85 cool gadgets: Our pick of the best new tech for 2021
We all love the arrival of a new gadget, something that will make life more convenient and entertaining for yourself, or help you out with a clever gift idea for a family or friend. That’s why we’ve put together some of the most interesting and innovative bits of tech out there right now in our list of the coolest, new gadgets we think you’ll love.
If you want to boost your listening experience with the latest speakers and headphones, ramp up your fitness with the newest watches and hi-tech trainers, max out your home entertainment experience or just explore what else is out there, we’ve got you covered.
Make sure to check back regularly for all the latest gadgets.
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- 1 Nothing Ear
- 2 Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3
- 3 DAB Motors Concept-E
- 4 Sony HT-A9
- 5 Zephyr PRO RGB sweat-proof gaming mouse
- 6 SRS-NB10 Wireless Neckband Speaker
- 7 FLEXOUND Pulse™
- 8 NightWatch Magnifying Clock Dock for Apple Watch
- 9 Symfonisk Picture Frame Wi-Fi Speaker
- 10 LG Signature OLED R
- 11 Gigabyte Aorus 17G
- 12 Meeting Owl Pro
- 13 A500 Mini
- 14 Furbo Dog Camera
- 15 Fujifilm Instax mini Mobile Photo Printer
- 16 Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook
- 17 Pure Flux One e-bike
- 18 JBL L52 Classic Speakers
- 19 Samsung Odyssey Neo G9
- 20 KODAK Luma 150 Pocket Projector
- 21 Grado SR80x headphones
- 22 Le Feu bioethanol fireplace
- 23 Syng Cell Alpha speaker
- 24 Biolite FirePit+
- 25 Wyze Night Light
- 26 Belkin magnetic phone mount with face-tracking
- 27 MyZone MZ-Switch heart rate monitor
- 28 Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition
- 29 Apple iMac 24-inch
- 30 Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 camera
- 31 Signia Active hearing aids
- 32 TrinoXO Tee
- 33 DJI FPV drone
- 34 Simba Hybrid Luxe Mattress
- 35 PS5 VR controller
- 36 Beosound Emerge smart speaker
- 37 Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool Formaldehyde
- 38 Sony FX3
- 39 Gouthwaite Backpack 23L
- 40 Xbox wireless headset
- 41 Gadget Discovery Club tech subscription box
- 42 Transparent speakers
- 43 Xiaomi Mi Air Charge
- 44 POC Omne Eternal
- 45 Helly Hansen Odin Minimalist Infinity jacket
- 46 Carol exercise bike
- 47 Vaonis Vespera smart telescope
- 48 Sonos Arc soundbar
- 49 Dyson Corrale hair straightener
- 50 Samsung Smart Monitor M7 series
- 51 Grado GT220 wireless earbuds
- 52 Withing ScanWatch
- 53 Balmuda The Toaster
- 54 Apple Watch 6
- 55 Harman Kardon Aura Studio 3 Bluetooth speaker
- 56 Oral B IO toothbrush
- 57 Philips 558M1RY display
- 58 Superstrata bike
- 59 LG OLED 48CX display
- 60 Naim Mu-so for Bentley Special Edition Wireless Speaker System
- 61 Apple AirPods Pro
- 62 Arlo video doorbell
- 63 Moto 360 smartwatch
- 64 EZVIZ C3N Outdoor Smart Wi-Fi Camera
- 65 NowLight self-powered lamp
- 66 HELM Audio BOLT DAC/AMP
- 67 NuraLoop headphones
- 68 Samsung Odyssey G9 gaming monitor
- 69 Flare Calmer
- 70 HyperX wireless gaming setup
- 71 Ember Mug2 and Travel Mug²
- 72 Creative SXFI THEATRE headphones
- 73 WAKEcup self-cleaning water bottle
- 74 Yoto Player interactive audio player
- 75 Theragun Prime massage gun
- 76 Cowboy 3 electric bike
- 77 Asus Chromebook Flip C436
- 78 Logitech G915 TKL gaming keyboard
- 79 MiniBrew CRAFT home brewing kit
- 80 Allbirds Dasher
- 81 Trust GXT 258 Fyru streaming microphone
- 82 SNOO Smart Sleeper
- 83 Ultion SMART lock
- 84 Dyson Lightcycle Morph
- 85 Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%
- 86 Looking for even more cool gadgets?
These new wireless earbuds are the most hyped new product in tech right now. Backed by the likes of Tony Fadell, who invented the iPod, and Casey Neistat, one of YouTube’s most revered vloggers, there’s a huge amount of buzz surrounding this product that aims to bring premium audio performance at a wallet-friendly price bracket. It’s something that the company’s CEO Carl Pei had a track record for at his previous mobile phone company, OnePlus, which specialised in unfussy smartphones with powerful chipsets.
We can’t vouch for the sound yet, but we love the design and retro-futurism aesthetic. For the price, there’s an impressive set of features, including variable levels of noise cancellation, water- and splash-resistance and customisable gesture controls on the earbuds themselves.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3
This is the first foldable phone that might be worth a go. The first few iterations of foldables were marred with reliability issues and huge price tags. However at £949, this phone is likely to cost as much on contract as the latest Apple or Google devices. There’s no sacrificing on processing power or features to make the phone work at this price either: the Flip3 comes with an octa-core processor inside, plenty of RAM and a 120Hz display. Plus it’s waterproof.
Folding the phone will split the display in two, so you can, for example, sit the phone on the table to watch videos. There’s also a small screen on the back so that you can see notifications when your phone is shut. We’d give it a few months to see if anyone reports any hardware issues with the screen, but we personally can’t wait to see what they do with foldable tablets next…
DAB Motors Concept-E
As city centres start to kick out fossil-fuel burning vehicles to reduce air pollution, electric bikes increasingly look like the best commuter option for those of us who don’t want to slip into some Lycra. Plus, would you look at this bike! The DAB Concept-E is the electric equivalent of a 125cc motorbike, which you can ride after a few hours of training and a thorough read of the Highway Code. The bike is reported to have a range of about 112km (70 miles) and it tops out at 104km/h (65mph). Sadly, it’s just a concept right now, with no price, but this is one of a new wave of very cool looking e-bikes on the way.
Sony’s new speaker system is designed for those that want to get serious home cinema surround sound, without having to spend time and effort draping wires around your living room. The HT-A9 system is essentially a set of four wireless speakers that talk to a control box plugged directly into your TV. You just place the four speakers around you, and let the setup – which echolocates each speaker – calibrate to you and your living room. Each device has a tweeter, a sub and an upfiring speaker to power the full Dolby Atmos experience. Pair these with a Sony TV and the system will also use your TV’s speakers to add to the sound.
Zephyr PRO RGB sweat-proof gaming mouse
If you’ve ever played an online game, whether that’s Fortnite, Call Of Duty or Apex Legends, then you’ll have experienced the sweaty palms that come with going toe-to-toe with a cocky 12-year-old shouting abuse at you over the voice comms. Short of keeping a chalk dish and a chamois cloth beside your console, there’s not a lot you could do about it… until now. This gaming mouse houses a tiny fan that blows cool air onto your palms through its honeycomb outer shell while you play. The rest of the mouse hardware uses the latest, most accurate sensors to keep your inputs sharp as well as dry.
SRS-NB10 Wireless Neckband Speaker
What if putting on music didn’t have to mean shutting yourself off from the world? Sony’s new Neckband speaker gives your ears a rest and sits on your shoulders, firing your audio towards your ears in a focused beam. There’s a built-in microphone and Bluetooth connectivity, which means you can take calls or listen to music up to 30m away from your computer – no more excusing yourself from a meeting to make a cup of tea.
You also needn’t worry about disturbing your partner or housemates, as Sony claims the upward angle of the full-range speaker optimises sound for your ears only, though we’d have to test that one for ourselves to believe it! Weighing only 113g, the neckband is light and comfortable. Take your pick from charcoal grey or pristine white. Can we see it in rose gold?
The new FLEXOUND Pulse chair brings a whole new sense to your cinema experience: touch. The latest horror movie could literally shake you to your core, while the orchestral opening of the next Marvel film will make the hairs stand up on your neck. Instead of a loudspeaker blaring a film’s audio at you, the Pulse uses speakers built into the chair to deliver sound that you can feel. The system offers all the intense sound you’d expect in a cinema, except now you can also feel frequencies of up to 1,000Hz on your skin.
