Home Automation Christmas Gift Guide 2018

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Thanks to Amazon Echo devices and Google Home the home automation trend has boomed this year. So, what are the best gifts to get for the people wanting to get into home automation?

Smart Assistant / Speakers

The first obvious choice is a smart speaker/assistant with the following options:

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Amazon Echo

3 main options for different budgets, the Dot is excellent for anyone just wanting to access Alexa; it will allow you plug into an existing speaker so the end result can be cheaper and better sounding. The Echo generation 2 is a good price at £69.99, but sound quality could be better. For someone wanting a smart assistant with speaker, the Echo Plus is probably a better option and reduced to £109.99 at the moment

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Google Home

Alternatively, you can go to Google Home, which assistant is better appears to be mostly subjective. The home mini is just £34 at the moment from various retailers, and the full-sized Google Home is also reduced to £89.99.

If you want an actual smart speaker, the Google Home is probably a better choice than the Generation 2 Echo. However, the Echo Dot is easier to get to work with an existing speaker as it has an aux out.

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Sonos One

Another option, if you have deeper pockets, is the excellent Sonos One which costs £179.10 but will offer far better audio than any of the Google or Amazon made products. Currently, it just has Alexa built in, but Google Assistant should be on the way.

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Smart Devices

You will quickly get bored of talking to your speaker if you don’t have any gadgets actually to control. The following are an excellent investment for any home.

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TP-Link Kasa Smart Plugs

Belkin do an alternative, but I like TP-Link. These little smart plugs are relatively cheap, and can typically be bought in package deals with the Echo. They are quite simple just offering on/off for plug sockets, which you can control via your phone or voice control. No hub is required, and the app is easy to use. I have schedules set up, so all my office is powered up in the morning, and it works great. There is even a slightly more expensive option that will monitor the energy being used.

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Philips Hue

This can be painfully expensive if/when you decide to convert all your bulbs to it, but once you do it is a great system. Full control of your lighting via phone/app or various other devices and systems. Get the colour options if you can justify the cost, they are far better than just white. Other smart lighting products tend to use WiFi and just aren’t as good as the market leading Hue.

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Smart Heating

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Nest / Hive / Tado / Genius Home

All homes should convert to one of these systems sooner or later they are great, but the initial cost can be pricey. I use Genius Home, and it is incredible but it doesn’t entirely work with Echo or Home. I’d be inclined to choose Nest for a present as it has a wider adoption rate and works with most home automation systems.

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Smart Security

Affordable easy to implement CCTV/Security Cameras have flooded the market in recent years. Here are my choices:

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Blink

Not the prettiest or the best build quality, but it is relatively cheap, uses AA batteries so is wireless, and has no subscription charges. In my review found the motion detection to work very well, and the image quality to be surprisingly good. The app is basic but is easy to navigate and allows quick access to motion triggered videos.

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Netgear Arlo

For something a little fancier the Netgear Arlo system offers multiple cameras with the wire-free ones being the best. They use a non-standard battery which is expensive to buy, and the system benefits from buying the subscription. However, the app, functionality and build quality are better than Blink. It also works with Alexa.

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Ring Doorbell

I haven’t used this yet, but it is on my list of things to buy (or hopefully blag for a review). Great for keeping track of when parcel deliveries arrive, which is all the time for me.

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All the above are great products to get into home automation. There are plenty of other fantastic devices and systems, but these are often more complex and expensive such as Z-Wave or Lightwave RF, so not ideal as a Christmas present or to start with.

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