Best of 2018 Awards — The Best Smart Home Products

Google Nest Hub
Google Nest Hub (Image credit: Android Central)

The smartphone is the center of our universe, but 2018 saw a huge increase in the number of products in a new category: the smart home. There are many categories within the smart home, and hundreds of products in each category, but through rigorous testing, we're able to pick the best smart home products of 2018 amongst a few key categories.

From smart speakers, displays, and TVs, to routers, lighting and more, these are the best smart home products of 2018!

Why we picked the Google Home Hub as the Best Smart Home Product of 2018

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The Google Home Hub brings the best of Google Assistant to a screen that is suitable for any room in your home. The 7-inch screen offers a compact size that is perfect, whether it's on your bedroom night stand or kitchen counter. Pictures and videos look particularly crisp thanks to the ambient light sensor that adapts the screen's brightness and warmth to match the room's surroundings.

For those with many smart home devices, a control panel screen brings one-touch controls for all of these in a single screen, making the Google Home Hub the center of your smart home. Saving recipes, watching videos and controlling your smart home has never been easier, or available at such an affordable price. The lack of a camera is a positive for those with privacy concerns and means the Google Home Hub is suitable for any room in any household.

Why we picked the Lenovo Smart Display as the Best Smart Display in 2018

Unlike the Google Home Hub, which seems designed to fit any room in your home, the Lenovo Smart Display offers better audio, a crisper screen, better audio and a camera, all in two different sizes. The smaller version has an 8-inch display and white rear finish, while the larger version comes with a 10-inch screen and bamboo rear finish. These alone make it more versatile than Google's Home Hub, and the camera means you can use Google Duo to make calls to other members of your family.

The cameras also mean this is less likely to be a product you'll keep in a private area in your home, such as your bedroom. Privacy is a concern for many people, hence the Lenovo Smart Display is the best smart display that you'll want to keep in a public area. The speakers are loud, the two display sizes offer versatility and the differences in rear finish mean it'll fit in perfectly whether you have a contemporary wooden kitchen, or a modern kitchen featuring marble and steel. Overall, the Lenovo Smart Display features everything you could want in a smart display and is powered by Google Assistant making it a worthy winner of our Best Smart Display award.

Why we picked Echo Dot 3rd Gen as the Best Smart Speaker in 2018

This year's Echo Dot is vastly improved over previous generations, which featured bulky designs and poor audio. In 2018, Amazon changed all of this with a stylish new design — albeit one that you can't customize — paired with an improved Alexa assistant and excellent audio. The affordable price tag make this a must have smart speaker if you need a very capable voice assistant in any room of your home.

The softer, more-rounded edges of the Echo Dot allow it to blend into more environments. Rather than sticking out like a sore thumb, the new Echo Dot is comfortable on your bookcase, shelve or mantlepiece. A choice of either black or white colors allows you to pick the right finish for each environment. Half an inch larger than its predecessor, the additional size means much fuller audio, with better bass and overall sound than this year's Google Home Mini.

Why we picked Philips Hue Play as the Best Smart Lighting product in 2018

As far as smart lighting goes, Philips Hue is the oldest kid on the block. Yet, with challenges from newer companies like LIFX and Nanoleaf, the company showed this year that it's still the best there is. The Philips Hue Play is an example of this, bringing Philips' lighting prowess to a new form factor and one that aims to solve the very reason you might want smart lighting.

Until now, smart lighting involved needing to attach a light strip (which was painful and near impossible to remove cleanly) or use several bulbs, but if you just wanted a block of light behind your TV or up against one wall, there weren't many options. The Philips Hue Play offers exactly this, with a compact LED light bar that can be placed against a wall, stood up in your bookcase or even mounted to the back of your TV. If you want the ultimate lighting experience, look no further.

Why we picked LG E8 OLED as the Best TV in 2018

At CES in January each year, LG announces its new range of OLED TVs and sets the standard for televisions for the forthcoming year. Backed by OLED technology, these TVs offers the most immersive experience you can find, and while all of this year's range use the same underlying panel, there are a few subtle differences that make the E8 the best TV this year.