Currently, the chair concept is only available for cinemas, but it’s ready to be licensed to a furniture manufacturer willing to put their body where the sound is. FLEXOUND even mentions a future with car brands, creating personal ‘sound zones’ for every passenger or making quiet electric vehicles sound like they have eight-cylinder engines.
NightWatch Magnifying Clock Dock for Apple Watch
Not all tech needs to come with wires and buttons. This NightWatch orb magnifies an Apple Watch’s display to effectively turn it into an alarm clock for your bedside table. There’s a slot in the back that holds the watch’s MagSafe charger, and tapping the surface of the orb will wake up the watch screen so you can see the time. Plus, the shape of the NightWatch amplifies sound to transform your watch into an effective alarm clock.
Symfonisk Picture Frame Wi-Fi Speaker
We’re rather besotted with these unconventional Wi-Fi speakers borne out of a collaboration between Sonos and Ikea. The flat panel speaker is about as thick as a flatscreen TV and can be mounted flush against a wall or stood up on a shelf using the kickstand. Ikea offers interchangeable front panels so you can shake things up when you tire of its looks.
There are controls on the side but the speakers also work with Sonos’s S2 app, which means you can send music seamlessly to different parts of your home, and access the full range of streaming services that plug into it.
LG Signature OLED R
When you turn this TV off, the display just rolls itself up, and tucks into the small speaker cabinet below. Alternatively in ‘Line View’ mode, it shrinks down to about a fifth of its height to work as a display for the integrated sound bar. It’s an achingly cool party trick that’s made possible by OLED technology. This kind of display doesn’t require backlights – the OLED crystals generate their own light when a current is passed through them. This means they can, if manufactured in a certain way, be built into flexible screens.
We’ve seen demos of this bendable screen technology for a couple of years now, but manufacturing is still fairly expensive and hard to perfect, which goes some way to explaining why you’ll have to cough up a house deposit to own one of these TVs…
Gigabyte Aorus 17G
Most gaming laptops wouldn’t look out of place in a steampunk rave with all the extra wings, gubbins and lights that get bolted on to the design, which is why this understated powerhouse from Gigabyte appeals to us. It’s a punchy computer in a relatively slim, sleek case. The Aorus is powered by the latest Nvidia SUPER graphics card, which is developed to handle ray tracing, the complex lighting graphics used in the latest games. The display can run at a blistering 300Hz, which means games will look incredibly smooth on-screen.
If you’re one of the gaming pros this laptop was designed for, that rapid refresh rate means that there’s no discernible delay between your input and what happens on screen. And of course, the laptop comes with a true mechanical keyboard to provide satisfying clicks with each key press. If you need help justifying the outlay, we’re told all this machinery means it’s pretty adept if you need to do a bit of video or audio editing.
Meeting Owl Pro
As the world continues to work remotely and online meetings become a part of everyday life, the tech has stepped up to make the process more efficient and immersive, with the meeting owl pro being a great example of that.
Fitted with a 360 degree camera, 8 microphones, and a speaker, it aims to replicate an in-person meeting while separated from colleagues. With an 18-foot audio pickup radius and an automatic zoom that responds to who is speaking at the time, it’s a sophisticated bit of kit that integrates with Zoom, Slack, Google Hangouts and more.
Set for release in early 2022, the Amiga A500 Mini will emulate the Amiga 500, 600 & 120, featuring 25 classics including Alien Breed 3D, Kick Off 2 and Pinball Dreams, with the option to add your own games.
Perfect for throwback fans and retro gamers, it comes with the original-style 2-button mouse as well as a newly engineered 8-button precision gamepad, for ultimate control over your play.
Furbo Dog Camera
If you want to keep in contact with your collie while out of the house, this full 1080p HD camera will give you a line of sight with your pup, day or night. With a 160º wide-angle lens, 4x zoom and infrared night vision mode, you’ll be able to keep an eye on your pedigree no matter what.
There are a number of handy features including a barking alert which will send a push notification to your phone if your dog is upset, and a two way chat system that will let you speak to your pet if you need to comfort or calm them down. You can even store over 100 treats in the device and remotely toss them to your pet to keep them entertained with a tasty game of catch.
Fujifilm Instax mini Mobile Photo Printer
Print photos and video stills directly from your smartphone with this handy instant printer from Fujifilm. Connecting wirelessly to your device (available in iOS and Android) it takes around 12 seconds to print each photo, with a full charge allowing you to print off 100 continuous shots.
There are a handful of extra features including Party Mode which can combine images from several phones to create mystery prints, with the options to create a collage, or insert an image into one of 27 styles of frame.
Rocketbook Smart Reusable Notebook
For the eco-conscious note-taker, this smart notebook has 32 pages that are easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth when paired with Pilot Frixion pens. The first reusable notepad of its kind, they claim it feels just like writing on a traditional pad thanks to its special space-aged paper.
Available in a variety of sizes, it’s also compatible with the Rocketbook app. This allows you to scan your notes which will then be saved into a cloud of your choice, so you’ll never lose your work and can easily revisit any sketches, notes and lists in the long run.
Pure Flux One e-bike
It’s not obvious that the Flux One from UK retailer Pure Electric is an electric bike – but it is, and it’s one that arrives at a particularly attractive price.
The bottle-like item mounted to the aluminium frame of the Flux One is actually a battery that powers a motor contained within the hub of the rear wheel. Claimed to provide pedal assistance for 25 miles / 40km, this bike isn’t one for big days out but should prove sufficient for most people’s commutes and short leisure rides.
Pure has chosen a belt-driven single-speed transmission that – unlike the chains used on most bikes – doesn’t require oiling and thus shouldn’t mess up your clothes. Mechanical disc brakes front and rear should provide consistent stopping whatever the weather.
We think this discrete ebike will prove extremely popular.
JBL L52 Classic Speakers
The latest (and smallest) in JBL’s line of bookshelf speakers, the L52 Classic is a smaller sibling of the L82. With a modern twist on a vintage design, it features a 5.25-inch (130mm) 2-way loudspeaker, made using modern acoustic components, and claims to deliver a legendary sound to excite any audiophile. A stylish unit, it has a walnut wood veneer cabinet, with a range of colours available for the Quadrex foam grilles.
Samsung Odyssey Neo G9
Take your gaming up a notch with the Samsung Odyssey Neo G9, a next-generation monitor that promises to deliver an unparalleled, immersive experience. With a curved, ultra-wide 49-inch display, and Quantum Matrix Technology that aims to make dark areas darker and bright areas brighter, you’ll be right on top of the action with cutting-edge picture quality to guide you through the game.
The physical display has a glossy white exterior, and features a rear infinity core lighting system which means you can personalise your set-up with 52 colours and five lighting effect options.
KODAK Luma 150 Pocket Projector
Portable enough to fit in a briefcase if you need to produce a presentation for work, or your backpack if you’d like to watch a film or enlarge your gaming experience on the go, the KODAK Luma 150 portable projector promises to expand the screen to up to 150 inches while delivering bright, vivid images.
It has built-in, surround-sound speakers and a headphone jack for private viewing, with a battery run time of up to 2.5 hours, which is rechargeable via mini USB.
Grado SR80x headphones
We love the build and design of Grado’s headphones. They sound warm, lively and full of bass, while looking both retro and minimal. They’ve recently updated their award-winning range and our pick of the lot is the SR80x.
They’re open-backed, which means the audio will bleed out a little, so you may not want to take these on the train. But it does make them lighter and more comfortable to use at home for long periods and it’ll make the audio sound roomier than a closed-back pair. The new headphones have upgraded drivers too, improving the bass and mid-range. Certainly one of the best sets we’ve worn under the £150 mark.
Le Feu bioethanol fireplace
Although it’s hard to deny the charm of a log burner, it looks like their days are numbered as the government looks set to ban the most polluting fuels used in them to curb emissions.
There is a greener alternative – a biofuel burner. These fireplaces from Danish company Le Feu burn bioethanol, an alcohol produced from biomass like plant waste or straw. This burns cleanly, while providing enough heat to warm a room of 20m2, the company claims.
You don’t need a chimney to install one, although Le Feu recommends cracking a door open to maintain airflow. Unlike your old log burner, you can move this eco-burner around and get it to face you or take it outside. We trust our readers are smart enough not to do that while the fire’s on!
Syng Cell Alpha speaker
It’s rare to find something totally new in home audio, so this spherical speaker has definitely caught our attention. Syng is founded by a former Apple designer, who says that this is the world’s first ‘triphonic’ speaker, which means it uses three speakers to build sound that fills your room in a more ‘accurate’ way.
