Smart home tech existed before Alexa, but Amazon’s voice assistant was an epochal leap forward for the Internet of Things. No longer was it necessary to interact with a dozen different apps in the home setting, or fiddle with an app slider to dim smart lights. Heck, even turning on the TV and playing your favourite Netflix show without hunting for the remote under the sofa cushions became a thing.
It’s now perfectly possible to have a smart home controlled entirely by Alexa’s hands-free controls. From locks to lights, from speakers to sprinklers, the breadth of compatible products is impressive.
When selecting these products we’ve considered the value proposition, the quality of the functionality on offer, as well as the accessibility for people who are new to the smart home arena. We’ll add to the list over time. So, without further ado: “Alexa, smarten up my home.”
What is the best Alexa compatible tech to buy?
Amazon’s own Fire TV and Echo products are natural gateways to this functionality, so we’ve chosen our favourites for this list. The entry-level Amazon Echo Dot With Clock (£40) is the best Echo smart speaker for most people.
The Philips Hue lighting system (from £24) has long been a conduit to wider smart home adoption, and adjusting the lights with your voice is still a boast-worthy piece of functionality for the Alexa smart home. Hue is still the best Alexa compatible smart lighting.
The Sonos Beam (£369) – aka our best Alexa-enabled soundbar – also made the cut. Video doorbell? Get a Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus (£199) if you’re all in with Alexa and like the option to view the front door via a Fire TV or Echo Show. Lastly we’ve opted for a TP-Link HS110 smart plug (£15) that can also monitor home energy usage.
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Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Gen) With Clock
Better sound and an attractive design sees the Dot come of age – it’s the best Echo
Speaker: 1.6-inch | Bluetooth: Yes | 3.5mm line out: Yes | Size: 99 x 99 x 43 mm | Weight: 300g | Wi-Fi: Dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz | Power: 1.3 GHz ARM Coretex-A35 Quad-Core / 512MB RAM
The baby of the Echo speaker family is now the easiest to recommend. The sound quality on the third-generation model is mightily improved, the compact design befits modern smart home decor and the addition of an LED clock peeking out from the speaker grille is a small, but impactful addition to Amazon’s most popular Echo.
The first two versions of this device were fine; they fulfilled their purpose as the cheapest way to consult Alexa’s knowledge and utilise its growing array of smart home Skills. They were valuable as secondary models in multiple rooms and could be physically linked to your go-to speakers for voice-controlled music from all the major services. As a standalone music player, the Dot hasn’t been worthy, but the Echo Dot (3rd Gen) With Clock (£40) rectifies this. It’s now a viable option as a decent music player for the bedroom, kitchen or home office.
Sound is well-rounded with fuller bass, and it’s louder too thanks to the larger 1.6-inch speaker firing 360-degree sound. The fabric grille is a much better solution than the previous generations, which simply pushed limp, tinny audio through small pin holes. With the volume around 70% distortion is very limited, but you don’t want to push it much higher.
The Dot offers all of the familiar physical controls (mic, volume, Alexa) and a light ring, but it’s significantly more attractive than previous generations. The microphone itself also feels more sensitive, which is really handy for tools like Whisper Mode; when you speak softly to Alexa and the voice assistant responds in-kind.
This particular Dot is slightly more versatile thanks to the LED lights beneath the fabric. Its functionality is limited, but definitely worth the extra £10 as the clock makes it a better a bedside device. The LED lights ease depending on the time, and you can tap to snooze an alarm. Place it in the kitchen and the display will offer countdown timers when cooking.
While the Echo Plus (£90) and Echo Studio (£190) each have a built-in Zigbee smart home hub, this model still requires one to control some smart home devices without standalone Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. However, it doesn’t take away from the fact the total package makes this the best compact smart speaker on the market. We’d recommend it over the standard Echo (£70) too.
