Smart home gifts for grads

Hard as it might be to believe, another crop of graduates is hitting the streets. If you’ll be celebrating the achievements of one of these newly minted scholars, perhaps the gift of something to make the next phase of their life a little easier might be gratefully received. CNET has chosen four of the best smart-home devices that any grad will love to have.


Amazon Cloud Cam

Product Review:

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The $120 Amazon Cloud Cam’s crisp 1080p HD live feed, prompt motion notifications and free 24-hour clip storage set a new value standard for indoor home security cameras.

The bad: Only Amazon cloud subscribers can set motion zones and receive person alerts. Continuous recording is not available (even for subscribers), and there’s no local microSD card storage.

The cost: $119.99

The bottom line: Amazon’s Cloud Cam is affordable, reliable and easy to use, but it’s the free storage that ultimately makes it more appealing than Nest security cameras and many other home security competitors.


Philips Hue White LED Starter Kit

Product Review:

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The plain, vanilla version of Philips Hue’s smart LEDs don’t change colors, but they do enjoy all of the benefits of Hue’s well-connected platform. They’re also bright, good looking bulbs with easy-to-use smarts, and you can add extras to your setup for just $15 each.

The bad: At $70, the two-bulb starter kit still comes with a fair share of sticker shock.

The cost: $66.59 to $69.95

The bottom line: Philips Hue is one of the best-developed DIY smart-home platforms money can buy, and this white-light starter kit is your most affordable entry point. It’s practically a must-buy if you’re serious about smart lighting.


Google Home Mini

Product Review:

CNET rating: 4 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: The Google Home Mini is a stylish-looking speaker with surprisingly strong sound quality. The Google Assistant is a capable Alexa competitor, especially thanks to its ability to search out detailed answers to a wide variety of questions.

The bad: There isn’t much the Home Mini does that Alexa can’t do, too. It also lacks a line-out jack and requires Chromecast Audio in order to connect with at external speaker setup.

The cost: $49.00

The bottom line: The Google Home Mini is a great device, and a no-brainer for existing Google Home users — but it isn’t the Echo Dot-killer Google probably needs it to be.


TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plug Mini

Product Review:

CNET rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (Very good)

The good: This smart plug keeps other outlets free, works with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa, and offers plenty of scheduling and timing options.

The bad: The TP-Link Kasa Wi-Fi Smart Plug Mini isn’t HomeKit-compatible.

The cost: $23.99 to $34.99

The bottom line: This smart plug is a great option for anyone interested in scheduling, voice commands and remote access to everyday devices up to 1,500 watts.


The following CNET staff contributed to this story: Executive Editor Rich Brown, Senior Associate Editor Ry Crist, Associate Editor Molly Price, Senior Associate Editor Megan Wollerton and Senior Editor Laura K. Cucullu. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit

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