It’s that time of year again! We’re back with the WiFi HiFi Holiday Gift Guides! Not sure what to get that special someone on your list? It has been a particularly tough year, and we all deserve some joy. There are lots of tech gift to suit an enduring passion, new hobby, personality, or style. Here, we’ll look at great gift ideas for someone who has decided to turn their home into a smart one or could benefit from some automation.
Apple HomePod Mini Smart Speaker
While nothing has changed with the Apple HomePod mini internally, externally, there are three new colour options launching: yellow, orange, and blue. Measuring 3.3 inches tall, the HomePod mini includes features like Siri, smart home control with compatible devices, and privacy and security built in. Additionally, it features the Apple S5 chip, full-range driver, premium neodymium magnet, and a pair of force-cancelling passive radiators., providing a full 360-degree audio experience. Play through just the speaker or sync with a second HomePod mini to create a stereo pair. The new colours, like the existing white and space grey, will include colour-matched details throughout, including the tinted touch surface, mesh fabric, volume icons, and woven power cable. The HomePod mini in new colours will be available starting in November for $129.
EZViz Wi-Fi Indoor Smart Security Cam
A great entry-level device to get someone who is just exploring the concept of the smart home, this camera sells for just US$30. Compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT devices, you can view live streams from an Echo Show or Spot, or Google Hub device. The camera has a 130-degree viewing angle and a magnetic base and can be set up easily via W-Fi. The EZVIZ app offers Wi-Fi and installation support. Use it as a general home security camera, baby monitor, or even to keep an eye on pets when you’re away during the day. Using the app, you can speak to visitors as well from a smartphone, PC, or Mac. The PIR sensor can detect motion that should initiate an alert and motion that shouldn’t, such as a pet simply roaming around the house. If something out of the ordinary is detected, the camera will send a push notification to the app so you can check in. It comes with a microSD card slot that can accommodate an optional card up to 256GB in size, so it’s a good idea to grab one of these as well to go with the gift. Choose continuous recording to the card, or just motion detecting recording. There’s also a cloud storage subscription option.
Crestron 70 Series Touch Screens
Crestron’s 70 Series Touch Screens come in wall-mount or tabletop options and provide residential control. They are Wi-Fi-enabled and available for both custom-programmed and Crestron Home projects where previous infrastructure requirements may not have been available. It can be placed on kitchen counters, coffee tables, nightstands, and anywhere throughout a home. The addition of proximity sensors also allows for the touch screen to automatically wake when in close range without physical contact. The 70 Series supports legacy and HTML5 custom projects, allowing UI developers and programmers to provide a dynamic and modern user interface. Key features compared to the 60 Series Touch Screens include faster processing; higher resolution display; seamless transferring of projects from Crestron’s 60 Series Touch Screens; full range of network standards that guarantee security and privacy; and the latest Sonos S2 app for deeper integration into the Sonos ecosystem. The Crestron 70 Series Touch Screens are available in both black and white finishes. Wall-mount options are available in 5”, 7”, and 10” sizes, with tabletop options available in 7” or 10” sizes. Contact authorized dealers for pricing.
Telus SmartHome Security
Set up the family with Telus SmartHome Security, which now can work with voice commands thanks to the new Telus Home Assistant skill for Amazon Alexa. Customers can use hands-free voice commands to set SmartHome Security functions such as arming their panel, locking and unlocking doors, setting the thermostat, and turning lights on and off. The Telus Home Assistant skill is the first to integrate multiple products including SmartHome Security and Optik TV and is now available to all Telus SmartHome Security customers at no additional cost. Telus says it will continue to add more functionality to the Telus Home Assistant skill.