Firstly, the entry-level B8 uses a newer version of the older Alpha 7 picture processor from last year, while the C8, E8 and upwards use the newer Alpha 9 picture processor. The C8 and E8 are almost identical TVs but the differences are in the stand and audio, with the E8 sporting a stylish see-through clear stand frame beneath the screen and slightly better audio. The C8 would have been our pick for the best TV this year, but the E8 dropped to a very similar price during the year's key holiday season and with around $200 difference between the two models, we've opted for the E8 as the best TV of 2018.

Whether you buy the LG C8 OLED, E8 OLED or even the entry-level B8, one thing is clear — LG leads the way when it comes to this year's best TVs. All of LG's 2018 OLEDs also come with support a wide variety of HDR formats including Dolby Vision, HDR10, HLG and Advanced HDR. They're excellent for gaming and come with Google Assistant and voice support, as well as LG's magic remote which makes input entry a breeze. Whichever 2018 LG OLED you buy, you won't be sorry as you're getting the best TV that money can buy.

Why we picked TCL 6-Series as the Best Affordable TV in 2018

If money is no object, the LG OLED is the best TV you can buy, but with prices starting in excess of $1,600 for a 55-inch and $2,000 for a 65-inch, they'll likely be too expensive for many people. While LG has the high-end cornered, the affordable TV market belongs to one company that's made the segment its own: TCL.

For the past couple of years, TCL's affordable TV have offered the best overall experience under $1,000, and this year is no difference. The TCL 6-series was announced at the beginning of the year but continues to reign supreme, offering excellent visuals and the best LCD experience at the price point. At a starting price of just $649 (and even less if you snag it on sale), the TCL 6-series is excellent value for money with 4K picture quality and Dolby Vision support. The popular Roku OS - which is arguably the best smart TV platform at the moment - supports every streaming service possible and makes this the Best Affordable TV of 2018.

Why we picked SmartThings WiFi as the Best Mesh Router in 2018

As we add more and more smart devices to our homes, one thing that seems to be a problem is keeping everything connected. Whether you live in an apartment or building with concrete in the walls, a newer condo with lots of wiring or a large house that's too big for just one router, a singe Wi-Fi router doesn't work as well as it used to. Over the past two years, we've seen a major shift towards the newer mesh Wi-Fi router systems, where you're able to pair multiple Wi-Fi "nodes" together to create one big mesh router system.

Yet, there's not too many companies we can recommend as they all have their flaws and Wi-Fi technology isn't advancing as fast as the rest of the smart home space. In 2018, one of the best products announced was the Samsung SmartThings WiFi, which is the spiritual successor the first-gen Samsung Connect Home. With support for gigabit connections, an easy-to-use set up process and the ability to pair as many nodes as you need for all round excellent coverage, the SmartThings WiFi is an excellent choice for your home. What sets it apart from the competition is the built-in SmartThings Hub, which allows you to connect together devices that otherwise may not work together.

Why we picked Nest Secure as the Best Smart Security solution in 2018

The Nest Secure isn't technically a 2018 product but it remains the best smart security solution you can buy at the moment. Additions to the Nest family this year such as the Nest Hello video doorbell and Nest x Yale smart lock have only served to make the Nest Secure even more useful, and it remains a product that becomes more and more useful with every update.

Unlike its competitors (Ring and Simplisafe being the two main ones), the Nest Secure is super stylish and looks elegant wherever you place it in your home. The ability to add as many Nest Detect sensors to protect your windows and doors makes it easy to customize, while the Nest Tag is an easy solution so you don't have to remember pesky alarm codes.

Where the Nest Secure really comes into its own is in the services it supports. Integration with Google Assistant allows you to set your alarm from your Google Home, see who's at the door on your smart display with the Nest Hello doorbell, and unlock or lock your door using Google Assistant or your routines. It also tightly integrates with all the other Nest products in your home, such as your smoke detector or thermostat, giving you the complete in-home security experience.

Nirave Gondhia

Nirave Gondhia has been writing about the mobile industry for over a decade and began his career selling and fixing phones in the UK. He's used every flagship smartphone over the past five years and carries at least two phones at all times - currently, he's using the iPhone 11 Pro, [Samsung Galaxy Fold and Motorola RAZR. Say hi to him on Twitter at @nirave.