We’re back with the WiFi HiFi holiday gift guides! Each week, we’ll release a new themed gift guide, chocked-full of great tech gift ideas for different people on your list. This week, we’re looking at great gifts for the smart home.
C by GE Full Color Light Strips
Now owned by Savant, C by GE has recently released a series of new lighting products, including these cool light strips that can help set the mood and create cool lighting effects in any room of the home. Ideal for rooms like the den, basement, or kitchen, you can select from millions of colours, including tunable white. Set schedules and scenes, and even sync the lights to your sleep/wake cycle. The strips can be easily cut to fit the space where you want to place them. They work with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa for voice and app control. Grab a two-metre pack for $119 and one-metre extensions for $50 ea.
Airthings: Wave Plus Smart Indoor Air Quality Monitor
They might already have smart lighting, security cameras, even a smart thermostat. But what about an air quality monitor? The quality of your air is more important now than ever as we power through COVID-19 and await a vaccine. This battery-operated device includes Radon detection and has sensors for temperature, air pressure, humidity, TVOCs, and CO2, offering detailed insights into the air quality in your home. You can check levels on the go via the Android or iOS app and, with Bluetooth, you can access real-time data any time you are within range. It’s easy to install and the battery lasts for two-to-three years. US$270
Ring Video Doorbell
This next-gen video doorbell from the popular company offers improved motion detection and enhanced Wi-Fi, allowing you to view 1,080p HD. Get notifications any time someone presses the doorbell and use two-way talk to communicate with people at the door. Offering dual-band connectivity, it comes with a removable, rechargeable battery pack, night vision, and compatibility with Amazon Alexa. Note that you do need a Ring Protect Plan to record videos and recall up to 60 days of footage. But even without opting for that, it’s the perfect gift for someone who already has Ring cameras in their home but might not have opted for a video doorbell yet. $130.
Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
Even for families that got into the smart home game early, chances are they might still hold old legacy Echo Dots around the house. Upgrade them with the newest version that adds a clock on the front, displaying the time and allowing you to tap the top to snooze an alarm. It also employs a new spherical design, fabric finish, better audio, and temperature sensor. $80 for the one with the clock or $70 without.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
The newest media streaming stick in the Fire TV line-up, this one can permit access to streaming services from any old television, as long as it has an HDMI port. Plus, it offers 50% more power with HDR and Dolby Atmos support, Alexa Voice Remote, and AV device control. $60, or opt for the more affordable Fire TV Stick Lite, which is $50 and comes with a pared down version of the Alexa Voice Remote that allows you to use voice to find, launch, and control content (but doesn’t have power, volume, and mute buttons to control compatible TVs, soundbars, and AV receivers.)
Roku Streaming Stick+
An alternative option if you prefer to Roku interface is this streaming stick, which supports HD, 4K, and HDR video, offers four-times the wireless range of previous models, and comes with a voice remote. Plus, it uses the intuitive Roku interface and affords access to various Roku channels as well as popular streaming services (with an appropriate subscription). $60
Axis GEAR for Motorizing Window Shades
This hardware and app is a great way to motorize any existing window shades. The product consists of a motor-driven gear (hence the name) that opens to insert the traditional loop chain used to manually control most window blinds. The motor is then controlled via an Android or iOS app on a smartphone via Bluetooth, or by the push of buttons on the unit itself. It’s powered by a discreet accompanying solar panel that secures to the window, ensuring that any blind, regardless of position, will have appropriate power to operate the Axis GEAR. An integrated battery pack, using standard AA batteries, can also be used to charge the GEAR for cloudy days. MSRP $349.
iRobot Roomba s9+ Robot Vacuum
Yes, a vacuum can be part of a smart home. I have been using mine for years, and through smart connectivity, I can control it via Alexa by giving commands like “Alexa, tell Roomba to vacuum” or, more specifically, “Alexa, tell Roomba to vacuum the dining room.” It’s able to do this through smart mapping. After a few passes on a floor of your home, it will devise a map that you can adjust and label. Once the map is saved to memory, you can ask the robot vacuum by voice or from within the app to vacuum only certain rooms or areas. Use this vacuum with the Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal system that docks and empties the bin at once into a bag. When the bag is full, simply take it out, toss it, and replace with another. The bags can hold tons of dirt and debris and uses four layers of allergen blocking material to trap 99% of pollen and mold. At the holiday sale price of $1.400 (regularly $1,500), it’s a big investment but a great one for the family. If you want to save a bit of dough, consider the i7+ (which is the model I have), which is just $800 on sale (regular price $1,000) and comes with the same Dirt Disposal dock and Alexa integration.
Google Nest Mini
For Google households, this affordable little smart speaker is a great gift. Even if they already own one, it’s useful to have multiple ones around the house. And especially now as people are staying at home more often, they can come in handy. For a parent with a child who’s doing distance learning, they are especially neat thanks to the super convenient Family Bell feature. Set up different bells to ring to indicate when it’s recess or lunch, or even time to do chores, and include your own customized message. I use it at home with my son, who’s doing virtual learning. A Google Nest Mini at his desk rings when recess has begun while one upstairs rings when it’s time to get back to class. It works flawlessly and he loves when I surprise him and adjust the message to include something funny. But even just to function as a hub to control smart home devices, it’s a handy and convenient buy. Through the holidays, you can snag one for about $35, regular price $70.
TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini
For the person who’s just getting comfortable with the idea of a smart home, smart plugs are a great way to dip their toes into the waters, so to speak. Plug one into an standard AC outlet them plug a device into it, like a lamp, coffee maker, or fan. You can then use the mobile app to remotely turn the device on and off, set schedules, and control it by voice using Google Assistant and/or Amazon Alexa. What people particularly love about this one is that it doesn’t cover up the second outlet so you can still plug something else in. You can find them for anywhere from $23 for a two-pack to $40 for four.
Ecobee Smart Thermostat
A great alternative to the Nest thermostat, the ecobee is Energy Star-certified and controllable via the ecobee app. It integrates with a number of smart home systems, such as Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Samsung SmartThings, and includes Alexa built-in. You can also use it to stream Spotify and Bluetooth music, makes hands-free calls or use it as an intercom. It supports various HVAC accessories and learns and adapts to your routines. It ships with a SmartSensor you can place in a specific room that detects occupancy and manages the temperature accordingly, and can be controlled from the app. Visit the website to check if the thermostat is compatible with your home’s wiring before grabbing one as a family gift. $330
Didn’t find what you were looking for? Check back as this gift guide will be updated through to the end of 2020, and check out more gift suggestions in our other Holiday Gift Guides.