How We Test Smart Home Devices – PCMag

Here at PCMag, we test every type of smart home device on the market, including door locks, light bulbs, microwaves, plugs and power strips, security cameras, video doorbells, and many more. We install these devices in our actual homes, where we perform hands-on testing and compare them with similarly priced alternatives. We rate each product based on its features, interoperability with other smart products and standards, performance, and price.

If you’re planning to outfit your home with the latest smart tech, this is what we look for in each product category. We also have separate pages for how test robot vacuums and smart displays.

Brava Oven
(Photo: Zlata Ivelva)


We review many different smart appliances, including air conditioners, air purifiers, and kitchen gadgets.

For air conditioners, we evaluate the difficulty of the installation process and how the AC connects to your phone. We also test scheduling and preset options, voice commands, and interoperability with other smart devices. Most importantly, we time how long it takes for the AC to cool down a room.

With air purifiers, we evaluate the installation and configuration process, as well as factor in available features such as how many air quality measurements are offered and how loud each unit gets. We time how long it takes for the purifier to scrub a room of pollutants, too.

Kitchen gadgets and ovens typically require lots of hands-on testing that may include cooking meals; using preset one-touch cooking methods; loading recipes from a database; and using a mobile app and voice commands to prepare a meal from start to finish. It probably goes without saying that this is one of the most enjoyable product categories to test.

These aren’t the only appliances we test, but many of the things we look for remain the same. We provide in-depth comparisons and testing details in each of our reviews, so you’ll never be left wondering which product is right for your home.

Yeelight Smart LED Bulb

Light Bulbs

Testing smart light bulbs involves evaluating the installation process, light quality, connectivity options, integrations, and companion app controls. We start by downloading the mobile app, adding the bulb or light strip to the app’s device list, and giving it a name. If we’re testing a lighting kit, we install all of the bulbs in the package and assign them to a group.

For color bulbs, we test any preprogrammed color presets and create custom ones to see how the bulb performs and to gauge its color quality. We do the same for white color temperature bulbs to evaluate warm and cool temperature settings. We run several tests through the mobile app to see how responsive the bulb is (how quickly it responds to commands) and test voice commands if the bulb supports Alexa, Google, or Siri services. We also run routines or scenes to see how the bulb interacts with other smart devices, and test its ability to follow usage schedules.

August Wi-Fi Smart Lock


Testing smart locks can be a bit more involved than most other smart home devices, because we usually have to remove an existing lock assembly in the process. Here, we look for things like well-documented installation instructions and thoughtfully designed mobile apps that walk you through the process.

We test the accuracy of their fingerprint …….



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