Home & Office
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


Gift these 12 smart home devices this holiday season

Whether your partner is gadget-loving or tech-challenged, ZDNET rounded up the best smart home gift ideas for anyone to enjoy using around their home.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer
Reviewed by Nina Raemont
Aqara U100 smart lock | Best gift for the one who always forgets their keys
Aqara U100 smart lock
Aqara U100 smart lock
Best gift for the one who always forgets their keys
View now View at Amazon
Bird Buddy smart bird feeder | Best gift for the birdwatcher
Bird Buddy in backyard, next to the product's box
Bird Buddy smart bird feeder
Best gift for the birdwatcher
View now View at Amazon
Govee Smart Outdoor Permanent Lights | Best for the holiday decorator
Govee Smart Outdoor Permanent Lights
Govee Smart Outdoor Permanent Lights
Best for the holiday decorator
View now View at Best Buy
Ecobee3 Lite smart thermostat | Best smart home gift for the thermostat warrior
Ecobee3 Lite smart thermostat
Ecobee3 Lite smart thermostat
Best smart home gift for the thermostat warrior
View now View at Amazon
Amazon Echo Show 8 | Best gift for smart home newbies
Echo Show 8
Amazon Echo Show 8
Best gift for smart home newbies
View now View at Amazon
Eufy X9 Pro robot vacuum and mop | Best gift for the clean freak
Eufy Clean X9 Pro CleanerBot
Eufy X9 Pro robot vacuum and mop
Best gift for the clean freak
View now View at Amazon
Apple AirTag | Best gift for that forgetful friend
AirTag keychain
Apple AirTag
Best gift for that forgetful friend
View now View at Amazon
SwitchBot button pusher robot | Best for the tech-curious
SwitchBot Smart Switch Button Pusher
SwitchBot button pusher robot
Best for the tech-curious
View now View at Amazon
Echo Pop Kids | Best for kids
Echo Pop Kids
Echo Pop Kids
Best for kids
View now View at Best Buy
Eufy Security 5-Piece Alarm Kit | Best gift for home security
The keypad for our Eufy Security system.
Eufy Security 5-Piece Alarm Kit
Best gift for home security
View now View at Amazon
Show more (5 items)

It doesn't matter who you're shopping for; smart home devices are designed specifically to make life easier for anyone. Yes, even your Nana and Auntie. No matter the age, preferences, budget, or level of tech knowledge, there is something for everyone. These are the top gift ideas for smart home devices for anyone, from your significant other to a neighbor.

You don't have to be a tech wiz or even a fan of gadgets to enjoy the convenience of having smart home devices around your home. Right now, anyone can embark on their smart home journey with less than $10 by buying something as simple as a smart plug. The simplicity of controlling it with an app makes it accessible to almost everyone with a smartphone.

The best smart home gifts this holiday season

If you know (or live with) someone who always loses their keys, the Aqara U100 smart lock is the best gift for them. It's one of the best and most versatile smart lock options to upgrade your existing door lock. 

This lock gives users several different unlocking options, like using your fingerprint, a code, NFC tags, Apple Home Key, or one of the included physical keys.  An internal gyroscope can signal the U100 of when the door is closed so it can lock automatically behind you, no need to add extra sensors or hardware. 

The Aqara app allows you to set up different lock and unlock options, where you can share different key codes with whoever needs access to your home, like a housecleaner or dog-walker, and edit how long the lock waits to lock for you. 

Review: My favorite Apple Home Key-compatible smart lock was worth the wait

This smart bird feeder can take your birdwatching to the next level. The Bird Buddy is ideal for anyone who enjoys watching feathered friends. It has a perfectly placed camera that sends notifications to your smartphone when a bird has stopped by, complete with photo and video evidence. 

Why they'll love it

If you know someone who loves birdwatching, this is the gift for them. The Bird Buddy's camera captures images when a bird stops for a bite to eat and sends users a notification with photos and video footage. The app can even identify the bird species for you.

This device, available on sale right now, can help your friends or relatives feed birds and watch them up close. It also helps track bird migration and population data to find better ways to protect them. All you have to do is charge the camera and connect it to Wi-Fi via the Bird Buddy app. After that, it's the same as a normal bird feeder: fill the feeder with food and place it outside.  

Review: The backyard birdcam you didn't know you needed

Forget having to take down the Christmas lights each January. If your partner, cousin, or uncle loves to go all out on holiday decorations, the Govee smart Permanent Outdoor Lights. 

Sure to set the mood for any holiday from pool parties to Christmas, these strip lights are available in a lengths of 50 or 100 feet, with 72 LED lights that you can control via the Govee Home mobile app. The self-stick adhesive backing is reinforced with four clips for an easy and secure installation.

The app lets you choose from over 75 scene effects or create your own, letting you have a thoroughly customizable experience with over 16 million colors. Plus, the lights are permanent so they can be used for any occasion. This means you could set the colors to purple and orange during Halloween and easily switch to red and green during December, without having to pull the ladder out of the garage. 

