid resuspended particles. We get into details over here.
The Roborock S6 Robot Vacuum performs well on carpet, hardwood, and in corners. It can map your space for more efficient cleaning and mops floors for extra convenience.
Pros: Excellent on hardwood and in corners, good on carpeting, does not get stuck, has mopping capabilities, can be scheduled and set no-go zones in the app, Alexa compatible
Cons: Gets loud on the highest suction setting, larger than most vacuums making it hard to get into tight spots
The Roborock S6 Robot Vacuum performed well in every test we put it through. On carpeting, it picked up more than 90% of the flour, coffee grounds, kitty litter, and pet hair I laid out for it. On hardwood, it did even better picking up everything except for a little flour. The S6 gets within half an inch of corners — the deepest of all the vacuums we tested.
The vacuum also rarely gets stuck. It returned to its charging dock after a cleaning cycle without getting stuck along the way approximately 75% of the time. In fact, it even somehow managed to keep going despite a floor strewn with Nerf darts after an epic battle with my kids.
The Roborock S6 comes with a variety of extras, including an adjustable water tank that can be installed in place of the dustbin and a mop cloth to mop your floors. The mop function worked well and I appreciated that you can adjust how much water the tank dispenses so you’re not creating mini floods everywhere. I recommend running the mop after vacuuming to minimize the chance of spreading dirt and dust around your floor. There’s also a damp-proof mat attachment on the charging dock so your floors don’t have prolonged direct contact with moisture. Unfortunately, extra brush heads aren’t included.
If you like smart gadgets, the Roborock app can be scheduled for cleaning sessions via the app or Amazon Alexa. You can also adjust the suction power and set how many passes the unit completes in a certain space. After a few runs, the S6 will have enough data to make a map of your home so you can set no-go zones.
Including scheduling, the set up of the S6 took about 15 minutes. All you need to do is charge the vacuum on the dock, pair the vac with the app, and you’re ready to go.
There are a couple of things to consider with the Roborock S6, specifically noise and size.
On high suction power, it recorded 70 decibels, which is similar to city traffic. However, it does sport a Quiet mode, which is only around 56 decibels according to the manufacturer; I wasn’t able to measure the noise output of this robot vac by the time I had to send it back to the company. At 14 inches in diameter and four inches high, it was also the largest vacuum we tested. This means it will have trouble getting under low-clearance furniture and into other tight spots. These aren’t deal breakers if you’re able to compromise noise in favor of power and convenience.
If you’re looking for a cost-effective vac that cleans well on a variety of surfaces, gets deep into corners, and runs quietly, the Moosoo MT-720 Robot Vacuum is your best bet.
Pros: Good performance on carpet and hardwood, excellent corner cleaning, quiet operation, compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa, low-profile design
Cons: Gets stuck easily, can’t set no-go zones
After an initial round of testing, we realized many of our top picks are quite expensive. For the most recent update of this guide, we tested five budget models. Of the models that performed well, the Moosoo MT-720 has the lowest price. It replaces the Eufy RoboVac 15C Max as our budget pick because the MT-720 does a better job of getting deep into corners.
The MT-720 comes with an extra filter, extra side brushes, a cleaning tool, and a remote control, which worked well. Setting up the vacuum took five minutes.
The app lets you schedule the vacuum to clean at the same time every day or mix it up. You can also choose smart, wall follow, spiral, random, and manual control cleaning modes. The app creates a map of the area cleaned, but you cannot set no-go zones as you can with other room mapping robot vacs.
The MT-720’s performance was good on hardwood and carpet, picking up almost all of the coffee grounds, kitty litter, and pet hair. In corners, it did an outstanding job, coming within an inch of the corner and picking up 70% of the flour on carpeting and 85% on hard flooring. At 12.5 inches in diameter and 3.25 inches high, the vac is small enough to get into tight spaces that other models might miss.
Counterintuitively, the strong suction didn’t translate into loud operation. On high suction, the sound meter registered 66 dB, or a little louder than a business office. On low, it was 59 dB, which is quieter than normal conversation.
The biggest negative with the MT-720 is that it tends to get stuck easily. During testing, it regularly got stuck on the one-inch threshold between the living room and kitchen of the testing area.
In my testing, the 240mL water tank was large enough to complete at least two passes over the 500-square-foot test floor. With the app, you can choose from four water flow levels to reach a balance of moistness and quick drying, and two mopping patterns. The deep scrubbing option is good for a more thorough cleaning, but for the most part, quick scrubbing is my go-to for regular mopping — and even then, it’s a very thorough cleaning.
When the Ozmo Pro Mopping System encounters carpeting, it automatically avoids it so you don’t get wet carpeting. In testing, I found the carpet detection sensor worked well.
As for the robot vac itself, the Ozmo T8 AIVI has HD video and a microphone so you can keep tabs on your pets or check for open windows and doors from your phone. I didn’t find the home surveillance features particularly useful but they could be handy for people who are often away from the home and concerned about security.
The more useful feature is the auto-empty station. With this dock, you don’t have to empty the dustbin after cleaning sessions — the charging station does it automatically. You just need to replace the disposable pouch every month or two.
On both carpeting and hardwood, the Ozmo T8 AIVI was among the best at removing all of the debris types we tested. Plus, it remains fairly quiet at just 67 decibels on the highest Max+ cleaning setting and 58 decibels on Quiet mode.
However, the vac consistently got stuck on the one-inch lip between my living room and kitchen. It also wasn’t able to come within two inches of corners so you may need to do occasional touch-ups using a hand vacuum or broom.
When it comes to set up, the process was seamless. I plugged in the dock to charge the vacuum, connected the app, updated the firmware, and set a schedule for cleaning. Once the vacuum mapped out my floor plan after a couple of cleanings, I was able to set no-go zones to keep the T8 AIVI away from sensitive areas.
The unit is on the bigger side measuring 13.75 inches in diameter and 3.5 inches high. This was just low enough to fit under my chairs and couches, but if you have radiators or low-clearance furniture, you may want to measure to make sure there’s enough clearance or set no-go zones. The main brush of the vacuum is around 6.25 inches long, which is about average.
The best robot vacuum for hardwood floors
The D-shaped iRobot Roomba s9+ Robot Vacuum did the best in our hardwood floor tests and features a self-emptying dustbin, impressive app that lets you set no-go zones, and large main brushes that pick up debris on the first pass.
