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The best Apple HomeKit gadgets of 2020

"Kate Burger" (2020-02-25)

6 years agoid="article-body" class="row" section="article-body"> HomeKit is Apple's platform for smart home products, and it comes baked into every iPhone and iPad that the company sells. Download Apple's free Home app, pair it with your HomeKit-compatible smart home gadgets of choice and presto: an Apple smart home that you can control with a few taps on your iOS device, or with a Siri voice command.

What sort of things can you connect to HomeKit? You've got lots of options -- lights, door locks, a plug, cameras, a thermostat, motion sensors, shades, you name it -- and the Home app can handle all of it in one place. As for Apple's assistant Siri, it'll be happy to dim the lights, run a smart home scene, adjust the air conditioning, lock the door or whatever else you demand of your fancy, voice-activated abode.

The real question is which of these gadgets are worth the cash, because a lot of them don't come cheap. There's a growing list of options, but we're visit here to help you narrow it down to the best HomeKit devices for your smart home. Here are our top picks for HomeKit households, all based on years of tests at the CNET Smart Home.

Best HomeKit hub
Apple TV 4K
You can pair Apple HomeKit devices with your iPhone as soon as you set them up, but if you want to control products when you're away from home, then you'll need a HomeKit hub. The hub works like a bouncer for your home's Wi-Fi network. When you try to control a smart lock from Apple's Home app while you're at work, for instance, the hub's job is to check your ID before letting you in. 

Read more: Everything you need to know about Apple HomeKit

Apple doesn't offer a standalone HomeKit hub, but instead, forces you to choose between three high-priced Apple gadgets that do the job: The HomePod smart speaker, a third-gen-or-better Apple TV, or a dedicated, always-on iPad.

While you can find it on sale, the $300 HomePod is still too expensive for what it is. Meanwhile, the iPad route is a bit clunky, especially since it would need to be always on and plugged in. That's why I'd go with the Apple TV -- preferably the Apple TV 4K, which CNET's David Katzmaier hails as the best streamer available today. At $169, it doesn't come cheap, but none of these HomeKit hubs do. And, in addition to serving as an excellent streamer, you'll be able to pull up the video feed from compatible HomeKit cameras on your TV with a quick voice command into the remote. Read the Apple TV 4K review.

$169 at Walmart Best smart thermostat for HomeKit
Ecobee3 Lite
Chris Monroe/CNET You've got lots of interesting options if you're in the market for a smart thermostat, including a couple of thermostats that support Siri control via Apple HomeKit. Of these, we like Ecobee's thermostats the best. At $250, the Ecobee4 thermostat is the newest, but it really only adds in a built-in Alexa speaker to the experience. That's not the biggest draw if you're anchoring your smart home to Apple HomeKit and centering around Siri for voice controls.

Read more: The best smart thermostats of 2020

That's why I think it's a smarter move to stick with one of Ecobee's previous-generation, less expensive thermostats. They all work just as well with Apple HomeKit and they support Ecobee's nifty temperature sensors, too. The Ecobee3 thermostat is listed as sold out on the Ecobee website, but the Ecobee3 Lite thermostat is still available for between $169 and $190. That's the right price for HomeKit-compatible climate control. Read the Ecobee3 Lite review.

$170 at Amazon Now playing: Watch this: Ecobee slashes the price of its latest smart thermostat 1:23 Best smart lock for HomeKit
August Smart Lock Pro
Tyler Lizenby/CNET For $169, your August Smart Lock Pro purchase nets you the lock itself, plus the plug-in Wi-Fi hub that you need in order to sync with HomeKit and an open/closed sensor for your door, too. It boasts tons of useful integrations beyond HomeKit compatibility, too, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Nest, IFTTT and optional Z-Wave support.

Read more: The best smart locks of 2020

It's certainly not an inexpensive smart lock, but it's the best one for HomeKit households that we've tested to date. I say wait for a sale and then pounce. Read the August Smart Lock Pro review.

$192 at Amazon Best camera for HomeKit
Logitech Circle 2
Chris Monroe/CNET At $180, the Logitech Circle 2 can be used indoors or out, and it proved reliable and responsive when we tested it out with Apple HomeKit. The wired design means that you'll need to keep it close to an outlet, but I actually prefer that over something with batteries that can run dead at inopportune times. A battery-powered version is available for an extra $20 if that's your preference.

Read more: The best smart home security cameras of 2020

Once you find a spot for it and set it up, you'll be able to view the feed straight from the Home app (or, if you've got an Apple TV, right on your TV). The Circle 2 offers motion sensors, night vision, and two-way audio. You also get a free 24-hour event-based backlog of clips, plus the option to extend that clip history to 14 or 31 days for a $4 or $10 monthly fee (subscribers also get access to a motion alert zone feature). My favorite part might be the variety of accessories Logitech sells to help you mount it in clever places. All of that adds up to a great little camera that costs less than popular competitors like the Arlo and D-Link Omna. Read the Logitech Circle 2 review.

$121 at Amazon Best smart light switch for HomeKit
Lutron Caseta In-Wall Smart Dimmer Switch
Tyler Lizenby/CNET Smart switches are another good option if you're looking to automate the lights in your home -- particularly for spots where a single switch controls several bulbs at once. You've got several options that work with HomeKit, but our favorite by far is the Lutron Caseta In-Wall Dimmer Switch.

