For those who want to enter the smart home realm without actually investing in smart devices, a smart plug — which adds a touch of automation to lamps, coffee machines and other everyday devices — is the way to go.

Essentially, a smart plug is a moveable outlet paired with connectivity to a smart home ecosystem — be it Amazon’s Alexa, the Google Assistant or Apple’s HomeKit. If you have multiple appliances you want to get online, there’s also smart outlet strips, which turn one regular outlet into many with smart control.

We researched hundreds of smart plug options — combing editorial and user reviews — to pull together the 11 most highly rated options. After weeks of testing, three options rose to the top:

Best smart plug overall

Small (it doesn’t block other sockets when plugged in) and powerful (it connects to Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant), the Wyze Plug features everything a smart plug should — it's quick to respond to prompts and allows you to create automations and schedules.

Best smart plug for HomeKit

The new and improved Wemo Smart Plug With Thread offers the same features as its predecessor (easy setup, quick response time and a small design), but it makes connections even faster by incorporating Thread mesh networking. It's designed specifically to work with Apple HomeKit, making it the ideal smart plug for iPhone and iPad owners.

Best smart strip overall

Those who want to control multiple devices through one central hub have a superb option in the Monoprice Stitch power strip. The strip features four standard outlets, which can be controlled separately through its connected app and through Alexa or the Google Assistant.

Best smart plug overall: Wyze Plug

$11.98 at Amazon

The Wyze Plug is a really unassuming device. It has everything a smart plug needs —- a plug to go into your current outlet, an outlet on the front to plug other devices in and connectivity to make it controllable —- and excels at the overall experience.

Included in the box is a QR Code you scan to connect the app to the plug. There are a few prompts, which get the gadget connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network, and then you’re set.

In terms of responding to commands, the Wyze plug handled prompts within a second. You can create timers, and compared to the Wemo, the Wyze’s experience is a bit more intuitive as it offers a quick scroll menu for selecting the time. For instance, we set up an automation for the Wyze to turn on our coffee machine at 7:45 every morning to start the brew process. And for those who want to conserve energy, it can automatically turn outlets (and the corresponding items plugged in) off at the end of the day. If you desire manual control, there’s a button on the side of the Wyze to turn it on or off.

Even more importantly, it was a bit more accurate than the Wemo when turning power on and off by about half a second. This makes it handier for some use-case like warming up a coffee machine or making a traditional lamp a smart one.

The Wyze plug also offers a vacation mode, something the Wemo does not. This way if the plug is attached to a lamp in a window, it will appear that the light is turning on and off throughout the day as if you’re home. Since it’s built in, you don’t need to mess around with creating your own automation.

While the Wyze plug shines within the Amazon or Google smart home ecosystem, it doesn’t offer support to connect within the Apple HomeKit setup. That makes it a bit less universal, but for the price you can’t beat it – especially if you plan to just use the companion app, Alexa or the Google Assistant. And while not as compact as the Wemo, the Wyze plug delivers huge value at $12.

Best smart plug for HomeKit: Wemo Smart Plug With Thread

$24.99 at Amazon

Wemo’s latest Smart Plug With Thread takes what we loved about the previous model (simple setup, fast reaction to commands and cues, and a small but capable design) and improves upon it by adding Thread, a mesh networking protocol that speeds up the communication between your iPhone and smart devices like the Wemo Smart Plug. You’ll need a HomePod Mini, Apple TV 4K or other Thread hub to take advantage of Thread, though if you don’t have one, the Wemo plug also has Bluetooth connectivity just like the prior version.

Setting up the Wemo Smart Plug With Thread took us just two minutes. You plug it in, open the Home app on your iPhone, then hold the top of your iPhone to the top of the plug to scan its NFC tag to initiate setup. Assign it to a room, give the plug a name and a couple of taps later you’re done.

Unlike the previous Wemo Smart Plug that could be controlled via the Wemo app, the new Smart Plug can only be controlled through Apple’s Home app. Once the plug is added to your Home, you’re able to control whatever’s plugged into it using Siri, or set up HomeKit automations. For example, if you have a lamp plugged into the smart plugin in your living room, you can say something like “Hey Siri, turn off the living room lamp” to turn it off.

We currently have a few different automations set up for our testing and use. The first relies on a motion sensor in our hallway that triggers the Wemo Smart Plug With Thread to turn on a lamp, but only after the sun has gone down. We replaced an old iDevices Connected Smart Plug, which we’d been using for the last four years or so.

With the iDevices plug, there was a three- to five-second delay between motion being detected and the light turning on, often resulting in us walking all the way down the hall before the light would turn on. However, with the new Wemo plug and Thread technology, the plug turns on after maybe one second, well before we exit the hall. It’s so impressively fast that we’re currently adding up how much it would cost to replace the rest of our smart plugs with Wemo’s latest. Hint: a lot, even if they’re only $25 a pop.

For someone who already has a HomeKit-based smart home, the Wemo Smart Plug With Thread is an easy addition to recommend. It simply doesn’t get better than this.

Despite all that functionality, the Wemo Plug is really tiny — in fact, it’s the smallest smart plug we tested. It leaves ample room in a standard two-socket outlet, something that at times can be crucial. It comes in just one color — white — with a glossy front that doesn’t call much attention.

Best smart outlet strip: Monoprice Stitch

$29.99 at Target

The Monoprice Stitch is akin to the Wyze smart plug — just in a strip form. It offers easy setup, simple controls and support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, but no Apple HomeKit integration.

The Monoprice Stitch was the fastest to set up out of all the smart strips we tested. All we had to do to get started was plug it in, download the app and connect it to compatible devices. We were up and running in under 10 seconds, and we really appreciated not having to manually connect to the strip over Bluetooth.

