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2017
HOME TECH:
THE ESSENTIAL
GUIDE
HOME TECH
CONTENTS
3
CONTENTS 01
INTRODUCTION THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
4
02
MUSIC & AUDIO
8
Introduction10
Wireless/Smart/Multi-Room Systems
12
Classic Hi-Fi Systems:
16
— CD Players 18
— Turntables 18
— Amplifiers 18
— Speakers 19
Headphones20
03
ENTERTAINMENT 22
04 05
CAMERAS42
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY Introduction24
Introduction44
Introduction50
Televisions 26
Cameras Home Security 52
Projectors 28
Kitchen Tech:
62
Home Cinemas
30
— Small Appliances 62
Gaming32
— Smart Shopping 66
Virtual Reality
Eco Home
68
Robotic Vacuums 70
Intelligent Personal Assistants
72
36
46
48
HOME TECH
INTRODUCTION
5
01
INTRODUCTION
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME TECH
INTRODUCTION
7
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
ACCORDING TO CNBC, 2017 IS THE YEAR THAT
WILL FINALLY REALISE THE POTENTIAL OF THE
AUTOMATED SMART HOME, AND AS TRENDS
SWAY TOWARDS SMARTPHONE-AUTOMATED
EVERYTHING, WE THINK THEY MIGHT BE RIGHT.
IMPRESSIVE ‘SMART’ UPDATES TO THE
BEST-LOVED CLASSICS, AND BRAND-NEW,
INNOVATIVE GADGETS SHOW THAT WE’RE
CERTAINLY SHAPING UP FOR AN EXCITING
YEAR IN HOME TECH.
MUSIC BUFFS, SERIOUS GAMERS, ASPIRING
CHEFS, AND ECO-WARRIORS HAVE PLENTY TO
LOOK FORWARD TO. WE’VE HANDPICKED THE
BEST IN EVERYTHING FROM ENTERTAINMENT
TO KITCHEN TECH, TO HELP YOU CHOOSE THE
BEST SPEAKERS, TVS, GAMING CONSOLES
AND EVEN LIGHT BULBS.
HOME TECH
MUSIC & AUDIIO
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02
MUSIC & AUDIO
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME TECH
MUSIC & AUDIO
EVERY HOME SHOULD HAVE AN AUDIO
SETUP. WHETHER YOU’RE COOKING A MEAL,
ENTERTAINING SOME FRIENDS, OR HAVING
A MUCH-NEEDED TIDY-UP, THE RIGHT MUSIC
MAKES IT BETTER.
THERE ARE SEVERAL APPROACHES YOU CAN
TAKE TO HOME AUDIO, FROM THE CUTTINGEDGE TO THE TRIED-AND-TESTED. YOU NEED
TO ASSESS WHICH SORT OF SETUP IS RIGHT
FOR YOUR LIFESTYLE, AND MAKE YOUR
CHOICE BASED ON THAT.
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME TECH
MUSIC & AUDIO
WIRELESS/SMART/
MULTI-ROOM
SPEAKERS
WIRELESS ‘SMART’ SPEAKERS HAVE BECOME
INCREASINGLY POPULAR OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS,
AND ARE IDEAL IF YOU CONSUME MOST (OR ALL) OF
YOUR MUSIC THROUGH A STREAMING SERVICE LIKE
SPOTIFY OR APPLE MUSIC.
The premise is simple: you install the
smart speaker’s app on your chosen
device (smartphone, tablet or laptop),
then you connect that device to your
smart speaker via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth,
and you’re good to go. You can control
the music – browsing menus, creating
playlists, skipping songs and adjusting
the volume – from wherever you are in
the house. It couldn’t be much more
convenient.
Most smart speakers are compact in
size and are therefore suitable for any
room in your home. You might even
want to buy several of them, so that
you can have the same music playing
simultaneously in different rooms. It’s
certainly something to consider if you
like to potter around, or if you often
have guests over.
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME TECH
MUSIC & AUDIO
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
THE BIG PLAYERS
Sonos
Sonos is arguably the most popular
brand in the smart-speaker market.
The speakers in its ‘Play’ range start
at around £170 (Play:1) and go up
to around £500 (Play:5). The mini
home speaker has been conveniently
designed to fit any space and fill the
room.
Bose
Another leading brand in the market is
Bose, which has been in the wireless
speaker game for over ten years. The
SoundTouch 20 retails at around £280,
and comes in black or white to fit
your aesthetic needs. Designed to be
compact yet deliver a full, rich sound,
you’ll be wirelessly streaming music in
no time.
Denon
With decades of innovation behind
them, you can't go wrong with a Denon
speaker. The HEOS 7 HS2 (£379) offers
high-resolution audio support and a
7 driver speaker system. This awardwinning speaker is top of the line.
Cambridge Audio
Possessing 200W of amplification, the
Cambridge Audio Minx Air 200 is an
undisputed champion in the smartspeaker market. Retailing at around
£350, it’s a versatile wireless speaker
that also provides AirPlay support
along with Bluetooth, meaning it’s the
perfect speaker for your compatible
Apple devices.
HOME TECH
MUSIC & AUDIO
CLASSIC HI-FI
SYSTEMS
IF YOU’RE A CD OR VINYL COLLECTOR, YOU
SHOULD INVEST IN A MORE TRADITIONAL
HI-FI SETUP IN ORDER TO GET THE MOST
OUT OF YOUR ALBUMS AND COMPILATIONS.
To achieve this, you’ll need separate
components: a CD player or a turntable
(or both), an integrated amplifier, and
at least two foot-high speakers. They
don’t all need to be the same brand
– some manufacturers are better than
others at certain components, so
a mix can actually result in a better
overall setup.
This sort of setup certainly takes up
more space than a modern smart
system does, but the resulting sound
quality is more than worth it if you
invest well.
You’ll need to spend at least £600
altogether in order for your system to
be any good. If your budget doesn’t
stretch that far, you could try seeking
out second-hand separates on eBay
or in charity shops – with a little luck
you’ll find a real bargain.
You can plug a laptop or tablet into a
classic stereo setup too, which means
you’ll still be able to play streamed
music out loud.
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME TECH
MUSIC & AUDIO
19
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
CD PLAYERS
If you’ve amassed a nice collection
of CDs over the years, it’s a shame to
leave them sitting there on the shelf.
Sure, you can burn them onto your PC
or laptop as MP3 tracks, but the filecompression that takes place when
you do so diminishes the quality of the
music (by roughly 20%). In other words,
listening to a CD on a proper stereo
setup will result in a better audio
experience for you.
The trusty manufacturers:
—— Cambridge Audio
—— Marantz
—— Onkyo
—— Denon
—— Yamaha
Each of these brands offers a varied
selection of CD players to suit all
budgets – from entry-level to higherspec. Cambridge Audio and Marantz
are the best bets if you are on a tight
budget (between £130 and £180),
whereas Onkyo, Denon and Yamaha
players start around the £200 mark.
TURNTABLES
Worthwhile turntables start at around
the £150 mark, with entry-level models
by Audio-Technica, Marantz, Pro-Ject
and Pioneer. If you only have a small
vinyl collection, or you plan to use
your turntable sparingly, one of these
should more than suffice.
For a little bit more you can get
an Audio-Technica LP120, which is
an entry-level DJ-style turntable.
This one is based (both visually and
mechanically) on the iconic Technics
1200/1210 models, but is much cheaper
in price – a brand-new Technics 1200
costs roughly £1,300, and a pre-owned
one can fetch anywhere between £350
and £550 on eBay.
Entry-Level stalwarts
(£150-£250)
—— Pro-Ject Essential II or Essential III
—— Marantz TT5005
—— Pioneer PL30
—— Audio-Technica LP120
—— TEAC TN300
—— Rega Planar 1
If you have more money to spend, go
for a more advanced model.
Higher-end recommendations
(£250+)
—— Sony PSHX500
—— Rega Planar 2
—— Audio-Technica LP5
—— Edwards Audio TT1
—— Clearaudio Concept
—— Technics 1200
AMPLIFIERS
A high-spec CD player or turntable is
nothing without a strong amplifier. As
What Hi-Fi? puts it, your amp is “the
powerhouse of your hi-fi system” – it
has an enormous influence on the
resulting sound quality.
As with any piece of audio equipment,
you can spend a little or you can spend
a lot, but it’s wise to go with the best
your budget can stretch to, because
the value and quality usually reflects
the price you pay.
Audio-Technica LP5
Vinyl LPs sound wonderfully rich and
detailed, but only when played on the
right equipment. This starts with your
turntable.
SPEAKERS
Reliable budget models
(£150-£300)
Premium options
(£500+)
—— Cambridge Audio Topaz AM5
—— Pioneer A10
—— Onkyo A9010
—— Marantz PM5005 or PM6005
—— NAD C316BEE
—— Yamaha AS300 or AS301
—— Audiolab 8300A
—— Cambridge Audio CXA60
—— Lehmann Audio Stamp
—— Marantz HD-AMP1
—— Pioneer A-50DA
—— Yamaha A-S801
The big decision to make is
whether you want standmounts or
floorstanders. Go for standmounts
if they’re going to sit on a shelf, desk
or cabinet, because they’re compact
and are usually between 25-40cm in
height. Floorstanders are generally
more expensive, but they’re the ones
to go for if you want taller speakers or
you don’t have space to mount them
on a raised surface.
Recommended standmounts
(£60-£200)
Recommended floorstanders
(£200-£550)
—— Wharfedale Diamond 9.0 (24cm
high) or Diamond 9.1 (30cm high)
—— Q Acoustics 2020i
—— Tannoy Eclipse One
—— Cambridge Audio SX50 (23cm high)
or SX60 (34cm high)
—— Roth VA4
—— Bose Companion 20
—— Mission MX3i
—— Tannoy Eclipse Three
—— Cambridge Audio SX80
—— Wharfedale Diamond 230
—— Q Acoustics 2050i
—— Dali Zensor 5
HOME TECH
MUSIC & AUDIO
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HEADPHONES
IF YOU LIKE YOUR MUSIC LOUD BUT YOU DON’T WANT TO ANNOY
YOUR NEIGHBOURS, A SET OF HIGH-PERFORMANCE HEADPHONES
WILL BE A WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT FOR YOU.
CLASSIC (WIRED)
WIRELESS
GAMING HEADSETS
One of the most well-received
headsets on the market right now is
the Beyerdynamic DT 1770, priced at
£387. Designed for sound engineers
and studio users, you get impressive
sound quality that will let you hear
music in a completely different way.
If you’re looking for a wireless option,
the Bose QuietComfort 35 (£299) lets
you go about your day without the
need to worry about wires – especially
if you want to move away from your
hi-fi system for a bit, offering up to 20
hours of wireless listening.
The Sony Oppo PM-3 offers
exceptional value for the £350 price
tag, providing great insulation and
boasting features usually found in more
expensive pairs.
Another trusty wireless pair comes in
the form of the Sony MDR-ZX770BN
(£119), which also offers noisecancellation – an added bonus at the
competitive price.
If you’re a big gamer, you’re going
to want to find the perfect set of
headphones that lets you jump right
into all the action as it happens.
HyperX Cloud II (£65) is the perfect
gaming headset for PC and PS4 users
(XBox One users will need an adapter).
With a built-in sound card boasting
7.1 Virtual Surround Sound, plus a
noise-cancelling microphone, it's the
perfect teammate for your next gaming
session.
Meanwhile, the V-Moda Crossfade
M-100 (£270) delivers a bass-heavy
sound in a stylish package. V-Moda
has been worn by many high-profile
DJs, including Avicii and Deadmau5, so
you’re in good company.
The Logitech G933 Artemis Spectrum
(£129) also boasts 7.1 Virtual Surround
Sound and can connect up to three
devices simultaneously. No longer do
you need to pause the game to answer
calls: you can do it all on the one
headset.
HOME TECH
ENTERTAINMENT
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ENTERTAINMENT
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME TECH
MUSIC & AUDIIO
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
IT’S NOT JUST MUSIC THAT’S BEING ENHANCED
BY SMARTER AND MORE ADVANCED TECHNOLOGY.
WE’RE WATCHING FILMS IN HIGHER
DEFINITION. WE’RE EXPERIENCING MORE
VISUALLY STUNNING GAMES. WE’RE SEEING
AND HEARING MORE DETAIL IN EVERYTHING
WE WATCH AND PLAY, THANKS TO HIGHERRESOLUTION SCREENS, INCREASINGLY
REALISTIC VR, AND IMMERSIVE, CINEMAQUALITY SURROUND SOUND.
WHETHER YOU’RE A MOVIE BUFF OR AN AVID
GAMER, FIND THE TECHNOLOGY THAT WILL
TAKE YOUR AT-HOME EXPERIENCE TO THE
NEXT LEVEL.
HOME TECH
ENTERTAINMENT
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
TELEVISIONS
“AFTER CURVED TVS WERE A BIG HIT LAST YEAR, WE EXPECT
4K TRANSPARENT TVS TO BECOME THE NEXT POPULAR
ADDITION TO OUR ENTERTAINMENT PACKAGE. COMPANIES
SUCH AS PANASONIC AND LG ARE LEADING THE WAY.”
— Nooria Mangal, Marketing Executive at KitMapper
SMART
A ‘smart’ TV is one that can connect to
the internet and use apps like Netflix,
BBC iPlayer and Spotify. Most of the big
manufacturers make their TVs smart as
standard nowadays, but some models
really stand out as the best smart TVs
on the market.
The Samsung KS9500 Series delivers
life-like pictures that contain a
huge amount of detail, colour and
information, which make watching TV a
truly dramatic experience. This series
also uses direct LED lighting with local
dimming, meaning that the screen
can show incredibly deep colours and
maintain brightness.
The Panasonic DX802 Series provides
an excellent external sound-bar audio
system consisting of 12 speakers,
support for range playback and native
UHD screens. The smart TV system in
this series is surprisingly simple and
easy-to-use, and it is competitively
priced.
