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Google wasn’t the first company to jump on the digital assistant bandwagon—that title belongs to Amazon’s Alexa. In recent years, however, Google has made serious strides in smartening up its Assistant platform. Back in 2014, Google dropped a hefty $3.2 billion to buy smart-home company Nest. Since then, Google has roped more and more of its smart-home gear under the Nest umbrella. You can now get native Nest thermostats, smart speakers, cameras, and more. Beyond that, many manufacturers have adopted support for Google’s ecosystem. While you can get truly wild with smart-home customization, you have to start by building a foundation. We’ve put together this list of Google Assistant-compatible devices that will set you on your way toward a fully connected and automated home.
Ecobee’s New Smart Thermostat Premium with Smart Sensor has all the features you’d expect: remote access, scheduling, and voice control via Google Assistant. Its standout feature is ecobee’s temperature sensor, which will continuously send information back to the thermostat. If you live in a single-zone home with multiple floors, there’s a good chance a back room will be significantly warmer or cooler than the rest of the house. Using this Google Assistant-compatible smart thermostat will ensure it’s comfortable by running your HVAC system until it’s at your preferred temperature. Ecobee offers room sensors as a standalone accessory if you have heating or cooling issues in multiple parts of your home.
GE’s CYNC smart light bulbs are a good entry point into the Google smart-home ecosystem because of their low cost and utility. These bulbs can be screwed into any standard-sized light fixture and can be set up within minutes using GE’s Cync app on iOS and Android. No hub is required to set up or manage these light bulbs. Once the smart light bulbs are installed, you can control them using the Google Assistant on your phone or appropriate smart speaker. You can turn the bulbs on and off, dim them to your preferred luminosity, and even have them change color to adjust the mood of your room. You’ll even be able to turn these light bulbs on remotely, so you don’t walk into a dark house when you return from work or school.
If you’re happy with your existing light bulbs, you can install a smart light switch instead. This will require replacing an existing light switch, so call an electrician if you’re uncomfortable taking on this project for yourself. Once installed, you can use Google Assistant to control any light bulbs connected to this receptacle. You’ll need a neutral wire in your wall for this light switch to work, and it won’t be able to control a fan, which may pose a problem depending on your setup. The benefit to installing a smart light switch over switching out bulbs is its lower cost and saving you the hassle of installing bulbs in harder-to-reach areas.
The Nest Hub Max Smart Display is an excellent smart-home hub because of its multifunctionality: It can be used to video chat with friends, stream videos from YouTube or Netflix, play music from Spotify, and even get directions using Google Maps. The latter is helpful at home as it can help you choose which route to take before you head out the door. You can also set the Nest Hub Max to show notifications when certain smart security devices are triggered. Google offers the Nest Hub in multiple sizes, but we like the Max in particular because of its 10-inch display, which makes text easier to read, video more pleasing to look at, and its interface easier to swipe through. All of its core features are accessible through Google Assistant, so you may end up using its touch screen less than you’d expect.
Schlage’s Encode Plus saved you the stress of wondering, “Did I lock the door when I left?” on your way to work or the airport ever again. The WiFi-connected smart lock can be locked and unlocked from anywhere in the world—helpful if you’d like to let a neighbor in without giving them a key—so you can check its state at any time. If you’re home, you can unlock the door using Google Assistant if your hands are full. We like the Encode Plus because it can be unlocked using an app, passcode, or key. If you have a family member who’s less tech-savvy, the utility of having a key as a backup option cannot be overstated. Schlage allows you to generate up to 100 unique codes, so trusted people can enter your home without needing to contact you every time. Installing this smart lock requires you to dismantle your door’s deadbolt, which can be done by yourself or a local handyperson. This is a battery-powered smart-home device, and you’ll need to replace its AA batteries every six months or so (you can also opt for rechargeables).
A smart doorbell is the ultimate complimentary device to a smart lock as it’ll allow you to see who’s approaching your home before they try to get inside. The Google Nest Doorbell allows you to get a live feed of what’s happening in front of your house at any time from any place. Your phone will receive a notification each time the bell is rung or if its motion sensor has been triggered. You can communicate with the person at your door thanks to this doorbell’s integrated speaker and microphone system. If you pay for an optional Nest Aware subscription, the doorbell will create a recording when its motion sensor is triggered and save that clip in the cloud. The camera built into the Google Nest Doorbell can record HD footage with High Dynamic Range and has a nighttime camera to capture clear footage once it gets dark. We’ve opted to recommend the battery-powered version of this video doorbell, which will need to be charged roughly every six months because it can be installed without existing wiring.
