Best Smart Plugs 2018: The best sockets to make your home smarter

Smart devices aren’t always as nice looking or as functional as your traditional dumb devices, which is where smart plugs come in. Turning anything you can plug into a wall socket into a smart device, you can toggle the power on or off whenever you like. Whether you want to turn a favourite lamp on, or just have a way of turning the iron off when you go out, smart plugs are a simple and effective upgrade to any home.

We’ve reviewed the vast bulk of the main smart plugs, but in this guide we’re listing the top seven models. Out of these, the Belkin WeMo Insight Switch is the most powerful and flexible smart plug, letting you monitor your device’s power usage as well as giving you remote control. For those on a tighter budget, or who just want simple remote control, the TP-Link HS100 Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug is the best choice. The other products that we’ve listed fit into different smart home systems and become more interesting if you already own one of these, such as Hive, and just want to extend control.

How we pick the best smart plugs

All of our smart plugs go through the same rigorous testing regime. For each plug, we test how easy it is to get connected, and that basic on/off control works properly. Smart plugs are about more than just using the app to turn them on or off, so we also test each product’s more advanced features. For instance, we look at the timing and scheduling options, which can help fool burglars into thinking that you’re at home when you’re out.

Increasingly, integration with other products is important, so we tested each product to see how well its IFTTT channel worked, if available. With IFTTT, you can control your smart plug when triggered by another device. For example, you may want to turn on a lamp when your security camera spots movement. We also looked at integrations with other systems, including Samsung SmartThings and Works with Nest.

Voice control is increasingly important, so we tested each system for compatibility with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit and the Google Assistant.

If you’re not sure where to start, read our buying guide at the bottom of the page for more information.

1. Belkin WeMo Insight Switch

The most powerful smart plug

The WeMo Insight Switch is Belkin’s top-of-the-line smart plug. As with other WeMo products, the smart plug connects to your wireless network, so there’s no need for any additional hubs. It’s quite chunky, though, and you may struggle to plug in some devices next to this plug in a double socket.

Setup is easy through the WeMo app, and you can set the thumbnail image as a photo of your choice, so you have a neat visual guide to what the plug is controlling.

Once hooked up to your wireless network, the app lets you toggle the WeMo Insight Switch on or off. Smartly, this plug can also monitor power usage. If you enter details of your energy charges (in kW/h), the Insight Switch can even tell you how much your appliance is costing you to run.

Beyond basic app control, the Insight Switch has several smarter control methods. There’s the option for a power-off timer and a schedule. The Away mode is neat, as it will turn the Insight Switch on and off randomly between the hours you set, making it appear as if someone is in your home while you’re away.

Since the Insight Switch can monitor power, you can perform some nifty tricks, too. With the Rules, you can monitor the power level of a device that drops into standby mode. The standby/off threshold can be set in the app to suit different applications. Using this power you can, for example, get the WeMo app to notify you when your washing has finished.

You can also set alerts for devices that have been on for too long. A good way to monitor how long kids have been watching TV, or to warn you if you’ve left an electric heater turned on.

WeMo also has Works with Nest certification, so you can automatically turn devices on or off when your thermostat switches modes between Home and Away (or vice versa).

There’s currently no Apple HomeKit support, although Belkin has announced a Bridge that will add this feature. Alexa and Google Assistant support is available, with voice commands letting you toggle lights on and off. SmartThings support is welcome, allowing you to integrate all of your WeMo products with your other smart home kit.

There’s a powerful Insight Switch IFTTT channel. Triggers include monitoring when a switch is turned on or off, or when a device goes into standby mode. Actions include turning a switch on or off. Essentially, you can control other devices using your WeMo device or fully control your WeMo switch using another stimulus. To top it all off, the Insight Switch has a physical power button on top for manual control.

In places you want a bit more control and automation, the Insight Switch is the smart plug to buy.

2. TP-Link HS100 Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug

A great budget choice

 

As with TP-Link’s other smart home devices, the Smart Wi-Fi Plug connects to your wireless network. This means that you don’t need any other hubs to get going, but you will need a strong wireless signal where you intend to use the plug.

Setting up the plug is easy using the TP-Link Kasa smartphone app (Android and iOS). Once the Smart Wi-Fi Plug has been detected, you just give it a name. Neatly, you can select an icon so you can easily see the type of device that you’re controlling, such as a lamp or fan. After that, you enter your network details and the Smart Wi-Fi Plug is ready to go.

From the app, you can toggle the switch on and off. It’s a shame that there’s no physical button on the plug to let you do the same thing without reaching for your smartphone.