Read more: Smart plugs, bulbs and switches: Which is right for you?

Why Lutron? For starters, Lutron's been in the business of dimmer switches for decades, and it's a smart home stalwart, too. Its well-featured switches work with everything, they support three-way setups, and they look appropriately distinctive without being gaudy.  Along with with a wide variety of light switches, the Caseta platform also offers specialty switches for things like ceiling fans and Sonos speakers, as well as luxurious Serena smart shades. All of it communicates with the Lutron Bridge using Lutron's proprietary Clear Connect wireless standard, which is one of the speediest and most reliable standards we've tested at the CNET Smart Home.

That's a long-winded way of saying these are really, really good smart light switches. Right now, you can get one on Amazon with the Lutron Bridge and a bonus Pico remote that you can dock in the wall as a second switch, or carry around with you for a total cost of $89. Read the Lutron Caseta In-Wall Smart Dimmer Switch review.

$90 at Amazon Best white light smart bulbs for HomeKit
Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit
It's counter-intuitive, maybe, but Philips Hue is best when you skip the colors and focus in on the Hue White bulbs, which put out smart, dimmable light at a yellowy 2,700 K. That's because the best thing about Hue bulbs isn't the colors at all, but rather, the strength of their best-in-class platform, which works with everything, pairs extremely well with Apple HomeKit and comes packed with useful features.

Read more: The complete guide to Philips Hue lights 

To take advantage, you'll need to get a Philips Hue starter kit that comes with the essential Hue Bridge -- and the two-bulb Hue White starter kit, currently available on Amazon for $70, is an affordable way in. And yes, you can always add color-changing bulbs to your setup later (preferably when they go on sale). Read the Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit review.

$70 at Amazon Best color-changing smart bulb for HomeKit
Lifx Mini LED
Chris Monroe/CNET If great-looking colors are what you want the most from your smart lights, go with Lifx, an Australian startup that's grown into a pretty major player in the smart lighting space over the past several years. Like Philips Hue, its bulbs work with just about everything, Apple HomeKit included, but they also put out brighter, better-looking colors. On top of that, Lifx bulbs use a Wi-Fi connection to communicate, so they don't need a hub.

Read more: The best color-changing smart lights (that cost less than Philips Hue)

Lifx makes lots of different bulbs, floodlights, light strips and even tiles for your wall, all of which you can program, control and schedule to your heart's content using the excellent Lifx app. I like the Lifx Mini, which costs less than the comparable Hue bulb. Bonus shoutout to the Lifx Z light strip, which can put out multiple colors at once. Hue's light strip still can't do that.

Want something that costs even less? Check out the color-changing Sylvania Smart Plus LED, which you can currently get for less than $30 on Amazon. Read the Lifx Mini LED review.

$38 at Amazon Best HomeKit showcase
Nanoleaf Canvas
Chris Monroe/CNET They aren't for everyone, but if you're putting together a flashy-looking game room or decorating a kids room, perhaps, then consider Nanoleaf's color-changing LED wall panels. The nine-panel starter kit comes as either triangles or second-gen squares -- both cost about $200, but I prefer the square-shaped Nanoleaf Canvas panels due to the addition of touch-sensitivity and the fact that you have more room to expand your setup should you decide to get crazy with the things.

Read more: The best smart lights for covering your walls in color

The panels use Wi-Fi to connect with your router (and with HomeKit), so they don't need a hub. Once they're set up, you'll be able to switch between hundreds of user-created animated presets, including ones that use the on-board mic to sync color-changes with whatever music you're listening to or whatever game you're playing. In addition to supporting Siri voice controls, they also work with Alexa, Google and IFTTT.

Bonus points for the optional Nanoleaf Remote, a 12-sided, motion-sensitive dodecahedron that you can use to trigger Nanoleaf scenes or HomeKit automations just by rotating different sides to the top. The cost for that gizmo: $50. Read the Nanoleaf Canvas review.

$198 at Amazon Best smart plug for HomeKit
WeMo Mini Smart Plug
Tyler Lizenby/CNET Just want a plug that you can turn on and off with Siri commands? Go with the WeMo Mini, which you can get for less than $30 each. It was actually the first device to sync with HomeKit via software protocol as opposed to an on-board MFi chipset (no WeMo Bridge necessary), so it's clear that WeMo values a smooth, up-to-date connection with Apple's cloud. A subsidiary of Belkin, WeMo also has a good history of responding quickly to platform issues and potential vulnerabilities via regular firmware updates.

Read more: The best smart plugs and switches of 2020

The downside with WeMo is that the app is a little buggier than I'd like, with occasional lag and pairing issues. But, having used WeMo products pretty regularly for the past five years or so, I haven't seen any of that same lag when it comes to automations, voice controls, or integrations with third-party services like IFTTT. And, once you've synced it up with HomeKit, you'll be using the Home app, not the WeMo app. Bottom line: If you've got a lamp, a coffeemaker, a desk fan or anything else you'd like to automate that needs to be plugged in, the WeMo Mini is a great pick. Read the WeMo Mini Smart Plug review.

$17 at Amazon Originally published last year. Regularly updated as we review new products.

CNET Smart Home
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