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Echo Dot, Home Mini, and Simplisafe: The best smart home Christmas gifts for 2018

Best smart home gifts for 2018.

Brian Bennett
Brian Bennett is a former senior writer for the home and outdoor section at CNET.
Brian Bennett
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The best smart home gifts for holiday 2018

You already bought your parents an Alexa speaker. Your daughter took a smart plug to her dorm. You got your brother's family a DropCam a few years ago to watch over their new baby. Now what?

Your friends and family might already have a smart-home gadget or two, but could their home be smarter? We've got you covered with a list of our favorite smart-home gifts that are practical, novel or somewhere in between. Have a look!

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Amazon Cloud Cam

Amazon's indoor security camera strikes the perfect balance between features and price. It costs just $119, and unlike virtually all of its competitors, offers free cloud-based video clip storage for 24 hours. 

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Amazon Echo Dot (3rd gen)

One of the newest Alexa gadgets, the new Echo Dot smart speaker has a softer design and better sound than the previous version, all for the same $50 price tag

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Amazon Echo Show (2nd gen)

The new Echo Show also has a better-looking design than the first one. If your gift recipient is already married to the Alexa ecosystem and might like a fixed video-chat device on their countertop, give it a look.

5 of 30 Tyler Lizenby/CNET

AmazonBasics Microwave

Do you know an Alexa user that hates pushing buttons? 

The $60 AmazonBasics Microwave is Amazon's house branded, 700-watt microwave that you can control with its Alexa voice assistant. You need one of Amazon's existing Echo speaker products to command the microwave. And no, saying "Alexa, make the popcorn," won't save you that much time over pushing the "Popcorn" button on the microwave itself, but there's still something about talking to your microwave that feels inevitable. Might as well get your loved ones on board early. 

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Apple HomePod

Apple's HomePod is an unquestionably great speaker for anyone you really like (it costs $350) who is committed to Apple Music or HomeKit. 

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Arlo Pro 2

One Arlo Pro 2 indoor/outdoor smart camera costs $190. That's a decent price for a battery-powered, weather-proof Wi-Fi security camera that will run for six months on one battery charge. 

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August Smart Lock Pro

One of the most expensive smart locks you can buy is fortunately also the most fully featured.

Expect to pay between $250 to $300 for the August Smart Lock Pro and the August Connect WiFi bridge accessory in a bundle. With the bridge and the August app, you can lock and unlock a door remotely from anywhere you can get online. 

August also supports an unlimited number of virtual keys you can send (and just as importantly, revoke) to others. For those brave enough, it also works with every virtual assistant.

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Belkin Wemo Switch Mini

You can find Belkin's WeMo Mini for $20, at which point it's essentially a stocking stuffer. That's a great price for a smart plug that works with every voice assistant.

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Eight Sleep Tracker

Most of us would pause before presuming to buy as a gift something as personal as an entire bed. Good thing, then, a company called Eight sells the $400 Sleep Tracker. Eight offers an entire mattress kit if you want to go that route, but the Sleep Tracker is a mattress cover that can go over any mattress in sizes ranging from Full to California King. 

As its name suggests, the Sleep Tracker gathers data while someone sleeps on it, including time in various sleep cycles, heart rate and breathing patterns. It tracks that information over time, which you can then view in a connected app. It also has a feature called Sleep Coach that interprets that data to give the user tips for better sleeping. On top of all that, it also has built-in, adjustable heating elements that can warm both sides of the bed independently. 

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D-Link Wi-Fi Water Sensor

This simple leak sensor puts a contact wire on the floor directly below the socket. Put it under a sink, or near a pipe or a water heater and it will send the owner, or even one of their neighbors a phone notification if the wire gets wet. You should be able to find it for less than $60. It's great for anyone that lives in a flood zone or owns a second home. 

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Google Home Hub

If you like the idea of a smart display for watching video, talking to a virtual assistant and more, but find the camera in products like Amazon Echo Show or the Lenovo Smart Display off-putting, Google has the gift idea for you. 

The newly launched, $150 Google Home Hub has a 7-inch screen and YouTube integration, and it comes with access to the Google Assistant voice-powered virtual assistant, but has no camera. You can still conduct audio-only chats with other Google device users. It's also great for helping with recipes and controlling Google Home smart-home devices.

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Google Home Mini

If you know someone that's curious about voice assistants, but hasn't thrown their lot in with Alexa yet, the $50 Google Home Mini speaker is the best way to get them talking to their electronics. It work with Google Assistant, Google's voice-powered AI, which is frankly a better conversationalist than Alexa. It also works with just about as many other devices and services, so you don't need to worry that you'd be saddling whoever you buy this for with a less robust ecosystem of stuff to control with their voice.

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Google Home Max

Apple's HomePod is great for Apple Music users. For everyone else, the $400 Google Home Max speaker is our top choice for a voice-activated, single unit speaker that can play loud enough to fill a room without sacrificing sound quality.

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Insignia Voice

The Google Home Mini might look great, but why spend $50 for one when you can spend $25 on the Insignia Voice and enjoy better sound quality. The only feature the Home Mini can do that this thing can't is make phone calls. 