As well as basic control, the Kasa app has some neat features. Timers are a good way to turn your Smart Wi-Fi Plug on or off after a set time. Schedule is a good way to automatically have your plug turn on and off at set times, which can be handy for operating a night light.

I like the Away mode, which will randomly turn the Smart Wi-Fi Plug on and off during the hours you set. If you use this with a lamp, it can deter burglars by making them think you’re at home.

Voice control is available via Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, but there’s no Apple HomeKit support. Voice control, as you may expect, is simple but effective: you can toggle the plug on or off. Amazon support continues to the app, and you can toggle the plug on or off using the Alexa app.

IFTTT support is available, although there are only Actions. So you can turn your Smart Wi-Fi Plug on or off when something happens – say, a camera picking up motion. Without Triggers, you can’t control other devices when your Smart Wi-Fi Plug is operated.

For basic control of your smart devices, the TP-Link Smart Wi-Fi Plug is excellent value and a great choice.

 

3. Belkin WeMo Switch

Flexible smart plug with plenty of third-party support

The WeMo Switch is the simpler version of the Wemo Insight Switch, missing the ability to monitor power usage. As such, the WeMo Switch is a better choice in scenarios where you simply wish to toggle a device on or off, and don’t require smarter control or automation.

As with the other WeMo products, the WeMo Switch connects to your home network via Wi-Fi, so there’s no need for any bridges or other devices. Once your smart plug has been detected, you can assign a photo that you’ve taken to make it easier to see which device you’re controlling.

Once done, the app lets you toggle power to the smart plug, although there’s a physical button on the WeMo Switch for manual control. Basic control aside, the WeMo Switch has some of the widest control methods of any smart plug.

From the app, you can you set a power-off timer and configure a schedule for turning the WeMo Switch on an off. The Away mode is a nice touch, with the WeMo Switch turning on and off randomly between the hours you set, helping to deter intruders by giving the appearance that you’re at home. Works with Nest certification is useful, so you can have the WeMo Switch turn on or off when your thermostat changes modes.

There’s no Apple HomeKit support at the moment, although the recently announced bridge product will change that. Still, that leaves you with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support, with both offering up simple voice control to toggle the Switch on or off. SmartThings support is good to see, allowing you to integrate your WeMo Switch with your other smart devices.

There’s a full IFTTT channel with Triggers (the Switch turns on or off) and Actions (you can power the Switch on or off). This adds to the WeMo Switch’s flexibility.

The WeMo Insight Switch has some advanced controls that make it a better choice in some situations, but the Wemo Switch is a top choice if you just want to toggle devices on and off.

4. Hive Active Plug

A great way to expand your Hive system

The Hive Active Plug uses a Zigbee, and works best with the Hive Hub (Smart Things integration is possible, but a bit trickier). As such, it’s a better choice for those who have existing Hive products such as the Hive Active Heating 2.

The benefit of using Hive’s app is that you just plug in the Active Plug, search for new devices in the app and you’re done. Each Active Plug can be given a unique name, but there’s no option to assign pictures to help identify the device that they control.

From the Hive app, there’s basic on/off control, and you can also use the physical switch on the plug itself. There’s smarter control in the app, too. Schedules let you turn an Active Plug on and off automatically, but it’s Actions that really make this a smart device.

Actions are all configurable and let you control the plug in different ways. For example, the Fan for 1hr Action is designed to operate a fan for an hour, before turning off the Active Plug. The exact time the plug is on for can be set, and there’s no reason why you have to control a fan; you can rename the Action. Likewise, the Heater for 10 mins Action is just a variation on the same theme.

However, naming the Actions in this way makes it easier to see the possibilities, which is more likely to make you experiment. Actions can also work with other Hive devices, so you can have a plug turn on when a motion sensor goes off, or have the plug turn on a fan when the thermostat reaches a set temperature. These are extremely flexible ways of controlling your Active Plug, and Actions are easy to customise.

An IFTTT channel has Actions only, but it means you can turn an Active Plug on or off based on another device’s input. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration let you easily toggle an Active Plug. There’s no HomeKit support.

Smart Actions and a neat interface make the Active Plug a great choice for anyone that has a Hive Hub already. If you don’t, there are cheaper options that don’t require a separate hub.

 

5. LightwaveRF On/Off Socket

A cheap and basic way to expand a Lightwave system

Using the proprietary LightwaveRF protocol, the On/Off Sockets have two options for control. If you just want a switch that you can control via a remote control, they’re a cheap way to get simple On/Off functionality: triple-packs with the remote are cheaper than many standalone smart plugs.

