The Smart Home continues to be a pretty popular product category, even going into the holiday shopping season in 2023. Just about everyone is coming up with their own smart home products to put on sale, from doorbells, to smart lights, to thermostats, and everything in between. And a smart home product like one of those mentioned might be a really good option for some, this holiday season.
Best Doorbell: Ring Video Doorbell
A cheap, but good way to keep an eye on your packages and who’s coming to your home
The Ring Video Doorbell is actually one of the cheapest doorbells you can buy. Ring also makes it super easy to install. I have this same doorbell at my home, and it took just a few minutes to add it to my home. What makes this doorbell so great is the quick release battery. With some other doorbells, you need to remove the entire doorbell to replace the battery or charge it. That’s not the case with the Ring Video Doorbell. Instead, you just lift up the quick release plate, and then press a button on the battery. It’s super simple, and you can get extra batteries for pretty cheap, from Amazon. Which is a life-saver when your doorbell battery starts to run low.
Of course, one of the great things about the Ring Video Doorbell is that it can tell you when someone is at your door. It will also tell you when anything is near your front-door. Including people that don’t ring the doorbell – like package thieves. I had a package stolen from my porch, and because of the Ring Video Doorbell, I was able to see exactly who it was, and take action. Without this doorbell, that would not have been possible.
Ring does include night vision on this doorbell, it’s black and white unlike its newer doorbells. But it’s still good enough to see what’s going on at night. Ring also includes two-way voice, so you can talk with whoever is at your door. Say, UPS is there and needs a signature, you can come on and tell them to wait a minute for you to get to the door, instead of just leaving with your package. I’ve actually done this, because we all know how quickly UPS and FedEx will leave that “Sorry we missed you” notice on your door.
Finally, the Ring Video Doorbell also allows you to share your doorbell with other people. So you can share it with others that live in your home, so they can also get notified when packages are delivered – there is a specific notification for packages being recognized. This is actually a really useful feature, even if you are only living with your significant other. It makes it much easier to see what’s happening outside your home and have that peace of mind.
Honorable Mention: Nest Doorbell (Battery)
The Google Nest Doorbell is available in two versions – battery and wired. The battery version is great for those that don’t have existing doorbell wiring, or simply don’t want to mess with the wiring. While the wired version is great for those that do have existing doorbell wiring, and a big advantage it has is that it is slightly smaller and never needs to be charged.
I’ve used the Google Nest Doorbell, and do really like this doorbell. But it’s not perfect, and the reason why it’s an honorable mention instead of the best, is because of the battery charging. You see, to charge this doorbell, you need to pop off the entire doorbell off of the wall. And then plug it into a USB-C cable to charge. It can take a couple hours to charge, since this is not a fast-charging doorbell. This can be and is very inconvenient. Luckily, you only need to do this every six months or so, depending on your settings.
Google’s doorbell gives you some great quality video, both live and recorded and it is available in the Google Home app. It does also work with other Nest and Google products, making it easy to work together.
Best Robot Vacuum: iRobot Roomba Combo j9+
Put away that vacuum and mop, and let the iRobot Roomba Combo j9+ do it for you
This is the latest “Roomba Combo” from iRobot, which brings in some really nice upgrades over the Roomba Combo j7+. The new Roomba Combo j9+ has a great looking base, with a wooden-top, which makes it really great for blending into your living room, dining room, or wherever you have it placed.
The Roomba Combo is a pretty unique concept from iRobot. Basically, what it does is it completely lifts the mop up and over the vacuum. So it’s not going to get your carpet wet. We haven’t had a chance to test out the J9 yet, but the J7 performed beautifully, and we expect that the J9 is even better. Since this is a “plus” model, it does also have the ability to empty its dustbin while docked, and auto-fill the water reservoir inside the vacuum. Which is going to make your life a whole lot easier here.
There’s a few more upgrades that iRobot made here with the Roomba Combo j9+, which includes SmartScrub. This will allow the robot to identify where there’s a bigger mess that needs more attention and can run over that area up to two times in a deep scrubbing manner. It does a really good job at both identifying and cleaning these messes too.
