This story is part of
, your source for the season’s best gifts and deals, hand-picked by the experts at CNET.
The smart home category received a lot of scrutiny this year, rightly, for the of its many players, with and at the front of the line. Good. All the microphones, cameras and inscrutable algorithms and privacy policies that come with their hardware and that of other manufacturers deserves a hard look. It’s for that reason that I recommend you ask yourself whether your intended recipient will really embrace any of the smart home products below if you give them as a gift this holiday season.
That said, there is a lot to like about the quality-of-life features that Amazon and Google have added to their smart speakers and smart displays this year. We also appreciate the lower-cost, and other connected home products from companies such as . Wyze’s works well enough to recommend it among our picks of the best smart home gifts.
Where Amazon took a very upfront approach to the upgrade behind its new entry-level smart speaker, the improvements to Google’s 2019 update are less obvious.
Perhaps the most obvious is the rebranding. Google has moved all of its smart home devices under the Nest branding umbrella, so where last year’s version of this product was called the Google Home Mini, it’s now the Google Nest Mini.
This year’s model brings improved audio quality, as well as some tweaks to its external interface. The big change there is a presence-detection system that can tell when you’re standing near the speaker, at which point it will illuminate the touch interface on top of it so you can better see the volume controls.
Those who are especially concerned with privacy, or who live with spotty internet, might also appreciate the onboard machine learning chip that will gradually recognize the spoken commands you give to Google Assistant, and then process them locally, rather than sending them out over Google’s servers.
The Echo Show 8 by Amazon clocks in at $130, which is a great price for a solid-performing 8-inch smart display. Like the Echo Show 5, the Show 8 comes with a physical camera shutter (particularly nice if you’re concerned about privacy) and sunrise alarms. It also has impressive screen resolution and sound quality.
The quality of the built-in camera was a bit disappointing, but its closest competitor — the Nest Hub — doesn’t have a camera at all.
You’ll find the Arlo Pro 3, Arlo’s latest, on the higher-end of the smart camera price range, but it remains the most versatile camera on the market. $499 will get you two cameras and a base station.
Arlo’s versatility comes from the fact that you can put it up anywhere, indoors or outside, and with or without a wired power source. It comes with a power cable, but its included battery has a battery life of up to six months of average use.
The new model features a wider viewing angle than the Pro 2, covering up to 160 degrees of your property, up from 130 degrees.
We recommended the Wyze Cam in our gift guide last year on the fact that it’s a surprisingly competent smart security camera that only cost $20. This year it continues to dominate the market with its impressive performance and incredible value, making it an Editors’ Choice award winner.
We also like the Wyze Cam because it works with Wyze Sense, the company’s $20 home security kit. It’s not a whole-home setup like you’ll get from SimpliSafe, but for a dorm, a renter, or someone else who might just want a very basic security system, the Wyze Cam and Wyze Sense work together at a remarkably affordable price and would make a perfect gift.
Neato’s $599 Botvac D7 robot vacuum is a solid robot vacuum at a great price, particularly compared to the $1,399 iRobot Roomba S9 Plus.
The Botvac D7 has built-in lidar laser mapping and navigates particularly well around spaces. It covered more ground and cleaned floors faster than the Roomba S9 Plus in our comparison testing. The Botvac D7 works with Google Assistant as well as Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant — and you can use your phone to set cleaning schedules.
Nest Wifi comes in a two-pack with a Nest Wifi Router and a Nest Wifi Point for $269. Not only does this kit outfit your home with solid Wi-Fi, the Nest Wifi Point also acts as a Google Assistant smart speaker.
We were impressed with the top speeds of the Nest Wifi and its ability to increase the range of your Wi-Fi network. Nest Wifi doesn’t work with Wi-Fi 6, but its excellent performance makes it an Editors’ Choice Award winner.
Originally published earlier this month.