The holidays are upon us, and if you’re looking for gifts, smart home gadgets are an increasingly popular option. Amazon’s annual fall event brought announcements of dozens of newand , as usual, including our new favorite . Also new is the Wyze Cam for 2020, a fantastic device at a mouth-wateringly low price.
Alexa has long ruled the roost when it comes to smart home integration, and this year Amazon’s voice assistant is bringing even more impressive integrations to your countertop. This list is updated periodically, so check back often for the most up-to-date recommendations.
Amazon’s Echo Dot with Clock was our previous favorite Alexa speaker, but with this year’s new product line, the flagship fourth-generation Echo speaker gets the nod. At $100, the spheroidal new speaker is a little more expensive than the $50 fourth-generation Echo Dot, but the improvements in sound quality and some intriguing smart home features justify the additional cost.
The new shape sets Amazon’s new Echo speaker apart. Where the third-gen Echo offered a barely noticeable sound quality improvement over its predecessor, the ball-shaped fourth-gen version has noticeably better audio output, including respectable bass for a speaker in its price range.
On the smart home front, the fourth-gen Echo also gets a built-in Zigbee receiver, carrying over a feature from the now-defunct Amazon Echo Plus. The Zigbee receiver lets the new Echo function as a smart home connectivity point for compatible light bulbs, plugs, and other Zigbee-based accessories. That means you can use the Echo itself as a hub, without the need for an additional piece of hardware to get those devices online.
The new Echo Dot has the same shape as the new Echo speaker, but the improvement over the third-gen Echo Dot isn’t very apparent. It also cost $50, where you can regularly find the third-generation Echo Dot still on sale for $30 or less.
Read our Amazon Echo (2020) review.
The third-gen Wyze Cam, like its earlier iterations, costs an incredibly low $20, but it’s one of our favorite cameras overall, despite the price. It comes with weatherproof housing, sharper night vision than its predecessor, a wider field of view, a loud siren and more — including 14-day video clip storage and a built-in microSD card slot for local storage.
If you have an Echo Show smart display, you can also throw the Wyze Cam’s feed onto the screen with a simple voice command.
The Wyze Cam is available for preorder now, and shipping is slated for mid-November.
Read our Wyze Cam (2020) review.
Ring’s $80 Peephole Cam is a unique product for the Amazon-owned company. Rather than mounting to a door frame or somewhere else to the side of your door, the Peephole Cam replaces a traditional peephole.
That means this product is perfect for folks living in apartments who want a smart doorbell, but don’t want to deal with a hardwired device — or otherwise messing up a door frame for the installation. None of Ring’s main competitors offer this sort of seamless solution for apartment-dwellers, making this doorbell particularly innovative alongside the other devices available today.
Not only that, but the Peephole Cam has the easiest installation of any doorbell I’ve tested to date. It also has advanced Alexa integration. Yes, you can pull up the live feed on an Amazon smart display, but you can also chat with whoever’s at your door via the built-in speaker on the smart display with the command, “Alexa, answer the front door.“
That two-way talk feature via an Alexa smart display is unique to Ring devices.
Other notable Ring doorbells include the battery-powered or hardwired $199 Ring Video Doorbell 2 and the hardwired $249 Ring Video Doorbell Pro.
Read our Ring Peephole Cam review.
The Ecobee Smart Thermostat is a $249 connected thermostat. This model replaces the Ecobee4 smart thermostat, but has a lot of the same great features.
Control your Smart Thermostat via the Ecobee app and use Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri voice commands to adjust the temp of your smart thermostat. It’s Alexa’s voice control that really stands out here, though, since the thermostat itself has a built-in Alexa smart speaker.
That means you don’t need a separate Echo device — just connect your thermostat, enable the speaker and start asking Alexa questions.
Read our Ecobee SmartThermostat review.
The Amazon Echo Show 8 is Amazon’s latest smart display. For $130 (though it’s currently on sale for $100), you get an eight-inch screen with the best resolution of any Echo Show yet, a camera shutter and all the smarts of previous Amazon smart displays.
