10 hot new hi-tech gadgets
Ronan Price picks out the must-have gizmos hitting the market this year
(from approximately €425 up to €19,000, due in early summer)
While the upper end of the scale appeals only to people with more money than sense (not that I'm jealous, sniff!), the entry-level smartwatch will be another hit out of left field for Apple.
It does practically nothing any smartphone can't do already - bar tracking your heartbeat. But paired with your iPhone (as it must to be much use), the Apple Watch becomes a powerful yet unobtrusive life companion, giving you info at a glance or tacitly notifying of incoming events. The software mostly avoids the traps that sank many rivals and the hardware comes in myriad styles of strap and finish to suit most tastes and budgets.
Microsoft Universal Folding Keyboard
(€100, available soon)
Super-sized phablets are making serious inroads into the markets for tablets and even laptops. Many people can get enough work done on an outsized phone that they're using them as their primary computer. But that thinking comes a little unstuck when you need to type anything more than a few sentences.
This ultra-slim Bluetooth keyboard folds into a pocketable sandwich the size of a CD case. Though the gap down the middle of the keys is a tad disconcerting, the keyboard makes short work out of pounding out emails and even documents on your phone or tablet.
(price TBA, due late 2015)
Virtual-reality headsets remain tantalising out of reach, with Facebook-backed Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus slated for 2016 at the earliest. But out of nowhere HTC's Vive looks like beating them all to the punch with a November 2015 launch.
Backed by PC games giant Valve, the Vive earned rave notices at its unveiling last month for its ability to track body movement - now you can walk around inside the virtual simulation. The potential applications in gaming and entertainment are mind-blowing. Star Trek holodeck, here we come. But be prepared to pay a hefty price.
Nikon Coolpix P900
(€650, out now)
Private detectives and wildlife enthusiasts are going to love this. In the battle of big numbers, Nikon scores a knockout blow with the new Coolpix P900 camera, which sports a whopping 83x zoom. To put it into perspective, an equivalent traditional lens would be 2000mm, maybe 15kg and almost a metre in length - and cost tens of thousands.
Yet the P900 fits 83x into a conventional-sized body. Such a long zoom more or less requires a tripod to be effective and image quality suffers at the extreme end. But capturing a photo from a kilometre away is an amazing feat no similar camera can pull off.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
(from approximately €800 without contract, available now)
If the plastic design of previous Samsung mobile flagships didn't float your boat, here's good news. The new S6 phone comes in an all-metal/glass finish reminiscent of the iPhone 6.
The Edge variant of the S6 is even more interesting, sporting curved edges to the screen that not only looks cool, but enables subtle notifications when the screen is not on. Of course, it's stuffed to the gunwales with high-powered specs (wireless, super-fast charging being my favourite), but mercifully, Samsung has dialled back its convoluted interface atop the standard Android system.
Ikea Wireless Charging Furniture
(from approximately €40, available late April, pictured above right)
Wireless charging has lived on the verge of popularity for five years but never reached critical mass. Perhaps this new range from Ikea will help push it over the top. The idea is simple: a few of the latest phones have built-in magnetic receivers that can charge your battery by lying on a powered mat - no wires required.
Ikea is building the mats into a handful of, um, plain products such as side tables and lamp bases. For those phones without the required receptors (hello iPhone), you can buy a slim case to achieve the same result.
Ion Sound Shine
(€125 per pair, available now)
It takes a strange kind of brain to devise a speaker built into a light bulb but, like all the best ideas, it makes sense when you think about it. The Ion Sound Shine brings music and illumination to any room in the house where there's a light socket (screw-cap only).
Connect your phone or computer via Bluetooth and you can stream music, the radio, whatever. The bulb itself is made from energy-efficient LEDs, which produce the equivalent of 60W and can be dimmed via a smartphone app.
WeMo Insight Switch
(€70, available now)
Smart switches controllable via smartphone have been around for years, but the WeMo Insight is the first that can also monitor electricity consumption. Once hooked into your home Wi-Fi, the WeMo enables you to remotely turn off or on anything plugged into its electrical socket.
That's handy enough, but if you're keen on keeping your energy bills down, you can also get the Insight Switch to notify you if, for instance, you've left the heater on accidentally or if the kids having been playing Xbox all day long.
Rubik's Cube Light
(€35, available now)
Even if you've never solved the cube, everyone dreams of one day getting all those colours to line up. It can't be that hard - the world record is an incredible 5.5 seconds.
This illuminated, oversized version of the cube functions as a desk light. But remove the rechargeable light from its cradle and you have a fully functional cube.
With two hours of battery power, it's just begging to be solved (or, in my case, not). Oh well, a man can dream.
(€140, available now)
Yeah, internet-connected everything is all the rage, but for the ultimate in laziness, we give you the iKettle. Why wait five minutes for the kettle to boil when you can start it heating up while still in bed of a morning?
In fairness, the iKettle is smarter than that, enabling you to set schedules or detect when you arrive home and have the hot water ready. Designed with a stainless-steel finish, the kettle can also be accessorised with coloured silicon skins to match your kitchen and keep the water hot for longer.