The Samsung KS7000 Series brings
quality HDR to a broad audience. The
quantum dot colour reproduction and
ultra-bright panel also means that the
colours in the screen are immediately
striking. The sets fit into any modern
home too, with the sleek, metallic
frames offering a minimalist feel.
4K/UHD
3D
OLED
4K – or UHD – is picture technology
that quadruples the amount of pixels
found in an HD picture. This adds more
depth, colour resolution and detail to
the final picture, making images look
incredibly vivid and lifelike.
A wide range of tech giants are
producing some incredible 3D TVs.
Usually with the aid of 3D glasses,
these highly-advanced sets create a
cinematic feel in the home by offering
a special 3D feature, which allows
viewers to change their regular 2D
screen into an outstanding 3D picture.
An OLED TV produces richer and fuller
colours than standard LED or LCD
TVs do. As TechRadar puts it, “think
blacker blacks, and brighter whites”.
In other words, it’s a huge step up.
OLED pixels also emit light directly, so
viewing angles are much broader and
contrast stays the same even from 90
degrees off-centre.
The Panasonic DX902 series is a
particularly impressive range of 4K TVs.
The bright, contrast-rich pictures and
additional dimming technology make
the screens in this series stand out as
especially dramatic. The Sony BRAVIA 3D LED TV is very
popular amongst home-cinema
lovers. Viewers can quickly immerse
themselves in the world of 3D TV,
bringing their favourite films and shows
to life at the press of a button.
The LG OLED55B6V is a great TV that
offers depth, strong contrast and a
clear picture. The fantastic picture
quality enhances every frame with
superb detail, in addition to solid and
full-bodied sound.
HOME TECH
PROJECTORS
SONY VPL-VW300ES
The Sony VPL-VW300ES is an ideal
projector if you want to get that
cinematic feel. The picture quality is
incredibly sharp, because the reality
creation technology brings out a huge
amount of detail from DVDs, Blu-Ray
and native 4K sources.
BENQ W1070+
Simple, compact and great quality, the
BenQ W1070+ fits easily into your living
room and delivers a fantastic picture.
Extras for this projector include 3D
viewing and wireless HD, which add to
the cinematic effect.
SONY VPL-VW520E
The Sony VPL-VW520ES delivers
full 4K resolution, supports high
dynamic range playback and provides
excellent picture quality. It also has a
3D-playback option, making it even
more cinematically impressive.
ENTERTAINMENT
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
IF YOU DON’T HAVE ROOM FOR A GIANT TV (OR YOU DON’T WANT TO MAKE ROOM),
YOU COULD INSTEAD OPT FOR A PROJECTOR. THIS WAY YOU CAN WATCH FILMS
AND SHOWS ON A LARGE SCREEN, JUST AS THE DIRECTOR INTENDED, AND AVOID
ADDING CLUTTER TO YOUR LIVING ROOM. IN ADDITION TO THIS, PROJECTORS ARE
GENERALLY CHEAPER THAN MOST HIGH-QUALITY TVS.
HOME TECH
HOME CINEMA
ENTERTAINMENT
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
ONCE YOU’VE INVESTED IN A DECENT TELEVISION
SETUP, YOU’RE GOING TO WANT TO MAKE THE MOST
OUT OF IT WITH A WORTHY HOME CINEMA SYSTEM.
FOR ANY FILM BUFF OR TV ADDICT, THESE HOME
CINEMA SYSTEMS WILL NOT ONLY BOOST THE QUALITY
OF THE PICTURE BUT ALSO PROVIDE EXCELLENT
SURROUND SOUND AND IMMERSE YOU RIGHT IN THE
MIDDLE OF THE ACTION.
The Bose SoundTouch 300 Soundbar
(priced at £599) is packed with power
and sets out to deliver a clean and
punchy bass. Making it even better,
the SoundTouch has been designed to
be space-efficient, meaning it won’t
stand out like a sore thumb amongst all
your other gadgets and gizmos.
If you’re looking to spend a bit less, the
SONOS PLAY:3 Smart Wireless Speaker
(£299) is the little wireless speaker that
can. As well as providing immersive
sound designed to fill the room with
powerful audio, the SONOS PLAY:3
can be placed either horizontally
or vertically – nifty for those tricky
spaces.
If you’re serious about sound, the Q
Acoustic 3000 Cinema Pack (£775)
comes with all the speakers you’ll need
to create the perfect movie night:
two-stand mount speakers, a centre
speaker and a subwoofer. Offering
exceptional value, the set has won
titles left, right and centre including
TrustedReviews Editor’s Choice and
Best Buy from Home Cinema Choice.
Meanwhile, the Sony BDV-N5200W
(£350) packs it all in. The main unit
consists of a Blu-Ray player which can
also stream on‐demand movies and
use the likes of YouTube, Netflix and
BBC iPlayer. Through its 5.1 channels,
you’ll get 1000W of powerful surround
sound providing you with the full
cinematic experience.
Make the most out of your setup with
streaming devices, such as the Amazon
Fire Stick (£40) or the Now TV Box (£15),
which will provide you with access to
thousands of TV shows and movies.
Now, the most important decision you
need to make is which film to test your
new home cinema on.
HOME TECH
THE BIGGEST TREND THAT WE’RE CURRENTLY SEEING IN GAMING IS THE
DEVELOPMENT OF INCREASINGLY POWERFUL CONSOLES TO MEET THE
NECESSARY TECH SPECS THAT ARE NEEDED TO POWER VR HEADSETS. WE
EXPLORE VR HEADSETS IN DEPTH FURTHER ALONG IN THE GUIDE, BUT FOR
NOW, HERE’S OUR LIST OF THE LATEST GAMING CONSOLES CURRENTLY
AVAILABLE – AND WHAT THEY CAN OFFER YOU.
ENTERTAINMENT
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
GAMING
THE CLASSIC: NINTENDO
NES CLASSIC MINI (£49)
Technology in our homes may be
about new and innovative additions,
but when it comes to gaming, the
re-release of Nintendo’s classic NES
console proves that there is still some
room for nostalgia. The compactly
sized console comes pre-loaded with
30 popular, classic Nintendo games,
and it has so far been such a hit that
getting hold of one has proved difficult
(it is regularly out of stock on most
consumer sites).
THE 4K CONSOLE:
SONY PLAYSTATION
4 PRO (£349.99)
The PS4 Pro is the latest gaming
console from Sony, although it is
branded as a bigger and more powerful
version of the original PS4 rather than
as a brand-new console. Offering a
graphics processor (GPU) that’s more
than twice as powerful as the standard
PS4’s, the Pro can run games at native
4K resolution and is optimised for
HDR TVs. This means that unlike the
standard PS4, whether you’re gaming
or using your console to stream
movies, you will be able to enjoy them
in their maximum resolutions.
THE ENTERTAINMENT
SYSTEM: XBOX ONE S
(£249.99)
Also offering a high dynamic range
(HDR) and 4K streaming is the Xbox
One S. Although this and the PS4 Pro
have similar specifications, the PS4 Pro
is all about being a powerful gaming
console, whereas the Xbox One S
focuses on its ability to support native
4K streaming to make up for the lack of
native 4K gaming support. By offering
native 4K streaming, the One S builds
itself up as a console for more than just
gaming. Instead, it can be your games
console, your streaming device and
your entertainment system – all rolled
into one.
