The December/January 2020 issue of WiFi HiFi Magazine included our top 100 tech picks for 2019. And to devise this list, each member of the team submitted their favourite gear of the year. Here are Christine Persaud's top product picks of 2019.
Fitbit Versa 2 Smartwatch
While I still use and love the Fitbit Versa, the Versa 2 adds Alexa voice control and an on-device mic, along with the Spotify app for controlling and listening to music and podcasts; alternatively, you can store up to 300 songs on the watch itself, as you can do with the Versa as well. Press a button and speak into the microphone, asking Alexa to find the nearest gym, start a Fitbit exercise, or to learn the caloric value of a certain food. Alexa responds via silent, on-screen text responses. You can also use Alexa to set alarms and timers, check the weather and news, control smart home devices, and more. With 5+ day battery life, the watch includes all of the other features you'd expect, including detailed sleep tracking and Sleep Scores, activity tracking, heart rate monitor, smartphone notifications, Fitbit Pay, swim-proof design, and more. $250
iRobot Roomba s9+ Robot Vacuum
The Roomba i7+ was among my top-10 picks last year. This year, the new s9+ works with the same Clean Base Automatic Dirt Disposal system that can hold up to 30 bins of dirt before you need to empty and replace it. Smart mapping of your home means it learns the layout, then you can set it to clean everywhere on a level or only specific rooms. Control it via a button, the app, or by voice using Alexa or Google Assistant. Cleaning power is reportedly 40 times the suction compared to previous models. And with Imprint Link Technology and the new Braava jet m6 robot mop (also on this list) you can push a button to have your home vacuumed, then mopped right after. (Imprint Link works with the i7+, too.) $1,649 with the Clean Base, $20/pack of replacement dirt disposal bags.
iRobot Braava jet m6 Robot Mop
This mop keeps your hardwood floors and kitchen tiles in pristine condition. Add water and the cleaning solution, insert a cleaning pad (washable or disposable), press a button or give a voice command, and it will scoot across the floors spraying water and passing over areas, mapping your home so it can work more efficiently over time and clean only specific rooms when asked. If you have both the mop and a compatible iRobot vacuum, set it up such that as soon as the vacuum is done, the mop will start. Do a standard or deep clean and use it for dry sweeping as well. When you're done, eject the disposable pad into the garbage or pop the washable one into the washing machine on delicate cycle, or hand wash it. Starts at $699; $10 for a box of seven disposable cleaning pads or $35 for two washable ones.
Austere V11 Series Power and Protect 8-Outlet Power Block
This sleek power block is a beautiful way to organize a clutter of cables. I use one beside a side table in my living room to plug in the charging dock for my Savant remote, my Ventev wireless charger (also on this list), a speaker, and an Amazon Echo Show 5 (also on this list.) This leaves four outlets open for other devices as I need them. What I really love about this power block, aside from the gorgeous all-aluminum enclosure design and durable and attractive WovenArmor power cable, is that it has several outlets on the side as well for plugging in more items, including two USB ports and a45W USB-C PD port. Another small but appreciated detail: AC outlets are well-spaced to accommodate large adapters without having to skip plugs. $280, and a six-outlet version, pictured above, is also available for $250.
Fitbit Ace 2 Kids Smartwatch
My 7-year-old son has been wearing the Fitbit Ace 2 for much of 2019, and it is a wonderful device for kids that helps them track steps and let parents see how active their kids are on a daily basis. But my favourite feature is sleep tracking, which logs when your child has actually fallen asleep, how restless they were at night, when they woke up, and how many hours of sleep they got. It's really insightful data that parents can monitor from their phones and share with kids within a special Kid View section of the app (the same app mom or dad uses to track their own devices). $100
Apple AirPods Pro Wireless Earbuds
I haven't yet tried the Pro true wireless earbuds, but the AirPods make for a perfectly harmonious set-up for those who also own an Apple iPhone and/or Watch, whether you're working out, commuting, or listening to tunes and making/receiving calls. I use them regularly at the gym and love the ability to pair them directly with an Apple Watch to listen to downloaded playlists so I can leave my phone in a locker. The battery life with the charging case is fantastic, and they can quick charge in a pinch. The Pro adds active noise cancellation with Transparency Mode, improved sound, and a new lightweight, in-ear design, along with three sizes of soft, flexible silicone eartips. They are sweat- and water-resistant, and a neat Audio Sharing feature lets you listen to the same source with a friend by bringing their pair close to your device. $329
Tile Sticker Bluetooth Tracker
I've been using Tiles on my keys for years, and they have come in handy on many occasions. Use the smartphone app to "ring" them if you're within Bluetooth range (or conversely, ring your phone from one of them if you misplaced it) or track their location if you're not. This is thanks to the network of Tile users who can help you pinpoint the item's location. The Sticker allows for more versatile placement options, able to affix to any flat metal or plastic surface, like a camera, remote, or headphones. I've attached it to my AirPods case for peace-of-mind should I ever forget them at home or the gym, or they fall out of my purse. It has a three-year battery life. Get two for $50 or four for $75. Gift packs include other Tile trackers with keyholes for bundled pricing.
