Smart Plug Reviews - Your Wireless Outlet Switch

Having electricity in our homes is now something that we (in the developed world at least) take for granted. Yet in more than a century nothing has fundamentally changed about the electrical systems of our homes from a user’s point of view. Yes, the quality of the electricity is much improved and safer than ever, but as a home dweller you still plug stuff in and then physically close an electrical contact with a switch. That is still pretty much the same.

The humble wall plug provides us with a lot of opportunity for smart technology integration. There are many cases in which you would want to control the plugs in your walls remotely or automatically. There are also things you would like to know, such as how many watts your appliances are sucking up and whether you are really being a green energy user.

Smart plugs, as they are called, are a relatively affordable way to turn your electrical outlets from dumb holes that spew out raw electricity into something more appropriate for a modern civilization.

Here I have reviewed some of the most promising smart plug solutions you can buy today and tried to decide if they are worth buying yet. As usual I put my favorites at the top, but this is not a ranked list.

Best Overall: TP-LINK Wi-Fi Smart Plug

I have had a spotty past with TP-Link products. They are for the most part a network product company, but they also do other things that are somewhat related. I owned a few TP-Link WiFi devices a few years ago that were pretty awful, but that was a long time ago and they’ve got it all sorted out now.

This product looks pretty good, which is to say that you won’t notice it at all. That’s great, because wall outlets are not meant to be attention-grabbing. The price for a single unit may be a little on the steep side for some, so perhaps you aren’t going to be converting every outlet in your home right away, but it is not so expensive that you couldn’t get the most important appliances hooked up to your network.

With this plug you can do a couple of things with the supplied iOS and Android app. Obviously you can turn things on and off remotely – that’s sort of a given. There is also a scheduler, so that you can manage when some things will come on. An away-mode lets you simulate people being home by setting things to switch on and off at certain times.

The TP-Link plug works with Amazon Alexa and doesn’t require a hub, which is great if this is where you are starting off your home automation process. This also means that you can use voice commands via Alexa to do stuff with the plug.

Surprisingly TP-Link is offering a two-year warranty and 24/7 technical support. Not bad for a cheap product. There’s also a slightly more expensive model that also does energy monitoring. So if that feature is important to you that may be the model to go for.

Based on customer reviews it really looks like the plug is performing as advertised and TP-Link is providing active technical support for people who are having trouble. I’m surprised, but I have to give credit where it is due. This is a great product at a really good price.

Best In-Wall Option: GE Z-Wave Wireless Lighting Control

Most of the smart plugs you’ll see are simply plug-and-play devices that you simply slot into your existing outlets. That’s a very good thing for people who are renting, for example, or don’t want to engage in any sort of DIY. If you are automating as a homeowner or building a new place then maybe it’s better to commit fully to the home automation revolution and build that smart plug right into the wall.

General Electric is of course a natural choice to provide us with just such a product. It looks at first glance just like any other outlet and the fact that it is built flush into the wall means it is the most space-saving and elegant solution.

This outlet is one product in an entire range of Z-wave wall hardware. GE also has switches, dimmers, and fan controls that make use of the Z-wave protocol.

Obviously, since this is a Z-wave system, you will also need a Z-wave gateway in order to control any of the equipment using a smartphone or other internet-connected device.

The power limit on this outlet is 600w since it is only meant for small appliances and lighting control, but for almost all modern small appliances this is more than enough. You don’t get a wallplate either, but you’ll probably want to use the existing one.

Although you do have to handle a screwdriver a bit, these are really not hard to install, just make sure you know what you are doing and take the right safety precautions. If you are in doubt, ask a professional or a friend who knows their stuff.

As far as Z-wave stuff goes, this is a solid product and how much joy you will get out of it really depends on the Z-wave gateway that you have. It lacks just about all of the smart features you find on the other products such as scheduling or power monitoring, but then again all of those functions will be integrated into the gateway,

Taking that into account, it does hurt a little that this is actually more expensive than something like the TP-Link or iHome, but it is by far the most elegant solution.

