Its new features untangle new possibilities, but sometimes get wrapped up in their own complexity
Cheaper price doesn’t mean worse cleaning efficiency
When Roborock unveiled the S7 MaxV Ultra in 2022, it pioneered the fully autonomous robot mop and vacuum market, kicking off a wave of versatile cleaning bots that can automatically wash their own mops to shave off maintenance time. Several other brands have followed in its footsteps, including Dreametech with the L10s Ultra, and Ecovacs, with its Deebot T20 Omni and its innovative hot water cleaning technology.
Just don't assume this will be the only light you need to illuminate your space
Philips' Lightguide Ellipse smart bulb is a big, glass RGB wonder that looks as good as it functions, but it's not for everyone. It's a statement piece as much as it is an incredible RGB light; as such, it's more expensive than a conventional, colorful Hue light bulb, gives you less light, and might not look good with your free fixtures. It's more fashion than form, but if it works for your space and design aesthetic, it's one of the more compelling smart bulbs you can buy.
Hot water cleaning makes it one of the most effective robot mops, but it requires too much babysitting to be fully autonomous
Competition has been fierce on the robot vacuum market, with iRobot’s Roomba vacuums initially dominating — until younger brands like Roborock, Dreametech and Ecovacs started making more capable and cheaper alternatives.
One of the most effective robot vacuums, with slightly less advanced obstacle detection
Roborock is often seen as the market leader when it comes to building some of the best and most innovative autonomous robot vacuums. Its S7 MaxV Ultra is still seen as one of the most advanced robot vacuums on the market, thanks to its ability to mop and vacuums floors simultaneously, while requiring minimal human intervention, as well as its built-in camera that allows it to precisely identify obstacles. It’s been one of the first models on the market to come with a self-cleaning dock that houses two water tanks and can also wash the robot’s mop.
Simpler and cheaper. Wait, what do you mean it’s not cheaper?
Amazon is driving the prices even lower on its Echo speaker lineup with the new Echo Pop. This new model trims a few of the sensors from the Echo Dot (Gen 4 or 5) and simplifies the design to bring its retail price to $40 while actually increasing the speaker driver size a touch.
24/7 peace of mind with a 6-month battery life
Between initial hardware costs and monthly subscriptions, smart home security can get pretty pricey. While there’s no shortage of great bang-for-your-buck budget options available, more premium devices often have hardware and software improvements that make them well worth the buy for those of us wanting a more user-friendly experience. With a $200 price tag, the Arlo Pro 4 definitely bills itself as premium, and has the slick styling and powerful hardware to back it up.
Why settle for an RGB strip when you can have an RGB wall
Ever since childhood, I’ve been obsessed with colored lights. In 2023, that’s not a hard itch to scratch, but in the late 80s, it was a big deal to have a red or green LED in a toy. So while my inner child has enjoyed watching the RGB volcano explode in the last ten years, I can admit that some products go overboard. Thankfully, in a sea of light strips and RGB bulbs, the Govee Curtain Light does serve a purpose — albeit for a rather specific niche.
A good doorbell that’s most useful if you get lots of deliveries
Ring has pioneered the smart doorbell market with some of the most advanced and user-friendly devices out there. Today, it still makes some of the best smart video doorbells, as well as a wide range of security devices like the Ring Alarm and an impressive number of cameras. Most of its products come with smart features, such as motion and package detection, two-way audio, and night vision.
It's a fine midranger, but the Pixel Tablet's best ideas are half-baked
We're all familiar with Google's rocky relationship with tablets: after early success with the affordable Nexus 7, the company struggled to maintain momentum. Following poor commercial and critical reception of 2018's ChromeOS-based Pixel Slate, Google gave up on tablet hardware altogether for quite some time.
Expensive and occasionally frustrating, but oh so much fun
Of all the weird and wonderful things I saw at CES this year, Bird Buddy caught my attention in a way few tech products do anymore. It's a colorful, cutesy bird feeder with a Wi-Fi-connected camera nestled inside to record and identify the birds (and other critters) that stop by to feed. It's expensive, and at launch, some of its features still aren't ready for prime time, but after using a Bird Buddy for more than a month, I can't help but love this thing — flaws and all.