When I was a small child growing up in a third-world country, the single window A/C unit we had was only used on special occasions. Those memories have made me greatly appreciate my current HVAC system.

That appreciation comes with care -- or what others around me like to call "control," for some reason. I take great care of my home's temperature so as not to overwork the HVAC system and not end up paying too much in energy bills. The answer to this is a smart thermostat. 

The Ecobee3 Lite is an inexpensive Energy Star-certified smart thermostat, claiming to save you up to 23% a year in heating and cooling costs with temperature optimization and occupancy sensing. It's Apple HomeKit compatible and also works with Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT. 

If you have a partner or parent that always hogs the thermostat and replies, "get a blanket" when you complain it's too cold, this is the gift for them.

Also: Ecobee Smart Thermostat vs Nest Learning Thermostat

This is a perfect gift for those who don't have a lot of smart devices (or any) at home but wouldn't mind adding a little automation and a voice assistant (read, Alexa) to their lives. 

Amazon recently released the third generation of its Echo Show 8 smart display with upgrades from previous versions like an edge-to-edge glass design, center-set camera, and smaller but improved speaker enclosure. Some notable differences include spatial audio, a faster processor, and an enhanced smart home experience.

The 13MP camera supports Visual ID, which recognizes pre-set people's faces and detects when a specific person approaches the device. It also supports Adaptive Content, a new feature that displays simplified content when people are far away and switches to more detailed content when someone approaches. 

Also: I tested the Amazon Echo Show 8 for a week. These are its best features (and misses)

The Eufy Clean X9 Pro CleanerBot robot vacuum and mop is an AI-powered self-cleaning dream for $800. This is a strong 5500Pa-suction vacuum that connects to Wi-Fi and pushes its mop pads down onto your floors with up to 1kg of downward pressure to scrub stains out.

Whether you have a clean freak in your life or you are a clean freak, you'll be glad to learn that this robot vacuum and mop can handle your floor cleaning from here on. The Eufy Clean X9 Pro CleanerBot fully maps its route in your home and comes equipped with strong battery life.

The vacuum cleans your floors while mopping and using artificial intelligence to expertly avoid those random socks and toys that other vacuums get stuck on. It periodically returns to its home base to wash the mop pads with clean water from the base's water tank and goes back out to continue mopping.  

Review: I'm letting AI mop my floors now, and I'm not going back

Many of us have been sitting at a restaurant waiting for that one friend who missed the reservation time because they couldn't find their keys or wallet -- again. It'd be awesome if they could grab their iPhones and trigger a sound to play right from the missing item. Cue the AirTag.

This tiny, coin-shaped device can help you remotely track just about anything it can be attached to, even your bike. You can keep track of it via the Find My app on your iPhone or iPad or ask Siri to play a sound on your AirTag to find it nearby easily. 

If you lose whatever your AirTag has attached to away from home, you can put it in Lost Mode, so you'll get tracking notifications when it's detected in the Find My app. AirTags are IP67 certified, making them water and weatherproof for versatility. 

If your forgetful partner, friend, coworker, or family member has an iPhone 11 or newer, this is the best gift for them. 

Also: How to securely attach your Apple AirTag to things -- without breaking the bank

Is your teenager into technology and robots? This SwitchBot Bot is a compact little robot that presses buttons for you. There are plenty of uses for it, too.

This little robot connects to your phone via the Bluetooth SwitchBot app. It can turn on lights and press buttons for almost anything, like a coffeemaker, fan, computer, or printer.

If you add a SwitchBot Hub, you can control it from your phone via Wi-Fi, no matter where you are. Plus, it's compatible with Alexa and Google Home for voice control capabilities.

This bot is small enough to be placed almost anywhere. You can let your teenager decide what to use it for -- even if it's simply to turn off a light or fan without having to get out of bed.

Also: I tested SwitchBot's new Curtain 3 robot and it made me feel like royalty

Pros & Cons
  • Amazon Kids+ subscription for one year
  • Parental controls
  • Kids can control smart lights and set their own alarms
  • Improved audio but still not as great as other speakers
More Details

If you have kids and an Amazon Echo device in your home, then you probably already appreciate having a smart voice assistant with children. 

My kids love asking Alexa and Siri questions and jokes -- especially asking them to turn on "party mode," which triggers our living room's lights to change colors and start playing the Trolls soundtrack. This new Echo Pop Kids with parental controls is perfect for that.

The Echo Pop Kids is a visually attractive speaker, with a Disney Princess or Marvel's Avengers design on the speaker, and it's the perfect addition to a playroom. Visuals aside, kids will also love Alexa's capabilities. 

The Echo Pop Kids comes with a one-year subscription to Amazon+ Kids, which offers access to kid-friendly Audible books, interactive games, and educational Alexa skills. Plus, the voice assistant can even help them with homework.

