9to5Toys Gift Guide: Blair’s favorite smart home essentials

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Smart home gift guide

Each year here at 9to5Toys we debut a series of annual gift guides, and this year I’m focusing on the best smart home essentials. Gear for Alexa, Assistant, and Siri setups have already proven to be a massive hit throughout 2019. And if Black Friday has shown us one thing, it’s that more homes than ever are going to be welcoming a smart speaker come the holidays. So this year we’re diving into must-have accessories for those just getting started, as well as our favorites for other tech enthusiasts. So you’ll want to head below to check out our top recommendations for essential smart home gifts.

Top picks from this year’s smart home gift guide

Getting Started – Philips Hue Light Bulbs with Bluetooth 

Philips Hue has a reputation of being one of the gold standard for smart home lighting, a sentiment that this writer fully supports. In the past the system’s reliance on an external hub has made it less of an must-have for both home automation enthusiasts and those just dipping their toes in the water. This year that changed, with the introduction several Bluetooth-enabled Hue lighting products.

The brand’s latest batch of light bulbs bring the same phenomenal color reproduction, reliability, and other perks to a more accessible form-factor thanks to the inclusion of Bluetooth. Zigbee connectivity is still in play, which means that if a smart home owner decides to expand down the line, they won’t have to replace existing accessories. For all of those reasons, the Bluetooth Philips Hue lights are our top pick for giving the gift of smart home tech this holiday season.

Bulbs start at $14 for the dimmable white option, and go up to $50 for the Color Ambiance version. Though if you’re looking to really make an impression, the new Edison Style light bulbs are a notable pick at $33. All three versions work with Alexa, Assistant, and Siri, as well as both iOS and Android.

Next Steps – Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus

Smart plugs and other light bulbs are usually one of the first purchases that welcome Echo, Google Home, or HomePod users into the world of home automation. So if someone on your list has already decked out their setup with bulbs, light strips are a perfect add-on. Ideal for adding some ambient lighting to a space, whether that’s around a TV in one’s home theater, behind a monitor, or on a shelf, it’s hard not to love some multicolor lighting.

So another one of our top picks from this year’s Smart home gift guide falls to the Philips Hue Lightstrip Plus. This integrates with the brand’s greater ecosystem, bringing with it support for the aforementioned triage of voice assistants and much more. At $80, there’s a lot to love about the Lightstrip Plus, especially if you know your gift recipient is a fan of multicolor lighting. There’s also an outdoor version, which is an easy recommendation as well.

Home Security – Abode iota AiO

An ever-growing application of smart home tech is focused on offering protection on top of convenience. So whether you’re looking to gift some peace of mind to family or just get a friend some added protection for their new house, a smart home security system is an easy to recommend gift.

This year, no system stands out quite like Abode’s iota, which has recently introduced HomeKit support. This all-in-one security package touts a built-in 1080p camera, monitor sensor, and 93db siren. It also comes paired with a door and window sensor for monitoring entrances, as well as a key fob for easily arming or disarming the system. Right now it’ll set you back $189 to get started, and additional accessories can expand coverage should your gift recipient need something a little more tailor made.

Quality of Life – Roborock S4 Robot Vacuum 

For those who are looking to show their significant other that there’s more to smart home tech than summoning Alexa to turn on the lights, a robotic vacuum is a great gift. From voice-activated to automated cleaning, having a non-manual vacuum in your home is a great way to permanently check one chore of the list.

One that’s easy to recommend comes from Roborock, a more recent player in the robotic vacuum space that’s grown in popularity over 2019. Its S4 Robot Vacuum enters with a $350 price tag and sports many of the premium features that make manual sweeping a thing of the past. There’s a 150-minute runtime, support for both Alexa and Assistant, and a 2000Pa suction system. The real showstopper though is a built-in laser guidance system which helps the S4 more easily navigate your home. Get a closer look in our announcement coverage.

Foundational Upgrades – Amplifi Instant Mesh Wi-Fi 

Now if there’s someone in your life who’s already took a deep dive into smart home tech and are well-equipped when it comes to our other recommendations, there’s still a way to upgrade their kit. Mesh Wi-Fi systems come with plenty of perks to write home about, from more reliable connectivity to a wider range of coverage. Those two are especially important when it comes to connected devices, and even more so if there are Wi-Fi devices in the mix. From improving the time it takes to turn on the lights to keeping devices from disconnecting, having solid Wi-Fi is a must for a reliable smart home.

Our top pick for mesh Wi-Fi system this year falls to AmpliFi Instant. Priced at $180, this two-node system provides up to 4,000-square feet of 802.11ac coverage. Alongside its up to 1.3Gb/s speeds, there’s also a built-in touchscreen for monitoring network stats which any techy will love, support for VPN capabilities, and more. Get additional details in our hands-on review.

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