Household gadget of the year
Xiaomi Automatic Pet Feeder (R2,399 from Syntech.syntech.co.za)
The Xiaomi Automatic Pet Feeder, in conjunction with the Mi Home/Xiaomi Home app, allows one to plan, dispense and monitor a pet’s food, down to the last gram. Loadshedding doesn’t affect the app on the phone, so unlike time switches, it doesn’t throw out the Feeder’s internal scheduling once power is back. But it does mean the pet may not be fed on schedule. The device can be fitted with four AA batteries, and one can then dispense at the touch of a button – which can also be used to issue an extra feed. When it works according to plan, and when there is power, it brings a new dimension to pets’ lives.
Smartwatch of the Year
Huawei Watch GT 4 (R6,999 from the Huawei Store)
The Huawei Watch GT 4 is a premium smartwatch with a sleek design, despite a sturdy exterior. It has so many advanced features, it is a constant surprise. It is probably hype to call it “a smartwatch that can do it all”, but its not far off. It has amazing battery life, with up to 14 days on a single charge. That’s three times longer than my sadly demised Fitbit Sense, for a device that has far more tech built in. It offers a sharp and bright touch-screen AMOLED display that is clear in all lighting conditions, almost unlimited alternative watch faces, and a rotating crown for easy navigation.
Chat gadget of the year
Logitech Brio 505 (R2,799)
The Logitech Brio 505, with an HD lens that slots neatly into general videoconferencing, costs two-thirds the price of its 4K predecessor. It supports multiple resolutions, including 1080p at 30frames per second (fps) and 720p at 30fps or 60fps. As a low-cost model, one would expect it to be stripped down across more features than just a lower-res lens. However, it is in some ways an enhancement, designed to solve common video conferencing challenges. It introduces a Show Mode, which makes it easier to share sketches or physical objects on a desk, thanks to an innovative mounting system and built-in sensor. This allows users to tilt the camera down – usually not possible with laptop-mounted webcams – and focus on objects that are not at eye-level.
Fitness tech of the year
Under Armour Flow Velociti Elite (R4 999, in stores and online)
Two highly distinct features differentiate the Flow Velociti Elite from any other pair of shoes I’ve tried, both aesthetically and practically. They are the first see-through shoes I’ve worn, with the lime-green mesh covering thar gives the shoes 360° reflectivity for added visibility in low-light runs. Practically, they may be the lightest running shoes I’ve ever worn. It is Manufactured from recycled materials, and its mesh uppers provide impact protection, lightweight “lockdown” and maximum breathability. The bounce of the sock liner and durable outsole material provides added resilience. The inner sole is engineered to “encourage” the foot to descend forward, cajoling the wearer to lean into their run. The longer I run, the more momentum is delivered to my body.
Audio tech of the year: Speakers
Sonos Era 300 and 100 (R10,999 and R6,499)
The Sonos Era 300 speakers incorporate six drivers that direct sound left, right, forward and upward, delivering a breakthrough form of Dolby Atmos. Sonos says it “wraps its beautifully complex acoustic architecture in an elegantly cinched hourglass design, with every angle, proportion and perforation enhancing the direction and dispersion of sound to truly surround you”. It has been launched along with the Era 100, an update of the Sonos One smart speaker, with more advanced acoustics and more detailed stereo sound. Two angled tweeters send high frequencies left and right, and a larger midwoofer creates deeper bass. Both devices look great as pieces of furniture.
Audio tech of the year: Soundbars
The LG S95QR is a 9.1.5 soundbar system with 17 speakers, including three upward-firing Dolby Atmos drivers and a centre-mounted Atmos driver, while the rear speakers consist of front-firing and up-firing height channels. In a 9.1.5 channel system, one has nine main audio channels, one subwoofer channel for low-frequency sounds, and five additional channels for height or overhead effects, resulting in a more expansive and immersive “soundstage”. The soundbar offers useful features like AI Room Calibration, which adjusts the sound to match the acoustics of your room, and TV Sound Mode Share, which improves sound quality when connected to a TV. It excels in mixed usage scenarios, delivering an impressive audio experience across TV shows, music, and movies.
Audio tech of the year: Entertainment earbuds
Sony WF-C700N (starts at R2,289 at Takealot)
The Sony WF-C700N Noise Cancelling stereo wireless earbuds provide a balanced combination of features and performance without cracking the wallet, as many of the name brands seem intent on doing with their equivalents. The buds offers an array of features uncommonly found at its price point, starting with active noise cancellation (ANC), and adding a transparency mode to let in external sound when needed, IPX4 water resistance for protection against sweat and light rain, and touch controls for more convenient operation. The companion Sony Headphones Connect app allows users to customise equaliser settings and access presets for audio personalisation.
Audio tech of the year: Activity earbuds
Jabra Elite 10 (R4,999)
The Jabra Elite 10 is set apart for its ability to offer top-tier features to both Android and iPhone users. It is a versatile choice in both user comfort and for excellent audio in demanding environments, from call centres to fitness activity, with a lightweight design that reduces the sensation of plugged up ears. Oval-shaped silicone ear tips offer both a snug and secure fit, meaning they provide ongoing comfort during extended use. They come with three extra sizes of ear tips to fine-tune one’s comfort. A defining feature is support for Dolby Atmos spatial audio, which generates a virtual surround sound experience, including head tracking. This enhances immersion in movies and music, transcending conventional audio. The feature is compatible with both Android and iOS devices.
Audio tech of the year: Over-ear headphones
Logitech Zone (around R5,300)
The Logitech Zone wireless headset takes the prize as one the most comfortable headsets on the market. The ear cups are generously padded, and an adjustable headband ensures a snug fit without feeling overly tight. Active noise cancellation (ANC) does a commendable job of blocking out background noise, allowing full immersion in music or conversations. The Zone Wireless boasts a range of handy features that enhance its overall usability, including a flip-to-mute microphone, and dependable Bluetooth 5.0 support for a stable wireless connection. The Logitech Tune app provides a welcome touch, allowing one to fine-tune the headset’s sound profile.
* Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee