Best Smart Home gifts under $100
The concept of a “smart home” is something that, ten years ago, would have been reserved for elite sportsmen and James Bond villains. These days, there are so many different products, it’s difficult to know where to start – particularly when many OEMs are trying to produce devices because they can, not always because they’re actually going to be an improvement over your old, dumb whatever-it-is. After all – why do you need a phone readout of how full your vacuum cleaner is? You can just… you know, look. We’ve scoured the internet for some of our favorite smart gadgets for everyone from geeks to grandmas. All the devices shown below have some level of Google Home/Assistant and Amazon Alexa integration, all are in stock and prices are correct at time of compiling.
- An entire smart home for under fifty bucks? Well, yeah, kind of. Broadlink has been making universal remotes that work with your smart home for some time. The set up can be a bit time consuming as you have to “teach” the device your remote control signals by hand, but it’s capable of controlling anything with IR or RF, making it smart, at a stroke. If you’re just starting out in home automation, it’s a great way to start.
- There are myriad of smart lamps on the market, but we’re rather liking the Cololight range. Each hexagon clips to the one above it to create interesting patterns, and the choice of colors, both still and animated is huge. You can even design your own palettes and animations and submit them for other users to try. We’ve shown the starter set here, which comes with three hexagons, but you can expand your light with additional hexagons, sold separately.
- It’s a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yoghurt maker, cake maker, saute pan, steamer and warmer in one device, and it’s all controllable from your phone. Great if you like to be able to “load up and leave”, knowing that you’ll come home to a perfectly cooked meal, and if anything does go wrong, you’ll get a push notification. The app even includes 1000 pre-loaded recipes to make dinner a no-brainer. At 6 quarts, there’s ample room for a full family meal.
- This may seem like an odd thing to include, but it’s actually one of the cornerstones of a good smart home. Fingbox is far more than a network monitor. It can warn you of any unauthorised devices on the network, open ports and so on, but more importantly, it can be used as a presence sensor, triggering routines when your phone leaves your home wifi network, and alert you if the internet is down in your area (and thus, some of your other smart devices have stopped working). It’s not the most exciting gift idea, but it definitely keeps on giving.
- The world is fuelled by coffee, and anything that makes brewing it easier is bound to go down well. This Atomi Coffee Maker’s wifi connection means that you can load it with water and ground coffee, go out, and instruct it to start brewing when you’re on the way home (your phone’s GPS sensor helps here). Alternatively, when you wake up, you can start it brewing and catch a few extra zzzzzs.
- Losing your keys, whether inside or outside the house is very stressful. This latest generation Keysmart device is an ideal stocking stuffer because as well as turning your jangling bunch into a kind of ‘key swiss army knife’, this one has a Tile tracker built-in. Next time you lose your keys, you can ask your smart speaker to find them, and it does the rest. Phew. Crisis averted.
- With plans to go back to The Moon by 2024, what better time to get to know our nearest neighbour better? This 3D-printed relief model is highly detailed, and when perched in its wooden frame, glows beautifully in a variety of colors and tones, all controllable from your phone. There are cheaper versions on the market without smart capabilities, but this one will really add to your automated ambience.
- Tumble dryers are great, but it’s almost impossible to guess accurately how long to run them for. Given that their entire remit is to heat things up, they’re a massive energy drain, so what could be better than this sensor which sends you an alert when the clothes are actually dry, so you can come in and rescue them. It saves time, it saves money, it saves energy. And you can’t beat a pair of pyjamas that are fresh out of the dryer.
- It would be far too easy to just include the latest Chromecast in the list. Instead, we’ve gone for another streamer that is particularly ideal for that first-time cord-cutter in your life. Roku fully integrates with your smart home, but keeps the more familiar format of “channels” for content, allowing you to scroll through services you’re actually interested in with the remote. It’s 4K HDR-ready and can access tens of thousands of web services from the sublime (Netflix) to the ridiculous (live footage of some goats on a farm).
For this particular roundup, we’ve opted to eschew the more obvious things like bulbs, cameras smart sockets – after all, they’re not exactly ‘festive’ are they? But, since you asked, here’s one of our favorites from each category.
- LIFX have been making smart light bulbs since 2012, so they’ve had plenty of time to get it right. Because these bulbs don’t require a hub, they can be given as gifts without tying the recipient into an ecosystem. They’re also capable of some very cool effects such as simulating a flickering fire, making them great for telling spooky stories, even if it’s too cold to tell them under the stars.
- For smart plugs, we’ve nominated Kasa, the smart home brand from TP-Link. As well as being some of the most robust and well-built devices on the market, they’re also capable of monitoring energy usage from your devices, which is a nice to have if you’re trying to save the planet, or your wallet. We’ve gone for a four-gang here, but there are others in the range.
- When you can get a smart home ready 1080p camera, capable of local storage via a microSD card, all ready to link to your Google/Alexa account, it’s a bit of a no-brainer. When you then discover that it’s yours for under thirty bucks, it’s a wonder any other cameras get sold at all. (European visitors - Neos cameras are the same Xiaomi-based hardware and pricing, but unfortunately, they don’t yet work with Google Home).
We’ve really only scratched the surface – there are thousands of new smart devices being launched every month. The big question you have to ask yourself before a purchase is a simple one…. “Does this product benefit from smart functionality?”. Quite often, the answer will be “not really”. Look for the stuff that screams “YES! ” – oh, and don’t assume that everything will work with everything else. Compatibility and fragmentation are still a huge problem in the market. 2021 looks like being the year that all changes, but it’s going to take a while to settle down, so do your research first.