It seems like we can talk to just about all the gadgets that cross our desk these days, thanks to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. 2018 is indeed the year of the smart home. Here are some smart gadgets that we reckon will make great gifts this Christmas

Lenovo Smart Display – $299/$399

Smart Home

The smart home started out as audio only. You talk to a smart device and it talks back and does what you want. But this year we saw smart displays introduced. One of the first was the Lenovo Smart Display.

There are two versions – so you have choice in your gift giving. Both the 8-inch and 10.1-inch models sport touch screens. The larger screen runs to 1,920 by 1,200 pixels of resolution. Also included is a ten-watt speaker and a camera. It runs a version of Android called Android Things.

Basically, it can do all the Google Assistant stuff, but adds things like video calling (using Google Duo) and a host of other visual things.

See our review here. We rated it at 4.6/5.

Google Home Hub – $219

Smart home

Naturally, Google has added its own screen-based device to its smart home offerings. The Google Home Hub is surprisingly low in price at only $30 more that the Google Home speakers.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is a Google Android tablet. It is very much designed for purpose: showing things like photos and information screens, but not so good for video given the 1,024- by 600-pixel resolution of the 7-inch display. Like the Google Home, it can support “routines”. Say “Hey Google, good morning” and the recipient of your gift can have his or her routine read out, lights adjusted, smart appliances switched on and so on.

See our review here. We rated it at 4.5/5.

Synology DS418play 4K UHD capable NAS server – less than $700 (plus drives)

Smart Home

A smart home needs storage. We know, all the vendors want you to store everything in the “cloud”. Which is to say, their network storage. That leaves you at the mercy of your internet connection. And of ongoing usage fees.

We have over a terabyte of music alone on our network attached storage – NAS. This Synology device is optimised for media, including 4K UltraHD video. As is the way of the better NAS systems, it comes empty of disc drives. You can add one to four. If you have more than one, then it will use a RAID format. That makes all the drives look like one, spreads the data over them intelligently to increase speed, and has them back each other up in case of failure.

See our review here. We rated it at 4.5/5.

LG WK7 ThinQ Google Assistant speaker – $299

Smart home

Tech companies like Google are behind the smart home ecosystem. But that doesn’t mean that home entertainment specialists shouldn’t get into the act. LG has one of the better sounding Google-Assistant-understanding speakers out there.

In big part, that’s because LG invited Meridian Audio to tune up the speakers. Meridian Audio is a British company known for its high-end gear and technological savvy (it invented the compression technique used by Dolby TrueHD).

So, in addition to being a smart speaker, the LG WK7 ThinQ speaker handles high resolution audio (up to 192kHz sampling). Our reviewer reckeons that “the LG WK7 ThinQ

is the one to buy for the best, easiest listening sound reproduction.”