The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Our pick of the smart home success stories of the past year

Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020
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The votes have been cast. The results have been counted. The time has come to announce the winners of the 2020 Ambient Smart Home Awards.

We've spent more hours inside our houses than ever in 2020 and, while that absolutely sucks for obvious reasons, there has never been a better time to get your smart home up and running.

A smart home doesn’t have to mean completely new and crazy gadgets or robots. Often it just means replacing gadgets, appliances and accessories with connected or automated versions of a similar thing.

And, with ever-evolving and quite-frankly-brilliant ecosystems from the likes of Apple, Amazon, Google and SmartThings providing the backbone, it's super simple to get your smart home pimped out with the latest and greatest gear.

Which leads us on nicely to our top smart home picks for 2020...


Smart Home Product of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Apple HomePod Mini

As you'll see as you carrying on reading our award winners, the HomePod Mini didn't pick up the prize for the best speaker and Apple didn't scoop the gong for platform of the year. So, why then, is Apple's 2nd-gen smart speaker our overall smart home product of the year?

Because, at $99 it offers a great sound performance for its diminutive design but, more importantly than that, it's the first smart speaker that signals the dawn of a new smart home era.

It can operate as a HomeKit Hub and, in a major boost for HomeKit users, also packs in a Thread radio. Thread could yet be the single most important wireless protocol for the future of the smart home as it's a major component of Project CHIP.

CHIP, of which the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon are all part of, is an initiative based around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use.

The plan is to make it simpler for brands and manufacturers to build devices that are compatible with the likes Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant.

The HomePod Mini is a fantastic little smart speaker but it's also stolen a march on its rivals with the new connectivity on offer.

Read our full HomePod Mini review to find out more.


Smart Speaker of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Amazon Echo

The HomePod Mini is great sounding for a small size, and Google's Nest Audio also fared well during our testing but it's the 4th-gen Amazon Echo that wins out as our best smart speaker for 2020.

As with all Echos, the main dish on this menu is Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa. With the 4th-gen Echo a new and improved assistant is on board, thanks to Amazon’s first-generation AZ1 Neural Edge processor; all-new silicon that’s purpose-built for accelerating machine learning applications.

In English this means Alexa is about to get a lot snappier. The processor will allow the AI to handle speech requests locally, making its response time much faster.

The Echo 4 also sounds great. It boasts a 3.0-inch woofer and an 0.8-inch tweeter, alongside dual tweeters. This brings stereo sound to the Echo, without the need to pair to a second device (although you can), and it's also enhanced by Dolby processing.

As an overall smart speaker package - coming in at less than $100 don't forget - the Echo 2020 is a worthy winner.

Find out more by reading our Amazon Echo 4th-generation smart speaker review.


Smart Home Platform of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Alexa

In 2020, Alexa and Google Assistant have been trading blows like nobody’s business – but while Google has won some battles, it’s Amazon that won the war this year.

HomeKit is, once again, just behind but the addition of a Thread radio in the HomePod Mini and some great improvements (HomeKit Secure Video and Adaptive Lighting to name a couple) should see Apple's smart home ecosystem being a serious contender in 2021.

But, for overall versatility and ease of use, and for further progressing in its quest for ambient computing, it's Alexa that is once again leaving its rivals behind.

When it comes to fitting into the smart home, Alexa still holds the most power. Features like Guard Plus, Care Hub and Automatic Kids Mode will only make it better in the months ahead, as well.


Home Entertainment Tech of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Sonos Arc

Google TV on the new Chromecast looks great and Roku's new Streambar also deserves an honorable mention but we think that the device most worthy of slotting into your AV cabinet is the Sonos Arc (or on your wall if it's too big for the cabinet).

The Arc is a Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar, designed to bring a taste of object-based home cinema surround-sound without the need for multiple speakers in multiple parts of your room.

It’s simplicity itself to get the Arc onto your home network, and link it to any other Sonos equipment you may have about the place. And if you’ve an iOS device, you can use Sonos’ Trueplay feature to allow the Arc to tune itself to its specific surroundings.

This level of simplicity and common sense as far as set-up and functionality are concerned shouldn’t be understated. It’s a reasonably big part of what put Sonos in its preeminent position in the first place.

Have a browse of our Sonos Arc review to find out more reasons why we think it's top dog.


Smart Lighting Product of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Innr

Hue is still the undisputed king of the smart light landscape but it's Dutch newcomer Innr that has really impressed us during 2020.

Partly because it does a great job of aping Hue - its Zigbee bulbs even work seamlessly with the Hue app - but mainly because its smart lighting range is always expanding with affordable, great, products.

Innr has very cleverly placed itself as a brand that offers a lot of the great features of Hue, at a lower price-point.

This year Innr jumped on the smart filament bulb bandwagon, and now has four different models in its retro lineup; including the awesome, BIG, Vintage Globe bulb.

Read our Innr smart light review to find out why the brand is set to be a household name soon.