To go along with SmartScrub, Roomba has also added Dirt Detective. This new feature is able to automatically prioritize the dirtiest rooms. It’s able to do this thanks to the camera and LED light on the front, which also help it to identify objects to avoid – like pet waste. Not to mention the Roomba Combo j9+ has about double the suction power as its previous robot vacuums. So dirt doesn’t stand a chance with this new robot vacuum.
Honorable Mention: Roborock S8 Pro Ultra
The Roborock S8 Pro Ultra is one of my favorite robot vacuums, and I’ve actually used it the majority of the year. It has a lot going for it, like the increased suction which is now rated at 6,000Pa. It also has the Ultra dock, which can empty the dustbin, refill the water reservoir and also clean the mopping pad on the actual robot vacuum. Making it a really awesome experience, because you can have your home nice and clean, with a hands-off approach.
Roborock has also included its Reactive 3D feature here, which uses the front-camera to look for objects to avoid, and go around. Roborock has always done a good job at avoiding objects with the Reactive 3D feature, and now it’s even better. This is thanks to Roborock using AI and machine learning to make it better over the past three years.
Best Smart Thermostat: Amazon Smart Thermostat
Save money on your energy bill with the inexpensive Amazon Smart Thermostat
What’s the main purpose of a smart thermostat? To save you money, right? That’s exactly what Amazon’s Smart Thermostat does, and why we have it listed as the best smart thermostat. It’s because it does not add in a bunch of bells and whistles to make it more expensive, it just does what you need it to do.
This smart thermostat has been ENERGY STAR certified, and will save you money on your gas and power bill this winter, and truly all-year round. That is because it can intelligently change the temperature of your furnace or AC, to keep your home nice and cool or warm (depending on the season), while using less energy.
Honeywell Home worked with Amazon on this thermostat, so you know you’re in good hands here. My parents actually have this smart thermostat and it has worked really well for them over the past two years, and saved them a good amount on their gas bill, especially in the winter.
Since this is an Amazon Smart Thermostat, you can of course connect it to Alexa and control it with your voice. Alexa can also show you how much energy you’ve been using from all of your devices, including your HVAC system. So if you’re really looking to save money on your electric and gas bill, this is a great way to do just that. While also adding the convenience of saying “Alexa, set the heat to 70 degrees”.
Amazon has also made this really easy to install in your home. Now you will need to make sure you get the C-Wire adapter if you have not already had a smart thermostat installed in your home. This adapter is needed because the smart thermostat actually needs power from the HVAC system, unlike regular non-smart thermostats that use a couple of AA batteries. It’s easy to install, I’ve done it myself, but you do need to make sure you get the adapter, which is included in this version of the Amazon Smart Thermostat.
Honorable Mention: ecobee Smart Thermostat
The ecobee Smart Thermostat is a really great smart thermostat too, in fact it is one that I have in my own home. It does quite a few things, but the main reason why it is not our pick for the best smart thermostat, is the price and features, compared to Amazon’s Smart Thermostat. If you’re looking for something that does a bit more, this is your best option.
Ecobee’s Smart Thermostat does work with HomeKit, Google Home and of course Alexa, so you can use your voice with this, no matter what platform you’re using. Ecobee can also automatically learn your usage pattern, and change the temperature of your home when you’re away, so that you save more money. Your home doesn’t need to stay at 70 degrees all winter while you’re at work for 8 hours. Ecobee saves customers on average, about 26% on the heating and cooling bill.
Best Smart Display: Amazon Echo Show 8
The new Echo Show 8 brings huge upgrades across the board for your smart home
The Amazon Echo Show 8 was actually just reviewed by your truly in October. This is the latest smart display from Amazon, and does quite a few things right. Amazon has improved the design on the Echo Show 8, making it edge-to-edge glass and a centered camera this time around. Giving it a more updated look than the previous model, but to be honest, you probably won’t notice nor care. I can’t say I’ve really noticed the difference, and it sits on my desk playing YouTube Music all-day long.