Ventev Wireless Chargepad Duo
I have been using a 15-watt Ventev Chargestand on my living room side table for the past year, and it's an absolute lifesaver. When I need to recharge my iPhone, I don't have to fumble for a cord and plug it in. I simply plop the phone atop the stand and it charges upright so I can continue to use it without having to unplug or stretch a cord. The newest model adds the ability to charge two phones at once, including 7.5-watt iPhones and 10-watt Samsung Galaxy devices, laid atop the Qi-enabled charging surface so two people don't have to fight for the charger. It has a nice grey cloth covering that makes it an attractive addition to your living room side table or entryway bench. And it can charge through most cases as well. $90
Handl iPhone XR Case
I've had this smartphone case on my iPhone XR for the last few months. What's great about it, aside from the sleek and stylish design, is the flexible and elastic brace system that secures your phone to your hand by allowing you to slide your fingers in between the case and the brace. The brace can also pop into the slot on one side to function as a built-in kickstand, propping your phone up vertically or horizontally. The brace makes it easy to hold your phone while having a conversation without having to wrap your fingers around the device, putting strain on them. It also makes taking selfies a cinch without having to balance the phone in your hand while depressing the shutter. I have it in a Merlot Pebble finish, but there are other options as well. $60.
Scosche FlyTunes Wireless Audio Transmitter
This tiny device makes it easy for two people to listen to the same audio source by plugging into a 3.5mm AUX output and pairing with Bluetooth wireless headphones or other devices. Use it on airplanes, fitness machines at the gym, for kids in the backseat, or for listening wirelessly from non-Bluetooth devices. It works using a simple single- or dual-pairing process, while two folding prongs plug into a single- or dual-output so it works with any model of aircraft. Get up to eight hours of use per charge and recharge it with AirPods in the Scosche Charge case (sold separately, US$30). I tried them with a friend on a flight this summer and they worked flawlessly. Keep the little instruction card in the convenient carrying case to remind you of the order and button press sequences to pair if you tend to be forgetful! Black or white, $50.
Jabra Elite Sport True Wireless Headphones
While they have been in market for a few years already, I still use and love these earbuds at the gym. They are fabulous for anyone who works out, runs or jogs, and is looking for great sound and in-ear coaching. A selection of EarWings and tips provide a perfect fit, and two mics in each bud filter out background noise (they work wonderfully on a windy day). They can run for up to 4.5 hours per charge (13.5 hours with the charging case). But what really sets them apart is the Jabra Sports Life app and in-ear heart rate monitor that delivers real-time heart rate information, telling you when to speed up to reach your target heart rate or slow down. Do a test run so the earbuds can measure your V02 first. Select specific workouts from the app and use Automatic Rep Count to track movement via sensors in the earbud. $280
Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus 10-in-1 Multicooker
This multi-cooker remains one of the best small appliances out there, and the Canadian company, which merged with Corelle Brands, LLC earlier this year, launched several new models and entered new product categories in 2019. While I still use the trusty Ultra 10-in-1 I purchased a few years ago, the latest versions add compelling new features. The Duo Evo Plus 10-in-1 comes with a new inner pot that is cookware-grade and stovetop-friendly with easy grip handles and adds new features like ferment and pasteurize. New models, including this one, also incorporate easier-to-read bright displays with 48 presets that can remember custom settings, a cooking process indicator, and a new lid that automatically sets to seal and features QuickCool technology. $200 for the 8-quart model.
Apple TV+ Subscription
The latest streaming TV service to launch this year, Apple's foray into the space is making waves. And naturally, having the greatest home theatre gear means nothing without the content to watch and/or listen to. Apple came out of the gate with some really compelling original series, including The Morning Show, See, For All Mankind, Truth Be Told, and Servant. Apple TV+ is poised to keep Netflix, Prime Video, Crave, Hulu, HBO, and others on their toes as its deep pockets invest in high-quality content, including movies and TV series. An annual subscription is $6/mo., and you can access the content in a number of ways, including through compatible Samsung TVs, the Roku platform, Apple TV devices, and more.