Holiday Gift Guide 2016: Best for the home

ta_holiday_gift_guide_2016_home

Now’s the time of year where you’re shopping for gifts, but it could get difficult if your friends and family are picky or your budget is a little tight. So we’ve put together a selection of products for the home that fit different types of people and budgets of all sizes. The home is a versatile place, and we think you’re bound to find something that works for the special people in your life.

Hit the break to see our picks.

SmartThings Home Monitoring Kit

smartthings_home_monitoring_kit_contents

Before Samsung bought the company, SmartThings made a name for itself during the rise of home automation. Now, with the help of Samsung, SmartThings is expanding through new hardware and bigger support for outside devices. The Home Monitoring Kit is the best starting point because it gives much of what you need right away.

The Home Monitoring Kit gets you the following:

  • SmartThings Hub
  • SmartThings Outlet
  • SmartThings Multipurpose Sensor (2)
  • SmartThings Motion Sensor

This bundle gives you the necessary devices to control everything in your home, monitor areas like doors and windows, track movement, and convert non-smart items,

If you need anything else, SmartThings sells additional units and products from other companies. It means SmartThings is like a one-stop shop for people seeking to build a truly connected home.

SmartThings and select retailers are running special promotions during the holidays on the Home Monitoring Kit and other products from the brand. So it could actually be less than $249 to make your home smarter than it is today. Even at $249, we fully recommend SmartThings’ Home Monitoring Kit as the must-have setup for home automation.

Buy it now: SmartThings, Samsung, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo

Parrot Pot

parrot_pot_official_white_house

While you may know it for drones, Parrot makes its own connected garden products. The Parrot Pot, which was announced earlier this year, is a smart flowerpot that handles plants for you. It’s essentially your full-time gardener that you’re only paying once.

The key features are the self-watering system and the four built-in sensors. Between the two, the Parrot Pot is monitoring your plant 24/7 and deciding when water should be released. The smart flowerpot will analyze your plant and understand its lifecycle, adjusting water distribution for the future. Or, if you know a thing or two about plants, you can decide to just watering levels manually.

Parrot’s companion app shows you real-time light, temperature, fertilizer, soil humidity, and water reservoir levels.

The Parrot Pot is a little expensive at first glance, but the $149 price tag becomes worth it when you realize its size and capabilities. You’re going to be able to grow anything in this smart flowerpot without giving the attention plants normally demand. Plus, you get to choose between fancy white, brick, and black color options to work any setting whether that’s inside or outside.

Buy it now: Parrot, Amazon, Walmart, Jet

Google WiFi

google_wifi_3-pack_white

People who have never heard of mesh networking are going to become a lot more familiar with the term very soon. Although products boasting mesh networks have been available for some time, Google is going to make the technology popular with Google WiFi.

Google WiFi is a router that can be linked to additional units to create a larger network that expands reach without losing signal strength or data speeds. It’s a no-compromise router that doesn’t stop innovating with hardware. There’s Network Assist, a technology working quietly to rid your network of congestion while keeping you on the strongest and fastest connection available.

Setting up Google WiFi and connecting new devices couldn’t be any easier. The companion app allows you to share your password with guests and prioritize devices. Parents, too, can benefit by limiting access on their kids’ devices. With Google WiFi, you don’t have to be on your main computer navigating dated, confusing menus to get something done.

All retailers carrying Google WiFi are offering a single-pack for $129 and a 3-pack for $299, which means the latter is saving you $88. It’s an excellent value to get simple, expandable WiFi into your crammed studio apartment or spacious mega-mansion.

Buy it now: Google Store, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo
Buy it now (3-pack): Google Store, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo

Eero

eero_router_official

Eero is the preeminent WiFi system based on mesh networking. If you were wondering why Google thought to get into the space, look at Eero. This company, leading the way with its TrueMesh technology, is what Google and others want to emulate.

The premier experience is in the Eero app. While designed to be as simple as possible, the companion app is packed with useful features. You can monitor routers, view download/upload speeds, and manage profiles. The latter of those three is a massive selling point for many people. Specific devices can be assigned to a profile; therefore, you can limit who can use devices and when they can use them. Also, guests can join your network just by responding to an invite sent by text. If you’d like, make a guest network and friends and extended family can join whenever they’d like.

Routers from Eero take care of themselves, too. Individual units are constantly updating themselves to remain as secure as possible and never require a manual restart. Eero created a silent checkup process to analyze itself for software updates or any hiccups.

Eero’s products are pricey, but you’re getting an above average WiFi network that works everywhere in your home.

Buy it now: Eero, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo
Buy it now (2-pack): Eero, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo
Buy it now (3-pack): Eero, Amazon, Best Buy, B&H Photo

Nixplay Iris

nixplay_iris_colors_lineup

This isn’t the 1970s. You don’t need picture frames taking up every space on every wall. Sure, it’s nice to store pictures on your phone or in the cloud as an alternative. But it’s wonderful set all of them in one place for you and visitors to obverse and reminisce about. That’s why Nixplay’s Iris gets included in this year’s holiday gift guide.

The Iris has an 8-inch display that’s both sharp and bright, so you’ll see every little detail on life’s shareable moments. The display is adaptive, too, because it activates and adjusts its display when someone is nearby.

What makes the Iris far superior to other connected frames is the way in which you put pictures on it. Nixplay lets you bring in pictures from Google Photos, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, and Dropbox. Just log in to one of those services from your Nixplay account and everything comes together seamlessly. You pick the pictures you want on the Iris and it’ll sync to show them.

Get the companion app and your Iris can do more. You’ll be able to immediately add new pictures, edit with captions, and invite people to share their pictures as well.

