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Affordable intelligence: the best smart home tech for less than £100

Get a brainier abode on a budget

From Wi-Fi fridges to connected tellies, it’s easy to blow big bucks on smart home stuff. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to.

Smart homes are no longer the reserve of the well-heeled. With competing systems from Google, Amazon, Apple and more – plus a catalogue of third-party people making tech to work with them – it’s never been easier or more affordable to get your house online.

To help you get started, we’ve rounded up a batch of our favourite smart home tech for less than £100. Whether you want clever bulbs to light up your living room or a connected camera to keep an eye on your kids, the gear below will help you get a brainier abode – all for under a ton.

The best affordable smart speakers

Amazon Echo Dot (£50)

The little helper: Amazon Echo Dot (£50)

Alexa has long been on hand to offer assistance from the dinky Dot. Like its bigger sibling, Amazon’s smallest smart speaker now takes the form of a ball. Wrapped in fabric, the updated orb feels playful yet classical, with soft styling to match most decors.

Buttons on top take care of volume and privacy, while an ‘Alexa’ input lets you activate the digital helper without saying her name. Stump up an extra tenner and you’ll also get a built-in clock. Besides the time, this can highlight timers and alarms.

For those familiar with Alexa, it couldn’t be easier to set up. Sound quality is surprisingly mighty for such a compact gadget. Bass is where the smart sphere inevitably falls short, but for listening to the radio and controlling other Alexa-enabled kit around the house, it definitely gets the job done.

Full-size smarts

For beefier beats from a bigger ball, opt for the Amazon Echo (£90). With identical styling but bigger proportions, it harbours a 3in woofer and dual tweeters for better audio.

Google Nest Audio (£80)

Google Nest Audio (£80)

If your smart home is handled by Google, the revamped Nest Audio is a neat way to keep it under control. Its minimalist fabric finish means it fits with almost any decor, while four LEDs and a single physical button ensure the interface is foolproof.

While its sound quality won’t satisfy audiophiles, a 75mm woofer and a 19mm tweeter mean there’s plenty of full-bodied punch – so it’s perfect for everyday listening. Want more dynamism? Pair it with a second Nest Audio for a full stereo setup.

The Nest Audio ships with a machine-learning engine, which delivers quicker local processing of common commands. Three near-field mics do a solid job of detecting requests – whether that’s turning off the lights or battling the trivia ‘bot. For under a ton, the Nest audio is a properly smart package.

Little and large

Want the skills of Google Assistant in a smaller fabric blob? Add a Nest Mini (£29) to your shelf. It doesn’t pack the acoustic punch of the Audio, but it’s fine for podcasts, recipes or weather updates. Plus far-field voice recognition ensures you don’t have to shout to be heard.

Apple HomePod Mini (£99)

Apple HomePod Mini (£99)

Not to be outdone, Apple has a domestic dome of its own. And it knows the dress code: like both the Echo Dot and Nest Audio, the HomePod Mini wears a natty fabric jacket. It also features a touch-sensitive top for easy interaction.

With Siri at its heart, the HomePod Mini can handle all the usual smart speaker tasks – setting timers, checking the forecast, creating calendar events – plus it works as a HomeKit Hub for controlling your smart stuff.

The Mini also squeezes surprisingly solid sound into such a small unit. It can’t make hi-fi claims like the original HomePod, but its single driver does a stellar job of serving up energetic sound in 360. If you’re already embedded in the Apple ecosystem, this is a great way to get connected.

The best affordable smart displays

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd gen) (£75)

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd gen) (£75)

Amazon’s Echo Show 8 might get more attention, but its pint-sized relative is a great way to add visual smarts to any space. Admittedly, the Echo Show 5 won’t win awards for its specs: at 960×480, the 5.5in screen is low-res, while its 2MP camera and solitary 1.65in speaker are beaten by most smartphones.

But that’s missing the point. The Echo Show 5 is a smart display you can drop just about anywhere – whether that’s your kitchen counter, your bedside table or beside your bathroom sink.

It’s super simple to set up, yet also packs all the power of Alexa, supports pretty much every streaming service and the camera can double-up as a remote security guard. Plus you can pair it with the sold-separately stand for perfectly angled video calls.

Bigger, older, still worth a look

Want a bigger smart display without breaking the bank? Amazon’s first-gen Echo Show 8 is still available today, with an 8in screen and no shortage of smarts. It’s yours for a penny less than £100.

Google Nest Hub (2nd gen) (£90)

Google Nest Hub (2nd gen) (£90)

Google’s second-gen Nest Hub is a simpler display than the Nest Hub Max, but it also sets you back less than half the price. So you don’t get the clever face-recognition camera or the punchy speakers of the bigger version. What you do get for your £90 is a compact yet clever control panel that’s a top choice for countertop smarts on tap.

Its 7in display is small, but the clear interface makes navigation a cinch. Plus three mics ensure it’s easy to ask Google Assistant to do your bidding, from switching on the lights to cuing up another YouTube cooking video.

