At Wirecutter, we don’t just test smart home stuff, we also live with it — and we all have favorites. Here are a few connected devices that truly make our lives easier.
Wemo Mini Smart Plug
Last summer, my family moved into a house with a front porch just begging to be decorated for Halloween. I plugged an extension cord into a Wemo Mini smart plug and then set up a Rule that turned porch lights on at sunset and off at midnight, without my needing to touch the lights or plug. We had only three trick-or-treaters, but the glowing ghosts on our windows and spider webs on our camellias were totally worth it. — Annam Swanson, managing editor
Apparently, I inherited my dad’s predilection for obsessive control over the household thermostat. I am not the kind of user the Nest thermostat is designed for, though: I don’t let it learn, I don’t set a schedule and I don’t automate any of it. Instead, I use the app pretty much like my dad would have: to keep my hand on the virtual dial, endlessly making minute adjustments on the way home when we realize we’re approaching a too-hot house, on an errand when we want to make sure the HVAC is on eco mode, or when lying in bed. And I guess I could make this even easier with Alexa commands, but then the kids would be able to adjust the AC. Frankly, I can’t give up that level of control. I think dad would understand. — Harry Sawyers, senior editor
Kasa Spot Indoor Camera
My family uses the Kasa Spot to keep tabs on what’s going on inside our chicken coop. I like to peek in on what my raptors are up to, especially during rain and snowstorms when I might not make it down there to check on them as often. It’s also perfect for ensuring there are no creatures in the coop at night that shouldn’t be there. We just bought a second one to add to a different corner of the coop to keep an eye on our new chicks, which are absolutely adorable, but also fast and get into everything. I want to add a few more outside the coop to see what might be lurking in the woods here in the Pacific Northwest; we have bears, cougars and coyotes. — Jackie Reeve, senior staff writer
SwitchBot Smart Switch Button Presser
Nothing about my Brooklyn apartment is modern, so I hooked up the SwitchBot, a remote control box you can stick on anything that has a button, and then it presses the button for you, remotely. When activated, a little hook comes out to poke whatever you place it on and then retracts — almost like one of those cute Japanese coin banks. I placed it beneath the buzzer that unlocks my front door and I use the SwitchBot app to trigger it. For better range and Siri control, I added the SwitchBot Hub Plus, so now when walking my dog back to my apartment, I just say, “Hey Siri, buzz apartment,” and voilà, the door opens hands-free. — Hunter Boone, video producer
August Smart Lock
I had a truly chaotic neighbor in my last apartment building. Strange folks going in and out of this person’s apartment at all hours of the day, sometimes stopping to bang on my door (yes, my door) at 1 a.m. Even after I figured out a new living situation, what I really wanted was some control. It might sound dramatic, but the August Smart Lock delivered on that. Now I’m able to set my door to automatically lock after 30 seconds, and can ask Siri to confirm it’s locked when I’m feeling anxious. — Andrew Kalinchuk, associate managing editor
Amazon Echo Show
I have four Amazon Echo devices scattered throughout my house, but the one that gets the most use by far is the Amazon Echo Show. Sometimes it lives in my kitchen, where I like to use it to video chat with friends and family while I cook. Other times, it lives on my crafting table and keeps me company with cheesy reality shows while I sew. Its speaker is nice enough to fill an entire floor with the sounds of my favorite radio station. — Signe Brewster, senior staff writer
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