HOME TECH
THE GAMECHANGER:
NINTENDO SWITCH
(£279.99)
Alongside the NES re-release, Nintendo
has also released the Switch, with its
main selling point being that it offers a
home console gaming experience on
the go, by removing the need for a TV.
The Switch exists in a space that blurs
the line between handheld and console
gaming, because it can adapt to both,
depending on the needs of the user.
You can carry on playing a game on
your morning commute where you left
off in your living room the night before.
The Switch is by no means as powerful
as the PS4 Pro or the Xbox One S, but
is does offer a new approach to gaming
and urges us to rethink how we see
gaming consoles.
THE PREMIUM CONSOLE:
PROJECT SCORPIO (TBC)
It might sound like a codename straight
out of a spy movie, but Project Scorpio
is the latest gaming offering from
Microsoft, set to be released later
this year. Currently, there is no price
available for the console, but the head
of Xbox, Phil Spencer, is keen to point
out that it will be a “premium” console.
Offering six teraflops of computing
power – we checked and teraflop is
indeed a real word – Project Scorpio
will seek to bring true 4K gaming and
mixed reality support to users.
ENTERTAINMENT
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HOME TECH
ENTERTAINMENT
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
VIRTUAL REALITY
Technology is creeping into every
aspect of our homes, and whilst most
home tech seems commonplace, VR
(virtual reality) and AR (augmented
reality) still leave most of us scratching
our heads.
VR is a completely immersive
experience, where all interaction
happens in a virtual space.
AR, on the other hand, alters the
physical world by layering visual
enhancements onto your real
environment. And, unlike VR, AR
allows you to see and interact with
the physical world, blurring the line
between the virtual and the real.
VR and AR might yet be a number of
years away from practical usage, but
they’re already widely available on
the consumer market. It won’t be too
long before they become a part of
everyday life.
It may sound futuristic, but this
immersive technology has already
caused a stir, with last year’s hugely
successful AR game, Pokemon GO,
which requires users to interact with
their real environments by walking
around and collecting the virtual beings.
True AR, such as the Microsoft
HoloLens – a headset that combines
virtual reality with the real world – is
still awaiting consumer release, but
VR devices are becoming far more
accessible, with a variety of headsets
at different price points.
Most currently available headsets fall
into two categories: either premium
(high-spec investment) pieces, or
budget buys.
Budget options use your existing
mobile handset, rather than being
tethered by cables to a PC. These
headsets don’t necessarily give you a
lower-quality experience, but they do
offer a simpler and more affordable
way to experience the technology.
Headsets relying on mobile devices
also have an advantage over their
premium counterparts in that they’re
not restricted by cables. This means
more mobility and no danger of you
tripping over whilst using them.
This wireless advantage also acts as
a drawback, because relying on your
mobile device’s hardware capabilities
means that the level of immersion
and the quality of the moving imagery
won’t be the same as that offered by a
device that is connected to a powerful
PC or console.
HOME TECH
ENTERTAINMENT
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
“AN ASPECT OF HOME TECH THAT IS OFTEN FORGOTTEN
IS VIRTUAL REALITY AND AUGMENTED REALITY. THESE
TECHNOLOGIES AREN’T ONLY MADE FOR GAMES AND
MOVIES – THEY’RE ESPECIALLY USEFUL IN HOMES
WHEN IT COMES TO BUYING, SELLING OR RENOVATING
PROPERTY. YOU CAN VIRTUALLY EXPERIMENT WITH
INTERIOR DESIGN, OR EVEN CREATE YOUR HOUSE IN
3D AND FURNISH IT.”
– OPHÉLIE CASTELOT,
COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER
AT SPACE DESIGNER 3D
HOME TECH
ENTERTAINMENT
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
BUDGET BUYS
Samsung Gear VR (c. £80)
With the significant price-drop seen
here, you can also expect a drop in
the level of immersion, given that the
experience relies on a smartphone
to render virtual content (rather than
a PC). The role of the Gear VR is to
turn your Samsung device into a VR
headset, but by using a mobile phone
as the interface, Samsung has made its
VR set fully mobile – unlike the three
premium headsets, which are tethered
by cables to computers or gaming
consoles.
Despite its low price point, the Gear
headset is technologically impressive,
having been co-developed with
Oculus, and it’s compatible with many
of the apps on the Oculus Store.
Google Daydream (c. £70)
The Google Daydream is another VR
platform that utilises your existing
mobile handset. The device itself might
only cost £69 but, again, you will need
a compatible phone in order to use
it. There are reports of Pixel phones
overheating in the headset, but you
should have no problems if you avoid
prolonged usage. In summary, the
Daydream is a great entry point into
VR headsets – and it’s one that won’t
break the bank.
Google Cardboard (c. £15)
You’d be forgiven for thinking that
there’s a typo here and a zero missing
from the price, but amazingly the
Google Cardboard is only £15. It
is nowhere near as immersive or
advanced as any of the headsets
mentioned above, but it does offer
a taste of the VR experience for
a fraction of the cost. Unlike the
Daydream and the Gear VR, the
Cardboard will work with any Android
or iOS device that has a screen size
of 4 to 6 inches. You can use the
Cardboard to view 360° videos on
YouTube, and you can also access a
number of demos and Cardboard apps
on the Play Store.
Having experienced great success
in the entertainment market, we are
likely to see the application of VR go
above and beyond gaming and video
enhancement.
Interior designers and architects are
already experimenting with virtual
reality to map 3D spaces and to trial
modifications before committing to
physical adjustments. Apps like Space
Designer 3D allow users to draw a floor
plan in 2D and visualise it in 3D before
they even meet with an architect.
By allowing users to experiment with all
kinds of different furnishings, the days
of fabric samples and paint swatches
are long gone. Users can now visualise
a completely redecorated space
without ever having set foot in a homeimprovement store.
HTC Vive (c. £760)
Oculus Rift (c. £500)
Sony PlayStation VR (c. £350)
It may come as a surprise that the HTC
Vive is at the top of the price range,
given that the Oculus Rift was first
on the consumer market. Utilising
“room scale” technology, the Vive
turns a room into a virtual 3D space
using infrared sensors, allowing you to
move around in the virtual world and
interact using the 3D controllers – an
accessory which comes as standard
and offers you a more interactive
virtual experience.
The Oculus Rift works in much the
same way as the HTC Vive, but has the
added benefit of an audio headset.
It also comes in at more than £250
cheaper than the Vive, but you
will have to purchase controllers
separately.
The last of the tethered headsets on
our list, the PlayStation VR headset,
offers 360° vision, 3D audio and a built
in microphone. Designed to take your
gaming experience to the next level,
it’s powered by the PS4 console –
although you will also need to purchase
a PlayStation camera in order for your
VR headset to work.