Brandt Ranj / Popular Science
The JBL Authentics 300 speaker blew us away during our tests earlier this year, and you can turn it into a smart speaker using Google Assistant. By configuring the Google Assistant in JBL’s mobile app, you’ll be able to control the speaker’s core functions using your phone. You can adjust the volume, play music from your favorite streaming service, control other smart-home accessories, or even get quick answers to questions. Google Assistant support is why the Authentics 300 qualifies for this story, but its sound is why we selected it from a sea of other options. We were consistently impressed by the quality of its sound at every volume level, regardless of the genre of music we were listening to. It doesn’t hurt that the speaker looks gorgeous in person and is built like a tank, so you won’t have to worry about it getting damaged.
What if you could clean your floors without having to do so much as touch your smartphone (much less a mop or broom)? Nawal’s Freo allows you to turn that Fantasia-like fantasy into a reality. Once the robot vacuum is connected to your home’s WiFi network using Narwal’s iOS or Android app, you can connect it to Google Assistant, allowing you to start a cleaning using your voice. The Freo is a vacuum-mop combo, which means it can perform two core cleaning functions depending on the dirtiness and composition of your floors. The vacuum uses AI to assess the dirtiness of your floors and will adjust the intensity of its cleaning in real-time.
It can also map the layout of the area it’s in to clean in the most efficient way possible, even around the perimeters and in corners. Once it’s done cleaning—or it senses that its brushes are too dirty—the Narwal will automatically return to its charging station to deposit refuse into a dirty water tank built into the base. This reduces the amount of contact you’ll have to make with the dirt and cuts down on its maintenance.
If you don’t mind a DIY project (or know a good electrician), Leviton’s Decora Smart Outlet is an excellent Google Assistant-compatible smart-home device. It has all the functionality of a smart plug, but it’s built into your home, so you don’t have a gadget protruding from your walls. Once installed, you can control any device connected to this wall receptacle. Your control is limited to turning the device on or off, but that can be very helpful if you’d like to set a gadget on a timer or double-check whether an appliance or other tool was turned off before you left the house. Each of the plus built into Leviton’s Decora Smart Outlet can be controlled independently, which gives you the functionality of two smart plugs.
If you don’t want to mess around with your outlets (or rent instead of own), GE’s SYNC Indoor Smart Plug is the right solution. It has all the functionality of the smart outlet we’re recommending but in a portable plug that you can connect anywhere in your home. The biggest benefit to choosing a smart plug over a smart outlet (beyond not having to think about wiring) is the ability to move it around. You can use this device to turn holiday lights on and off using your voice during the holiday season, but keep it connected to a lamp in an entirely different room the rest of the year.
If you want a smart home theater system, Hisense’s U8K should be at the heart of it. The 4K TV runs Google TV and has access to the Play Store, which allows you to download streaming apps directly to your set rather than connecting a standalone media streamer. The most popular streaming services (think YouTube and Netflix) come preloaded on the TV and can be accessed by pushing a dedicated button on its remote. Another button on the U8K’s remote has a glyph of a microphone and allows you to access the Google Assistant to open apps, adjust settings, and answer your questions.
It’s helpful to use Google Assistant in this way because it can save you time. Asking to watch a particular show on a particular service is more convenient than pushing a bunch of buttons and navigating through different interfaces. As a 4K TV, the Hisense U8K is one of the best you can get in 2023, regardless of its compatibility with Google’s smart-home platform. It has a 144Hz refresh rate, support for Dolby Vision IQ HDR, dedicated gaming mode, and multiple HDMI 2.1 ports. Whether you love watching movies and TV shows or playing games, you won’t be disappointed.
Google’s smart-home platform has come a long way in recent years, and Google Assistant is one of the best ways to control your home at the moment. If you’re trying to build the best Google smart home, make sure to get devices that are natively compatible with Google Home, so you don’t have to go hacking them together. And feel free to make really funny routines for yourself. I suggest having it blast Slayer and turn on the ceiling fan whenever you say, “Good morning.” It’s a fun way to wake up.
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