Product Promotion Network

2017

Amazon Echo 2017 price slashed ahead of Black Friday

Amazon’s second-gen Echo smart speaker[1] will be going for ?20 less ahead of and during black Friday. The more friendly-looking Echo comes with a 3.5mm out, so you can hook it up to another speaker, if you need some extra oomph. Along with the new Echo, the smaller Echo Dot smart speaker[2] is also taking a tumble, down to ?34.99 from the usual ?49.99.

If you need a smart plug to connect everything to your router, you’ll also be able to pick up this TP-Link smart plug, which normally costs ?30, for a tenner. Other Amazon-related products that are getting the pre-Black Friday snip include Dash Buttons[3]. Normally a fiver at a time, these Pavlovian single product order buttons can be stuck anywhere in the home and let you add individual items to your next Amazon Prime delivery with a simple tap.

While you’ll want to keep these out of the reach of smaller hands for obvious reasons, Amazon’s also cutting the cost of its range of children’s tablets; the Fire 7 Kids and Fire HD 8 Kids will cost ?69.99 and ?89.99 each, down from the regular ?99.99 and ?129.99.

Note that the following prices won’t apply ’til tomorrow, but you can use the following links to jump to the relevant pages and bookmark them in the meantime:

References

  1. ^ second-gen Echo smart speaker (uk.pcmag.com)
  2. ^ the smaller Echo Dot smart speaker (uk.pcmag.com)
  3. ^ Dash Buttons (uk.pcmag.com)

Is it worth spending more on your iron?

Ironing is Britain’s least favourite household chore, according to a YouGov poll released earlier in the year.* 50% of us dislike it – more than any other housework – and only 16% of us claim to actually enjoy it. Unless you fall into this minority of happy ironers, the temptation might be to spend as little as possible on an iron – but would parting with a little more cash make this chore easier and cut the time spent at the ironing board? In our most recent round of iron tests, we pitted some models costing as little as ?20 against some that will set you back ?85.

Interestingly, the cheapest ones didn’t always perform worst. If you choose carefully, you could find a cheap iron that does a faster job than a more expensive counterpart and saves you time as well as money. For our round-up of the best cheap irons that perform well, take a look at our top five cheap steam irons[1].

How to pick the best steam iron

So how do you choose an iron that will keep your time at the ironing board to a minimum?

You can’t tell how good an iron is just by looking at it, which is where our reviews – based on exhaustive tests – are invaluable. For something that’s quick and easy to use, start by looking at each model’s ironing performance star rating. This reflects the time and effort required to use each one, so opt for a five-star model for minimum hassle.

The steamier an iron the better, as the hot moisture relaxes fibres and makes them easier to iron. But irons that start off well can lose their touch as they clog up with limescale. To get our limescale-resistance star rating, we simulate three months of use and track the drop-off in steaminess – a high-scoring model will remain as quick and easy to use as it was when brand new.

Hard water contains minerals that form limescale, so if you live in a hard-water area look for an iron with a built-in anti-calc system or self-clean function. The cheapest iron we tested this time around is the John Lewis Steam Iron[2] (?20), which has a self-clean button to help keep the vents clear. If you’re willing to spend more, the Tefal FV5640G0 Turbo Pro[3] (?70) has a removable scale collector in its heel.

Our tests have found that not all of these measures work as well as they should, so we rate them for how well their descaling instructions work. Check our steam iron reviews[4] to find one that lasts.

Make ironing easier

If you’re not keen on ironing, it’s worth making sure it’s as simple as possible. Choose a handle that feels good in your hand – try it for size in the shop if you can.

A soleplate with a thin, tapered tip that fits under buttons will make life easier if you regularly tackle piles of shirts, while a water tank with clear sides means you’ll know when to top up. If you have a lot of laundry to get through, consider a steam generator. These can pump out more steam than an iron and don’t have to be topped up as frequently.

We’ve just tested the Morphy Richards Jet Steam 333021 generator[5] (?60), which costs less than some irons, and steams for well over an hour on a full tank. Soft rubber inserts in the handle make it comfortable to use for long periods.

Latest steam generator and steam iron reviews

Follow the links below to read full reviews for the 15 irons and steam generators we’ve just tested and reviewed: Steam irons

Steam generators

Prices are correct as of November 2017.

* Survey in Oct 2016, published Feb 2017.

