Smart Home Gear Guide – Top Gadgets For 2021

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Planning to invest in some good tech for your home? Enjoy checking out brand new technology? Or simply curious about the updated versions of your tech? If you are a gizmo freak you would be very interested to know the coolest range of gadgets whose designs not only make our life effortless, they add a swag to our living.

We are about to unpack some of the best tech options you’ve got in the market, and understand why these trends are likely to stay. Whether you’re watching a movie (Sicario, 1917, Fury – whatever), listening to music, setting the temperature of your home or playing host to visitors, here are some extremely elegant options that you’d like to consider. While some of these are compatible with both Alexa and Google Home, some do a great job with either one. 

Amazon Echo Show 10

An innovative new design, the Amazon Echo Show 10 promises an intuitive smart display and powerful audio quality. Made for excellent video calls, it also doubles up as a security camera.

Display

The Amazon Echo Show 10 comes with a 10.1 inch HD screen and a 13 mega pixel camera that automatically rotates to follow you, using an effortless pan and zoom to ensure that you are the centre of the screen at all times.

A rotating display isn’t the only new thing about the Amazon Echo Show 10. In a new look, it comes in a rounded, cylindrical base where the screen can tilt until a 45 degree and back.

The device can also be used as a security device by live streaming through the Alexa app.

Audio

The audio is a powerful speaker that orients itself to the direction of the screen. While the sound quality is impressive, you will not find it much of an upgrade from the standard Echo smart speaker.

Compatible with Alexa, Amazon Echo Show 10 allows a wide variety of services like streaming music, providing verbal information on weather (supported by a visual display of the information on screen), sports and general trivia, and even controlling compatible smart home devices.

The Echo Show 10 also supports a built-in Zigbee hub that helps manage all your smart home devices at the same time.

Through Alexa Guard you can set the Echo Show 10’s microphone to identify sounds like the smoke alarm or the sound of glass breaking thereby alerting you when you’re away.

Pro’sCon’s
Rotating Display helps track and keep you in focusHighly priced
Crisp SoundHeavy bass in audio may occasionally disturb the balance
Zigbee hub controls smart home devicesBulky
Good home security features 

Read More: What can Alexa Do?

What’s The Bes Alexa For Music?

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus

Amazon’s ‘pre-roll’ feature helps capture 4 extra seconds of footage before detecting any motion, but is not a great improvement from the Ring Doorbell 3 in terms of resolution or field of view.

Design

The Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus comes in a sleek body that doesn’t attract too much unwarranted attention, measuring about an average doorbell. The doorbell can be hard-wired or powered by a rechargeable battery.

The installation is pretty simple and can be completed by following instructions through the Ring app that is available for both Android and iOS. This is the first version of Ring to support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands.

The Ring Doorbell 3 Plus is part of versatile camera options that Ring provides depending on your need. Indoor/Outdoor cameras equipped with lights help keep your home protected and you informed at all times. (https://www.amazon.com/s?k=ring+camera&ref=nb_sb_noss_1)

Performance

The quality of video and audio streaming is clear and a ‘pre-roll’ feature in this version lets you record 4 more seconds of video before activating the motion detection. The Doorbell records and notifies you of any motion detected.

It pairs well with Alexa and setting it up with the Echo speaker notifies you when there’s someone at your door and Echo can show you live feed from the doorbell on the screen.

The Ring doorbell promises a battery life of 6 months to a year, and takes about 8 hours to recharge.

Pro’sCon’s
Easy to installIsn’t much of an upgrade from its predecessor
Pre-roll feature helps better motion detectionSubscription is needed for many features
Records sharp and clear video and audioCould have a wider field of view
Dual-band Wi-FiNot great for Google Home/Nest hub users
Pairs well with other smart home devicesNo free video storage

Ecobee Smart Thermostat with Voice Control

The Ecobee Smart Thermostat is an upgrade from it’s predecessors on many levels, and is loaded with features like advanced Alexa support, sensitive touch display, remote room sensor and usability with other smart home devices.

Design

Ecobee Smart Thermostat comes in a 4.29 by 4.29 inches square design rounded at the corners and enclosed in a 1 inch thick black casing. The screen lights up automatically sensing your presence and adjusts the temperature accordingly. This automatically conserves energy to maintain temperatures when you’re away without compromising on comfort.

Two microphone holes are designed on either side of the screen that support a powerful speaker and echo-cancelling microphones. These support numerous third-party hubs and smart devices.

The thermostat is fitted with a microphone at the bottom and this pairs well with Alexa.

Features    

The Ecobee Smart Thermostat with voice control features a room Smart sensor controlled by a single remote that helps maintain uniform temperature throughout your house.

