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So, you’re planning to invest in some new smart tech for your home? Maybe you’re just looking to see what’s available or you need a great gift idea. Whatever the case, you’ve come to the right place.

If you are a gizmo freak like me, you would probably be sitting in bed right now trying to convince Alexa to cook you some breakfast. Then Googling what device you need to make that happen… (sorry, no luck so far).

That said, we are about to unpack some of the best tech options on the market and show you why these trends are likely here to stay. Whether you’re watching a movie, listening to music, setting the temperature of your home or playing host to visitors, these are some extremely elegant options you should likely consider.

Amazon Echo Show 10

An innovative new design, the Amazon Echo Show 10 features an intuitive, pivoting smart display and powerful audio quality.

Display & Camera

To kick things off, let’s take a second to acknowledge the stylish contemporary new look Alexa has now adopted. At first sight, you already know things are different. Almost as if attaching a tilted display to a traditional Echo smart speaker.

Moving on, the Amazon Echo Show 10 comes with a 10.1 inch HD screen and a 13-megapixel camera. The display has the ability to automatically rotate 45 degrees on its base in order to stay facing you as you move through the room.

In addition to its panning feature, it also effortlessly zooms in and out to ensure that you are at the center of the screen at all times. The device can also be used as a security camera by live streaming through the Alexa app.

Audio

The display sits atop a relatively powerful array of 3 speakers that orient to the direction of the screen. This allows the sound to follow you around the room as well.

The cylindrical base encases a 3″ top-facing woofer and 2 directional 1″ tweeters, delivering plenty of sound for just about any room. And with 4 built-in microphones, Alexa will hear you loud and clear.

Compatible with Alexa, the Amazon Echo Show 10 allows a wide variety of services like streaming music, providing weather, sports and general trivia, and even controlling compatible smart home devices.

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.

Other Thoughts

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

I find this device great in the kitchen, where we use it to play movies, cooking shows, and recipes. You can also ask her to show your Ring Cameras and Ring Doorbell which is convenient.

Finishes include white and charcoal.

Ring Video Doorbell 4

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 4 now adds better video previews and longer battery life. As with many other models, you have the option to either hardwire the Ring to your existing system or go wireless.

The installation is pretty simple and can be completed by following instructions through the Ring app which is available for both Android and iOS. Unlike some other versions, the Ring Doorbell 4 will allow you to use both 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bands.

The Ring Doorbell 4 is just one of the versatile camera options that Ring provides depending on your needs. These are great Indoor/Outdoor cameras that can secure your entire property, inside and out.

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 Show can allow you to view the doorbell’s live feed with a simple voice command.

You can expect a battery life of 6 months to even a year under optimal settings and conditions. This varies based on how sensitive your settings are adjusted, whether motion alerts are selected and etc. A full charge should take about 8 hours.

Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium

The Ecobee Smart Thermostat Premium is an upgrade from its predecessors on many levels and is loaded with features like built-in Siri/Alexa, air quality monitoring and a radar occupancy sensor.

Design

Visually, this new model looks just about like any other model of ecobee.

Coming in a 4.09 by 4.09 inches square design, rounded at the corners and enclosed in black casing, you’re left with a sleek, modern design that can blend in with most home decors.

The touch-screen display shows the current temperature and allows users to adjust the settings on the unit itself or remotely using a number of methods. You’ll mostly find yourself, for instance, adjusting your settings with your mobile phone or by voice command.

Features    

As we’ve just mentioned, with an ecobee, you’ll be able to adjust your settings without ever touching the wall unit itself, if you so choose. This is the most obvious feature for most smart thermostats, though.

You can access your thermostat and control the temperature of your home using the Ecobee app from virtually anywhere on the planet, as long as you have an internet connection.

What’s more is this device supports both Alexa and Siri voice technology which means you can use your Amazon Echo or Apple Homepod to control your ecobee as well. But, it doesn’t stop there. The ecobee Thermostat Premium actually has it’s own Siri and Alexa built-in.

Setting your temperature preferences on a schedule helps you create daily cooling and heating schedules. Not only does this add to convenience in automation, but it also helps save tremendously with your energy bill.

The added option of Geofencing technology allows ecobee to know when you’re at home. This enables you to choose a “home” and “away” temperature as well.

Included with your purchase is a wireless Smart sensor to be placed in another area of your home. This helps your smart HVAC system keep track of temperatures in those areas and detect your presence to prioritize which zone should be at your ideal temperature.

Once you have a smart thermostat, I promise you, you’ll never go back.

Fire Stick 4K Max

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

Design

This device shares the same design as its predecessors, and in general, will remain completely concealed behind your television. 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. It takes some getting used to after using your fingers for your entire life, but it can be a lot quicker to find and play your intended program.

Performance

One of the 4k Max’s biggest features is that it’s said to be 40% more powerful than its predecessor. This means it’s faster, with less latency a smoother operation. This is definitely a noticeable improvement.

The next thing that stands out is its compatibility with WiFi 6. This will also provide you with a faster and more responsive connection, improving your user and viewing experience.

With 4k Ultra HD, and support for HDR, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos audio, there’s not a lot more you could ask for.

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 display screen that is mounted on a base where the speakers are designed to a snug fit. The resolution is 1280 by 800 pixels giving you a 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 include 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 it.

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 cameras 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, thermostats, 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.

Google Nest Video Doorbell (2nd Gen)

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 subscribed 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.

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 warranty.

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 climate control, but the Savings Finder feature also 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.

Chromecast With Google TV

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 meets all your 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 for 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 the latest audio and video formats. It supports 4K HDR streaming letting you enjoy a 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.

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.

Philips Hue Bulbs

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

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 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 code 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.

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.

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