Building a smart home that can be automated or controlled with a smartphone or voice has never been easier. While a proper smart home still involves setting up numerous sensors and switches, you can easily get a smart home up and running using off-the-shelf gadgets. The key here is to use the Google Assistant (or Amazon Alexa, which requires a bit more work in Singapore) to control your smart home gadgets. Basically, buy Google Assistant-compatible devices and link them together using the Google Home app.
Of course, don't underestimate the importance of a good router (or a set of mesh routers like the TP-Link X60 Deco). But once that's settled, here are five gadgets to jumpstart your smart home journey.
Arlo Essential Video Doorbell Wire-Free
Get alerts on your smartphone when there's someone at the door with the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell (S$329). The new wire-free version comes with a rechargeable battery that is more convenient for homeowners, while offering a squarish video aspect ratio that lets you easily see packages left at your doorstep. With its Google Assistant integration, you can also command the camera to livestream its video feed to a Chromecast or smart display.
Chromecast with Google TV
Add smarts to any TV with the Chromecast with Google TV. The latest iteration of Google's media streamer (around S$99 for an import set) sees the addition of a handy remote control and a new, proper TV interface. In other words, no smartphone or tablet required, unlike older Chromecasts. In fact, you can even speak to the Google Assistant using the integrated microphone in the remote control.
Lenovo Smart Clock
Wake up gently and gradually with the S$79 Lenovo Smart Clock, which slowly brightens its 4-inch display before the actual alarm goes off. Unlike a smart display, this Google Assistant-compatible smart clock cannot display photos or videos, but it has an undeniable old-school charm. Alternatively, check out the Lenovo Smart Display 7 for a larger screen, better speakers, and the ability to stream videos.
While the Google Nest Mini smart speaker is great for bedrooms due to its compact size, the S$699 Sonos Beam offers superior audio with a much wider soundstage. The Beam also had no problem picking up my voice from across the room, thanks to its five far-field microphones. More importantly, it doubles up as as TV soundbar, which helps to reduce living room clutter.
TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip
Turn your dumb home appliances like fans and lamps into semi-smart devices by plugging them into the TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip (KP303). This S$79 smart power strip can be controlled using TP-Link's Smart Kasa app, which lets you create custom scenes that include other TP-Link smart home devices. You can also bark orders to control the power strip via the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. I found the two USB ports handy for charging my smartphone and smartwatch.
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