WELCOME TO our new monthly guide to the best gadgets, accessories, toys (and anything else with an electric current) that we've spotted and liked enough to mention it. This is where the whole team will be showing off their ideas for how to spend your hard earned spondoolics on LEDs and things that go whizz.
There's no particular order and there's no star ratings, this is just us telling you about some cool stuff we've found. If it's here, it's 'coz we rate it. And so on to this month's selection. You can click the link under each item to go to the stockist as mentioned.
Please note that in some cases these may be affiliate links, but the reviews are completely independent and no brand has paid for inclusion. That's true of all our reviews, now and always.
AUKEY Power Bank 20000mAh
My god. It's full of stars. Yes, this monolithic black box contains enough charge, theoretically to charge your iPhone 7 Plus 4.5 times. It can charge via USB or Lightning and charges remarkably quickly via Micro USB. A must for festivals. It can even charge 2 devices at once and it will work out the voltages. Bit of a niggle - there's only one LED, so you need to know the colour code to see how much juice is left, but that's just details.
AUKEY Quick Charge 3.0 10 ports USB Wall Charger 70w
As the number of devices we need to keep on charge goes forever upward, then thank goodness for Aukey, whose latest charging bank offers a healthy 10 (yes 10) ports of which two are Qualcomm QC3.0 compatible for faster charging. And cuteness abounds - there are even dust covers for the ports when they aren't in use. That's the kind of attention to detail we love. Oh, and there's a master on/off switch too.
Water meets technology with this awesome new combination filter jug and dispenser that has just crossed the pond. Instead of saying "this filter lasts a month", Zerowater comes with a meter to detect the level of impurities in your water. And then makes that number OOO. When we tried unfiltered South London tap water, it showed us a shocking 323 - the second highest contaminant band on the chart. But with its five layer filter process, the results were down to 000 in a jiffy. As soon as the filtered product gets above six, change your filter - they clock in at £20, but they last well and filter far better than supermarket ones.
Vibrating Neck Massager
Ugggrrrggghhhhhhhhh! Bliiiiiiiissssss! In case this doesn't sound it, it's a positive review for what would be an awesome neck pillow even if it didn't have a ruddy neck massager in it. But it does. It wraps around to fit your particular neck size (and avoids it falling off) and then you can choose from two speeds of neck jiggling loveliness. All for just two AA batteries. We've been weeaarrriinnnggg iittt innn ttheeee oofffiiiccceeee but you'd never know.
If you're storing, er, sensitive material on your hard drive, iStorage's PIN-protected diskAshur hard drive promises to keep it away from prying eyes. We've been testing the 2TB option, which boasts XTS-AES 256-bit hardware encryption, a nippy USB 3.0 connection, and transfer speeds up to 5Gbps. What's more, the diskAshur has the ability to set a password that will reset the encryption key if needed, which will clear all of the data on the device. It looks pretty funky too - we've been using the oddly festival red model.
Desktop USB Fridge
Sometimes in life, just knowing there's a cold one waiting for you is reassuring enough to get you through the day. And so it came to pass that some clever person came up with a fridge, small enough for one can, and therefore small enough to be powered by your computer's USB port. It drops to eight degrees in minutes and if it's a cold one you want, it's a cold one you will ruddy well get my friends - take two cans from the big fridge. Put one in storage in the little fridge. Half the shoe leather. You're actually saving cows.
Retro Slush Maker
Don't mean to get all slushie on you, but the past is awesome. And so what better way to celebrate than the drinks of your youth? This five-in-one gadget can turn ice cubes into slushies, iced coffee, ice cream, milkshakes and of course cocktails. Oh yes. We made iced coffee. We used Irish Cream and oat milk. It was ruddy stunning. You basically need this. And if you're more of a traditionalist, you can buy red and blue slushie syrups (because red and blue were flavours in the seventies) for £5.99 each.
Pssst. Wanna charge all the things? Then what about Charge Pit? As well as the four grooves to put your devices, there's also a hidden six gang USB charging dock (cables not included) so you can use the right wires for your machines and have them all standing proudly and neatly. It can cope with up to 10A and certainly keeps a messy desk tidy.
Sense Peanuts are another brilliant bit of affordable French IoT kit. At just 29 Euros each, they provide an insight into different aspects of your life in a form factor that either disappears into a bag, or optionally clips to it. So far there's the Guard Peanut (which detects motion, obviously), Thermo Peanut (Temperature) and the newest is Sleep Peanut, a simple, portable sleep monitor. All work with IFTTT making them useful in a Smart Home arrangement and at this price, they're a no brainer. Next up will be Med Peanut to help you keep track of your pills. This could be a new way of managing your life. We love it.
Invoxia is the same company that brought us the Triby, the first non-Amazon speaker with Alexa to reach the UK. We loved that and we love this. It's a simple premise. By docking your mobile phone, it becomes a desk phone, a speaker phone, mp3 speaker, caller display and clock. It comes with Micro USB and Lightning out of the box, but they happily sent us a USB converter free of charge. The sound quality is excellent, pairing is easy and functionality is excellent. There are other models which can incorporate your VOIP accounts, but this will do for us for now.
Yes, as if the iKettle 1 and 2 weren't enough for you, here's the iKettle 3.0, which brings with it a bunch of new features. It has Alexa support, so you can tell Alexa to boil the kettle. It has an updated setup sequence involving flashing lights that we're not really sure who benefits. You can check the water level and boil to any temperature from 0-100c from anywhere. The thing is, we're not sure why anyone wanted it in the first place. Smarter has made a company that sells stuff that rich people don't need but they buy anyway. If you like it and can afford it, brill. We like it too. But we have no idea why. Now - the coffee machine, we can sort of get behind a bit more. A bit.
Air pollution is no laughing matter and we're seeing more and more devices to help you monitor your home air quality launching. Foobot is one of our favourites. The device itself looks all white and crisp and clean and lovely, and the data that it gives is not just comprehensive in terms of the types of pollutants in the air, but also tells you what you can do about them. Compatible with 120 thermostats and other smart devices, and with a lovely UI on its app, we're properly chuffed with this one - we think it's a ruddy steal.
Amazon Fire HD8 (2017)
We took the latest version of Amazon's Fire tablet on holiday. The size is a nice compromise between the "almost a phone these days" of a 7in and the "makes bulges in your beach bag" of a 10in. The design is as nice to hold as ever, and little touches like the Night Shade mode make it a viable e-reader too.
As you'd expect for a product at this price point, there's a lot of Amazon offerings to wade through, so if you're not committed to the cause, best be careful. Because Amazon is its own thing, it has a separate app store, so you might have to buy your favourite apps all over again. Not cool.
The other option is to hack it of course. Not that we'd condone putting the Google Play Store on ourselves, obviously. But if we did, it would work fine, we imagine, with no impact on what's a speedy little tablet.
The storage is a bit small, but it'll take an SD card so that's okay, and the performance and responsiveness are something that if they could be taken and bottled, Android would die for in the next Pixel.
Impressive. But better with Google stuff than without. We'd guess.
Bad for shareholders, mildly good for the planet
YouTube on the Tube
Claims that it hasn't ever actually worked