The smart home and IoT categories have expanded considerably in 2021, and now include entertainment, health, home cleaning, and personal device security and tracking. Read on for our list of the top smart home and IoT gadgets of 2021.
Best premium smart display and speaker: Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen)
With an interesting 10-inch screen that can follow your gaze, and a loud speaker system, the Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) is the most impressive smart display and speaker we’ve seen this year. Powered by the ever-improving Alexa, the Echo Show 10 can do a lot using voice commands, including play video and music from supported streaming services, control your IoT devices, and even work as a digital photo frame and display general information when idle.
The Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen) is expensive, and sound quality didn’t quite match up to expectations at this price. However, the excellent camera and microphone capabilities, the many Alexa-based features that come with it, and the unique motion-tracking feature which can track your face as you move around the room, make this a smart home device like no other.
Best affordable smart speaker: Lenovo Smart Clock Essential
While the Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is sort of a smart display, the screen is only used to show the time and some other basic information such as the weather. However, what makes it unique is that it’s a full-fledged smart speaker, with access to Google Assistant and the ability to play music through voice commands. Interestingly, it also has a small but very useful night light, making this the ideal device for your bedside table.
Sound and microphone quality aren’t very good, and this is a device best used from up close, but you can use it to play soft music or other audio content by your bedside, or even control your IoT devices through voice commands. It’s reasonably priced and looks good too, making this our top pick among affordable smart speakers in 2021.
Best robot vacuum cleaner: 360 S7
Although not launched in 2021, we did review this excellent robot vacuum cleaner this year. Among all of the devices we’ve reviewed, the 360 S7 stands out as the best for a number of reasons. With good cleaning capabilities, a stable and very useful app, quick and accurate navigation, and decent battery life, this device outperforms its rivals in the segment priced at under Rs. 30,000.
Although it was priced higher when we reviewed the 360 S7, it’s now a bit more affordable and much better value for money. Like all robot vacuum cleaners, it requires frequent maintenance, and the mop reservoir is small and doesn’t hold too much water. However, on the whole, it’s a reliable robot vacuum cleaner that truly puts its app and connectivity features to good use.
Buy: 360 S7
Best smart air purifier: Dyson Purifier Cool
Increasing pollution levels in urban areas across India has made air purifiers a popular home gadget, and many of the mainstream options today are connected devices that can be controlled using an app. Our top pick in this category for 2021 is the Dyson Purifier Cool, which looks great, and offers impressive air purification and fan-based cooling. Thanks to the Dyson Link app, you can control the air purifier and view air quality statistics from anywhere, once your purifier is connected to your home Wi-Fi.
Although expensive, the Dyson Purifier Cool is among the most impressive premium air purifiers you can buy in India right now, and its connected functionality works well on its own or with supported voice assistants such as Google Assistant and Alexa. At low fan speeds, it runs quietly, making this air purifier ideal for your home.
Buy: Dyson Purifier Cool
Best crossover smart home device: Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen)
The Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) is primarily a streaming device, but the thing that makes it special enough to include in this list is that it’s also a smart speaker of sorts. With hands-free Alexa capabilities and a small speaker system that lets Alexa give you spoken responses, you can use the Fire TV Cube as a hands-free smart home controller. Of course, you can also use Alexa to fetch specific content on the streaming device through voice commands.
This isn’t a smart speaker in the complete sense, since the in-built speaker can’t be used to stream audio content. However, it will play music on the connected television or home-theatre system. That said, the ability to have two key functions in a single, compact form factor makes the Amazon Fire TV Cube (2nd Gen) our favourite crossover smart home device of 2021.
Best personal tracking device: Apple AirTag
The Apple AirTag is small, needs an iOS device to setup and work with and is really meant to do absolutely nothing once you’ve set it up and have attached it to a personal item. However, this is what makes it so interesting, since it helps you keep track of and find personal items such as a wallet, keys, or backpack. It runs on the widely available CR2032 battery which is user replaceable, and works with the Find My app on iOS.
It’s expensive and functionality is limited to the Apple ecosystem, but the AirTag is a useful tool to have if you tend to misplace your personal belongings often. Unlike most IoT products that work with Wi-Fi, the AirTag uses Bluetooth to communicate with other devices, but can interestingly use any connected iOS device to help broadcast its location with reasonable accuracy, earning its place on our list.
Buy: Apple AirTag