Pros: Cleans well on hardwood flooring, good performance on carpeting, rarely gets stuck, comes with a charging dock that empties the dustbin, large main brushes, has a useful app with virtual no-go zones
Cons: Loud, poor performance in carpeted corners
As iRobot’s top-of-the-line model, the Roomba s9+ Robot Vacuum is another feature-packed vac. Like the Ecovacs T8 AIVI, the s9+ empties itself and is supported by an app that allows you to effortlessly schedule cleanings, set no-go zones, and customize your cleaning experience, including pairing it with the iRobot Braava Jet M6 (sold separately) to mop after it finishes its vacuum cycle.
In testing, the Roomba s9+ performed the best of any robot vac on hardwood flooring, likely due to the two large 9.5-inch main brush heads — the biggest we tested. After the cleaning cycle, there was only a trace of flour left. Its D-shaped design came within an inch and a half of the corner, picking up everything it could reach. On carpeting, the performance wasn’t as impressive, but it was still solid with only about 10% of the flour left, 5% of the kitty litter, and no coffee grounds or pet hairs to be found after testing. The unit didn’t get stuck in our testing area either.
At 77 decibels (about as loud as a busy city street) on high suction power, the s9+ was by far the loudest model we tested, and even in Quiet mode, the vacuum is a not unnoticeable 64 decibels (a little louder than a normal conversation).
Additionally, the vac got within an inch of the carpeted corner, but it left behind about 70% of the flour, which suggests it doesn’t do as well picking up fine debris on carpeting, especially in areas the main brushes have trouble reaching.
Installation was easy, but it took about 25 minutes. Most of that time was spent installing firmware updates after connecting to the app. I liked that the s9+ comes with plenty of extras, including an additional filter (which needs replacing every two months), side brush (every three months), and dirt disposal bag for the self-emptying base (every month or so.)
These extras mean you get several months of use before you need to replace parts that wear down. The app features tutorials on how to care for your Roomba, including the seamless purchase of replacement parts.
The overall unit is around 12.5 inches in diameter and the 3.5-inch height should also fit under most furniture.
The best robot vacuum for carpet
With its strong suction and large main brushes that adjust to stay in contact with your carpeting, the iRobot Roomba i3+ Robot Vacuum is a great solution for carpeted homes.
Pros: Excellent performance on carpeting, cleans well on hardwood, pairs with the app and Alexa, comes with an automatic dirt disposal base, doesn’t get stuck easily
Cons: Loud, virtual wall barriers cost extra, not impressive in corners
In our carpet tests, the i3+ picked up all of the coffee grounds, kitty litter, and pet hairs we laid out, and left behind only about 5% of the flour — the best performance of all the robot vacs we tested. In corners, it came within an inch of the wall but left behind about half the flour. The i3+ performed better on hardwood floors, picking up all of the coffee grounds and pet hair, and only left behind 5% of the kitty litter and about 10% of the flour. The robot vac didn’t get stuck going back to its base after it completed its cleaning sessions.
Whereas some robot vacuums sense carpeting and boost suction, the i3+ provides consistently strong suction, and when it detects excess dirt, it will automatically perform multiple passes to ensure it gets all of the debris. There are two main brushes measuring 6.75 inches and each one adjusts and flexes to keep in constant contact with carpet and hardwood so it picks up more debris quickly.
Though it doesn’t come with a tool for cleaning the brushes and dustbin, the i3+ comes with an extra filter and disposal bag, which only needs to be replaced every month or so. Plus, setup is a breeze only taking about 10 minutes, including connecting to the user-friendly app. With the app, you can easily schedule your unit and connect to Alexa or Google Assistant.
Unfortunately, the app doesn’t allow you to set up no-go zones, so you have to buy virtual wall barriers. It’s a small 2 by 4.5 inch-high battery-powered device that creates a virtual barrier up to 10 feet long or a 12-inch radius that the Roomba avoids. In my experience, the barriers work as advertised, but at around $40 each, I’m more likely to use common household objects to create physical barriers to keep the Roomba out of areas I want to protect.
The other negative with the i3+ is how loud it is. My sound meter recorded 68 decibels, and you can’t adjust the suction power for a quieter clean.
The overall dimensions of the vacuum are larger than most at 13.25 inches in diameter and 3.75 inches high. This can make it hard to get into tight spots, though I didn’t experience any issues in my testing.
The best robot vacuum for pet hair
The Bissell SpinWave Robot Vacuum picked up all the pet hair on carpet in our tests and has a great assortment of mop attachments and accessories. The company is also committed to helping homeless pets and helps them find loving homes.
Pros: Excellent job on hardwood and corners, picked up all of the pet hair in our tests, great mop attachment and accessories, app connectivity, small size, quiet operation
Cons: Can’t set up no-go zones, gets stuck easily
In general, the robot vacuums we tested did an excellent job of picking up pet hair. However, the Bissell SpinWave Robot Vacuum is created specifically for pet hair and has a 5.75-inch tangle-resistant main brush, a useful mop attachment, and powerful suction. Specs aside, a portion of each sale also goes to the Bissell Pet Foundation, which is committed to finding loving homes for pets.
The Bissell SpinWave picked up all of the cat and dog hair we laid out on carpeting and hardwood and did a great job on hardwood and in corners. On the hardwood, it only left a trace of kitty litter and flour. In corners, it came within two inches of each and picked up more than 60% of the flour on both the carpet and hardwood. When you consider that it’s among the quietest vacs we tested – 58 decibels on Quiet mode (slightly quieter than a normal conversation) and 65 on high suction – its performance is even more impressive. If you have particularly skittish pets, the low-decibel output is less likely to startle your fur friends.
The vacuum also included a lot of useful extras and attachments that can help any pet parent, such as a mop tank attachment, spinning mop pads, and a trial-size bottle cleaning formula. Plus, you receive an extra filter, an extra set of side brushes, and a cleaning tool that helps remove hairs from the brushes and clean the filter.
In testing, the mop attachment worked seamlessly. You just fill the tank with water and some of the cleaning formula and attach it to the vacuum in place of the dustbin. The mop pads spin to scrub away stuck-on debris while the soft surface avoidance sensor keeps it away from area rugs or carpets.
The SpinWave has a quick set up taking all of five minutes, including installing the app and connecting the unit. With the app, you can schedule cleanings and customize the suction strength based on your preferences. Unfortunately, though, the app doesn’t let you set up no-go zones.
