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CNET: Great gadgets that can smarten up a dumb dorm room

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Aug. 13-- Bad news, if you're starting college soon: your dorm room is likely to be a cramped, plain-looking pill box of a bedroom. But you can do something about that. Smarten the place up with connected devices that can help make things more comfortable and convenient. These are four of CNET's top picks for devices to make your dorm experience much more civilized.

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Amazon Echo Dot (2018)

CNET rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (Outstanding)

The good: The new Echo Dot looks and sounds better than ever, and now you can pair two together for stereo audio. The ongoing space race between Alexa and Google Assistant means it'll keep getting a steady stream of new features. Best of all: It's still just $50.

The bad: It doesn't come in any fun colors like the Home Mini does, and it doesn't feature any new hardware tricks, either. Aside from the new look and the stronger sound, it's just the same Dot as before.

The cost: $49.99

The bottom line: This is the best Dot yet at the same irresistible price-but it will do little to slow Google's growing momentum.

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Lenovo Smart Display 10

CNET rating: 4.5 stars out of 5 (Outstanding)

The good: The Lenovo Smart Display is a great kitchen assistant with an elegant design and a high-resolution touchscreen. It multitasks well, responds quickly to both touch and voice commands and offers a rich, personalized home screen and a customizable ambient mode.

The bad: I'd like the screen to do more when you play games or listen to music. You're limited to Google Duo for making voice calls. Scrolling through content with your voice can be tedious.

The cost: $199.00 to $249.99

The bottom line: If you'd like visual recipe help in the kitchen, the Lenovo Smart Display performs that task exceedingly well and everything else well enough that it deserves your consideration.

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Belkin WeMo Mini Wi-Fi Smart Plug

CNET rating: 4.0 stars out of 5 (Excellent)

The good: At $30 (or less), the new WeMo Mini is competitively priced, and the smaller design won't block adjacent outlets. Native compatibility with IFTTT, Google Home, Apple HomeKit and Amazon's Alexa make it one of the most well-connected smart plugs you can buy.

The bad: The WeMo Mini won't track energy usage like other smart plugs will. And, though you probably won't use it very much, the WeMo app is sluggish and glitchy at times.

The cost: $29.99

The bottom line: There's plenty of new competition out there, but the WeMo Mini is still one of the easiest smart home gadgets for us to recommend.

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Lenovo Smart Clock

CNET rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 (Very good)

The good: The Lenovo Smart Clock is an affordable and attractive way to put Google Assistant on your nightstand. You can choose from a variety of clock faces, and the alarms are highly customizable. The sunrise alarm feature is particularly neat.

The bad: The touchscreen is much more limited than other smart displays-you can't watch videos, access a smart home control panel, look at pictures or use the touchscreen for anything beyond a few prescribed functions. At night, the clock doesn't hit the right balance of visibility and minimal glow.

The cost: $79.99

The bottom line: While not perfect at any one task, the Lenovo Smart Clock does a lot of things well enough to be a helpful addition to your nightstand.

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The following CNET staff contributed to this story: Senior Editor Ry Crist, Senior Associate Editor Andrew Gebhart and Senior Editor Laura K. Cucullu. For more reviews of personal technology products, please visit www.cnet.com.

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