Pros: The best-sounding Dot; affordable Alexa access; much improved design
Cons: Limited clock functionality; no built-in smart home hub
Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen)
The best all-round A/V Alexa device
Internal speaker: 1.6-inch | Max video quality: 4K HDR (Dolby Vision, HDR10+) | Bluetooth: 5.0 + LE | 3.5mm line out: No | Size: 86.1 x 86.1 x 76.9 mm | Weight: 465g| Wi-Fi: Dual-band 2.4GHz and 5GHz | Power: Hexa-core (Quad-core at up to 2.2GHz + Dual-core at up to 1.9GHz | IR Support: Wired | Audio support: Dolby Atmos, 7.1 surround sound
Aw, the Amazon Fire TV box and Echo Dot speaker had a baby and it’s so cute! Actually, it isn’t. It’s a sharp (seriously, you could kill somebody with this thing), ugly, boxy plastic cube. But it’s also an all-singing, all-dancing showcase of almost everything you do with Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant. And, design aside, it’s executed perfectly.
The key proposition of the Amazon Fire TV Cube (£110) is full, hands-free control over your television set. The other Fire TV models require the Alexa remote for voice controls, so this makes a real difference. Saying “Alexa, play Stranger Things on Netflix” as you strut across the room with a beer in-hand feels great. Thanks to the hexa-core processor, this is the fastest Fire TV yet, so the TV is switched on and the episode is playing before your posterior hits the couch.
Like the Echo Dot (above), there’s built-in far field microphones, a speaker and the familiar physical control panel and light bar (unlike the Fire TV Stick – £25). This enables functionality independent of the TV. You can control the smart home gadgets mentioned in this guide, and consult Alexa on weather, traffic and receive your daily Flash briefings all through the tiny built-in speaker. Requests for proper audio content are fulfilled through connected soundbars/speakers/TV.
The familiar Fire TV interface is exceptionally well-equipped with apps and content (thankfully YouTube now too). We’ve got 4K HDR visuals as well as access to Dolby Atmos if you have compatible equipment. The IR tech also provides voice-control of Sky boxes (“Alexa, switch to Sky”), soundbars and AV receivers, as well as your TV.
At the official price of £110, the Cube costs more than a Fire TV stick and an Echo Dot speaker combined. However, the whole is largely greater than the sum of the parts. With your television on, you can view your security camera feeds, listen to music, watch video, browse the internet, play games and more. Most of this can be controlled with hands-free voice commands. This is the Fire TV device we recommend for the best overall experience.
Pros: The best all-round Alexa experience; hands-free TV controls
Cons: Horrible design; hands-free Alexa comes at a price
Philips Hue White and Colour Starter Kit E27
The gold (well, any colour you want) standard for voice-controlled smart lighting
Bulb lifespan: 25,000 hours, 50,000 switching cycles | Hue bridge standard: Zigabee | Hue bridge connection: Ethernet | Bulb connections: Bluetooth or Zigabee | Bulb energy rating: A+ | Standalone app: Hue for iOS and Android | Official Alexa Skill: Yes
We still get a buzz asking Alexa to lower the lights. It’s hard to overstate the importance of Philips Hue to Alexa – even now, it provides a showcase for the voice assistant and home automation. This is partly because Hue is a brilliant gateway into smart home technology. There’s no drilling, handling electrical wires, changing locks, or installing doorbells. As long as you can change a lightbulb, you’re in business.
Hue bulbs such as the Hue White and Colour Starter Kit E27 (£127) are fun and easy to use, a doddle to set up and offer a massive array of functionality beyond the on/off or dim/brighten settings. For example, you can set scenes, colours and warmth for rooms, zones and individual bulbs through simple voice commands. Or just turn off all the lights at once. With the Hue Bridge (£43) you can control bulbs from outside the home and set schedules for your lights.
Alexa is the difference maker for this product. Hue without voice control is like Garfunkel without Simon. On its own, Hue can be an app-centric faff, but Alexa makes it eminently recommendable. Like whatshername to Jerry Maguire… “you complete me.”
It’s just the little things. When you get up at night there’s no fumbling for the switch. You can use Alexa’s Whisper Mode via the bedside Echo Dot to turn on the nightlight without waking your significant other.
The bulbs can be controlled by any voice-enabled Alexa device meaning the Echo speakers, Fire TV range or third-party microphone-equipped devices like the Sonos One (£194). If you have an Echo Plus with a built in Zigbee smart hub, that does away with the need for the Hue Bridge. Likewise, newer bulbs are also Bluetooth-enabled which allows Alexa controls from an Echo Plus, Echo Show 2nd gen), or Echo Dot (3rd gen).