You'll love the Echo Pop Kids for its parental controls, too. Alexa can intelligently filter explicit songs and ensure kid-friendly responses. The Parent Dashboard can also control daily time limits, see recent activity, and lock emergency contacts for the kids to call in an emergency. 

This device works as a smart voice assistant, an Eero Wi-Fi extender, and as an electronic educator for children. Your kids can ask Alexa questions and jokes, buying you 10 minutes to read this article, among other ZDNET gift guides.

Also: Amazon Echo Pop review: A portable smart speaker for small spaces

This Eufy Security kit is a perfect starter kit for anyone looking to start a home alarm system. It includes a motion sensor, keypad, two entry sensors, and the HomeBase 2 for $160. 

This kit doesn't require a monthly subscription, and the HomeBase 2 stores video locally in the hub. Plus, users can add more Eufy Security cameras to the system down the line.

Your gift recipient will sleep soundly with this all-connected system protecting them. The HomeBase 2 plays a 100dB alarm when the system is armed, and a sensor is triggered.  

It's the perfect gift to get your paranoid, safety-concerned neighbor so they can stop texting you at 3 in the morning wondering if you also heard that noise in the backyard. 

Also: Eufy's new Floodlight Cam E340 is the hardest working security camera I've tested

What is a must-have for smart homes?

This is a subjective question since everyone has different automation preferences. However, here are some essential devices to get started on your smart home journey:

  • Smart speaker: A smart speaker can often double as a smart home hub if you want voice control. Depending on what automation system you prefer, you can choose one like an Echo speaker, Google Nest Hub Max, or Apple HomePod mini.
  • Smart light bulbs: You can schedule smart light bulbs to automatically turn on or off, depending on the time of day. Plus, they give you the ability to turn them off from bed. Philips Hue, Lifx, GE Cync, and Sengled are notable brands.
  • Video doorbell: A video doorbell offers security and lets you see whoever is at your door, whether you're home or not. With the app on your phone, you can find out if your package was finally delivered. Ring, Eufy Security, and Arlo make reliable video doorbells, with brands like Blink being a more affordable option.
  • Smart thermostat: Investing in a smart thermostat can make a huge difference not only in your everyday life but also in your heating and cooling bills, which affect your bottom line. You can also determine if your local utility provider offers rebates for upgrading to an Energy Star-certified smart thermostat. Some examples of smart thermostats are the Google Nest Thermostat, Honeywell, and Amazon Smart Thermostat.
  • Smart locks: Like the smart thermostat, a smart lock will improve your day-to-day, considering you never have to worry about lost keys. You can create unique codes to let others in, like a dog-walker or babysitter. My top picks are the Level Lock, Yale Assure Lock 2, and the August smart lock.

What is the best smart home gift?

Whether you choose a smart lock or a video doorbell for a loved one, always consider three main things:

  • Does it need a hub? If a hub is required to use a smart device you're gifting to someone else, I'd recommend buying it as part of the gift unless the recipient already has one. If you want to give someone a SwitchBot Bot and they don't have a Hub, then they won't be able to control it through their phone when they're away, which may affect whether they'll use the gift or not. This is especially true for Philips Hue devices that won't connect to Wi-Fi unless you have the Hue Bridge. Don't give someone a Philips Hue bulb unless they already have a hub or plan to buy it.
  • Will they need a subscription to use it? Brands like Ring are notorious for requiring a subscription to unlock their devices' capabilities, so that's something to consider when choosing a gift. Otherwise, you'll be gifting someone the burden of a monthly subscription instead.
  • Will they use this? If you know someone getting into smart home automation and has a HomePod mini, for example, look into brands that are readily compatible with HomeKit. The same is true for the rest of the home automation systems. Just because a device is "smart" doesn't mean someone can easily use it, so consider how tech-savvy the recipient is before choosing a gift for them.

How do I protect smart home devices from hackers?

The first step to protecting you and your smart home from hackers is to secure your Wi-Fi network. To do this, change both your Wi-Fi network name (SSID) and password from the factory settings the router has. Choose a strong password that's not easy to guess by others, especially those around your home.

Also, ensure you're using WPA2 or WPA3 security protocol standards, as this will add another layer of security. 

Anything connected to the internet is at risk of being hacked, to be honest. But there are steps you can take to protect your information, like strong passwords, keeping the firmware on your devices up-to-date, and taking advantage of two-factor authentication when possible.

What is the most popular smart home device?

Around the home, the most popular smart home devices are smart speakers and hubs with screens, smart TVs, smart thermostats, video doorbells, and smart garage door openers.

How did we choose these smart home gifts?

We tried to find a balance between what your loved ones would like to receive as a gift and what works as a standalone item. No one wants to receive a bike helmet as a present if they don't have a bike, so we focused on items that can be useful on their own.

It's also important to consider that not everyone has the same skills and knowledge to operate the latest technologies. Therefore, we wanted to gather various gifts that can work for most users.

Price and affordability also played a role in helping us select these gift ideas. We know every dollar saved is appreciated during these times.

Editorial standards