This story was originally published and last updated .
The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is not a massive leap in technology—it's a clock radio. A glorified clock radio. A more sensible, smart clock radio. But it's still a clock with a speaker. It tells the time and weather, and it's got Google Assistant. It's missing a few features, and the audio is about what you'd expect for $50, but I found it to be a great addition to my home. Whether or not you agree depends on what you want out of your Assistant devices, but there's a lot to like about the Smart Clock Essential.
Millions of people transitioning to working from home this year has led to more than a few problems. Products like webcams and laptops have been in short supply, and home Wi-Fi networks are pushed to their breaking point with dozens of connected devices, Zoom calls, Netflix sessions, and email threads. In most cases, a mesh router is the best way to build a home network that deals with these new demands.
Nest kicked off the era of smart thermostats in 2011, and since then, there have been improved thermostats, new products, and a Google acquisition. Through all that, Nest's thermostats have remained at the premium end of the market. The company's previous "budget" thermostat was still $180 at launch. The new Nest Thermostat, however, is undeniably a budget device. There's the price, of course, at a mere $130. The hardware also looks much cheaper in real life, but that's not totally unsurprising given the price.
Wyze has been on a bit of a spree lately, expanding into additional markets with products like its new noise-cancelling headphones and its first smart thermostat, but through all that, there's no forgetting the company's roots: selling very capable, very affordable smart cameras. For a mere $20, shoppers could pick up Wyze's first-gen camera with motion detection, free cloud storage, and support for local microSD recording. Later models added pan and tilt motion control and even full-wireless operation, all while keeping prices tantalizingly low. Now we're turning our attention back to where it started as the stalwart Wyze Cam gets a new v3 hardware refresh with drastically improved light sensitivity, support for higher frame rates, and protection against the elements — all for the same $20 sticker price.
Google's first Assistant speaker, Google Home, turns four this year. The company says that device was designed primarily as a means to access the Google Assistant, and music playback was secondary. But the de facto second generation, the new Nest Audio, was purpose-built as a media device — and boy, does it ever show.
Millions of homes now contain a smart assistant speaker of some variety and sales of IoT products continue to grow as the market matures and prices come down across the sector. With so many options available, it's hard to know what to buy, and that's where we come in — this is a selection of our favorite smart home gadgets. Whether you want to just dip your toes in the water with a cheap Google Nest Mini or dive into the deep end with smart lights, cameras, thermostats, doorbells, and so on — we’ve got you covered.
Belkin has produced smart home products for years under its Wemo brand, but Wemo devices have never had the best reputation. Most of its previous products suffered from connectivity and software issues, and when so many alternative options exist for smart plugs or internet-connected lights, there wasn't much of a point in purchasing Wemo products.
Thankfully, Wemo is starting to address its long-running software problems. The company switched to an online account system earlier this year, paving the way for a more streamlined experience. Wemo has also released a new smart plug, which is incredibly compact and actually works properly.
For all of the genuinely useful smart-home products Arlo offers, sometimes it feels like the company's got a bit of a blind spot when it comes to combining them. Cameras have always been its bread and butter, but when Arlo introduced its first doorbell in 2018, it was audio-only — we'd have to wait another year for the Video Doorbell. And while Arlo's had its wireless Smart Light for years, it's only now that the company is taking one of its lauded cameras and integrating it with an extra-bright exterior light: the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight.
When you're looking to secure your home, family, and property with the help of a wireless camera, you've got a lot of options to consider. Devices run the gamut when it comes to features and pricing, from the likes of budget-friendly Wyze to the premium polish of an Arlo. While there's a lot to like on both ends of that spectrum, I've been interested in finding a good middle ground. Would the $90 Kami Wire-Free Outdoor Camera be up to the task?
Installing a houseful of smart home upgrades gets expensive fast, which is why we're always excited when budget-conscious Wyze releases a new device. From internet-connected cameras, to security sensors, to smart outlets and even lightbulbs, Wyze has managed to prove itself in new product categories time and time again (well, with the occasional hiccup along the way). Now it's tackling the smart lock market, with the release of the aptly named Wyze Lock. How will it compare to more expensive solutions? Let's take a look.