We’re back where we were this time last year: waiting (im)patiently for restrictions to be lifted so we can return to some semblance of a normal life. Talk about deja vu. It’s like buying the latest version of your favourite gadget in anticipation of lots of extra bells and whistles, only to realise it’s indistinguishable from the previous model.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of new technology to get us through the tedium of staying at home or within our 5km or whatever level we’re at right now. And some of the new gadgets coming out are even an improvement on the old ones. So, maybe now is a good time to stock up on all your state-of-the-art tech, so when we’re finally vaccinated and emerge blinking into the light of a post-Covid future, at least we’ll be fully tooled up and ready to go.
The rumours began to swirl late last year: Sonos were plotting to unleash a new product to add to its suite of game-changing speakers and streamers. The techie-net was abuzz with speculation: what could this new product be? The internet clues suggested either smart headphones or a smaller version of its Move speaker.
It turned out to be the latter: the Sonos Roam is a mini-Move that is lighter, more convenient and less than half the price of its bigger sibling. But while the Roam is small enough to slip into your satchel and bring along to your socially-distanced picnic, Sonos assures us it hasn’t skimped on the sound quality.
The Roam effortlessly pumps out the volume and it can tune itself to its ever-changing surroundings, so whether you’re in a tent or at a barbecue or on the beach, the speaker will still deliver pristine sound.
It’s also splash-resistant, waterproof up to 3ft and 30 minutes, and totally impervious to dust. And it promises all-day battery life, so as evening sets in, there will be enough juice left to play a vaporwave mix. And when you get back home, you don’t need to toss the Roam into the cupboard – it will reconnect with the wider Sonos family in your house and become part of your multiroom system.
The Sonos Roam is due out in late April, and preorders have already gone through the roof as people plan to spend more time outdoors this summer.
With Apple's iPhone 13 not due out until later this year, spring belongs to Samsung and its new S21 series of smartphones. Released in March, around St Patrick's Day, they won't exactly drive the iPhones out of Ireland, but they will keep a lot of smartphone users happy until the iPhone 13 swaggers in and snatches the best phone of 2021 crown.
The S21 is sleek but hard-wearing, with a beefed-up camera and ramped-up processor power. And it is 5G, which means faster downloads, no lagging or latency, and overall better performance.
The S21 is the standard model, with 128Gb storage and a 6.2-inch Amoled screen. Its big advantage is that it is relatively cheap for a high-end Samsung, coming in under a grand at €879.
You can move up to the S21+ at €1,139 to get a bigger screen and more storage. Or you can go large with the top-of-the-range S21 Ultra, topping out at €1,479, boasting bigger battery power, five-lens camera, sharper screen and half a terabyte of storage. It also supports the S Pen stylus, making it more than a worthy successor to the Galaxy Note.
Dyson Corrale Hair Straightener
Everyone agrees: one of the biggest casualties of lockdown has been our hair. With hairdressers closed since Christmas, it seems every day is now a bad hair day. But you don’t have to succumb to the all-day just-out-of-bed look. You can take charge of that unruly barnet, starting with the Dyson Corrale hair straightener, which is guaranteed to get those rogue curls under control and give you a lovely, just-out-of-the-salon look in just a few minutes.
Dyson do brilliant vacuum cleaners and air purifiers, but they’re really doing us a service with products like the Corrale. It uses Dyson’s patented flexing plates that shape your hair without need for high temperatures, so your tresses remain undamaged while you look tres cool.
The Corrale recently won best styling product in the Elle International Beauty Awards.
Xiaomi Mi Pro 2 E-Scooter
Electric scooters have really come into their own in this age of travel restrictions, and though their legal status may not be formally established yet, their cool status is now well and truly bedded in.
They’re perfect for tootling around within your 5km and handy for that quick trip to the grocery store or chemist. If and when we all go back to the office, expect to see more people gliding into work on one – no sweat.
The Xiaomi Mi Pro 2 E-Scooter is one of the most highly rated around – not so small that it will be mistaken for your child’s scooter and not so big that lugging it up to the third floor is a chore.
The Mi Pro has a maximum speed of about 25km/h and a range of about 45km, and also has cruise control. When you reach your destination, it will fold away neatly, and there’s an app so you can check battery power and track your usage.
Focal Radiance Headphones
Your gigs have been cancelled, the crew is on furlough and you’re sitting around in your mansion with nothing to do. Time to record that triple album about climate change you’ve always been promising to make. Focal is the French brand making big noise on the audiophile scene and its high-end professional cans are a must-have tool for producers and sound engineers.
But maybe you just want to listen to your favourite Floyd vinyl after a hard day’s Zoom calls. For that, there’s the Focal Radiance for Bentley special-edition headphones, which have all the Focal high-end tech plus elegant looks based on the Bentley car marque. The casing is full-grain leather and solid aluminium with copper finish, and the innovative tech inside is the culmination of Focal’s 40 years’ experience at the top of their game.
It’s designed to be paired with the Naim Mu-so for Bentley speaker (you do have one of those, don’t you?), but will work nicely with your hi-fi system to deliver truly astonishing sound in complete comfort. What, we can leave our houses now? I’m not going anywhere.