At 12.75 inches in diameter and 3.25 inches high, it has a smaller and lower frame that can squeeze into small areas. The biggest limitation we found was it tended to get stuck easily. In our tests, it consistently got stuck on the one-inch threshold leading into the kitchen. We had to put up a physical barrier to get it to stop trying.
What else we tested
We’ve tested 25 robot vacuums and counting, here are the ones that didn’t make our top picks.
What else we recommend and why
Eufy RoboVac 15C Max ($259.99): Formerly our pick for the best affordable robot vacuum, the 15C Max offers an impressive suite of high-end features for its reasonable price, including smart connectivity and powerful suction on carpeting and hardwood. We dropped it from our guide because the Moosoo MT-720 performed similarly, including doing a better job in corners, and it’s currently $11 cheaper. However, the 15C Max doesn’t get stuck as easily. If that’s important to you, you may want to choose this model instead when on a budget.
Ecovacs U2 Pro ($299.99): Of the eight vacuums I’ve tested since the last update, this was the best. It did excellent cleaning hardwood and carpeting and rarely got stuck. The U2 Pro also comes with a mop attachment, which didn’t do a good job of cleaning up dried Tang on linoleum. Despite good performance, it couldn’t compete with our current top picks, and was too expensive for consideration as our best budget pick. Other negatives include loud operation, poor corner cleaning, and boundary strips for setting no-go zones are sold separately.
ILife A10 ($279.99 with coupon/$349.99 without): If setting no-go zones is important to you, then the A10 might be a good option. After it maps your house, you can set up virtual barriers in the app. This model also does an outstanding job of cleaning hardwood and carpet. But, there are plenty of cons: The A10 barely picked up any flour in carpeted corners, it runs loudly, and it gets stuck easily.
Proscenic M7 Pro ($479): I enjoy the automation afforded by self-empty charging docks, and the M7 Pro has one that works well. You can also set no-go zones in the app. Plus, the vac didn’t get stuck easily and performed well on carpeting and hard flooring. Yet, it had trouble cleaning corners and was loud. Plus, with a height of four inches, it doesn’t fit under low-clearance furniture.
Moosoo R3 ($249.99 with coupon/$299.99 without): If you mainly have hardwood flooring, the Moosoo R3 may be a smart choice for you, especially if you can get it on sale. It performed excellent on hardwood in our tests, ran quietly, and you can set no-go zones in the app. The vac did well on carpeting too, but it had trouble cleaning corners. And, it got stuck easily.
Proscenic 850T ($209 with coupon/$239 without): When it comes to cleaning hard flooring, the 850T is outstanding. It picked up almost all of the debris on hardwood in our testing, got deep into the corners, and got all of the grounds, hair, and litter on the carpet. However, it left 20% of the flour behind, got stuck easily, and runs loudly. Plus, in my long-term testing, the vac regularly disconnected from the app and required my attention to run on schedule.
Roborock S4 ($339.99): There’s a lot to like about the Roborock S4. However, the main reasons it didn’t make our top picks are because it’s loud, doesn’t come with many extras, and at 3.75 inches high, it doesn’t fit under low-clearance furniture. It’s pretty similar to our top pick, the S6, but lacks many of the features, such as a mop attachment. However, the S4 was excellent on carpeting, hardwood, and in corners, and it rarely got stuck. This is a more affordable alternative to the S6 if you’re not interested in a mop attachment.
Roborock S6 MaxV ($699.99): For the most part, Roborock is doing a terrific job in the robot vac space. We recommend the S6 MaxV because of its excellent performance in our carpeting, hardwood, and corner tests. It also has video surveillance and a two-way microphone if you’re looking for additional home security, no-go zones, and a useful app. But it has the same large dimensions as the S4 and it kept getting stuck on the one-inch lip leading into the kitchen of our testing course. It isn’t as loud as the S4, but louder than others we’ve tested.
iRobot Roomba i7+ ($799.99): The Roomba i7+ was the first robot vacuum to feature an automatic dirt disposal charging dock. Since then, iRobot has introduced two other models that improve upon the i7+. Though this Roomba has great high-end features, its performance doesn’t justify its price. It only did a satisfactory job on carpeting and hardwood, and it got stuck fairly often. If you find the i7+ on sale, we recommend picking it up. Otherwise, consider the s9+ or i3+ instead. Read our full review.
Eufy RoboVac G30 Edge ($239.99): Eufy usually makes more affordable robot vacuums, so at this price, the G30 Edge is considered the company’s top-end model. The variety of extras — no-go zone strips, a user-friendly app, and Alexa and Google Home compatibility — make it worth the price, but you’ll have to compromise some power. It performed poorly on carpeting and in corners during our testing, and it was in the middle of the pack on hardwood. Despite the underwhelming performance, it remains a good value for the price.
Eufy BoostIQ RoboVac 11S ($149.99): This model didn’t perform as well as the RoboVac 15C Max, doesn’t have the same Wi-Fi connectivity, and can’t be paired with an app. It’s a good basic vacuum that does well on carpeting — which is surprising since it didn’t perform well on hardwood floors or in corners. You can often find it on sale for under $200, which we recommend grabbing if you’re in the market for a more affordable robot vac. Read our full review.
What we don’t recommend and why
Eufy BoostIQ RoboVac 11S ($149.99): At one time, the RoboVac 11S was our budget pick, but after putting it through our testing alongside other affordable options, we no longer recommend it. The 11S doesn’t have Wi-Fi connectivity, which has become standard in the industry at every price point. The vac performed well on carpeting but left a lot of debris behind on hardwood and in corners. You’d be much better off with the Moosoo MT-720. Read our full review.
Proscenic M6 Pro ($299 with coupon/$369 without): After testing two other Proscenic models that I recommend, I was surprised by how poorly the M6 Pro cleans. It left significant debris behind on carpeting, hard flooring, and in corners. The vac also got stuck easily and ran loudly. Plus, the app is slow to respond to finger taps and commands.
Yeedi K650 ($129.99 with coupon/$149.99 without): The attractive price doesn’t make up for the fact that the Yeedi K650 does a poor job cleaning any surface. It also gets stuck often, is noisy, and doesn’t have many of the features we like, such as the ability to set no-go zones.
iRobot Roomba e5 ($299.99): This appears to be iRobot’s attempt to make a budget Roomba, but it’s the worst-performing Roomba I’ve come across in my years of testing. It didn’t come with any extras – not even an additional filter. You can schedule it easily in the app and it’s compatible with Alexa and Google Home, but you have to buy virtual wall barriers separately. Also, it gets stuck easily and doesn’t clean well on hardwood.
