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Smart plug buying guide: The best smart plugs for your Smart Home in 2019

By June 10, 2019 No Comments
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[Updated: 6/6/2019]

Building the Smart Home of tomorrow can take you down a rabbit hole of connected devices, ranging from smart lighting and smart thermostats that adapt to your schedule to save energy all the way to water sensors that automatically shut off the water main when leaks are detected. To automate the entire home, it can get very deep (and expensive) very quickly. For those who want to just dip a toe in the connected home waters before diving headfirst, or anyone looking to have a quick and easy add-on to an existing ecosystem, smart plugs are a great upgrade that anyone can do.

The trouble is, being at the relatively lower end of the Smart Home tech spectrum, there are hundreds of different smart plugs; and while a bulk of them are quite simple, some are a little more specialized in their application. We rounded up a sampling of different smart plugs to take a look at their styles, features, and applications as a cross-section of the industry. Since technology within the automated lighting and connected home ecosystem in general isn’t slowing down anytime soon, this list will be constantly evolving with new players and features.

 

Prices and availability of products discussed were accurate at time of publication, but are subject to change.

What is a Smart Plug?

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First off, while it sounds quite basic, the initial description of what a smart plug (or smart switch, smart outlet) is may help to clear up some of the mystery for those new to the game. A smart plug in the broad sense is a device that either plugs into an existing outlet or replaces it altogether, with Wi-Fi (or Z-Wave, Zigbee, HomeKit, or any other wireless protocol). Other traditional devices can be plugged into the smart plug, which can then be controlled via smartphone app.

What a smart plug can do often varies depending on the brand and app capabilities. The main function of any connected outlet is of course on/off control via app, however there are more complex functions such as setting schedules, integrating with other devices, weather resistance, operation without additional hubs or controllers, and daylight detection. What smart plugs work with Amazon Echo or Google Assistant voice controllers is also a key feature for many now, since more and more people are planting the digital helpers in their homes and building their connected ecosystem around these hubs.

 

What is the Difference Between a Smart Plug and a Smart Outlet?

While both devices serve the same purpose and are sometimes used interchangeably, their physical form and the level of involvement in getting them up and running differs sharply. Smart plugs are plug-in modules that take up one of the three-pronged outlets (in North America), which have one or more three-pronged outlets that can accept another device to power. These can take the form of single modules all the way up to multi-outlet power strips, and be either indoor smart plugs or waterproof and heavy duty for outdoor smart plugs.  Many of the power strip-style plugs have individual control over each outlet, so precise control can be had over singular devices. Since these are simple plug-n-play devices, they can be relocated to any area of the home where they are needed, without any installation. Smart plugs can be very inexpensive, while others can reach up above $50 in some instances.

Smart outlets on the other hand, refer to the in-wall units that would completely replace the standard outlet. These are more complicated to install as they require hardwiring into the home’s electrical supply, which is easy enough for some who are more DIY-savvy but can necessitate an electrician visit for others. It goes without saying then, that since this varient of the device is hardwired into the wall it is not portable between locations without a rather obnoxious re-installation. Additionally, smart outlets are a standard dual-outlet design, unlike smart plugs which can vary in number of recepticles. And finally, when it comes to cost the smart outlet models are generally more expensive than plug-in modules, with some reaching $100.

Smart Plugs that Work with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri

If you’re shopping for a smart plug in 2019, you should only look at those with voice assistant integration. Since the technology has gotten so much cheaper, not getting the voice-compatible Wi-Fi plugs only limits the utility if you decide to get a Google Home or Amazon Echo later. Also, sorting out the Wi-Fi plugs without a voice assistant will help to narrow down the list of possible options, because there are tons to choose from, coming from a variety of known and rather unknown brands.

While Apple HomeKit integration is present in some of the smart plugs on the market, it is not nearly as popular as Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. So, if you are set with using Siri as your preferred voice assistant, the options are far more limited.

