If you've already started connecting the various devices and fixtures around your home - perhaps more of you are thinking about this now that many of us are quarantined - you'll know that there are a lot of ways to tackle the problem. You might just want one device to solve a particular issue, like a smart plug to put a lamp on a regular schedule. You might also be invested in an Amazon Alexa- or Google Assistant-powered smart speaker, or even Siri and Apple HomeKit smart home service.
Our list focuses narrowly on the best product in each smart home subcategory. If you want to know the best smart thermostat or the best smart lighting kit, regardless of which voice platforms it works with, we have you covered.
Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera
CNET TAKE: Our favorite all-around security camera maker released its Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera (https://www.cnet.com/reviews/arlo-pro-3-floodlight-camera-review/#ftag=CAD187281f) this spring that's also a best-in-class product. It has all of the things we like about the Arlo camera line in general - long-lasting battery, a sharp HD video feed, mounting hardware that's both flexible and easy to install, and compatibility with all three major voice platforms. Along with all of that, Arlo has added the most powerful array of LED lighting in its category, leaving competing products from Ring and others in the darkness. The 2,000-lumen light (3,000 if you add the optional Outdoor Charging Cable) will light up your entire backyard if you want that kind of power. It's also dimmable, which is useful if you still want your neighbors to like you.
Google Nest Mini
CNET TAKE: Google's new Nest Mini smart speaker (https://www.cnet.com/reviews/google-nest-mini-review/#ftag=CAD187281f) improves on its predecessor, the Google Home Mini, in a few ways.
Google improved the audio quality in the Nest Mini, giving its bass output more oomph. It also added a wall mounting notch to the underside it, if that's what you're into. An interesting new presence detection method that uses the speaker and microphone to determine your proximity to the Nest Mini helps it trigger LED indicators that help you make better sense of the otherwise obscured physical volume controls.
That's all fine, but the thing that puts the Nest Mini over the top is the machine learning chip embedded inside the tiny speaker. With that chip, Google says the Nest Mini can learn what commands you give to it most often, and it will then begin to process those commands locally, rather than on Google's servers.