Amazon has also improved the processor here, which you will notice. Navigating around the OS is a whole lot smoother now compared to the previous version. And it even has Adaptive Content, which I thought would be a pretty gimmicky feature, but it’s not. Basically, the camera is used to know if you’re near the display or far away, and if you are far away, then everything on the display is larger. Once you move closer, it gets smaller and fits more info on the screen. Take the weather for example, it’ll move from just showing you today’s conditions, to showing you the conditions, temperature and weather for the next few hours.
One of the great features of the Amazon Echo Show 8 is the camera that’s built-in. Allowing you to call your loved ones and see them, like you’re there with them. And if you know someone that isn’t going to be able to make it to the holidays this year, then this is going to be a great option as a gift. As they can call in and still see everyone, thanks to that 13-megapixel camera.
Finally, it’s a smart display, and it has a speaker. So it is also great for streaming music. All of your favorite streaming music services work here, I’ve been using it with YouTube Music, and it sounds great. It does, surprisingly, have Cast enabled, despite that being a Google technology. Making it easier to start playing music from my computer or phone, onto the Echo Show 8.
Honorable Mention: Nest Hub
The Nest Hub is a couple of years old at this point, but it’s still one of our favorite smart displays. It’s a small one, coming in at 7-inches, and there’s also no camera built-in. The big reason for this is so that you can put it in your bedroom. Which is awesome, because it does measure your snoring while you sleep. It’s cool and all, but I would take that data with a grain of salt, as it has routinely counted my dog’s snoring as my own, which is obviously not accurate. But there’s only so much accuracy it can get without a camera.
Google has made this a really great smart home display, allowing you to easily change up the temperature on your smart thermostat, turn off your lights and much more. It also has all of your favorite streaming music apps included, like Spotify, YouTube Music and Amazon Music.
Best Smart Lights: Philips Hue 60W White and Color Ambiance Starter Kit
Add some color to your home with the new Philips Hue smart bulbs
When it comes to smart lights, it’s hard to go wrong with Philips Hue. I actually have their lights all over my home, and absolutely love them. With Philips Hue, you really never need to worry about them disconnecting from your WiFi network, or having to change their settings if you change ISPs or get a new router. This is because it uses the Philips Hue Bridge, which plugs directly into the router. Now you can use these over Bluetooth as well, but the Bridge just makes things so much easier.
This is a starter pack from Philips Hue, which includes two white and color ambiance light bulbs, along with the bridge, for under $130. That might sound expensive, but smart lights generally are pretty pricey. These are color ambiance bulbs, which means there are millions, if not billions of colors that you can choose from. Allowing you to make your home more moody if you wish.
Philips Hue works with all of the big smart home platforms. These include Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple Homekit/Siri and even Samsung SmartThings. So no matter what platform you’re using, you’re all set here. Hue also integrates with a lot of third-party automations, including IFTTT and even works with Razer’s RGB software. So you can really have some fun in your gaming room with these lights.
The biggest reason why Philips Hue is so popular these days, is because of the ecosystem. While we’re listing bulbs here, Philips Hue also has a ton of other lights in its ecosystem. From other size bulbs, including E12 bulbs, and floodlights, it also has LED strips for the back of your TV, or LED strips to use outside, and so much more. There’s plenty of great lamps from philips Hue too.
The ecosystem is pretty rich, so if you’re looking to get into the smart lighting game, Philips Hue is a great place to start.
Honorable Mention: GE CYNC Smart LED Light Bulbs
GE, yes that same GE that’s been around for over a hundred years, has it’s own smart bulb brand. It’s called CYNC and it produces some pretty good smart bulbs for a pretty cheap price. This is their Full Color and Color Changing bulbs, which use Bluetooth and WiFi for connecting to your devices or network. That’s one of the big differentiators from Philips Hue, and it could disconnect, which would be a real hassle.
GE CYNC also has a pretty good ecosystem of lighting products that you can pick up for your home. And it also works with Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and even Apple’s HomeKit and Siri.