Life is busy, and we all get pulled in a million directions. Oftentimes, I feel so spread thin that I don’t get through half the tasks on my “to do” list. And I know I'm not alone! We're all drowning in a sea of obligations, so why not get (and give!) some help where we can? What am I referring to? Smart home devices, that's what!
What actually makes something "smart," you ask? Typically, they are electronic devices connected to other electronic devices or networks via Bluetooth, wifi, or so on that are often interactive or automated. Imagine a vacuum cleaner that not only travels around on its own, but also empties the waste and learns the layout of your home in order to be more efficient. Or a thermostat that automatically adjusts the temp once you leave the house, or a plug that gives you the ability to turn the lights on remotely from your phone when the sun goes down, so you aren’t wasting electricity throughout the day (which translates to saving money!).
Whether you're shopping for yourself or someone else, consider smarting up this holiday season with the below products, all of which we've tested and, quite frankly, now can't live without. I did include a couple that may not be considered “smart” by definition, but gosh darn it, they just make life smoother! Is there a better gift to give? I think not.
The Beam, part of the Sonos family, is an upgrade to your TV and sound system that you will not regret. With the smart element fully implemented, it matches the incredible playbar sound Sonos is known for with smart capabilities. You have the option to simply control the Beam with your Sonos app, AirPlay, your voice, or with HDMI ARC technology, which in English translates to pairing your remote to take verbal commands. How's the sound? For shows and movies, you can expect clear, full-room sound, and the same goes for music, podcasts, games, news or whatever else you want to listen to through the speaker. Far more compact than most playbars on the market, Beam can either be mounted or placed on your TV stand (and connects to your TV through one slim cord). And because it is a Sonos, you can easily add additional speakers with nary a wire necessary. A cool feature: You can send the TV audio to any Sonos speaker in the house! (For those times when, ya know, you're watching the Oscars... but also have to make dinner in the kitchen!) The best part? The price point, which is a full $300 less than Sonos' is other playbars!
Simplehuman Sensor Mirror Trio
One mirror, three views! The Simplehuman Sensor Mirror Trio has all the views you will ever need in one reflective device. We tried it and the five-times magnification view is perfect for make-up application, the one-times gives you a realistic view, and the ten-times level of magnification is ideal for eye liner or mascara application (or, ya know, those times when you might be going after a blemish or blackhead). It's also has an embedded "tru-lux" light that imitates natural light, or emits a candlelight hue for a low-light view. The Trio is cordless and rechargeable with one charge lasting you approximately 3 weeks, that's right, no annoying cords getting tangled on your bathroom counter! The best part is how incredibly luxe it looks. Like something you'd find in a five-star hotel, this mirror is simply gorgeous in its design and comes in three on-trend hues (brushed stainless steel, rose gold and shiny white), making it a totally luxurious gift to give!
Dyson Pure Hot + Cool
Give the gift of cleaner air! The Dyson Pure Hot + Cool is a blade-free oscillating fan and heater that ALSO purifies your room’s air, removing 99.97% of the gases, pollutants, allergens and odors present. So, if you’re like me in that you’re hot and ALSO have every allergy under the sun, well, sounds like you need to get you a fan that can do both. And lucky for all of us, the Pure Hot + Cool does just that. Another bonus is that you can continue to use your Dyson product long after the summer heat wave passes, thanks to a new backward airflow feature that purifies the air, but doesn’t cool it. Or, on those extra cold winter nights, it doubles as a sleek space heater to cozy up your room to the exact temp you want. Want to see the forest through the trees? Download the Dyson Link app to track the pollutants captured over time (Have an abundance of fire place emissions? Time to get the chimney cleaned!), see your real-time air quality and to schedule specific days and times for isolated purification. Another perk: It monitors your filters’ life and alerts you when it’s time to buy a new one … and don’t worry, changing the filter isn’t something you will to dread. With the Pure Hot + Cool, you just press a button, pop off the old filters, clamp on the new ones and you’re good to go. Now this is a gift you can feel good about.