An option to schedule helps you create daily, weekly and monthly cooling and heating schedules, and you can set the temperature when you’re at home or away, beforehand.

You would be access your thermostat and control the temperature of your home from anywhere using the Ecobee app that is available in both Android and iOS devices.

The Ecobee integrates smoothly other smart home systems like the Ecobee Smart Camera.

This device supports Alexa voice technology which means you can use your Alexa Echo device to stream music, and call and messaging options.

Pro’sCon’s
Energy savingDoesn’t support Google Home
Better Alexa functionalityHeavily priced
Responsive touch interface 
Remote Room sensor maintains target temperature 
Good speaker quality 
Integrates with other smart home devices 

4K Fire TV Stick

The best streaming device for its price, the Amazon 4K Fire TV Stick uses a speedy user interface, streams a wide variety of content, and supports Alexa’s voice assistance. Its performance varies between different apps.

Design

The 4K Fire TV Stick shares the same design as its predecessors, and in general is compact and unobtrusively styled. An HDMI extender cable helps if you can’t get the device to fit in the port, it also is known to improve Wi-Fi connectivity and remote control performance.

The remote is controlled by Alexa’s voice assistant which means you can simply press the microphone button in the mic and speak into the mic at the top giving your command. The TV will then display the relevant visual information onto the screen – hopefully it’s not you eating the last slice of pie after you telling people that you did not eat the last slice of pie!

Performance

The Fire TV Stick 4k’s biggest feature is that it streams media in ultra-high definition including HDR10 media or Dolby Vision. The 4K HDR allows for crisper picture, vivid colors, and instant loading which sounds almost as good as relocating from a high tax state to a low tax state.

Media playback is crisp and snappy with quick menu navigation. On top of this, it gives you access to a large library of Amazon’s own selection of streaming media as well as other third party platforms.

The interface in its recommendations comes across as random and could be more intuitive of viewing habits. This definitely could be developed better keeping in mind the amount of information collected in terms of viewing history and choices.

As far as you have a fast, reliable internet connection, the Fire TV Stick does a decent job with sharp picture and an overall enjoyable viewing experience. Sorry though, the show Mad About You and Desperate Housewives are still going to be unwatchable.

Pro’sCon’s
Reasonably pricedPerformance varied between apps
Supports 4K with HDR and Dolby VisionInterface is chaotic
Quick Wi-Fi streamingDoesn’t support other TV Live streaming devices
Easy menu navigation 
Useful Alexa voice controls 
Wide variety of content 

Google Nest Hub Max

A bigger, better version of the Google Home Hub that has smart motion sensing, and a few camera tricks up its sleeve, Google Nest Hub Max is all in all a great smart display.

Design

The Nest Hub Max comes in a 10 inch LCD displayscreen that is mounted on a base where the speakers are designed to a snug fit. Resolution is 1280 by 800 pixels giving you clear picture even from up close.

This smart screen is also equipped with a camera that helps it double up as a security device. The camera helps receive video calls. A couple of other tricks this camera does includes face recognition and motion tracking but no, it does not care if you scratch its belly because it’s not a dog!

Performance

The Hub Max has similar features to the Hub with regard to controls and layout. The screen has an ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the light of the screen to the colors and light around.

This smart screen comes with clear and sharp audio. Gesture control helps you play or pause content by just raising your hand. This, however, needs you to keep the camera unblocked to read your signals.

The Hub Max helps you access your photos, view your schedule, see a calendar and a load of other tasks, just at your fingertips.

Furthermore, the privacy option helps you block camera and microphones, giving you better control and privacy.

The Match face option helps you to set a profile by letting your Hub Max capture your features which it recognizes later. This feature can recognize up to 6 people and is optional.

It works with Google Assistant voice commands to make video calls. The camera has a 127 degree field view that helps pan and zoom onto an object and can adjust the surroundings such that the object is the center of focus.

Hub Max streams music from a variety of sources through your Google Home account.

The camera can work as a security camera but isn’t really meant for that. For instance, there’s no night vision, but it works well for your basic camera needs.

The Hub Max can be integrated to a host of smart home devices like smart lights, thermostat, and any other Google Home compatible devices that you may own. So, you can control the temperature of the room, dim or brighten lights through you Hub max device.

Pro’sCon’s
Elegantly designed larger screenNo physical shutter for camera
Camera that is used both for video calling and security servicesNo night vision for security camera
Supports smart home controlsDoesn’t work with Apple apps
Match face helps display personalized information 
Crisp audio for music 
Gesture-controlled smart display 
Clever motion tracking feature 

Read More: Learn how to use Google Home as an intercom

Nest Hello Video Doorbell

(Found here in the Google Store)

Nest Hello Video Doorbell is a neat, easy to use, smart doorbell that has power-packed features like facial recognition and brilliant video quality. It also doubles up as a security camera, and may need you to get assistance for installation.

