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I reviewed a lot of smart technology this year—and the best of what I reviewed made my life more efficient, saved me some money, and relieved anxiety. That’s what good smart tech should do. Surprisingly, however, some of the best finds this year were the least essential—they just quietly made life better. Here are the products I’m still using at the end of the year, long after the review was published.
The Pura Smart Diffuser
One of the most surprising successes I found this year was the smart diffuser from Pura. I’m not even a candle person, and I always found plug-in scents to be aggressive and kind of gross. I certainly couldn’t see how an app would improve the essential oil experience. However, many months after testing the Pura, I use it almost every day and added a second to the house. The ability to adjust how much scent you get, which scent, and when, without getting off the couch, turned out to be the game changer. Non-smart plug-ins mean setting it and forgetting it, so you just got overwhelmed with scent all the time until it ran out and you’d forget to refill it. Choosing from hundreds of premium scents from luxury brands like Brooklyn Candle, Antica Farmacista and Votivo was the hardest part of the process, but each vial lasts me about six weeks (usage will vary), so it turns out to be pretty affordable. I’m such a fan, I’m trying their car diffuser, which six months ago you’d have had to bribe me with migraine medicine to try.
Meross Smart Plugs
Every smart tech company on earth makes smart plugs, and despite every smart product out there, they are the secret cog of most homes, turning basic lights, humidifiers, and coffeemakers into automated machines. Meross smart plugs don’t have the problems others do, like suddenly disconnecting from wifi, or just burning out. I upgraded many of my Meross plugs to the new Matter-enabled version this year, and many months in, they are still humming along. I also tested plugs from four or five other brands; like clockwork, they all failed and were replaced by Meross plugs.
Nanoleaf 4D Screen Mirror + Lightstrip Kit
I doubt I’d have ever sought these out, but as I keep saying, they are my absolute favorite smart item this year. They are not essential. They solve no real “problem.” They’re just good vibes. I’ve not only fleshed out my living room and bedroom with more Nanoleaf lights, I sent kits to all my friends experiencing even a hint of depression and anyone I knew with kids on the autism spectrum, all to huge success. Turn off your overhead lights, turn on the Nanoleafs and adjust the colors or rhythm in the mobile or desktop app. It creates a light aura that reflects onto walls, like the aurora borealis in your room. Shapes like hexagons, squares and lines are touch-sensitive and interactive. There is no mindful app that has made me as peaceful or happy as my Nanoleaf lights.
The Smart Envi Heater
Smart heaters are new to the market, and I happily tested every single one that was on the market by a big brand. While I liked the Dyson Hot+Cool (and it is warming my feet as we speak and will be back come summer to keep me cool), I loved the Smart Envi by eHeat. Put aside that it stays off the floor by mounting its slim profile to the wall: At only 500 watts, it magically (the comment section was feisty on how this was possible) keeps a 200+ sq foot room at temperature without making a sound, where 1500 watt heaters really struggled and cost a bundle. I am eagerly anticipating the release of the larger Smart Envi Max in the next month or two to tackle my living room.
This is less about a particular product (although I still love the original Switchbot bot) but a love letter to the brand, which is evident in every single product. Switchbot hubs, sensors, controllers—heck, even a Switchbot robot I’m currently testing—are all reliable, chonky, small and above all, adorable. Each and everything is thought out, even packaging that is accessible and well-designed. A hub doubles as a temperature and humidity sensor; the curtain controllers come with solar chargers that capture light from the window. The top of the robot vacuum, a place dust and dirt usually collects, comes off entirely, secured by a magnet, so it’s easy to clean. Switchbot devices want to be touched, held, and adored.
Combustion Wireless Thermometer
If you hate standing over the stove or barbecue, as I do, or fret about cooking your meat long enough, a wireless thermometer is going to help you chill out. Of all the wireless probes I tested this year, Combustion came out on top as staying consistently connected to Bluetooth, and making the process of using the thermometer painless. You can even pop it into a sous vide bag. While I’m not letting go of my instant read thermometers, for anything that’s going to sit and cook for a bit, I’ve been using my Combustion. A recent update gives users even more information, easing your mind that food has cooked enough, while not necessarily hitting the high USDA temp ranges that tend to overcook.
With CES around the corner, I’m excited to see what these brands are bringing out this year. The new year promises to be full of new tech to make your home (and everywhere else you go) smarter.