Best Smart Home Devices for 2019
Amazon Echo (2017)
Three years after the debut of the original, Amazon decided the time was right to refresh its flagship smart speaker, the voice-activated Amazon Echo. Generation two arrives to find a landscape littered with new competitors -- not just the Google Home, but also Apple's HomePod, the platform-agnostic Sonos One, the Cortana-powered Invoke from Harman Kardon and countless others.
The Amazon Echo is frequently discounted from its standard $100 price. Check our list of Amazon device deals to see if it's on sale now.
At $100 -- nearly half the cost of the original -- the new Echo seeks to undercut them all. Like its predecessor, it doesn't offer premium audio quality, but it's still strong enough to fill a room with decent sound. And, if you like, you can connect it with your existing audio setup using either Bluetooth or a 3.5mm cable, something you can't do with the original. It looks better than before, too, with an attractive and compact new design and a variety of new, interchangeable "shells" to choose from.
To be clear, the new Echo isn't any smarter than the first one -- it does everything the original does, and the original does everything it does, save for connecting with external speakers. That list of capabilities continues to grow, though, thanks to a regular roll-out of skills, software updates and integrations with third-party gadgets and services.
In short, it's the same Alexa speaker that quickly became a dominant smash hit, only now it's cheaper and nicer-looking. If you're interested in bringing voice controls into your home, smart or otherwise, the Echo still offers the most bang for your buck.
Amazon Cloud Cam
Here are the top five reasons why anyone looking for a DIY indoor security camera should consider Amazon's $120 Cloud Cam:
The Cloud Cam isn't the only device out there with these things, but it is one of the only cameras with all of these things. It's DIY home security at its best; it works well with minimal effort and expense.
Amazon's inaugural camera isn't perfect -- there's no local storage and you have to subscribe to the optional cloud service to access detection zones and person alerts. But I dare you to find another HD live-streaming camera that doesn't sacrifice something significant (glitchy app, convoluted setup, wonky design). I'll wager you can't, especially at this price.
The $249 Ecobee4 borrows all of the best stuff from Ecobee's older thermostats. It has a responsive touchscreen display, a remote temperature and proximity sensor, intuitive mobile and web apps and integrations with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT. But instead of simply working with Alexa, the Ecobee4 itself is an Amazon speaker. (The Ecobee4 is only available in the US; at the current exchange rate, pricing converts to roughly £190/AU$330.)
At first glance, the Nest Hello is an HD live streaming camera-buzzer combination like any other smart doorbell. View the video feed from your phone or computer, receive push alerts and emails when the camera detects motion, sees a person or hears a loud sound -- and review three hours of saved images for free. There's other neat stuff, like scheduling and geofencing if you want to control when the camera is on and off. But my favorite thing about the Nest Hello is its ability to scan faces and tell you who is at your front door from images of friends and family members you ID in the app. Unfortunately, you have to subscribe to the Nest Aware service to create your own face-scanning database, which starts at $5 a month. No other video doorbell I've tested offers facial recognition, though, and I liked it more than I expected. The fact that Nest now offers such a comprehensive lineup of smart home and home security products doesn't hurt either because many of the devices work together fairly seamlessly. You can also ask Alexa or Google Assistant to pull up your Hello doorbell's live feed on a screen-compatible device.
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