Make your home more efficient with these smart products
Best Smart Display for the Kitchen: Lenovo 10” Smart Display
The Lenovo 10” Smart Display lets you use your voice to monitor traffic, make a call, or pull up an article thanks to its built-in Google Assistant. Sporting a full HD IPS touch screen and an aesthetic bamboo back, it streams Spotify and YouTube, and its 5-megapixel front-facing camera ensures your video calls through Google Duo are crisp.
How best to utilize the Lenovo Smart Display? Integrate it into your kitchen, where you can have it help build your shopping list, set timers, stream helpful cooking videos, or display recipes while walking you through them step by step. It can also control any smart device that is compatible with Google Assistant and help monitor your home, displaying smart home cameras and adjusting the temperature if paired with compatible thermostats. Weighing just 2.6 pounds, the portable device runs on a 1.8 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 624 processor. A white speaker grille is situated next to the screen, both framed by white bezels.
Best Smart Display with Google Assistant: Google Home Hub
The Google Home Hub doesn’t quite measure up to the Amazon Echo, but only due to a few minor shortcomings. The speakers sound a little thin and the display lacks a front-facing camera, so you can’t video chat with loved ones. But if those don’t sound like deal-breakers to you, then the Google Home Hub is a less-expensive alternative to the Echo that does everything else just as well.
The Hub is compatible with over 5,000 smart devices and over 400 trusted brands, allowing you to control house lights, adjust the thermostat, or set up home security cameras. Additionally, it features the voice-activated Google Assistant: just say, “Hey Google,” and make a request. You can play music, set reminders, check traffic conditions, and much more. The screen itself is a bit small at only seven inches across, but still offers crisp resolution that shows off your photos.
In short, if you’re looking for all the perks of an Amazon Echo at a reasonable price, and won’t be bothered by subpar audio quality, then the Google Home Hub is a great compromise. You’re still getting the best features of any Digital Assistant device, without breaking the bank.
Best Smart Vacuum: iRobot Roomba i7+
If you’re on the hunt for automated cleaning perfection, the iRobot Roomba i7+ is the premier smart vacuum with excellent performance. Long the leader in the industry, iRobot continues to innovate with each release. The standout feature of the i7+ is its ability to empty its own bin. The disposable bag, which is housed in the Roomba’s charging base, reaches full capacity after 30 bin releases. This number outpaces the rest of the industry, and means that if this Roomba vacuums every day, you’ll still only need to empty the bag once a month. Dual rubber rollers, a side brush, two main treads, drop sensors, and the single pan dustbin collect dirt and dust as the vacuum makes it way around your house.
The unit responds quickly to voice control. Just say the word to your compatible smart speaker (Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant) and it’ll start right up. Setting up voice control is easy with the downloadable app for iOS and Android. The app also lets you map out the vacuum’s path around your house, so you can tell it to avoid major obstacles like staircases or skip certain rooms. It’s worth noting that the unit only connects via a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection.
Best Smart Home Assistant: Amazon Echo Plus (2nd Generation)
The latest generation of the Amazon Echo is a proper follow-up to the original, full-sized Echo, and does most everything that the rest of Amazon’s Echo devices do: You can access Alexa voice assistance to run web searches, ask questions, and access close to 50,000 other programmable skills. You can also use the Digby-hub-ready features to control things like smart thermostats and smart light bulbs.
Where you really see the upgrade is in the speaker driver size and the sound quality. The three-inch neodymium woofer and 0.8-inch tweeter give you what Amazon is calling “premium, room-filling sound.” It’s this part that seems to compete directly with Apple’s Homepod, and by specs alone, it does decently for a fraction of the price. It has a new, premium mesh grill on the outside and you can order it in either a nice charcoal gray, off-white or black, and the whole thing comes in just under $150. It sits in a package that is just under six inches tall and just under 4 inches wide, and with that new premium look, it’ll fit nicely into your setup.
Best Budget Assistant: Amazon Echo Input
The whole suite of Amazon Echo products contains built-in Alex functionality. But what if you already have a speaker you love, one that sounds great but doesn’t have smart home functionality? That’s where Amazon’s latest Echo product comes into play. The Echo Input is exactly what it sounds like: a super-slim device that connects to your Wi-Fi and plugs into an existing speaker system to give that speaker Alexa functionalities. It can connect to the speaker via 3.5mm aux jack or Bluetooth, which is a welcome level of versatility.
This tiny disc weighs less than three ounces and is only three inches across and a half inch thick. It’s essentially just a microphone, an LED, and an input button — with all of Alexa’s intelligence inside. The microphone has been optimized for Alexa, so it can hear your voice commands across the room even when music is playing. It also supports dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4 and 5 GHz), which is somewhat rare among Wi-Fi enabled devices. But the best part is that you’ll be able to use the high-end speaker system that you already have. Just plug in this tiny (and very budget-friendly device) and it will instantly become your new smart assistant, with over 50,000 Alexa skills that include weather tracking, games, trivia and more.