Neato Botvac D7 Connected ($479.99): We’re dropping the Neato Botvac D7 Connected from our guide this time around because it’s relatively big, got stuck about half the time during our original testing, and it only comes with two extra filters and a magnetic barrier, which isn’t necessary since you can set no-go zones in the app. We think there are more affordable alternatives that perform better and are more feature-rich in our guide. Read our full review.
Eufy RoboVac 11S Max ($249.99): The 11S Max is an update to the 11S, but we feel the original 11S is better. Ultimately though, if you’re spending this much, the 15C Max performed much better in our testing. The 11S Max did poorly on carpeting, hardwood, and in corners. It also relies on a remote controller rather than app connectivity, which means you need to turn to and keep track of another device.
Roborock E35 ($349.99): At one point, we recommended the E35 as a good robot vac at this price, but since then, we have tested several others in this price range that outperform and have better features. The E35 doesn’t do well with hardwood or corners and is big and loud. Read our full review.
Roborock S5 Max ($549.99): The S5 Max is loud, big, and it did poorly in corners and on carpeting in our tests.
I’ve been reviewing vacuums for the past few years, writing numerous buying guides and reviews, so I leaned on my background when developing our testing methodology. I also consulted three experts and took their advice and expertise into consideration — Dr. Luis Javier Peña-Hernández, a lung and sleep health specialist at the Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Disorders Institute of South Florida; Andrea Ferro, Ph.D., a professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Clarkson University and the current president of the American Association for Aerosol Research; and Jill Notini, the Vice President of Communication and Marketing for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
In addition to using each robot vacuum daily for at least several weeks, I tested each one for its suction on various types of flooring including corners, ability to maneuver around obstacles, noise, and special features. Our testing methodology has gotten more comprehensive over the years, so for any models that I’d previously tested but didn’t have the vacuums on hand anymore, I extrapolated the data as best as possible based on previous testing and manufacturer info. Those vacuums are the iRobot Roomba i7+, Neato Botvac D7 Connected, Eufy 11S Max and 15C Max, and Roborock S4, S6, and E35.
Here are the main attributes we look for and how we test them
Size: I note the specs of the overall unit, main brush, and side brushes. This gives me an idea of how well a vacuum can clean floors and carpet — the larger the brushes, the more they can usually sweep up. The main brushes are often somewhere between 5 to 10 inches long and side brushes are usually 2 to 3 inches long. Of the vacs I’ve tested, only Roomba models have two main brushes; others just have one. I’ve noticed that longer brushes tend to facilitate faster cleaning. If this appeals to you, consider a unit with a longer brush, such as the Roomba s9+.
Carpet cleaning: I poured a tablespoon each of flour, coffee grounds, and kitty litter on 18-inch-square sections of carpeting. To make sure I had enough pet hair, I also collected pet hairs from my rat terrier and two cats to place on carpeting. I ran the vacuum on its most powerful mode for two cleaning cycles and compared before-and-after photos to estimate the percentage of each material picked up or left behind.
Hardwood floor cleaning: This is the same test as the carpet cleaning test, but on hardwood flooring.
Corner cleaning: To test corner cleaning abilities, I poured a teaspoon of flour in an approximately four-inch-radius in a corner on hardwood and carpeting. I took pictures of the messes before and after running the robot vac for two cleaning cycles to compare how much flour was left over. I also measured how close to the corner the vac was able to reach.
Obstacle avoidance: You don’t want your robot vac to get stuck while it’s cleaning or when it’s returning to its charging dock, both of which force you to hunt it down while it’s sending you notifications or making annoying error sounds. I tested the vacuum in an approximately 500-square-foot room with several obstacles, including stairs, a one-inch threshold to a kitchen, and a table with chairs.
Loudness: I used a sound meter to measure the decibel output of each of the robot vacuums from 12 inches away as they ran on the highest and lowest settings. For vacuums I no longer had in my possession for testing, I relied on manufactures’ info and my previous notes.
Brushes: I noted the lengths of the main and side brushes as they’ll likely indicate performance in our cleaning tests.
Robot vacuums work using a combination of suction and brushes. There are two types of brushes on a robot vacuums: the side brush and the main brush. Units have either one or two side brushes that are about three inches in diameter and protrude from the forward portion of the vac. They move in a circular motion, get into corners, and feed debris to the main brush. There appears to be little difference in the performance of vacuums with two side brushes versus those with one.
The main brush is between five and ten inches long, located under the unit, and is made of a rubber-like material. The vacuum sucks debris into the main brush which spins to feed the materials into the dustbin. Of the vacs I’ve tested, only Roomba models have two main brushes. Other models just have one. I’ve noticed that longer brushes tend to facilitate faster cleaning. If this appeals to you, consider a unit with a longer brush, such as the Roomba s9+.
Extras: I note if the vacuums included extras such as filters and side brush replacements, mop attachments, a cleaning tool, and more.
Special features: All of the vacuums featured some method for scheduling and returning to their charging dock on their own, so those weren’t useful differentiators. Auto-dirt disposal, voice control, and home surveillance aren’t universal, so you may want to consider if those are important. (There’s more information on those and other features here.)
What we’re testing next
We’re constantly testing new vacuums to update our guide. Below are a few models we are currently testing or will be testing soon:
LG CordZero ThinQ ($1,199.99): Whereas most robot vacuums are good for daily light cleanings, LG bills this CordZero ThinQ as “powerful enough to be your primary vacuum.” The vac has an inverter motor that adjusts to the debris levels and a large main brush that picks up more on the first pass. It also has cameras for obstacle detection and avoidance and home surveillance. The biggest negatives appear to be the expensive price and the 5.6-inch height, which may keep it from fitting under furniture.
Samsung JetBot 90 AI+ (price not yet available): Samsung just announced the release of an AI-based robot vac at the 2021 CES trade show and we’re looking forward to testing its smart-learning capabilities to avoid obstacles. It also has cameras and can be connected to the brand’s SmartThings hub for another layer of home security.
Samsung Electronics R7040 ($312.94): The R7040 was in a previous version of our guide based on positive reviews by other sites, but we weren’t able to get a unit in time to test in this round. We’re looking forward to seeing how its unique flat front-edge design works in corners.
Trifo Lucy ($699.99): In addition to powerful suction and an outstanding app, Lucy has HDR video, a two-way microphone, and the ability to detect noise and people in your home as part of a home security set up. I’m interested to test its vacuuming abilities alongside the home security features.
