February 23, 2024

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Specialists in technology

The best smart plugs to buy in 2020

Smart plugs – sockets with chips in – are the simplest, cheapest way to make your home smarter. They add connectivity to anything plugged into them and generally cost less than £20. Just pop one in a wall socket, pair it to your home Wi-Fi with a smartphone app, and then turn it on or off with your phone, your voice, or on a schedule.

Now you can shut off your curling iron from the bus stop; ask Alexa to turn the kettle on while you’re getting dressed; or get really smart with routines and have your lamps turn on and the radio start playing when you unlock your front door after 6pm each night. Making dumb lamps smart is a main use case for smart plugs (especially that art deco lamp from the 70s that you can’t find a smart bulb to fit).

There are loads of smart plugs on offer, which makes choosing the right one a bit tricky. We tested 12 of the top-rated plugs to find our favorite and TP Link’s Kasa came top of the heap. To be fair, there’s not a lot in it, but we judged based on a combination of price, looks, how easy it was to set up, and how good the native app was (if you’re going to connect the plug to a voice assistant or smart home hub it won’t matter much, but some manufacturers offer a lot more functionality in their apps), and which smart home systems it works with.

What’s the best smart plug to buy?

TP Link’s Kasa Smart WiFi Plug Slim (£15) is a mouthful, but this doesn’t detract from how good it is, making it our best smart plug. It’s one of many Kasa smart plugs you can choose from, making finding the right fit pretty easy. This is our favorite because it’s the smallest one and we like its squarer look over the oblong shape of its siblings. They all work with the excellent Kasa app, where you can find pretty much everything you might want a smart plug to do. If there’s something missing, chances are integrating it with Alexa or SmartThings will fill the gap.

View the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wifi Plug Slim for £15 on Amazon

If you are a Apple loyalist however, our budget HomeKit smart plug pick, the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini (£17) is the one to get. It’s strange to hear the words budget and HomeKit in the same sentence, but it’s true. And this diminutive device will fit nicely into an Apple Home setup, while still being accessible to Alexa and Google should you have a three-way going on in your house.

View the Meross Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini for £17 on Amazon

For those who hanker after a smart plug with energy monitoring – an excellent feature that fewer and fewer plugs are offering in the race to the bottom dollar – we recommend the Eve Energy Smart Plug & Power Meter (£45). It does a deep dive into energy monitoring you just won’t find elsewhere, and the automations you can create around energy use are unrivalled. But you do need an iPhone to use it and a HomeKit hub to control it from outside the house.

View the Eve Energy Smart Plug & Power Meter for £45 on Amazon

WIRED Recommends: TP-Link does the best smart plug around

Connection: Wi-Fi (no hub) | Works With: Google Assistant, Alexa, SmartThings, IFTTT | Size: 5.15 x 6.03 x 7.25 cm; 300g | Max Load: 13 amp

TP Link’s Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Slim (£15) is our top pick because it gets pretty much everything right. While it’s not the smallest smart plug we tested, it’s compact enough to fit nicely behind the couch, slim enough not to block the outlet switch (although as with all of these it has one on the device) and it works with the superb Kasa app – the gold standard for smart plug apps.

All Kasa smart plugs (and the company has a wide range – including a Kasa Smart Plug with energy monitoring – £20) work with the Kasa app, which offers the best features of any we tested. This means that while you can use integrations with third party services like Alexa and IFTTT, you don’t need to rely on them to do some really useful things,

The Kasa app lets you set schedules to turn your device on or off based on time, sunrise or sunset. You can create a timer to have something run for a set length of time (handy for a space heater) or turn something on in a set amount of time (like your electric blanket just before you sit down for dinner).

An ‘Away’ mode randomly turn plugs on and off during a set period of time – ideal for using with lamps and perhaps a radio when you’re on your hols. Plus, it also has a handy runtime report so you can see how long the device was used for.

The Kasa smart home lineup has cameras and smart light bulbs too, so you can kit out a decent smart home with these products. This will let you group multiple devices together, use Scenes to tell different devices to do different things with one tap, and create Automations so your lamp can turn on when your camera senses motion.