And even though there’s no lens, Motion Sense smarts mean you can wave your hands to activate Quick Gestures – ideal if you need to stop a timer but your mouth’s full and your hands are covered in the evidence of your chocolate gobbling.

Logitech Base Charging Stand (£90)

Logitech Base Charging Stand (£90)

Apple doesn’t make a dedicated smart display (yet), but that doesn’t mean you can’t put a Cupertino touchscreen at the heart of your smart home. Drop an iPad with a Smart Connector on Logitech’s Base Charging Stand and – voila! – you’ve got a connected control panel.

Power is delivered via the Smart Connector, while the stand itself props the panel at a 70-degree angle – perfect for video calls, streaming and managing devices via the HomeKit app. While Apple’s latest tablets aren’t supported, you can easily pick up a compatible iPad online, or repurpose an old one from your tech drawer.

With Siri on-board and thousands of apps on tap (including Google and Amazon services), an iPad is the perfect partner for the Base – transforming from second screen to DIY smart display.

The best affordable smart security tech

Neos Smartcam (£30)

Neos Smartcam (£30)

Things can happen fast at home: it only takes Fido a second to sniff out freshly baked snacks. Luckily, you won’t miss a thing with this miniature monitor.

A compact cube for smarter security, the wireless watcher keeps a 1080p eye on interior scenes. With the SmartCam connected to your Wi-Fi, you can drop in for a live view any time via the Neos SmartHome app – or receive instant alerts when it detects motion. Fido lurking by the counter? Tap the talk button to tell him where to go.

Infrared night vision ensures 24/7 surveillance, while Alexa compatibility means you can view a live feed on Echo Show devices. Stick an SD card in the slot for continuous offline recording or stash snapshots in the cloud, with free storage of 12-second clips for up to 14 days. Want longer recordings? A Neos Boost subscription will set you back £2.49 per month and unlock longer clips, custom activity zones and scheduling.

Outside eyes

Ring Video Doorbell (2nd Gen) (£89)

Ring Video Doorbell (2nd Gen) (£89)

Wi-Fi doorbells can’t open the door for visitors, but they can help you decide whether it’s worth getting off the sofa to do so yourself. Equipped with cameras, these digital bouncers ping real-time alerts to your smartphone when someone pushes their button – and offer a live video of the doorstep lurker.

While it’s not the very latest video doorbell you can buy, the second-gen Ring is still a decent dinger. You get 1080p footage from your front door, as well as night vision, motion detection and two-way talking – so you can tell calling couriers where to stash your packages, even if you’re not at home.

Connected to your Wi-Fi network, the rechargeable Ring plays nice with Alexa and can stream a live feed to Echo Show devices. Stump up £2.50 per month for Ring Protect to unlock additional features, including the all-important option to record, save and share captured videos.

Hive Window or Door sensor (£29)

Hive Window or Door sensor (£29)

There’s nothing worse than getting halfway to work, only to wonder if you left a window wide open. For peace of mind about your portals, stick Hive’s sensor on openings around your home.

Fire up the app and you can check the status of every sensor. Safer still, configure the system to send alerts to your smartphone or Apple Watch if a door or window is opened while you’re away.

Got other Hive gear at home? Hook up the sensors for clever integrations, like lights that switch on when you open the door or heating that disables if a window’s open. You can also add them to Hive’s HomeShield alarm system for total security, including smart reports and 30-day event history from £10 per month.

The best affordable smart plugs

TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Slim (£10)

The switched-on socket: TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Slim (£10)

Replacing perfectly working appliances with smart substitutes is expensive and wasteful. For an upgrade that doesn’t involve a trip to the tip, use this smart plug to enhance your existing electronics.

Connected to your Wi-Fi network, the compact outlet enhancer can be turned on and off remotely from your smartphone. Download the Kasa Smart app and you can also set timers and schedules to suit your daily regime.

And because the three-pin wizard works with Alexa, Google Home and Bixby, you can use it to manage just about any mains device with your voice. Group it with other Kasa devices to control kit around the house with a single command.

Elgato Eve Energy (£35)

Elgato Eve Energy (£35)

Wi-Fi isn’t the only way to smarten up your sockets. Elgato’s Eve Energy uses Bluetooth for more efficient kit control. Like the Kasa adapter above, simply add it to a standard plug and you can wirelessly switch it on or off.

Things get even smarter when you launch the dedicated app on your iPhone or iPad, where you can configure schedules for automated appliance activation – independent of your internet connection. The app also offers up insights into your energy usage, highlighting how much power individual devices are consuming, plus projected costs.

The Eve Energy plays nice with HomeKit too, so you can instruct your sockets using your voice, while Thread mesh support means it’ll help to extend the reach and reliability of your smart home.

Who goes there

Elgato’s Eve Motion (£40) is a wireless motion sensor which can be programmed to trigger all sorts of HomeKit recipes, from switching on your smart lights to enabling the kettle connected to your Eve Energy.

Smart Wi-Fi Indoor/Outdoor Plug (£29)

Smart Wi-Fi Indoor/Outdoor Plug (£29)

It takes more than four walls to make a smart home. Don’t forget the garden: for smarter power outside, add this waterproof twin socket to your patio, porch or patch of grass.

