Michael Bizzaco and Jenny McGrath – Digital Trends
Amazon’s suite of Echo products offer a fantastic way to experience the power of Alexa, the now-famous digital voice assistant that can read you news, remind you to lock the door, and dim your lights for movie night. But did you know you can find Alexa built into everything from soundbars to robot vacuums?
With every update Alexa receives, the assistant adds new features and interactivity options. In this guide, we review some of the best interactive Alexa hardware in the way of speakers, displays, lights, wall plugs, thermostats, smart locks, cameras, and appliances. You can make your life easier with an Alexa-powered home, and we’ll show you where to begin.
The best Alexa speakers and smart displays
If you’re going all-in on the smart home, you’ll want a good speaker or smart display. The best Echo device for you depends on your situation. What budget are you looking to spend? Do you want a speaker or a smart display? Do you want an Echo device with a hub built in? Do you want an Echo with exceptional sound quality, or do you plan on connecting an external speaker for music playback?
If you’re simply looking for basic Alexa functionality and the ability to control your smart devices with your voice, the Echo Dot is an ideal choice because it’s cost-effective and it has a small profile. You can also opt for the Echo Dot with LED clock, so you can see the time, the weather, or a timer right on the front of the device. If you want your network to run more efficiently, and you want better sound quality, you can opt for an Echo Plus 2, which is an Alexa device with a built-in Zigbee hub. If you plan on outfitting your home with video devices like security cameras and a video doorbell, a smart display like the Echo Show 8, is a good choice. The Echo Show 8 is affordable, and you can check your doorbell or camera feed directly on the display screen.
The best Alexa-compatible lights
LEDs are taking over the world, and they represent one of the easiest ways to start smartening up your home. Some smart lights require an external bridge to connect to Alexa, but others just need to be screwed in like an ordinary bulb. When you purchase a smart light bulb, the manufacturer will usually state whether or not a separate bridge is required. Typically, you can schedule most smart lights to turn off at a certain time every night. But with Alexa integration, you can easily ask your speaker to turn them back on if you have one more Netflix episode to get through before you turn in.
Philips Hue has one of the most versatile lighting systems around and makes some of our favorite LEDs. Whether you’re opting for white bulbs (it usually costs around $70 for a starter kit), color, or light strips, there are a variety of Hue options. The company also sells individual bulbs. You will need a bridge for voice control to work on these bulbs, which Philips sells separately. For a bridgeless option, Lifx makes multicolor bulbs, as well as tiles and strips. Sengled bulbs are another excellent bridgeless option, plus you can often find single bulbs for less than $20.
It takes a bit more effort, but Lutron Caséta in-wall dimmers are a reliable way to turn your lights on or off or get varying degrees of brightness. You can do all that with voice commands through Alexa and group them so you don’t have to turn off individual switches in succession. You will need to install an included smart bridge for these bulbs to work.
Best Alexa-compatible smart plugs
Smart plugs are great for turning non-connected devices into things you can control remotely. Whether you have a lamp with a busted or hard-to-reach switch, or you just tend to leave your coffee maker on, a connected plug can turn them on or off for you. Alexa compatibility is especially nice because you can ask her to turn on your reading lamp without having to get up from your chair.
The Belkin Wemo Mini smart plug has a slim design, so you can fit two on a single outlet. The app lets you set schedules, and you can set up If This Then That to make its capabilities even more robust. Belkin also has a slightly bulkier energy-monitoring Insight plug that will show you how much electricity your space heater (or whatever else you have plugged in) is using.
Best Alexa-compatible thermostats
Some of the best smart thermostats on the market are also Alexa-compatible. The Ecobee4, for example, comes with Alexa built into the unit for control and other Alexa-related capabilities, making it an ideal option if you don’t have an Alexa device, but you still want the voice assistant. The new EcobeeSmartThermostat offers an even better Alexa experience, providing excellent sound and enhanced features.
If you do already have an Alexa device, you may prefer a device that works with them, such as the Honeywell Lyric or Johnson’s Glas thermostat.
Best Alexa-compatible smart locks
Smart locks are no doubt convenient for letting in the dog walker when you’re not home, but they make some people nervous. We recommend the August Smart Lock, which works with your existing lock, making it a great choice for renters who have landlords that need access to their units. (It’s also our pick for best smart lock.) For a more traditional smart lock appearance that also works great with Alexa, check out the Schlage Sense deadbolt.
Pairing with Alexa means you can check the status of the lock, lock it, or even unlock it with voice commands. Getting her to unlock your door requires a vocally recited pin, so you probably don’t want to shout at your speaker from outside your house.
Best Alexa-compatible security cameras
One big reason people start getting smart devices for their home is security, so there is no shortage of security cameras that let you do DIY monitoring of your property. One perk of the Echo Show or Echo Spot is that they can show you camera footage without you having to pull out your phone and open an app.
The Arlo Pro 3 kit is an impressive security package that gives you access to 30 days of cloud recording, night vision, weather-resistant options, and fully wireless installation for two separate smart cams. Plus, because Arlo is one of the brands that work with the Amazon devices above, you see the video feed on screen. Some of our other favorite security cameras can also do the same: The Blink Mini is a great indoor option with two-way audio, and the Logitech Circle 2 is a similar option built for outdoor use.
Best external A/V speakers with Alexa
Even if you don’t have a Bluetooth speaker, you may be interested in an Alexa-controlled speaker that can play your music or function as part of your entertainment system, or both. In this case, the Sonos brand is an easy recommendation.
If you are more interested in a soundbar that functions as part of a larger entertainment system and fits below a TV, you should try the Sonos Beam, or the newly released Sonos Arc. If budget is important, then the Polk Command Bar is a great way to introduce Alexa to your AV-cave.
If you like the idea of a more central speaker that can play music for parties or other gatherings, take a look at the Sonos One. Amazon’s Echo Studio is another powerful music-maker, delivering fully dynamic 3D sound that is sure to rock your next event.
Best Alexa appliances
As appliances get smarter, we’ll see more and more add Alexa compatibility. Whirlpool went practically all-in on Alexa a few years back, for example. A number of its fridges, dishwashers, wall ovens, ranges, and microwaves started coming with Wi-Fi connectivity and voice activation. The Samsung Family Hub refrigerators in particular are designed to work with the smart home, including Alexa. Bosch has its own line of smart appliances you can control with Alexa. If you like the idea of Alexa with your coffee, give this Hamilton Beach coffee maker a look, too.
In terms of smaller appliances, the ChefSteps Joule and Anova WiFi are sous vide immersion circulators that have voice control, thanks to Alexa. If you’re looking for a voice-activated vacuum, both the excellent iRobot Roomba 675 and Shark IQ 101AE Robot will start cleaning upon your command, and then empty themselves after they finish sweeping your home.