Let's start with small smart speakers, which have proven to be holiday best-sellers over the past couple of years. Amazon hopes to keep that streak going in 2019 with its newest version of the super-popular Echo Dot. This year's big addition? A clock face on the front of the device.
That's by no stretch a game-changer, but it's a sensible upgrade nonetheless -- especially for anyone who likes keeping Alexa nearby on their nightstand.
Not to be outdone, Google has new smart speaker hardware out just in time for the holidays, too. Now available in blue, the new Nest Mini replaces the Google Home Mini -- and while it looks the same as the previous generation, it adds in some interesting new software features.
That includes local control of your most commonly used commands, as well as new motion-activated indicator lights that show you where to tap to adjust the volume. Best of all, the price didn't go up -- it's still just $50.
It's not just a new smart speaker -- Google has a newly updated version of its popular mesh Wi-Fi system, too. Now called Nest Wifi, the system features a base router device that pairs wirelessly with the range-extending Nest Wifi Points seen here.
Along with spreading your internet connection throughout the home to help eliminate dead spots, those Wifi Points include built-in smart speakers. That lets you use each one just like a Nest Mini, with full access to the Google Assistant.
Amazon-owned Eero has a new mesh system, too -- and at $249 for a starter kit with three Eero units, it's Eero's most affordable system yet.
Plug one unit into your modem, then spread the other two around the house, and you'll enjoy Wi-Fi coverage for up to 5,000 square feet, complete with regular and automatic security updates.
Google released a new, larger Nest Hub with a face-detecting camera this year, but we still like the original, camera-free Nest Hub the best. It's a terrific smart display and an excellent digital photo frame, with a great user interface and just-right size for quick information at a glance.
The Nest Hub is also getting a new feature called Ultrasound Sensing that'll help it track when you're close to the device or far away. From there, it'll automatically adjust the way the information is presented on the screen. These clever features are why Google seems to be a consistent step ahead in the smart display category.
Yes, I prefer the smaller, cheaper version. But if you're shopping for someone who might like the idea of adding a camera and a bigger screen into that equation, then the Nest Hub Max is definitely worth considering. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that it was one of the most impressive pieces of smart home hardware I tested all year.
If you'd prefer a smart display with Alexa instead of the Google Assistant, then we'd recommend the Echo Show 5. It's Amazon's smallest, most affordable smart display, and a great bedside gadget, too (and yes, it includes a privacy shutter that'll cover up that camera when you aren't using it).
Want something a little bigger? For $40 more, you can upgrade to Amazon's new Echo Show 8 -- same thing as the smaller version, just a couple of extra inches to that screen.
Shopping for someone who already has one of those smart displays? Maybe they'd like a camera that can connect with it, letting them ask Alexa or the Google Assistant to show them the feed. Our pick is the Wyze Cam, which supports both smart assistants and costs just $20.
Shopping for someone who already has a Wyze Cam? Give that camera an upgrade with the Wyze Sense kit, which includes a bridge, a motion sensor and two contact sensors. Cost? Again, just $20!
Arlo has long been a favorite in the camera category, with great picture quality and ease of use. Like its previous Pro cameras, the new Arlo Pro 3 is battery-powered and weatherproof, which makes it a great pick for keeping an eye on the backyard.
It's definitely more of a high-end pick than Wyze, with a two-camera starter kit costing $500, but if you're looking to spoil someone with some of the best outdoor cameras money can buy, look no further.
Speaking of the outdoors, these motion-activated Ring Pathlights tested great at the CNET Smart Home, with simple, wire-free setup and easy app controls.
They're a great pick for anyone who's already using Ring cameras or a Ring video doorbell, because their built-in motion sensors can trigger those cameras to start recording. A starter kit with two Pathlights and the mandatory Ring Bridge costs $80.
Smart lights make great tech gifts, and if you just want to give someone a simple smart bulb that needs no hub and works with everything, then go with the Wyze Bulb. At $8 a piece, it's an affordable Wi-Fi smart bulb that syncs with Alexa, the Google Assistant and IFTTT. It even offers multiple color temperature settings.
The Philips Hue White starter kit has long been one of the best smart lighting investments money can buy, because it nets you the all-important Hue Bridge. Once you have that bridge plugged into your router, you've got full access to all of the best Hue features and integrations. You can then build your setup bulb by bulb whenever there's a sale.
The $70 version of the kit linked below is the one I'd buy if I were looking to give someone the gift of Hue this holiday season. Along with the Hue Bridge and three white light smart bulbs, it includes a wireless dimmer remote that docks in the wall. That's a great deal for the price.
Prefer smart bulbs that change colors? The C by GE lineup includes some great ones -- and since GE Lighting is a Made for Google partner, they pair particularly well with the Google Assistant, with some of the snappiest voice controls we've tested. In fact, Google's smart speakers and smart displays will work as hubs for these Bluetooth bulbs, letting you control them from the Google Home app even when you're well outside of Bluetooth range.
All of that makes them an excellent gift for anyone who's already using Google Assistant to run their smart home. The bulbs cost $30 each, but the better deal is to save $5 by buying a two-pack. They'll want more than one of these things, anyway.
Looking for more of a high-end color-changer, perhaps for a gaming enthusiast? These Philips Hue Play light bars are excellent picks that you can mount to the back of a TV or computer monitor for dramatic backlighting. You can even upgrade them with the new Philips Hue Play HDMI Sync Box to match live color-changes with whatever's playing on screen.
Just keep in mind that you'll need a Philips Hue Bridge for all of that to work, which means these would probably be best for someone who already has a Hue Bridge plugged into their router.
It's been out for a few years, but the August Smart Lock is still the smart lock to beat -- and right now, you can find it bundled with the August Connect Wi-Fi Bridge and marked own to $215 at Best Buy. That's a great price for a great smart lock that you can control from anywhere.
Smart plugs are great to have on hand, because they'll let you automate anything you plug into them. That includes things like lamps and decorative string lights, space heaters and desk fans, you name it.
You've got lots of options that work with Google Assistant and Alexa -- for our money, this TP-Link Kasa plug will get the job just fine, and with two-packs available for just $30, the price is right.
Our favorite video doorbell? That's still the Nest Hello, which is about as technologically capable as these things get. At $230, it isn't cheap, but it's a great piece of hardware, and a terrific gift for anyone worried about package thieves this holiday season.
Another video doorbell option is to go with SimpliSafe, which now offers an Entryway Kit at Best Buy that bundles the system's base station with a video doorbell, an entry sensor, and a keypad to arm and disarm as you come and go.
Professional monitoring starts at $15 per month, and you can add extra gadgets like cameras, motion sensors and leak detectors a la carte.
Shopping for someone who wants the best, most fully-featured smart thermostat on the market? Go with the Ecobee4, which works with everything and even includes built-in Alexa voice controls.