The best Alexa-enabled devices - KSTC-TV, Channel 45 Lifestyle-

The best Alexa-enabled devices

By Jenny McGrath

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Ever wanted a robot butler to run your house? Alexa is about as close as you can get, and she keeps gaining more and more skills and features. From light switches to power outlets to thermostats, the number of Alexa-enabled devices has been steadily growing since Amazon’s public release of the Echo in mid-2015. Amazon expanded the family more Echo devices like the Echo Dot, Echo Show and Echo Spot, and Echo Plus. In addition, Amazon has connected Alexa with a number of web services in order to create a more holistic experience.

On its own, the Alexa devices are simply wireless speakers that can answer queries like Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant. When paired with smart home devices, however, Alexa becomes quite powerful. Joining with brands like WeMo, Philips, Caseta, and Lifx, Amazon has created a system that lets you control many aspects of your home just by talking to it. To help get you and Alexa off on the right foot, we’ve compiled a list of the best smart-home devices she can control. Looking for great deals on Alexa-enabled smart home gadgets? Many of these products are on sale for Black Friday. Check out our Black Friday deals post to learn more.

The best Alexa-compatible smart home hubs

Samsung SmartThings Hub

If you’re going all-in on the smart home, you’ll definitely want a hub. These plastic boxes work with devices from lots of different manufacturers that operate using different protocols, like ZigBee or Z-Wave. Yes, Alexa itself is a bit hub-like, but there are some things she can’t do. Pairing the smart speaker with Samsung SmartThings hub ($90) — one of our favorite smart home hubs — can help bolster Alexa’s capabilities. You can also opt for an Echo Plus 2 ($150), which is an Alexa device with a built-in Zigabee hub.

There are some devices, like some smart locks and lights, that require a hub to even work with Alexa. In some cases, a hub like Wink or SmartThings can act as a substitute bridge, while also letting them interact with other devices in new ways. More and more manufacturers are making gadgets that don’t require a hub. Having a hub will elevate your smart home experience though.

The best Alexa-compatible lights

Lifx Color 1000 light bulbs

LEDs are taking over the world, and they’re one of the easiest ways to start smartening up your home. Some require a bridge, but others just need to be screwed in like an ordinary bulb. Most can be scheduled to turn off a certain time every night, so you know it’s time for bed. 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 ($70 for a starter kit) or color-changing ($150 for a starter kit), there are Hue options. The company also sells individual bulbs ($50) and lightstrips ($80). Keep in mind that you’ll need a bridge for all of these products. For a bridgeless option, Lifx makes dimmable white bulbs ($45) and multicolor bulbs ($59), as well as lightstrips ($90).

It takes a bit more effort (and perhaps an electrician), but the Lutron Casta in-wall dimmers ($60) 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 together, so you’re not having to turn off individual switches in succession. They do require a bridge and LED bulbs that will dim.

Best Alexa-compatible smart plugs

Wemo Mini Smart Plug Best smart outlet deals

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 just tend to leave your curling iron 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 ($19) 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 ($35) that will show you how much electricity your space heater (or whatever else you have plugged in) is using.

Best Alexa-compatible thermostats

Ecobee4 smart thermostat close

Some of the best smart thermostats on the market are also Alexa-compatible. In fact, the ecobee4 ($199) comes with Alexa built in. The other main draw of this smart thermostat is that works with sensors you can place around your home, so it monitors the temperature in various locations.

Though it would probably prefer you ask it to raise or lower the temp through Google Home, the Nest Learning Thermostat ($205) is also compatible with Alexa. The third generation also comes with sensors, giving its learning capabilities a boost. For an even more affordable yet still impressive option, the Emerson Sensi ($175) gives you Alexa compatibility, scheduling, and app control.

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. What if the batteries die? Both the Kwikset Kevo Smart Lock ($185) and August Smart Lock ($250) also work with regular keys if you forgot your phone inside or something else goes technologically awry. In fact, the August Smart Lock 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.) The Kevo requires an additional $99 hub to work with Alexa, which does add to its price. (The August also needs a hub, but it’s included in the $249 price.)

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

netgear arlo pro announcement day1 01562

One big reason people start getting smart devices for their home is security, so there are no shortage of security cameras that let you do DIY monitoring of your property. One perk of the Echo Show, Echo Spot, or Amazon Fire TV is that they can show you camera footage without you having to pull out your phone and open an app.

The Netgear Arlo Q ($100) is an affordable security camera that gives you access to seven days of recording. It has both motion and sound triggers, as well as night vision. Because it’s one of the brands that works with the Amazon devices above, you see the video feed on their screens. Some of our other favorite security cameras can also do the same: the Logitech Circle 2 ($150) and the Nest Cam Outdoor ($164). We like that the Circle 2 has both wired and wire-free options and free 24-hour backup storage. The main drawback of the Nest Cam is you’ll have to pay a monthly subscription fee ($5, $10, or $30 for five, 10, and 30 days), which also gives you access to premium features, like facial recognition.

Appliancesge keurig fridge pye22pmkbes

As appliances get smarter, we’ll see more and more add Alexa compatibility. Whirlpool went practically all-in on Alexa last year, for example. A number of its fridges, dishwashers, wall ovens, ranges, and microwaves will come with Wi-Fi connectivity and voice activation. GE has a fridge with a built-in Keurig ($3,399), and you can ask Alexa to make you a cup of coffee. Bosch has its own line of smart appliances you can control with Alexa.

In terms of smaller appliances, both Anova ($99) and the ChefSteps Joule ($199) are sous vide immersion circulators that have voice control thanks to Alexa. If you’re looking for a voice-activated vacuum, both the iRobot Roomba 690 ($249) and Shark R85 ($400) will start cleaning upon your command.

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