10 cool gadgets: our pick of the best new tech for 2020 (part 1)
Searching for a little smart home inspiration? Need gadgets for your significant other? Just bored and want to ogle at some shiny new tech? If it’s cool gadgets you’re after, we’ve cast our expert eyes over the latest tech and picked out what we think are the best new gadgets for 2020.
Needless to say, we won’t waste your time with pointless trinkets and thingumajigs (in fact anything without a USB is going to be a hard sell), and what we do get our grubby paws on we’ll let you know with a hands-on test, just look for our initials.
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.
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.
JBL Tuner XL DAB radio
Portable radios, remember them? Before smartphones were really a thing, handheld radios were remarkably helpful if you were pottering at the bottom of the garden or desperate to know the rest of the scores while you were at the footy. On the downside, they frequently sounded rubbish.
Times have changed, the new Tuner XL from audio specialists JBL promises sound infinitely better thanks to DAB radio and a powerful 10W speaker. Best of all it’ll work in the internet dead zone near the petunias or surrounded by 50,000 footy fans sucking up bandwidth by uploading the goal of the season to Twitter.
It’s waterproof to IPX7 standards, so should be able to take a few splashes, and claims a long, 15-hour battery life. Of course, if The Today Show just isn’t cutting it for you, you can also hook it up to Bluetooth and listen to something far more interesting instead.
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
If like us you’re a big fan of science books, you’ll probably be well acquainted with the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (for those that don’t know, it’s a waterproof e-reader with a built-in light for reading in the dark). So far so good, but why does it make it onto this esteemed list of cool gadgets? Well, now it comes in two delicious new colours, sage and plum… tasty.
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.
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.
Game Gear Micro
Normally we’re not one for nostalgia, but this almost-keyring-sized Game Gear Micro hits us right in the reminiscence bump.
The teeny, tiny console measures in at 80 x 43 x 20mm, with a 1.15-inch display. It’s got a small mono speaker, a headphone jack, and charges off USB or it can be powered by two AAA batteries. There are four colours available, each with its own set of four games.
And if you’re wondering how on Earth you could play games on such a small screen, then this probably isn’t for you – but it does come with a magnifying glass attachment like the original.
Sony ZV-1 vlogging compact camera
Vloggers, we see you recording your charming videos on your smartphone, and we know you can do so much better.
The ZV-1 is a new Sony compact camera that puts vlogging bang in focus, which as well as a flip around screen for recording those selfies, also has a 20-megapixel sensor, real-time tracking for speedy autofocus (on both faces and products when you waft them in front of the camera), image stabilisation and a Bluetooth grip (sold separately).
It also comes bundled with a wind screen, which not only improves audio by dampening out blustery noises but also makes it look like you have an adorable little mouse on top of the camera.
Simba Hybrid Pro foam mattress
Memory foam mattresses killed the bedspring, or did they?
This new innovation from Simba has put springs back into its mattress (2,500 of them to be precise). These small, individually wrapped miQro® springs are cone-shaped to support your weight better, and allow air to move between you and the foam beneath.
Simba claims that this combo of foam and springs offers the best of both worlds, making for a comfier, supple mattress that’s cooler than memory foam alone.