Technology has come a long way. A few years ago, if you had told someone that it was possible to control gadgets in your home by merely making voice commands, they would not have believed it. However, today, this is a reality. Our homes are where we go to get away from the world outside. As such, making it smarter with smart home gadgets will not only make your life easier, but it also opens new possibilities.
The smart gadgets we shall look at in this article will mainly focus on the proven and tested technologies that are currently in the market. There is a quite a number of unreleased prototypes out there, but we shall wait until their unveiling to do a review on them. Without further ado, here are some of the best smart home products you can find on Amazon today.
Amazon Echo (Gen 2)
- Good aesthetics
- Covers can be changed
- Alexa voice assistant
- Sound quality distortion at high volume
Amazon Echo is one of the best pieces of smart home technology in the market today. Priced at $100, it is more affordable than its predecessor, Sonos One, and Google Home. What is more attractive about the Echo is that Alexa is so sharp at understanding commands and giving you the right feedback. This is a critical quality for an assistant because it makes life at home much simpler for the user.
In comparison to the previous version of Echo, this one is shorter and sturdier. Amazon is also offering six covers for Echo so that it can blend with surrounding objects without looking out of place. In terms of performance, the Echo is sharp enough. In contrast with Google’s assistant, Alexa understands directives better even when there is music playing in the background. This could perhaps attribute to it having seven microphones equipped with noise cancellation. I was particularly impressed when it could hear and discern what was being said even at a distance or when in a different room.
Not only can you use Alexa to control other smart home appliances such as lamps, but you can also make shopping lists, take notes, make calls and even buy items online among others. The fact that it better understands follow up questions than any other assistant is also a big deal. To some extent, you may forget that you are speaking to a piece of technology.
Although it faces competition from both within and outside Amazon, it is a solid contender. For those that want a better sound experience, the Echo Plus is indeed a good idea for $50 more. A customer on Amazon by the name Happy says she loves the design and performance her Echo has delivered from when she first got it.
Netgear Arlo Q
- Simple setup
- Flexible scheduling
- Free cloud storage
- Awesome video quality
- Control over scheduling and motion detection
- App only allows for one user.
- Costly timeline subscriptions,
- Setting up in custom code is slightly a daunting task.
Security is always a concern for everyone. Feeling safe in your home is complementary to having a peace of mind. The Arlo Q is a superb smart home gadget security webcam. Unlike its predecessor, however, the Q is not entirely fully wireless or waterproof. As such it cannot be installed on the outside wall or outdoors. A plus, however, is that video quality is spectacular, and it can run throughout since it does not run on batteries.
The Arlo Q is downright cute. Being mostly white except the lens and bevel both of which are black. Coming in at 3 x 3 x 1.5 inches, it is well refined. It also has a magnetic base to allow easy and direct mounting on a metal surface. Surrounding the lens, we have ten infrared lights, a microphone, and a status light. Of course, the camera has corresponding iOS and Android apps which can be used to give instant access to the status of things at home, the recordings and settings. Another unique feature of this camera is that it has a fully functional web portal which is like a mirror of the mobile app. Even though the Arlo is not yet able to distinguish between a human and a pet, it still has the most capable motion and sound detection out there.
The Arlo’s 4-megapixel picture camera shoots excellent 1080p videos. In well-lighted situations, the video was incredibly rich with beautiful color contrasts. In darker environments, night mode is far more appropriate since footage will be bright and crisp. Arlo’s scheduling is also a huge bonus. Going for $160, the Arlo Q is a worthy product to try out. Jerry Reina, who is an Amazon buyer, pointed out that it was quite easy to install, two-way communication worked flawlessly, and picture quality is excellent.
Ecobee4 Smart Home Gadgets
- Minimalist design
- Built-in Alexa
- Remote controlling
- Easy smart home integration
- Unable to geo-fence
- Weak speaker
The Ecobee4 is the world’s first thermostat to be fitted with Alexa. Though this is a great feat, the most useful feature it has is the remote sensor which in a nutshell makes sure that every room in the home is at the right temperature. Going for $247, this thermostat is so much more than normal. Since it has been equipped with Alexa, it can basically do anything a smart home assistant would. This includes but not limited to telling jokes, ordering food online, ask for music, and so much more.
Retaining the same design as its predecessor the Ecobee3, the Ecobee4 has a familiar rounded black square shape, with a touchscreen in the middle. The only noticeable difference is the LED bar that glows when Alexa is online.
Installing and setting up the Ecobee4 typically takes about twenty minutes. Attaching it to the wall is a relatively straightforward process with plenty of videos online on how to do it yourself in record time. Setting up on the Android and iOS apps is also very simple. One great thing about this unit is that it allows pairing it up with various sensors installed all over the house to ensure every room is at the optimum temperature.
A major giveaway is probably the speaker. Although it is fully functional, it would not be suitable to play music. Since the Ecobee4 has geo-fencing, it can detect while you are within a certain radius of your home and turns the temperatures up or down. This means that it can sense when you are on your way back home and start warming up the house. Schpeen, who is an Amazon buyer, noted that the Ecobee4 worked as advertised and to some extent even surpassed her expectations. Although she did not use Alexa as much, she found her to be quite useful.
