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.


12 smart home gadgets that make special gifts at any time

Is your partner either gadget-loving or tech-challenged? ZDNET rounded up the best smart home gift ideas for your friend or loved one to enjoy using around their home.
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer on
Reviewed by Amy Lieu

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.

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 start a 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.

Must read:

The best smart home gifts available

These are the top 12 gift ideas for smart home devices for anyone, from your significant other to a neighbor. Read on to find something for whoever you're shopping for, as well as the best deals on smart home gifts below.

Pros & Cons
  • Captures photos and videos of birds that stop by
  • The app identifies the birds
  • Notifications when birds come by
  • No monthly fees
  • Camera needs charging every couple of weeks
  • Feeder doesn't hold as much food as others
More Details
  • Price: $199
  • Tech specs: Available in blue and yellow | 720p video | 5MP photos | 120-degree field of view | Wi-Fi connectivity | Weather resistant 

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 comes with 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 by 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, which is available for pre-order 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: simply fill the feeder with food and place it outside.  

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

Pros & Cons
  • Senses if door is left ajar or closed
  • Auto-unlock with geofencing
  • Keep current keys
  • No keypad
  • Not compatible with HomeKit
More Details
  • Price: $145
  • Tech specs: Silver Nickel | 2.6 x 1.63 x 4.8 inches | 4 AA Batteries | Compatible with Amazon Alexa, SmartThings, Philips Hue, & Google Home

If you live with someone who always loses their keys, the August Smart Lock and Connect Wi-Fi Bridge is the best gift for them. 

It's one of the best keyless entry options for upgrading your existing door lock. It only replaces the thumb-turn on the inside of your door, so you can keep your existing lock (and extra deadbolt), too.

Why they'll love it

Even though they can keep their existing key, they definitely won't need it. You can schedule the device to automatically unlock when you get home and lock behind you when the door is closed.

The August app allows you to set up different 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. 

It's also compatible with Alexa, Google Home, SmartThings, and Philips Hue.

Pros & Cons
  • Inexpensive
  • No separate hub required
  • Control from anywhere
  • Not HomeKit compatible
More Details
  • Price: $27
  • Tech specs: 4-pack | 1.57 x 1.5 x 2.62 inches | 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection | Compatible with Amazon Alexa & Google Home

This is a perfect gift for those that don't have a lot of smart devices (or any) at home but wouldn't mind adding a little automation to their lives. This pack includes four Kasa Smart Plugs that don't require a separate hub to work, simply download the Kasa app on iPhone or Android phone and control them from anywhere.

Why they'll love it

They can be set to schedules, like plugging in your Nana's coffeemaker to one so it comes on automatically every day at 7 a.m. Or be controlled from your phone no matter where you are, perfect for that sister that always forgets if she unplugged the curling iron before she left the house. 

These smart plugs also support automation with other compatible devices. If you wanted to get fancier, you could add a motion sensor outside Nana's bedroom door, so the smart plug only turns the coffeemaker on in the mornings when motion is detected from Nana leaving her room.

If the gift recipient already has a Google Nest or an Amazon Echo device, these plugs are compatible with Alexa and Google Home Assistant for voice control, so they can ask Alexa to turn on or off the plug for added convenience.

Review: I got the $3.49 smart plug on Prime Day. Here's how it went

Pros & Cons
  • Easy setup
  • Plays sound or find via app
  • NFC technology
  • Easily scratched
  • No included holder, loop, or keychain
More Details
  • Price: $29
  • Tech specs: IP67 Water and dust resistant | 1.3 x 1.3 x 1 inches | NFC | CR2032 Replaceable battery

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

Why they'll love it

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 so you can easily find it nearby. 

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 of use. 

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

Pros & Cons
  • Easy installation
  • Versatile installation
  • Music synchronization
  • Not waterproof
More Details
  • Price: $20
  • Tech specs: Color changing | 16.4ft | Indoor use | 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection | 150 LED | Music sync

  • Think about the best party host you know. Whether it's your brother, sister, cousin, or friend, these Govee Smart LED strip lights are the perfect present for any avid party host. 

