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Five must-have devices and five I don’t find useful

Some are essential in my daily life, while others are expendable. Here are the reasons why

Electronic devices for sale on Black Friday
Electronic devices for sale on Black FridayFuture Publishing (Future Publishing via Getty Imag)

When perusing the lists of best-selling gadgets online or during gift-giving and discount seasons like Christmas and Black Friday, you often come across the same products: robot vacuum cleaners, smart speakers, air fryers, mobile phones and the like. As a technology journalist, I’ve had the privilege of test-driving these products and while some have seamlessly integrated into my everyday life, others have failed to capture my interest or prove their usefulness. Here are my top items from both categories, along with the reasons why I love them or leave them.

Essential devices

Smartwatch: paired with my smartphone

For me, a smartwatch is an essential companion to my smartphone. It allows me to stay connected to calls and messages without constantly having a phone in my hand. It motivates me to be more active by encouraging more walking and sports, and can also track my sleep. I always feel its absence whenever I forget to wear it. The best part is that you don’t need to spend a fortune to get one with great features.

Stick vacuum + robot: total cleanliness

Achieving spotless floors while minimizing dust on furniture requires the perfect device combination. I utilize a stick vacuum cleaner for my thorough weekly cleaning. I also schedule the robot vacuum cleaner to cover the kitchen and hallway daily since they get dirty the most, and to vacuum the entire house every other day.

When it comes to stick vacuum cleaners, I want power. While home models all seem pretty similar, some have attachments for cleaning cars that just don’t get the job done. When choosing a robot vacuum cleaner, my top priority is the navigation system. It should move efficiently by taking the best routes and have sensors to detect and avoid obstacles. Also, with an automatic emptying station, you don’t have to worry about remembering to empty the tank.

Dough mixer: for pastries and more

While not the most ubiquitous kitchen accessory, this item is highly sought after by baking enthusiasts. Designed for kneading dough, it can also whip and mix. The end result? Incredibly light and fluffy doughs. Some models can even grind meat and cut homemade pasta dough.

Smartspeaker: just a command away

While a smartspeaker is not great for random internet searches, it’s undeniably convenient for instant responses to your weather and traffic questions. You can also ask it to play your favorite music with a simple voice command, and quickly create shopping and to-do lists. While a screen can be a useful extra, it isn’t a necessity.

eReader: a library in the palm of your hand

Many of us who commute to work on public transportation know it can be a pain in the neck to carry a physical book, especially if it’s heavy or bulky. That’s why I found eReaders to be a game-changer. Even now that I’m working from home, I still prefer my eReader over physical books. I like eReaders with physical buttons for turning pages, and ones that have adjustable lighting and customizable backgrounds and fonts.

Expendable devices

Tablets: too expensive for what they offer

The demand for tablets is declining as smartphones with large screens can often be viable alternatives. Additionally, tablets that offer comparable performance to a laptop (but with smaller screens) tend to be expensive, which makes them unappealing to many users.

Air fryer: good results aren’t easy

Almost everyone knows someone who loves their oil-free air fryer, but unfortunately, they’re not for everyone. Getting air-fried food to look appetizing isn’t as easy as it seems. They work like mini air convection ovens, but the downside is that their compact size can produce unevenly cooked food. They do consume less power — the smallest ones use about 700 watts, while the largest ones use about 2,000 watts. In comparison, electric ovens start at 2,000 watts. While they can be useful for those who are only cooking for one or two people, I’ve struggled to make crispy brown French fries that look appetizing.

Fire TV Stick, Roku and Chromecast: if you have a Smart TV, you don’t need one

The purpose of these devices is to stream content from popular services directly onto your television screen. Nowadays, even the most budget-friendly televisions come equipped with built-in Smart TV platforms that provide easy access to these streaming services. However, these devices are useful for frequent travelers who use them for hassle-free access to their preferred content on any TV without having to enter personal login information.

Personal laser hair removers: they usually aren’t lasers

While marketed as laser hair removal devices with permanent results similar to professional laser treatments, many of these devices actually use intense pulsed light (IPL) technology. Both laser and IPL methods target the hair follicle’s melanin, but IPL is less concentrated and therefore less effective. It can inhibit hair growth after several sessions, but regular use is necessary to prevent regrowth.

Portable projectors: better use a TV

It sounds great — you connect your phone or other mobile device and watch all the content projected large on a wall or screen. But the inexpensive mini-projectors don’t always offer wireless connections, and finding the right cables can be tough. They also have limited functionality compared to the larger, more expensive projectors. Generally, you can’t expect great image or sound quality from them, and they don’t project very large either. Televisions offer a much better viewing experience, without having to worry about adjusting the lighting in the room.

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