Google Cardboard
PREMIUM HEADSETS
HOME TECH
CAMERAS
04
CAMERAS
43
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME TECH
CAMERAS
45
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
NO SMARTPHONE CAN QUITE CAPTURE THE
ESSENCE OF THE MOMENT LIKE A CAMERA
CAN. WHILST IT’S GREAT TO BE ABLE TO
HAVE A PHONE’S CAMERA ON HAND FOR
THOSE ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME, UNEXPECTED
MOMENTS, IT’S GREAT TO OWN A BIT OF KIT
TO SNAP THE OCCASION PERFECTLY.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A FIRST STEP
INTO THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DIGITAL
CAMERAS, OR IF YOU’RE WANTING TO
UPGRADE YOUR SETUP, WE’VE LOOKED INTO
SOME OF THE CAMERAS YOU’LL WANT TO
CONSIDER INVESTING IN DURING 2017.
OUR FIVE FAVOURITE CAMERAS EACH OFFER
SOMETHING A LITTLE DIFFERENT TO EACH
OTHER, BUT ARE ULTIMATELY THE PERFECT
ACCESSORIES TO ANY PHOTOGRAPHERS
OUT THERE.
HOME TECH
CAMERAS
47
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
Sony Alpha A7
CAMERAS
SEE IN 4K
GO MIRRORLESS
COMPACT & POWERFUL
KEEP THINGS COMPACT
CAPTURING THE ACTION
It seems that all camera manufacturers
have implemented 4K shooting into
their product lines, and if you’re
serious about keeping up with the next
revolutionary bit of tech, 4K may just
be the way forward for you.
For the price and the palm-shaped
size, you can't go wrong with the Sony
Alpha A7. This camera is perfect for
beginners but also offers the technical
capabilities to equip any professional
photographer with the equipment they
need.
Express yourself with the Canon EOS
77D, which provides a blend of artistic
control and powerful performance –
perfect for any occasion.
A compact camera is the perfect
accessory for when you’re out and
about. Leave the house with the
Panasonic Lumix LX100 by your side,
and you’re ready for any opportunity.
Right now, the best DSLR you can
get your hands on is the 24.3 MP
powerhouse that is the Nikon D750
(£1,599).
If you’re looking for a 4K camera but
can’t quite afford the price tag that
goes with a full-blown professional
camera, the Panasonic HC-VXF990EBK
is the perfect mid-range bit of kit.
Reasonably priced at around £699, it
offers needle-sharp resolution and
enough functions to cater to whatever
occasion or event you want to film. The
camera even allows you to link to as
many as three smartphones over Wi-Fi,
enabling you to shoot the same scene
from a variety of angles and viewpoints.
Priced at £999, it is actually one of
the cheapest full-frame cameras on
the market. With its 24.3 MP sensor
and hybrid autofocusing system,
you’ll be ready to go out and create
amazing photos. It's the ideal primary
camera for enthusiasts wanting to
create expert-level imagery and is
a great secondary piece of kit for
professionals.
The 24.2 MP sensor and powerful
performance means that your images
will be packed full of details, whilst the
Live View autofocus system allows you
to create perfect results even when it
comes to fast-moving subjects.
Priced at £829, the EOS 77D is a
mid-range consumer DSLR. It offers
excellent body-mounted controls and
an excellent touch screen that opens
up a plethora of options. The Canon
L series lenses are some of the most
highly rated available on the market
right now, so pair one up with the EOS
77D and you’ll be creating images to
die for.
At £499, you won’t find a more
competitively priced compact camera
with as great image quality and such
dynamic range. Sneaking a Micro Four
Thirds system into a compact camera
body – which are more likely to be
found in mirrorless cameras and DSLRs
– means you’ll be getting a betterquality camera than others on the
market.
Slip the Lumix LX100 in your pocket
and see what you can discover.
If you’re looking to capture precision,
the D750 is the perfect piece of
equipment to take crisp and clean
images at high ISOs. A fast-moving
subject is no issue with the 6.5 fps
burst rate, allowing you to focus on all
the action without worrying that you’ll
miss it.
With the in-built Picture Control 2.0,
you’ll be able to take complete control
over contrast, hue, brightness or
sharpness, meaning that you’ll be able
to get the desired image right away.
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
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05
SMART HOME
TECHNOLOGY
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
51
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
THE ‘INTERNET OF THINGS’ IS CONNECTING
OUR PHONES TO OUR HOMES, AND IS
LETTING US CONTROL EVERYTHING FROM
CONNECTED DEVICES. THE SUDDEN RISE
AND REIGN OF SMARTPHONE INTEGRATION
BRINGS SECURITY, ENERGY USAGE, CLEANING
AND COOKING TO OUR FINGERTIPS, AND
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE IS FINALLY GETTING
INTELLIGENT.
WHETHER YOU’RE LOOKING TO IMPROVE IN
THE KITCHEN, SAVE TIME ON CHORES, OR
CHANGE YOUR PLAYLIST WITH YOUR VOICE,
2017 IS THE FIRST YEAR OF THE SMART HOME,
AND IT’S GIVING YOU AUTOMATION, CONTROL
AND CONVENIENCE.
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
HOME SECURITY
IT’S ONLY NATURAL TO WANT TO KEEP YOUR HOME AND EVERYTHING INSIDE IT
SAFE, AND TODAY’S TECHNOLOGY PROVES THAT WE’VE COME A LONG WAY FROM
BARKING DOGS AND SCREAMING ALARMS. WHILE THESE MORE TRADITIONAL
METHODS HAVE PROVED TO BE EFFECTIVE, EXPENSIVE INSTALLATIONS AND THE
TRAINING OF YOUR FAVOURITE CANINE ARE NO LONGER NECESSARY.
Modern home security, like everything
else, is getting ‘smart’. This means
you can monitor and, in some cases,
control your home from an app on
your smartphone. Whether you want
to keep an eye on who’s coming
and going, or you want to arm your
home against burglars, smart home
technology allows you to install,
customise and control your own
security system using as many or as few
components as you need.
While some systems consist of a single
control ‘hub’ that connects to an app
on your phone, others offer motion
sensors, sirens, two-way audio and
video, remote-controlled locks, and
even the ability to integrate other
appliances.
There’s already a multitude of options
in what’s certainly an evolving market,
but which is right for your home?
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
55
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
“WHEN HOMEOWNERS ARE LOOKING TO RENOVATE,
THEY NOW HAVE TECH IN MIND. USING SMART TECH
CONNECTED TO YOUR PHONE YOU CAN GAIN CONTROL
OVER YOUR PROPERTY, APPLIANCES AND UTILITIES
FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, LETTING YOU DO
EVERYTHING FROM TURNING OFF THE HEATING TO
ANSWERING YOUR FRONT DOOR.”
– @STEPHEN_JURY,
SPOKESPERSON AT PLENTIFIC
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
57
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
FOR SMALL HOMES: RING (FROM £139)
If you live in a small home, especially
a flat or apartment, you might not
need a full security system. Ring is
an easy-to-install upgrade on your
average doorbell. Connected to – you
guessed it – an app on your phone,
Ring makes answering the door as easy
as answering a phone call.
