If it’s cool gadgets you’re after, we’ve cast our expert eyes over the latest tech and picked out the best new gadgets for 2020 so far.
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
From £24.99 for a one-month plan to £17.99 per month on the 12-month plan, gadgetdiscoveryclub.com
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
Huawei P40 Series smartphones
Huawei is no stranger to controversy, which is why their new phone isn’t available in the US and comes without any Google apps. On the other hand, they do make exceptionally good smartphones, and the new Huawei P40 series has specs that will have you drooling all over your current blower.
All phones in the series are powered by a new Kirin 990 processor 5G, so they should be blazingly quick and connect to the new ultra-fast mobile network, and the HUAWEI P40 Pro and HUAWEI P40 Pro+ have super-narrow bezels on their displays, basically making them all screen on the front.
But what will really turn heads towards the P40 series is the camera, which promises magnificent pictures off the back of its 1/1.28-inch sensor, ultra-wide-angle, wide-angle and telephoto lenses (10x optical zoom and 100x digital zoom on the P40+!!), and a fierce amount of souped-up artificial intelligence to spruce up your snaps.
If you can’t live without the likes of Gmail and YouTube you can still use the web browser versions, or download them from other 3rd party app markets. Alternatively, try something from Huawei’s own app store or their Phone Clone app to transfer your existing apps from your old phone.
Huawei P40 Pro £899, Huawei P40 £699, Huawei P40 Pro+ £TBC, huawei.com
Sonos Arc soundbar
Although there are plenty of Sonos alternatives out there, the US company is still the go-to brand when it comes to multi-room speakers (despite recent criticism of their recycling program), and there are no signs of that changing with the new Sonos Arc.
The smart soundbar is the first of their line up to include Dolby Atmos, which powered by 11 internal speakers, two of which fire upwards. Expect room shuddering cinema sound, especially when paired up with the Sonos Sub and satellite speakers.
Along with the ARC, they have (finally) revamped the Sonos App, updated the subwoofer, and redesigned the Play Five. Alas, with the arrival of the new speakers it means an early retirement of the rather excellent Sonos Playbase.
Microsoft Surface 2020
Given their nerdy heritage, Microsoft doesn’t have quite the hipster appeal of Apple but it’s an unfair image these days – the new Surface range oozes style and panache.
At £399, the Surface Go 2 is the budget laptop in the range and has a bigger battery and touchscreen than its predecessor, while at the other end of the spectrum the Surface Laptop 3 starts at £899, but you’ll want to spend a lot more than that to get the most out of it. It’s taken two years to release an updated model, but it’s 50 percent faster than the already-blissfully speedy Surface Laptop 2, and claims and all-day battery life of 17.5 hours. It sounds like it should be worth the wait.
Elsewhere the Surface Headphones (£239.99) have also had an update, featuring “enhanced Omnisonic sound”, 13 levels of noise cancellation and integration with Microsoft Office, and the tech giants have finally joined the true wireless game with the new Surface Earbuds (£199.99), which look like shiny little silvery discs of audio goodness.
Needless to say, given all the competition, the Microsoft Surface remains one of the best-looking laptops on the market, so these tasty updates will no doubt be turning a few heads.
Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro 2020
It’s official, Apple’s butterfly keyboard has fluttered its last and the little sprinkling of magic Apple has dusted over its new laptop is the return of its old, er, magic keyboard.
For those not in the know, the butterfly keyboard was introduced in 2015 to slim down Apple laptops, but the price of svelteness was unresponsive and breakable keys. It has only taken them five years, but the new 13-inch Macbook does away with it entirely and goes back to the pre-2015 magic keyboard. It does keep the Touch Bar and Touch ID seen on newer models, so it’s not a complete return to old.
Under the hood, the new machine is everything you expect from an Apple laptop. A 10th-generation processor more than twice as fast as the last, double the storage space, 80 percent faster graphics performance, and up to 32GB RAM. So yes, it’s a beast.
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
Pebble Gear Kids Tablet
Anyone with a child will know of their temptation to rub their grubby little paws over your smartphone at the first opportunity (and with it a potential £20 onion bill). So if you will let them loose on digital devices, peace of mind comes with ones that quash all opportunities to turn your hard-earned cash into in-game loot.
Designed with kids in mind, the Pebble Gear is a seven-inch tablet loaded with GameStore Junior, an app store with some 500+ games that are all free from adverts and in-app purchases. The game store is free for the first year (£4.99 a month thereafter) and the tablet itself is cheap as chips, coming in at just under £100. At that price, you’re obviously not going to be running Fortnite, but all the games I downloaded from the store ran smoothly enough, and there were some real gems in there, like Mini Metro and Crossy Road.
You also have a wealth of parental controls, such as total hours allowed and time of day they can play, and a few other additions like a blue light filter and chunky bumper case to protect it from any drops (although no waterproofing).
Most importantly though, the part that will probably be most thrilling for the kiddos is the fact that it comes decked out with Disney skins. I got my hands on the Frozen II tablet, which meant I had a bunch of exclusive games featuring the likes the film’s heroes Anna and Elsa, as well as a stack of e-books about Disney princesses, but a Toy Story 4 tablet is also available, with more movie tie-ins in the pipeline. – AM
Sandisk iXpand Wireless Charger
Charging your phone daily is basically the norm (unless you have a fancy phone like the Doogee S95 Pro below), but that’s wasted time when you could be flicking through old photos or listening to your favorite podcast (nudge nudge). Putting that time to good use sounds like a much better idea.
Ok, it’s not the most thrilling of uses, but the Sandisk iXpand Wireless Charger has a monster 256GB solid-state hard drive under the lid, which automatically backs up your photos, videos and contacts, while wireless charging your Qi-compatible phone remarkably quickly. Anyone else with a wireless charging-compatible phone can set up a profile and use it too.
It’s not the most beautiful gadget in the world, although chargers and hard drives rarely are, however it is the right size to comfortably sit your phone on securely, so it won’t take up too much space on your desk or bedside table.
I was able to charge my Huawei P20 Mate Pro (in a protective case) by about 25 percent in half an hour, and on first use took two overnight sessions to back up a year and a half’s worth of photos and videos. However, once that was done, I found myself just placing the phone down on the charger before bed and letting it do its thing while I sleep, waking up with a fully-charged and backed-up device. – AM
Apple iPad Pro 2020
Apple’s new iPad Pro blurs the line between laptop and tablet. The magic keyboard now comes with a trackpad at the bottom, and the hardware inside is now virtually on a par with the tech inside a Macbook Air. The operating system will still be iOS (rather than OSX, which you usually find on Macs), but increasingly apps are becoming just as sophisticated as full-scale Mac software.
Plus the iPad Pro now includes a LiDAR scanner which means it can scan and see the world around it empowering some incredible augmented reality experiences.
Dyson Heurist 360 robot vacuum cleaner
Dyson has given its robo-cleaner some new brains. More precisely, they’ve put a quad-core processor and 10GB of storage onboard, 20x what its predecessor the Eye was equipped with.
The extra computing oomph means that it should get better at navigating and charting the ins and outs of your house. Once the Heurist has mapped your home, you can tell it to clean only specific areas via your home or identify no-go areas full of precious cables.