 

Smart Switches, Plugs, and Outlets

iDevices Smart Wall Outlet- $99.95

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iDevices has a robust network of various outlet types as you can see from the sampling here, but this one is more permanent. The Smart Wall Outlet is a hard-wired replacement for a traditional plug, which has a clean and subtle appearance. At the time, this is the only in-wall outlet that features Apple HomeKit, and one of the great things is that this dual-outlet allows for individual socket control. That is pretty rare for smart plugs, and with a full plug swap it definitely is a welcome feature.

A single-LED nightlight is customizable to preference, and like other iDevices products there is no hub required, energy monitoring is possible in the app, and voice control with assistants is ubiquitous.

Protocol: Wi-Fi, HomeKit, IFTTT

Pros: Supports HomeKit for Apple Smart Homes, individual outlet control, energy monitoring, no hub required, manual override

Cons: Requires hard-wiring, but that is expected with a socket-swap

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri

 

MOPS Smart Plug- $24.99

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While the MOPS brand isn’t known very well in the US, they have been growing in China as an electronics company with everything from Bluetooth speakers to personal home theater headsets under their name. Their smart plug is a large one, and takes up all the space on a normal dual-socket plug, or two spaces on a power strip.

MOPS claims that it has built-in surge protection as well, in addition to the remote operation and setting of up to 20 different on/off schedules.

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: Can house up to 20 different schedules, surge protection, no hub required

Cons: Massive design, takes up all the space on a dual-socket plug, no voice control

Voice assistant compatibility: None

 

iDevices Switch- $29.95

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The iDevices brand’s bread and butter is smart plug and lighting solutions, so they have a few different variations. Their switch features a side-mounted input plug, and an LED night light that can be custom set to any color you like. With Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple Homekit compatibility any voice assistant you use will have support, which is quite nice.

The iDevices ecosystem is quite comprehensive so many of their products can be collected in one dashboard, and without the need for a hub. Setting schedules for on/off times as well as grouping into zones makes control easy and intuitive. The iDevices app is great for also managing energy usage on the devices plugged into the Switch, so in a multi-switch setup it can act as a comprehensive energy monitor of devices. Read our overview of the iDevices smart plug and smart outlet lineup

Protocol: Wi-Fi, HomeKit, IFTTT

Pros: Adjustable LED night light, scene creation, voice control, compatibility with the iDevices greater ecosystem, quick setup.

Cons: The size of the module while not bad, prohibits the use of another three-prong plug next to it on a power strip or outlets with less clearance.

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri

 

Wemo Mini Smart Plug- $34.99

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If you find yourself asking what a Wemo smart plug is, you may be more familiar with their parent brand, Belkin. Belkin has been around since 1983, and their Wemo brand was an early entrant into the smart plug space.

This model features a slimmer height which can accommodate two smart plugs on a power strip, and while it can fit on an older outlet with another three-prong plug it might be a snug fit. Remote operation via the app also includes scheduling or a unique feature which is randomized on/off settings for “Away Mode”, so it gives the appearance of regular life. When paired with the Nest thermostat, the “Home” and “Away” modes can be mimicked so while the thermostat adjusts to the presence of users the plug-in module can do the same for fans or lamps.

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: Short height fits on a dual outlet or power strip without sacrificing a plug, compatible with the Nest ecosystem, scheduling, remote control, randomized lighting setting, no hub required, works with IFTTT

Cons: None, although the space seems like two outlets could be placed on the front of the unit.

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

 

TP-LINK Smart Plug Mini- $29.99

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You don’t have to have a clue about Smart Home products to know about TP-LINK, since they have been making network products for decades. Their foray into the Smart Home space with this smart plug is one that actually leaves plenty of room on a power strip or older outlet for use alongside another device.

The scheduling and randomized away modes are good for staying in control, while the app shows run time for devices and makes it easy to alter schedules. This has one of the widest integrations within the Smart Home that I’ve seen, and aside from Apple HomeKit they have all bases covered.