This doesn’t sound totally barmy, but we’ll have to wait to hear one in the flesh before we give our verdict. If you’ve got the spare cash lying around, the company actually suggests you buy three of the speakers for the optimum setup.
We love bonfires (and barbecues!) but it does get tiresome having to dance around the fire all evening to dodge the eye-watering smoke. The FirePit+ eliminates smoke by making your fire hotter. Battery-powered fans at the bottom of the fire basket stoke the flames from beneath, while the mesh sides let plenty of air in.
The improved airflow means the flame burns hotter and more efficiently, therefore producing less smoke. Plus, you can put some charcoal in and rest a grill on the top. The fans last between 7 and 30 hours depending on how high they’re turned up, and the battery can be recharged via USB.
Wyze Night Light
These night lights have built-in motion sensors so that they light up when you walk past. They’ve got light sensors too, so they’ll sense when it’s dawn and shut down. They’re lightweight, battery-powered and magnetically snap to a frame that attaches to the wall with sticky tape, so they’re a doddle to install and ideal for anyone renting a home.
Plus, a series of lights can be cleverly linked up so that when you pass the first light, the rest of them illuminate the way.
Belkin magnetic phone mount with face-tracking
This motorised phone stand will pair with your iPhone 12’s face-tracking to follow you around a room while you strut your stuff on TikTok (no? Us neither), film a YouTube video or make a Zoom call.
It capitalises on the iPhone 12’s MagSafe tech, so you can just magnetically snap the phone into place and get going.
MyZone MZ-Switch heart rate monitor
This fitness tracker is ready for anything, even if you’re not. The MZ-Switch measures your heart rate to understand how much effort you’re putting into your exercise.
What makes it unique is that this tracker can slot into different straps to read your heart rate from your wrist, arm or chest. It’s waterproof too, so there are few activities it won’t track. In my case, that means it’ll be able to tell me precisely how much of a slob I am.
Naim Uniti Atom Headphone Edition
If you want to put on a pair of headphones, dissolve into an armchair and forget the world for a couple of hours, this Naim streaming audio system might be the best way to do it. This new edition of the Uniti essentially squeezes all the hi-fi equipment you might need to produce high-fidelity audio into one small box (headphones not included).
Inside there’s a digital-to-analogue (DAC) converter and a headphone amplifier, as well as a whole bunch of tech designed to optimise your music library for playback on your cans. It’s a self-contained system with hi-res streaming services like Qobuz and Tidal installed, alongside the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. You can also connect it to your smartphone or laptop, with or without wires.
Apple iMac 24-inch
11.5mm, that’s how thin Apple’s new iMac is. This slender frame is made possible by Apple’s new M1 chip. Previously, Apple put Intel tech at its core and connected it to various components to build its Macs. Now the company has channelled its work on smartphone and iPad chipsets to build a complete “system on a chip”.
Like having a neatly tidied desk, building the computer’s processing units on one piece of architecture means the new iMacs are able work more efficiently and quickly than their predecessors.
There’s also 4K Retina display onboard, with a six-speaker sound system squeezed in behind it. Plus, the iMac now has Touch ID so you can unlock your computer, log in and pay for shopping with your fingerprint.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 camera
Generally speaking, we tend to look forwards here at Science Focus, but this retro, instant camera from Fujifilm is too cute to ignore. There are two modes and two buttons: one for selfies and one for normal shooting. A button beneath the lens pops the lens out so it can get up close and personal for selfies.
There’s even a teeny tiny mirror embedded into the body so you can get a sense of what you’re framing in your shot. Then you just click the shutter button and wait 90 seconds for the AA-battery-powered printer to process your photo.
Signia Active hearing aids
Let’s face it, we give our ears a tough time. Loud concerts (remember those?), cotton buds, illnesses and even our own DNA works against our hearing health. It’s thought that 6.7 million people in the UK could benefit from a hearing aid, but only two million are wearing one.
Signia hopes to change that. With Bluetooth connectivity, an accompanying mobile app, a rechargeable battery and a sleek earbud-style design, the Signia Active hearing aids bring assistive technology on-trend.
Designed for those with mild to moderate hearing loss, the aids pack in intelligent software that boosts voices over background noise and come with a virtual assistant to boot.
An odour-fighting T-shirt made of recycled crab. Yes, you read that right. This unassuming T-shirt is made of chitosan, a material obtained from the exoskeletons of shellfish.
It’s one of the most abundant ingredients on the planet, so its creators, Allbirds, decided to use it to make some of its clothing line. According to Allbirds, this special blend also has odour-fighting properties (it presumably has a surface that’s hard for smelly bacteria to colonise), which hopefully means you have to wash it less, and it’ll last longer.
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DJI FPV drone
Fancy yourself as a drone pilot? DJI’s new drone beams the view from its camera straight to a headset back on terra firma. You see what the drone sees.
It’s a user-friendly version of what drone-racing pilots use in competitions. The drone itself can move at a max speed of 140km/h (87mph) and can reach 0-60mph in just two seconds. It has a max range of 10km (6 miles), but you’ll need a spotter who can keep an eye out for people or obstructions below while you fly.
The tech is pretty power hungry, so you’ll get a maximum of 25 minutes out of a flight, but it will be one helluva ride.
Simba Hybrid Luxe Mattress
A good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health and wellbeing.
Memory foam mattresses are fashionable, but their spongy embrace isn’t for everyone. Simba’s patented hybrid solution pairs springs with open-cell foam, a memory foam-like material with internal pockets that allow the mattress to disperse heat. This creates a mattress that’s firm, ensures two people sleeping in a bed won’t feel each other move around, and is cooler than memory foam.
The company’s latest upgrade, the Hybrid Luxe, adds a second set of springs to provide extra support and remove any chance of sore joints for side sleepers. Plus, Simba has added a breathable bamboo wool layer just beneath the top layer, to help regulate your temperature and fend off a sweaty night’s sleep.
PS5 VR controller
Details are thin on the ground about virtual reality on next-gen consoles, but Sony has revealed what its motion controllers (which will translate your hand movements into the virtual world) will look like.
Of particular interest is the finger-touch detection that senses where your digits are placed on the remote. This will enable you to pick up and manipulate objects in the virtual world in natural way.
Beosound Emerge smart speaker
This might just be the best-looking smart speaker money can buy. Beneath the bookish disguise, the Beosound Emerge is equipped with Google Assistant so it can control any compatible connected home tech.
The audio is powered by a separate tweeter, mid-range driver and subwoofer so it will create room-filling, detailed sound, despite its size. And if you somehow have enough spare cash to buy two, you can pair it with a second speaker to create stereo sound.
Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool Formaldehyde
While many of us know air pollution harms our health, we may have overlooked what’s happening inside our homes. It turns out that cooking and cleaning are filling our homes with pollutants at higher concentrations than those outside. Even our furniture is off-gassing formaldehyde – a chemical used in its production.
So what can you do? Well, you could just reject society and retreat to the woods (we’ve considered it a few times this year), but if that’s not an option, you may want to consider an air purifier.
The latest version of Dyson’s Purifier Hot+Cool is kitted out with filters to tackle the particles invading our home’s air, including formaldehyde. It also has loads of sensors to provide insight into what’s generating the most pollution (cooking, in our case, made the air quality ‘severe’), and it doubles as an effective fan or heater.
Sony’s FX3 is the smallest, cheapest cinema camera the company has ever made. It’s built for filmmakers, rather than photographers, so it can handle recording ultra HD video at 120fps for long periods.
It comes bundled with a handle that’s ideal for shooting from low angles and it adds extra sockets for plugging in different audio inputs. There’s also in-body image stabilisation for when you’re “running and gunning”.
The camera will also play nice with Sony’s yet-to-be-released Airpeak drone. At 715g, it’s a bit too bulky to fit in your pocket, but it’s light enough and small enough to take wherever you go. Keep an eye out for it in the hands of your favourite YouTuber soon.
Gouthwaite Backpack 23L
The brand behind this roll top bag is called Bear and its founders have a mission: to get more people outside to talk about their mental health. Sales from each bag will be funding free outdoor workshops from fly fishing to foraging to off-road cycling. Shoppers just have to sign up to their mailing list to find out when courses start.
