With connected homes and smart TVs being oh-so-popular right now, there’s never been a better Christmas to give a home an ‘Internet of Things’ overhaul.
Whether you’re after a quick stocking filler or something a bit more substantial, there are plenty of connected devices out there that you could put on your shopping list.
That could be the shopping list for gifts you’re going to buy for your friends and family – or for yourself. Hey, charity begins at (the smart) home.
Mini streamers: Now TV Box, Fire TV Box and Chromecast
Costing a tenner the Now TV Box is still one of the best smart TV devices on the market. The tiny white box plugs into any TV via HDMI and delivers premium Sky TV content and things like BBC iPlayer, 4oD, ITV Player and Demand 5 on top of that.
Why invest in a new smart TV with catch up services when you can overhaul an old, dumb TV for just £10?
Alternatively, if you are getting a new smart TV and the old, otherwise perfectly fine panel can go in the spare room, a Now TV Box is a great, cheap way to breathe new life into it.
Show your mum and dad how easy it is to get the best of Sky TV – the latest movies, Premier League football, Game of Thrones – on their old-school TV, without having to sign up to a long-term subscription.
If you’re going to be picking up a new phone this Christmas, either for yourself or someone else, it might be worth investing in a Chromecast (£30) as a nice little stocking filler. Chromecast will turn your phone into a smart TV discovery device, all but replacing your remote control.
If you’re after something with a bit more power, there’s Amazon’s Fire TV box (£69). This lets you buy and rent movies in 1080p Full HD from Amazon, as well as get things like BBC iPlayer, BBC News, BBC Sport, Netflix, TVPlayer and Demand 5.
Subscriptions and vouchers: Netflix, Amazon Prime, Now TV, Blinkbox
If you get a Chromecast, Fire TV or Now TV Box it might be a good idea to get some credit for on demand services.
Unfortunately, you can’t buy Netflix credit for your loved ones right now.
As new customers are charged £5.99/month or £6.99month for HD streaming, you could always set up a standing order and pay this amount into the recipient’s account, once you’ve got them to sign up themselves. Or just give them the cash.
There’s also no way to buy vouchers for Amazon’s Prime Instant Video service, which costs £5.99/month or comes bundled free with Amazon Prime for £79 a year.
You can however buy content on a pay per view basis with Amazon Instant Video – and Amazon Gift Vouchers can be redeemed for this.
Now TV currently doesn’t directly sell vouchers online either, but you could always agree to cough up £6.99/month for Sky Entertainment, £9.99/month for Sky Movies or £10.99/week for Sky Sports.
The only major streaming service that’s actually going to let you buy gift vouchers this Christmas is Blinkbox.
You can get Blinkbox Gift Cards in £5, £10 and £20 flavours online and from selected Tesco stores. These can be easily redeemed online by entering the code on the back.
Smart Lighting: Philips Hue lightbulbs, LIFX Intelligent lightbulb
Nothing says Christmas like a festoonage of red and white flashing lights. Unlike the garish, energy bill denting array you’re likely to set up on the roof, you’ll probably want to keep using your Philips Hue or LIFX Intelligent bulbs all year round.
Not only can you make them display Christmassy colours, you can use a mobile app to bathe your living room in subtle shades of puce, vermilion and chartreuse – or use IFTTT to make the lights flash blue and white whenever Chelsea score.
Philips Hue (£180 for starter pack) is probably the most hyped lighting system for the home. The connected bulbs can be controlled by a smartphone app alongside a bridge, allowing you to create colour scenes in your house using inspiration from a mood or even a picture.
The LIFX Intelligent Lightbulbs (£80 each) are also connected bulbs that don’t need the extra hassle of a bridge to connect. They just slot into an existing light fitting and can be controlled by a smartphone app with each one lasting up to 23 years.
Power Supply: Allocacoc’s USB ‘n mains PowerCube multi-socket adapter
The PowerCube is an interesting variation on the standard multi-adapter – it sports two USB ports as well as two mains sockets.
This lets you charge your MacBook and your phone without having to sacrifice one of the ports on your laptop, and risk launching something annoying like iTunes, Sync Manager or Bridge, at the same time.
A 1.5 metre extension cord and stick-on mount means you can fix this to a specific spot on your desk, drop the mains plug down to the power source on the floor and not have to crawl around whenever you need to unplug something.
You can get PowerCubes from Amazon, Littlewoods and Very now for around £15-£25.
Smart Home Boosters: WiFi range extenders, Ethernet and extra HDMI cable
If you’re going to shell out for some Internet of Things things it might be a good idea to invest in some products that will actually allow them to work.
to become a true reflection of the future, you may find you’ll need to extend the range and power of your home network and the easiest way to do this is via one of the following gadgets:
A WiFi range extender from Devolo (£99) or Netgear (£65) can help drag WiFi signal into those corners of your house where your main wireless router, no matter how assiduously you’ve positioned it, simply can’t reach.
Not only do these boost your WiFi network, but for those devices that required a wired connection, choose one with Ethernet ports too.
Speaking of Ethernet, it might be a good idea to pick up some spare cables for devices that could probably benefit from a dedicated wired connection.
HDMI cables come included with virtually everything these days, but it’s always good to keep a spare. If the trusty bundled one breaks, or simply isn’t long enough if you want to comfortably connect your laptop to your TV, it’s worth getting a spare one.
Whatever you do, don’t get taken in by all the nonsense about gold wiring and ferrite cores. A £2 HDMI cable will be as good as an £8,000 one, if all you want to do is connect set top boxes, laptops and games consoles to TVs and monitors.