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These smart plugs are the secret to a seamless smart home

Smart plugs aren’t the sexiest tech in the smart home, but they pull a lot of weight when it comes to automating dumb devices. In fact, if you use a lot of lamps, fans or small appliances, smart plugs can be the secret to a smart home that feels seamless and synchronized. Nearly any device you’d plug into a standard wall outlet can be smartened up with a Wi-Fi connected plug.

Smart plugs with power monitoring, away modes and extra charging ports expand the capabilities of your smart home even further, all at a relatively low cost.

How it works

The majority of smart plugs work with a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection and don’t need a hub. That makes them easy to install and quick to connect. Smart plugs typically come with a companion app where you’ll create an account and set preferences, schedules and names for the devices you’re plugging into the outlet.

You’ll use that same account to connect your plug with the Google Home or Amazon Alexa app in order enable voice commands such as, “OK Google, turn on the lamp.” I’d recommend looking for a smart plug that includes features like scheduling, timers, scenes and something called “away mode” that randomly powers on and off to simulate activity inside your home. That feature works great for lamps or TVs when you’re on vacation.

Our best bets

If you’re an Apple HomeKit user, your smart plug options are limited. I really like both the iHome ISP8 and iDevices Switch for their reliability, design and integrations, and if you’re willing to buy the additional WeMo Bridge accessory, then Belkin WeMo Mini smart plugs and other WeMo gadgets will work with HomeKit, too.

If your home is centered around Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, the Eufy Smart Plug Mini is a great option. Still, there are dozens of smart plugs out there that get the job done. Some include extras like LED light rings to indicate power usage or extra USB charging ports. Whether you’re looking for extra ports or space-saving smarts, here’s a rundown of the smartest plugs around.

Amazon Smart Plug

If Alexa is your voice assistant of choice, Amazon has a smart plug for you. Equipped with Wi-Fi Simple Setup, the $25 Amazon Smart Plug is easy to install and adds Alexa voice commands to any regular device. You’ll need a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network and at minimum the Alexa app on your phone to control the device remotely.

This smart plug isn’t overpriced, but you are missing out on a few features offered by other plugs from TP-Link and Belkin for at a very similar price point. There’s no power monitoring or dedicated away modes, for example. You can automate, schedule and control devices with this plug, but you won’t get much more than that. It also isn’t compatible with Google Home or Apple HomeKit.

 

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