Its basic mopping features can also come in handy
Dreametech has been gaining popularity thanks to its extensive line of robot vacuum cleaners and mops, which range from relatively inexpensive and straightforward options like the D9 Max to high-end and fully automated ones like the L10s Ultra. Both can vacuum and mop the floor, but they’re radically different regarding their maintenance and care. Indeed, while the first comes with a simple charging station, the L10s Ultra features a self-emptying base that can also clean its mop pads autonomously.
Come home to clean floors
A robot vacuum cleaner is a great option to keep your floors clean without needing too much attention. There are plenty of models to choose from, including the top-notch Roborock S8 Pro Ultra, which can scrub your floors in full autonomy, while costing a whopping $1,600.
Not just the usual Apple caveats, either
There’s no shortage of killer smart speakers that you can talk to the Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa through, but if you’re after Apple’s Siri, your only option is to go straight to the source. Apple’s second-generation HomePod is the company’s current flagship smart speaker, offering booming sound and deep ecosystem integration at a premium $300. It’s plenty capable, but unless you’re living the full Apple lifestyle, the HomePod probably isn’t for you.
The Wyze Mesh Router Pro is a solid mesh system with support for fast internet speeds around the house.
There’s nothing really special about the Wyze Mesh Router Pro — from its compact, Eero-like physical design to its run-of-the-mill AXE5400 Wi-Fi 6E connection. This mesh Wi-Fi kit is roughly equivalent in speed and coverage to several other mesh Wi-Fi kits like the Eero Pro 6E, TP-Link Deco XE75 Pro, or the Nest Wifi Pro, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The tri-band AXE5400 wireless connection is balanced to deliver strong performance on older 5GHz-only devices and 6GHz devices alike.
Wyze's first indoor-outdoor pan-tilt camera is crazy good for 40 bucks
Smart security cameras can get pricey quick — indoor-outdoor cameras from top players in the space like Ring and Arlo can go for $100 or more apiece, and typically require costly paid subscriptions on top of that to get all the features you'll want. Wyze's Cam Pan v3, on the other hand, costs just 40 bucks — though Wyze is as guilty as any manfucaturer of requiring a paid subscription. With great features and a very affordable price point, though, the Cam Pan v3 is the budget security camera to beat right now.
An extremely pricy light show without much to offer
GE's Cync Full Color Dynamic Effects Smart Light Strip is a mouthful to say, but its name is perhaps the most impressive part of this 16-million-color, diffused string of LEDs. A big, diffused strip of LEDs whose length you can easily modify is held back by a ho-hum controller application — so much so, I'm not sure it makes a lot of sense to buy GE's lights when you can get other, just as lovely looking solutions for mood lighting that cost half as much (or less).
A great addition for Hue households, but not a good standalone smart plug
Practically every smart home company you can think of offers at least one smart plug: Amazon, Govee, TP-Link, Wyze, and others all make plugs to add smarts to dumb devices. Philips Hue, the long-reigning top dog in the smart lighting space, also offers a smart plug in the creatively named Philips Hue Smart Plug. At $35, it's a very good smart plug — if you're already set up with Hue, anyway.
A high-quality home security solution that won't break the bank
Since the introduction of the Ring Security Camera, consumer home surveillance has become a significant addition to many smart homes. Whether finding out who stole your Amazon package or seeing what your kitty Muffins is up to during the day, the home security camera has proven its worth in most people's lives.
Matches many of the features of premium cameras, but cloud storage isn’t great
Reolink is a well-known name and among the best outdoor security cameras. With a series of models for both indoor and outdoor use, each offering distinct options, it’s easy to find a camera to cover your needs. The new Argus 3 Pro strikes a great balance between features for an outdoor security camera, while coming in at a price below many premium cameras with the same features. While it’s a solid camera, Reolink’s cloud hosting service needs some work.
Probably one of the best smart doorbells, if only most of its features weren’t behind a paywall
A video doorbell is one of the best smart home devices you can invest in. Not only does it allow the convenience of checking on visitors even when you’re not home, but it also doubles as a security camera and provides insightful notifications when it senses motion, people, and even packages left at your door. Most of the doorbells on the market can also integrate with third-party providers to help you create automated routines for added convenience.