High Tech

Smart Home Cheat Sheet: Top Features of Amazon Alexa, Google

CNET has been on the forefront of smart home tech coverage even before the first Amazon Echo smart speaker was released in 2014. And things have come a long way since then. Our experts have covered (almost) every new generation, update, feature, service and command for Alexa, Google and Siri, as tech companies connect the rooms of your home to help optimize your daily life. 

We’ve written thousands of articles covering everything from smart lightbulbs and speakers to video doorbells and security cameras. Whether you’re looking to find the best products on the market, how to get started or how to find all of the hidden features that devices like Amazon Echo, Google Nest and Apple HomePod have to offer, we’ve got you covered with in this cheat sheet.

Below, you’ll find helpful articles detailing tips and tricks for the most popular smart home brands — Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple HomeKit — plus, a variety of articles breaking down tips on where to put your devices, how to change the device settings and even how much you can expect to spend. (Since home security,  home internet and home energy content have already been compiled into their own respective cheat sheets, I’m leaving out home security cameras, video doorbells, smart locks, thermostats and routers).

What are the best smart home devices?

With thousands of smart home devices on the market, it can be hard to even know where to begin. I mean, how could one person even begin to sift through all the reviews and best lists to pick one device to purchase? Luckily, CNET experts have spent years testing out new tech to determine what’s worth your money and what you can probably pass on. 

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To start, you might want to consider brand. If you’re looking for a system that is compatible with thousands of devices, you may want to go with Amazon Alexa. Or if you’re looking for devices that can easily connect to your iPhone, Apple HomeKit may be the way to go. Here’s the best of each brand:

If you don’t care about the voice assistant technology, but are simply looking to find the best of each type of device, refer to our roundups of our favorite smart products:

tp-link kasa smart wi-fi plug in a woman's hand

Smart plugs can make any “dumb” home device smarter. 


How much will a smart home cost me?

With so many products on the market, you could completely deck out your home in smart tech. But you don’t need to break the bank. Since pricing varies and final figures will be determined by how many devices you add, it can be hard to determine exactly how much you’ll spend to build a smart home. Still, we’ve tried to give you our best estimate. 

Does it matter where I put my smart home device?

While you make be tempted to just put your new smart speaker or display anywhere in your home, location does actually matter. In fact, there are usually ideal places to put your devices, as well as places you should never put them. 

Woman Sleeping In Bed With Voice Assistant On Bedside Table Next To Her

Don’t just put your smart home devices anywhere.

Monkeybusinessimages/Getty Images

How do I figure out the settings on my smart home devices?

The amount of enjoyment you get from your smart home device is dependent on how well it operates. That means your settings can make or break your experience. Rather than just sticking to the default settings, adjust them for better privacy, audio, notifications and an overall more-optimized experience. 

echo dot with clock

Your smart device settings can make or break your experience.


Liked this cheat sheet? Check out CNET’s other complete guides:

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