Amazon Smart Air Quality Monitor
Does the person have all of the core smart home products already, like lights, security cameras, smart speaker, smart TV, and more? Consider this new air quality monitor, which is a clever addition to the home that can keep them approved of indoor particles that can be a source of allergens and toxins. It’s easy to set-up using the Alexa app and is small in size at 65x65x45mm (WxLxH), perfect for sitting on a shelf, counter, nightstand, or table. It will particularly appeal to those who have allergies or experience symptoms like coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or chronic headaches. The device measures temperature, humidity, dust, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide. As a smart device, when your air quality is poor, you’ll receive an alert from the Alexa app and/or hear an announcement from your Echo device so you can take action, like opening a window, or turning on a fan or air purifier. Ask a compatible Alexa-enabled device for the air quality in your home at any time, or get deeper insights into your air quality through your Echo Show or the Alexa app. Through this information, you can also discern how doing simple things like keeping a window open, using an air purifier, or cleaning your vents can impact the quality of the air in the home. Starts at $90.
TP-Link Kasa KP405 or KP401 Wi-Fi Outdoor Plug
A great stocking stuffer, the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Outdoor Plug (KP401) boasts long Wi-Fi range so you can plug in and control lights all around the exterior of the home. The Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Outdoor Plug-In Dimmer (KP405) connects directly with existing 2.4 GHz in-home wireless network, no additional hub or device required, to bring Wi-Fi outdoors up to 300 feet. It has an IP64 rating and features a weather-resistant cover that ensures protection against dust intrusion and splashes of water. You can adjust the brightness of connected outdoor lights and control schedules to save energy. Equipped with an Away Mode, you can also enjoy peace-of-mind when away on vacation by programming the KP405 to automatically turn connected devices on and off, like lights, to discourage potential intruders. The KP405 can be controlled from anywhere via the Kasa Smart app. It also responds to simple voice commands from Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. It sells for an MSRP of US$30.
The KP401 Kasa Smart WiFi Outdoor Plug (US$17), meanwhile, is a single-port plug that connects to Wi-Fi to offer an up to 300-foot wireless connection. It has a built-in power amplifier for controlling smart home devices outdoors, as well as an IP64 rating to ensure protection against rain and dust. Easily turn the outlet on and off, set schedules, and control the smart plug from anywhere using the Kasa Smart app. Using a simple voice command, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant users can control their outdoor lights to turn on or off from the comfort of their couch. Additionally, the KP401’s Away Mode programs plugged-in devices on and off automatically.
Amazon Fire Omni Series Smart TV
Amazon has its own line of branded 4K TVs now, which would be great for someone looking for an affordable TV for the basement, bedroom, or even dorm room or cottage. Starting at $520 and available in sizes from 43 inches up to 75 inches, they all work with Alexa voice control and support HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Digital Plus; and integrate the Fire TV experience and far-field voice technology. Hands-free Alexa voice controls are available whether the TV is on or off or when using an HDMI input. Ask Alexa to tune to your favourite show and jump right into the program you’re looking for, without needing to remember which channel name, streaming service or input device. You can also use voice to control playback, closed captions, and brightness, and manage TV or soundbar volume, switch inputs, and more. In addition, set up a routine so when you say, “Alexa, kick off my day,” your Fire TV and smart lights turn on, and Alexa will share the weather, read your calendar, and tune to the news on live TV. Wirelessly connect Echo devices such as the Echo Studio for Dolby Atmos, or pair other Echo smart speakers for immersive sound. The Alexa Home Theater experience works across any compatible device connected to Fire TV Omni, including cable boxes, gaming consoles, or antenna sources. Exclusively with Fire TV, you can say “Alexa, Play Something from Netflix” to find something to watch to get movie or TV show suggestions displayed on the screen. You can also access TikTok content right from the TV. The Fire TV Omni Series also provides smart home controls like Live View Picture-in-Picture, which allows you to check your smart cameras without interrupting your TV viewing and shows your Ring video doorbell view when someone is at the door. The new smart home dashboard will allow you to view and control connected devices throughout the home. Check if a device is on or off, control the device and its smart home group by voice, and view a new row on Fire TV that is specifically dedicated to your smart cameras. If you are using the Fire TV Alexa Voice Remote, a press of the Alexa button will slide out a shortcut panel at the bottom of the screen, where you can access smart home controls, communications, weather, news, and more. You can use Alexa Calling directly from the TV, streaming video directly from a webcam. For the first time on any smart TV, Zoom video calling will also be available later this year on Fire TV Omni Series. For a household with a lot of Alexa-enabled devices in the home, it’s a solid option that won’t break the bank.