Why we don’t measure Pascal Pressure Unit
A robot vacuum’s suction power is measured in Pascal (Pa). Generally speaking, the higher the Pa, the better, but that’s a misleading metric of comparison.
When I talked to engineers at iRobot about a year ago, they told me that there are several ways to measure suction power, but there are no industry standards. They viewed the reported Pa measurements as essentially useless, hence why it’s nearly impossible to find suction power for iRobot vacs. It’s also difficult to find the Pa for Ecovacs, though Eufy and Roborock report the measurements for their models.
Due to the inconsistent reporting from manufacturer s, we don’t include Pa as a part of our testing methodology and criteria.
How to shop for a robot vacuum
While using a robot vacuum is easy enough, shopping for one can be overwhelming. Here are the main aspects to look for when considering which one to buy.
Size: If you have furniture that’s hard to move or low-clearance pieces like sofas or bed frames, you’ll want to pay attention to the height of a robot vacuum; the other dimensions are usually within the range of reason for a normal household. For example, I have several radiators in my house with a 3.5-inch clearance that slim vacuums can get under, while just-slim-enough models sometimes get stuck, and too-thick models bump up against and go elsewhere. If you want your robot vacuum to get under your low-clearance furniture, make sure you choose a model that is slim enough to do so.
Features: It’s important to think about what features you actually need. For instance, if you work from home and are rarely away, HD cameras aren’t useful since you can keep tabs on your home with your own eyes. If your floors are covered with carpet, you don’t need your robot vac to mop. I also almost never use voice control out of personal habit, but if you use Alexa or Google Assistant for everything, then compatibility with those services is a must.
Extras: You can easily purchase extra filters or brushes for robot vacs, but we think having them included with the unit is better. All of our top picks include useful extras like brushes or dirt disposal bags.
Price: Robot vacuums go on sale often, and the discounts are steepest during Amazon Prime Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. We expect most of the models we recommend in this guide to go on sale so it pays to wait until those sale days.
How to use a robot vacuum
Robot vacuums make keeping your house clean easier, but there’s still some regular maintenance needed to improve the performance and longevity as well as help your indoor air quality.
Run your robot vac when no one is around: Andrea Ferro, Ph.D., a professor at Clarkson University and president of AAAR, and Dr. Luis Javier Peña-Hernández, a lung and sleep health specialist at PCSI, both recommend running your robot vacuum in unoccupied areas. The robot vacs can kick dust, pollutants, and microbes back into the air as it vacuums floors, which can lead to subpar indoor air quality. “Every vacuum, including a robot vacuum, has the potential to release some dust, particles, and allergens back into the air, but the benefits still outweigh the risks,” said Peña-Hernández.
And run it regularly: Ferro and Peña-Hernández agree that you should run your robot vac at least once per week and more if you have pets and heavy-traffic areas. Ferro even suggests that daily cleaning isn’t a bad idea. I generally set my vacuums to run in the early morning before I wake up or when the level of my house where the vacuum is running will be unoccupied, especially since I live in a large house with three pets and no HVAC system.
Clean the dustbin and filter: If you’re regularly vacuuming your space, you’ll need to make sure to empty the dustbin and clean the filter. According to Peña-Hernández, you should clean the vacuum’s filter at least once a week, or twice a week if you have a pet.
You’ll also need to replace the filter and brushes every few months. Manufacturers usually give guidelines in the vac’s user manual on how often you should replace these components, but a good sign that it’s time to replace your filters or brushes is if they appear to be damaged or if your vac just isn’t doing as good of a job of cleaning as it once did.
Fortunately, many models come with extra filters and brushes, but eventually, you’ll have to purchase replacements. Manufacturers usually link to their parts store in your robot vac’s app, but you can also usually find parts on Amazon so it’s worth shopping around. Just make sure that you are buying the right parts for your model.
Use it in addition to a traditional vacuum: Despite how far robot vacuums have come in the last decade, they won’t replace your stick and upright vacuums anytime soon.
Do you still need another vacuum if you have a robot vac?
While the dream is to set your robot vacuum on a schedule and have it do all the floor cleaning for you, it’s just not the reality at the moment. Robot vacuums don’t clean as much dirt and debris as upright vacuums. “I think you’d still need a stick or upright vacuum for spots that the robot vac can’t reach,” Ferro said.
Robot vacs function best as maintenance cleaners. Having them run a couple times a week will make your floors less gunky, especially if you have pets. But these vacuums also need babysitting. You need to clear their path of anything that might get tangled in their wheels, and some have trouble getting into or out of tight spaces. Their bins are fairly small, so you’ll need to empty them more regularly than an upright or stick version.
Even squarish robot vacuums — as opposed to round ones — aren’t perfect at getting into corners. Some are too tall to fit under certain types of furniture. They obviously avoid stairs, too. Upright vacuums typically come with attachments that are useful for cleaning things like drapes or furniture, which robot vacs can’t handle.
“Research indicates that robot vacuums are not meant to replace upright vacuums,” Peña-Hernández said. “That likely has to do with their smaller motor size. They’re good for touch-ups and in-between uses.”
When it comes to robot vacuums, expect maintenance not miracles.
How have robot vacuum cleaners improved?
Since iRobot’s first Roomba came on the market in the early 2000s, robot vacuum technology has improved a lot. You can now find square-ish models in addition to round ones, and the mapping technology is much better.
Cameras and optical sensors can help with obstacle recognition, and LiDAR-based navigation uses lasers to detect objects. These capabilities aren’t perfect, but vacuums are now more adept at finding their way back to charging docks than they were even a few years ago. Another new feature is self-emptying bins, which suck the debris out of the robot and into a canister in the charging dock.
Many robot vacuums are now smart, letting you start a cleaning session from an app or by asking a smart speaker. Some, like Roborock S6 Robot Vacuum, let you block off entire rooms in an app, so you don’t have to worry about them getting stuck on your kid’s clothing piles. With cameras and connectivity come some privacy concerns.
Some interesting features aren’t universal, such as auto-dirt disposal and home surveillance. To get more guidance on these features, I spoke with Jill Notini, Vice President of Communications and Marketing for AHAM.
A few of the new features she’s excited about — and that are found in many if not all of the models in our guide — include:
Advanced navigation: “Many of today’s models have the ability to map a home and remember how to get around objects and stay out of tough spots. You can also program the robots to vacuum specific areas of the home.” You can also set no-go zones that the vacuum should avoid on your phone via the app.
