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Smart Home Reviews

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Nanoleaf Aurora review: The coolest and most extravagant smart lights you can own

Some of you may have already heard about the Nanoleaf Aurora. These modular triangular light panels can be formed in any shape you like and are WiFi-enabled, allowing you to control them via your phone or Google Home and Alexa. But those of you who haven't will probably scroll down to see the high price tag and scoff in disbelief. $229.99 for a set of 9 light panels and a music module is a rather extravagant price to pay. But that's exactly what the Nanoleaf are: extravagant. They go a step beyond smart lights like Hue and LiFX and straight into "cool art deco" territory.

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TicHome Mini review: A worthy portable Google Home Mini alternative, as long as you don’t mind paying double

Google introduced the Assistant SDK back in April, making it possible for third parties to build the digital companion into their devices. Sure enough, at IFA 2017 in Berlin back in August, the first Google Assistant-enabled speakers were announced, due to hit the market this fall. There are now several different options from a range of manufacturers, and they cover various use cases and price points.

Other Google Home alternatives with better speakers have also been announced by the likes of Sony and Panasonic. For those on a tighter budget there’s also the Zolo Mojo from Anker. And before that has even gone on sale, Google itself launched the Google Home Mini.

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Nest Thermostat E review: It's kind of silly not to buy one

Before Nest made cameras, home security systems, or smoke detectors, there was the Nest Thermostat. There wasn't anything like the OG Nest when it launched back in 2011, but the market for smart thermostats has heated up since then. Nest (now an Alphabet company along with Google) has continued iterating the thermostat, which remains its most iconic product. All three generations of the Nest Thermostat have a similar vibe—they look like pieces of technology attached to your wall. Not everyone wants that, but the new Nest Thermostat E offers a more understated look and a lower price.

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SmartThings Link hands-on: Turning your SHIELD TV into a smart home hub

Connected home items are becoming more and more common, from light bulbs to doorbells and so on. Since the beginning of it all, I've really wanted to join in the smart home thing, mostly because I am lazy and want to control my house with my voice. Cost to entry has been rather prohibitive and I've always rented places, so I figured most of my options would be limited.

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Polk MagniFi Mini review: Impressive sound in a compact and versatile Chromecast soundbar

You know how they say big things come in small packages? Never has that saying been as true as it is with the Polk MagniFi Mini. From the moment I opened the box to this very second, this soundbar keeps on blowing my mind with how good it is. Impressive sound? Check. Plethora of options? Check. Chromecast built-in and Google Home compatibility? Check. Small form factor that could fit in front of many/any TV? You betcha. I could easily end this review here, but I'll do my job and write a few thousand words below... while listening to some music. It'll make the task more enjoyable.

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Sen.se Peanuts review: The coolest way to monitor your fridge, rooms, cookie jars... as long as you can rely on Bluetooth

Sen.se is a relatively new entrant in the connected home and IoT space. The company's most prominent product is the Mother, an oddly shaped humanoid-like hub that connects to small "Cookies" you can intersperse everywhere to monitor motion, temperature, presence/absence. The concept is interesting: Sen.se bills it as a way to keep an eye on different things and people around your home, including how often someone brushes their teeth or when the cookie jar is opened. But the price is on the very exorbitant side of the equation: Sen.se sells the Mother for €242 on its store and it retails for about $200 on Amazon in the US.

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Wink Hub 2 review: Powerful home automation made approachable and fun

I bought an apartment in October. You can imagine the joy at the thought that it'd be my future family's home, terror at the sight of the mortgage value on the signed contract, and all the excitement about getting to set up a house from scratch. I could pick everything that I loved from design to materials to colors to organization, and yes, also automation.

I wanted lights that turn on when the doors open, A/C units that cool the place when I'm coming home and the outside heat is too much to bear, cameras that catch intruders the moment they are detected, a washing machine that notifies me when the load is done, colored lights that coordinate with whatever I'm watching on TV, blinds that open and close with the sunset and sunrise, and much more.

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Google Home review: Three weeks with a voice assistant that's actually worth talking to

A couple of weeks ago, I got my hands on Google Home and immediately set out to use it and record my initial impressions. Now that I've given this odd little device a chance to prove its worth in my home, the time has come to finish the review. Out of the gate, I must confess to a little personal surprise at just how little my opinions have changed from the first 24 hours I had to spend with the device. As such, I'm not going to repeat everything I said in my first post. This is an addendum. I will touch on all of the subjects again and add details where there is more to say – because there is still a lot to say.

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Blink home security camera review: An interesting proposition that falters in execution

When I first heard about the Blink security cameras, I was immediately impressed and intrigued. Having tried both the Piper and Canary in my pharmacy, to more or less mitigated results, the Blink seemed like the perfect solution.

Piper (full review) suffers from one major flaw: the camera doesn't turn itself back on after a power failure if the back-up battery is empty (and since we have lots of blackouts here in Lebanon, I got tired of buying new batteries every two or three weeks). It also doesn't have a native scheduled arm/disarm feature; I really shouldn't have to manually arm and disarm my cameras when a simple time-based schedule is easy to implement.

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Amazon Echo Dot 2nd gen review: A delightful and cheap way to get started with voice assistants

Amazon's Echo success took me a little by surprise. It seemed like we went overnight from questioning the idea of a voice assistant in a speaker to almost everyone owning an Echo and companies rushing to add Alexa support for their services and products. Part of what seemed like a quick success is due to the Echo Dot, the smaller cheaper version that you can sprinkle around the house in places where you don't care about excellent sound quality.

The second generation Echo Dot builds on that. Unlike the first one, you can order it directly from Amazon without having to use another Echo.

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