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These Are Our Favorite Robot Vacuums

These Are Our Favorite Robot Vacuums

In the past few years, no product I’ve tested has advanced as quickly as the humble robot vacuum. Where once they ping-ponged randomly around your kitchen, you can now find robot vacs at every price point with an incredible array of features, including mapping capabilities, self-emptying bins, and even cameras. 

Vacuuming an ever-changing household is a complicated task, and no robot vacuum is perfect. However, I test them in one of the most challenging environments possible—a carpeted, two-story family home with messy kids and a shedding dog—and personally, I find them indispensable. Whether you’re drowning in cat hair, need to lighten your chore load, or just want to spend more time with your family, we have a pick that will help. 

Looking for other handy home items? Be sure to check out our other buying guides, including the Best Air Purifiers and the Best Pots and Pans.

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Updated May 2022: We’ve added new picks, such as the Roborock Q5+, and cut a few older units. 

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Breathe Easy—We Found the Best Air Purifiers

Breathe Easy—We Found the Best Air Purifiers

Welcome to the future, where clean air is a luxury. From pandemics to wildfires, air purifiers have become the gotta-have-it home appliance. Buildings let in a lot of particulate matter, volatile organic compounds, and vaporous chemicals. Indoor plastics, furniture, paint, and flooring off-gas noxious fumes too. There’s also evidence that air filters can help clean Covid-causing virus particles from the air. 

Since your home might be your workplace, playground, meditation studio, dine-in restaurant, neighborhood bar, refuge, and movie theater, you want to ensure that the air you’re breathing for most of the day is clean. These are our top air purifiers. We ran them in a New York City apartment, a Long Island apartment, a Dallas-area apartment, and a Portland, Oregon home. We tested them during wildfire season and in living rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms. All of these purifiers provided significant anecdotal benefits, from stopping persistent coughs and allergy symptoms, to helping us wake up with clearer sinuses and less raspy throats.

Not sure if you need an air purifier or something else? We have a guide to all the different devices that can help you improve your indoor air quality. For more home tips, take a peek at our other guides, including the Best Robot Vacuums and the Best Mesh Wi-Fi Routers. 

Updated May 2022: We’ve added the Bissell Air320 Max and Aura Air, and removed the Dyson Pure Humidify+Cool, as it’s been discontinued. 

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The Best Electric Toothbrushes for Your Pearly Whites

The Best Electric Toothbrushes for Your Pearly Whites

It’s time I came clean: I hate brushing my teeth. I do it because I have to, but it’s a time-consuming, uncomfortable process—two minutes standing in front of the mirror can feel like an eternity. My dentist says I brush too harshly as well. And don’t even get me started on flossing.

Electric toothbrushes make the whole experience easier. Their vibrations and oscillations can more effectively get rid of plaque on your teeth and gums, and most brush models have a timer that encourages you to brush for the full two minutes. We’ve tested several types, from basic models to the fancy ones with oscillating brushes and everything in between. We found that a good brush doesn’t need to cost you more than a few Hamiltons. Listed below are the best electric toothbrushes you can buy. We also have eco-friendly nonelectric options if you don’t want to own yet another device that you have to recharge.

Christopher Null’s reporting contributed to this guide.

Updated April 2022: We’ve added Izzo’s Oral Care Kit and Oclean’s X Pro Elite to our Honorable Mentions. We’ve also added more information on alternative brushes, including a new recommendation, SymplBrush.

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What’s the Matter? We Explain the New Smart Home Standard

What’s the Matter? We Explain the New Smart Home Standard

The ideal smart home seamlessly anticipates your needs and instantly responds to commands. You shouldn’t have to open a specific app for each appliance or remember the precise voice command and voice assistant combination that starts the latest episode of your favorite podcast on the nearest speaker. Competing smart home standards make operating your devices needlessly complicated. It’s just not very … well, smart.

Tech giants try to straddle standards by offering their voice assistants as a controlling layer on top, but Alexa can’t talk to Google Assistant or Siri or control Google or Apple devices, and vice versa. And so far, no single ecosystem has created all the best devices. But that may be changing. Formerly called Project CHIP (Connected Home over IP), the open source interoperability standard known as Matter will finally launch later this year. Some of the biggest tech names have signed on, like Amazon, Apple, and Google, which means that seamless integration may finally be within reach.

