Have you ever dreamed of owning a house where you can automate things through voice commands? Well, that is actually quite possible nowadays thanks to modern technology.
You see, a lot of brands and companies are pushing for the Internet of Things which basically integrates everyday household appliances and the vast Internet into one.
In this article, I will talk about some of the best smart home devices in 2020 that you can buy that will help you automate some things in your house.
Without further ado, let’s get started.
The Philips Hue is considered to be one of the best smart light bulbs in the world. Its ease of installation coupled with the fact that it can support a lot of useful features makes this quite a compelling thing to buy for your house.
First, you can change its lighting to suit your mood. Thanks to its 16-million color support, you can use your smartphone to change its color depending on your mood and circumstances.
It also comes with a hub that allows you to update its firmware, as well as integrate all of your other smart bulbs in the house. This is pretty great and really handy as it is not only easy to install, but adding more bulbs later down the line makes it so much easier for you.
Its companion app allows you to do a lot of things. In addition to changing the color of the bulbs, you also have the option of turning the lights on at specific times of the day, and many others.
Sure, its price is expensive, but for what you are getting, I think it is justified.
2.Amazon Echo Dot with Clock
If you want a Bluetooth speaker that can also connect to the internet, then the Amazon Echo Dot with an additional clock feature is definitely a worthy consideration for your smart home ecosystem.
This particular product is basically just an Amazon Echo Dot with a clock, but what’s interesting is that the aforementioned feature actually displays more than that.
Aside from its ability to tell the time, it can actually display other useful things such as the current ambient temperature and other important statistics if you use Alexa.
The device also comes with handy sensors that will immediately adjust the brightness of the digital clock so that you don’t have to.
Its sound quality is okay, but the reason why you should be getting this one is due to its Amazon Alexa support.
Do you want to find out the current score of your favorite NFL match? Ask Alexa. Do you want to have food delivered to your doorstep? You can have Alexa do that as well.
With all of the features of this device, you will be amazed that all of that is possible at a really affordable price.
3.Logitech Harmony Elite
The Logitech Harmony Elite is actually a kit that includes a hub and remote control. The hub basically just acts as a conduit for all of your different devices such as TVs, smartphones, home speaker systems, and so much more. In fact, it can even integrate with the Amazon Echo Dot as well.
Anyway, although the hub is important, the real star of the show is the remote control. Aside from having physical buttons, it actually has a small screen that allows you to know what device you are looking at right now and control its parameters from within the remote itself.
Setting it up is quite easy. All you have to do is download the Logitech Harmony app from the Playstore and it will run you through the entire process.
Make sure that all of your devices are connected to the same network so that it will be easy for the hub to find them.
You basically just use the remote to control your different devices- making your life so much easier.
4.Nest Thermostat E
If you want a smart device that actually learns from you and its immediate environment, then the Nest Thermostat E is for you.
The company has actually been praised as one of the best manufacturers when it comes to smart thermostats and this particular product is its best one yet.
Aside from its ability to display ambient temperature quite accurately, it learns from your commands and its immediate environment so that it can control your AC and heating systems immediately.
Its main feature set allows you to save a lot of money because it can use your heating and cooling systems in the most efficient way possible.
My only gripe with this device is that because of its display, it might be a bit hard for you to look at the temperature in brightly-lit areas.
Other than that, this is the smart thermostat that I would highly recommend.
If you want one of the best security cameras on the market, then the Arlo Ultra is one that you should consider.
Sure, it is a bit expensive, but it comes with a wealth of features that put this product a cut above the rest.
For one, this is one of the only security cameras that can record videos at native 4K resolution. In addition, it also has motion-tracking, color night vision, a built-in siren, and it has the ability to call 911 if it detects unusual behavior in its range.
If you want to take advantage of what this camera has to offer, you will have to sign up for the company’s service. But hey, this security equipment is really something that you need to put in your home if you want some peace of mind.
6.TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip HS300
If you want a new-age power strip that you can rely on, the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip HS300 is one of the best out there.
It has 6 outlets so you have plenty of slots to plug in your devices and it also has three USB connections so you can use the actual strip itself to charge your smartphone, for example.
But what’s interesting here is that this power strip can actually be controlled using Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, and even Microsoft Cortana’s voice controls which is pretty cool.
And oh, you also get surge protection and you can monitor its energy usage by connecting it to its companion app.
7.August Wi-Fi Smart Lock
If you are like me, there is sometimes this nagging notion if I had locked the doors before I left or not. If you experience the same thing, you know how nerve-wracking it is, right?
Well, if you want peace of mind in that regard, the August Wi-Fi Smart Lock is one that you should get for your home.
It is touted to be one of the best smart locks on the market and for good reasons. For one, it has a pretty simple and compact design that makes it less conspicuous.