    Why they'll love it

    Sure to set the mood for any occasion, these strip lights are built with 150 LED beads that you can control via the Govee Home mobile app. The self-stick adhesive backing is reinforced with five clips for an easy and secure installation.

    The app lets you choose from over 64 scene effects or create your own, letting you have a thoroughly customizable experience with over 16 million colors. Plus, the device will synchronize to music for the ultimate party-hosting experience.

    These light strips are the perfect addition to your little brother's parties that he always says he's going to invite you to but never does. But it's okay because you still love him, even if he doesn't think you're cool anymore. 

    Also: The best smart lights of 2022

    Pros & Cons
    • Works with HomeKit, Alexa, and Google Home
    • Built-in air quality monitor & smoke alarm
    • Large, bulky-looking display
    • Not the best user experience with the app
    • Some features only available with a subscription
    More Details
    • Price: $250
    • Tech specs: Built-in air quality monitor | 4.09 x 2.9 x 4.09 inches | Bonus Ecobee SmartSensor included | Compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, & Google Home

    I'm not sure how it was in your house, but when I was growing up way back in the day, the single window A/C unit we had was only used on special occasions: Christmas, birthdays, or if one of us kids was sick. Granted, I grew up in a third-world country, but 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. 

    Why they'll love it

    This Ecobee smart thermostat comes with a separate temperature sensor that you can place in another room, and it has a built-in air quality monitor and smoke detector. It's also Energy Star-certified, claiming to save you up to 26% a year in heating and cooling costs with temperature optimization and occupancy sensing. It will even alert you when you need to change your air filters.

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

    Also: Ecobee Smart Thermostat vs Nest Learning Thermostat

    Pros & Cons
    • Floor mapping
    • Self-emptying
    • Powerful suction
    • No object avoidance
    • Basic mopping
    More Details
    • Price: $350
    • Tech specs: 4000Pa | Self-emptying | 180-minute battery run time | No-go zones | 5200mAh battery

    The Dreametech D10 Plus robot vacuum and mop is a self-emptying dream for $350. This is a powerful 4000Pa suction vacuum that connects to Wi-Fi and is controlled via the Mi Home app. 

    Why they'll love it

    Whether you have a clean freak in your life or you are the clean freak, you'll be glad to learn that this robot vacuum also has a mopping feature. Plus, it fully maps its route in your home and comes equipped with strong battery life. However, the powerful suction and self-emptying features take the cake.

    The vacuum cleans your floors and empties its bin into a 2.5-liter dust bag that can hold up to 45 days of dirt and dust from your floors. I don't even want to see what 45 days of dust looks like but, also, I kind of do.

    Review: Dreametech D10 review

    Pros & Cons
    • Turn on devices from your phone
    • Included 3M adhesive
    • Set schedules and automations
    • Needs hub for Wi-Fi capability
    • Doesn't work with toggle light switches
    More Details
  • Price: $29
  • Tech specs: 1.7 x 1.5 x 0.9 inches | Bluetooth | Indoor use | Battery CR2 x 1 3V | Switch Mode/Press Mode

  • 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.

    Why they'll love it

    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: SwitchBot Blind Tilt: The simplest way to automate existing blinds

    Pros & Cons
    • Millions of colors
    • No hub required
    • Dimmable
    • Control from anywhere
    • Large floodlight bulb
    More Details
    • Price: $45 (2-pack)
    • Tech specs: Color changing | 10 watts | Outdoor use | 2.4GHz Wi-Fi connection 

    If your partner, aunt, or uncle loves to go all out on holiday decorations, the GE Cync Outdoor Floodlights are an excellent gift for them. These outdoor smart lights are a perfect replacement for almost any existing outdoor light fixture. After screwing in these bulbs, just set them up with the Cync app to control them from your phone, no matter where you go. They're also compatible with Alexa and Google Home for voice control, no extra hub required.