Amazon Fire TV Stick
For those simply looking for a Fire TV Stick to connect to their existing TV, Amazon is launching the Fire TV Stick 4K Max, a 4K Ultra HD streaming media player with Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, and Wi-Fi 6 support. It is available for $75 and includes many of the new Alexa voice features, plus it’s 40% more powerful than the Fire TV Stick 4K thanks to a new quad-core 1.8GHz processor and 2GB RAM. It supports 4K UHD, HDR, HDR10, and HDR10+ streaming, as well as Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Shipping with latest Alexa Voice Remote, it’s Amazon’s first streaming stick to offer Live View Picture-in-Picture. Like the Fire TV Omni Series and 4-Series, Alexa Home Theater is enabled, so you can wirelessly connect with Echo Studio or a pair of Echo (4th Gen) smart speakers for immersive sound, including multichannel Dolby audio formats.
TP-Link Deco X90 Wi-Fi 6 Mesh System
One factor families often forget to upgrade when adding smart devices to the home is the router. Having one that can handle so many devices connected at once, plus your usual daily access through computers, smart TVs, and mobile devices, is critical. The TP-Link Deco X90 features Wi-Fi 6 along with AI-driven mesh, tri-band support, and quad-stream radios for all three Wi-Fi bands. It supports 1024-QAM and 160 MHz, boosting the overall wireless speeds up to 6,600 Mbps. Equipped with both a 2.5 Gbps port and a gigabit port, Deco X90 delivers fast Internet access for wired devices. With WiFi 6’s combination of OFDMA and MU-MIMO technology, Deco X90 builds a more efficient network that quadruples the average throughput for connected devices in dense environments, says TP-Link. This, says the company, improves network capacity, cuts down on latency, and ensures a responsive network. Deco X90 is tested to connect up to 200 devices without dragging down performance. Families can now enjoy immersive live streaming, improved gaming speeds, and instantaneous video loading on different devices, all at the same time. Signals are enhanced by BSS Coloring and Beamforming, to make them clearer and stronger. This allows Deco X90 units to work together to deliver broader whole home Wi-Fi coverage that eliminates weak signal areas. The smart mesh system intelligently learns the network environment, client quality, and user behaviour, and constantly improves itself through experience. The six high-gain antennas create strong, clear, dependable Wi-Fi throughout your home while the two smart array antennas use intelligent algorithms to auto-detect the location of other Deco units to establish a stronger backhaul between them via signal concentration. Thanks to advanced WP3 encryption and TP-Link HomeShield powered by Avira, Deco X90 is a secure mesh Wi-Fi system. TP-Link HomeShield, meanwhile, delivers real-time security monitoring and antivirus for IoT devices. It also customizes your home network with enhanced security using a kit of features.The Deco app can be used for configuration.
Phyn Smart Water Sensor
Having experienced sewer back-ups a few times in my basement, I can attest to the importance of detecting the issue right away and being able to act on it before it results in costly damage. One way you can do this is through a smart water sensor that can alert you via smartphone app at the first instance it detects moisture. Available in one, two and three-packs, the compact device helps safeguard homes against water damage by detecting leaks, changes in temperatures, and potentially damaging humidity levels. The Smart Water Sensor immediately alerts homeowners the moment an issue is detected, serving as an extra layer of protection ideal for hard-to-reach, leak-prone areas, like in the kitchen, basement, laundry room, or attic. Use it to address worry about overflowing washing machines, leaking refrigerators, water heaters, or sump pumps, and flooded basements. When the Smart Water Sensor comes in contact with moisture, it automatically notifies homeowners via SMS, push notification from the Phyn app, as well as with an audible alarm and flashing LED lights on the device. The Smart Water Sensor works on its own and can also be paired with Phyn’s flagship product, the Phyn Plus, to activate the shutoff valve feature and turn off the water to the house. Use the Phyn Water Sensor Extension Node with the sensor to help it detect leaks in narrow or tight-fitting spaces such as under a washing machine or refrigerator. The Phyn Water Sensor Cable, meanwhile, extends the water detection area of the Smart Water Sensor by four feet, or up to 12 feet when three cables are combined and sends an alert if any part of the cable gets wet. The Sensor Cable is perfect for running along the floorboards of a flood-prone basement or creating a loop around a water heater or under an appliance. When the Smart Water Sensor comes in contact with water, users are notified by an audible alarm and an LED light, as well as notifications via SMS and the Phyn app.