Design

This smart doorbell is of a minimalistic design with a sleek body that is easy to fit into tight spaces. You would need a professional to install the Nest Hello as it has to be hardwired to your homes’ electric system.

You will need to invest in an additional chime for the Nest Hello to work.

Once installed, setting up this smart doorbell isn’t too difficult. It can be paired with the Nest app (available in both Android and iOS), and can be paired with any other Nest devices you may own, like the Nest Camera.

Performance

Using the Nest Hello Video Doorbell requires you to be subscribe to Nest Aware services.

With superior video resolution (1600 by 1200) and 160 degree viewing angle, the Nest Hello works with infrared night vision ensuring crisp pictures of people, vehicles, and animals even at night.

The facial recognition features helps capture your visitor’s face, and also gives you an option to feed in familiar faces in the app. With this, it makes your notifications more specific. The artificial intelligence used in this smart doorbell is such that it can differentiate between people and moving vehicles or animals; this cuts down on unnecessary notifications.

The Nest Hello integrates with both Google and Alexa and can be paired with other Nest products. 

Nest Hello saves recordings of video clips up to 5 days, but footage older than that gets deleted unless you subscribe to the Nest Aware subscription package. Nest Aware offers 24/7 recorded footage stored up to 30 days, and provides access to the Familiar Face recognition feature.

Pro’sCon’s
Excellent video qualityNeeds wiring at extra cost
Use of artificial intelligenceQuality of video depends on the WiFi connection
Works well with both Google and AlexaSubscription required to use full features
Good face recognition 
Easy to use 

Nest Thermostat

A reasonably priced product, Nest Thermostat helps you control your home temperature both by phone and by voice, while conserving energy all the time.

Design

The Nest Thermostat measures around 1.07 inches in thickness and 3.3 inches in diameter, and comes in a variety of colors. It holds a one year warrantee.

It is easy to install and comes complete with all the items you will need for installation.

This smart thermostat works with both Google and Alexa voice commands, and can be configured in the Google Home app through which instructions to set up the device are given.

Performance

The Eco mode helps conserve energy as it meets your heating or cooling needs. It also turns off automatically when you leave. But it does not give you your freedom back if you live in a lockdown state – sorry – you are going to have to relocate like everyone else.

The Nest Thermostat can be programmed to set a schedule, giving you the power to heat or cool your home before a scheduled time.

It not only gives you greater control on the climate, the Savings Finder feature suggests tweaks depending on your usage and needs, thereby helping you cut down on wastage and high electricity bills.

This smart thermostat uses the HVAC monitoring system to keep an eye out for your heating and cooling systems. It notifies you if your AC is taking unusually long to cool, and also reminds you of routine maintenance of your cooling systems.

Pro’sCon’s
Reasonable priceNo touch screen
Easy installation and setupDoesn’t automatically set schedules
Supports most HVAC systems 
Elegantly designed 
Pairs with both Google and Alexa voice commands 
Can be remotely controlled by phone 
Savings finder helps monitor and save energy 
Conserves energy 
Helps schedule and map routines 

Chromecast With Google TV

(Found here in the Google Store)

The Chromecast with Google TV is one of the best video streamers available, that works with both remote and voice search. It comes in a convenient, easy to use setup that meet all you video streaming needs in style.

Design

The Chromecast works on almost any TV with an HDMI port.  It comes in a flattened disc-shaped case, more oval in shape than its predecessors. A USB 2.0 fits into an adaptor port that is fixed to your television.

The new voice remote is quite compact, fitting neatly into your palm. You can search your favorite shows through Google Assistant. Google TV makes its debut on Chromecast which means more 24, Bosch, The Walking Dead, Yellowstone, and so on.

Performance

Chromecast streams a variety of shows, movies, or apps and the commands to these can be in any combination of terms.

Apart from search, Assistant also controls playback and helps follow commands like displaying feed from a compatible smart camera, showing the weather report, switching on the lights etc.

The Chromecast streams movies in superb video quality and the dongle supports all latest audio and video formats. It supports 4K HDR streaming letting you enjoy clear picture with Dolby Vision. In fact, it quite closely rivals Amazon’s 4K Fire TV Stick having little to almost no difference in video quality. (https://amzn.to/3b98LDR )

It provides a wide variety of content from different sources. While it works great to have all your options on your fingertips (or rather, the tip of your tongue), performance varies with platforms.