It has a Door Sense feature that essentially tells you the time when the locks were opened, so you will know if someone is trying to get into your home or not.
You can easily integrate it with your smart home ecosystem and setting this up is a breeze thanks to its companion app.
8.Google Nest Hub Max
If you want a smart speaker with a screen, the Google Nest Hub Max is a pretty good choice.
Although its audio quality is okay, what I really love about this device is its seamless integration with your smart home ecosystem. You can easily use Google Assistant because it has a microphone that can pick up even the faintest sounds, which means that if you are a bit far away from the speaker, it can still get your commands regardless.
Keep in mind that this is just the Google Home Hub’s bigger brother and its biggest difference is that it comes with a front-facing camera.
The said camera can be used as a security camera by enabling a couple of options in its companion app.
The display is vibrant and you can actually do a lot of things with it, making it a good addition to any home.
9.Ring Video Doorbell Pro
Doorbells back then are pretty simple in what they can do. They simply play a chime whenever someone presses the button and that’s it. But, modern technology has certainly improved it a lot over the years and this product is a testament to that.
The Ring Video Doorbell Pro is more than just an ordinary doorbell. It has a clear video camera that records things at 1080p resolution so you can easily see who is trying to press the button.
Aside from that, you can change its faceplates so that it suits your home’s overall aesthetic. It is fairly easy to install which means that you should not run into any problems whatsoever.
Lastly, it has support for Amazon Alexa, so you can use some of its features by just saying some voice commands.
If you want a smart hub that allows you to control all of your existing smart home devices, then the Samsung SmartThings is definitely something worth considering.
Samsung is not only at the forefront when it comes to flagship phones because the company also has a suite of amazing wireless technologies, his one included.
It can integrate with all of your smart devices into one and you can use Google Assistant to consolidate everything using voice commands.
Sadly, it still cannot integrate with Nest devices that well, though a future update might make it possible.
Google Nest Audio vs Amazon Echo- The Battle of the New ‘Smart’ Speakers
Smart home speakers are not as popular as mobile phones, but in my opinion, it actually should be.
You see, companies are slowly rolling out smart home devices so that your life will be so much easier given the convenience of having them.
That being said, I am going to be talking about the Google Nest Audio and Amazon Echo speakers because they are the ones that are at the forefront when it comes to smart home speakers. Which of these should you choose? Read on to find out!
For those of you who do not know, Google Nest Audio is actually the Google Home speakers that were released just about a year ago. It seems that Google wanted to use a new moniker to denote that this particular thing can ‘nest’ your other smart home devices.
The Amazon Echo, on the other hand, refers to the medium-sized Bluetooth speaker that the largest online retailer sells. The company is set to release a new version of this device soon, so it would be interesting to see how well it performs.
Even though the new version of the Amazon Echo hasn’t arrived at our doorstep yet for an official review, this is not to say that we can somehow speculate what it can offer, especially considering that the company has provided us with some really good information about it.
With all of those out of the way, let’s talk more about the design first. The Google Nest Audio takes on a more cylindrical approach in that the speaker itself has a higher height than the Amazon Echo.
For that reason, you are getting a 75mm woofer and a single 19mm tweeter. Google touts the Google Nest Audio as a better sound solution compared to its original Google Home Speaker because of the changes.
On the other hand, the Amazon Echo, in my opinion, has better sound quality. That is thanks to its two 20mm tweeters and a huge 76.2mm woofer. Its design is more spherical but I am pleased (and surprised) that Amazon was able to include two tweeters on its Bluetooth speaker implementation.
At the base of the Amazon Echo is a blue light ring that changes the way it emits light depending on the current usage.
Both of these Bluetooth speakers are offered in various colors so you have different options to choose from.
If you look at the design of both speakers, you could make a case that the Amazon Echo wins this round when it comes to pure sound quality. Its two tweeters compared to the single tweeter on the Google Nest Audio, provides it with a much better chance of delivering mid-high sound frequencies.
This is not to discount the fact that Google has some tricks up its sleeves because its AI technology is smart enough to adjust the sound quality on the fly when needed.
Both of the speakers have an adaptive sound feature wherein if it detects that the ambient noise is loud enough, it increases the volume of whatever content you are consuming at that moment to compensate. This is using both of the speakers’ microphones. The volume should normalize to the last known level after it detects that the ambient sound has quieted down.
Of course, this is only my opinion after looking at the spec sheet because I will have to get my hands on these things before I can give my honest opinion. But, my initial assessment would be that the Amazon Echo delivers better sound compared to the Google Nest Audio.
To be able to provide you with ‘smart’ features, both the Google Nest Audio and Amazon Echo are equipped with processors that can handle just that.