Mopping ability: “Robots are evolving into floor care multitaskers,” said Notini. “In addition to vacuuming, some models now have the ability to mop, both wet and dry.”
Voice control: “Robotic vacuums can now respond to voice commands, either directly or through an outside system like Amazon Alexa.”
Remote operation: “You can start, stop, or control your robotic vacuum with your mobile device.”
Cameras: “Cameras have been incorporated into some models to help the robot map the room and allow you to get a robot’s eye view of cleaning and keep an eye on your house while you’re away.”
Fall prevention: “Even with all of the new features and technological advances, robotic vacuums still have not gained the ability to climb stairs. Many models now utilize sensors to prevent themselves from taking a tumble down the stairs or off a higher level.” All of the robots in our testing were able to sense cliffs and avoid falling down stairs.
Automatic dirt disposal: One of the most useful features that’s becoming more ubiquitous is the charging dock that automatically empties the vacuum’s dustbin. Even the largest bins need to be emptied with regular use so it’s a maintenance task you’ll need to perform once a week — at best. But with the self-emptying dock, the chore is no longer necessary. You just throw away and replace the disposable dirt bag every month or two.
Can a robot vacuum prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus?
“Currently the CDC recommends that we take precautionary measures for vacuuming during the COVID-19 outbreak although there are no reported cases of COVID-19 associated with vacuuming,” Peña-Hernández said. “It recommends using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, opening outside doors and windows to increase air circulation, and not vacuuming areas with people in it.”
How do you clean a robot vac?
Though robot vacuums automate cleaning your floors, they are not completely hands-off. There are several care and maintenance steps you should take to ensure your vac operates properly for many years to come. Manufacturers provide clear instructions for how to clean and maintain your robot vacuum in the user manual or app.
Here are some general maintenance tasks:
Empty the dustbin: Depending on how dirty your home is, you will want to empty your robot vacuum’s dustbin after every use. If you run your vac on a daily basis and don’t have pets, you can get away with doing this chore once a week.
Clean the filter and dustbin: This is a weekly task. Cleaning the filter is important because the vacuum doesn’t clean as well when the filter is dirty. Most models’ filter and dustbin can be cleaned with water. I usually clean and thoroughly dry the dustbin while letting the filter air dry. While the filter is air drying, I insert the extra filter that most units come with. Whatever you do, make sure the filter and dustbin dry completely before you use them again.
Clean front wheel, brushes, sensors, and charging contacts: You should do this every two to four weeks. Most robot vacuums come with a cleaning tool with a brush on one end and a cutting blade on the other. Use these to cut out hairs that are wrapped around the brushes and wheel and to brush away debris. Use a soft dry cloth to dust the sensors and charging contacts per the manufacturer’s instructions.
Additionally, after about two months of use, it’s time to replace the filter. The front caster wheel and brushes — both the main brush and side brushes — should be replaced every year or so.
Can you fix a robot vac?
This depends entirely on the problem. In my years of testing robot vacuums, I’ve probably ran into every problem a robot vacuum can experience: falling down stairs (surprisingly uncommon), running through pet accidents, attempts at taking up crocheting, etc. I’ve learned that these machines are resilient.
That said, any attempt to fix a problem with your robot vacuum should start with consulting customer service. After I determined there was no chance I could clean the pet waste off my robot vacuum, I reached out to the manufacturer. And, even though the warranty specifically states these accidents aren’t covered, they still provided me with a replacement unit for free.
The most common problem I face is the vacuum finding my wife’s yarn and wrapping it around its wheels and brushes. When this happens, you can usually work the thread free if you’re patient. I usually just cut it free.
Check out our guides to more great vacuum cleaners
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Smart light strips bring illumination and color to dim spots, like under kitchen cabinets.
They also work as night lights or as mood lights.
Smart light strips can be controlled from your phone and by voice-activated assistants like Alexa.
Light strips can transform the look of your home. With adhesive backing that enables them to stick virtually anywhere the only limitation is the need for a power outlet. They are designed to be concealed under cabinets or shelves, and behind TVs or panels, so that you only see the light they emit.
The latest smart light strips can integrate with your smart home, enabling you to schedule or automate different kinds of lighting, select new lighting scenes from your phone, and use voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant to change your lighting.
We have tested several different smart light strips in the home to see how they perform, and we’ve bolstered that testing with research into the most trusted brands and highly reviewed products. We also sought advice from lighting designer Anna Ames who explained the importance of color temperature measured in units of Kelvin (K) and brightness measured in lumens.
Perhaps the most prominent purveyor of budget light strips, Govee offers a wide range of smart lighting. It updates its product line frequently, which can make it a little confusing. I tested a few different models, but the one I’m recommending is the H6163 model. At $33.99 for the 16-foot light strip, this is the cheapest option we tested.
The Govee Wi-Fi Dreamcolor LED Light Strip comes with a power unit attached that has a button to turn it on or off and one to cycle through colors. There’s also a button to activate the sound-reactive mode, which lights up and changes colors based on the music or other sounds in the room. This is ideal if you’re placing the strip in a child’s bedroom or guest room and don’t want to use a phone to control it. You can also connect to the strip via the Govee app, though you do have to sign up for an account.
The app connects the strip directly to your Wi-Fi and offers additional features, such as a timer, sliders for brightness and color temperature, and a selection of scenes, including animated multicolored scenes. You can also select colors individually for different segments of the strip and you can create your own scenes via the DIY option. This light strip also supports Alexa and Google Assistant for voice control.
The Govee Wi-Fi Dreamcolor LED Light Strip worked flawlessly during my testing. I’m very impressed by the full range of features on offer for such a low price. It works beautifully as a night light and for background mood lighting, but with a color temperature range of around 3,000 to 5,000 K and a maximum brightness of 800 lumens, it’s not suitable as a main light source. The ability to display multiple colors in different segments simultaneously is the main thing that differentiates this strip from some of Govee’s cheaper models that only display a single color at a time, like the Model H6188, which I also tested and liked.
The H6163 version 16.4 feet long with an adhesive backing and was easy to install. I stuck these light strips on the underside of a wooden bed frame and behind a large cabinet without any issues. You can cut it if you need to, but you can’t extend it.
Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Light Strip Plus
The Hue app is very straightforward and reliable. You can change the brightness, color, and color temperature of your strip; choose different scenes; and create routines. If you want to schedule your light strip to come on or turn off automatically, control it when you’re not at home, add additional accessories like motion sensors or smart switches, or sync with music, you need a Philips Hue Bridge. The bridge also makes for a faster and more reliable connection than Bluetooth.