You may also want to read our guides to the Best Smart Speakers  or the Best Smart Lights, and our guide to setting up your smart home.

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Table of Contents

What Is Matter?

Matter promises to enable different devices and ecosystems to play nicely. Device manufacturers will comply to the Matter standard to ensure their devices are compatible with smart home and voice services such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google’s Assistant, and others. For folks building a smart home, Matter should enable you to buy any device and use the voice assistant or platform you prefer to control it.

The first protocol will run on Wi-Fi and Thread network layers and use Bluetooth Low Energy for device setup. While it will support various platforms, you will have to choose the voice assistants and apps you want to use. There is no central Matter app or assistant.

What Makes Matter Different?

The Connectivity Standards Alliance (or CSA, formerly the Zigbee Alliance) maintains the Matter standard. What sets it apart is the breadth of its membership, the willingness to adopt and merge disparate technologies, and that it is an open source project. When the software development kit is ready, interested companies can use it royalty-free to incorporate their devices into the Matter ecosystem.

Growing out of the Zigbee Alliance gives Matter a firm foundation. Bringing the main smart home platforms (Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Home, and Samsung SmartThings) to the same table is an achievement. While it is optimistic to imagine a seamless adoption of Matter across the board, it has enjoyed a rush of enthusiasm with a wave of smart home brands signing up, including August, Schlage, and Yale in smart locks; Belkin, Cync, GE Lighting, Sengled, Signify (Philips Hue), and Nanoleaf in smart lighting; and others like Arlo, Comcast, Eve, and LG. There are more than 240 member companies in all.

When Will Matter Arrive?

Matter has been in the works for years. The first release was due in late 2020, but it was delayed to the following year, rebranded as Matter, and then touted for this summer. Now it has been delayed again until the fall. There’s always a chance of further delays.

The CSA says the latest delay was to accommodate more devices and platforms and ensure they all will work smoothly with one another before release. More than 130 devices and sensors across 16 development platforms (OS’s and chipsets) are working through certification, and there will be more come the fall.

If the specification does arrive this fall, more companies can apply for Matter certification, and we could see the second wave of smart locks, smart bulbs, and security sensors in time for the holidays. Assuming the release goes well, we expect several other smart home brands to climb aboard.

What About Other Smart Home Standards?

The road to smart home nirvana is paved with different standards, like Zigbee, Z-Wave, Samsung SmartThings, Wi-Fi HaLow, and Insteon, to name a few. These protocols and others will continue to exist and operate. Google will merge its Thread and Weave technologies into Matter. The new standard also employs Wi-Fi and Ethernet standards and uses Bluetooth LE for device setup.

Matter is not a single technology and should evolve and improve over time. It won’t cover every possible use case for every device and scenario, so other standards will continue to develop. The more platforms and standards merge with Matter, the greater its potential to succeed, but the challenge of making it all work seamlessly also grows.

Will Matter Work With Existing Devices?

Some devices will work with Matter after a firmware update. Others won’t ever be compatible. There’s no simple answer here. While many devices that currently work with Thread, Z-Wave, or Zigbee should be able to work with Matter, it’s not a given that they will get upgrades. It is best to check in with manufacturers about specific devices and future support.

The first specification, or Matter 1.0, covers only certain categories of devices, like:

The Best Smart Bulbs to Light Up Your Room

The Best Smart Bulbs to Light Up Your Room

Remember the allure of the Clapper? No more getting out of bed to hit the light switch! It seemed cutting edge at one time, and you can still buy it, but technology has come a long way since then. Now you can control the lights, set timers and schedules, and change colors with your smartphone or your voice if you have a smart assistant—no clapping required.

If you want to make your home just a little smarter, smart bulbs are a great place to start. Most options are relatively cheap, and they’re easy to install. Plus, there are no cameras or door locks for someone to hack into, and no wiring to mess with. If you decide to smarten up your home even more, most of these brands have a list of other products too.

Do you want to try voice controls? Consider getting a smart speaker or smart display. But you can always use the bulb’s app.

Updated February 2022: We’ve added the Govee Lyra smart lamp and Sengled’s classic bulbs to this guide. We’ve also updated prices throughout.

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