Tried and tested - beauty, kitchen and tech gadgets
It's Christmas We tested beauty, kitchen and tech gadgets and appliances that claim to be the best, easiest to use or most innovative of their kind
Prices as quoted by Power City (which supplied the gadgets for testing) but will vary elsewhere
Tefal 2 in 1 Actifry, €279.95
We are not entirely sure this would make a great Christmas present in all circumstances – ‘Here! Santa got you a fryer, make us some chips to go with the turkey would ya? Gift reservations aside, it is still rather brilliant. Chip your potatoes, dump them in the non-stick bowl, sprinkle no more than a tablespoon of oil over them, push a button and wait 35 minutes before eating the best chips you will get outside of your favourite chipper. It’s as far from the deep-fat fryers that took the nation by greasy storm in the 1980s as a chip maker can go.
A second cooking plate can sit on top of the main one to allow you cook meat, fish or poultry at the same time as your chips. There is no smell, steam or smoke thanks to the powerful filters and no grease thanks to all the hot air.
The machine does hum ominously , imagine a quiet Nespresso machine and it is kind of massive – you’ll need about two feet of counter space for it. But cleaning’s a cinch and all the component parts are dishwasher safe. Conor Pope
Sensio Masha, €39.95
The secret to a good mash is to achieve lump-free smoothness without breaking down the starch, which leads to a glue-like consistency. As the owner of no less than three mashers, I was sceptical as to whether any tool could beat my beloved potato ricer. My first go left me in no doubt that this was a well-designed gadget that is simplicity itself to use and clean. A big bonus is that the texture of the potato was creamy and needed far less butter than usual. It’s versatile too – I’ve used it for hummus, guacamole and pancake batter and it would also be perfect for making baby food. A big hit in our gadget-free kitchen. Can I keep it please? Phyl Clarke
Dolce Gusto (EDG200), €69.95
Delonghi’s Nescafe Dolce Gusto is another in the line of pod coffee makers popularised by brands such as Nespresso. The main claim is that it makes a coffee that’s as good as you’d get in a coffee shop from a barista. So does it? Well not quite but I’d say it’s 90 per cent there. It’s slimline so it doesn’t take up much counter space, attractive and the pods are easy to come by and cost about €5 for 16 pods. The main drawback of this maker is that it has no automatic dispenser so you have to manually watch the amount of coffee that’s pouring so you get the strength right and it’s not too watery. Eamon McGrane
Kenwood JE720 Continuous Juicer, €149.95
"Don't drink more than three 230ml glasses of juice a day unless you're used to it," says the guide to my new juicer, ominously. Not much chance of that considering the amount of effort that's involved in getting one glass. But don't get me wrong: that's not the juicer's fault.
This is a pretty slick piece of machinery, once you put it together. Those who excel at Buckaroo! will have no problem assembling the seven or eight bits and bobs needed to get it going, and after the first couple of goes even I am getting the hang of it (brute force is the key).
The manual comes with a guide to juicing fruits and vegetables, how to prepare them, what speed to zap them at, whether to combine them (this is available on Kenwood's website, and I'd recommend printing it off rather than having to use the whole manual). The biggest revelation is how little peeling you have to do, and so I start lobbing in carrots, apples, celery– it's all very satisfying. The only disappointment comes with citrus fruit – with the labour involved in peeling them (pith and all) before chucking them down the shoot, I won't be throwing out my trusty old lemon juicer any time soon.
Even the clean up isn't too bad. Once you've emptied the pulp collector, everything else just needs a rinse, aside from the filter, which takes a little more elbow grease. And there's the re-assembly... All in all, a great piece of kit for anyone serious about juicing the living daylights out of their five a day. Emma Somers
BaByliss New Big Hair, €59.95
One of the peculiarities of a job in print journalist is the byline picture – the mugshot that goes above your name in the paper. Mine shows me with a sleek hair do, the sort that polished, groomed women have. Of course I rarely look like this in real life. Mostly it’s frizzy hair pulled back in a careless and not very attractive bun. No more – because BaByliss New Big Hair is a gadget that actually works. It’s basically a hairdryer with a big rotating brush attached and even on the first slightly ham-fisted attempt it left my hair sleek to the point that my teenage son who never notices these things (other than to be slightly mortified by the frizzy bun look) thought I’d been to the hairdresser. After three gos (including a lesson from a Youtube clip) I’m a convert. The trick is to make sure your hair is about 80 per cent dry and you have to divide your hair into sections or else it gets too messy. It worked fantastically on my medium-length not very thick hair, less so on my daughter’s very long, very thick hair. Bernice Harrison
Elle Macpherson The Body by Homedics 3-in-1 Luxury Foot Spa, €39.95
The (deep breath) “Elle Macpherson The Body by Homedics 3-in-1 Luxury Foot Spa” comes in a massive box with a bikini-clad Elle frolicking across the side on her lovely feet. So far, so good. It’s a beast of a thing, but weighs very little. It’s incredibly easy to use: plug it in, fill with warm water (it won’t heat the water for you, but says it will maintain the temperature of the water you pour in) then just sit back and let it do all the hard work . . . except that it doesn’t.
I’m promised a vibrating massage, which is barely perceptible. There are two moveable rollers under each foot for a “penetrating” massage, but their movement is jerky and inconsistent. I’m also promised “double the bubbles” to boost my circulation – and maybe they do, but by then the water has gone cold so I’m not feeling it.Two interchangeable pumice stones that slot into the centre partition are a good idea. Unfortunately, the slightest rubbing of a heel is enough to send them flying into the water. Rachel Collins
BaByliss For Men Super Stubble, €89.95
Is it the 1980s again? Are Tubbs and Crockett keeping Miami free from vice? Do we need a pricey machine that will deliver designer stubble which it thinks is ‘super’? No, no, and just no. This is not a bad product. In fact with its sleek ergonomic design and 15 precision settings and blue LED display, it is quite a funky one. But is it perhaps just a bit pointless? We are promised the “ultimate in stubble control” but surely stubble stems from laziness and this shaver makes that lazy-boy grooming seem too much like hard work? It will chop your stubble to 0.4mm – around two days without shaving – or can be extended to a beard trimming length. It is waterproof so can be rinsed clean or used in the shower and the blades are very sharp. Conor Pope