2018 Gift Guides
The Best Smart Home Gadgets for the New Homeowner
The smart home market is thriving. There are smart lights, smart plugs, smart switches, smart thermostats, smart locks, smart cameras, smart speakers – and that’s just scratching the surface. To the new homeowner, it can all be very intimidating. My advice would be to start with a smart speaker, like something that works with Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri or the Google Assistant, and then gradually invest in the smart devices that work with that ecosystem. Once you start controlling your music, lights or home appliances, I’ll bet you’ll catch the bug and look into what else you can control with your voice in your home.
The Depict Frame
A new home means empty walls, and the Depict Frame is a clever way to fill them. The 49-inch 4K UHD digital frame delivers a totally unique art-viewing experience with more than 700 exclusively curated works of art displayable with the app. For the smart home, it’s a must.
The Sonos One might be the perfect smart speaker to gift. If the person has other Sonos speakers, they’ll be able to integrate it into their existing system. And if they don’t, the Sonos One works perfectly by itself. It has Alexa built-in, too, so it can work essentially like an elevated, better sounding Amazon Echo. It’s also worth noting that if you don’t care about the Alexa integration, you can get a Play:1 speaker ($149), which is essentially the same speaker sans Alexa, for less.
Google Chromecast Ultra
This is arguably the best streaming device for anybody who wants to watch their favorite shows and movies in beautiful 4K HDR. (Note: they must have a 4K HDR, too.) And it syncs seamless with a Google Home smart speaker, so they’ll be able to summon their favorite photos and the weather on the big screen.
Amazon Smart Plug
As long as they have some Alexa-enabled speaker in their home, this little plug (which Amazon just announced this fall) will turn any home appliance or light fixture that plugs into an outlet into something that can controlled with their voice. Get them a few.
The HomePod is different from other smart speakers. Not only does have a superior music intelliect – it can answer specific questions about the song playing, such as when it was recorded and who played a specific instrament – but the speaker actually sounds better over time; it uses Apple’s EQ calibrating technology so that the audio is optimized for the specific room the speaker is in. (Note: must be an Apple Music subscriber to get most out of HomePod.)
Wyze Cam Pan
Wyze Cam has made waves in the smart security camera market by offering a product with virtually the same features as something that costs 10x as. The Wyze Cam Pan, for example, only costs $30 and produces a 1080p picture and it can send you motion alerts. It also works with Alexa and IFTTT. It’s a wonderful gadget for anybody who wants to stay connected to their home, or just keep a watchful eye over their dog.
Amazon Echo Input
This little gadget is an Echo Dot, just without the speaker part. It’s designed to plug into a Bluetooth or passive speaker (via a 3.5mm jack), and it’ll essentially then turn it into a smart speaker that you can summonds songs to with your voice. It’s brilliant for anybody who wants to breath new life into their old speakers (Note: doesn’t work with stereo audio.)
UE MegaBoom 3
This is probably the best-sounding portable Bluetooth speaker you can buy. And it’s more affordable than equally-sized options by Bose and JBL. This new model adds a “magic” button right on the speaker, which older models lacked, so you don’t have to get out your phone to play/pause and skip tracks.
Nest Thermostat E
Nest makes the best and smartest thermostats you can buy. This one, the Nest Thermostat E, isn’t as new and pretty as Nest Learning Thermostat (3rd Generation), but it’s more affordable and it has basically the same exact skill sets. And since it’s compatible with all the major voice assistants, it doesn’t matter if your household talks to Siri, Google Assistant or Alexa.
Logitech K600 TV Keyboard
Smart TVs are more computers than they are TVs, let’s face it, so to navigate them best you really should have a keyboard and trackpad – and that’s exactly what the Logitech K600 TV Keyboard is. It lets you use the keys to search for shows, movies and apps, as well as traditional TV stuff like adjusting the volume. Best of all, it can be programmed to work with your other devices, such as a tablet and your computer, so you can switch between them by just tapping a button. (It works with most Smart TVs, Windows or Mac PCs, and Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.)
Nest Cam IQ Indoor
The Nest Cam IQ Indoor is a more serious home security camera. It has a 4K sensor and a 12x digital zoom, both of which allow the camera to zoom in and track people as they move in and out of the frame. It also has Google Assistant built directly into it, so that it essentially works as a Google Home smart speaker; it responds to “Hey, Google” or “OK, Google” and it’ll answer most questions (although it won’t be able to play music or make calls).
August Smart Lock Pro
This smart lock fits directly on your door’s existing deadbolt – you can still use your old keys to unlock the door if you want – and it’ll automatically unlock the door as you approach and then lock behind you (so long as your phone is on your person). If you also buy the August Connect Wi-Fi Bridge ($70), you’ll be able to lock and unlock the door remotely, say if you’re at the office and your wife or kids can’t get in. And since it works with all the popular voice assistants – including Siri (HomeKit), Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa – you’ll be able to lock and unlock the door with your voice (if you have Bridge).
Philips Hue Smart Dimmer Switch
This smart switch is basically a remote control for your lights. It works with existing Philips Hue smart lights and lets you adjust the brightness of a specific light or a scene of multiple lights with the press of a button. You can also turn them on and off as well. It’s a simple gadget but lets you control all your smart lights without having to talk to your smart assistant.
Brilliant Two Switch Panel
This is a more sophisticated smart switch that is capable of controlling everything. It works will a ton of smart home ecosystems, including Alexa, Nest, Google Assitant, SmartThings, Honeywell and Sonos, and can control your lights, music, temperature and more – all in one location. It also acts as a smart display, able to show you things like weather as well as a live feed from your smart security camera or smart doorbell. There’s a lot to unpack with the Brilliant Two Switch Panel, but it’s an excellent gift for those who already have a bunch smart home devices.
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