    Why they'll love it

    The smart bulbs enable you to choose between millions of bright colors to set the party mood. They complement holiday decorations nicely, and there's no need to buy special color light bulbs for every special occasion. Simply schedule the color you want: Orange or purple for Halloween and Red or green for Christmas, for example.

    The millions of bright colors to choose from are sure to set the party mood and work as a complement to any holiday decoration. No need to buy color light bulbs, just set this up and easily set them to turn on with a schedule on the color you want; orange or purple for Halloween, or red or green for Christmas, for example.

    The white tones ranging from 2000K to 7000K make these dimmable 1300 lumens bulbs the perfect outdoor light for the rest of the year. If your gift recipient is a huge fan of holiday decorating, you could also throw a smart outdoor plug into the gift.

    Also: What are the best outdoor security floodlights and are solar ones any good?

    Pros & Cons
    • Reliably responsive
    • Ethernet connection
    • No neutral wire required
    • Wallplate not included
    More Details
    • Price: $100
    • Tech specs: 120 volts | Indoor use | UL listed | Compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, & Ring

    Most couples, families, or groups of friends have a fixer; a husband, dad, cousin, uncle or wife, aunt, or mom who is always tinkering with something and loves to show off all their new gadgets. The one you text when your water heater breaks down.

    This includes the Caseta smart dimmer switch and Pico remote kit, as well as the Lutron Smart Bridge to connect it all to the internet. This dimmer and remote make it so users can keep their existing light bulbs and fixtures and make them smarter from the source: the light switch on the wall. 

    The dimmer replaces an existing light switch with no neutral wire required, making it easy to install in almost any home. 

    Why they'll love it

    This is a highly compatible smart switch, easily controlled through Alexa, Google Home, HomeKit, SmartThings, and Ring, with the included hub. The hub supports up to 75 Lutron switches, so this is the perfect starter kit for a high-quality smart home. 

    It's also not going to overload your Wi-Fi network. If someone ends up adding these smart switches all over their house, each one will connect to the hub, which can simply use an ethernet cable to get online. This is a major difference from individually Wi-Fi-connected smart switches. 

    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
    • Price: $60
    • Tech specs: Tap gestures | Temperature sensor | Eero built-in | Parental controls | 1-yr Amazon Kids+ | 3.9 x 3.9 x 1.7 inches

    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 Dot Kids with parental controls is perfect for that.

    Why they'll love it

    The 5th-generation Echo Dot Kids is a visually attractive speaker, with an Owl or Dragon character on the speaker, and it's the perfect addition to a playroom. Visuals aside, kids will also love Alexa's capabilities. 

    The Echo Dot Kits come 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 Dot 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 20 minutes to read this article, among other ZDNET gift guides.

    Pros & Cons
    • No monthly fees
    • Expandable with more Eufy Security devices
    • All-in-one system
    • Real-time motion alerts on your phone
    • Limited sensor automation
    • Entry sensors are large
    More Details
    • Price: $130
    • Tech specs: Keypad | Motion Sensor | 2 Entry Sensors | HomeBase 2 | 100dB alarm | No monthly fees

    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. 

    Why they'll love it

    This kit doesn't require a monthly subscription and the HomeBase 2 stores video locally in the hub. Plus, users can choose to 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 Edge Security System hands-on: The most advanced security cameras yet?

    The best deals on smart home gifts right now

    Here are some of the best deals on smart home devices happening right now. We'll keep this updated with the latest deals as they come up:

    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're looking for 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 just a few notable brands.
    • Video doorbell: A video doorbell offers security, and also 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 find out 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 is certain to 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.

    How did we choose these smart home gifts?

    I 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 for 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, so we wanted to gather a variety of 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.

    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 that 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 also have the Hue Bridge. Don't give someone a single Philips Hue bulb unless they already have a hub or are planning to buy it.
    • Will they need a subscription to use it? Brands like Ring are notorious for requiring a subscription to unlock its 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 actually use this? If you know someone that's 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 will be able to 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?

    Unsurprisingly, the most popular smart devices are smartphones, followed by tablets and wearables. But 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.

    Editorial standards