Gift Guide: 10 gadgets for a smarter smart home
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When it comes to smart home stuff, once you start, it’s hard to stop. As soon as you’ve got one light that you can turn on and off from your phone, you’ll want five.
As such, smart home gear can make great gifts for anyone who’s already started making their way down that rabbit hole.
Alas, there’s a lot of bad smart home hardware out there — mystery devices from brands no one has heard of, with apps that hardly work out of the box and will probably just silently stop working altogether the next time there’s a big iOS or Android update.
Looking to help someone make their already smart home a little smarter? Here’s some of the stuff we liked this year:
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TP-Link Kasa Plug
Smart plugs are a great way to introduce a person to the connected home. The TP-Link Kasa plugs are inexpensive but work with every popular voice assistant and smart phone. Smart plugs let you turn a basic lamp or coffee maker into a smart device without replacing anything.
Price: $28 for a two-pack on Amazon
Wyze Cam Pan
The Wyze Cam Pan packs a lot of features for the price. At $35, the small 1080p camera pans, tilts and zooms, and sports a low-light mode. Best of all, the Wyze cam works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant for things like “Alexa, show me a view of the living room on my office TV.” It’s by far the best smart home camera for the price.
(If you don’t need it to tilt/pan/etc. on command, there’s also a $25 version without all that.)
Price: $35 on Amazon
Echo Dot with Clock
The Echo Dot with Clock is part of the Amazon Alexa family. It’s slightly more expensive than the ubiquitous Echo Dot… but it has a built-in clock! The clock makes this thing way more useful when you’re not actually talking to it — and, fortunately, unlike the Echo Spot, there’s no built-in camera to make it extra weird to put on your bedside table. One catch: these keep going in and out of stock, so they might be a pain to get this late in the game.
Price: $35 on Amazon
The Nanoleaf Canvas is a new type of wall art. It’s an interactive, fun way to splash a wall with light and design. The panels snap together, allowing the owner to create and recreate designs to fit their life and space.
Price: $180 for a starter kit of 9 tiles
The Ember is a smart coffee mug. No, really. The Ember uses an internal heater to keep the drink at an ideal temperature as set by the user via a companion app. If the coffee drinker in your life is more of an all-day coffee sipper, the Ember should bring joy to their life.
Price: $100 on Amazon
Some people love plants but hate watering. That’s where the Dewplanter comes in by capturing and filtering water in the air. It works as a dehumidifier — but instead of dumping excess water into a bin, it waters a plant. A control panel allows the owner to set the desired water amount. Set it and forget it and get a green thumb without any skill. Low-maintenance plants like evergreens, ferns, violets and aloe plants work best.
It’d be nice if we could all be home with our dogs 100% of the time — but for most people, that’s just not the case. Furbo is part web cam and part treat dispenser. Using a smartphone app, dog owners can monitor and interact with their pets, remotely tossing out treats when your pup does something good. Dog-friendly color signals and sounds are designed to get attention, while real-time updates and a camera let owners gain insight in their pet’s life from afar. Need to know when Mr. Boots starts barking so the neighbors don’t complain? Furbo can listen for barking and send you notifications accordingly.
The Weber iGrill is a fantastic thermometer designed for grilling. Wireless connectivity brings the grill into the modern era, allowing the user to check the meat’s temperature from a smartphone and without opening the grill. A magnetic base sticks the control unit to the side of the grill and the probes are designed to withstand searing heat.
The iGrill Mini is around $50 and includes Bluetooth connectivity. The slightly more expensive iGrill 2 adds a LED display to the base unit and an extra probe, while the priciest model, iGrill 3, has more battery life and the extra probe but is only designed to be permanently mounted directly on the side of specific Weber grills.
Price: iGrill Mini, $45 on Amazon | iGrill 2, $65 on Amazon | iGrill 3, $80 on Amazon
Casper Glow Light
The Casper Glow Light makes going to bed and waking up a bit easier. The light is warm, and gradually dims to assist in falling asleep. Likewise, there’s an alarm function that slowly turns on to help knock the sleeper out of a deep slumber. The $129 Casper stands apart from other light-alarm clocks in several ways. One, it works as a lantern, allowing the owner to carry it throughout the home, and recharges using a bed-side dock. The Glow Light’s design is simple and durable; it can likely survive a fall off a table. Most importantly, the clock is managed with a smartphone app, eliminating the need to use clunky, on-device controls.
For the Sonos lover in your life, the Move speaker fills a massive hole that existed in Sonos’ lineup for far too long: portable speakers. The Move brings all of Sonos’ features to a speaker designed to move around the owner’s house. And it sounds great, too, with full, expansive sound able to fill any room. At $399 the Move is more expensive than competitors, but for someone who has already embraced the Sonos concept, the connectivity and ecosystem is worth the price of admission.
Price: $399 on Amazon