In the meantime, while we’re all stuck mostly indoors, Bear will donate 10 per cent of sales to The Outward Bound Trust. On top of that, the company is carbon negative, relying on recyclable, fossil fuel-free materials where possible and carbon-offsetting the rest.
The actual bags are pretty smart too. There’s a quick release buckle holding the top together, which is the same one used by the rescue services, and the waxed canvas is made in Scotland without the use of PFCs (the chemicals typically used in waterproof coatings) which can wash off materials and end up in waterways.
Xbox wireless headset
The new official gaming headset for the Xbox Series X and S packs in a lot of features without costing a small fortune, and for once, it won’t make you look like an extra in a Tron film.
The cans are kitted out with the latest surround sound (Windows Sonic, Dolby Atmos and DTS) so that you can really hear those footsteps creeping up behind you. There’s a smart, retractable microphone inside, which can isolate your speech and tune down background noise.
Plus, It offers an auto-mute option, which turns off the mic when you’re done speaking: no more accidental heavy breathing over comms. We’ll have to reserve full judgement until we can get a pair on our ears, but it looks like this could be the smart way to get immersive sound on your Xbox
Gadget Discovery Club tech subscription box
Subscription boxes are becoming increasingly popular, and if you’re the sort of person who likes cool gadgets – and we know you are because you’ve found your way here – you’re probably not too fussed about what new tech turns up at your doorstep, so long as it tickles your technological tastebuds.
The Gadget Discovery Club promises to send you smart home devices, music tech, wearable tech, smartphone gadgets and other delightful gizmos much cheaper than you could buy them in the shops, the only caveat being you don’t know what you’re going to get (hence the discovery part of the Gadget Discovery Club).
Without giving too much away, in my first box I received an alarmingly powerful little Bluetooth speaker that costs nearly £40 new, so quite the bargain even on the one month plan. If only I knew what next month had in store…? – AM
Apart from public toilets, there are few things in life that aren’t made better by being see-through. Case in point, this speaker that replaces its housing with tempered glass.
Its creator, the Swedish design studio Transparent, says that its speakers use durable, recyclable materials. Each of the devices can be used alone as a Bluetooth speaker, paired together as a stereo sound system, or plugged into existing audio equipment.
It’s upgradeable too, with a compartment at the rear that can hold and power various modules – a voice assistant, for example, or new wireless tech.
Xiaomi Mi Air Charge
It’s early days, but Xiaomi has shown off a demo of a product it’s planning to put on sale in 2021. It’s called Mi Air Charge technology, and it uses 144 micro-antennae to transfer energy to your phone via a narrow wave beam.
According to Xiaomi’s demo, you’d be able to walk into a room and your phone would start charging, even if an object was in the way. Eventually, Xiaomi says it could be used to charge multiple devices at once in the room it’s sat in.
It’s tech we’ve seen presented at conferences before, but never so close to an actual final product.
POC Omne Eternal
Sat beneath the surface of this helmet is a light-harvesting material, called Powerfoyle, which converts solar energy into electricity. After cycling to work in the morning, leave the POC Omne Eternal by a sunny window to charge and by evening you should have a fully juiced red light on the back of the helmet.
Bung the helmet on and the sensors inside turn the light on too. The back-facing light isn’t bright enough to warrant binning those bike lights you keep forgetting to charge, but it will improve your visibility to others.
Helly Hansen Odin Minimalist Infinity jacket
Conventionally speaking, waterproof coats are sprayed with a water-repellent chemical that makes rain bead up and roll off the coat, instead of soaking in. The coating also means the material beneath it can be breathable, stopping from you getting too hot underneath.
Unfortunately, those chemicals have a habit of washing off, shortening the coat’s life and polluting the environment.
Now, Helly Hansen is using a new kind of material that has small enough pores to keep water from coming in, but lets hot vapour (sweat) out. This potentially means the coat could stay waterproof for its entire life, with no need for extra coatings, or the pollution that comes with the process.
Carol exercise bike
“Get fit and healthy in 26 minutes a week.” That’s the bold claim made by the creators of this exercise bike, which combines high-intensity training with an algorithm that learns your fitness level and creates a training regime.
The bike is built on the idea that energetic bursts of exercise are effective at making you healthier. Research seems to support this idea, with several studies showing that periods of high-energy activity interspersed with more sedate intervals seem to push your body out of its comfort zone, improving heart health, lung capacity, fat-burning potential and more.
If you’re serious about training, the bike plugs into the growing market of online classes, including Peloton Digital and Apple Fitness+.
Vaonis Vespera smart telescope
The notion of a telescope without an eyepiece to look through could inspire a few strongly worded letters from our readers, but we can’t help but lust after this beautiful new telescope from Italian company Vaonis (even if it does cost around £1,300).
The Vespera takes the work out of stargazing. The scope takes the images hitting its sensors and sends a live-view to your smartphone or tablet via Wi-Fi. This means you can set up the telescope outside (it has a four-hour battery life), jump under the covers and tour the Universe.
The app presents a list of cosmic points of interest to point the telescope towards, like the birth of a star, and the motors and GPS aboard the telescope point the lens in the right direction. From there you can watch the view live, take stacks of photos to reveal more detail and share what you’re seeing with friends.
You can even schedule observations if you want to capture something while you’re asleep. Right now you’ll have to wait til 2022 to get your hands on a ‘scope, but it’s bigger sibling, the Stellina, is on sale now.
Sonos Arc soundbar
Offering up a hard-to-beat balance of features, design, ease of use and performance, the Sonos Arc, the company’s first Atmos soundbar, is an easy product to love. There are very few soundbars out there that do so much so well. In fact, it’s our pick for the best soundbar.
No matter what you’re watching, it sounds superb. There’s a stunning clarity to dialogue, a fullness to bass and stacks of detail across the frequency range. But when you listen to an Atmos soundtrack, you really hear the added breadth and depth you’d expect from a more immersive 3D soundstage, with sound effects that are placed precisely around and above you, delivered by the Arc’s carefully angled drivers.
Of course, it’ll fit into a wider Sonos multi-room system if you have other Sonos speakers, or act as a superb sound system on its own for crisp, expressive music playback. Its size means you’ll probably want a 55-inch TV or larger though, as it’ll dwarf anything smaller.
Dyson Corrale hair straightener
Dyson, the company that’s perhaps best-known for its futuristic vacuum cleaners, has spent the last few years branching out into the world of haircare.
Its most recent launch is the Corrale straightener, which joins a hairdryer and the Airwrap styler in the line-up. Unlike the solid plates on other straighteners, Dyson claims that the Corrale’s patented flexing copper plates gather the hair while styling, allowing less heat to be used to get desired results. As hair-styling aficionados will be aware, lots of heat leads to damaged and frazzled tresses.
I’ve got a headful of curls, and while I’ve had my hair straightened at the hairdresser before, I’ve never tried doing it myself, so tried the Corrale as a complete straightener rookie.
What I liked about the Corrale was that it can be used cord-free without losing any performance. It takes 70 minutes to fully charge, then you can unplug it and use it for 30 minutes without an irritating cord entangling your arms and smacking you on the head.
If you’re having a massive straightening sesh, however, you can simply reattach the cord to continue charging while you’re styling. When you’re done, just place back on the charging stand (no burnt carpets here).
The straightener takes mere seconds to warm up, and has three heat settings: 165°C, 185°C and 210°C, with an OLED screen and a chirpy chime telling you when it’s reached the desired temperature. It is suitable for all hair types, with the hotter temperatures recommended for curly or coily hair.
I did find that I had to go over each section of my hair a few times to get a smooth finish, even when I had the heat turned up to full whack. Those with straighter hair may not have this problem, though.
Like all straighteners, you can also use the Corrale to create waves and curls. Despite my beginner status (and aided by videos on their website), I managed to do this fairly easily – the lack of cord certainly made the necessary twisting and twirling a lot easier.
The Corrale would suit straightener addicts: it can be stashed in a (large) bag to take on a night out, and even comes with a flight-safe tag, so you can pop it in your hand luggage when flying. But at its hefty price, it’s probably best for people who will get regular use from it. – Alice Lipscombe-Southwell
Samsung Smart Monitor M7 series
This new ultra-HD display from Samsung ticks every box. The M7 is essentially a hybrid between a monitor for a Mac or PC and a smart TV.
By day it can connect to your laptop via a single USB-C cable, which will power it too; there’s no need to plug it into the wall. And by night, it can pull a stream from your smartphone via Wi-Fi or access your streaming service of choice via the built-in Smart Hub software.