The Echo Show 8 has a built-in Alexa speaker. That means you can use this smart display to ask Alexa to do your bidding, whether that be asking it to play music, relay the weather or just tell you a joke. And, since it’s a smart display, it also offers advanced compatibility with Alexa-enabled security cameras.
Ask Alexa to “answer the front door” when someone rings your Ring Peephole Cam and you can see the live feed on your Show 8 — and actually talk to the person, straight from the smart display.
Read our Amazon Echo Show 8 review.
August’s Wi-Fi Smart Lock is a great smart lock. It retrofits to most standard deadbolts, so you don’t have to deal with a complicated installation. The built-in Wi-Fi makes it possible to access and control your smart lock remotely via the Android or iOS app without needing an August Connect module.
This product comes with an open/close sensor, too — called DoorSense — that attaches to the door where your Wi-Fi Smart Lock is installed. That way, the app can not only tell you whether the door is locked or unlocked, but also if the door is open or closed.
The August Wi-Fi Smart Lock works with Alexa, so you can lock and unlock your door from an Alexa-enabled smart speaker using your voice.
Read our August Wi-Fi Smart Lock review.
SimpliSafe is a solid DIY home security system with a ton of accessories, so you can scale the system up as needed. The starter kit costs $210 for the hub, keypad, keychain fob, one motion sensor and one door/window sensor.
SimpliSafe also works with Alexa, so you can arm the system and check its status with simple voice commands.
SimpliSafe doesn’t require a contract, but monthly fees start at $15 to access the app and go up to $25 if you want professional monitoring.
Read our SimpliSafe review.
The latest version of the Philips Hue White LED works with ZigBee and Bluetooth. The addition of Bluetooth is significant for Philips Hue, because it means you don’t need a Philips hub to get these smart bulbs to work.
Instead, the smart bulbs connect directly to your phone — and they work with Alexa voice commands. Ask Alexa to turn on the living room lights, or dim the dining room lights to 70%.
Philips Hue White LEDs cost just $15 each, meaning you don’t have to dish out a ton of cash for these straightforward Alexa-enabled bulbs.
Read our Philips Hue White LED article.
The TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini is a big name for a tiny smart plug that costs just $14. A smart plug like this one connects via your Wi-Fi connection directly to a wall outlet and convert your nonsmart lamps, fans and other gadgets into smart devices.
Use the TP-Link app to connect and control devices — or enlist Amazon Alexa and use your voice. Say, “Alexa, turn on the reading lamp” to get the Plug Mini smart plug to control the devices connected to it with ease.
Read our TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini review.
The Amazon Echo Flex is a tiny smart speaker that plugs directly into an outlet. For $25, it offers all the smarts of Alexa, plus a USB port for additional modules — like a motion detector and night light.
As the name suggests, the Flex can fit many functions, helping to strengthen your home security and widen Alexa’s range of hearing for when you need help in less central corners of your home.
The addition of a motion sensor also means Alexa can create automations based on your movement, switching on lights when you enter a room or delivering your morning news when you sit down for breakfast.
Read our Amazon Echo Flex review.
The Alexa landscape
Amazon’s voice assistant makes it easier to control the devices in your home, set timers and find out how long your commute to the office will take. But privacy has become an increasing concern as smart speakers and displays grow in popularity.
Reports that, even after you’ve deleted the Alexa audio recordings, led to concerns over user privacy. Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat from Delaware, seeking answers about Amazon’s Alexa user data and how it’s stored. . The tech giant says it’s also for customers to delete their transcripts.
Amazon’s latest smart display, the Echo Show 8 comes with a built-in camera shutter, unlike earlier Echo Show devices.
Amazon isn’t alone., and other major tech companies have faced their own privacy issues, prompting questions about data usage.
Fortunately Amazon and others appear to be working to win back our trust. Have these privacy concerns kept you from buying a voice assistant (Alexa or otherwise)? Weigh in in the comments section below.
Still have questions? Read more about Alexa.