The camera in the doorbell and the
two-way audio allow you to see and
communicate equally well with the
delivery driver who doesn’t know
where to leave your parcel, and with
your other half when they arrive home
from work.
“With Ring, you’re always home” –
giving you the sense of security that
comes from knowing if anyone’s
hanging around who shouldn’t be.
Ring uses live HD video recording and
predefined zones of motion detection
to help you communicate with friends
who’ve called when you weren’t home,
and to deter or identify any unwanted
visitors.
FOR BUSY HOUSEHOLDS: NETATMO (FROM £159)
If you’re looking for comprehensive
surveillance in your busy home, the
‘Welcome’ and ‘Presence’ cameras
from Netatmo make the home-security
dream team, watching over your
property both inside and out.
Netatmo Welcome is not only
smartphone ‘smart’, but can learn
to recognise certain faces, making it
perfect for households with plenty of
people, pets, and conflicting routines.
Once Welcome recognises a face, it
knows not to set off any security alerts,
and deactivates automatically when
you arrive home, saving you the frantic
dash to punch in a security code while
your hands are still full of shopping bags.
Netatmo Presence is Welcome’s
outdoor counterpart. Presence acts as
an outdoor security light, alerting you
to night-time visitors, and helping you
to the front door when you’re home
late from the pub. It goes without
saying that as a pair, the cameras do
all the usual video surveillance and
smartphone integration, as well as
backing up your video on free cloud
storage, and connecting to security
sirens and door and window monitors
(which are sold separately).
Netatmo’s system can also be
connected with multiple smartphones,
which lets you track who’s home and
‘away’. This is especially useful if you
need to check up on kids getting home
from school, or if family members stop
by without notice.
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
“AI AND MACHINE LEARNING WILL TAKE OVER THE DULL
– BUT IMPORTANT – DAILY DECISIONS, HELPING TO MAKE
OUR LIVES HASSLE-FREE. COCOON USES AI TO ADAPT
HOME SECURITY TO THE NEEDS OF EACH INDIVIDUAL
PROPERTY. ITS UNIQUE SUBSOUND® TECHNOLOGY LEARNS
TO UNDERSTAND THE NORMAL SOUND SIGNATURE OF YOUR
HOME, SO IT ONLY ALERTS YOU TO SUSPICIOUS ACTIVITY.”
— John Berthels, co-founder at Cocoon
59
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
FOR LITTLE BUDGETS:
SALIENT EYE (FREE
DOWNLOAD)
Need cheap home security? Of course,
there’s an app for that.
If you aren’t ready to splash out on a
full security system, Salient Eye turns
that old, neglected smartphone in your
bottom drawer into a security camera,
complete with motion-detection and
loud siren-like noises if it catches an
unsuspecting intruder.
Salient Eye is newly available to iOS as
well as Android users, so can easily
be installed in most modern homes
to achieve basic security measures in
minutes.
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
“SMARTHOME TECH IS NO LONGER EXCLUSIVE. THE LIKES
OF AMAZON’S ECHO DEVICES HAVE MEANT THAT THERE
ARE BUDGET-FRIENDLY OPTIONS TO GIVE YOUR HOUSE
VOICE SMARTS. ADD HIVE FOR SMART HEATING, PHILIPS
HUES FOR SMART LIGHTS, AND SOON EVEN SONOS, TO
GIVE YOU CONTROL OVER MUSIC STREAMING AROUND
YOUR HOUSE – ALL JUST BY ASKING ALEXA NICELY.”
– MARC CHACKSFIELD,
EDITOR AT TECHRADAR
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
KITCHEN TECH:
SMALL APPLIANCES
63
HEALTHY COOKING
If you’re a health-conscious cook,
there are a number of gadgets coming
into the kitchen to help you count
calories and achieve greater precision
in meal preparation. Scales, pans,
plates and even cutlery are getting
‘smart’ makeovers in order to help
make you a better and healthier cook.
Beginners/Improvers
Cooking class is in session with the
smart pan, which is the perfect tool
for those who are stuck in a rut when
it comes to cooking new recipes, or
amateur chefs who don’t know their
spatulas from their spaghetti spoons.
With in-built weight and temperature
sensors, and recipe-laden apps, smart
pans claim to help their users become
better chefs.
UNTIL RECENTLY, MOST KITCHEN GADGETRY HAS BEEN
NOTHING MORE THAN A FAD, WITH MOST PEOPLE
STICKING TO TRADITIONAL APPLIANCES RATHER
THAN INVESTING IN UNNECESSARY TECH. IF IT’S
BEEN A WHILE SINCE YOUR KITCHEN RECEIVED ANY
UPGRADES, YOU MAY BE SURPRISED BY THE NUMBER
OF APPLIANCES THAT ARE ACTUALLY MAKING LIFE
EASIER IN THE HEART OF THE HOME.
Despite its conception in the 90s,
the internet fridge is leaving most
tech experts rather baffled as to its
functionality. As most modern homes
are equipped with a multitude of
connected devices, the connected
fridge so far seems to be ‘smart’
for the sake of being smart. For this
reason, when it comes to kitchen tech,
it’s the small appliances that are really
making a stir, with the larger pieces in
our kitchen better left untouched for
the time being.
As the nation’s wellness drive
continues, we’re looking at smart
scales and pans, and, on the flipside,
better caffeinated and alcoholic
beverages from the comfort of your
own home.
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
The sensors in smart pans allow users
to be guided through each recipe
by apps, which offer step-by-step
guidance in order to (theoretically)
achieve perfection with every dish.
Key players right now are Smartypans
(from £200) and Pantelligent (from
£170), both of which have been
brought to life through crowdfunding
campaigns. Claiming the upper hand,
Smartypans warrants its slightly higher
price due to its integration with fitness
trackers and health apps, giving users
an accurate look at their daily intake.
Experts
Want to take more credit for what
goes on in the pan? Smart scales bring
a higher level of precision to each
recipe, but still leave all the hard work
to the chef. The ‘Drop’ smart scales
(from £59.99) are the frontrunner
in smart kitchen scales. ‘Drop’ can
scale up or down a recipe to suit
the available quantities or desired
batch sizes and, as with smart pans,
works with a smartphone app for live
guidance through recipes.
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
TEA AND COFFEE MAKERS
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME BAR GADGETS
Your morning cup of joe, like
everything else, is now little more
than the press of a button away.
Coffee makers have been bringing
freshly brewed, good-as-Starbucks,
caffeinated goodness to our homes
for years, and they’re quickly joining
the rest of our appliances and getting
‘smart’.
shopping list, set your coffee machine
to clean, and check how many cups are
left before you’ll need to refill.
connected, its settings are changeable
depending on how you like your tea,
and the type of leaf you’re brewing.
We’re a nation known for our love of a
good brew, so it’s quite surprising that
while home coffee makers have been
in and out of fashion for years, tea
makers have enjoyed less success.
What makes a coffee machine ‘smart’?
It starts with an app. Want your coffee
to be ready for when you wake up?
No problem. Need to order more
capsules? Got it.
In recent years, however, even the
most on-trend coffee makers have
been sharing the spotlight with
connected kettles and designated tea
makers – or ‘teasmades’ as they were
known in the 60s and 70s.
