Which smart devices are actually worth it
Smart tech is everywhere -- these days, you can't buy a TV without built-in streaming apps, and it's nearly impossible to find a washer or dryer that doesn't come with a smartphone app.
In most cases, smart technology is a welcome convenience that can help with everything from securing your home to keeping the temperature nice and cozy.
But on some devices, it's a gimmick (or worse, a security risk for your WiFi network).
Wondering which smart devices are worth the investment? Here's our comprehensive guide to smart technology: when you need it and when you definitely don't.
Indispensable smart tech
Some gadgets are great on their own but become incredible with the right smart technology on board. These are the electronics that we think aren't just smart -- they're darn near brilliant.
Nightstand alarm clocks
If you're using a basic alarm clock to wake up in the morning, you're missing out. Smart alarm clocks do a lot more than just tell time; they now include smart assistants like Amazon's Alexa or Google Home inside, so you can use voice commands to ask for anything you can think of -- and they'll also preemptively provide you with key info like traffic times and local weather. (And if you're worried about sleeping next to a bright screen, fear not: Most smart alarm clocks have auto-dimmers, so they won't keep you from catching your zzz's.)
Amazon Echo Show 5: $89.99 at Amazon
This is perfect for any bedroom and even includes a feature that will wake you up gently by gradually increasing the screen's light as it gets closer to the alarm time you set. You can also use the screen to check on any smart security cameras you have, which is ideal for keeping an eye on little ones.
Znewtech Universal Bedside Clock Stand: $25 at Amazon (was $34.99)
A more affordable option that works with your existing Echo Dot or Google Home Mini and adds a clock that's easy to see from anywhere in the room. If you've got a spare Echo Dot or Google Home Mini, this is the perfect way to keep it protected while keeping your nightstand tidy.
While it may not seem like a big deal to have a doorbell that also rings your smartphone, smart doorbells add a must-have feature for frequent online shoppers: built-in cameras that keep porch pirates from stealing your packages. A good smart doorbell will let you answer your door from anywhere -- even if you're not home -- while capturing video of any uninvited guests.
Ring Video Doorbell 2: $169 at Amazon (was $199)
The gold standard when it comes to smart doorbells, mainly because the video quality is so sharp and the app is incredibly easy to use. Ring offers a variety of models; we recommend sticking with one that can be wired into your existing electricity so you don't have to continually replace the batteries.
Eufy Security Wi-Fi Video Doorbell: $159.99 at Amazon
comes from the same brand that makes one of our favorite affordable robotic vacuums. They also make a smart doorbell that offers the most valuable features, like high-def video, two-way talk, and smart alerts that can differentiate people from other movements.
Opening and closing blinds is more of a hassle than it needs to be. If you're tired of twisting, tugging, and adjusting your blinds so they're the perfect height or let in just the right amount of light, it's time for a smart blinds kit, which attaches to your existing blinds and handles all of the adjusting for you.
MySmartBlinds Blinds Automation Kit: $159 at Amazon
These offer Alexa compatibility, a smartphone app, and include a solar panel so the built-in battery stays charged. The app supports automated schedules, so you can have your blinds open and close at specific times without having to do anything.
Tech that's better off dumb
Despite being big fans of smart tech, we're still the first to admit that some gadgets are better off without brains on board. Here are a few products where we prefer the non-smart version.
Microwaves are pretty great on their own, and adding smart capabilities doesn't dramatically improve them. Most microwaves are unique -- you need to try them out a few times to see how long one takes to make the perfect popcorn -- so using voice control with presets can be hit or miss, depending on your preferences.
COMFEE Retro Style Countertop Microwave: $89.99 at Amazon
This retro microwave has classic 1950s looks coupled with modern conveniences. It comes in three colors, has plenty of power levels, and even has a built-in child lock for safety.
Kenmore's Compact Microwave: $69.99 at Amazon
Tiny but mighty. It's got 0.7 cubic feet of space, which is perfect for an apartment or dorm room, along with 700 watts of power so you can quickly defrost any meal in minutes.
Smart scales sound like a good thing because they can help you track your weight with your smartphone, so you can use health apps to meet your weight goals. The problem is that for many users, smart scales aren't terribly reliable. Despite promises to track multiple data points like body fat, BMI, or muscle mass, the results they produce aren't consistent across scales -- and plenty of users aren't thrilled about having health statistics part of the data that can be tracked on a smartphone. Our advice: Stick with a traditional scale.
BalanceFrom's Digital Body Weight Bathroom Scale: $11.99 at Amazon
This is an ideal scale for anyone looking for a no-frills, super-accurate model. It's got "step-on" technology, so you don't have to bother turning it on to use it, and the built-in sensors are accurate to 0.2 lbs.
SmarTake's Precision Digital Body Bathroom Scale: $15.99 at Amazon
Another great option with a tempered-glass design that's ultra-durable. It's accurate, it runs on two AA batteries, and it's got sleek looks to match any upscale decor.
Smart humidifiers sound great but typically offer a level of micro-control that is more trouble than it's worth. Instead, stick with a basic, competent humidifier and enjoy hours of sleeping peacefully.
Miroco's Ultrasonic Cool Humidifier: $59.99 at Amazon (was $69.99)
is perfect for anyone who needs a "set it and forget it" humidifier. It can last up to 20 hours continuously on a single tank, it's super easy to refill, and it's even got a built-in night light. It also has a small footprint, so it can do its thing without taking up a ton of space.
LEVOIT's Bedroom Humidifier: $39.99 at Amazon
is our favorite humidifier for babies because it offers plenty of parent-friendly features like auto-shut-off and an adjustable mist. It's also made with BPA-free plastic, so you can rest easy while your baby does too.
Jamie Vazquez is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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