Bright Idea Pick: WiOn 50049 Outdoor Wi-Fi Outlet

I’m super surprised that in my window shopping endeavors this is the only WiFi outlet I saw that is designed for outdoor use. There are many reasons you would want to have control of electrical lighting or devices that are not inside your house.

Think of Christmas lights or sprinkler systems. In fact, this is maybe the best use of WiFi outlets, since the last thing I want to do is go outside in poor weather to switch something on or off. You can have up to twelve of these switches and control them at the same time.

The outlets are weather resistant and you can program them with a number of patterns to make sure that you plants or lawn are watered or to switch exterior lights on at night, even if you are on vacation.

For something that is so much more useful than a regular smart outlet, I was expecting this to be much more expensive, but actually it costs about the same as an indoor smart plug.

Despite a handful of app-related hiccups, customers are very happy with this product and I can recommend it simply for being something I actually want.

Top Budget Pick: Ankuoo NEO Wi-Fi Smart Switch

I like the shade of white plastic Ankuoo chose for this plug, but if you have no taste at all you can also get it in an awful blue and white combination. Variety is after all the spice of life.

This basic NEO costs just over twenty bucks, which probably explains its somewhat limited feature set. You can use the app to turn stuff on and off and you can have multiple plugs controlled by one app. That’s basically it.

There is the NEO PRO, which costs a few bucks more, but adds energy monitoring, theft detection, and schedule timers. The PRO costs the same as the TP-Link and offers about the same feature set.

This is actually a good thing, since you can mix the cheaper and more expensive versions to align with your needs and budget. Looks like a good product for a good price. Recommended.

Etekcity Wireless Remote Control Electrical Outlet

This is what I like to call a “dumb smart plug”. It doesn’t have any internet or home automation hub integration, but it is still not quite as dumb as a regular outlet.

What this is, is a radio-controlled remote switch with limited learning functions. There are two remotes and five outlets included in the package for the princely sum of about thirty bucks. That is very cheap. You could only buy one TP-Link plug for that, for example.

Why would you want this simple remote on-off switch? The manufacturer’s argument is that standby power on things like TVs and sound systems eat far too much electricity. Which is true, especially for older appliances. The only way to turn them off completely however is at the outlet, which is a pain in the behind. All this aims to do is to make it convenient enough so that you will actually switch stuff off at the outlet. They say standby power uses $100 in electricity on average a year. Whether that is true for you is debatable, but if so these plugs will pay for themselves in four months and then start saving you money.

People indicate that in the wild they work as advertised. So if there is something you want to turn off within 100 feet of you, but you can’t be bothered to do it by hand, this is the product for you.

Edimax Wi-Fi Smart Plug with Energy Management

For what it is worth, I’ll say that the Edimax plug is the ugliest one I have seen yet. It looks like a 90s plug timer. Not nice, guys.

Whether you think it looks good (you neanderthal) is completely up to you, but I prefer something a little more modern looking.

As expected, this uses an app that lets you turn the outlet on and off and lets you know how much power you are actually using on that outlet. Since it is a WiFi plug there is no need for a hub, but this is not Siri or Alexa compatible, unfortunately.

I say unfortunately, since the pricing of this product is just not competitive with other plugs I have looked at that do the same and more for ten dollars less, on average.

iHome iSP5 WiFI SmartPlug for Apple and Amazon Alexa Products

One of the things that sucks about the home automation scene at the moment is that there is plenty of great equipment that will only work with one or another standard of home automation. It’s VHS vs Betamax all over again. It’s Bluray vs HD-DVD times four. It sucks, in other words.

So it is really nice to see a product that will work with Apple, Nest, Wink and Amazon systems out of the box. No worries about compatibility for most of the big names here.

This unit is WiFi enabled and connects directly to your router; no hub required to make it all play nice. You can hook up to 1800 watts per plug, so this is perfectly suited for things like space heaters or heavy power draw lighting such as external spotlights.