One shortcoming (pun intended): The Monoprice’s cord comes in just shy of 20-inches long. While perfect for a kitchen countertop with a few appliances connected, it can get a bit tricky, perhaps, for a home office setup that might require plugins at different lengths and from different directions.

The Monoprice comes with four standard outlets and two USB-A ports. Each of the four sockets can be controlled individually, meaning you can keep outlet one and three turned on while delivering no power through two and four. These controls can come manually through the app, or by voice cues through your Amazon or Google smart assistant (if you’re looking for Apple HomeKit connectivity, your best option is the Eve Energy power strip).

Within the Monoprice app you can set timers and even create routines for each individual outlet. When testing in a kitchen, for instance, we could have one outlet turn on the coffee machine in the morning for a set amount of time, and in the evening start pre-heating the toaster oven through another outlet.

Commands like turning an outlet or the whole strip on or off happen quickly. The Wi-Fi connectivity inside is strong (on par with our top pick and the much pricier $100 Eve Energy), but also may depend on the Wi-Fi connection in your home.

For the price, the Monoprice Stitch Power Strip delivers a dependable experience that is fast to react to commands. Like the Wemo or Wyze Plug, it offers a simple design that we have a feeling will work for most people.

How we tested

After deciding on our testing pool by consulting experts, the most popular models and our knowledge of the smart home market, we got to testing. We focused on a few key areas, taking special note of how intuitive they were to set up, whether they blocked other sockets and the universality of each plug’s connectivity.

We started evaluating from the moment each plug arrived, noting what was needed for setup and how seamless the experience was. Did we need to download a standalone app, and was an account required to use it? Could the plug easily integrate with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit or the Google Assistant? If it had a separate application, did that deliver any special features like timers, an away mode or the ability to create routines?

In terms of ease of use, we tested for latency by turning the outlet on and off through every way possible. We also measured how long it took to deliver the desired response. In terms of power, we examined the wattage of each plug and whether or not it offered energy consumption monitoring.

How we rated

We used the below categories and subcategories to score smart plugs and strips.

  • Setup had a maximum of 25 points: overall (25 points).
  • Smart home connectivity had a maximum of 15 points: Amazon Alexa (5 points), Apple HomeKit (5 points) and Google Assistant (5 points)
  • Ease of use had a maximum of 15 points: overall (15 points).
  • Build had a maximum of 10 points: overall (10 points).
  • Power had a maximum of 10 points: output (5 points) and energy consumption tracking (5 points).
  • Warranty had a maximum of 5 points: overall (5 points).

Other smart plugs and strips we tested

Amazon Smart Plug

$24.99 at Amazon

Amazon Smart Plug

As the name suggests, the Amazon Smart Plug works exclusively with Echo smart speakers and smart displays, making it much more niche than our overall winners. It’s an Alexa gadget and works wonderfully within that ecosystem. It’s seamless to set up and use —- but at the price it has a larger design that’s quite long and it’s a bit more expensive than our other picks.

Eufy Smart Plug

$22.99 at Amazon

Eufy Smart Plug

The Eufy Smart Plug has the most unique design out of the plugs we tested. It’s a rounded square with the plug located on the bottom. It takes up a lot of space, though, and only gives you one extra plug. There’s a physical button for power control and an LED indicator. Setup took a bit longer on this one and it only works with Amazon Alexa.

Eve Energy Smart Strip

$99.95 at Amazon

Eve Energy Smart Strip

If looks counted the most in our scoring, the Eve Energy Smart Strip would be the winner. It features an aluminum design that feels super high-end. But at nearly $100, it features only three ports and only works with HomeKit. You do get full energy consumption monitoring and the ability to turn individual outlets on or off.

Kasa Smart Plug

$14.99 $9.99 at Amazon

Kasa Smart Plug

TP-Link’s Kasa Smart Plug is smaller than most of the smart plugs we tested. The right edge of this plug features an LED indicator and it’s the brightest one we saw. Using the Kasa app on your Android or iOS device, you can set customizations, monitor the plug and even set a schedule. You can also connect it with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant. Ultimately Kasa lost points and value in our eyes due to its less-than-intuitive app and the fact it didn’t always hold the strongest connection to the plug itself.

Kasa Smart Outlet Strip

$39.99 $26.99 at Amazon

Kasa Smart Outlet Strip

This Smart Outlet Strip features three individually controllable outlets and two USB-A ports. Using the Kasa app for Android or iOS, you can set up the strip and pair it with Amazon Alexa or the Google Assistant. We ultimately found other apps a bit easier to use, but did like the overall build of the Kasa. It also has a longer cord, but less outlets in comparison with the Monoprice Stitch strip.

Philips Hue Smart Plug

$34.99 at Amazon

Philips Hue Smart Plug

Like the Wemo Plug, Philips Hue’s offering can work with all three core ecosystems. You can connect it to an existing Philips Hue system with a bridge for out of home control or use Bluetooth for in-home control. It’s only rated for lamps and lights though —- so no appliances can be controlled here. For that reason Wyze or Wemo is better for most use cases.

Satechi Dual Outlet Plug

$59.99 at Amazon

Satechi Dual Outlet Plug

The Satechi delivers a smart plug that is built from the ground up for Apple’s HomeKit and turns one outlet into two. Via the Home app, you can turn each outlet on or off and create routines. It is pretty large, though, so make sure you have space and that you can stomach the nearly $60 price point.

Wemo Mini Smart Plug

$34.99 $24.94 at Amazon

Wemo Mini Smart Plug

Here’s the funny thing about the Wemo Mini Smart Plug —- it’s twice the size of the Wemo Plug. It works within the same Wemo app and supports Apple HomeKit, Alexa and the Google Assistant. And at $34.99, it’s $10 more than our top pick, the Wemo Plug, making it less desirable overall.

Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing: