If you are like me, you have wanted to live in the smart AI controlled future we have seen on TV and movie screens. Now moving into 2021, I thought it was time to look at the best smart tech we have got the opportunity to explore, delivering a smarter home along with helping lead to a more healthy overall lifestyle. While it may seem like something out of Star Trek, connected devices are now a reality, and are slowly creeping their way into everyday life.
From smart vacuums to the internet controlled heating and cooling, technology has come a long way, bringing advancements in smart assistants, new displays and even better mental and oral health. Thanks to cell phones and new concepts on old ideas, it has never been a better time to explore how you can make your life smarter. We have taken the time to list the best devices CGMagazine has tested over the past year, giving a sense at what is worth your time, and money as you look to make your life a bit more smart moving into 2021.
Ecobee Smart Thermostat With Voice Control
The Ecobee Smart Thermostat With Voice Control — the company’s 5th generation thermostat — is a brilliant product that lets you replace your old thermostat and never look back. With the Ecobee, you can finally benefit from improved convenience and greater efficiency. This smart thermostat includes a larger speaker for better sound quality, dual-band Wi-Fi radios to provide better connectivity with your home Wi-Fi Router, multi-room capability that lets you choose the settings you want for each zone, and Alexa compatibility for voice control. We love what the Ecobee Smart Thermostat With Voice Control offered, and stands as the best smart thermostat we’ve reviewed. For anyone from parents, to a new homeowner, nothing compares to what this device offers. It works with third-party smarts and hubs like Nest and Apple’s HomeKit and at $249 it’s a bit pricey, but impressive features like Alexa make it well worth the cost.
iRobot Roomba s9+
iRobot and the Roomba brand have been around for a while now, but with each new upgrade the concept of what robot vacuums can do, moving us closer to a self-sufficient cleaning robot friend. The Roomba s9+ is a seriously convenient little cleaner that is packed with features from Wi-Fi Connectivity to AI room mapping, and more powerful than the standard Roomba. It’s perfect for reaching into corners, baseboards, and hard-to-reach places.
Roomba is an incredibly effective albeit expensive robot vacuum, which has been designed to do one thing and one thing well: clean. This means that it has wider brushes, superior suction, and an advanced 3D sensor which together create a powerful automated cleaning system.
If you know a parent who wants to spend less time cleaning and more time with the family, or who wants all the benefits of a clean home with the help of a robot servant, the Roomba s9+ is a no-brainer, and one that makes your any family home feel like it is from a far-flung future.
I have always been a fan of using notebooks as a way of organizing my thoughts. While I very rarely do much of my long form work on one, they have become invaluable parts of my creative process. So when I had the opportunity to give the new reMarkable 2 e-ink tablet a try for review, I was eager to see how it stacked up. After a few weeks of testing, despite the limited use cases the reMarkable 2 offers, it stands as a major part of my creative arsenal, and one I would suggest to anyone that still uses a notepad for their day-to-day process.
The reMarkable 2 tablet feels like the device I have been searching for, delivering the ideal merging of technology and note taking. It comes at a premium, costing $599 CAD without any stylus, but for anyone who needs this sort of device, that is money well spent. It works well, is lightweight and looks like a notebook out of Star Trek. For anyone looking for the ultimate notebook, look no further, the digital paper tool you have always wanted is finally here.
Technology is a double-edged sword when it comes to health and fitness. The promise of a healthier life sometimes smells too good to be true. Thankfully Fitbit has shown they know the industry, how to tackle health, and know how to merge the two concepts into a well-thought-out, useful device, that is as functional as it is stylish. Their latest Fitbit Sense feels like the pinnacle of these concepts, and all previous developments into a single, well positioned device.
With a great look, good battery life and an array of sensors to get a handle on what is going on with your body, and how to tackle a new, healthy lifestyle. The sense at times can feel overkill, delivering features that at times can feel unnecessary, such as the stress tracking, but the overall feel of the Sense is fitbit has built one of the best fitness trackers to date. With recent improvements such as automatic SpO2 tracking at night, Google Assistant support, the Sense has only become more useful. It may be a bit much for people not looking to jumpstart a more healthy lifestyle, with a Versa 3 potentially being a better fit, but for anyone looking to live their best livem the Sense is a phenomenal product. While the Apple Watch is great, the Fitbit Sense offers the best overall health focused smartwatch experience, that pushes the limit on what a wearable can do to help you live your best life.
Amazon Echo Family
Amazon has built one of the most robust smart speaker systems in the market today. Alexa is one of the most popular voice assistants on the market today, and links with an ever growing list of devices and phrases, bringing new concepts and phrases to the already impressive lineup of features and works as a great addition to any Smart Home Ecosystem. The most recent iteration takes everything the system has to offer and gives it a sphere shaped makeover, and we could not be more impressed. From the new round inexpensive Echo Dot, to the improved 4th generation Echo, Amazon have built a range that are hard to compete with, especially when it comes to price and value.
The new 5-inch ball shaped Amazon Echo does away with much of the old styling while improving on all major features of the device in the process. With better acoustics thanks to the placement of the driver, and a larger cavity for the bass responsiveness, the new Echo sounds incredibly, and finally looks like something I would want to show off in my house.
