This month will see us free from 5km boundaries and able to meet friends out and about. The brighter, warmer weather also means more outdoors or garden time with our work laptops.
Here are seven gadgets that will enhance everything.
1. The best fitness smartwatch: Garmin’s Fenix 6 Pro
If you still haven’t succumbed to a fitness watch, there are lots to choose from. If you’re really ambitious, my long-term recommendation is Garmin’s Fenix 6 Pro (€670), which is still the best sub-€1,000 fitness watch on the market. If you like to sit out a lot, there’s a solar version that adds a little more battery reserve and costs an extra €150.
It’s waterproof (for your new-found sea-swimming ambitions), has multiple exercise and activity modes, every meaningful sensor you need, a good sleep measurement tool and incredibly long battery life (up to 20 days per charge, compared to under two days for an Apple Watch). It has a lot of special features for climbers and trekkers, too, including advanced breathing and pulse measurement, as well as an altimeter.
Garmin is also the only mainstream fitness watch where you can download Spotify tracks and play them offline on a run or a walk, without having your phone with you. (Apple’s Watch lets you do the same with Apple Music, and Fitbit lets you do it with Deezer, but neither allows you to do it with Spotify, which is the most popular streaming service.) The Fenix 6 Pro lets you download about 1,000 songs.
If this seems a little steep on price, Garmin’s Venu Sq Music edition (€250) has many of the same feature perks.
2. The earbuds: Samsung Galaxy Buds Live (€159)
Apple’s AirPods need no introduction, but the best of the rest for being out and about is actually Samsung’s aging (and thus slightly cheaper) Galaxy Buds Live (€159).
Because of the innovative way they’re shaped (like coffee beans), they fit insanely well – the only pair I’ve ever used that have never become dislodged no matter what I do. The audio quality is also excellent.
They don’t stick out of your ears or make any audacious branding statement, either – these are about the most discreet in-ear buds on the market right now.
3. The wireless smart speaker: Harman Kardon Citation 200
A decent-quality, reasonably-priced wireless smart speaker is a brilliant companion for being out in the back garden, whether you’re working or having a bite. Harman Kardon’s Citation 200 (€329) is about the best you’ll get in this category for this kind of money.
It has full smart speaker functionality for things like music, radio, podcasts and questions (using Google’s Assistant) and it supports connection over Apple’s AirPlay, Chromecast or normal Bluetooth if you want to play music away from a wi-fi source.
The sound quality is superb. It takes a couple of hours to fully charge up, but you’ll get between six and eight hours of portable play between charges.
4. The smart sunglasses: Huawei X Gentle Monster Eyewear II
Yes, I know it sounds gimmicky, but Huawei’s X Gentle Monster Eyewear II (€379) actually work surprisingly well and look genuinely good. They’re very handy for phone calls, offer good protection for your eyes and have much better private audio than any other smart glasses I’ve tested.
They discreetly feature small speakers, microphones and touch-sensitive controls in a pair of fairly nice-looking, sleek Gentle Monster (which is a Korean fashion brand) sunglasses.
Don’t expect this to compare to a pair of earphones for booming bass or noise-cancellation, but they’re more than adequate for podcasts, radio and chatting to others. A bonus is that there’s surprisingly little audio leakage detectable to others around you. They come with a recharging case and you’ll get several hours between charges.
5. The outdoors-friendly mouse: Logitech MX Anywhere 3
If you’ve a garden bench and (still) can’t get used to your laptop’s touchscreen or too-small touchpad, Logitech’s MX Anywhere 3 (€90) wireless rechargeable mouse really does work on rough surfaces. I’ve used it on outdoors wooden garden furniture and even (smooth) concrete. It’s fairly robust, too, and works on just about any laptop and any recent iPad.
6. The carry-anywhere computer: iPad Air
There are a million light laptops out there, but most won’t let you just open and start working away; neither Windows nor Mac OS is quite designed to be ready-to-go. The recently-launched 11-inch iPad Air (€679) has almost all of the power and features of the iPad Pro for about €250 less. Better yet, it works with Apple’s Magic Keyboard case (€339 but well worth it), which includes a trackpad — yes, you can now use a cursor, mouse and trackpad on iPads.
7. An e-bike (€1,500 to €2,500)
There are three benefits to getting an e-bike – from Raleigh to Hercules or Orbea – over an e-scooter. First, they’re legal (e-scooter regulation is promised but isn’t here yet). Second, they have much better range, at up to 100km per charge.
This is particularly useful now that you’re about to be allowed travel anywhere within your county. Thirdly, if the charge does run out, they’re still pretty good road bikes that can simply be cycled.
They’re especially handy for someone who loves the idea of going out for some light exercise but who’s put off by hills or wind – e-bikes let you engage the battery to partially or fully push you along, up to around 25km per hour.
Unlike mopeds (or e-scooters at present) they don’t need any insurance, tax or licence. You can also get a chunk off your tax by using the Revenue-approved ‘cycle to work’ scheme.