The Nixplay Iris costs $199, and you get to choose from three colors to match the room it’s being put on display in. The silver is modern, the peach copper is cool and fun, and the bronze is luxurious. See? You could put one of these frames in any room and it’ll fit in perfectly.

Buy it now: Nixplay, Amazon, B&H Photo

YI Home Camera 2

yi_home_camera_2_official_white

Need to keep an eye on things? The YI Home Camera 2, reviewed by Talk Android in June, is an affordable device for people seeking to start a home monitoring system.

The YI Home Camera 2 is attractive, compact, and subtle. It’s not this big camera that makes everyone feel uncomfortable because its watching them.

Whether you’re aiming downward or trying to see in the wee hours, the YI Home Camera 2 is ready with a useful hinge and non-invasive infrared beams. The Full HD (1920×1080) 130-degree lens isn’t going to miss a moment.

YI’s companion app is pretty weak, but the company is aware it must be improved. YI should throw on a fresh coat of paint to make the app easier to understand. Newbies will have a tough time getting familiar with the YI Home Camera 2 because of the app’s current state.

For the holidays, Amazon is selling the YI Home Camera 2 for $79. That’s down from $129, but the device would still be mentioned here even if the original price stood. YI created a basic home monitoring system that doesn’t require any extras, keeping it accessible and approachable to all.

Buy it now: YI Technology, Amazon, B&H Photo

Amazon Echo

amazon_echo_family_with_dot_black_white

Amazon’s Echo is the one device you are going to see on every holiday gift guide published in 2016. This digital assistant is better than the rest because Amazon built an unrivaled ecosystem.

What can you do with the Echo? You’re better off asking the opposite. There’s little that the Echo can’t do. Alexa, the voice within the speaker-packed cylinder, responds to your every command or question with a smart response.

You can play music from a myriad of music streaming services, order from Domino’s Pizza, control your connected home, get news updates, and play games like Jeopardy! using your voice alone.

The Amazon Echo, available for $179 at a bunch of retailers, comes in black or white. Those who want a small, less expensive device can opt for the Echo Dot. You get the same capabilities as the Echo, but the Echo Dot requires you to connect it to an external speaker.

Buy it now (Amazon Echo): Amazon, Best Buy, Staples, B&H Photo
Buy it now: (Amazon Echo Dot): Amazon, Best Buy, Staples, B&H Photo

Chromecast Ultra

chromecast_ultra_2016_4k_dongle_leak_evleaks_092616

Google hasn’t changed the Chromecast that much since launching the little dongle over three years ago. It’s a device that’s remained useful for everyone with an Android or iOS device. Putting content up on a big display isn’t any easier than seeing the Google Cast button and selecting the screen to mirror to. Going from streaming Zootopia to watching Monday Night Football on ESPN to playing Monopoly has never been as quick as it is on the Chromecast.

The number of apps featuring Google Cast was meager at launch, but Google has successfully fostered a thriving library of video streaming services, music streaming services, games, and more that work without a hitch on the Chromecast.

Content providers are rolling out 4K video and HDR support; therefore, new media players are adapting to work with the technology. The Chromecast Ultra is the very best media player for streaming video on this level because of its price. You just can’t beat it.

The Chromecast Ultra costs $69, but you can drop the 4K video and HDR support for the Chromecast (2015) that’s just $35. Both make excellent gifts because of their versatility, and distribution is extremely good so you’ll find them in stores and online everywhere.

Buy it now: Google Store, Best Buy, Walmart, Target, B&H Photo

SkyBell HD

skybell_hd_doorbell_camera_official

When the doorbell rings, you should know who’s there before you open the door. Unlike most WiFi doorbells, the SkyBell HD is small and attractive. It’s not big and cheap, sticking out in a completely obvious way. This actually looks like a fancy, traditional doorbell in Brushed Aluminum or Oil Rubbed Bronze.

The big advantage in having a WiFi doorbell is seeing visitors at your door and communicating with them from your mobile device. SkyBell, however, loaded this one full of features to maximize usefulness and justify the cost. The SkyBell HD is more than a WiFi doorbell that has a Full HD camera and 5x zoom.

Even if a visitor doesn’t press the button on the SkyBell HD, a motion sensor will trigger an alert to your phone. Then the real-time viewfinder on your phone will show you who’s there.

Other features include free video recording, multi-user access, two-way audio to carry out a conversation with visitors at the door, activity history, colored night vision, a silent mode, picture-taking support, weather-resistance, and theft protection. None of these things will cost you any extra.

The SkyBell HD’s $199 price isn’t all that bad considering it’s a one-time charge and the features are stacked. You just might have a hard time finding it anywhere as stock is limited at multiple retailers.

Buy it now: SkyBell, Amazon, Nest, B&H Photo

Closing

We’ve shared with you a selection of the very best gifts for the home that will work for everyone you know. Whether you’re looking for home automation or home entertainment, our picks cover what people want. You may even find that a couple of the products in this gift guide are compatible with each other and unlock additional capabilities when paired.


About the Author: Justin Herrick

Born and raised in New Jersey, Justin is a graduate of Fairleigh Dickinson University where he studied marketing with a focus on digital marketing. He's very talkative and enjoys discussing anything from technology and sports to video games and television. As for Justin's current device rotation, he carries around the Google Pixel and Nexus 9. In the rare case that his phone or tablet is not in his hand, he is either flicking through cards on his Moto 360 (2015) or typing away on the Microsoft Surface Book. Justin is patiently waiting for the day that Google replicates the Galaxy Nexus with modern day specifications.