How to make your life easier with home gadgets

Orbi home gadgets portrait

I’m all in favour of anything that makes life a little easier in these trying times. So recently I’ve been experimenting with some of the latest and greatest home gadgets. I’m of the opinion that the COVID-19 pandemic has given us quite enough to cope with, thank you very much. So any appliance or device that improves and enhances my daily life is, quite frankly, to be celebrated and cherished! The home gadgets I’ve reviewed all relate to key things that affect my personal and professional life. These include the very air that I breathe, the temperature of my house, home entertainment – and that all-important Wi-Fi signal! These are all things that, literally and figuratively, I cannot live without. So, read on to discover what I rate and recommend…

Orbi

Never before have we expected so much from our Wi-Fi. If the combination of working from home, home schooling and seemingly endless streaming is taking its toll on your signal, meet Orbi. These clever home gadgets deliver worry-free Wi-Fi, whenever and wherever your need it. Previously, certain rooms in my home – especially the kitchen and master bedroom – had a very poor signal. Even changing service providers didn’t solve the problem. But installing Orbi has been truly transformative for me and the husband.

Orbi home gadgets landscape
Ad: Netgear’s Orbi devices deliver Wi-Fi the way it should be: fast and reliable, without any dead zones, buffering or lag

Netgear’s Orbi Whole Home WiFI systems use the most up-to-date mesh technology to create a seamless network that really does work everywhere. And its speeds won’t slow down in busy households, even with lots of people sharing a single connection. Think of it as a fast, effective performance upgrade for your connection. The actual routers were larger than I expected, but they look super stylish, so it’s really not a problem. Crucially, they were also easy to set up and configure – even for a self-confessed tech-phobic like me!

There are a range of Orbi systems available, tailored to different sizes of accommodation. Prices start at around £250 for the Orbi AX4200 RBS750 single unit, rising to £960 for the Orbi AX6000 WiFI 6 Whole Home Mesh WiFI System RBK853.

Indoor air quality monitor

A healthy home is a priority during normal times – let alone in a pandemic. For obvious reasons, I don’t think I’ve ever been more interested in air quality and safety! So one of my new favourite home gadgets is Netatmo’s Smart Indoor Air Quality Monitor (£89.99). It features four precise sensors that monitor humidity, air quality, noise and temperature.

Netatmo home gadgets
Ad: Netatmo’s Smart Indoor Air Quality Monitor is designed to help you create a healthy home environment, sending key information directly to your smartphone

There’s chronic asthma in my family, so as you can imagine, regardless of COVID-19, air quality has always been important to me. But things like adverse noise levels affect our quality of sleep (so important!) – and all the elements monitored influence our health, productivity and comfort. This versatile monitor provides continuous insight into the health of your home, and even tells you what you need to adjust to improve. It’s easy to set up, and you can check out all the data via the dedicated App. As an added bonus, the rose gold design is on-trend without being ostentatious.

Nest outdoor cameras and thermostat

The husband is very security-conscious, so we decided to install a selection of outdoor cameras around the property. After much deliberation, I opted for Google Nest Cam (priced at £179 each, although discounts are available on multi-buys).

We now have one at the front door, and one at the back. Nest cams are some of the most trusted home security cameras around. Mine really do provide extra peace of mind, as they keep a keen electronic eye on what’s happening – day and night. The images they provide are so clear, at all hours, and whatever the weather. These cameras have a built-in speaker and mic, so you can speak to (or if needs be, scare off!) any visitors. In fact, it’s great fun using this for visitors on Halloween…but that’s another story! Anyway, they integrate with so much different technology, including Amazon Alexa and Fire TV, in addition to other connected devices such as your smartphone.

Nest camera security home gadgets
Our Google Nest Outdoor Cameras keep a beady eye on what’s happening around the home, providing invaluable peace of mind

Another of my recommended home gadgets is the Google Nest Thermostat (expect to pay around £180, depending on the retailer). This clever device helps you to control your heating and hot water, saving both energy and money. You can make adjustments, anytime and anywhere, from the Nest App. And the thermostat’s smart technology even learns what you like, automatically adapting as things change. After a week’s use, it programmes itself, so you have one less thing in life to worry about! It really is a great piece of kit.

Nest thermostat landscape
Incorporating smart ‘learning’ technology, our Google Nest Thermostat is designed to keep us comfortable and save us money

Ring doorbell

My Ring Video Doorbell (£89) has proved to be such a handy home gadget. My studio is at the bottom of a 100ft garden, so you can imagine how helpful it is to be able to see, hear and speak to visitors from a distance. It’s become even more invaluable with the rise of contact-free ‘drop-and-go’ deliveries. I can see exactly who is at my front door – and what has (or hasn’t!) been left there. I find the App very easy to navigate, and control everything via my phone. I’ve even added the husband as another user, so he can access it as well. My Ring doorbell was pretty easy to install and so far, the battery has lasted very well too.

Ring doorbell landscape
My Ring Doorbell has turned out to be such a useful home gadget, allowing me to virtually answer my door without leaving my garden studio

Smart TV

It took a long time to choose one of these for our open-plan kitchen because, quite frankly, there are so many different models offering such a variety of things! However, the husband and I eventually settled on an LG TV. I was specifically looking for a model with great sound and it seems the LG 55UN81006LB delivers. Well, according to Which? magazine it does, anyway! In fact, this is how we made our choice. They describe the 4k picture as sharp, the sound is rich and it’s easy to use. It’s also huge – 55inches – so we’re looking forward to cinematic viewing…one day.

LG TV in box
I’m looking forward to watching our new LG TV once it has been installed by a local television installer above our radiator. We’re going to add a shelf or console table (above the rad) to prevent the TV from over-heating

We ordered a 55inch model at such a good price, only £499 from John Lewis, because they offered installation, too. However, unfortunately we are still stuck with the TV in a box. We did all the usual checks beforehand to make sure there wouldn’t be any issues. But, the installers from John Lewis arrived then said they were unable to install it. So, a few words of warning for you: apparently, they are unable to use trunking which turns corners – you’re stuck with either vertical or horizontal. We needed this due to the position of our radiator. Also, they can not provide a longer TV lead – all things we checked would be possible beforehand and John Lewis customer services assured us neither would be a problem.

I have now contacted some TV installation experts in order to get this job done. We have decided to get the TV cabling installed inside our extension wall, which should look neater anyway. Watch this space…it’s going to be so exciting when we can use it!

Interested in other reviews? Click here to read my recommendations on bath oils, anti-ageing creams and stylish walking gear.

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