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Amazon Echo, Google Nest and the Best Smart Home Gifts of 2019

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2019 your source for the best seasonal gifts and offerings handpicked by CNET experts.

The Smart Home category was rightly extensively explored this year on the data collection practices of its numerous players with Amazon and Google the front line. Good. All microphones, cameras and inscrutable algorithms, as well as privacy policies that come with their hardware and those of other manufacturers, deserve a close look. For this reason, I recommend that you ask yourself if your intended recipient really appreciates any of the smart home products listed below if you give them away this Christmas.

However, the quality of life enhancements that Amazon and Google have added to their smart speakers and smart displays this year have much to offer. We also appreciate the lower-cost security systems intelligent cameras and other networked home products from companies such as Wyze and TP-Link. Their products are good enough to rank them among our favorites for the best smart home gifts, and the gadgets offer affordable prices that make them relatively accessible.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

The LED clock built into Amazon's latest smart speaker It seems to be an incremental update, but we like it pretty much. It provides a brief overview of two of Alexa's most frequent queries, the time of day and the temperature, which you can also view.

This version of the Echo Dot device is otherwise identical to the third-generation Echo Dot that Amazon released last year. With the clock function you pay a surcharge of 10 US dollars for the model. However, look for offers from Amazon during the holidays, as the Echo Dot is often discounted or bundled with other smart home devices at an attractive price.

Read our Amazon Echo Dot with Watch (3rd Generation) review.

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While Amazon took a very straightforward approach when upgrading its new entry-level smart speaker, the Google Update improvements for 2019 are less obvious.

Perhaps the most obvious is the rebranding. Google has grouped all its smart home devices under the Nest brand. Last year's version of this product, called Google Home Mini, is now called Google Nest Mini.

This year's model also offers better audio quality than some improvements to its external interface. The big change is that a presence detection system detects when you are standing near the speaker. At this point, the touch interface lights up so you can better see the volume controls.

Those who are particularly concerned with privacy or living with the spotty Internet may also appreciate the built-in machine learning chip, which gradually recognizes the spoken commands you send to Google Assistant and then processes them locally, instead of sending them through Google's server.

Read our Google Nest Mini-Test.

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Like the Nest Mini, Google's Smart Display also received a new nomenclature this year. The difference in this case is that the hardware is identical. The Google Nest Hub is identical to the Google Home Hub, which was launched in October 2018.

Regardless of its name, this Google Assistant-based Smart Display fell us last year, and we still like it today. The display integrates perfectly with the core features of Google Assistant, making it a useful home organizer. Unlike most other displays, it does not have a camera for video chat or anything like that. Some people think that may be a plus.

The Nest Hub can display images from your Google Photos library. By automatically adjusting the brightness to the ambient light, these family selfies and vacation photos on the screen always look good. You can use the Nest Hub to view your feed from any Google Assistant compatible security camera. A logically defined screen interface also facilitates the control of other smart home devices such. As lamps or a smart thermostat.

The key is that YouTube videos can be played. Combine this feature with the method that lets Google Assistant search and navigate recipes from different cooking zones. The Nest Hub is especially useful as a kitchen assistant.

Read our Google Nest Hub test.

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Amazon has not followed Google's path with the Echo Show 5 smart display. While Google disagreed with the original 2017 echo show with camera (and the follow-up show from 2018) and left the camera out of the Google Nest Hub, you can still video chat with Amazon's smaller echo show 5 with other owners of smart displays from Amazon.

By downsizing the Echo Show 5 to a 5-inch screen from the 10-inch original, Amazon has also adapted its new smart display to act as a night alarm. If the idea of ​​an Amazon-connected camera terrifies you, you know I'm with you. This is not even Amazon's first attempt. In contrast to the unfortunate echo spot, the Echo Show 5 has at least a physical low-tech shutter that obscures the lens.

You can put the Echo Show 5 anywhere, of course, but it's great for the bedroom The screen has a sunrise alert feature that automatically adjusts the screen brightness to help you get started in the morning. For the right person, especially if that person is already an established Alexa user, the Echo Show 5 is a nice, complementary device. Overall, we like the Nest Hub better. So, if you need to deploy an intelligent display and your intended recipient has not yet selected a language assistant, then opt for the Google model.

Read our Echo Show 5 test.


We recommended the Wyze camera in our Gift Guide last year because it is a surprisingly competent smart surveillance camera and only costs $ 20. The Wyze Cam Pan for $ 30 is equipped with a base that supports pan and tilt.

We also like Wyze Cam because it works with Wyze Sense, the company's $ 20 home security kit. It's not a complete home setup like SimpliSafe, but for a dorm, a renter, or someone who just wants a very simple security system, the Wyze Cam and Wyze Sense work together at a remarkably affordable price would make a perfect gift.

Read our coverage of Wyze Sense.


The latest Arlo Pro 3 is in the upper price range for smart cameras, but remains the most versatile camera on the market. For $ 499 you get two cameras and a base station.

The versatility of Arlo is based on the fact that you can place it anywhere, indoors or outdoors, with or without a wired power source. It comes with a power cord, but the included battery has an average life of up to six months.

The new model offers a larger viewing angle than the Pro 2 and covers up to 160 degrees of your property (from 130 degrees).

Read our coverage of the Arlo Pro 3.

Tyler Lizenby / CNET

The Amazon Ring was the source of much controversy this year as Big Brother sought to put the footage of its ring video doorbell and outdoor cameras in the hands of law enforcement without this sufficient input from owners of the video doorbell or people who are in front of the camera.

While the ring video doorbell represents a prime example of the debate between law and order and privacy, the new outdoor lighting products from Ring are less stressful as there are no cameras line, and it could be a good fit for someone looking for more Lighting in her front yard could benefit. With $ 80 you get two lights and a bridge to connect to your wireless network so you can receive notifications and sync the lights with other smart ring devices. The wireless design lets you install them anywhere, and motion detection ensures they're turned on when needed.

Read our coverage of Ring products for outdoor lighting.

Chris Monroe / CNET

The Wyze bulb is a reasonably priced LED Smart Bulb with excellent light quality. At a unit price of $ 12, the purchase costs $ 2 less than Philips' comparable white-light LED (Philips Hue White), whose brightness and color accuracy are satisfying for everyone. Wyze does not have Philips' extensive range of companion lighting products. So you should consider if you think your 15-year-olds want to expand their smart home technology later. For simple smart lighting, 2019 is our choice.

Read our Wyze Bulb test.

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The name is a bit awkward, but the C brand by GE smart bulbs are a great accessory for any Google Assistant speaker or smart display owner. These color-changing LED lamps communicate directly with these hubs via Bluetooth without the need for a hub. Philips Hue bulbs can do the same, but the benefit of C by GE bulbs is that they carry a special Made for Google designation. This makes them the most responsive bulbs we've tested with voice commands.

Priced at $ 22 each, these color-changing bulbs are indeed an expensive novelty. You will find a pure white light version for $ 12.50 apiece (or $ 25 for a double pack). Both are also cheaper than their Philips Hue counterparts.

Read our information on intelligent lighting.

Chris Monroe / CNET

Last year, I recommended the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini and will do it again. For just over $ 20, you'll get a Smart Plug compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, small enough not to block an adjacent outlet. It's a great gift and an affordable option for anyone interested in scheduling, voice control and remote access to everyday devices.

There are other inexpensive smart plugs with similar specifications. An easy-to-use app gives TP-Link a nod.

Read our review of TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini.

Originally released at the beginning of this month.

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