The Google Nest Audio comes with the company’s TeraOPS A53 processor which is a quad-core chip that boasts of better performance compared to the company’s previous Bluetooth speakers.
On the other hand, Amazon’s own speaker is equipped with the AZ1 Neural Edge processor that, according to the company, should be more responsive to voice commands compared to previous versions.
It is hard to say who wins this round. You see, Amazon has Zigbee hub integration which means that your connected smart home devices have better compatibility with the said speaker because of this.
However, we all know that Google’s AI technology is so advanced (and even more accurate) than Alexa, so it could potentially provide you with better features overall compared to Amazon’s Bluetooth speaker.
Of course, I cannot truly say which one wins this round until I get to review these wireless audio solutions. In that case, stay tuned for more.
The Google Nest Audio will be available on October 5, while the Amazon Echo will not be released until later this month (October 22). That being said, both of these speakers will retail for $99.99, so stay tuned for our official product reviews to help you know which one you should ultimately choose for yourself.
Apple iPad 8th Generation Review- An Iterative Upgrade
When it comes to ease of use and convenience, people like getting Apple’s products because of its more streamlined approach to everything. Sure, there is a lot to tinker on Android but that is also precisely the reason why the user experience, at least for the layman, is not as great.
There is this saying that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well, although I would have liked to say that here, I just don’t think that that approach applies here.
You see, the design of the 8th generation iPad is identical to its predecessor. As in everything about its aesthetics are similar which means that if you want to imagine what the new iPad looks like, all you have to do is look at the 7th gen variant.
Like all things, it can be a good thing or a bad thing. It is a good thing because that familiar design should feel right at home, especially for people that already own an iPad. It is bad because, in this day and age, more and more mobile devices have slimmer bezels and the new iPad still has those atrociously huge ones.
Don’t get me wrong, there are practical uses to having large bezels as it allows you to hold the tablet better when using it in landscape mode, but if you are watching online content, you can’t help but be bothered by the huge sides.
There are two versions of the 8th generation iPad and that is one with WiFi only and the other one having LTE. Its dimensions are 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29. The only difference between the WiFi and the LTE versions is that the latter is a bit heavier at 495 grams compared to the 490 grams of the former.
Thankfully, Apple didn’t remove the headphone jack but if you are going to utilize its built-in speakers, you are better off using a good Bluetooth speaker instead.
The 8th generation iPad has a 10.2-inch Retina Display with a resolution of 2160 x 1620 and 264 pixels per inch or PPI. It has a good peak brightness at 500 nits, though you can still experience some problems when you are outside and the sun is shining brightly.
You can utilize the Apple Pencil on this device and it is also quite accurate as well (just keep in mind that it is sold separately).
What I love about iPads, in general, is that their displays provide you with crisp and clear details. Whether you are working on your documents or perhaps watching your favorite movies and TV shows, they do not disappoint.
Specs and Performance
- CPU: A12 Bionic
- GPU: Apple GPU (4-core graphics)
- RAM: 3GB
- Storage: 32GB/128GB
- Display: 10.2-inch Retina IPS LCD Display, 2160 x 1620, 4:3 aspect ratio, 500 nits brightness, 264 PPI
- OS: iPadOS 14
- Cameras: 8-megapixel (back), 1.2-megapixel (front)
- Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 AC, Bluetooth 4.2
- Battery: 32.4 Wh
So, if the 8th generation iPad has an identical design to its predecessor, what has changed here? Well, I am glad you asked. The only notable difference here is that the new model comes with the A12 Bionic chip and that’s pretty much it.
While you could be unhappy with the change, the new CPU actually beats its predecessor by a lot. By using Geekbench 5, single-core scores are about 60% higher than the 7th gen iPad and about 100% better in multi-core tasks than the previous model.
Granted that the said benchmark is relatively old, you couldn’t argue that the new processor is indeed way better than its predecessor.
Even when you are just using the tablet the way it should be used, you can really tell the difference. This is more evident if you are going to play some games.
Now, do not worry about the 3GB of RAM because the iOS ecosystem is quite streamlined and efficient that you normally wouldn’t need more than that.
It should also go without saying that the included cameras are just there for show and they do not really do anything special, so I don’t think that covering them is warranted here.
Sure, the new 8th generation iPad doesn’t bring a lot to the table, but its new processor is leaps and bounds better than its predecessor. Does that justify buying the new one? Probably not, especially if you already own the 7th generation model.
However, if you own an older iPad and you want better performance across the board, then you could probably spend your money to get one.
My gripe here is that there are only two storage options to choose from. You can get the 32GB variant for only $329 but in this day and age, 32GB is not a lot of storage space.