Philips Hue White Starter Kit
- Functional app
- Integrates well with most smart-home systems
- Needs a hub
Lighting is essential in a home. The way you arrange your lighting can mean a such huge difference for aesthetics. Philips is no longer the only company in the lighting business. Companies such as Ikea and Sengled are also in the business with their own starter kits. However, after much testing, the Philips Hue White Starter Kit is clearly still ahead in the smart home gadgets pack.
Coming in at $99, Philips ships the kit with four bulbs. The setup process is quite painless. Since the Philips’ bulbs cannot wirelessly connect to your home network, you need to connect the hub to your router via a provided Ethernet cable. The hub is white and compact. As such, you can easily place it anywhere in your home. Once everything is connected, pairing everything up via the Philips Hue app is quite straightforward. Sometimes you might experience some issues locating a faraway bulb. However, Phillips lets you input the bulb’s serial number and that is all.
Given that Philips is the first LED maker to get to the market, they have refined the app, and it works wonderfully. With the app, you can see all the bulbs in the house and turn them on or off. The app also gives you several options such as scheduling when certain lights come on, the intensity and even a vacation mode which turns the lights on and off randomly to make it seem like there is someone at home. If you are using colored bulbs, then you have the option to create scenes. These are basically presets for certain colors that are sorted by the app to change ambiance in the home automatically. VP, who is an Amazon customer, is especially in love with the dim factor ad that one can set various tones and moods for a room with these smart bulbs.
- Detects carbon monoxide, smoke
- Loud spoken alerts
- Compatible with other smart home devices
- It’s quite costly
A home is incomplete without proper functional smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This is a safety requirement since the smoke detectors are usually first to respond in the event something is burning. Given that carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, a person would not detect carbon monoxide levels increasing until the effects start to kick in. Priced at $119, the Nest Protect smoke detector is our top pick for this category. And with good reason.
This smoke detector is a bit larger than the standard smoke detector. Coming in at 5.3 x 5.3 x 1.5 inches, it is boxy with rounded corners. Right in the middle of it has a LED light to display what is happening. When the light turns yellow, it means there is carbon monoxide, but not at critical levels just yet. When it turns red, however, it means you should evacuate as fast as possible.
During installation, you first need to attach a base plate onto the ceiling then attach the detector to the base plate. Afterward, you can now connect with your phone via the Nest app in a process that should take about 5 minutes.
The Nest Project utilizes a split-spectrum sensor which is very practical when detecting both slow burning and smoldering flames. What’s more, this detector has sensors for heat, occupancy, humidity and carbon monoxide. Bradley Corwin, who is an Amazon buyer, says that this unit was the best he ever got. He like cooking most of the time and thus being able to turn notifications on and off is a significant advantage. Not only is this detector incredibly accurate when it comes to different fires, but also when detecting various types of smoldering.
August Smart Lock Pro
- Easy installation
- Easily integrates with smart home systems such as Alexa, google assistant, etc.
- Flexible settings
- Auto-lock and auto unlock features
- Lacks an alarm unlike some of its competitors.
In any living habitat, security is paramount. There are traditional ways of locking and unlocking doors that involve a key. However, things have changed. Today, we have various smart home gadgets on the market to replace the traditional locks, but August Smart Lock Pro is a winner. Priced at $249, this smart lock not only ensures the door is locked behind you, but also makes it incredibly convenient and straightforward doing so. This smart lock works on the principle that when you get close enough to the door, it automatically unlocks itself and subsequently locks up behind you. This means that the process is a lot easier.
This smart lock, however, only works for doors whose door knob is separate from the deadbolt. Everything you need to make this installation is included in the package, down to the tape used to cover a deadbolt. Installation of the device might not be a DIY operation especially if you are not handy with locks. However, once the unit is installed, all it needs are four AA batteries that come in the package, for the initial setup. You can now connect the lock to the home network.
This lock has additional accessories for those willing to add more functionality to their security. There is an additional DoorSense module which acts as a sensor as to whether or not the door has been left open. The August app is clean and smooth to use. The app is practical in that it can alert you whenever someone is at the door or a break-in. It can also check on the status of the locks in your home. Dane Alexander O’Leary, who is an Amazon buyer, has specifically written a long review praising the August Smart Lock Pro for its incredible build quality, functionality, and a great mobile app available on Google Play and Apple Store.
- Elegant app
- Surprisingly flexible
- Talented developer community
- Hard to disable alarm without the app.
- No wireless integration with the router.
A smart home is not a one-night achievement. It is a collective effort over time. However, with the more products you purchase, the more installs you will have to do for each of the apps. This is where Samsung SmartThings comes into play. The goal was to provide a central controlling hub so that controlling other smart home gadgets is a more straightforward affair.
SmartThings is a white minimalistic designed box, 65 x 63 x 59 mm. This makes installing it simpler, while still maintaining an elegant look. The main strength of this appliance is that it can connect to a disparate number of systems and still maintain functionality. The app is elegantly designed with proper functionality. What’s more, you can schedule actions on specific connected appliances. Going for about $85, makes it a good and pocket-friendly alternative.
A buyer on Amazon by the name Adidas1976 says, the Samsung SmartThings is an excellent starting point for home integration. He mentions its easy installation and integration with the app, easy recognition of newly installed z-wave devices, an active community forum for instant help with ‘How To’ and FAQ.
Making your home smart with the listed Smart Home Gadgets not only improves the aesthetics of your house, but also makes your life much simpler. Since technology is meant to make life better for us, we should embrace it with both arms. Smart homes are the future. The future is now.
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