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Author: Don Obrien

5 practically perfect portable gadgets


Gadgets updates

Journey’s blend 

“Take fruit and veg pulverising firmly off-grid”: BlendJet 2, £37.95
“Take fruit and veg pulverising firmly off-grid”: BlendJet 2, £37.95

Smoothies are good for us, right? Particularly if we up the veg content. But they need a lot of power to make, which is why most blending gadgets run off the mains. Now the BlendJet, a portable, one-portion rechargeable blender from California, takes fruit and veg pulverising firmly off-grid. And what’s not to love? Perfect for camping, long walks involving a bit of foraging (nettle and wild garlic smoothie, anyone?), it’ll also be the focus of envy for those back in the office. You get around 15 blends per USB recharge and it comes in 16 colours, most of them appropriately fruity. Do bear in mind, though, that it’s a lightweight device and is less powerful than a mains machine, so if you decide to go wild with frozen strawberries you will defeat it. BlendJet 2, £37.95, blendjet.com


Less with the laundry 

Avoid over-laundering with a hand steamer like W’air, £159
Avoid over-laundering with a hand steamer like W’air, £159

Once upon a time laundry technology was all “Persil washes whiter”. But when we discuss it now, it’s in the light of overuse of water and power, of unnecessarily reducing the life of clothing, and of releasing microplastics into the environment. Textile washing is said to account for 35 per cent of microplastics in the oceans, while a third of clothing’s Yeti-like carbon footprint comes from swishing it around in a water-greedy machine for hours.

One way to avoid over-laundering is to use a hand steamer – many have become available but this new British cleaning appliance uses plain water and detergent in wonderfully miserly amounts, and is eminently portable. W’air adopts hydrodynamic technology developed over six years to clean the areas of clothing that actually need cleaning, using just a few ccs of water, carefully formulated detergents and barely any heat. You can spot-clean specific stains – including heavy ones such as blood and ink – by applying the machine’s neat probe directly to fabric. And by holding the probe a little further away, you can refresh clothes between washes or, adding a cold-water hand rinse afterwards, deep clean anything from denims to delicates. W’air, £159, justwairit.com


A satisfyingly steampunk portable radio-Alexa

DAB, FM radio, Bluetooth and Alexa all in one: Pure StreamR, £130
DAB, FM radio, Bluetooth and Alexa all in one: Pure StreamR, £130

It’s rare to find a portable DAB and FM radio with really excellent sound. Even rarer to find such a thing that also functions as a Bluetooth speaker and a use-anywhere Alexa device. But the British-designed Pure StreamR combines all these abilities in one neat package. In your home country you can listen to your favourite national and local radio stations on high-quality DAB or FM, while when you are abroad you can access them through Alexa on the internet. And because it’s Alexa-enabled, it’s also capable of all the other usual Alexa tricks, such as egg timing and closing and opening the curtains.

It’s also a rather wonderful piece of steampunk design in an age of touchscreens and soft-click buttons. You turn the StreamR on and off by physically pushing down the central section, which is like a piston in a cylinder. It’s delightful and bonkers at the same time. 

One thing to note: the Alexa function only works if your phone, with the Pure app open, is in Bluetooth range – but this is more a minor faff than a deal-breaker. Pure StreamR, £130, pure.com


Route one portable 5G

Game and stream high-end video without the need for fixed lines, thanks to the Netgear Nighthawk M5, £739.99
Game and stream high-end video without the need for fixed lines, thanks to the Netgear Nighthawk M5, £739.99

With the 5G phone network building up nicely but not used a lot – the need for 5G on a phone, for instance, is extremely limited – the opportunity to hijack 5G for all your home and office internet needs is there for the taking.

Netgear’s newest portable router, the Nighthawk M5, offers internet speeds of up to 1Gbps where the 5G is up and running, but also works on 4G, which can give a more than adequate 40-50Mbps. Importantly, too, the M5 pumps out WiFi 6, the newest version, so can keep as many as 32 devices online simultaneously. The M5 is rechargeable (13 hours of use per charge) but obviously works plugged into the mains, too. So if you were using it in, say, a holiday home (and 5G is often available and barely used in rural-ish areas), all the family’s and friends’ internet needs, including gaming and high-end video streaming, can be dealt with easily without the need for fixed lines.

The M5 is one of those unglamorous black boxes that can nonetheless quietly semi-revolutionise home and work life. Netgear Nighthawk M5, £739.99, netgear.co.uk


Unfurling the first folding screen laptop

“Enchanting and practical”: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, from £2,749.99
“Enchanting and practical”: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, from £2,749.99

We’ve seen phones with a folding screen, notably the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2 5G. A folding PC is a natural development from that, and Lenovo has got in with the first of what I suspect will be many.

In closed form, the ThinkPad X1 Fold is like a leather-bound hardback book. At 23.6cm x 15.8cm x 2.78cm and weighing 1.12kg it’s chunky‑ish but very portable. Unfurl it and the two halves of a screen almost magically meld into a one touch-control Windows 10 tablet with barely any visible sign of the fold and a fine, bright 13.3in screen.

You can use the X1 just as a tablet; you can open up a touchscreen keyboard; you can create a more traditional laptop by mounting the wireless Bluetooth keyboard that comes with the kit on top of the touchscreen; or you can set up a kind of desktop machine, using the full screen as a monitor with the keyboard freestanding.

Enchanting and practical, even though I’d love to see an Apple version of the same idea one day. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold, from £2,749.99, lenovo.com



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