However, you’ll still need the Wi-Fi-enabled Hue bridge that ships with the starter pack to unlock all features; such as control from outside the home, syncing with music and access to a wide-range of apps from third-party developers. This starter pack also includes a connected, freestanding dimmer switch if you don’t wish to use voice and app controls the whole time.
Pros: Easy set-up; impressive array of voice controls; great app
Cons: Hue bridge requires Ethernet; additional bulbs are expensive
The best Alexa soundbar. In fact, the best soundbar period
Microphones: 5 far-field mics | Speaker array: 4 full-rage woofers, one tweeter, 5 class D digital amps | Size: 7 x 65 x 10cm| Weight: 2.8kg | Surround: No | Connections: Wi-Fi or Ethernet / AirPlay 2 / HDMI ARC / optical audio | Standalone app: Sonos for iOS and Android | Dedicated Alexa Skill: Yes
Here’s the thing about most smart speakers; the speaker bit often plays second fiddle to the smart part. But not here. The Sonos Beam (£369) soundbar will upgrade your TV sound and most likely become your primary music streaming speaker. Add hands-free voice controls into the mix and suddenly the Beam appears good value – even at almost £400.
Sonos and Amazon have had their disagreement but here the integration works seamlessly. Naturally, you can call upon tunes from all of the major streaming services with hands-free voice commands. If you have a cheap Fire TV Stick in your set-up, the Beam adds hands-free Alexa voice controls enabling you to call on apps and services, while interacting with smart home devices.
However, this is a soundbar first and foremost. And owning a great telly without investing in a good soundbar is like wearing an Armani suit with Reebok Classics. The Beam packs a massive punch despite its relatively compact size. The clarity of speech is spectacular (and can be enhanced further within the app), even during action-packed scenes. Its ability to handle big diagetic and extra-diagetic audio – especially orchestral scores – can further enhance the emotional impact of a movie like Avengers: Endgame, with its action set-pieces, big musical numbers and touching quieter moments throughout.
The booming bass as the brontosaurus brings down its front paws during the iconic “Welcome to Jurassic Park” scene made our hair stand on end – especially as John Williams’ incredible score hit the peak.
With a Beam nestled beneath your television set, it’s easy to add a pair of wireless Sonos One speakers as satellites and/or a Sonos Sub (£699) to create a more immersive audio environment for your home theatre. However, as a standalone device, Sonos’ TruePlay room-mapping tech (iOS app only) does an excellent job of customising the soundscape and delivering the optimal sound to your favourite comfy chair. The audio still casts a wide net throughout the living room, offering the illusion sound is coming from multiple directions. This thing can get loud so, if you’re worried about the neighbours, there’s a night mode within the app that reins in the louder moments.
Listening to the master recording of The Beatles’ Abbey Road through Tidal Hi-Fi, was joyous. The delicate intricacy of Harrison’s “Something” composition truly shines through, building to an emotional and impactful crescendo during that middle-eight. With this in mind Beam is also the perfect base device for Sonos’ multi-room music capabilities, away from home theatre needs. Even with the audio cranked up, we had no problem communing with Alexa, although the interaction does result in an annoyingly long pause of whatever’s playing.
We also found Apple’s AirPlay 2 highly useful. It’ll help you build a multi-room audio system with speakers from other, less expensive manufacturers.
Also consider: As we penned this review Sonos announced a higher-end smart soundbar. The brand new Sonos Arc offers both Alexa compatibility and, crucially, Dolby Atmos audio tech that can simulate 360-degree audio. But it’s £799. Look out for that review but pound-for-pound, it’s still easy to recommend the Beam.
Pros: Excellent Alexa integration; works with Fire TV; incredible sound
Cons: Only one HDMI port; using Alexa causes long interruptions
Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus
The best video doorbell for Alexa integration
Video: 1080p HD, live feed + recording, 160-degree field of view | Power: Wired or rechargeable battery | Wi-Fi: Dual-Band 2.4GHz & 5GHz | Alexa integration: hands-free voice control, two-way audio, live video feed on displays | Pre-roll: 4-second video previews | Size: 128 x 62 x 28mm | Standalone app: Ring for iOS and Android | Official Alexa Skill: Yes
The Ring Video Doorbell (£199) is one of those products that can sell you with a 30-second TV ad of homeowners politely informing unsuspecting ne’er-do-wells to refrain from skulking on the doorstep.