With the continued improvements and the latest offerings delivering better performance, sound and overall aesthetic, it is clear Amazon is taking their virtual assistant seriously. At a fantastic price point, and loaded with features, the Amazon Echo has never been a better value. Delivering phenomenal audio, and ushering a new design that feels modern and stylish, the 4th-Gen Amazon Echo is by far the best smart speaker you can buy for under $200. While it may not top the likes of Sonos or Apple, the 4th-Gen Amazon Echo is finally an easy to recommend speaker that happens to do countless other things should you want to dive into the smart assistant potential.
Feeling safe in our own home is something we all want, and as the world embraces smart technology, it is becoming more affordable and easy to understand. This is where the Blink range of indoor and outdoor cameras come into the picture. Taking what has often felt daunting, or complex, and making it dead simple. Delivering an innovative range that not only are easy to install but are dead simple to use, a concept that can be often overlooked in modern tech.
The Blink Outdoor and Indoor cameras hold their position as one of the best home security cameras for a great price. they aren’t perfect. The wireless range isn’t great, you can’t get it to monitor multiple areas of your home, and they are not the most robust offerings currently on the market. But overall, the Blink range of cameras offers really good-quality video as well as an easy setup process. They bring with them tight integration with Alexa and other Amazon products, can be set up for local storage, ridding yourself of the pesky monthly fees, and they provide another layer of protection to protect you, and your family. A great offering, and one that will have most of the cameras up and running in under an hour. Meaning more time to relax, and less time sorting out how the new camera actually works.
Lighting and smart light bulbs often stand is at the heart of many smart homes. They tap into most of the smart devices on the market, can be linked with routines, and even work with the media you watch. And few lighting companies have taken advantage of the smart lighting market like Philips with their Hue range of products. And for anyone like me, who loves media and gaming, the new Gradient Lightstrips are the ideal addition to any home, and feel like magic when it all comes together.
All this immersion comes at a cost though, as stated earlier, the Play Gradient Lightstrip is not a cheap offering, starting at $259.99 for the 55’’ and up to $329.99 for the 75’’. It will also require you to have the Hue Hub, and the $329.99 Sync Box to make full use of the lights. So this will mean a potential $700+ investment if you are starting from scratch. But If you love media, and want the most immersive experience possible, it is hard to deny how exciting the Play Gradient Lightstrips are. If you are not in the Hue ecosystem, or simply not that into movies and games, the price may be a bit too steep this time around, even if the end result is astounding to behold.
Philips SoniCare DiamondClean Smart Electric Toothbrush
Brushing teeth is one thing that I was most interested to see how technology could improve the experience. Throughout my countless years of brushing, I have never felt like things were done right, or that I was hitting all the important sports to leave me with a clean mouth, and overall good oral hygiene. Thanks to Philips, and their Sonicare toothbrush, I now know I was doing everything wrong, and my teeth have never felt cleaner.
The brush itself complements in combination with the app gives you everything you need to know about improving your brushing regimen — it’s also very easy to use, with lots of easy-to-follow directions, making it ideal for all who have difficulty with technology. The brush and the app guide you though the process, and even gives prompts and visual aids to give you an idea on what is being done, along with how you could do better next time.
Brushing your teeth is a necessary part of daily life. Using this smart toothbrush helps you brush for longer and smarter with features that help you measure progress and create personalized brushing routines. If you’re one of the lucky people who has used the DiamondClean Smart toothbrush, you know it is an Excellent Option and will make your teeth sparkle. The best devices compliment things we all know, but never seen to do right, and for many this is oral health, and while a smart toothbrush won’t make your teeth magically cleaner, it Philips have done the work to make something that provides the right level of motivation to keep even the oral health at the forefront of daily routines.
Muse S Meditation Headband
It is sometimes counterintuitive to think of technology when it comes to meditation, but Muse has looked to change this viewpoint. The Muse S headband, at $380, is a great way to get into the habit of meditation. It’s well-made, stylish, and easy to use. The versatility and comfort make it a great gift for just about anyone — whether that’s your parents stressed with a stressful job, or recent grads looking to start their career in the working world for the first time. It is not magic, and will take a bit of work to get used to, and does take a commitment to take time to actually meditate. But with Muse, the overall process of meditation feels less daunting. The daily improvements help keep things focused, and it guides in a way to keep everything new, and engadhing.
Thanks to improvements in comfort and style, the Muse S is the best option for anyone looking to jumpstart their meditation journey. It stands as a great way to bring people into the world of guided relaxation. While it won’t make the stress of the real world melt away, the Muse S is a great addition to reach a place of Zen, and if it works for you as it does for me then it is a fantastic addition to any relaxation arsenal.
Nest Home Max
The Nest Hub Max is the best Google Assistant smart display you can buy. It’s bigger, smarter, and better sounding than its predecessor, the Google Nest Hub Max. Its hardware is surprisingly capable for a smart display at this price point, and it can keep an eye on your home without needing to be plugged in. It also brings with it all the features we have come to expect in the Google Assistant range, but with a large display tailor made for parents, and kids, it is also one of the more family friendly offerings on the list. With a Simple Voice Command you can turn on lights, check lists, or even answer your smart video doorbell. It is seamless, and integrates into most living situations with ease, at least in my experience.
There are plenty of smart displays, but in spite of the fact I feel Alexa’s range of speakers are some of the best on the market, there is no denying the Nest Home Max is the best smart displays you can buy, and one of the best hubs for your new smart home on the market today. So while it isn’t the loudest Google Assistant smart display, it does offer excellent hardware and value compared to its slightly more affordable competition.