The M7 comes with a TV remote too and built-in speakers for some reasonable sound (though you might want to add a soundbar to the equation). All this means is that if you decide to invest in improving your home workspace, the monitor needn’t go back into the cupboard when it’s safe to go outside again.
Grado GT220 wireless earbuds
Building great earphones is a bit of a dark art. The goal is to create the illusion of a big, spacious sound out of something very small. Most of the time, earbuds can’t quite pull off this trick, so you end up with audio that can lack bass, sound tinny or seem distant (or in some cases all three).
The GT220 wireless earbuds from the Brooklyn-based, family-run Grado avoids all of these pitfalls to make the most out of your music. The earbuds handle the big bassy electronic beats of Run the Jewels just as well as they delicate, breathy vocals of Nick Hakim. All the highs and lows have room to be heard.
I suspect half the reason they sound so good is down to the fit. The earbuds twist into place with ease and sit there comfortably for hours, without any danger of falling out. There’s six hours of listening time between charges and another 30 hours of charge held in the case. There are plenty of extra features too, like wireless charging, touch controls and a degree of waterproofing.
Studies show fitness watches can make it easier to keep fit. Health tech company Withings has been making great-looking, fitness monitoring gadgets for years and their latest watch is no exception.
The ScanWatch’s traditional clockface hides some of the most advanced tech we’ve seen in a smartwatch yet. The medical grade ECG and oximeter take continual readings to provide a measure of the health of your heart and respiratory system. It’s looking for signals that might suggest you suffer from arrhythmia or apnoea, conditions that affect millions of Brits and for a large number of people go undiagnosed.
It’s also got automatic activity detection on board, that’ll spot what type of exercise you’re doing and GPS to log the routes you take for apps like Strava. Withings say its watch is water resistant up to 50 metres deep and so it’ll handle a dip in the pool or, in our case, the sink.
Our favourite thing about the watch by far though is its battery life which, though your mileage may vary, will last around 30 days between charges. We’re also particularly fond of the vibrating, silent alarm too which gets you out of bed without waking the other half.
Balmuda The Toaster
Okay, so if I spent this much on a toaster, my bank would call me to check for fraud, but since I’ve discovered the Balmuda steam toaster my toast has started to taste like plywood.
This Tokyo-based tech company specialises in perfecting kitchen gadgets, and it’s gone to town on the humble toaster. Balmuda says its oven uses: “steam technology and precise temperature control to bring out the best in very kind of bread”. I apologise now to all past bread for failing to help you reach your fullest potential.
Anyway, the oven turns five millilitres of water into steam, and wafts it over the bread in three controlled temperature phases. The first low-temp phase ‘restores interior fluffiness’, the second starts the Maillard reaction, turning the bread golden, and the final phase (220°C) turns it brown.
It can do the same for other foods too, reheating yesterday’s pizza without drying it out. Excuse me while I go have a very long conversation about why I need to spend £200 on a toaster with my other half.
Apple Watch 6
We’ve grown to love Apple’s smartwatch. It’s not just a great fitness tracker, it’s that rarest of things: a piece of tech that can actually change your life. The multitude of sensors on-board means the wristwatch can track your heart rhythm and it logs the data on your phone. If it spots any irregularities, it’ll suggest you take a trip to the doctor, who can take a look at ECGs recorded by the watch.
The Apple Watch will also keep an eye out if you fall or your pulse stops and alert emergency services if something’s awry. There are other variables it’ll track like your sleep, blood oxygen saturation and even heart rate variability, which scientists think could be a good indicator of your overall wellbeing.
The future’s bright for the Apple Watch too. A study involving 400,000 participants by researchers at Stanford University found that a smartwatch and phone could be effectively used together to spot atrial fibrillation in wearers, one of the most common heart issues in the UK, though it’s important to note that this feature hasn’t been implemented yet.
Similarly, Apple watches are being trialled as a means of remotely tracking the condition of patients with chronic conditions like asthma and heart disease and it’s even being deployed by the University of Washington’s School of Medicine to find out if it can predict the onset of flu or COVID-19 before a patient is aware of symptoms.
Harman Kardon Aura Studio 3 Bluetooth speaker
Back in 2000, Apple partnered with Harman Kardon to create its iconic SoundStick speakers. Jonny Ive (you might have heard of him) is credited with the design and the product has been a hit ever since. In fact, you can still buy SoundSticks today.
Now, Harman Kardon has updated the original to create something that sits more comfortably at the heart of your home. The glass dome houses a 360-degree Bluetooth speaker system which fires audio in all directions, so you can plonk it in the middle of your living room and hear it equally well wherever you’re sat.
There are also LEDs inside the glass dome, so that the speaker can double as an ambient light. If it sounds half as good at it looks, it’ll be another hit.
Oral B IO toothbrush
Ok, let’s be honest, we’re not totally sold on the idea of a gadget that winks and smiles at you when you put it in your mouth.
That aside, this toothbrush is crammed with an almost implausible amount of tech. Sensors inside will track the brush’s movement as you clean your teeth and map out areas you’ve missed.
There are separate modes depending on your mood, like “Intense Clean” after a particularly sweary day or something gentler for those with sensitive gums. A new pressure sensor inside will also warn you if you’re brushing technique starts to verge into self-flagellation.
Philips 558M1RY display
If you end up using your TV for gaming more than, well, watching TV, then you might want to consider one of a new breed of displays built for consoles. This model from Phillips boasts an ultra-fast response time (4ms) at ultra-HD resolution, which means you’ll have no excuses left when you’re sniped by an energy-drink-riddled 12-year-old from the other side of the map.
If Animal Crossing is more your pace, then this model is also kitted out with a rather neat speaker system along the base built by British Hi-Fi stalwarts Bowers and Wilkins, which will make the game’s lilting trumpet melody all the more soothing for your soul. Philips’ Ambiglow tech is on board too, which extends the picture beyond the frame of the display via LEDS along the edges of the panel.
Send Superstrata your dimensions, riding style and preferences, and they’ll 3D print you a carbon fibre bike frame made to fit. Prefer a stiffer ride? A bike for commuting, or for touring? Superstrata claim to have over 500,000 possible combinations.
There are two versions available: the traditional Terra bike and the Ion e-bike. The Ion has a sleek in-tube battery (no bulky black boxes in sight), takes two hours to charge and lasts for up to 55 miles.
LG OLED 48CX display
OLED display tech has been around for a while now, but it’s generally been expensive to manufacture and buy. That said, I’m a big fan of the tech because OLED panels provide life-like picture quality thanks to the way they work.
In a traditional LED display, a light is shone through coloured crystals to create a picture. This backlight as a source of illuminations means that dark areas can never truly be black in and LED display. In an OLED display, the coloured crystals themselves light up as electricity passes through them which removes the need for a backlight, meaning the display can recreate inky blacks and generate an accurate picture full of contrast.
LG’s new 49-inch is one of the most affordable OLEDs we’ve seen, and it doesn’t scrimp on features or specs either.
Naim Mu-so for Bentley Special Edition Wireless Speaker System
Our favourite wireless speaker system just got a touch prettier. The Naim Mu-so 2nd Generation wowed us when it launched in 2019: it hits a rare sweet spot between form and function, with a timeless design that produces brilliant sound.
The onboard tech will handle almost every streaming platform and is fine-tuned for handling hi-res digital audio. But now thanks to Naim’s partnership with Bentley, the Mu-so mark 2 looks even better.
Inspired by their luxury cars, the speaker housing is now made out of Ayous (an African hardwood), features an anodised copper heat sink on the back and a copper-threaded speaker grille – how suave.
Apple AirPods Pro
True to form, it’s taken Apple a couple of iterations to deliver a pair of wireless earbuds that justify the hefty price tag. In fact, it’s our pick for the best wireless earbuds.
The AirPods are still all-white, but a smarter, stubbier design means that you don’t look like you’ve stuck a pair of electric toothbrush heads in your ears anymore.
Unsurprisingly, The AirPods play best with Apple hardware with a setup that’s mercifully painless thanks to the new chip tech. Pull them out of the case and if your device is nearby, it will pair them up, giving you a quick glance at the battery status of the buds too.
Sound quality has stepped up a notch as far as offering something that’s more balanced. It’s not heavy handed with the bass and there’s a nicer sense of detail here. The headline grabber is the addition of active noise cancellation that will help drown out the world. Apple uses outward microphones to detect the noise from outside and an inward-facing one to deal with sound that makes it through the seal.
