Ten years ago, smart home devices were expensive, with the original Amazon Echo costing $180 and the original Nest Learning Thermostat clocking in at $250. But it’s 2020, and smart homes are more affordable than ever. It’s incredibly easy to snap up cheap Amazon Alexa devices to power your home. In fact, you can create an Alexa-powered smart home for less than the cost of the original Amazon Echo. Here are CNET’s choices for the cheapest and best products to do it.

The Wyze Bulb is the best value smart bulb we’ve ever tested. (Chris Monroe/CNET/TNS)
The Wyze Bulb is the best value smart bulb we’ve ever tested. (Chris Monroe/CNET/TNS)

Wyze Bulb

CNET rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (outstanding)

The cost: $8 at wyze.com

The good: At just $8 each, the Wyze Bulb works with Alexa, Google and IFTTT, and you don’t need a hub to use it. The bulb itself is brighter than advertised, and the app includes useful features like scenes, shortcuts and a vacation mode.

The bad: The bulb doesn’t dim down quite as low as some of its competitors, and it doesn’t support Siri voice controls via Apple HomeKit. Though you can schedule automated lighting changes at specific times, the app won’t let you schedule lighting changes at sunrise or sunset, and it won’t let you trigger slow fades either.

The bottom line: This is the best value smart bulb we’ve ever tested, and a perfect pick if you use Alexa to control your smart home.

The latest Amazon Dot comes at an irresistible price. (Ry Crist/CNET/TNS)
The latest Amazon Dot comes at an irresistible price. (Ry Crist/CNET/TNS)

Amazon Echo Dot (2018)

CNET rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (outstanding)

The cost: $40 at amazon.com

The good: The new Echo Dot looks and sounds better than ever, and now you can pair two together for stereo audio. The ongoing space race between Alexa and Google Assistant means it’ll keep getting a steady stream of new features. Best of all: It’s still just $40.

The bad: The colors aren’t as chic as on the Home Mini, and it doesn’t feature any new hardware tricks, either. Aside from the new look and the stronger sound, it’s just the same Dot as before.

Advertising

The bottom line: This is the best Dot yet at the same irresistible price — but it will do little to slow Google’s growing momentum.

The Amazon Echo Flex can Alexa to almost any room. (Chris Monroe/CNET/TNS)
The Amazon Echo Flex can Alexa to almost any room. (Chris Monroe/CNET/TNS)

Amazon Echo Flex

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (excellent)

The cost: $20 at amazon.com

The good: The Echo Flex plug-in mini smart speaker is super cheap. Its USB port allows for flexible usage. The plug-in design means you can put the Flex almost anywhere in the house.

The bad: The small speaker isn’t built for high-quality music playback. Echo speakers pose legitimate privacy risks.

The bottom line: Amazon still has work to do to protect user privacy, but this new Flex boasts some impressive smarts.

The Amazon Echo Show 5 is particularly compelling as a smart alarm clock. (Tyler Lizenby/CNET/TNS)
The Amazon Echo Show 5 is particularly compelling as a smart alarm clock. (Tyler Lizenby/CNET/TNS)

Amazon Echo Show 5

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (excellent)

The cost: $60 at amazon.com

The good: The Amazon Echo Show 5 packs a lot of features into a compact smart display that can easily fit on your nightstand. The sunrise alarms make getting out of bed easier. The new smart home control panel gives you a handy way to control your gadgets with a touch. Plus, you still have access to all of Alexa’s voice commands and a few handy privacy features like a physical shutter.

The bad: The similar Google Nest Hub is better at showing off your pictures, walking you through recipes and organizing your smart home. The Show 5’s screen is a little too bright for a darkened room. You can’t customize your snooze times, see your commands or set a sunrise alarm outside of certain hours.

The bottom line: The Amazon Echo Show 5 isn’t quite as good as the Google Nest Hub, but it’s a solid smart display that’s particularly compelling as a smart alarm clock.