Breville Bambino Plus
This machine may be petite, but boy is it mighty! The Breville Bambino Plus has a smaller footprint than most espresso/coffee machines on the market, which is exactly why we love it. And the good news is that it doesn’t skimp on flavor. Bambino Plus packs a punch with strong, smooth espresso and barista-quality foam (and the milk texture and temp can be adjusted in the settings). Its three-second heat up gets you out the door lickety split (and saves you a stop, and the $5 fee at to the coffee shop). Neither my husband or I have any barista experience and we made our first lattes with ease and they were absolutely delish. Though I will say our foam art could use a little practice! Seriously though, if you're looking for a smart, high-end espresso machine that doesn't take over all of your counter space, this is it.
iRobot® Roomba® i7+ Wi-Fi Connected Robot Vacuum with Dirt Disposal
iRobot has always produced smart designs but they have really upped their game with the release of the Roomba i7+. This new design has raised the level of convenience by emptying the collected dirt and debris all on its own giving you the freedom from your vacuuming duties and emptying the debris for weeks. The Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal holds 30 bins of debris and when its done it puts itself right back to its base. It also has Smart Mapping technology that learns the layout of your home and maps out the most efficient plan to clean a room or the entire floor. Yep, this is hands-down the best behaved cleaner in my house….and doesn’t complain either!
Nest Learning Thermostat
The Nest Learning Thermostat gives you (and multiple members of your household) the convenience to control the temperature in your home from anywhere via the Nest app on your phone. Nest will also alert you if your house is temp is too hot or too cold, which is a huge pro considering that temperatures are dropping and we're all living in fear of frozen pipes! One of the neatest new features, however, is that it actually learns and adapts to your schedule, ultimately saving you lots of money and energy. I also love that communication can be set up with the thermostat and other Nest products in combination with a number of other smart devices (like Google Home). Installation is a straight forward step-by-step process that my husband was able to do himself (without professional assistance!). Nest also offers a support number if you run into any hiccups. Done and done!
Wemo Insight Smart Plug
The Wemo Smart Plug is a must-have for any home that is looking to become a little bit smarter. Want the ability to turn on lamps, fans or anything that is plugged in when you're in your house, down the street or on vaca in a distant location? Wemo's your answer! As I set out for the holiday weekend I had the ability to control the lamps in my home to make it look like someone was there, which was not only convenient, but also an awesome security layer. Without a doubt I will be picking up more for my home and as gifts this holiday season. Oh, and the set up took mere minutes.
The Echo Show display's crisp 10-inch HD touchscreen display and speaker with excellent sounds quality that easily connects and controls thousands of smart home products. Alexa seems to track down most of your answers with ease and directs you to watch how-to videos, run through the news and access ”skills’ which is Amazon’s version of apps. You have access to what feels like endless information, music and videos that include Amazon music, Prime Video, Spotify, Pandora, CNBC and CNN, just to name a few! The device includes a camera for hands-free video calling and the ability to control Sonos products in addition to a number of other smart devices. A truly smart cookie that at its most basic level can be another screen for your kids to watch Amazon Prime shows on!
Alexa, one of America’s favorite house guests, is back with the 3rd generation Dot. The sleek design is a compact and affordable way to add Alexa to any room ... like for those times when you want to say, "Alexa, add toilet paper to the shopping list" when you're all the way upstairs! A big bonus is that you can play music on its own or pair it with the Echo Show for a multi-room speaker system.
Google Home Hub
The Google Home Hub is a sleek compact design that controls your smart home both visually and verbally. Its 7-inch touchscreen doesn’t take up much counter space and works with an expansive list smart devices. It brings you through a step by step set up process that includes Voice Match technology so you can simply add appointments or reminders to your Google calendar, play your favorite tunes through Spotify or Pandora, connect to Nest products to access cameras and thermostats ... and way more, too! My favorite features are scrolling through a “live album” or requesting an image you have uploaded to Google Photos, which in turn can make the Home Hub double as a picture frame when not in use. “Hey Google” is going to be one of the most common phrases in your house once this helpful assistant moves in.
We all face it: The neverending photo-taking problem. They sit on our phones, and every once in a while, they are uploaded to my server, where they gather virtual dust for all eternity. One way to combat all of this is via a digital picture frame and the absolute best one to buy this Christmas is the Aura. Why? Well, for one, it’s a gorgeous frame that you or your gift recipient would happily place on their kitchen counter or nightstand. And the high-resolution LCD screens making Aura worth its $299 asking price. Another great feature: The frames are pretty much working straight out of the box. You download the Aura app, plug the frame in, connect to your Wifi and start uploading your images to the frame. You can also send upload invites to everyone in your family. So, say that you're gifting this to your parents this Christmas, when they plug in the frame, it will be pre-loaded with photos from their entire family ... and everyone can continue to upload throught the year (and your parents will get an alert every time someone sends over a new image). THIS is how you keep your family connected this Christmas!
