Future-proofing against wireless cutouts
Those who have had their Zoom, Teams etc meetings messed up by bad wired broadband connections these past months will be unsurprised to learn that the UK has only the 34th best home broadband in the world. Even if yours is good, you will have noticed the extraordinary number of broadcast interviews from people’s homes going wrong. At the same time, while all the tech controversy lately has concerned 5G, over much of the country 4G has actually become rather good – faster than home WiFi and rock-solid stable. Many has been the time when I have rescued a work assignment affected by flaky broadband by simply switching to my phone’s 4G. Now, Netgear has this rather brilliant solution – a home WiFi router with a 4G SIM. When the wired connection wobbles, the Orbi LBR20 will seamlessly move you to 4G. You obviously don’t want to be doing all your internet stuff on 4G – you would bust even a generous data limit within a day. But as a back-up system, this is superb.
Netgear Orbi LBR20 4G LTE WiFi router, £370, netgear.co.uk
The chattiest bin in town
This electronic kitchen rubbish bin from the Oxfordshire company Simplehuman – for my money, the Apple of household hardware – has been giving me quantifiable joy probably 50 times a day since it arrived. It’s a combined waste and recycling bin whose motorised lid opens when you either approach it or say “Open can”. It closes itself after a few seconds, but you can also ask it to “Stay open” for extended periods of time. The motor mechanism is smooth and practically silent. If you are British, you may feel it’s a shame you can’t say “Open bin”, but the US market is of course bigger. The advantages over a swing top are obvious – no more fiddling to open it with one hand and deposit gunk with the other without it dripping. As to the advantages over a foot-operated model – the “stay open” function is invaluable if you are on a more extensive tidy-up mission. The ergonomic upgrade puts this piece of tech way beyond gimmickry.
Simplehuman dual-compartment bin, £280, simplehuman.com
A lightbulb moment
I used to visit lighting designer Jake Dyson in his Farringdon basement workshop before his business was brought into the family firm, where his ever-cooler products remain among the few Dyson creations that don’t involve blowing or sucking air in some form. His latest lamp, the Lightcycle Morph, is, I think, close to a work of art. In its table or floor-standing version, the Morph is a lot more agile than his earlier Lightcycle offerings. You can adjust the light source to a far more varied number of planes, making it perfect as a desk lamp or uplighter. The one thing you can’t do with Morph that you can with the previous iteration is adjust the height of the lighting head. The reason for this is that the vertical stalk itself becomes a gently glowing light if you pivot the horizontal beam to a resting position. Like other Dyson lights, there’s an app that you can use to personalise your settings and to adjust the light automatically to suit the time of day – if such nuanced illumination is your bag.
Dyson Lightcycle Morph, £500 for desk model, £650 floor-standing, dyson.co.uk
Cooking just got smarter
The controls on ovens are notoriously poor. When I moved to my flat, I inherited a built-in oven that, without the long-lost manual, proved so hard to change the time on that I left it on GMT all year round. As for any more advanced operations, such as setting timers, forget it. No idea. Having seen other ovens that are equally inscrutable, I started wondering if there was such a thing as an oven that could be operated from a phone or tablet. Which is what led me to Smeg’s new range of WiFi-connected ovens. It has gone for gold, building an elegant, intuitive app that demystifies the most arcane of procedures – to the extent that I’m actually looking forward to setting it to work on the Christmas turkey. The choice of ovens is wide, with a variety of sizes, prices and aesthetics, but the technology is pretty similar in all of them. The self-cleaning mode is a joy, as is the built-in meat probe. Being able to grill with the oven door closed is also great. But being able to run the whole thing from a phone or iPad is the USP for me.
SmegConnect Vivo Max, from £1,099, smeguk.com
Safe to touch
To recommend a safe because it’s quick and easy to open seems a little counterintuitive, unless advertising it to burglars. But this interior-lit (nice touch) and bolt-down-able (obvs) domestic safe from US padlock kings Master Lock opens – faultlessly for me – by fingerprint. It will recognise as many as 30 fingers and is beautifully made and decent looking. Its internal dimensions of 19.2cm x 42.7cm x 31cm are surprisingly roomy; think a large and unusually well-appointed hotel-room safe. Most home safes are hidden in dark corners – under-stair cupboards et cetera – where it’s hard to see the keypad. The fingerprint opening mechanism is, therefore, a time- and frustration-saving revelation. It doesn’t claim to be more fireproof than other steel boxes. But when it comes to burglars, police officers will tell you 99 per cent are opportunists only interested in small electronics and watches that can quickly be removed and fenced. So for documents, laptops, phones – stuff you might need several times a day – it’s a neat, hassle-free device.
Master Lock Large Biometric Safe, £199, masterlock.eu