The best smart home gadgets for your first apartment

Your first apartment after graduation probably isn’t your forever home, but you can make it something you’re proud of with gadgets that do your bidding. You can automate your lights, mind your pets, and clean your floors more efficiently with relatively affordable devices that won’t eat up your paycheck. We’ve tested a lot of smart home technology over the years, and here’s what we recommend for beginners and those on a tight budget


you can think about Echo Show 5 as a command center for your automated home. Amazon pinch their smallest screen in 2023 will be slightly faster and slightly bassier than that predecessor, and it’s still a good smart display for a compact space. It displays footage from your connected cameras and provides voice control over smart plugs and other devices. Plus, it’ll play your music or podcasts, tell you the weather, and even stream your favorite show (just note that the Netflix app not supported).

$90 on Amazon

TP-Link / Case

Connected bulbs may be the easiest way to turn your analog home into a “smart” home. A single smart light can make sure you never enter a dark apartment again. You can set up schedules for your daily routines or pretend you’re at home when you’re not. Just being able to turn things off with your voice or an app can save you from getting out of bed when you’re ready to crash. Our senior commercial editor, Valentina Palladino, tested a range of lamps for us guide and TP-Link considers Bowl Smart Lamps give you the best value. Thanks to Kasa’s clean and simple app, setup will be easy even for smart device newbies. It should be noted that voice control is possible only with Alexa or Google Assistant; Unfortunately, Siri is not compatible.

$27 on Amazon


Roku’s Streaming Stick 4K Turns any screen with an HDMI port into a smart TV for under $50. Our business writer Nicole Lee likes Roku simple interface and the fact that it supports universal search so you can find out what service a show is playing on. Unlike some streaming sticks, Roku works with all the major voice assistants: Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa. You can even control your TV by saying “hey Roku” on the included remote or through the Roku app. The same app turns your phone into a second remote and lets you listen privately through your headphones. The 4K dongle is designed for high-definition displays, but if you don’t have a 4K TV and want to save more money, Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite is our favorite budget option.

$39 on Amazon


An indoor security camera can keep an eye on your pets when you’re out and about, or provide some peace of mind when you’re away for the weekend. Updated Blink Mini 2 the camera is now focused, offers better night vision and is rated for both indoor and outdoor use. As a result, the price has gone up by $10, but it’s still one of the more affordable smart security cameras out there. Blink is an Amazon brand, so the camera should easily sync with Echo Show displays, while also sending a video feed to your phone or Fire TV. The built-in microphone and speaker lets everyone in the room hear and speak, which is great for distracting the cat or confusing your guests.

$30 at Lowe’s


Whether it’s the exhaust from traffic in the city, pollen from the suburbs, or smoke from fires everywhere, opening your apartment windows to get fresh air isn’t always ideal. Moment air purifier can help keep your indoor air healthier when you’re indoors, and we love this little space fixture from Levoit. The Core 300S smart air purifier is an app-friendly gadget that can automatically adjust fan speed based on how many particles it detects in the air. We found it to be almost silent on the low end and not too distracting on the high end. Plus, it’s relatively affordable, with replacement filters only costing $35.

$150 on Amazon

Kasa Smart

I found the tackiest, most amazing light bulb in the foyer of one of my first apartment buildings, and I cherish it to this day—but it’s so hard to turn the rotary switch. I’ve since tied it to one Kasa’s EP25 Smart Plugs and now it automatically turns on before sunset and turns off when I say goodnight to Alexa (or ask her to turn off the “ugly bulb”). Many smart plugs out there will do this, but the EP25 is the best performer from our guide because we’ve found it connects easily, works reliably, and is compatible with all four major smart home platforms.

$36 on Amazon


No one beats Christmas lights as decoration, but string lights are a slightly more classic way to add flair to your space. You can use them to illuminate bookcases, create ambiance for your broadcast setup, or turn your bedroom into a color-coordinated haven. Govee makes many different smart LED strips, but one great trade editor Valentina recommends in our article. guide is, is, is, is M1 RGBIC. He was impressed by the brightness of the light and the wide range of colors available. You can control different segments independently, and the app has an “effects lab” that offers pre-programmed lighting settings like sunsets, starry nights, and movie-themed color palettes.

$100 on Amazon

Photo: Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Engadget’s Valentina Palladino has tested and recommends more than a dozen robot vacuum cleaners iRobot’s Roomba 694 to anyone who wants to keep their floors clean without spending a lot of money (or time). The company’s utility software is simple and probably the 694’s biggest selling point, guiding you through setup and programming. The vacuum cleaner can handle hard floors and carpets and runs for about 45 minutes on a single charge, which is enough for most small apartments. You’ll have to help it when it gets caught in the cable and empty the bin when it’s full, but other than that, it’s a pretty accessible way to get cleaner floors.

$180 at Walmart

Photo by Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

The Sonos Roam is both a smart and portable speaker, packing a decent amount of utility into a $180 package. Although not the cheapest, it is relatively cheap for the popular Sonos quality audio. Roam will play and deliver the music service you want clear highs and impressive bass according to its size. Alexa is built in and you can also access Google Assistant, meaning you can use the speaker to order around your compatible smart home devices. And when it’s time to relax, you can ask Roam to play any song you want.

$179 at Sonos


Thick walls, odd layouts, and other factors can taint WiFi reception at home. If you experience dead zones in your apartment, a WiFi extender can help. TP-Link AC1200 RE315 ours a favorite budget option: Covers 1,500 square feet and delivers speeds of up to 1,200Mbps – fast enough for streaming and working from home. It also has a built-in Ethernet port, which should provide a more reliable connection to mainstream technology like your TV or games console.

$23 on Amazon

Instant Pot

Cooking for yourself is one of the biggest adjustments to adulthood—it certainly was for me. Fortunately, a big batch of beans and rice can keep most people alive longer than you think. The Instant Pot Duo cooks beans without soaking and makes fluffy rice; add a jar of salsa and you’ve got a pretty good meal. Of course, it can also cook more complex items: search for Instant Pot recipes and you’ll have meals for a lifetime. worth the thoughts. We recommend the larger version in our guide kitchen toolshowever, this three-quarter model is both more affordable and a better size for just one or two people.

$80 on Amazon

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