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: Scheduling, remote access, away mode for randomized on/off, compact design, no hub required, works with Nest, IFTTT, and Microsoft Cortana

Cons: None

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

 

Geekbes Smart Socket- $33.19/3pk

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While Geekbes isn’t a big player in the connected home game (I’ve only seen this one product from them) they have been quite popular as a low-cost option. With a three-pack of plugs running $33.19, they are one of the cheapest on the market and really give a leg up on automating home lighting.

No hub is required for these, so remote access, and setting up schedules is done via the standalone Smart Life app.   

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: Inexpensive, relatively small form, scheduling and voice assistant capabilities

Cons: While low-profile, the added material makes it hard to use even a two-pronged plug on a power strip next to the plug or an older outlet.

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

 

Geeni Spot Smart Plug- $17.99

Geeni Spot smart plug is a low-cost option for a simple single-outlet Wi-Fi plug, which takes up the space of only one socket on the wall. Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana voice control are integrated.

In form and function, the Geeni Spot is a smart plug just like many others out there, a single-outlet puck that offers on/off, scheduling, and voice control. One thing to consider with these style plugs that are designed to support one device, is how much space they take up on the wall. This one is small enough to allow both sockets to be utilized, so that is a plus. With voice compatibility for Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana most Smart Homes will have control of individual devices via voice command or remotely set schedules for operation via app. 

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: Takes up only one outlet, low profile, voice assistant diversity, quick setup, economical

Cons: On a power strip it takes up two spaces unless placed at the end, 

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana

 

LITEdge Smart Plug- $16.99

LITEdge's basic smart plug can handle 2000W max, and integrates with Amazon Alexa for simple automation.

LITEdge’s single-outlet smart plug is similar to others on the market, with an attractive price point. The rectangular design frees up the second terminal on a wall outlet, but takes up extra space on a power strip. Alexa can be used for on/off operation, and schedules can be set for automating small devices. Despite its small size, the plug can handle a 2000W max, which makes it a pretty sturdy contender in this weight class.

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: Takes up only one wall outlet, low profile, quick setup, economical, 2000W max load

Cons: On a power strip it takes up two spaces, 

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

 

Geeni Switch and Charge Smart Plug w/2 USB Ports- $17.99

Geeni's Switch and Charge Wi-Fi plug has all the features of a standard smart plug, but with the added bonus of two USB charging ports.

With this model smart plug, in addition to the outlet itself there’s the added benefit of dual USB charging ports. Now these cannot be controlled like the outlet itself, but it is nice to have a plug that offers more than just one solution. The USB section adds material to the right of the plug, so on a power strip the space directly next to the plug being used is inoperable, but on a wall it is out of the way. Just like with the rest of the Geeni bunch, the Switch and Charge comes with voice compatibility for Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana so most Smart Homes will have control of individual devices via voice command or remotely set schedules for operation via app. 

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: Takes up only one socket, dual USB charging, economical cost, voice control, quick setup

Cons: The plug housing takes an extra space on the power strip

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana

 

Dome Z-Wave On/Off Outlet- $44.99

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The Dome/Elexa ecosystem of connected products is quite impressive, covering everything from plug-in modules to water main shutoff valves, to even smart rat traps. Their Z-Wave ecosystem is robust, and the On/Off Outlet helps to boost that by not only acting as a remotely operable plug but also a range extender for the Z-Wave network.

Via the app users can monitor energy usage, remotely control devices, and have the plug automatically shut off when overloaded as well as sending a notification of the activity.