Like any good outdoor power solution, it’s built tough with IP44 rain and dust resistance. Unlike your average extension lead, though, it’s also compatible with every major smart home platform – that means Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, SmartThings and IFTTT.

From lights to sprinklers to the pump for your imaginary pool, the Meross multi-plug lets you control all your garden gear directly via Wi-Fi, as well as setting schedules and timers. Each socket can be enabled individually, too.

The best affordable smart lighting

Nanoleaf Essentials A19 (£18)

Nanoleaf Essentials A19 (£18)

Smart bulbs shouldn’t blind you with their price tags. Luckily, Nanoleaf’s Essentials range offers Wi-Fi brightness without draining your savings.

Shipped with several screw styles, each bulb offers millions of colours on tap, adaptive brightness and custom schedules through the app. And you don’t need any separate hub or bridge to get online: simply stick it in a spare fitting, scan the barcode on the box and you’ll be gleaming.

The best bit? Bulbs cost less than £20 each. Start with one for smarter saturation – plus Circadian Lighting to boost your mode – before seamlessly expanding your connected setup as and when you need. They’re Thread-enabled, too, meaning they can join a mesh network with compatible smart kit – extending control around the house for fewer dropouts.

Strip show

Nanoleaf’s Essentials range also includes a simple Lightstrip (£45). At two metres, it’s the ideal length for uplighting your living room or gaming den – and it ships with everything you need for a glow up.

Lifx Lightstrip (£80)

LifX Z Strip Starter pack (£80)

Run a monochrome light strip along a counter, column or desk for dramatic uplighting. Do the same with this two-metre strip from Lifx for a rainbow showcase to transform any room.

More than a saturated strip, the adhesive ribbon features eight glow zones along its length, each of which can shine a different shade. Pick from presets in the partner app or go wild with colour combos to paint your walls with light.

A single Lifx Lightstrip packs 1400 lumens of vibrant brightness and can be extended up to 10m, so even the biggest abodes can be bathed in better ambience. Plus it plays nice with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri – no hub necessary.

Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit (£50)

Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit (£50)

Philips is the leading light when it comes to intelligent illuminations and its range of bulbs and bars grows regularly. Trouble is, Hue kit can be pretty expensive. Get glowing without breaking the bank by replacing two standard shiners with the warm white ones in this Starter Kit.

Shipped with the Hue Bridge that you’ll need to get online, the bulbs don’t offer the multi-colour magic you might want for your cinema room. But they do support wireless dimming, smart scheduling, scenes and routines. Setup is a cinch with the Hue app on your phone.

You can’t clap to activate the lights, but compatibility with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit means you can ask your favourite digital helper to do the honours and brighten up any smart home setup.

The best smart TV streaming sticks

Roku Express 4K (£40)

Best budget 4K streamer: Roku Express 4K (£40)

Roku cut its teeth with affordable streaming sticks. While its latest little box stays true to the budget brief, it’s no cut-price solution for smart home entertainment.

Support for pretty much every major streaming platform – including Disney+, Apple TV and BT Sport – means it’s one of the most versatile devices you can stick in your TV. And provided your set has an HDMI port compatible with HDCP 2.2, it can serve up delicious 4KD HDR video at 60fps. It also supports HDR10/10+ and HLG formats.

The simple remote makes it straightforward to navigate all that content, although you’ll need the free smartphone app for simple voice control. Prefer to ask your existing assistant? Roku doesn’t play favourites: the Express 4K works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple AirPlay, so you can load up shows any which way you want.

Chromecast with Google TV (£60)

Chromecast with Google TV (£60)

Google’s standard Chromecast receiver makes it a cinch to cue up web content on your telly box. While you can still ‘cast’ to the updated plug-in puck, it’s become much more than a passive receiver: equipped with Google’s TV interface, it’s now a proper smart streaming system for you TV.

Google’s entertainment hub pulls together content from multiple services on a single screen, with personal recommendations from across all of your favourite platforms. Chromecast also supports more than 6500 apps, which means you’ll always have something to watch.

Streaming quality is slick, with sharp 4K HDR at up to 60fps, plus support for cinematic Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision and HDR10+. And thanks to the bundled remote, Google Assistant’s support is just a press away – whether you want to load up a show or view a live feed from your doorbell.

Amazon Fire TV Cube (£70)

The clever cube: Amazon Fire TV Cube (£110)

This binge-watching box will transform your telly into an Alexa-powered smart screen. Connected to a spare HDMI slot on the back of your set, it can stream stunning 4K content from almost all of your favourite services. Support for Dolby Vision and HDR10+ means you get the latest visuals, too (as long as your Wi-Fi is quick enough).

Amazon shows are put inescapably front and centre, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – provided you’re a Prime subscriber. And if you are, you’ll find the Fire TV Cube the perfect complement to your existing setup: with Alexa built into the box, one request is all it takes to load up shows, navigate apps and control your connected kit.

There’s even picture-in-picture support for Ring doorbells, so you can see who’s calling without pausing your show.