All signs are pointing to 2020 being a huge year for the smart home, so we’re here to be the very first to shout about the SMART man cave! In this post you'll find a summary of the very best voice-controlled speakers to help you decide which one is right for you, as well as the top 3 essential accessories to go with it...
But first off, let's start with a little bit of simple jargon busting (we know how complicated it can all get out there).
We all know about things like superfast broadband, and wi-fi has been around for years. A smart home (or smart man cave…) is simply a home that takes advantages of these technologies to connect multiple devices together that can communicate with each other.
But why are we only talking about these things now whilst the technology has been around for years? In a nutshell, over the last few years it’s become easier than ever before to connect these devices because broadband is faster, more reliable and cheaper, and wi-fi has better coverage than ever before. It’s as simple as that. Nothing new, just a bit more mass-market.
Smart home devices:
Computers, games consoles and smart TVs have been around for years – these were the first smart home devices. They’re simply gadgets or appliances that are able to communicate through broadband or wi-fi. But more recently (and this is where it gets interesting…) these have included things like kettles, fridges, security cameras, light bulbs and pretty much anything you can imagine.
You might have heard the phrase home automation before and (like me) wondered how that’s different to the smart home. Well, the truth is they’re not that different… other than the fact that home automation paved the way for the smart home, it refers to the technology that makes the smart home possible, and so the term smart home is just a bit broader than home automation. It includes things like providing remote healthcare or managing security (which home automation was never really about).
Now hopefully that makes things a little clearer! And now for the exciting part, what does this all mean for the future of the SMART home?... Well here are some of the absolute essentials to get you started on your way to the ultimate SMART home (slash man cave).
The best voice controlled smart speaker for you
Your first voice controlled speaker is an investment for sure! Anyone that’s anyone is working tirelessly to develop products that will connect to your Google Home or Amazon Echo, just like the recipe-kit company Gousto with their Alexa app for even easier to follow recipes. This is all to create an effortless customer experience for you at home, so it’s important to think carefully about which voice controlled speaker to go for…
Luckily, to help you make the best decision for you, we’ve boiled it all down to 2 simple questions:
1. Are you already an Amazon Prime user?
2. How often do you wish you could play the same song at the same time in all rooms of your house?
Ok, we get it, slight oversimplification. But the reality is if you’re a regular Amazon Prime user you simply must go for Amazon Echo - there’s something brilliant about being able to order a new pack of toilet roll or washing up liquid just using your voice... But that’s not the only reason to opt for Amazon Echo, it has a depth of capabilities that Google Home simply can’t compete with just yet, as well as better sound quality for playing music. You can also take advantage of Amazon ‘skills’, that unlock capabilities like reading recipes to ordering an Uber.
The other question to answer that could (who knows) just sway you to Google Home, is how much of a big deal to you is playing music in multiple rooms? The big benefit of Home is that it can act as a controller for Chromecast Audio, the key to that multi-room audio system you’ve always longed for... And in layman’s terms, that means you can play the same song in multiple rooms all around the house, just using your voice… pretty cool eh? Also good to note is that Google has a better search feature - you can ask two commands at once for example, and of course, you can also link it up to your other Google accounts, so setting yourself up with calendar reminders is incredibly simple with Home.
And not to forget! Each have their own budget versions - Amazon Echo Dot, and Google Nest Mini - with similar functionality at a fraction of the cost, but with voice controlled speakers looking set to be a vital part of every home it seems to make sense to go for the real deal.
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Essential accessories for your voice controlled smart speaker
If Amazon Echo is your choice for voice controlled speaker, a great way to smarten up that man cave even further is by getting your hands on the latest Fire TV with Alexa voice remote. As well as brilliant picture and sound quality with access to vivid 4k Ultra HD, the Alexa voice remote pendant means you can use your voice to search content on the Fire TV as well as many other smart home devices. All in all, a great accessory to the Amazon Echo worthy of any man cave.
Now here’s a super simple addition to your smart home set up that you can get up and running in seconds, and takes advantage of the tech you’ll probably already have anyway. Google Chromecast let’s you play videos, films, games, music and to be honest, anything really, from your phone, tablet or laptop straight onto your tv with the click of a button. All you need is a wi-fi connection, an HDMI port on your TV, and a phone or tablet you want to cast from. No need to huddle round a little laptop or pass round a video on a phone again… just cast it! What’s more, there’s no extra remotes involved (one less thing to lose down the back of the sofa) as everything is controlled from your existing devices. Plug in and you’ll be up and running in seconds.
And if you fancy a step up from the regular Google Chromecast, you can always opt for the Google Chromecast Ultra! The big difference here is that it let’s you stream 4K Ultra HD and HDR content. Don’t mind if I do… Only thing to note here is that your internet needs to be fast in the first place otherwise you won’t get the benefit. If you already have a 4K or HDR TV, the Google Chromecast Ultra makes a lot of sense.
For all you lovers of quality sound, the SONOS Play:1 is a brilliant choice to finish off your smart home set up, and in SONOS’ own words, it’s the ‘mini home speaker with mighty sound’, and we couldn’t agree more… You can connect it up to both Amazon Echo and Echo Dot, streaming via wi-fi, and the only other thing to do is request the music you love. With its small size, it can fit pretty much anywhere in your man cave, even straight on a wall or up on a stand, and all at a great price for a top quality brand.
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