The doorbell alerts users to the presence of people at or around the front door via live and recorded video feeds. When a visitor rings the bell, you can interact with them directly thanks to the two-way audio capabilities. Tell the delivery guy where to leave the parcel, or inform a salesman you aren’t interested in a new conservatory.
Alexa integration (Amazon owns Ring, so it’s tight) comes through announcements of motion activity and doorbell presses via your connected speakers and devices. If you have a Fire TV device or Echo Show (from £60), say “Alexa, show me the front door” to view the live feed in 1080p HD. If you’re leaving the house, you can tell an Echo: “Alexa, arm Ring.”
Recent Ring models, including this one, have assisted wider adoption by adding a removable battery; meaning hardwiring into an existing doorbell unit is optional. That does mean recharging the battery, so it’s less suitable for long periods away from home.
The key difference between the Ring 3 (£179) and the Ring 3 Plus we’re recommending is the addition of pre-roll footage which shows the four-seconds (in black and white) before the camera detects motion. This feature takes a higher toll on battery life if you’re unwired. The improvements in motion detection between the second and third-gen models remain too.
Motion detection alerts can be obnoxious if you live on a busy street, or have neighbours with doors directly facing yours. However, you can block out zones. Motion alerts can also be customised to pick up human-only activity. The Ring doorbell relies on Wi-Fi and we did need to shift our router a little closer in order to pick up a reliable connection with the front door. Ring sells a Chime Pro (£49), which also acts as a range extender, as well as boosting the volume of the Chime.
A note on privacy and security beyond the general smart home advice: Ring finally enabled mandatory two-factor authentication in 2020 after a number of high-profile breaches. It also has cosy arrangements with police forces and there has been valid criticism over data handling and collection, both internally and through third-parties. Your comfort level with these ongoing concerns needs to be assessed before buying a Ring doorbell.
Pros: New Pre-roll footage; tight Alexa integration; great video quality
Cons: Ring Plus subscription required for video/photo recording
TP-Link HS110 energy monitoring smart plug
The best Alexa smart plug and a worthy addition to any smart home
Smart hub: Not required | Wi-Fi: 2.4GHz | App: iOS and Android | Out of home control: Yes | Scheduling: Yes | Energy use monitoring: Yes | Size: 100.3 x 66.3 x 77 mm | Weight: 131.8g | Standalone app: Kasa for iOS and Android | Dedicated Alexa Skill: Yes
Every smart home needs a few smart plugs added to the mix. Want to switch on the coffee pot and hair straighteners while you’re still lazing in bed? Forgot to turn off the TV before leaving the house? Suspect an electrical item you leave plugged-in is wolfing down power? Want automatic timers for your lights like in the Home Alone house? You get the idea; the right smart plug can deliver.
The plug we opted for was the TP-Link HS110 (£15), for a number of reasons. Basically, it ticks all of the above boxes and is made by a reputable brand, which played out in testing.
It’s an affordable option and offers compatibility with other smart assistants’ voice commands if you decide to move away from Alexa. It’s Wi-Fi enabled (no connection issues), so there’s no need for an additional hub, once you’ve enabled the Alexa skill. From here, you’ll simply be able to say “Alexa turn on *name you’ve given to the plug*.”
The dedicated TP-Link Kasa app makes it easy to set schedules for your appliances (for example turn off hair straightener plug at 9am). While an ‘away’ mode gives you control and peace of mind after leaving the home. You can also turn on the lights a few times to trick the local burglars.
This version of the plug also offers ability to monitor the energy usage. Run time and usage for the day is displayed within the app and measured against a seven-day average. We use a really, really old fridge for brewing beer and this confirmed our suspicions it’s an absolute power hog.
On the downside, this is among the larger smart plugs (131g) around and it isn’t really that much of a looker. TP-Link offers a mini version of the plug in the United States, but that’s yet to arrive in the UK.
Pros: No hub required; energy monitoring included; multiple assistants supported
Cons: Indiscreet; no two-factor authentication security yet