There’s even room to squeeze on controls into the stem and a very pocket-friendly case will quickly give them a battery boost. More features are on the way too, including surround sound support and the welcome addition of a smart switching mode to pair to the device you’re currently using, giving you more reason to keep them in.
Arlo video doorbell
Offering a good balance between price, premium features, and usability, Arlo’s Video Doorbell is our top choice for the best video doorbell if you want a high-quality smart doorbell that works reliably without being annoying.
Its standout feature – telling the difference between people, animals, vehicles, and packages, and only sending you the notifications you want – means you don’t get an alert every time a strong breeze sends a plastic bag down the street.
Being able to create motion zones – so you get alerted only when someone (or the neighbour’s cat) is in them – and the option to turn off all alerts when you are home (using the location of your phone to figure this out) ensures a smart doorbell doesn’t become just another electronic annoyance but a useful security tool.
Along with some of the best quality video we tested and a nice square video shape that shows you more of your doorstep than most, we like that it has a built-in siren you can set off from the app if you spot someone suspicious.
Another thing that sets it on top of the pile is an answering machine option. While no one ever left us a message outside of testing – possibly because most people aren’t used to talking to a doorbell – we can see potential here as smart doorbells gain popularity.
Moto 360 smartwatch
The Apple Watch is a great, luxury bit of kit but it’s of no use whatsoever if you are one of the majority of the world’s smartphone users sporting an Android device. The Moto 360 smartwatch is a beauty that’ll look at home on even the most well-to-do wrists thanks to its classy stainless-steel body, rotating crown, leather strap and weighty feel.
This is the third generation Motorola watch, and it seems that this time they have nailed the balance right between form and functionality. It is powered by WearOS (that’s Android’s but you can use it with iPhones too), so the majority of what you can actually do on the smartwatch is dictated by this, but on the whole, the operating system is so much better now than it was a few years ago.
The watch itself not only looks cool, but it also has some pretty novel features that set it apart from other smartwatches. For a start, it is blazingly fast with silky-smooth transitions between screens and no lag, which is important as there is no point marketing yourself as a silk purse if it’s a sow’s ear to use. It also comes with GPS and NFC for contactless payments.
The always-on display is bright and sharp, adapting to the changing light conditions so you don’t need to flick the wrist or tap to see the time. After about a day and a half under normal use, it switches to time-only mode to eke out more battery life, which is great, but that said, an hour’s charge should be enough for it to see out a whole day.
For the fitness inclined, it comes with a silicone strap, is waterproof to 3ATM and in testing measured generally sedentary lifestyle and my (limited) attempts of exercise throughout the day, taunting me with my apparent lack of ‘heart points’. I should get out more I think is the takeaway here.
Finally, as if perfectly timed to launch during a coronavirus crisis, it also comes with a hand-washing timer so you can make sure you’re perfectly scrubbed up. -AM
EZVIZ C3N Outdoor Smart Wi-Fi Camera
The tennis ball size EZVIZ C3N security camera is a solid bit of kit. It has to be. Within the first week of it being up, and in typical British style, it was battered by hail, rain and storms, before being roasted on the hottest day of the year.
Installation is easy enough, so long as you have a drill to fix it to your wall, and the EZVIZ app is refreshingly straightforward. You can toggle a full-screen live stream and hitting record will save the footage neatly to your camera roll, as well as in the app itself.
This live view feature is ideal if you want to use the camera for other reasons, like keeping an eye on the kids while you work from home, or even as a nature-cam, and usefully, you can also hook up multiple cameras on the one system and share devices among users.
But what we know you’re really here for is to find out whether this is really a good security camera. Well, it doesn’t disappoint. As for the video quality, daylight vision is exceptionally sharp, and the colours are true to life thanks to the full HD 1080p resolution.
But it’s the colour night vision where this camera really comes into its own. It has an embedded algorithm that allows intelligent sensing, so it knows the difference between humans and the neighbourhood cat out for a prowl.
And it’s surprisingly sensitive too. The smart night-vision mode uses two infrared LEDs that can see as far as 30 metres automatically and switches to colour monitoring when it detects human movement. That, along with powerful spotlights, any would-be thief is almost guaranteed to show their face on camera. You’ll get a real-time alert, without needing to be glued to your feed.
Video history storage is via CloudPlay, for which you get a 30-day free trial, or via Micro SD card for local storage. – HS
NowLight self-powered lamp
However good your camping gadgets are, it’s a simple fact of life that at some point (probably the worst point) they’re going to run out of juice. Rather than filling your backpack with a plethora of spare batteries, the NowLight is a hand-cranked instant charger that with a minute of tugging the attached chord can power your phone for 15 minutes.
But what really sets this apart from other chargers is the fact that it also doubles up as a 160-lumen lamp, which is more than bright enough to light up any jamborees once the campfire has died out. You can also attach up to six satellite lamps to light up the inside of even the most cavernous of tents.
The device itself is about the size and weight of a small bag of sugar, and set up is easy – basically, just attach the chord and crank – but if all that tugging isn’t your thing, it comes with a solar charger to soak up some of the Sun’s eco-friendly energy. – AM
HELM Audio BOLT DAC/AMP
If you’re looking for a simple way to upgrade your audio experience, a DAC (Digital to Analogue Converter) might be it. A DAC is one of the most important steps in digital audio processing. If you’re not familiar with the tech, it’s where the stored digital representation of your music – a series of 1s and 0s – is translated into an analogue wave that can physically power a speaker driver in your headphones.
Just as downloading or streaming a high-quality audio file ensures an accurate representation of your music, a DAC will make sure you’re getting the most out of your audio files.
This new DAC upgrade from HELM Audio is the smallest we’ve seen – perfect for travel or just keeping your desk uncluttered. It’s compatible with laptops and smartphones with a USB-C slot (and iPhones with a convertor), and it plays best with Tidal’s chosen digital format for its recordings (MQA), though it will happily work across all streaming services.
$99.00 (£75 + £18 shipping approximately), helmaudio.com, buy now from Amazon UK
What if your earphones could give you a hearing test and tune your equaliser to reflect the frequencies you are most, or least, sensitive to? That’s the idea behind the Nuraphone, which we first tested a few years back in headphone format.
During setup, the original Nuraphones would fire out a range of frequencies and then measure your ear’s response to each of them, building a sound profile that perfectly equalises the output to your hearing. The company has now shrunk their clever tech and shaped it into a set of Bluetooth earphones called the NuraLoop.
They’re packed full of all the other tech you’d expect – like active noise-cancelling and touch controls – but there are a few extra smart touches, like the magnetic analogue jack that lets you connect to your earphones with wires, or the smart on/off feature that automatically switches them on when you put them around your head.
But most importantly it’s the sound that really sets these apart. Like the Nuraphones before them, what you hear is nothing short of exceptional, especially for a pair of headphones under £200, with everything wonderfully balanced, letting sounds you didn’t know even existed drift into the mix. Dare I say it, but I think I might even have heard the bass track on Metallica’s …And Justice for All (maybe).
The only EQ option you have (or really need) is an Immersion setting, which is basically a bass boost. Of course, all this goes to pot as soon as you listen to someone else’s sound profile, but then that’s sort of the point. We all have different ears and respond to different frequencies, so the fact that my partner’s profile sounds like a swampy mess to me suggests that yes, maybe I did spend far too much of my youth turning it up to 11. – AM
Samsung Odyssey G9 gaming monitor
If you’re the sort of person who is going to spend thousands of pounds on a seriously high-spec gaming PC, you might as well spend a small fortune on a monitor to go with it. The Samsung Odyssey G9 is one suitably spenny gaming monitor, but a quick glance at the specs suggest it’ll be worth every penny.
For a start, it’s huge; it has a curved 49-inch screen with a frankly ludicrous 5120×1440 resolution (that’s a 32:9 ratio!), so not only will it completely fill your field of view, it’ll also fill your desk.
The QLED display should be pin-sharp and colourful, HDR 1000 promises the blackest of blacks and whitest of whites, and a 250Hz refresh rate means motion should appear buttery smooth.
What are the most annoying sounds you can think of? Nails scratching down a chalkboard? Car alarms? It could be that our ears, through thousands of years of evolution, are sort of designed to find these sounds particularly unpleasant to act as a warning that danger is imminent.
