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Best Smart Plugs

Aug 06, 2023

We evaluated 15 indoor and outdoor smart plugs from Amazon, TP-Link, Wemo, and more. Some are easier to use than others, but not all do a good job of keeping your data private.

Have you ever wondered whether you left your hair straightener on? Or maybe you want an easier solution than those archaic manual timers for your holiday decorations? Or perhaps you wonder how much energy your smart TV is using when it's "off" in its standby mode? If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you might want to consider smart plugs.

These budget-friendly little devices make it easy to remotely control and automate just about anything that plugs into a wall, whether it's lights, fans, coffee makers, or even inflatable holiday decorations. They’re also a great way to help ensure that you turn off products that could present a fire hazard if left unattended, such as hair straighteners and space heaters. Some smart plugs offer energy monitoring, so you can figure out which devices in your home are energy vampires and cut them off when they aren't in use.

To determine the best smart plugs for your home, we selected WiFi models (controllable from a smartphone, as opposed to models that require some sort of hub to connect to the internet) from a variety of popular brands and ran them through two sets of tests. In the first set of tests, Consumer Reports’ in-house usability specialist evaluated the plugs on how easy they are to set up, how easy the app is to use, and how easy the device itself is to use. In the second set of tests, our digital privacy and security test engineers evaluated them for data privacy and data security.

The smart plugs in our tests, featuring both indoor and outdoor models ranging in price from about $8 to $25 per plug (they’re often sold in multipacks), are the Amazon Smart Plug, Amazon Basics Outdoor Smart Plug, GE Cync Indoor Smart Plug, GE Cync Outdoor Smart Plug, Geeni Smart Dot Smart WiFi Plug, Geeni Outdoor Duo WiFi Smart Plug, Meross Smart Plug Mini, Meross Outdoor Smart Plug, Powrui Water-Proof Outdoor WiFi Plug AW-39, TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini HS103, TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Slim EP25, TP-Link Kasa Smart WiFi Outdoor Plug, Wemo WiFi Smart Outdoor Plug, Wyze Plug, and Wyze Plug Outdoor.

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Our test engineers run the smart plugs through both user experience tests and data privacy and security tests. The user experience tests are conducted by Paul Ritchey, CR's certified professional ergonomist and usability specialist, and the data privacy and security tests are conducted by Steve Blair, CR's privacy and security test engineer.

In our user experience tests, Ritchey evaluates each plug's operation using an Android phone and an iPhone, focusing on three key areas: ease of setup, app ease of use, and device ease of use. For ease of setup, he evaluates the process of downloading the app, creating an account, and adding the plug to the app. For app ease of use, he evaluates the difficulty of tasks like turning the plug on and off using the app, setting automated schedules, finding help and FAQ documentation, and checking the device firmware (so you can see whether it's up to date). Finally, for device ease of use, Ritchey determines whether the power buttons on the plugs are labeled and easy to understand, as well as whether the plugs might block other outlets while in use. For outdoor models, we also evaluate whether each socket can be controlled independently (most outdoor models feature two or more sockets) and whether the plugs come with outlet covers for sockets that aren't in use.

Our data privacy and data security tests are based on The Digital Standard, an open-source set of criteria for evaluating digital products and services created by CR with other organizations, scoring the smart plugs on more than 70 factors. For data privacy, we examine privacy policies, terms of service, and other documents to see how manufacturers collect, share, and use your data, as well as your ability to control the flow of your data. For data security, we evaluate the plugs’ features and analyze network traffic to make sure they employ various security measures, such as encryption, software updates, and resistance to known vulnerabilities.

Because the indoor and outdoor plugs from each brand share the same mobile apps, privacy policies, terms of service, and connectivity methods (WiFi and/or Bluetooth), in most cases we run only the indoor models through our data privacy and security tests because we believe the outdoor models will offer similar results.

The exceptions are the Wyze Plug Outdoor and Powrui Outdoor Plug. The Wyze outdoor model also features Bluetooth connectivity, unlike its indoor counterpart, which could cause its results to vary slightly. The Powrui model was tested for data privacy and data security because we did not evaluate a corresponding indoor model. All outdoor models undergo user experience testing.

Seven indoor smart plugs are in our tests; an eighth, the Wemo Smart Plug WSP080, was discontinued before we published this article. All of them are easy to set up and use, though they differ more widely in the strength of their data privacy and security. They’re arranged in order of performance, with the models at the top of the list having the highest total scores across our five tests. We also note which smart home systems and assistants they work with (in addition to your smartphone), as well as whether they offer energy monitoring.

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