Protocol: Z-Wave Plus

Pros: Smaller form enables use alongside another plug (when used in the top outlet), acts as a range extender, energy consumption monitor, overload protection

Cons: When used on the bottom of a socket or on a power strip the upper plug is limited to a two-prong format, requires a Z-Wave hub, cannot set schedules, no voice assistant compatibility

Voice assistant compatibility: None

 

LeFun Wi-Fi Power Strip- $33.99

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The smart power strip from LeFun is actually one of the first like this that I’ve seen, and I dig the function of it. Taking the best of a normal surge protector, adding four 5V USB ports, and making it compatible with voice assistants and remote operation is great, and having individual control is beautiful.

This also operates on the Smart Life app, and with a standard 6’ cable it works just like any other power strip would in the home save for the benefit of having complete remote control up to 1250W. The individual schedules can be set per outlet, which makes it really intuitive for incorporating into practical use for lighting, water boilers, or other devices.

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: No hub required, four independently operable outlets, four USB ports, surge protection, on/off schedule, low-cost

Cons: Slightly larger than a normal surge protector (not really a con, but all I’ve got here)

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

 

Geeni SURGE 4-Outlet & 2-USB Smart Surge Protector- $29.99

The Geeni smart light strip allows four devices to be controlled with individual schedules, as well as two USB charging ports which can also be controlled via Alexa, Google Assistant, or Cortana.

Geeni has a series of different smart surge protectors and power strips, which expands upon the capabilities of their smaller smart plugs. Beyond just, of course, having more plugs, the benefit is that each plug can be controlled individually with its own schedule, or instant on/off. Beyond that, the dual USB ports can not only be used to charge devices, but they also can be turned on and off remotely. Just as a kicker, one of the plugs is spaced apart from the rest to give extra space when needed, without taking up a plug.

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: Individually control four outlets and two USB ports, surge protection, and voice control for an economical price

Cons: None I can find

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana

 

LITEdge Wi-Fi Smart Power Strip- $31.99

The LITEdge Smart Power Strip allows users to operate up to 3 devices plugged in at one time via app.

The Wi-Fi power strip from LITEdge has a max power rating of 1875W, and three separate outlets that can each be controlled via voice command or app. The USB ports can also be controlled separately, and the device works as a surge protector as well.

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: Surge protection, individually operable outlets and USB ports, 1875W rating

Cons: Only works on 2.4GHz network

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

 

iDevices Outdoor Switch- $79.95

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There aren’t a ton of smart outdoor plugs on the market, so there isn’t the saturation you see with indoor plug-in modules. The iDevices Outdoor Switch is a beast of a module, with a cord of just about ⅜”, which extends for 5 ½”. While that isn’t the greatest range, it is nice to get some extra space between the socket and the dual-plug unit.

The Outdoor Switch is great for use during holidays with Christmas lighting, spot lighting, or even perhaps pool equipment. Having two outlet options is nice, and with a manual override button, it can be controlled without using the app. Just like the other iDevices switches, schedules can be set automatically, all voice assistants are supported, energy use can be monitored, and there is no hub required to use. 

Protocol: Wi-Fi, HomeKit, IFTTT

Pros: Rugged design, takes up only one lower socket, screw mounts for the housing to hold in place, manual override, simultaneous dual outlet control, quick setup.

Cons: The plug housing is quite large, roughly 3” x 6”, outlets cannot be controlled independently

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri

 

Geeni 15 Amp Outdoor Wi-Fi Plug- $24.99

The Geeni outdoor smart plug allows for Alexa, Google Assistant, or Cortana voice control for outdoor holiday or landscape lighting.

The Geeni Outdoor Wi-Fi plug is a straight forward piece of tech, with a thick cable that is imperative for outdoor use. The body itself is a little more hollow-feeling than others, but it feels well-built enough to withstand the elements and with only one plug it can be hidden easier than larger models.

 With voice compatibility for Alexa, Google Assistant, and Cortana most of the Smart Home users can control their outdoor lighting or appliances with voice command or remotely set schedules for operation via app. 

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: Thick cable, takes up only one lower socket, screw mounts for the housing to hold in place, quick setup, cost-effective.