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June Intelligent Oven (2018)

You've got to really like the June Intelligent Oven (or know and like someone who will) to spend $599. That said, it's one of the more powerful smart small appliances out there. 

A countertop convection oven that can bake, broil, air fry, slow cook and more, the June earns its stripes as a smart device via the built-in camera that can recognize the food you put in the oven and cook it with the appropriate settings automatically. 

Of course, you can also use it to send shots of your food to Instagram.

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Lenovo Smart Display

For Google loyalists, or even someone that might benefit from a countertop voice assistant/smart-home control center/recipe coach/video chat device, the Lenovo Smart Display offers a compelling set of features for $250. It also looks pretty good. 

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Lutron Caseta In-Wall Wireless Smart Lighting Kit

Lutron's smart light switch has had a place on virtually every best list and gift guide we've put out since it hit the market, and for good reason. For $160 you get two Caseta Wireless Smart light switches, a Lutron hub to control them and a pair of remote controls. For the most reliable smart switch that works with pretty much every smart home platform, that's a steal, and a gift any tech enthusiast will appreciate.

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Naked Labs Body Scanner

You need to be very confident in your relationship with the recipient of this gift. If you are, and if that person values (extremely!) highly detailed information about their body measurements, the Naked Labs Body Scanner very well might blow them away with how good it is.

$1,400 gets you the mirror and the rotating base scale. Stand on the scale as it rotates, and cameras in the mirror scan your body, take your measurements, and map them onto a 3D model you can view in an app. You can rescan to track changes over time and get an updated view. 

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Nanoleaf Aurora

You can configure these color-changing LED light panels in any arrangement their triangular design will support. An app lets you tweak the colors, and you can find various accessories to add support for audio sensors or this cool polyhedron remote control. $200 gets you a starter kit with nine panels to play with.

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Nanoleaf Canvas

If your gift recipient won't be into the triangular Nanoleaf Aurora LED panels, the just-launched Nanoleaf Canvas offers a blockier alternative. The 9-panel starter kit is available for $250.

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Nest Hello

Our favorite smart doorbell is one of the most advanced ones out there. Like most of its competitors, the Nest Hello has a motion alert that can tell you when something moves past its built-in camera. 

Unlike other smart doorbells, the Hello can also recognize if that motion is made by a generic person, so you don't have to get up for a truck driving by. For $5 a month, it will also build a database of faces, to deliver true face recognition, letting you know when a specific individual is at your door. $229.

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Nest Protect (2nd gen)

Nest's second-generation smart smoke and CO detector came out in 2015, and three years later, it's still the best in its class. 

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Nexx Garage

We like the Nexx Garage smart garage door opener because it can open and close your garage door automatically based on your phone's GPS location. That's not a feature for everyone due to potential security issues (if someone steals your phone, they potentially have access to your house), but it's optional, and unlike competing openers, it works natively in the device's app, no third-party app required.

It also works with Alexa (which requires a PIN in the command to open it) and Google Assistant (which doesn't). You should find it for $100.

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Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit

For $70, you can bestow on your loved one two Philips Hue LED bulbs (non-color changing) and a Hue Hub for connecting them to your Wi-Fi network. Also included will be the recipient's sudden compulsion to replace every light bulb in their home with the Hue equivalent.

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Ring Spotlight Cam

Pairing a smart camera with outdoor lighting makes a lot of sense for security and ease of installation. The $200 Ring Spotlight Cam solves both problems well (as does its cousin, the $250 Ring Floodlight Cam). Up to you whether to cover the $3 a month to watch stored video clips from the cloud. 

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SimpliSafe Home Security 2018

If home security is top of mind for a loved one, the SimpliSafe Home Security package offers a complete, ease-to-install package of sensors and an alarm for $229. There's no voice assistant or other smart-home integration, no camera in the basic package, and the $99 SimpliCam accessory could be improved, but as an accessible starting point this is one of our favorite security kits.

Sonos One
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Sonos One

The Sonos One speaker combines the audio excellence of Sonos hardware with Amazon Alexa access. We're still holding out for Google Assistant support, which Sonos said was coming at launch in October 2017, but it did add Apple AirPlay 2 capability in July of this year, to let you play music directly from any iOS device. It sells for $200. 

29 of 30 Chris Monroe/CNET

TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip

Every power outlet in this power strip is programmable and controllable via TP-Link's well-designed app. It costs $80, which is expensive for a power strip, but not bad when you consider its smarts and that it has more outlets than its competition.

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Wyze Cam Pan

The Wyze Cam Pan launched at $30 this year, but the price seems to have crept up to $36 since then. That could be a sign of pending scarcity. In any case, this is still a great Wi-Fi camera for its price, not least because you can pan and tilt the lens via the app. No other camera in this price range -- or even the next one or two above it -- offers that capability. Also uniquely, it includes 14-days of free cloud storage for your footage. Those two things alone make it a compelling gift. Alexa and IFTTT support sweeten the pot further.

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