At a maximum of 1,600 lumens, this is one of the brightest light strips we tested, and it has a fairly wide color temperature range of 2,000 to 6,500 K, but it is limited to a single color at a time. The basic Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Lightstrip Plus is 2 meters (6.6 feet) long, and you can buy one-meter extensions that slot into the end for $24.99. It’s quite thick and feels very durable, but it’s very difficult to bend and I had to tape the end with duct tape because it kept peeling away from the back of my TV.
The high brightness and durable covering make this a good choice for the kitchen and other environments where you want plenty of light. Although it doesn’t come with any power button or controls, you can configure it to work with a Hue Dimmer Switch (even without a Hue Bridge), but that’s an additional cost on what is already a pricey product. For people who have a Hue system with a bridge already, or people who need that high brightness level, this could be the best option.
Setup is a breeze via the excellent Hue app, but I made a mess of the installation, as part of the adhesive peeled away from the back of the strip. Philips has also chosen to cut the backing you peel off into sections, which makes it even more fiddly to remove and leaves a mess behind. Once you move the strip to a new location, you’ll need to find a new way of attaching it, as the adhesive doesn’t stay sticky.
How to choose a smart light strip
Here’s a brief explainer of some common terms and things to keep in mind when you’re looking for smart lighting. We also share some advice from lighting designer Anna Ames, who designs lighting for buildings in New York and beyond. As an early adopter, Ames has been using smart lighting in her home for several years now.
Placement: Light strips can bring a futuristic feel or add accent lighting to lots of spaces around your home, but you must consider placement very carefully as they can be difficult to remove. Because light strips tend to look quite ugly, Ames says they should not be directly visible. You can stick them under shelves and cabinets, in recessed areas, or behind furniture. Consider how the light will be reflected; the closer the light strip is to a surface the more intense the light will appear there. Always measure to see what length you require and remember that you need an accessible power outlet to plug the strip into. Some light strips can be cut, and some can be extended, but follow the manufacturer’s instructions to the letter to avoid problems. Bear in mind that the portion you cut off usually can’t be reused. It’s easy enough to place a light strip in a straight line, but corners and right angles can prove tricky. Be careful not to bend too tightly, or you may damage the strip.
Installation: Smart light strips usually have adhesive that runs their length. You simply peel the backing off and stick them onto the desired surface. Be very careful when you peel the backing off, as it’s easy to accidentally peel the adhesive off with it. If you want the light strip to stay in place, take the time to clean the surface thoroughly first. If you’re fitting a long light strip, it’s also a good idea to get help from someone. In our experience, the adhesive sticks better to some surfaces than others and you may need additional clips or brackets. Bear in mind that the adhesive may leave a mark if you remove the light strip.
Controls: While smart light strips can be controlled from your smartphone, that’s not always convenient. Some smart light strips have simple power switches attached, and even a button that cycles through scenes or colors. A few come with their own remote controls. This is very useful if you’re installing them in a common area or a kid’s bedroom, for example.
White or color: If you just want the ability to dim lights and schedule or remotely control them, then white light strips will give you everything you need. Color light strips are always more expensive, though they obviously give you much greater versatility. For most people, a mix will work best. Ames recommends sticking with white in certain rooms, like the kitchen or bathroom, but using color in the living room or bedroom to help you relax. She also suggests using more blue in your lights during the day and switching to warmer, yellow tones at night to stay in tune with natural circadian rhythms. When buying color light strips, it’s important to note that some strips can only display one color at a time. Others can display multiple colors along their length.
Brightness: This is measured in lumens. A standard 60W light bulb, for example, gives out around 800 lumens. Most smart light strips state a lumen count for brightness, but in some cases, you may need to ask the manufacturer. The brightness you need from your light strip will depend on the room and its existing lighting. You can find guides online, such as this one at Home Depot, offering advice on how many lumens different rooms require and a formula for calculating based on the size of a room.
Color temperature: Measured in Kelvins (K), the color temperature of a light dictates how warm or cool it will appear. A range should be given for each light. For example, the Philips Hue Color Ambiance Light Strip goes from 2,000 K up to 6,500 K. Light appears more yellow at 2,000 K and a bluish white at 6,000 K. Ames’ top tip is to aim for a color temperature of 2,700 K for use in most of the home, as this gives a nice, relaxing, warm light. You may want a higher temperature in areas like the kitchen.
Scenes: These are specific brightness, color temperature, and color settings that come as presets or that you create and save for future use. Sometimes scenes can include animations that cycle through different colors. Settings like Daylight or Relax are a quick way to change your lights for a particular mood or activity.
Connectivity: Smart light strips can connect directly to your control device (usually your phone) through Bluetooth or Wi-Fi or indirectly through a hub (which mostly use the Zigbee standard). There are various trade-offs here. Bluetooth uses less power and doesn’t require a hub, but the control range is limited to around 33 feet and it’s slower to react than Wi-Fi. With a hub or Wi-Fi, you can potentially control your lights from anywhere, provided you have an internet connection. They tend to connect more reliably and respond faster, as well. While a separate hub means plugging a device into your router and a power outlet, it can also help reduce congestion on your home Wi-Fi network, which can prove helpful if your Wi-Fi bandwidth is limited. While hubs are a higher up-front cost, they are easier to swap out than replacing a ton of bulbs around the house if you want to upgrade to a new technology.
Smart-home integration: There are lots of different services and standards related to smart-home setups, so make sure your chosen lights work with your preferred services. If you want to use Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to control your smart light strips, for example, then look for the relevant logo on the box or in the product details online. If you aren’t sure what you might want to add later, go for a product with more connectivity options.
Longevity: Smart light strips should last for years. You’ll often see their lifetime listed in tens of thousands of hours. As smart light strips contain many small LEDs, sometimes a single LED or section of LEDs will fail or refuse to display a specific color. This can happen if you physically damage the strip by bending or twisting, so be careful when installing your strip. Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix if this happens and you may need to replace the entire light strip.
What we are looking forward to testing
Kasa Smart LED Strip Light ($54.99): We are keen to try this light strip, as it has a well-rounded spec sheet. This is a multicolored light strip that boasts 16 color zones, and it comes with an app featuring animated lighting effects. There’s also Alexa and Google Home support and no need for a hub. It’s supposed to be easy to cut, bend, and extend. TP-Link’s Kasa smart home range is growing, and we like the smart plugs, so this could be a great product.