Pros: Reliable app with good features; easy to set up
Cons: Quite large; energy monitoring costs more

Price: £15 | Check price on Amazon | Argos | Ebuyer

Wiz Smart Plug

The best small smart plug

Connection: Wi-Fi (no hub) | Works With: Alexa, Google Assistant, SmartThings, Siri Shortcuts | Size: H: 5.5 x 5.5 x 2.9 cm, 87g | Max Load: 13 amp

If you need a compact smart plug for a tight space, they don’t come much smaller than the new Wiz Smart Plug (£15). Wiz is a low cost, Wi-Fi based smart lighting line from Signify, the makers of Philip’s Hue lighting line. It features a range of inexpensive smart bulbs and now the Wiz smart plug.

The plug is really designed as an accessory to add lamps to your Wiz smart lighting setup – and the app has a circadian rhythm feature where you can set all your Wiz lights to help you relax or wakeup. But you can put anything you want into this compact smart plug and turn it on or off, set a schedule for it or create a scene. There’s also a vacation mode that will simulate presence for you.

The app has time of use tracking and appears to offer basic energy reporting – showing how many watts a device has used, although during our testing it never budged off 0 watts. We set it up with a lamp in a bedroom and it responded quickly to voice controls through Alexa and Google, as well as to actions in the app. We really liked the option in the app to prevent all your devices from turning back on after a power outage – it’s no fun when the lights blast you at 2 a.m. But you can only enable this for all your devices, not one by one, so it wouldn’t be so good if you had a heater plugged into it.

Pros: Inexpensive; compact; easy to set up; usage monitoring
Cons: Can only set schedules by room not device; really designed just for lighting

Price: £15 | Check price on Maplin

Meross Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini

The best budget HomeKit smart plug

Connection: Wi-Fi (no hub)| Works With: Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit, IFTTT, SmartThings (and HomeKit) | Size: 8.6 x 7 x 7 cm; 150g | Max Load: 13 amp

It’s hard to pack more value into a plug than is jammed into this bargain Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini (£17) from Meross, a smart home company you might not have heard of but with whom you’ll soon be familiar.

Based in China, Meross began life in 2016, set up by former Microsoft and TP-Link peeps, and they’ve been quietly churning out quality smart home products that work with Alexa, Google, SmartThings, and IFTTT, as well as Apple’s HomeKit for a few quid more, ever since.

This wide range of compatibility makes up for the slightly pedestrian app and lack of on-board features, because you can pair it with virtually any smart home setup. Don’t get us wrong, the Meross app does have the basics, including timers, schedules, and scenes, but we’d rather see more features as opposed to a whole page in the app dedicated to the ‘Savvy User’ who should buy more Meross products.

You can pretty much avoid it after set up and do all your controlling through the Alexa or Google Home app. There is also a version that works with HomeKit in addition to all the others. You pay that Apple tax though, £17 instead of £10 for the non-HomeKit Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini, but that’s still a steal. And you can circumnavigate the app entirely with HomeKit. Just scan the device’s HomeKit code in the Home app and you’re golden.

We tested the Meross plug by hooking it up to a television and connecting it to all three voice assistants. We were able to turn the TV on and off with voice using Alexa, Google or Siri, which is very useful in our test household, where we’re eternally confused as to who controls what. The perils of life as a smart home tech reviewer.

Pros: Works with everyone; easy set-up, cheap
Cons: A bit chunky; app isn’t great

Price: £17 | Check price on Amazon | Meross

Eve Energy Smart Plug & Power Meter

The best energy monitoring smart plug

Connection: Bluetooth (hub needed for out-of-home control)| Works With: Apple HomeKit | Size: 7.2 x 7.1 x 7.2, 123g | Max Load: 15 amp

Speaking of HomeKit, Eve used to be the gold standard (and one of the few options) when it comes to the Apple smart home ecosystem, and while there’s more competition now, it’s still the best option if you want energy monitoring.

The Eve Energy Smart Plug (£45) is a pricey proposition, but it’s unrivalled when it comes to the minutiae of energy consumption data. If you really want to know just how much power your TV is sucking up, you’ve got detailed graphs over scaling time periods in Eve’s excellent, fully featured smart home app. Plus you can put your electricity rate in and see a visual of how much it’s costing you minute by minute or a projection for the year.

Eve also has the Eve Energy power strip with three smart plugs if you want to monitor a whole entertainment system. A great advantage of this type of set up for energy saving is that you can create a schedule to shut it all down during the day or overnight when you’re not watching TV and save all that vampire power.

Voice control with Siri is also very responsive, and a quick “Siri, turn off the TV” will have your kids at the dinner table quick smart. Beware though, while you don’t need any type of hub to use the Eve Energy – just an iPhone – if you want remote control over your devices away from home, you need a HomeKit hub – an Apple TV or HomePod ideally.

