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While it's firmly in the mainstream at this point, not all smart home technology is created equal. But you don't have to be an electronics wizard to get plenty of utility out of Alexa, Google Assistant, and all the electronics they pair with. In that light, some of the most popular smart home devices are great for beginners who don't want to learn how to program just to control their lighting or home security system via voice command.

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    Source: Amazon
    Kasa Smart Plug HS103
    Best value

    The TP-Link Kasa lineup of smart plugs is as easy to use as any on the market, with reliable operation, a user-friendly app, and built-in energy monitoring. It's also quite affordable, since the four-pack is $20 or less. If you're building around the Apple HomeKit ecosystem, you'll need the slightly more expensive version, but otherwise the HS103 is as good as it gets.

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    Source: Ring
    Ring Doorbell 4
    Premium pick
    $160 $220 Save $60

    Ring doorbells are popular due to their ease of setup, high-quality video, and extensive control and notification settings. The fourth-generation model continues that tradition, with HD video, selectable zones, and dependable wireless connectivity. The only drawback is that it can't fully integrate with Google-based smart homes, but it works swimmingly with the Alexa ecosystem.

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    Source: Amazon
    Philips Hue Starter Kit (75W)
    Best overall
    $170 $200 Save $30

    Smart lighting is one of the most useful additions to a modern household, and Philips Hue is far and away the best brand. A plethora of options, including timers, vacation mode, and comprehensive scene selection make it impossible to pass up. This starter kit includes everything you need to get up and running, including the Hue Bridge that's required for full functionality.

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    Source: Google Store
    Google Nest Protect Carbon Monoxide Detector
    Best for health and safety

    Most smart devices are meant for convenience and energy savings, but the Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector can literally save your life. In the event it detects slow-burning fires, fast-burning fires, or harmful gases, it makes this very clear with both an on-unit voice alarm and smartphone notifications. There is also a wired version, but the battery-powered option is considerably easier to install.

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    Source: August
    August Wi-Fi Smart Lock

    A few things make the fourth-generation August stand out among the many great smart locks. First, it's easier to install than just about any other and works as a drop-in module with most existing deadbolts. Second, it's highly reliable in terms of notifications, connectivity, and consistency. Finally, it doesn't look gaudy or like something out of a hotel lobby, something many mother smart locks can't claim.

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    Source: Wyze
    Wyze Cam Pan v3

    The latest, third-generation version of the Wyze Cam Pan v3 has basically everything going for it. It pans and tilts in nearly any direction so you never miss any action, its IP65 rating means it's suitable for outdoor use, and the Full HD resolution ensures you always get clear images. To top it off it offers color night vision and isn't very expensive.

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    Source: Amazon
    Google Nest Thermostat

    Operated via the Google Home app, the Nest Thermostat lets you set heating and cooling levels, monitor temperature and humidity, and set schedules and contingencies from afar. It can even sense when there's nobody home and drop into energy-saving mode to keep bills low. It's also the first thermostat from a major manufacturer to support the up-and-coming Matter smart ecosystem.

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    Source: Amazon
    Kasa HS300

    If there are several "dumb" lamps or small appliances in the same room, the Kasa HS300 can give them all voice and app control at once. It sports six individually controllable AC outlets in addition to three always-on USB ports, and even 1,710 joules of surge protection, which is rare among smart power strips.

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    Source: Kasa
    Kasa KC420WS

    The Kasa KC420WS isn't the most advanced outdoor security camera on the market, but it's as much camera as most people will ever need. Its resolution sits halfway between Full HD and 4K, it supports two-way audio, and it can see in the dark up to 98 feet. Perhaps best of all, it's surprisingly affordable for the quality.

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    Source: Wyze
    Wyze Smart Bulbs

    Anybody who wants colored lighting without the hassle of an intermediary bridge should consider Wyze smart lighting. Its 2.4-gigahertz Wi-Fi connectivity is as reliable as they come and it works with both Alexa and Google Assistant. It offers nearly as many features as high-end lighting, but this two-pack comes at a fraction of the cost.

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    Source: Amazon
    Google Nest Audio

    Instead of searching for your phone just to issue voice commands, look to the Google Nest Audio smart speaker to help you control your smart home with a simple, "Hey, Google." It doesn't exactly deliver Earth-shattering bass, but it's not meant to; it's designed to look nice on a shelf without drawing too much attention, but giving you instant access to all your smart electronics.

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    Source: Amazon
    Ecobee Premium

    Alexa-base smart homes can't do much better than the Ecobee Premium smart thermostat, which has all the programming and scheduling features you'd expect, and then some. It includes a discrete room sensor for multi-room coverage, supports add-on sensors, and even has a built-in microphone so you don't need a separate smart speaker in the same room.

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    Source: iRobot
    iRobot Roomba i3+ Evo

    The iRobot Roomba i3+ Evo sports many of the same features as vacuums that cost $1,000 or more, but at half the price. Those include advanced smart mapping, .7-micron filtration, and the ability to empty itself automatically into a base that holds up to 60 days of debris. In other words, it can keep your hard and carpeted floors clean for two whole months without you even lifting a finger.

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    Source: Cosori
    COSORI Smart Air Fryer Toaster Oven

    You don't even have to leave the couch to preheat the Cosori Smart Air Fryer Oven. It accepts voice commands via Alexa and uses a streamlined app to access your favorite recipes and cooking history. Its 30-liter capacity gives you the freedom to pack it with a massive variety of dishes, and it even offers a rotisserie function for chickens up to about 5 pounds.

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    Source: Amazon
    Amazon Echo Studio

    Unlike most speakers, Amazon's Echo Studio isn't just geared toward listening for Alexa voice commands. This one's actually meant for serious music fans, and makes your favorite tunes sound great thanks to significantly more impressive full-spectrum audio than most competitors. While it's not cheap, it's on another level compared to the rest.

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    Source: Amazon
    MEATER Plus Smart Meat Thermometer with Bluetooth

    Let's say you're whipping up an all-day smoked brisket but don't want to quit watching TV or hanging out with friends just to see how far along it is. Enter the Meater Plus, which works with an Alexa skill to deliver the current temperature to a nearby smart speaker. Its 165-foot wireless range is enough for all but the largest patios, and it even helps shorten cooking time since you won't have to open the grill to check it.

Picking the best smart home devices for beginners

There are tons of great smart home products out there, but they aren't all created equal. If you're new to building a smart home, you'll find some devices considerably easier to use without a ton of advanced smart technology background knowledge. To that end, our favorite smart home products for beginners are the easiest to set up and operate, and the ones that offer the most value and convenience with the least interaction and programming.

Our best value pick, the Kasa HS103 smart plug, turns a wide range of standard appliances into smart appliances in an instant. It's a great way to see how much smart technology can do for you without making a huge investment. If you're willing to spend a little more on something to make your life safer, the simple-to-use Ring doorbell ensures you know who's at your door even if you're not there. Finally, the Google Nest Protect smoke and carbon monoxide detector can prevent injury and loss of life and property whether you're at home or away. The Philips Hue 75-watt starter kit, meanwhile, rules the smart lighting roost with its highly customizable scenes.

This is, of course, only a taste of all the great smart devices available. Whether you're in the market for a great smart speaker, door lock, Wi-Fi security camera, or robot vacuum, there are tons to choose from, and many are as easy to use as the ones we've highlighted here. It's also important to decide whether you want to commit to the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, or wait for more devices that support Matter.