From the ultimate gadgets for home entertainment to the best devices for helping with the home schooling, cleaning and cooking, we take a look at the best tech out there to take you through lockdown and beyond.
Best for home entertainment
Streaming service Disney+ (£7.99 a month) launched in March 2020 with immaculate timing: nothing could be more cosy for lockdown than curling up with a vintage Disney movie, whatever your age. The Hamilton premiere was a sensation and the subscription service also includes all-you-can-eat Marvel movies, Star Wars, National Geographic and more.
New for 2021 is Disney Star, which adds a colossal 75 TV series and more than 270 movies at launch, plus original productions every month. Award-winning films coming to Disney Star include The Favourite, pictured.Home cinema projectors and older, non-Smart TVs need the addition of a gadget for streaming. For example, Google Chromecast (£30) which plugs into HDMI and adds Disney+, iPlayer, YouTube and more.
Best for home schooling
If you already have a device (laptop, tablet or phone) for your child to use for schoolwork, your single best buy is Bluetooth wireless headphones: you get peace and quiet, they don’t get tangled up.
JLab JBuddies Wireless (£29.99, pictured) are adjustable to fit children aged 6-16 and have a 13-hour battery life. Volume is limited to 85dB to protect young ears.For teens, the Trust Tones (£24.99) are full-sized and boast a 25-hour battery life, plus you can use them as wired headphones if the battery’s flat. Both feature built-in volume controls and a microphone. Perfect for answering questions in Zoom lessons or chatting to grandparents.
Best for home fitness
Staying fit through Covid-19 has meant finding home fitness options and not just Joe Wicks. If you can’t get to the gym then your living room has to be the gym.
Sky Q (from £27 a month) is the only UK TV platform with an integrated fitness app. There are 24 free FiiT classes plus you can get a free 14-day trial of FiiT membership (normally £10 a month), which includes more than 600 on-demand classes including Hiit, strength training and yoga.
You can even train with friends in group classes, connect your fitness tracker and compete on leader boards.
Best for the kitchen
Whether you’re working from home or commuting, a multi cooker saves time and makes healthy eating easier. Instant Pot cookers start at £60 and the Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus (£129.99, pictured) is its latest and greatest for 2021.
Pressure cooking lets you cook a healthy, hot meal up to 70% faster. Or you can try time-shift cooking: throw in ingredients at breakfast time and use the slow cooker function to have dinner on the table effortlessly. It also cooks soup, rice, yogurt, sous vide... even cakes. There are ten different cooking functions and 48 preset options to help you cook up a storm.
For barista-quality coffee at home, try the De’Longhi PrimaDonna Soul (£1,199) with colour touch screen, app control and a grinder that adapts to suit the bean type. It’s pricey but if it replaces a daily coffee shop indulgence, it will gradually pay for itself as well as save on disposable cups.
Best for cleaning
Brand new for 2021 is the Blueair HealthProtect range of air purifiers (from £639, pictured) which clean the air of not just invisible particulates, dust and allergens but also bacteria and viruses. Rather than recirculating germs, they ensure they are captured and killed. They’re quiet and can be controlled by app or voice (Amazon Alexa).
Meanwhile, there’s never been a better time to get a robot vacuum cleaner to keep on top of the crumbs. The Proscenic 850T (£229) is keenly priced and can mop as well as vacuum. At under 60dB, it won’t disturb your Zoom or freak the dog out. You can schedule the cleaning and even control it by voice if you have Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
Best for the garden
The single best gadget you can buy for your garden in 2021 isn’t a gardening tool, it’s a portable projector so you can enjoy your own outdoor cinema and – when restrictions allow – invite friends over for a distanced movie and barbecue.
The Prima Projector ($399) is available worldwide and puts out a bigger, better picture than you’d expect from such a small device. It projects in HD to a screen size of up to 200 inches. A white wall will suffice or buy a basic screen for even better image quality. Speakers are built in or you can pair with Bluetooth speakers for a louder cinematic soundtrack.
Stream movies from your phone or laptop or simply download a streaming app straight to the projector if your Wi-Fi covers the garden. There’s even a three-hour battery life, so you could take the projector camping. Of course, it also works indoors for impromptu film nights and gaming sessions that fill a whole wall.
Best for the home office
Lockdown has taught us how much we all depend on the internet. Maybe your broadband has let you down. Maybe you find yourself competing with other family members for bandwidth. Maybe you live in an area with poor coverage. Maybe you need the signal to extend to your garden office. The solution to slow broadband and patchy coverage around the home is a “mesh” Wi-Fi network where you add extra gizmos to extend coverage. The Netgear Orbi LBR20 (£314.50) goes even further because you can also insert a SIM card. This belt-and-braces router makes the most of your home broadband but, if the signal fails, it can switch to 4G data. Add extra Orbi satellites around the home to make Wi-Fi blackspots a thing of the past.