Cons: There is only one outlet on the device

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana

 

LITEdge Smart Outdoor Plug- $35.99

The LITEdge outdoor Wi-Fi plug allows for remote control or scheduling via smartphone, and has a power rating up to 1875W

LITEdge from Torchstar has designed a reasonably-priced outdoor plug that can stand up to most normal working conditions with an IP44 waterproof rating and fireproof materials. Both outlets can be controlled via the app for scheduling or on/off individually, and the device also acts as a surge protector. With a 15A maximum power capacity, this is a solid plug for the cost that can operate most devices it would used for in the yard setting like lights. 

Protocol: Wi-Fi

Pros: Thick cable, heavy duty design, quick setup, cost-effective, 1875W rating

Cons: Only works on 2.4GHz network

Voice assistant compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant

 

 

 

Not-so-smart Plugs

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While far less sexy in the Smart Home space, more dumbed-down versions of smart outlets that don’t operate on newer Wi-Fi-based protocols are still quite useful for a variety of settings. Remote control power outlets work on traditional radio frequencies, don’t have an app, and have a limited range which makes them far cheaper than the smart counterparts.

These traditionally are larger and take up more space on the outlet, however for indoor holiday lighting that will be used only a portion of the year they are great. I have a set at home for some decorative lighting we only use occasionally, and since up to five plugs can be operated from one remote it is a nice option for elderly folks who don’t want to travel all the way to a light switch to operate lamps for ease of use (or for anyone who doesn’t want to mess with a smartphone app).

Our choice for the best bang for your buck is the Etekcity 5-pack of outlets with two remotes for $30. True, you won’t be able to have schedules set, use them with Google Home or Amazon Echo, or operate them from more than 100’, however they serve a purpose nonetheless.

 

Shop All Smart Plugs

 

What is the Best Smart Plug for You?

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Depending on the application, the best smart plug for you can actually be a variety of products. The best smart plug for outdoor use is definitely going to be a very select group of devices with durability and optimized for rougher environments, while the best smart plug for kitchen use might be any number of outlets with a sleek look and seamless integration with the other traditional devices.

There may be one tool for each job, however some fundamental characteristics of any great smart plug should be connectivity with other devices in the ecosystem it will be used in, a quality app, and ease of use in everyday life. With many of these smart sockets, they run via Wi-Fi without a hub needed so implementation is a snap for even the entry-level Smart Home enthusiast and serve as a great jumping-off point for future automation. 

 

Featured in this article:

iDevices Switch- $29.95

iDevices Outdoor Switch- $79.95

Geeni 15 Amp Outdoor Wi-Fi Plug- $24.99

iDevices Smart Wall Outlet- $99.95

Geekbes Smart Socket- $33.19/3pk

Geeni Spot Smart Plug- $17.99

LITEdge Smart Plug- $16.99

Geeni Switch and Charge Smart Plug w/2 USB Ports- $17.99

LITEdge Wi-Fi Smart Power Strip- $31.99

Dome Z-Wave On/Off Outlet- $44.99

LeFun Wi-Fi Power Strip- $33.99

Geeni SURGE 4-Outlet & 2-USB Smart Surge Protector- $29.99

MOPS Smart Plug- $24.99

Wemo Mini Smart Plug- $34.99

TP-LINK Smart Plug Mini- $29.99

Etekcity Remote Plugs 3pk- $29.98

 

 

Note, all prices and products are accurate at the time of article publication, although some may have changed or are no longer available.

Gregory Rice

Author Gregory Rice

Greg is a collector of hobbies, steeped in a love for the outdoors. Drop him in the woods and he's more at home backpacking, hunting, fishing, camping, and drinking out of streams than he is behind a desk pounding away at a keyboard. He's an avid homebrewing enthusiast and a craft beer fanatic. He enjoys testing out the latest drone tech and is a firm believer in the power of IoT and home automation tech to bring us into a more productive future (or give way to Skynet, time will tell).

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