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Smart Home Reviews

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Belkin WeMo smart switches review: A good idea held back by connectivity and software issues

With a couple of months of use behind me, my feelings about the Belkin WeMo switches are just as conflicted now as they were when I unpacked these. On paper, the idea of a switch that you can plug anything in to make it smart is fantastic. In reality, I struggled to find many, if any honestly, devices I wanted to use the WeMo with. But that's not even the meat of my issue with WeMo's switches. Their connectivity has been iffy at best, the app is laughably old, and integration with other smart home devices is hit and miss, mostly because of the aforementioned connectivity issues.

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Google Home Max review: The best (and most expensive) smart speaker

The chances are almost 100% that everyone reading this has some way to access the Google Assistant. You might even have more than one Assistant device now that most phones released in the last few years have support and Google is handing out Home Minis like they're going to expire. The original Google Home has a respectable speaker for the size, and many people use it to listen to music. Yet, for anyone who's serious about their tunes, the Home and Home Mini just don't cut it. That's where the Home Max comes in. This smart speaker is not screwing around—it's big, heavy, and incredibly loud.

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LIFX, LIFX+, and LIFX Z review: An expensive but hub-free way to beautifully light your world

When my husband and I began designing our new apartment about a year ago, one of the first things I wanted to account for was smart lights. I love well-lit environments and the idea of having lights turn on and off automatically in the different rooms was appealing. I thought it'd be easy to find a smart lighting solution for the entire house, but my search eventually hit so many walls I'm surprised I didn't completely give up after the 10th week of frantic Googling and pointless research.

There were so many things to account for: 220V electricity in Lebanon, different size of wall switch and box compared to US, 908.4 MHz Z-Wave on my smart hub (US frequency), compatibility with SmartThings and Google Home, I didn't want an additional hub hanging off my router, and best of all: super frequent electricity cuts and blackouts.

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Nest Secure review: Security comes at a price

Nest has made its name by adding smart features to things that you might already have around the house. It's worked pretty well in the past with devices like the Nest Thermostat, but home security is a more serious business. It's different than a thermostat—people rely on a security system to control access to their homes. The new Nest Secure is trying to take the place of an existing product with an important function. It's a balancing act between convenience and safety, and Nest mostly gets it right. The hardware is capable and innovative, and setup was a breeze for me. However, it's missing a few features, and the price is high at $500.

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Nuki smart lock review: A simple to use, reliable, and very smart solution for European-style locks

For the past year or so, I've been looking at smart locks and wanting one yet not able to fully commit to anything. Living in Lebanon means our doors don't have the American-style deadbolts, but what is known as the Euro Style/Profile Double Cylinder - a lock that is quite prominent across France, Germany, the UK, and other countries. So August, Yale, Schlage, Kwikset, and plenty of brands geared toward the US market were mostly out of the question unless I wanted to take a risk and get something that doesn't fit at all with my apartment's door.

That was until I stumbled on Nuki's smart lock, which is compatible with the Euro Profile Cylinder (and a couple of other lock models). At first, I was quite skeptic: I couldn't trust the security of my apartment's door to a brand I'd never heard about.

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Nanoleaf Aurora review: The coolest and most extravagant smart lights you can own

Some of you may have already heard about the Nanoleaf Aurora. These modular triangular light panels can be formed in any shape you like and are WiFi-enabled, allowing you to control them via your phone or Google Home and Alexa. But those of you who haven't will probably scroll down to see the high price tag and scoff in disbelief. $229.99 for a set of 9 light panels and a music module is a rather extravagant price to pay. But that's exactly what the Nanoleaf are: extravagant. They go a step beyond smart lights like Hue and LiFX and straight into "cool art deco" territory.

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TicHome Mini review: A worthy portable Google Home Mini alternative, as long as you don’t mind paying double

Google introduced the Assistant SDK back in April, making it possible for third parties to build the digital companion into their devices. Sure enough, at IFA 2017 in Berlin back in August, the first Google Assistant-enabled speakers were announced, due to hit the market this fall. There are now several different options from a range of manufacturers, and they cover various use cases and price points.

Other Google Home alternatives with better speakers have also been announced by the likes of Sony and Panasonic. For those on a tighter budget there’s also the Zolo Mojo from Anker. And before that has even gone on sale, Google itself launched the Google Home Mini.

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Nest Thermostat E review: It's kind of silly not to buy one

Before Nest made cameras, home security systems, or smoke detectors, there was the Nest Thermostat. There wasn't anything like the OG Nest when it launched back in 2011, but the market for smart thermostats has heated up since then. Nest (now an Alphabet company along with Google) has continued iterating the thermostat, which remains its most iconic product. All three generations of the Nest Thermostat have a similar vibe—they look like pieces of technology attached to your wall. Not everyone wants that, but the new Nest Thermostat E offers a more understated look and a lower price.

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SmartThings Link hands-on: Turning your SHIELD TV into a smart home hub

Connected home items are becoming more and more common, from light bulbs to doorbells and so on. Since the beginning of it all, I've really wanted to join in the smart home thing, mostly because I am lazy and want to control my house with my voice. Cost to entry has been rather prohibitive and I've always rented places, so I figured most of my options would be limited.

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Polk MagniFi Mini review: Impressive sound in a compact and versatile Chromecast soundbar

You know how they say big things come in small packages? Never has that saying been as true as it is with the Polk MagniFi Mini. From the moment I opened the box to this very second, this soundbar keeps on blowing my mind with how good it is. Impressive sound? Check. Plethora of options? Check. Chromecast built-in and Google Home compatibility? Check. Small form factor that could fit in front of many/any TV? You betcha. I could easily end this review here, but I'll do my job and write a few thousand words below... while listening to some music. It'll make the task more enjoyable.

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