References

  1. ^ top five cheap steam irons (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ John Lewis Steam Iron (which.co.uk)
  3. ^ Tefal FV5640G0 Turbo Pro (which.co.uk)
  4. ^ steam iron reviews (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ Morphy Richards Jet Steam 333021 generator (which.co.uk)

Decorate your home with augmented reality

How would you like to see how a new sofa, wallpaper or paint scheme looks in your home before you go out and buy? With augmented reality (AR) and your smartphone it’s perfectly possible, and these sorts of apps are becoming more popular by the day. Augmented reality works by overlaying things into the world around you through a camera, typically the one on your smartphone.

If you remember the Pokemon Go phenomenon that gripped the world earlier this year then you’ll understand the basics. Point your phone anywhere you like and the app will overlay images into the environment – making it look like they’re actually there. You can often interact with these objects too, making them larger or smaller, changing colours, or changing where they are in the space, and it’s this functionality that makes augmented reality so useful.

Apple and Google have put their considerable weight behind AR and huge retailers, including Ikea and Amazon, have jumped on the idea too, creating apps that let you preview how furniture, rugs and even paint will look in your home, so you don’t buy a new sofa that doesn’t fit your space or match your decor. Top smartphones for 2017[1] – choose a great phone to begin your AR journey

Amazon’s new AR app

Amazon has recently launched ‘AR view’ on its Amazon shopping app. For now it’s only available for customers with an iPhone 6S and higher, using iOS 11, but the concept could well be the future of online shopping.

The idea is simple – choose a product you’re interested in from Amazon’s website – from small appliances and cookware to tables and tech, and you can hold up your phone to see how it will look in the home. This may not be as useful as checking the size of a sofa, but it will help you decide if the walnut or oak finish on the 2nd generation Amazon Echo looks best on your book shelf, or whether you want a 55 or 60-inch TV. Take a look at how it works below – and be sure to check out our guide to Black Friday deals on home products[2] to narrow down your shopping list.

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Ikea Catalogue – sofas, tables and more

For some, a trip to Ikea is a fun day out. Grab some Swedish meatballs, sit on a few sofas and end up buying a spatula. Great fun.

But for others, it’s a hellish, one-way trip around crowded aisles desperately trying to find that one rug that will really tie the room together. The Ikea Catalogue app is great if you fall into the latter camp, but even if you love visiting the big blue warehouse, the app is a great way to get your fix between visits. Unsurprisingly, it lets you browse the entire Ikea range, but that’s the boring bit, it also lets you see how all that Swedish furniture will look in your house.

The app will overlay rugs, tables, sofas, lamps and more into any room of your house. The products are to scale, so you’ll know whether a new arm chair will fit in your nook without getting your tape measure out. If fitted kitchens are on your radar, be sure to check out our list of best and words kitchen brands[3].

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Dulux Visualizer – painting and decorating

Before you pop out for some testing pots, you might want to give the Dulux Visualizer app a try to narrow things down. You can choose any colour from Dulux’s enormous range and a quick tap on your phone screen will instantly paint the wall in your chosen colour. There’s the option to take a picture too, so you can easily compare different colours and, once you’ve made you choice, you can buy the paint from within the app.

All things are not equal when it comes to DIY supplies, as our guide to best DIY shops and websites[4] explains. [embedded content]

What do you need to use AR?

The beauty of AR is it’s really easy to give it a try – all you need is a smartphone. Many AR apps will work whether you’ve got the latest software from Apple and Google, but you may find some of the more advanced ones don’t work if you’ve got an older phone. iPhone users should update their devices to iOS 11 to get access to ARKit, as Apple is calling it, and a whole host of AR apps.

Android’s software is called ARCore. It’s currently available on Pixel 2 handsets and the Galaxy S8, but Google is planning to roll it out to as many handsets as possible by the end of the year.

What’s next for augmented reality?

Much like virtual reality, the sky’s the limit. The fact that Apple and Google are getting involved by creating a platform for people to build more AR apps means they clearly see potential for future growth.

Useful apps like Google Translate – which allows you to hold a phone up to a street sign or menu written in a foreign language and see it in English, and Layar, which brings magazines and landmarks to life when you hold your phone up to them, are just two examples of a wealth of content around today, and plenty more is expected in the future.

Keen to get involved in more virtual worlds?

Find out how to get started with virtual reality[5].

References

  1. ^ Top smartphones for 2017 (www.which.co.uk)
  2. ^ Black Friday deals on home products (www.which.co.uk)
  3. ^ best and words kitchen brands (www.which.co.uk)
  4. ^ best DIY shops and websites (www.which.co.uk)
  5. ^ how to get started with virtual reality (www.which.co.uk)

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