Pair them with the LightwaveRF Gen 2 Link Plus bridge and the sockets become smart, and you can control them from your smartphone using the LightwaveRF app. This latter choice makes sense if you’re planning on installing the dedicated light switches or power sockets.

Control is simple, with a quick tap toggling the socket on or off. Built-in automation lets you turn the sockets on and off at a set time, or you can select the built-in Dawn and Dusk settings, which are handy for controlling lights.

The downside of the plugs is that they use the Gen 1 LightwaveRF protocol, which is stateless. In other words, you can’t see if an On/Off Socket is turned on or off, or if a command was successful. To be fair, I haven’t experienced any problems with the On/Off Sockets not responding.

Voice control is available through Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and you can toggle the smart plug on and off. While the Gen 2 Link Plus supports Apple HomeKit, that’s only for Gen 1 devices, so the On/Off Socket’s aren’t supported.

IFTTT support lets you turn on the On/Off Sockets when something else happens, such as a security camera picking up motion.

If you have LightwaveRF already, then the On/Off Sockets are a cheap and basic way to get smart plugs. If you don’t have LightwaveRF, there are smarter choices available.

6. Lightwave Generation 2 smart sockets

A neater way of adding smart plugs if you don’t mind a bit of DIY wiring

If you don’t want a clunky old smart plug sticking out of your wall, the Lightwave Generation 2 Smart Socket is the way to go. You’ll need a bit of DIY skill to replace an existing double socket, but you get a far neater experience.

Each socket is individually controllable via the Lightwave app, and you can manually tap the power button to turn a socket on or off. From the app, you can set schedules, automatically turning your sockets on and off when you like; again, it could be a handy way of fooling people into thinking that you’re at home.

The main benefit of the Generation 2 kit is that the protocol used has state, so you can see if your socket is turned on or off. Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support are built-in, but the sockets are also compatible with Apple HomeKit, which makes them a rarity.

Lightwave’s DIY approach gives you a neater finish, but the installation is trickier. If you plan to kit out the rest of your home with Lightwave light switches and sockets, this is the best option; for one-off control, a traditional smart plug is a better bet.

7. Wiser Smart Plug

A neat way of expanding your Wiser heating system

If you have the excellent Drayton Wiser heating system, the Wiser Smart Plug could well be the product for you. Integrating with the smart heating app, the Wiser Smart Plug uses the same low-power protocol for control. The main advantage that this has is that the smart plug can be used as a range extender, boosting the connection to remote radiator valves.

In terms of control, the Wiser Smart Plug has all of the main features that you’d expect. You can turn it on or off from the app, or you can add schedules to turn the plug on automatically. There’s no automatic away mode, where the plug can be controlled randomly to make it look as though someone is home, however.

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant support are both available, but you can’t control the plug with smart buttons, such as Flic or Logitech Pop!, which is a bit of a shame. For that, you need to turn to our top product. Ultimately, the Wiser Smart Plug misses out on a few features and integrations that the top products have, but if you already have the heating system and want simple on/off control with schedules, it’s a great addition to your system.

That was our pick of the best smart plugs. If you want to know more about what to look for when buying a smart plug, read on.

Smart plug buying guide

Want to make an ordinary lamp smart, or be able to turn off an electric heater that you left on from your smartphone? Then a smart plug is the bit of kit you need. A smart plug sits between the device that you want to control and the wall socket. Then, from the app you can toggle power to any device, turning the dumb into the smart.

Best smart plugs – What type of smart plugs are available?

All smart plugs work in roughly the same way, but they use different protocols for control. Perhaps the easiest smart plugs to use are Wi-Fi-enabled devices that connect to your home network. These require no additional hardware and, as long as they’re in an area with a strong wireless signal, the smart plug will work anywhere in your home.

Next are smart plugs that use other communications protocols, which connect through a hub. These devices can be cheaper, but the main reason to buy them is that they integrate with other systems. For example, buy a LightwaveRF On/Off Socket, and you can use it with the same system that controls your smart light switches.

Best smart plugs – What about voice control?

While app control is good to have, voice-assistant support is increasingly important, allowing you to control your smart plugs with your voice. Amazon Alexa support is the most popular, with Google Assistant coming a close second; currently, Apple HomeKit support isn’t very popular.

Best smart plugs – What else should I look out for?

IFTTT support is a neat way of automating your home, as you can control your smart plugs when something else happens. For example, you may want to turn on a light if your security camera picks up movement.

Look out for advanced features in the app, too. Schedules and timers are useful features, enabling you to automate when a device operates.