One fantastic design feature is how slim the unit is. Most of the other smart plugs I have looked at are so fat that they obscure the second plug in a two-plug wall outlet. Not so for the iHome, which can be joined by another iHome or just a regular outlet.

Thanks to its Echo and Homekit compatibility you can use voice commands to control the whole shebang. From the app you can of course monitor lights and appliances. I unfortunately don’t see mention of energy monitoring, which is a pity given that this is one of the more expensive products on the market. Still, the wide support and slim form factor make this the definitive winner in my mind.

Raynic Power Pro Smart Switch

Here’s another plug-and-play smart plug that sits comfortably on that magical twenty dollar mark. It looks decent and has more or less the standard feature set we have come to expect, but I am very impressed by how easy they make it to set the device up. All you have to do after plugging it in is scan the QR code with the app and connect to the WiFi; it will then automatically connect it to the network.

They have also made a point of saying that this plug is made from materials that guard against electrical fire. I have no idea if this is standard and they are the only ones to point it out, or if everyone does it but doesn’t bother to mention it. Either way, there you have it, so that’s good to know I guess.

Not all people who have bought it like it but while it may not be the best option, I think it is a great entry into home automation for very little money. It would have been nice to have some Siri or Alexa action going on, but for how much they are asking that is a stretch, I guess.

Orvibo Wifi Smart Socket Outlet

The Orvibo is one of the most reasonably-priced WiFi plugs that I’ve seen and has some nice features to boot. The plug looks good as well, which is a nice bonus. You can have 20 plugs in total being controlled from the app, which should cover most people, no problem. You can have up to 10 timing commands, where you set stuff to turn on or off at certain times. You can also monitor the on/off status of each plug from anywhere in the world and then toggle them on or off.

One nice feature is the fact that when it cuts off the power nothing gets through, so you can prevent overcharging. With modern smart charging devices this is no longer an issue, but some devices can still be harmed by overcharging them.

Problems, though – it looks like the timing stuff doesn’t work reliably if you look at some of the feedback. Maybe the cheap price is too steep after all.

Newbeem Smart Wifi Outlet Review

There are a lot of things about the Newbeem that set off my alarm bells immediately when I first saw it. The most important two are the almost impossibly low price versus the excess of features. You’d think that this would be a good sign, but in general this means you are looking at a fly-by-night product and someone is trying to have you on.

The Newbeem sports three outlet sockets, three times as many as smartplug and twice as expensive. Despite the three outlets, the maximum total draw the unit is rated for is a mere 200w. It also has a built-in dimmer and, of course, it is all app controlled.

When I look at the user feedback the picture is not pretty – endless complaints about the inability to even get the plug to connect to the WiFi. While it is possible to make it work, it seems you have to perform a very specific ritual right the first time. Not worth the hassle or the five bucks saved.

D-Link DSP-W215 Wi-Fi Smart Plug + Energy Monitoring

D-Link is another company that has been in the network-connected device game for what seems like forever. It is very unlikely that anyone who has not been living in a cave for decades has avoided owning or using at least one D-Link product.

This whole home automation thing is certainly a new direction for the company, and while they are a solid brand, more than a few of their products have been stinkers. Like my last router, for example.

This is another hubless, Amazon Echo-compatible device that only needs access to your router to work its magic. It has a simple design and a fairly reasonable price. It makes use of the mydlink software which I happen to have used with my D-Link WiFi cameras; their software tends to be quite good, actually.

In practice it seems these plugs were pretty darn shaky for a lot of people at the outset and only software updates from D-Link could fix the issues. So if you do get these it may be a good idea to update the software right away rather than frustrate yourself.

When they do work, it seems they work OK. The problem is there are products on this very page that cost less but are more reliable, so I can’t recommend the D-Link route this time.

What A Turn On

While these devices seem as simple as the ones they aim to replace, the addition of networking ability can considerably change the way you live and work. You can take any dumb old space heater, for example, and set it up so that it alternates being on and off during the night. Alternatively, you can switch it on an hour before you leave work and come home to a toasty home.