Best products of 2016: Smart Home

The modern smart home isn't just more convenient, it's more fun

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Best Products of 2016 Smart Home Winner
Google Home

Last year, the Amazon Echo took our top spot for the Best Home Product of 2015. Is it gauche to mention the competition here? It’s almost impossible to talk about one without referencing the other. The Google Home is brand new and very similar to where Alexa was in terms of skills when it debuted. It can’t control as much of your smart home as the Echo or Dot, but the Home is savvy as heck.

Since it’s connected to your Google account, it knows a lot about you, from your calendar to where you work to your location. It uses that information to find nearby restaurants, let you know what events you have every day, and give you a briefing on your commute. It’s so handy, you might wish you had that hands-free capability in your car.

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When it comes to Googling, no other speaker out-Googles the Home. Ask it what temperature you should sous vide a chicken at and it will tell you, based on a recipe it pulls up, while butchering the pronunciation (soos vie-dee is incorrect). Alexa can’t help, as it doesn’t know what “suvi” is. The Home is also a little more forgiving with phrasing. You can ask if you need a jacket, and it will respond with the weather. Alexa just might add a coat to your shopping list.

The Home isn’t all business. It lets you stream music or podcasts from a bunch of services, such as Spotify and TuneIn. It will tell you a joke, sing you a song, and play trivia. It can also tell the future, with a Magic 8 Ball-esque crystal ball function.

The Google Home isn’t perfect, but by this time next year, it should have more third-party integration, meaning greater smart home control, skills that let it book a table at a restaurant, and the ability to switch between different user profiles. Until then, it’s still a great device to keep you company while you’re cooking.

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Best Products of 2016 Smart Home

Runner up

It has a rabid fan base in Europe, but the Thermomix is brand new to the U.S. What can it do? Cook pasta, whip cream, stir dough, dice onions, blend smoothies, and steam veggies. Want more? With integrated scales, blades that slice in one direction and stir in the other, a heating element, and a screen that leads you through recipes, it makes it easy to cook things you’ve never attempted before. While it’s easy enough for novices, seasoned cooks will love many of its features, too.

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Best Products of 2016 Smart HomeRunner up
Electrolux EFLS617SIW Washer

With a simple but significant trick – premixing the detergent and the water – the Electrolux’s SmartBoost technology delivers some of the cleanest laundry we’ve seen. It does the same with fabric softener, delivering a more consistent application, instead of concentrating it in splotches wherever it lands. Even its fast wash cycle gets clothes, spotless, even in 15 minutes. The stream function adds more stain-removal options. Its intuitive interface and sleek design are icing on the cake.

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Whew! Rough year. Fortunately, we got some amazing tech out of it. Digital Trends’ expert editors picked the most amazing gadgets in their respective categories, then convened as a panel to pick the one that towered above them all. Join us every day between now and Jan. 1 as we recap our favorites, and build up to the big Best of 2016 reveal!
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