That’s great for our ancient ancestors, listening out for prowling sabre-tooth tigers, but for us modern humans it’s just plain annoying. In fact, according to audio specialists Flare, the shape of the eardrum itself acts as a bell, adding 20db of distortion-causing resonance.
This irritating distortion could impact on our mental and physical wellbeing, so the idea behind the Flare Calmer earplugs is that they change the shape of the eardrum to cut out the particularly annoying distorted frequencies between 2,000-8,000 Hz. By doing this, they claim to reduce ear fatigue, noise-induced headaches and overall stress levels.
So does it work? Well, it’s hard to tell how much earplugs can reduce your overall stress in the midst of a global pandemic, protests in the streets and the ever-present threat of a toddler walking into your Zoom meetings, but what is certain is that after using them almost constantly for a few weeks now, there are definitely benefits to having them in.
For a start, it is noticeable that the very worst day-to-day frequencies are reduced, and this has the knock-on effect that they are ultimately less annoying. The same can be said when you have them underneath headphones, and although they change the sounds slightly, it makes music a little warmer and notches down the intensity.
Another side effect that has been noted by other users, not that I can verify and was entirely unexpected by Flare, is that it reduces the constant ringing experienced by those suffering from tinnitus. – AM
HyperX wireless gaming setup
HyperX are big names in gaming peripherals (they even have their own esports arena in Las Vegas), so it’s no wonder their kit maxes out on quality and features. Their suite of wireless gear doesn’t disappoint.
First up you’ll need 7.1 headphones, and the HyperX Cloud Fight S headset has some seriously good surround sound. You can control chat/audio balance from the headset itself, ideal for those vital mission strategy briefings without interrupting play, and the swivelling ear cups on the headset allows them to sit comfortably around your neck for when you need a breather (or snack).
The butter-like softness of the leatherette and memory foam innards makes them plush and extremely easy to wear, even for all-day and night gaming marathons, and is weighted enough so that it’s stable when sitting on the charging pad, but not too heavy that it becomes uncomfortable after a few hours of continuous wear.
The reassuringly familiar design of the HyperX Pulsefire Dart mouse is ergonomic and has satisfying leatherette side grips. It’s weighty and feels ‘solid’ in your hand, but does an excellent job of gliding effortlessly across your desk surface, and the fun part – you can customise the RGB lighting using the NGENUITY software.
The battery life on both headset and mouse far exceed that of a PS4 controller and can be charged wirelessly at the same time on the sleek Chargeplay Base. As a bonus, when you’re busy fragging zombies you can charge any Qi-enabled device. – HS
Ember Mug2 and Travel Mug²
Nothing stirs the soul of a Brit more than the thought of a piping hot cup of tea. However, a cold and forgotten cuppa is practically an insult to Queen and country. The Ember Mug2 is a very elegant (if expensive), solution to this distinctly British problem.
By connecting the Ember mug to your smartphone via the accompanying app, you get a notification when your brew has reached your perfect temperature, and a heating element in the bottom of the mug keeps it toasty warm until you have finished every last drop.
Weirdly, when we tested it out we found you had to use two teabags to get a good strong brew and were a little disappointed that it can’t be charged via USB (something to do with it drawing a lot of power means it needs its own plug socket), but that is a small price to pay for a sizable 414ml mug of perfectly temperate tea. Milk, no sugar (and two bags) please.
You can also now pick up the Ember Travel Mug², which is great for warm drinks on the go. -AM
Creative SXFI THEATRE headphones
Getting your camera out is an unusual way to begin your audio experience, but the payoff is well worth it with these cinematic headphones. The Creative SXFI THEATER wireless headphones use a neat technology called Super X-FI, which models personalised cinema sound from photos of your head and ears for a head-wobbling experience in your living room.
And head-wobbling it is. These headphones are loud, bassy and super powerful, with swooshing lightsabers from all angles when watching Star Wars and explosions shuddering your whole body playing a spot of Call of Duty. And that’s before you even turn Super X-FI on, which takes everything up a notch for an even more cinematic experience.
The headset comes with a USB wireless transmitter for zero-latency audio (at the expense of Bluetooth, but that’s not really an issue in your living room/office space), and although they’re on the chunky side, they are plenty comfortable to wear for extended gaming sessions. -AM
WAKEcup self-cleaning water bottle
How clean is your water bottle? Who knows, but it probably could be cleaner given how difficult it is to scrub right into those distant corners at the bottom of it. The WAKEcup 550ml water bottle has an ultraviolet light in the lid that in three minutes promises to zap 99.99 per cent of the bacteria, viruses and mould that you might have missed.
And if that didn’t give you a cosy feeling of purity inside, for every product sold during the coronavirus lockdown, they are donating one WAKEcup to a doctor, nurse or care worker in the NHS as a thank you.
Yoto Player interactive audio player
Cassettes were great, weren’t they… Ok, the sound was rubbish, you couldn’t skip tracks and they never lasted too long before they were gobbled up by the tape monster (you know what I mean), but as a kid I used to love listening to stories on them.
For me there was something deeply satisfying about slotting the tapes into the player, pressing play and getting lost in a ripping yarn, and the Yoto Player is a modern-day equivalent just as tactile and exciting. Except it sounds good.
Instead of tapes, this groovy little audio player works by slotting in cards, each of which contains a story to listen to. There are loads of classic tales to pick from, such as The Gruffalo and Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as other cards with podcasts, radio and activities on. Instead of a screen it has a cutesy pixelated display, which along with chunky buttons for volume and skipping tracks, the whole device is completely kid-friendly (even my two-year-old was able to get to grips with it).
Whatever the circumstances, keeping kids entertained without having to resort to a tablet can be a struggle, so the Yoto Player is a definitely one of the better ways to keep their little minds whirring and imagination sparked.
As of July, for £12.99 Yoto also run a monthly subscription package which, amongst other treats, sends you two new cards to listen to every month, a postcard and an ever-growing colouring art piece to keep those creative juices flowing. – AM
Theragun Prime massage gun
Recently you might have noticed that social media is filled with deeply satisfying slow-mo videos of people pummelling their legs with massage guns, but what exactly is going on? Well rather than having to fork out on physiotherapy, massage guns are like having a private masseur on hand for a quick post-workout session – the Theragun is the one such gadget.
It looks like a cross between a weapon and a power tool (and actually when you switch it on you could be forgiven for thinking it’s both) but in reality, the Theragun Prime is a percussive therapy device, designed to massage your muscles by rapidly applying pressure to your body up to 40 times per second.
It claims to get 60 per cent deeper into your muscles than other massagers, increasing blood flow and reducing inflammation, muscle tension, and working out any knots that have developed.
The triangular handle makes it easy to hold from any angle, allowing you to really pick out problem areas without having to bend at all angles to get at it, and while it’s far from silent, it’s definitely not as loud as something beating at 2,400 percussions a minute in your hand should be.
The documentation for how to use the Theragun could do with a little work, and the app isn’t super helpful either, offering only a few routines and a guide as to how much pressure you’re applying. In fact, it was two weeks before I discovered you could switch it on without even needing to go through the app, however, once I worked out this now very obvious feature, I was using it daily.
It was a revelation to be able to pick it up and work on knotted muscles I didn’t even know existed and massage specific parts of my body that were feeling sorry for themselves after working out all day (read that as standing at my desk).
I’ve mostly been using it at the beginning of the day to get the blood flowing and at night before bed, and it definitely releases some of the muscle tension that has built up over the day. This being said, I’m no medical expert, so it’s worth researching online to find out exactly how to use it safely. – AM
Cowboy 3 electric bike
If, like many of us, you’re starting to rethink your commute, maybe now is the time to seriously consider that ebike you’ve been coveting.
The Cowboy electric bike is now in its third generation, and the new model not only looks like one of the must-have bikes of the season but is also packed full of clever bike tech. Along with a battery that’s built into the 16.9kg frame and single-gear automatic transmission, the latest bike has an oil-free carbon belt transmission, lower gear ratio and puncture-resistant tyres.
As well as new hardware, the accompanying app has also had an upgrade, bringing with it auto-unlock to avoid fumbling around with keys, theft and crash detection, and even an air quality monitor for planning a smog-free route through town.
Yee haw, ride ‘em cowboy!
Asus Chromebook Flip C436
Ok, let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first, this is by no means a cheap Chromebook. If you’re looking for a budget laptop, Chromebooks are great, but not this one. If, on the other hand, you are looking for one of the best Chromebooks out there, well then that is a different story altogether.