Smart Home Security Camera of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Eufy Indoor Cam 2K Pan & Tilt

It's been a great year for smart security cameras. Not only have the big hitters like Arlo, Logitech and Blink all launched new home cams, there has been an absolute avalanche of brilliant budget home security cameras hit the market as well.

And it's a camera from the cheaper end of the market that picks up our award.

Eufy's Indoor Pan & Tilt 2K cam is one of the smartest, most useful indoor cameras we've tested and for the price, it can't be beaten.

It has most of the features we want, including excellent 2K video, superb night vision, 360-degree coverage, and person/pet detection.

Local storage or HomeKit Secure Video means you don't have to pay any monthly fees and its Pet Command feature is fantastic.

Read our Eufy Indoor Cam 2K Pan & Tilt review for more details on why we think it's a top pick.


Home Security Tech of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Abode

Simplisafe is still the brand to beat in terms of smart home security systems but Abode has come on leaps and bounds in 2020.

With Abode, there are no required monthly fees, it's compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT and HomeKit, and there are Z-Wave and Zigbee radios built into the system.

Add in that it’s a top-notch security system with the option of professional monitoring and sleek hardware, and you’ve got a winner.

Its Gateway (2nd gen) will suit most homeowners, whereas apartment dwellers might find the Iota all-in-one a better fit.

Have a look at our Abode review for a lot more details.


Smart Home Innovation of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Philips Hue Play Sync Box

Color-changing smart bulbs are lots of fun, but if we're honest it can be hard to find a really good reason why you have to have them. Signify, makers of the Hue lighting line, has the answer: Surround lighting.

Think surround sound but for your smart lights.

Plug this small, sleek box into your TV, sync it up with your Hue lights and sit back and enjoy the home theater/immersive gaming experience of your dreams as your lights magically sync with everything from Avengers: Endgame to Frozen II.

With Play Sync specific lights such as the Gradient lightstrip also now on offer, it's never been easier to transform your living room into a kaleidoscope of color.

Read our Hue Sync Box review for all the details of how you get this box of tricks into your life.


Smart Home Design of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Control4 Neeo Remote

The Neeo Remote is superb looking piece of kit and is a far, far cry from the SR-260 remote control that Control4 users have been using since 2015.

The machined aluminum finish, that comes in either black or silver, looks incredibly premium and, at just 9.2mm thick, it's also fantastically svelte. It's around 7 inches long and just under 2 inches across.

Its minimalist approach is perfect for modern streaming video and audio apps.

An obvious pick for us for our design award, and a good indicator that Control4 isn't going to sit around while the Alexa and Google-fuelled DIY smart home evolution eats into its established marketplace.

Read our Control4 Neeo Remote review for more info.


Smart Video Doorbell of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Ring Video Doorbell 3 Plus

Once upon a time Ring essentially had the video doorbell market to itself.

But while the likes of Eufy, Nest and Arlo all now have viable alternatives - it's Ring's latest flagship that is our no.1 choice for 2020.

It works superbly well and you won’t have to worry about cables, given that it works via a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. If you do have wires hanging out of your door frame, you can still attach them to ensure you don't have to recharge.

The Ring 3 and Ring 3 Plus keep the 1080p HD live streaming, 160 degree field of view, HDR video, night vision, motion detection, motion and privacy zones, and two-way audio of the Ring 2 and add support for 5GHz Wi-Fi, an extra motion detection zone, pre-roll footage from before the button is pushed and an optional new solar charger.

Here's our Ring Video Doorbell 3 review.


Robot Vacuum Cleaner of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Roborock S6 Pure

Choosing the top robot vacuum cleaner for 2020 was a tough ask. But it was only really tough deciding between the various different Roborock models that have gone live this year.

The company may only be six years old, but it already offers the smartest and most p>erse range of robotic vacuums on the market, complete with features that set it apart from rivals and allow it to easily navigate around the home.

There is no robo-vac brand that comes close to Roborock in terms of navigating a room.

We've gone for the S6 Pure as our award winner. The S6 MaxV is more feature packed and the S5 Max is a better mopper but, pound-for-pound it's the Pure that wins out.

Find out why in our comprehensive S6 Pure review.


Smart Energy Product of the Year

The Ambient Smart Home Awards 2020: The big winners revealed

Tado

When it comes to smart heating in 2020, there's much more to it than a smart looking thermostat that talks wirelessly to your boiler.

Tado's system does that, of course, but it also offers much more.

Combining Tado's Smart Thermostat, Bridge, Extension Kit and multiple Smart Radiator Thermostats into a whole-home, multi-zone, heating system is pretty much the pinnacle of DIY smart heating solutions right now.

The devices themselves look slick and are simple to install, the app is feature packed and easy to use, and the control methods - including smart home digital assistant compatibility - are plentiful.

The system got even better this year as a result of the Smart Thermostat V3+ and the new Wireless Temperature Sensors going live.

Read our Tado smart heating system to learn more.

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