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Best gifts for a first-time smart home setup

The smart home is a sprawling, sometimes dizzying space that covers a wide scope of things. For someone looking to give a smart home gadget for the holidays, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out exactly what to get — especially if it’s for someone who’s just starting to build out their smart home.

No need to worry, though, because we’re here to tell you exactly the core areas to focus on. Best of all, we’ll mention not just one or two solutions for each essential area, but three to cover any budget. Whether it’s a gift for that person you truly adore, or just a friendly acquaintance from work, you’ll find something for anyone on your list.

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Smart speakers

Apple HomePod mini smart speaker size comparison.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

We’ll start with the most critical component of the smart home: Smart speakers. They’re the gateway to not only accessing your favorite virtual assistant, but also the many other gadgets that make up your smart home. And yes, they’re great at setting the mood by playing your favorite tunes.

However, smart speakers are convenient in the sense that they allow us to do so much more — like turn on/off the lights, run the robot vacuum to clean up a mess, and even make reservations for your favorite restaurant. And all of it is done through nothing more than using your voice.

Google Nest Mini

You don’t need to spend a fortune to snag a smart speaker — just look at the super affordable Google Nest Mini for proof. The puck-shaped smart speaker is available in a variety of colors, and can also be wall-mounted if you wish. It’s not really meant for filling large spaces with music — it’s more the kind of thing you can put anywhere in the home to access Google Assistant.

Apple HomePod Mini

Apple made it even easier for consumers to bring Siri into the home with the release of the HomePod Mini. Don’t let its small size fool you because it’s incredibly powerful and more than capable of pleasing the ears by automatically adjusting its performance based on its surroundings. Looking for a bit more power? Then check out the stereo audio experience that two HomePods can deliver.

Amazon Echo Studio

Make a long-lasting impression with someone on your gift list with the Amazon Echo Studio. Seriously, this smart speaker is a beast in the audio department with its room-filling sound, heart-pounding bass, and Dolby Atmos technology. It begs to be a centerpiece in a home, so it’s best placed somewhere it can be showcased. Amazon Alexa is also on board to help you access all of your smart home gear.

Smart displays

Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) on angle table.
John Velasco / Digital Trends

While smart speakers are largely considered the gateway to the smart home, smart displays would be the next logical upgrades. In addition to boasting the same set of voice interactions, the benefits of the smart display add another level of interaction with the smart home. From video calls with relatives, to checking up on the baby sleeping in the crib, and even glancing at your agenda for the day at your desk, they help to keep us connected.

Lenovo Smart Display 7

Sure, it’s almost a couple years old at this point, but you won’t find more value in a smart display than you will with Lenovo’s Smart Display 7. It’s perfect as a deskside companion with its relatively compact size, but it still has a camera on it to allow you to video chat with a friend. Luckily, it doesn’t cost a fortune.

Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen)

Bedrooms are usually no-go areas for smart displays, since many of them feature front-facing cameras. The idea of a camera in the bedroom is a deal breaker for some people, but the Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen) is a bedroom-friendly smart display because it lacks a camera. It’s notable for its Soli technology that allows it to function as a sleep monitor.

Amazon Echo Show (3rd Gen)

Few smart displays are as feature-rich as the Amazon Echo Show (3rd Gen). Not is it only an incredibly powered speaker perfect for audiophiles, but its rotating display introduces some neat features. For example, it swivels around to ensure it’s always facing you when you’re on a video call. It can also double as a security camera because it can monitor for movement when you’re not home.

Smart Lights

Mother and daughter dancing in living room with Govee smart lights on.

Another core component of the smart home is smart lighting. Smart light bulbs have been around for some time now, so not only are there plenty to choose from, but the prices have come down considerably. There’s just something special about telling your voice assistant to turn on the lights when you’re half asleep and can’t find the switch on your own.

Govee RGBWW Smart Light Bulbs

There was a time when a single color-changing smart light bulb would fetch for $50. Govee’s RGBWW Smart Light Bulbs come in a four-pack, can be tuned to just about any color in the rainbow, and best of all, connect directly to your home’s Wi-Fi network. They’re inexpensive and can quickly add some interesting ambiance when the correct color combinations are set. Need a stocking stuffer? It even comes in a single pack!

GE Sync light bulbs

Choosing an unfamiliar brand may make some folks uneasy, so if you prefer something with a little more brand recognition, but isn’t too out of reach at the same time, then check out the GE Sync smart light bulbs. You’re still getting the same color-changing options, preset scene controls, direct Wi-Fi connectivity, and support for Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Philips Hue Starter Kit

In the world of smart lighting, Philips Hue remains king for its diverse lineup, excellent color temperature, and impressive set of scene modes. While setting a schedule isn’t something new, Philips Hue lights can work off your location with its geofence — so its smart light bulbs can turn on/off automatically. Yes, there’s a bridge that needs to be connected to your router, but this helps out with network congestion.

Indoor security cameras

When the lights go off, you never know what’s lurking in the dark. Security cameras help to keep an eye out, providing that peace of mind that your home’s safe. It’s another essential tool for first-time smart home setup.

Ring Indoor Cam

Ring’s a force in the home security space, not only for its comprehensive app, but also for the extensive lineup of cameras to choose from. You can keep tabs on what’s happening inside with the Ring Indoor Cam, which is a relatively simple, affordable cam that can cover the basics: Motion detection, two-way communication, and night vision to see in the dark.

Google Nest Cam (wired)

Most security cameras typically require users to be on a subscription plan of some sort in order to record and save videos to the cloud for later viewing. However, the Google Nest Cam (wired) offers some video history out of the box without the need for a subscription. Even though it’s limited to three hours of event history, it’s nonetheless wonderful news for anyone who doesn’t want to be forced into paying for a monthly service.

Arlo Pro 4

At the top of the list for security cameras is none other than the Arlo Pro 4, which can work both indoors and out. When it comes to performance, features, and quality, it’s really tough to beat a camera that no longer requires a bridge to work correctly. You’ll pay a bit more over the other options, but few security cameras offer 2K video recording, color night vision, and advanced detection.

Video doorbells

Ring video doorbell Pro 2 on brick wall.

Still considered an essential for the first-time smart home setup, video doorbells are probably last on the list because the majority of gadgets are used indoors. Nevertheless, a video doorbell comes in handy because it lets you know who’s at the front door without you being there and can monitor what’s happening outside. Porch pirates are less likely to snatch up any packages left out front if you have a video doorbell.

Wyze Video Doorbell

Wyze is known for its affordable line of smart home gadgets, so you won’t be spending a fortune on any of them. The Wyze Video Doorbell is a simple video doorbell that’s pretty quaint in size, but is still accompanied by the basics like motion detection, night vision, and two-way audio. Even better is the fact that it comes packaged with a doorbell chime for indoors.

Google Nest Doorbell

Google’s Nest Doorbell is notable because. unlike other video doorbells that require users to commit to a paid subscription service for video cloud storage, it comes with three hours of free video history out of the box. Beyond that, it’s a beautifully designed doorbell that meshes well with any front door — and is made better by giving users the option to use it wired or wireless.

Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2

Keeping eyes on packages is great, but wouldn’t it be neat to know exactly where someone has been in your front yard? The Ring Video Doorbell Pro  features radar technology that can show a bird’s eye view of where someone has been spotted around your yard. It’s just one of the many incredible features that make the Ring Video Doorbell Pro 2 tops in the category.

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