Less technical, but even smarter, are
connected kettles. Set the kettle to
boil from the car when you’re five
minutes from home, or from the sofa
before the ad breaks come on. As an
added bonus, smart kettles are usually
more environmentally-friendly by
helping you boil only as much as you
need, with sensors to let you know
when to fill up.
Machines like Nespresso’s Prodigio
(from £169.99) let you schedule the
making of your morning coffee before
you go to bed, ensuring you’ve got a
coffee-shop-quality cuppa freshly
brewed and ready before you even
get up. From the smartphone app,
you can also add new capsules to your
65
The modern, high-tech take on the
teasmade welcomes the Qi Aerista
(still in crowdfunding but expected
to retail at around £200), which has
been painstakingly designed to help
you brew the perfect cup of tea every
time. While the Qi Aerista is yet to get
More interested in Friday afternoon
beverages than Monday morning ones?
Don’t worry: there are appliances to
make your life easier too.
Smart decanters, cocktail makers and
home-brew kits are revolutionising
how and what we drink at home. If
your home bar is your pride and joy
and you’re one for entertaining, these
are the gadgets to keep your eye on.
While all are relatively new, this looks
to become a lucrative market, and
definitely one to watch.
For craft-beer lovers
Beer fanatics have always been able
to set up their own brews in their
kitchens/garages/spare rooms with a
selection of the right – or at least wellimprovised – equipment.
If you’ve always wanted to brew your
own beer but are short on time, an
automated brewing system could
be just what you need. While the
usual home brew can take weeks
and require vigilant monitoring and
precise adjustments, an automated
system allows you to craft a recipe and
enjoy the experience of starting from
scratch, but also removes some of the
effort and time usually required.
Traditional homebrewers are obviously
up in arms at the automation of the
process, but automated systems are
becoming cheaper, more attractive
and more accessible each year.
The crowdfunded iGulu is currently
fetching £800, which is considerably
less than its competitors, which have
previously dominated the market.
Brewie, PicoBrew and BrewBot are
the industry favourites right now, but
will set you back between £1,300 and
£3,000.
If you’re serious about setting up your
own homebrew, it might be worth
taking a backseat for a while – the
competition is likely to see some more
affordable little gadgets appearing in
the near future.
For wannabe mixologists
Much like the automated homebrew
kits, cocktail-making machines won’t
be for everyone, but they certainly
make hosting far simpler.
Again, a gadget that’s been years in the
making, the cocktail-making machine
is finally starting to look like something
worth the investment. Forget ordering
a Tom Cruise lookalike for a night of
bartending – an automated cocktail
maker knows hundreds of cocktails,
allows you to create your own, and will
blend each beverage to perfection.
The Somabar is priced at around
£350 and includes six ‘pods’. Let the
machine know which spirits and mixers
you decide to fill the pods with, and
access hundreds of recipes from its
smartphone app. Get your party guests
to download the app, and then they
can choose or create their own drinks
and order them from their phones. All
that’s left for you to do is pass around
the crisps.
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
KITCHEN TECH:
SMART SHOPPING
RUNNING OUT OF THE ESSENTIALS IS ALWAYS A PAIN.
DESPITE MOST OF US HAVING ACCESS TO 24-HOUR
SHOPPING, DISCOVERING THAT WE’RE OUT OF TOILET
PAPER, LAUNDRY DETERGENT OR PET FOOD STILL
MEANS ANOTHER TRIP TO THE SUPERMARKET.
Amazon Prime’s answer to this: the
Dash Button. This handy little gadget,
which TIME has earmarked as ‘the
future of shopping’, lets you order
individual products as and when you
need them. The Dash Button is paired
with a product of your choosing; when
that product is running low, you press
the button, which then puts through an
order from your Amazon account.
Each button can only be paired
with one product, and the service is
currently limited to Amazon Prime
customers, in order to provide nextday delivery. Buttons cost £4.99, but
this amount becomes Dash credit after
your first press, making its installation
free overall.
For now, Dash Buttons are only
available for selected brands. For a
more comprehensive – albeit more
expensive – option, Amazon Dash
also powers GeniCan. Costing around
£120, GeniCan is another piece of
crowdfunded kitchen tech.
GeniCan is a barcode scanner that
turns your bin into a personal shopping
assistant. When you go to throw
something away, scan the product’s
barcode to add it to your in-app
shopping list. For items without a
barcode, the GeniCan recognises voice
commands.
If you’re forgetful, these smart
shopping gadgets could help you save
money and minimise those times when
you’re caught short on essentials. If
not, this could be tech for tech’s sake,
but as the Dash Button is practically
free, there’s no harm in giving it a try if
you’re an Amazon Prime user.
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
ECO HOME
NOW, MOST ASPECTS OF YOUR HOME CAN BE CONTROLLED
FROM YOUR SMARTPHONE, BUT FOR MANY APPLIANCES,
SMARTPHONE INTEGRATION INCREASES CONVENIENCE BUT
PREDOMINANTLY ACTS AS A BIT OF A NOVELTY.
When it comes to managing your home,
controlling it from your smartphone
can result in huge savings. It’s becoming
increasingly important to do our bit
by becoming more eco-friendly, and
using your phone can help you monitor
and manage your energy usage and
therefore save energy and money.
There are a whole host of gadgets and
smartphone-controlled appliances
that can help you to be more energyefficient. Whether you want to upgrade
your energy-efficient lighting or be
able to control your whole home, this is
the tech that can help you to minimise
your global footprint.
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
CENTRAL HEATING
Do you spend too much time in
the winter months fiddling with the
thermostat, trying to find the balance
between warm and affordable? If so,
you aren’t alone, and energy providers
are finally doing something about it.
you keep track of how much you’re
spending on heating. Using their apps,
these smart thermostats allow you to
not only see how much energy you’re
using, but also to change the settings
remotely.
‘Hive’ from British Gas (from £249), and
the Nest Learning Thermostat (also
starting at £249) are designed to help
This means that when you’re lying in
bed on a Saturday morning and feeling
a bit chilly, you can turn the heating
up a notch from the comfort of your
bed. It also means that you can check
whether you turned the heating off
when you’re on holiday, saving you
from unnecessarily big energy bills
when you return.
LIGHTING
Proven to reduce our monthly energy
bills, to last longer and to make our
homes more eco-friendly, energyefficient lightbulbs are nothing new,
and have been widely adopted.
Making efficient lighting ‘smarter’,
Philips is leading the way with the Hue
range (from £59.99 for the basic starter
kit), which can be implemented using
a single bulb or throughout your entire
home. Philips Hue lighting is available
in a variety of starter kits that give you
control over simple, white light or up
to 16 million colours. Implementing
the full range allows you to set the
mood, match your lighting to the movie
you’re watching, or even recreate the
ambiance of a much-loved memory by
using a photo.
usage throughout your home. As
with the smart thermostats, wireless
control from your smartphone means
being able to monitor and manage your
lighting remotely, turning light on – for
security reasons – or off in order to
save electricity when you aren’t in the
house.