Samsung The Frame
We realize a thousand-plus-dollar television is quite the splurge gift to give this holiday season ... but maybe you wrap this puppy up and give it to yourself! Believe us, it's worth the expense. Pixels and high-def details aside, what’s rad about The Frame is that it hangs flush to your walls, and it functions as a television when it’s turned on, but becomes artwork when it’s turned off. Thus looking like a frame on your wall. The TV is encased in an ultra-thin magnetic frame that it comes in four colorways (black, walnut, beige wood and white). Once your TV is framed, it's time to house some art and luckily, The Frame comes with a digital gallery of 100 free images that can be set as the backdrop to your screen when you’re not watching a program or movie. Once a piece of art is chosen, you can then hone the colors to your liking and opt to add a digital matte (and tweak those colors, too). And no, the artwork doesn’t look like something out of a Spongebob episode. Instead it’s crisp and vibrant and appears as realistic as something you’d find in, well, a gallery. The hardest part will be choosing between the 43-, 55- and 65-inch sizes.
While this pillow isn't technically "smart" ... it's totally smart! It may not be electronic, but it gets delivered to you custom based on your preferences hence making it the smartest pillow on the market. Pluto is a hybrid pillow unique to each customer (and made by hand) that is created based upon the brand’s online survey covering body stats, sleep habits, and preferences. Here’s how it works: While all the Pluto pillows are designed with a CertiPUR-US foam inner core and an outer plush pillow (Read: Support and comfort), the way they are tailored varies based on an individual’s sleep profile. What’s that mean? Well, some might have taller foam, while others have denser foam. The covers are also custom, and have different surfaces that all vary in thickness. Example: Hot sleepers like myself get a cooling fabric comprised of a high percentage polyethylene. Others have a quilted knit surface or a high-thread-count cotton surface. So, as we mentioned, this is hands down the highest IQ on the pillow market for sure, and you can give it as a last-minute gift, too, by sending your loved a digital invitation to create their own pillow!
Ahh, the holidays, the best time of the year ... to give a slightly passive aggressive gift, lol. Do you sleep with a snorer? Then get them the Smart Nora this year! A smart device aimed at eliminating snoring, Nora is an egg-shaped listening gadget that you place on your nightstand or stick to your headboard that detects snoring at its earliest and quietest stage (Read: Before it wakes you, the co-sleeper!). Once activated, Nora triggers its pump, which begins silently inflating and deflating its pillow insert, gently moving the snorer’s head and neck, ideally without waking them. Why does this work? According to Nora, the slight motion stimulates the snorer’s throat muscles, which then allows natural breathing to occur and the snoring to stop. The million dollar question is, does it actually work? We tried it and loved it (it worked!) and Smart Nora also has hundreds of testimonials from couples who have faced the relationship-grinding battle of the loud snorer, and have happily had positive results!
Samsung SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit
Have an older parent who's security you'd like to boost? Give the gift of security this year! Samsung makes it easy (and affordable) with its home monitoring kit that doesn't require wiring or installation, all you need is broadband Internet to get started. The kit includes one Samsung SmartThings Hub, two multipurpose sensors, one motion sensor, and one 0utlet. When working in unison, you can control outlets (including lights!) via the Samsung SmartThigns app and you get immediate alerts on your smart phone if there is unexpected motion or if someone enters your home. Bonus: you can add more sensors and cameras later.
Apple’s new innovative speaker is compact, but packs a punch. At just under 7 inches, the HomePod delivers “precision sound” that adjusts to its location to ensure the best quality tunes fill the room. With the help of Siri, the HomePod can complete everyday tasks, control Apple Music or various other music streaming services and has the ability to control smart home devices. You can also add additional HomePods to multiple rooms through AirPlay to create a surround sound system throughout your home.
Simplehuman Stainless Steel Touch-Free Rectangular Kitchen Sensor Trash Can with Voice and Motion Sensor
While you might not think you need a smart trash can, I’m here to say you do. That’s right, the Simplehuman voice controlled trash can reacts with the simple command “Open can” and the trash lid opens automatically. Actually, you can pretty much say anything that starts with “Open” (Sesame, Mr. Trash Monster, etc.) and the lid will release. Which means no more tiny hands grabbing the dirty lid. No more scrambling to open the trash when you’ve got raw chicken wrapping in your hands. No more disinfecting the can every day. You will soon wonder how you lived without it!
Simplehuman Sensor Pump
Simplehuman did it again with its new sensor soap pumps. No touching involved, the pumps dispense soap when you wave your hand under the motion-sensing spout with nary a messy drip afterward thanks to a silicone valve that snaps shut. Available for foam and liquid soap, both are battery free and come with a recharging plug — one charge lasts for three months!
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