Sylvania Smart+ Zigbee light strip ($53.85): A fairly low price and support for the Zigbee standard makes this light strip an interesting prospect. It offers good smart-home integration, lots of colors, and a nice color temperature range (2,700 to 6,500 K), though it is limited to one color at a time and you need a Zigbee hub. The fact that you can cut, bend, and extend this light strip makes it more tempting, and we plan to check it out soon.
Sengled Element Light Strip ($39.99): This light strip has a similar feature set to some of the light strips we’ve tested or plan to test soon, including tunable light (2,000 to 6,500 K), Alexa and Google Assistant support, a wide range of colors and scenes, and brightness of 1,400 lumens. It’s also quite cheap, though you do need a hub. We also like the IFTTT support and the option of the Sengled Smart Switch.
C by GE LED Strip Light ($45.99): With millions of colors, tunable color temperature, and scheduling support the C by GE light strip looks promising. There’s also voice control via Alexa or Google Assistant, and you can select various scenes for different moods. It connects directly to Wi-Fi and you can add out of home control with a C by GE smart plug or smart switch.
What else we considered
Yeelight Lightstrip 1S ($48.63): This is an affordable light strip from Yeelight, which is part of Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi’s ecosystem. I found it easy to set up and use. It has a physical power button, with a wider range of options in the app where you can tweak the color, brightness, color temperature, select scenes, and set a schedule. It misses out on the list because we prefer the Govee light strip, but one thing Yeelight has that Govee lacks is extensibility, with 1-meter extensions for $12.99.
Philips Hue White & Color Ambiance Outdoor Light Strip ($76): If you want a light strip that’s safe to use outdoors, then your options are limited. This Philips Hue light strip, rated at IP67, is well worth a look. It offers the same features as the rest of the Philips Hue range, but you do need a Bridge to get the best from it. We go into more detail in our Philips Hue Outdoor Light Strip review. The problem is that stock seems to be dwindling. There is also another version of this strip, which is rated at IP44, but neither is currently listed on the US Philips website.
Lifx Z Light Strip ($89.99): Lifx’s light strip is one the most versatile we tested. This light strip has eight addressable color zones, so it can display multiple colors at once. Performance is very reliable, and it has a maximum brightness of 1,400 lumens, which is plenty to light a small bedroom. It’s one of our favorite light strips that we’ve reviewed. Unfortunately, it’s out of stock and only available for pre-order at the moment.
Nanoleaf Essentials Light Strip ($49.95): With the highest peak brightness we’ve tested and a reasonable price tag, there’s a lot to like with the Nanoleaf Essentials Light Strip. It’s 2,200 lumens at max brightness. It can only display one color at a time and doesn’t support scenes, but at $50 for a two-meter (6.6 feet) starter kit, it’s an attractive option. However, the starter kit isn’t available at the moment. While the one-meter extensions are still for sale, they won’t work if you don’t have the starter kit with the controller.
Toyota Motor Corporation started construction this week on a 175-acre smart city at the base of Japan’s Mount Fuji, about 62 miles from Tokyo, the company announced Tuesday.
The city, which Toyota has dubbed the “Woven City,” is expected to function as a testing ground for technologies like robotics, smart homes, and artificial intelligence. A starting population of about 360 inventors, senior citizens, and families with young children will test and develop these technologies.
These residents, who are expected to move into the Woven City within five years, will live in smart homes with in-home robotics systems to assist with daily living and sensor-based artificial intelligence to monitor health and take care of other basic needs, according to the company.
The eventual plan is for the city to house a population of more than 2,000 Toyota employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, and scientists. Toyota announced plans for the city last year at CES, the tech trade show in Las Vegas.
Here’s what the 175-acre smart city is set to look like when it’s finished.
Toyota’s planned 175-acre smart city will sit at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, about 62 miles from Tokyo.
The Woven City will function as a testing ground for technologies like robotics, smart homes, and artificial intelligence, according to the company.
Toyota officially started construction on the city in a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday, the company announced. The city is set to be built on the site of one of Toyota’s former manufacturing plants called Higashi-Fuji.
Toyota plans to send about 360 people to live in the Woven City to start. From there, it intends to gradually grow the population to more than 2,000.
The first residents will be a group of roughly 360 inventors, senior citizens, and young families with children, according to the company. These residents will move in within five years, a Toyota spokesperson told Insider last year.
Toyota has not yet revealed how these first residents will be chosen, and a spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for more details.
Eventually, the Woven City is expected to be home to more than 2,000 Toyota employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, visiting scientists, and industry partners.
Residents will live in homes outfitted with in-home robotics technology as well as sensor-based artificial intelligence to monitor their health and take care of their basic needs.
Despite the planned high-tech homes, Toyota says that promoting human connection is a major theme of the city but has not released specifics on how it plans to encourage this.
Press materials indicate that the planned city will feature multiple parks and a large central plaza for social gatherings.
Buildings are to be made mostly of wood to minimize the carbon footprint.
Rooftops are slated to be covered in photo-voltaic panels to generate solar power and hydrogen fuel cell power.
Toyota says it plans to integrate nature throughout the city with native vegetation and hydroponics, a method of growing plants without soil.
The city will be designed with three different types of streets: one for self-driving vehicles, one for pedestrians using personal mobility devices like bikes, and one for pedestrians only.
These three types of streets will form an “organic grid pattern” to help test autonomy, according to Toyota.
There will also be one underground road used for transporting goods.
A fleet of Toyota’s self-driving electric vehicles, called e-Palettes, will be used for transportation, deliveries, and mobile retail throughout the city.
Toyota has not yet disclosed an estimated completion date or estimated total cost for building the Woven City.
The Woven City joins a slew of similar smart city projects across Japan, some of which are also spearheaded by major companies.
In 2014, electronic appliance company Panasonic opened a smart city in Japan’s Kanagawa Prefecture called the Fujisawa Sustainable Smart Town, per Tokyo Esque, a market research agency. The city is still under construction with completion expected in 2022, but more than 2,000 people live there now, according to Panasonic.
Accenture, an American-Irish consulting company, is teaming up with the University of Aizu on smart city projects in the town of Aizuwakamatsu with the goal of better using artificial intelligence in public services, the company announced in July 2020.
“If it’s not started from a human-centric perspective, from the bottom up as opposed to from the top down, these aren’t real cities,” John Jung, founder of the Intelligent Community Forum think tank, told Bloomberg in January 2020. “They’re not designed to get [people] to know each other.”