Being able to control your home’s
lighting from your phone means having
a greater level of control over energy
ENTIRE HOME
One of the beauties of smartphone
integration throughout the home is
being able to connect your appliances.
If you’re up-to-date with tech, you may
know this as the Internet of Things (or IoT).
The IoT means we can control
connected gadgets using one system.
When it comes to keeping your
home energy-efficient, this becomes
essential, because it allows seamless
control of all your compatible gadgets.
Apps like Wemo give you access to
multiple smartphone-integrated
appliances all in one place. Wemo
connects products such as Nest’s
smart thermostat and Amazon’s Alexa,
so that all your compatible appliances
can be controlled in one place.
To seamlessly manage your energy
efficiency, choose appliances that will
work alongside the ones you already
have connected to the IoT.
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SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
ROBOTIC VACUUMS
If high power is your priority, robotic
vacuums are still falling short of their
upright ancestors. Despite big names
like Dyson, Roomba and Hoover
contributing their expertise to their
own models, even the priciest (at £800)
can’t match the suction of a traditional
machine.
However, as robo-vacs take the hard
work out of hoovering, you can clean
up more frequently, reducing the need
for high power. For the average home,
these handy little robots are capable
of more than sufficient cleaning power,
and come with a multitude of other
features to prove their worth.
With big-name brands offering
machines from £250-£800, there are
a lot of features to consider when
choosing your robotic vacuum. Most i/
Eye Robots are app-enabled, allowing
you to schedule cleaning when you
aren’t home, and the most advanced
models use lasers to map each room,
to keep track of where they’ve already
been, and to return to their charging
station when the battery’s low.
THE BEST ROBOTIC
VACUUM CLEANERS
RIGHT NOW:
—— Dyson 360 Eye (£800)
—— iRobot Roomba 980 (£800)
—— Hoover Robo.com³ (£250)
—— AirCraft Vacuums Pilot Max Robotic
Vacuum Cleaner: (£330)
THE MOST HIGHLY
RECOMMENDED
Dyson 360 Eye
When it comes to vacuum cleaners,
Dyson is usually at the forefront, offering
greater power and more innovative
features than its competition. So, it’s
no surprise that the Eye 360 offers the
best suction and incorporates smart
technology the most effectively.
Dyson’s 360 Eye is amongst the
priciest robo-vacs, but has features
above and beyond those offered by
its competitors. For a start, the 360
Eye uses a live-vision camera, which
enables the cleaner to navigate safely
around obstacles, avoid stairs, and
monitor its own route, while sharing
its cleaning history with you in the
app. The Dyson also features tank-like
tracks allowing it to tackle uneven
surfaces and thick carpets.
THE MOST
COST-EFFECTIVE
AirCraft Pilot Max Robotic Vacuum
Cleaner
While the Dyson Eye Robot might be
the favourite child in the world of
robotic cleaning, it does cost around
four times the price of your average
upright vacuum – so it’s not the most
affordable option.
If you’re looking for an automated
vacuum to lighten the load when
it comes to chores, but you don’t
mind having to give it a helping hand
every now and then, the Pilot Max is a
budget-friendly option.
Though missing the smart technology
that gives users remote control with
the Dyson, the AirCraft Pilot is well
reviewed for helping its users keep on
top of housework. Without the Dyson’s
live camera, the AirCraft might suffer a
few more bumps and isn’t totally stairproof, but it is an effective little helper
when you need to quickly spruce up
the house and are short on time.
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
INTELLIGENT
PERSONAL
ASSISTANTS
INTELLIGENT PERSONAL ASSISTANTS (IPAS) TOOK THE WORLD BY STORM IN 2016.
DESPITE AMAZON’S PERSONAL ASSISTANTS BECOMING AVAILABLE IN THE US
DURING 2015, IN 2016 THEIR GLOBAL RELEASE SAW THE PRODUCT SELL OUT.
According to New Scientist, more
than 100,000 people greet Alexa
every morning – she, and her smart
electronic friend, Google Assistant,
as well as newcomers like Josh, are
clearly starting to make themselves
comfortable in our homes.
In the past, Siri has been the closest
we’ve come to accessible AI and is
usually the butt of the joke rather
than a useful gadget. Now, however,
we’re suddenly looking at rapid
developments, and though it might be
a while before we see any life-changing
advances, the future is likely to be
bright for IPAs.
Alexa vs. Assistant
With Apple remaining mysteriously
quiet on the IPA front, Google Assistant
and Amazon Alexa are the only major
contenders in the race right now, and
both are receiving a lot of love from
the experts.
Both Google Assistant (using the
Home speaker) and Amazon Alexa
(using the Dot and Echo speakers),
offer entertainment, smart-home
management and personal-assistant
features. While the speaker options
for both are of decent quality, they
can’t compete with the likes of Sonos
and Bose when it comes to sound
reproduction. However, the Google
speaker is coming out with far better
results when it comes to impressing
the critics.
Google also has the added bonus
of Chromecast, allowing its users to
‘cast’ music and video onto connected
smart TVs and other music systems.
While Google comes out on top for
home entertainment, Alexa is winning
hearts and minds when it comes to
home management and being a helpful
PA. This is predominantly down to the
overwhelming third-party support that
Amazon has received. This support
means that Alexa is compatible with
more apps – or ‘skills’ as she knows
them – and other smart technology in
the home.
The healthy competition between
these IPAs will likely encourage each to
improve in the areas where they’re let
down now. There are plenty of other
products in the pipeline, which are set
to launch in 2017, so this market looks
to be one worth watching, sure to have
many exciting developments in the
coming months.
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
“BOTH GOOGLE AND AMAZON HAVE SHOWN THEIR HAND
RECENTLY WITH VOICE-ACTIVATED HUBS WHICH, RIGHT
NOW, CAN CHANGE TRACKS ON SPOTIFY AND ORDER
THE GROCERIES, BUT WHICH WILL, OVER TIME, BECOME
THE CENTRE-POINT OF A CONNECTED HOME, WHERE
EVERYTHING FROM THE LIGHTS TO THE KETTLE CAN BE
CONTROLLED SIMPLY BY ASKING THIS STRANGE OBJECT
ON THE COFFEE TABLE TO DO THINGS.”
— @HUNTERDOUG,
ACCOUNT MANAGER AT DIMOSO PR
HOME TECH
SMART HOME TECHNOLOGY
T HIS YEAR, WE’RE GOING TO SEE A NEW SOCIAL
ERA OF AI PERSONAL ASSISTANTS. THE RELEASE
OF JIBO IS GOING TO BE VERY EXCITING. IT’S THE
FIRST SOCIAL ROBOT, CREATED SPECIFICALLY
FOR DOMESTIC INTERACTION, THAT WORKS
AS A VOICE-CONTROLLED, FACE-RECOGNISING
BODY, BLESSED WITH LIFELIKE MOVEMENTS
TAUGHT BY FORMER DISNEY ANIMATORS.
AMAZON, GOOGLE, APPLE AND MICROSOFT ARE
ALSO DEVELOPING THEIR OWN VARIATIONS.
— Alessia Camera, digital startup consultant and contributor at WIRED
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THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
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