To justify the thrifty appeal of most Chromebooks, corners are inevitably cut in the build quality, but for just under £1,000 of your hard-earned pennies, the Asus Flip is a beautifully crafted piece of kit that holds its own against the likes of Apple and other premium Windows machines. I’m not a huge fan of white devices as they tend to show up marks a little easier, but the one I tested had a subtle sheen to it that changes colour when you look at it from a different angle. Very classy.
The Flip part of the name comes from the fact you can twist the 14-inch touchscreen over itself and use it as a tablet or in tent mode, which along with the tiny bezel and four harman/kardon powered speakers make it an excellent multimedia device.
Under the hood is 10th-generation i5 processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD, which are pretty ludicrous specs for a Chromebook, possibly too much if you don’t intend to do much more than a bit of web browsing, watching videos and getting past the first chapter of that novel you’ve been working on. However, as one of the first Chromebooks on Google and Intel’s Project Athena programme, it should be optimised enough to handle whatever you throw at it well into the future.
At 1.1kg, magnesium alloy body keeps things exceptionally light, the keys are backlit for nighttime typing, and another cool feature is the fingerprint reader, which works remarkably well, despite the fact that at first, I thought it was the power button.
Of course, being a Chromebook you’re limited to what apps are available on Android and not all of them are compatible, but that is more of a problem with ChromeOS than the laptop itself, and everything I did boot up worked like a charm. – AM
Logitech G915 TKL gaming keyboard
Clickety-clack – that’s the unmistakable sound of a mechanical keyboard when someone is indulging in a little online gaming. The new Logitech G915 TKL is a smaller version of their popular G915 gaming keyboard, so expect plenty of satisfying clunks while playing.
Ditching the number keys to the right (known as the tenkeyless form factor) means the wireless keyboard has a much more compact profile on your desk and thus more space to swing your mouse around, while individual RGB lighting under each key means you can pick one of 16.8 million colours to glow beneath them for nighttime gaming.
The keys’ low-profile combined with LIGHTSPEED wireless technology, promising a blisteringly-fast 1-millisecond response, means this should be one quick-playing keyboard, so don’t go trying to blame lag for missing out on that crucial headshot.
MiniBrew CRAFT home brewing kit
Anyone who has ever tried making homebrew beer will know that it’s one heck of a messy job, so anything that can take out the graft and cut straight to the tasty bit will be sweet nectar to any budding brewmaster’s ear.
The MiniBrew CRAFT is an all-in-one worktop home brewing machine, which takes you from raw ingredients to a keg of around five litres of freshly poured beer in around 10 days. Ok, that’s not a quick as popping down to the local off licence, but in these strange times anything that’ll keep you safely out of the open is welcome.
Beginners can pick the type of beer they want to make using brew kits, which cost between £17 and £30, but more experienced brewers can use the app to create their own liquid masterpieces. We’ll cheers to that!
Get your kicks, without costing the planet. That’s the idea behind these new trainers from Allbirds.
The design follows the trends in running shoes over the last few years: a mesh upper provides lightness, the flared heel adds stability and a mixed density sole adds springiness. Where it differs is in its materials and manufacturing.
The shoe is constructed out of materials made from wool, eucalyptus tree fibre and sugarcane rather than the usual plastics and rubbers derived from fossil fuels. And the manufacturing process minimises carbon footprint and water use.
These Dashers have a footprint of 8kg of CO2 – 30 per cent less than an average trainer.
Trust GXT 258 Fyru streaming microphone
A good microphone is not something most laptops come shipped with, so if you are going to be shouting at your screen mid frag or recording your latest acoustic jams, you need to invest in a better mic.
The Fryu is primarily aimed at streamers and gamers, and as all good gaming peripherals should be, is sturdy and black, with LEDs that you can change colour depending on your mood with the push of a button.
Inside the cylindrical unit are three microphones pointing in different directions, so you can pick between cardioid for recording your own voice sans background noise, stereo, face-to-face or omnidirectional, which will pick up 360 degrees of sound.
Streamers (or people like me who spends most of their time on Zoom calls these days) will appreciate the zero-latency monitoring, and anyone who does podcasting (also like me) will be thankful for the multi-directional recording for all potential interviewing situations. It also has a universal screw mount so you can easily adapt it to any kit you already have.
Of course, what you really want to know is how good it sounds. Well, the proof is in the pudding really, as since the coronavirus lockdown I’ve been using it to record the Science Focus Podcast – listen to these episodes to get an idea.
At this price point, it’s a really good mic for streaming and recording audio. The sound quality is clear, with the internal pop filter clearing out any annoying P and F sounds, and the mic is sensitive enough to pick up the scampering other people in the house if you have it to the right settings. – AM
SNOO Smart Sleeper
Babies are fickle little things – one moment they’re all snoozy woozy curled up in bed, and the next they’re bawling little demons for absolutely no apparent reason. For parents there is no more entertaining time of day for them to partake in this little pastime of theirs than in the middle of the night, so anything that can claw back a few moments of sleep before the next round of stinky nappies and thrown-up milk is welcome.
The SNOO smart bassinet claims to soothe your baby back to sleep in just 30 seconds through a combination of white noise and adaptive rocking, which gets more vigorous the more the baby cries. I say claims, as giving it a spin with number two (yey me) didn’t go entirely to plan.
For the SNOO to work, the baby has to be wrapped in a special swaddle that clips to the bassinet to stop them from rolling around as it rocks back and forth. Said baby was not cool with swaddling. We did eventually manage to get him in, and actually, once the SNOO was in full swing he seems pretty content with the situation (or maybe confused), but ultimately the little fella never really had any issues sleeping in the first place (again, yey me). Ironically our first child would probably have loved it…
Unsurprisingly, with celebs like Beyoncé, Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman giving it a big thumbs up, this is a full-on luxury parenting product, and having passed a keen eye over a number of cribs in my time, is easily one of the best looking, but can you really afford to spend the best part of £1,000 at this point in your life? Well, that depends on how much of a price you can put on sleep. If the SNOO works for you, it’ll be worth its weight in gold, but if like me it doesn’t work out, there is a no questions asked 30-day refund. – AM
Ultion SMART lock
Got a house stacked with cool gadgets? Great, but how secure is it – specifically, the door? With that in mind, the gateway to your veritable Aladdin’s Cave of goodies should not only be safe, but also smart.
If you’re into ‘lock stats’, you’ll be pleased to hear the Ultion SMART lock features an 11 pin internal system and a potential 294,970 key combinations, as well as a lockdown mode if it gets attacked. For the non lock-aficionados out there, Ultion has stuck a £1,000 guarantee on it, which sounds like they’re pretty confident of its security credentials.
If turning a key is too much for you, the motorised lock will turn with but a gentle tap, and for the seriously lazy you can ask Apple or Amazon’s voice assistants Siri and Alexa to do it for you, hands-free. Similarly, it can automatically lock or unlock when a trusted person is near using GPS and Bluetooth.
The whole thing is battery operated (and should last well over a year) and doesn’t require any cables or drill to install, just a screwdriver. And on top of all that, as far as door locks go, it looks rather fetching too.
Dyson Lightcycle Morph
Dyson has a habit of making us reconsider the mundane. In this case, the Lightcycle Morph is a lamp (desk and standing versions available) that continually tailors the light it shines to your age, the atmospheric conditions, and the amount of daylight surrounding it. The idea being that all of the above affect how you perceive light.
An onboard infrared sensor turns the lamp on and off when you approach and the app offers up a suite of use settings (study, relax, precision etc). Our desk lamp doesn’t quite look the same anymore…
Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%
These are the shoes Eliud Kipchoge wore when he ran the world’s first sub-2-hour marathon in October 2019. The release of the shoes was delayed, as the World Athletics organisation wanted to take a closer look at the design of the shoe before deciding they were race-legal.
The trainers rely on carbon fibre plates, foam and “airbags” – Nike calls them Air Pods – to reduce the energy lost when a runner’s foot strikes the ground, quite literally putting a spring in their step. Running pundits believe the arrival of this shoe will see a series of records tumble at the next Olympics.
Looking for even more cool gadgets?
Wow, you’ve made it this far… you must really like gadgets! That’s great, but the fun doesn’t end here. We regularly update this list so bookmark it if you want to see the latest tech news and what we reckon are the must-have gadgets to get your mitts on this year.
And if you think we’ve missed some blindingly obvious devices then let us know on Twitter and we’ll have a look at it in the near future.