Pro’sCon’s
Large app selectionCan lag when switching apps or using voice
High quality HDR pictureCan’t be powered by all TVs
Supported by Dolby VisionDoesn’t support Apple TV app
Voice controlled remoteOccasional performance slowdowns
Makes good use of Google Assistant 

Philips Hue Bulbs

Philips Hue Lights come in a large array of smart LED lights with a mix of colours and lighting effects. Slightly pricey, these smart lights can be controlled wirelessly and gives you the freedom to create any ambience of your choice

Design

Philips Hue bulbs offer the largest range of bulbs and fixtures from soft lighting and multicolor light strips to white ambient light. The products under the Philips Hue lighting and fixtures are topic for another day.

It works through the Philips Hue app which is compatible with both iOS and Android. These bulbs help you control the intensity, set custom colors, use color combinations and even set schedules.

Since these bulbs work on Wi-Fi, they are known to use 80 percent less power than a traditional incandescent bulb. The bulbs last up to around 15,000 hours.

The Philips Hue Starter Kit includes both bulbs and the bridge that is needed to connect these bulbs to your Wi-Fi network.  

While using the Hue hub, you can connect to Amazon Alexa, or Google assistant for a wonderful lighting experience. It also works with Apple Homekit.

Performance

Setting up a Philips Hue bulb is quite straight forward. After screwing the bulb into place (it lights up like any other bulb), you will need to pair it with the Hue app. To wirelessly connect to your Hue bulb, you will need to leave the power switch on.

These bulbs can also be operated using your regular light switch, but you won’t be able to adjust color or light intensity.

Philips offers a variety of “scenes” or modes that create color profiles for the desired mood. Any change that you make in colors or intensity are all seen in real time, so you can see the changes happening before your eyes as you mix and match.

Another interesting feature of these bulbs are that you can set alarms and schedules so hat the lights turn on, turn off or change depending on the schedule you set for it.

Through the app, you can group bulbs according to rooms or portions of your house, this makes managing them easier.

Pro’sCon’s
Easy to set upVery expensive
Integrates well with other servicesNo use for switches
Smooth app experienceMassively depends on your phone
Good automation 
Lets you customize light colour and intensity 
Controls your bulbs wirelessly 
Longer lasting bulbs 
Can set schedules and timers for individual bulbs 

August Wi-Fi Smart Lock

The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock (4th generation) is an improvement to an otherwise sound piece of technology. Its sleek frame is easy to install, works on an in-built Wi-Fi and works just as smoothly with Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple Homekit.

Design

August smart lock comes in a compact design and works with your existing lock hardware. The Wi-Fi connection helps it work with a horde of other smart devices.

It comes in a cylindrical shape with a ridged exterior that rotates to lock and unlock your door. The 4th generation August is less bulkier than it’s predecessors.

This smart lock needs you to only change the part of the deadbolt that’s inside your house. This means that you may still use your keys for the original deadbolt.

It is powered by 4 AA batteries that last somewhere between 6 to 8 months which is more than enough time to realize that the NBA is no longer what it used to be – sorry Marc Cuban – you are not helping.

Performance

The August smart lock comes with a DoorSense sensor that that is attached to the frame, that tells your lock if the door is closed. This also helps in auto-locking your door as soon as it closes, or after a few minutes.

The August app allows you to receive notifications if anyone locks or unlocks the door, or even leaves it ajar.

The Auto-unlock feature by August locks or unlocks you depending on whether you are leaving your home or just coming back. The lock operates on an Away mode when you’re not home, and a Home mode when you arrive.

You may be able to create a Guest access for frequently visiting friends or family members, through the August app. These are in the form of temporary “keys” that can be scheduled to work at only particular times of the day.

Installing the August Smart Lock and pairing it to your Wi-Fi is pretty simple.

The smart locks are compatible with a range of smart home systems. Other than Google Assistant, Alexa and Siri, it also works with Nest, Simplisafe, Logitech, and SmartThings among others.

Pro’sCon’s
Easy to installPricey
Built-in Wi-FiShort battery life
Automatic Lock/Unlock features 
Temporary guest access for frequently visiting members 
Sleeker design 
Compatible with other smart home devices 

The Bottomline

Smart home devices are the most revolutionary creations we’ve seen in a while. These gadgets blend mechanics and artificial intelligence smoothly, allowing us to have the most seamless experiences of all time. They not only make our lives easier, they do so tastefully and add a certain appeal to our surroundings.

If you’re one to explore tech, all these options are something to watch out for. We are eagerly waiting to witness an upgrade of these devices to see what they’ve got to offer.