This year’s unexpected transition for many of us to working from home and remote schooling our kids places greater focus than before on home productivity, communications, and security. As we approach the holiday season and continue to work, learn, and play from home, this is an ideal time to upgrade digital technology. The following five digital devices, available at Best Buy, can boost home productivity and bolster your digital connectivity, convenience, and communications capabilities. Now that Black Friday is around the corner, you can even find them at lower prices than you can even imagine.
When one or both parents work from home and the kids are remote learning, speedy and secure internet connections are more important than ever. With Netgear’s Orbi Mesh Wi-Fi System, everyone can keep working smoothly without bandwidth conflicts or connection hiccups. Two-way video calls involve enormous amounts of data in and out of your home network. Simultaneous video calls — when your kids are online with their teachers and classmates and you’re on a work-related video conference — can easily push beyond normal network limits. Streaming 4K videos or playing resource-demanding content also stretches network capabilities. Netgear’s Orbi Mesh system automatically manages home network bandwidth so that you won’t get knocked off video calls and movies, and games play without interruptions.
This two-pack bundle delivers up to 3Gbps Wi-Fi, suitable for multiple simultaneous 4K streaming applications in a home up to 5,000 square feet. Integrated Smart Parental Controls allow families to manage individual content and online time with any Wi-Fi-connected device.
— $15, was $18
The TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug lets you turn on or off electronics plugged into the device with a downloaded Kasa mobile app on your smartphone or tablet instead of pushing physical switches or buttons. In addition to the undeniable convenience of switchless operation, you can also check the status of devices plugged into the TP-Link Smart Plugs. Best of all, you can use the Kasa app to schedule on/off times for lights plugged into TP-Link Smart Plugs. For example, when you’re traveling or on vacation, you can configure TP-Link Smart Plugs to turn on plugged-in lights following your typical daily schedule to give the impression the house is occupied.
In addition to mobile app control, you can use the Kasa app to connect TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plugs with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant smart devices to add voice command capabilities to control individual plugs or groups of plugs. For example, if you have elaborate holiday lighting this season, you can save the hassle of switching on lights by controlling groups of plugs by asking, “Alexa, turn off holiday lights.” The TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug’s small overall size won’t block adjacent outlets, and every time you connect another home device to a TP-Link Smart Plug, it frees you from the need to constantly turn devices on and off.
— $25, was $35
The Blink Mini Indoor 1080p Wi-Fi Security Camera has the power you need at a price that lets you put one in every space you want to protect in your home. Whether you’re on babysitting duty or overseeing your kids’ homework, you can use the Blink Mini to keep an eye on them with live view video and answer questions or give directions with integrated two-way audio capability. You can also configure a Blink Mini to start recording and send an alert to your smartphone when the built-in motion detector senses movement. You can control the Blink Mini with the Blink app or pair it with an Amazon Alexa device for voice access and control.
— $65, was $130
The powerful and feature-packed Amazon Echo Show 8 smart display gives you many options for communication, education, entertainment, and even home security. Use the Announcements feature to call throughout the house to gather your family for dinner and make hands-free video calls with Alexa. You can check the news and weather, display your own digital photos, set alarms and timers, or see live video or stored video clips recorded by your home security cameras such as the Blink Mini.
The timer and alarm functions can be super productivity boosters. Alexa timers come in handy while you’re cooking, but you can also use timers for video game playing time allotments, chores, nap or meditation times, or even time-outs. You can use Alexa alarms to remind kids of scheduled school live-stream sessions and help parents be ready for video conferences or team calls. The Echo Show 8’s display is a convenient size to follow recipes while cooking and listening to music at the same time.
& Smart Locks
In addition to their convenience and security aspects, adding smart locks to your home can boost everyone’s productivity by keeping track of who’s home and who left. When kids have scheduled remote-learning classes, study meetings or parents who are working outside the home want to be sure a tutor, nanny, babysitter, or some other family member has arrived, the ability to check a smart lock access log can be a real time-saver and anxiety-reducer. August and Yale are the two top smart lock brands.
The 4th-generation August Smart Lock lets you lock and unlock your door remotely, sends a real-time alert to your smartphone if a door isn’t closed, and lets you assign unique digital keys to family members and other people authorized to enter your home. You can use the August mobile app to check the record of the comings and goings of people with assigned keys. You can also pair the August Lock with the August Smart Keypad so individuals with assigned codes can unlock the door without a mobile device. The Yale Assure Smart Lock can also send alerts to let you know who arrives or leaves and maintains an access log, combining a smart deadbolt lock and touchscreen keypad in a single unit. You can use both the August Smart Lock and Yale Assure Smart Lock with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant voice commands if you connect the locks with a compatible Alexa or Google Assistant device.
August Smart Lock and Keypad — $310
Yale Assure Smart Lock Smart Lock — $280
Digital Trends may earn commission on products purchased through our links, which supports the work we do for our readers.
- The best smart light switches for 2021
- The best smart locks for 2021
- The best mesh Wi-Fi systems for 2021
- The best smart home devices for 2021
- Amazon Echo Show 8 review: Third time’s the charm