Also consider: If those are deal breakers, TP Link’s Kasa HS110 (£20) smart plug comes with energy monitoring and all the other features of our TP Link top pick.

Pros: Detailed energy monitoring; excellent app; works with HomeKit and Siri
Cons: Expensive; iPhone only; some range issues

Price: £45 | Check price on Amazon | Eve

Amazon Smart Plug

The best Alexa smart plug

Connection: Wi-Fi (no hub)| Works With: Alexa | Size: 9.62 x 5.6 x 6.3 cm, 162g | Max Load: 13 amp

If you’ve had an Echo smart speaker for a bit and found yourself thinking “Hmm, I wonder what else this can do?” this Alexa Smart Plug (£25) is for you. An awesomely simple device to set up – you literally plug it in and it’s ready to go – this plug is for the tech-challenged who are smart home curious.

Once plugged in, the Alexa app sends a notification to your smart phone saying ‘First Plug’ is set up and you’re off to the races. Tap on the notification and you can rename it to what you have plugged in to it (if you want). We had it connected to a kettle and all we had to do was say “Alexa turn on the kettle” and a cup of tea was in our immediate future.

There aren’t a lot of advanced features like energy monitoring, but you can include your ‘First Plug’ in any Alexa Routine, such as a Wake Up Routine, which will trigger the smart plug to turn on the kettle when an alarm is dismissed, or say “Alexa, I’m home” and have the kettle turn on while your Echo speaker plays relaxing music.

If you connect it to a TV you could have a screen time routine that will turn on the plug and then tun it off an hour later, Really, the possibilities are pretty much endless. However, bear in mind any plug that works with Alexa can do any of this for you – the Alexa Smart Plug just has the advantage of being super easy to set up.

Pros: Insanely simple set up; seamless Alexa integration
Cons: Alexa only; a bit pricey

Price: £25 | Check price on Amazon

Meross Smart Power Strip

The best smart extension lead

Connection: Wi-Fi (no hub) | Works With: Alexa, Google Assistant, HomeKit, IFTTT, SmartThings | Size: 39.1 x 8.4 x 6.7 cm; 630g | Max Load: 13 amp

Meross has just launched this four-socket, four USB outlet Smart Power Strip (£42) extension lead, which works with everything (including HomeKit) and we are really liking it. We tested it out with a home office set up that included a computer, a monitor, a smart security camera, a desk lamp, a smart speaker, plus multiple USB-powered gadgets.

Each socket can be controlled individually in the Meross app (or the Apple Home, Alexa, Google or SmartThings app), in exactly the same way the Mini plug works (as above). We set up a schedule to have the lamp to turn on at 8am and off at 6pm, and the security camera to shut off at 8am and turn on at 6pm. We also have a space heater in the office plugged into the power strip and can trigger that to turn on for 45 minutes starting at 7:15 am, so the room is toasty when we enter.

The USB outlets can’t be individually controlled, which is a shame, they act like one single outlet – even though there are four of them. There is also only one physical switch on the device – all on or all off (the Eve Energy power strip has one for each socket). But you can control each socket individually with voice (Alexa, Google, or Siri), so you don’t have to get the phone out to control it. Handy when you’re working late, and the light shuts off.

Pros: Inexpensive; wide compatibility; 5 smart outlets in one
Cons: No energy monitoring; app needs work

Price: £42 | Check price on Amazon | Meross

What to consider when buying smart plugs

There’re a few things worth knowing when it comes to choosing a smart plug. Most work over regular 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi so, as long as you have a router, you’re good to go. Some use Bluetooth (but you’ll need a hub to control these outside of your home) and others work with Zigbee or Z-Wave, only get those if you already have a hub that will work with them (the new Amazon Echo speaker is a Zigbee hub).

Size is something to pay attention to. Some are giant great hulking things and if you’re trying to stick one behind the couch it might be a bit cramped. Others are more slimline, but most will fit side-by-side in a two-socket wall plate.

You’ll want a plug that pairs with any smart devices or smart speakers you already have. Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT integration is pretty ubiquitous – SmartThings and HomeKit less so, but you can find them. If you’re all in on a whole home system like Hive or smart lighting like Philips Hue, then go with its smart plug, that way everything will work in one app.

Then there’s price, plugs with more features tend to cost more, especially energy monitoring. Generally, expect to spend somewhere between £15 and £45 per plug, but you can get a bargain if you buy multipacks and you’re going to want more than one – trust us.

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