The Smart Water Sensor can detect freezing temperatures and potentially damaging high and low humidity levels as well. View the temperature and humidity history within the Phyn app. The device connects via Wi-Fi to a home’s existing network and uses the free Phyn app for setup and monitoring. No subscription fees or additional hubs are required. The Water Sensor is US$40, US$75 for a two-pack, or US$100 for a three-pack. The Extension Node is US$10 and the Sensor Cable is US$26.
iRobot Roomba j7+ Robot Vacuum
This robot vacuum isn’t just a useful cleaning tool, it’s also super connected. Using the iRobot Home app, you can set schedules, initiate a clean from anywhere, and troubleshoot issues. With this vacuum, you’ll also get photos once it detects obstacles in the way, like cords, cables, hats, socks, shoes, and even pet poop. It also works with voice control using Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, so you can simply say “Alexa, tell Roomba to vacuum” and it will be on its way. If you also have the Braava jet m6 robot mop, it will ask if you want to mop the floors after vacuuming is done. I reviewed the Roomba j7+ and absolutely love the new obstacle detection feature, which it thanks to the PrecisionVision Navigation sensor. It starts at $1,050 with the Automatic Dirt Disposal dock, which keeps up to a few months’ worth of collected dirt and debris in a bag you can dispose of an replace when full, or get it without the Clean Base dock for $800. Additional Dirt Disposal Bags are $20 for a pack of three.
Google Hub Smart Display
A great update from a smart speaker, the Google Hub smart display has a louder speaker with 50% more bass, built-in Thread radio, and Sleep Sensing that, if activated, can analyze how you sleep based on movement and breathing. It can also detect sleep disturbances, like coughing or snoring, as well as light and temperature changes in the room using the built-in microphones, ambient light and temperature sensors. Each morning, a personalized sleep summary will appear on the display, or simply say “Hey Google, how did I sleep?” to get the details. Using built-in Thread radio, meanwhile, the Nest Hub will work with the new connectivity standard created by the Project Connected Home over IP working group, simplifying control within a connected smart home. Sleeping Sensing can also be connected to the Google Fit app on Android or iOS devices, allowing you to view your sleep summary from your phone, along all of the other captured health and wellness information. You can also get tailored bedtime schedules and personalized suggestions on how to improve, which are compiled after several nights of analysis. Sleep Sensing can be disabled if desired as well. Get it in Chalk, Charcoal, Sand, or Mist finish with an attractive edgeless glass display that makes it look like a digital photo frame, for $130.
LG 75″ Nano90 NanoCell TV with ThinQ AI
I have this TV in my small basement theatre room and it provides a stunning picture when watching TV, playing video games, or even while using Apple AirPlay to stream workout videos from an app on my phone. Boasting 4K with AI picture and sound along with the webOS 6.0 smart TV player, Magic Remote, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay, the feature that really sold us was TruMotion 240 refresh rate, which is a game-changer for gaming. As an upgrade for your main living room TV, with the right amount of space and a favourable viewing distance (for a TV of that size, ideally you’ll want to be sitting at least 6.3 feet away from the display), it’s a highly connected TV that includes LG’s intuitive webOS smart TV platform, features like Apple AirPlay, and compatibility with all of the top streaming service apps. Grab the 75-incher for about $2,500, or opt for smaller sizes for less.