Consumer Reports compares smart-home technology

Smart doorbells, smart locks, smart thermostats - it can be overwhelming to figure out how to "smarten up" your home.

But the experts at Consumer Reports have some great advice and offer up a crash course in how to buy and connect those high-tech devices.

Consumer Reports' Dan Wroclawski doesn't just write about smart home products; he uses them in his home, too.

What is his one must-have smart device? A smart speaker.

"Smart speakers make it very easy to connect all of these different products," Wroclawski said.

To use a smart speaker as a hub, or control center of sorts, you'll find three main options: Amazon's Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple's Siri - available on the Apple HomePod.

As for those other smart products, CR puts them through rigorous testing.

For example, smart locks still have to pass the same break-in tests as traditional door locks.

Wroclawski said,"You want to get a lock that is smart but also strong."

The recommended $230 Schlage Sense Smart Lock stood up to kick in, picking and drilling tests, and it connects with any of the three smart speaker assistants.

Another option for your doors are video doorbells. You can see who is at your door, and some models even work with smart locks to remotely open the door through an app.

Need even more smarts? You might want to add smart cameras inside and out.

One thing to keep in mind: You'll need to pay a fee for video storage for most smart security cameras, which can be as much as $200 a year.

Wroclawski explains, "When these cameras take video, they store it on their company's server. By doing this it makes it really easy for you to access that footage but it can also cost you over the long term."

The $120 Amazon Cloud Cam is a CR Best Buy.

And if you want surveillance both inside and outside your home, consider the Netgear Arlo Pro 2 Smart Camera for about $220.
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