If you want more storage, you will need to spend an additional $100 premium just to get the 128GB model. In fact, I would go on to say that you should be buying this particular model compared to the 32GB variant. I just don’t like that the company is gouging you another $100 ($429 in total) just to get one.
The 8th generation iPad is disappointing in a lot of ways and its only redeeming quality is its new processor. It would have been nice if there is a redesign or that the lightning cable is changed to USB-C, but there is just not a lot of things to talk about here.
Therefore, I should say that the 8th generation iPad is just an iterative upgrade. Whether you want to buy it or not is entirely up to you.
Amazon Echo Studio Review- The Bigger ‘Echo’ Speaker That Competes
Amazon, the biggest online retailer in the world, has created its own AI implementation in the form of the Amazon Alexa.
It is actually quite polished and it can go against Apple’s Siri and Google’s own AI. That being said, the company has released some ‘Echo’ speakers that not only act as Bluetooth audio devices but as smart devices as well.
Today, I am going to be reviewing the Amazon Echo Studio. Does this thing really have what it takes to compete with the others?
One of the biggest criticisms of Amazon’s Echo speakers of the past is that although its smart features are okay, their sound output leaves much to be desired. As a way of addressing the issue, Amazon has built the Echo Studio.
The Amazon Echo Studio is pretty big. It is 8 inches in height and 7 inches wide so this is indeed a pretty hefty audio solution. In fact, I would go on to say that this is one of the biggest Bluetooth speakers on the market.
Its design is pretty much akin to the Amazon Echo speakers of old. You get a fabric mesh design that encapsulates the speaker itself with all of its button controls situated at the top of the device.
You also get a blue ring light that will pretty much add to the aesthetic appeal of the unit. The microphone is also placed at the top and it is always on ‘listening mode’ so that whenever you want to interact with Alexa, it can do so at a moment’s notice.
Although you cannot see it, the Amazon Echo Studio is actually powered by a subwoofer, a tweeter, and four mid-range speakers that are mounted at the top and the sides. This thing is a beast as it can output 330 watts of power when needed, which is ample enough even for home cinema setups.
The Amazon Echo Studio is quite a powerful Bluetooth speaker. No matter what genre of content you’d like to consume, this thing can output the necessary sound to make your viewing experience more immersive.
I am usually keen on an audio solution’s performance when it comes to playing music and I am happy with the Echo Studio’s prowess.
Although it favors the lower frequencies more than the mids and the highs, it does so without drowning the latter two, which is something that you normally do not see on large Bluetooth speakers.
An interesting feature that the Amazon Echo Studio has is its support for 3D Audio. You will need to sign in to your Amazon Music HD account before you can get a hold of this feature and it is the only platform that supports the Echo Studio’s 3D Audio. Amazon did mention that it will hand out support for other streaming platforms at a later date though.
So, how is the speaker’s performance on that front? Well, I am not really sure what to think about it as I have mixed feelings about the said feature.
3D audio is meant to provide a more immersive listening experience but I can hardly tell the difference between traditional Hi-Res audio and this one.
I guess you could say that for tracks that have a more melodic tone that you can discern a 3D audio-enabled track from a regular track, but other than that, non-audiophiles can hardly tell the difference.
To be fair, the said feature is still not polished yet, so expect it to improve in the years to come.
The Amazon Echo Studio also has seamless integration with the Amazon Fire TV Stick, though it does support all other streaming services like Netflix and Hulu as well.
You are also given the option to link up another Amazon Echo Studio speaker so that you can have them work in tandem to provide you with even better sound. I do not have a second unit though, so I cannot really tell anything about this. But, the feature is there if you want to get another unit.
Aside from 3D audio, the Echo Studio also acts as a control hub for your smart devices. You can use Alexa to turn off your lights at a specific time of the night or you can have it play your favorite track if you want. The possibilities are endless.
Do keep in mind that while it should support most of the smart home devices that you can buy on the market, there are some products that do not play ball.
For instance, some smart locks can only be supported using Apple’s Siri, so you cannot control that using this device.
You can also link up a second Echo Studio speaker if you have one and you can use both of them to provide you with an even more powerful and more immersive listening experience.
You can control the speaker’s features by manually tapping on the buttons at the top of the device or by downloading its companion app.
Amazon has finally solved the issue of the Amazon Echo speakers of the past by giving you a relatively large speaker that can do a lot of things.
The Amazon Echo Studio has support for 3D audio, but you will need to have an Amazon Music HD account to get a hold of the said feature.
You can also use the speaker to control your smart home devices which is pretty nice. The microphone is always on listening mode so that you can call Alexa’s attention at a moment’s notice.
Normally, I would expect a product like this to cost more than $300, but the Amazon Echo Studio actually costs just $199. I guess getting another one is not too far out of the equation, eh?
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