• Wash your clothes without the worry

    by  • February 25, 2015 • 0 Comments

    NA-148XS1 AutoCare washing machine | Panasonic | girlabouttech.com

    Be honest, how often do you experiment with the cycles on your washing machine? Are you a stickler for washing synthetics on Synthetics, wool on Wool and jeans on Denim, or do you stick everything on a Cotton 40 and hope for the best? Well, thanks to Panasonic’s new AutoCare programme, you no longer have to stand at your machine scratching your head about what cycle to use, or worrying that everything’s going to shrink.

    Available on the new NA-148XS1 and NA-148XR1 washing machines, AutoCare does all the thinking for you. Pop your clothes in, select AutoCare on the dial and press start, and a four-sensor system works out how dirty your clothes are, whether they are made from a cotton or synthetic fabric and even what kind of detergent you are using. It then optimises the washing and spinning time, as well as the water temperature and volume, accordingly.

    But how do the sensors know? Well, the optical sensor uses an infra red ray to check the transparency of the water – the cloudier the water, the dirtier your clothes will be and therefore the longer or hotter the wash.

    This ray can also work out whether you are using a powder or liquid detergent, which will influence the cycle since powder detergent has more washing power due to the cleaning agent inside, but will need more rinsing time, otherwise the residual detergent could irritate your skin and leave marks. Liquid detergent, on the other hand, needs a longer washing time but less rinsing.

    To tell the difference between fabrics, the machine adds water. Since cotton absorbs more water than synthetics, the Material sensor knows it is washing cotton as the water level inside the drum takes longer to rise. It will therefore tell the machine to spin for longer at the end of the cycle to remove the excess water that the cotton holds. Of course, if it’s a mixed load, this becomes a bit less reliable, but you get the idea!

    The NA-148XS1 also comes equipped with Panasonic’s time-saving Steam Action technology for wrinkle and allergen-free clothes, as well as refreshment of clothes without the need to wash.  

    Both machines have an 8kg capacity, 1400rpm maximum spin speed and are cheap as chips to run, with A+++ -40% energy ratings. The main difference between the two is the Steam Action technology onboard the NA-148XS.

    Steam action injects steam into the drum during regular wash cycles to bust creasies and reduce the amount of ironing you have to do, and features in two special programmes –  Steam Refresh uses the steam to remove smells and creases from an outfit you’ve worn once, but don’t really want to wash, while the Steam Allergy-care programme removes 99.9% of allergens, like dust mites and pollen.

    Available from March in the usual big electrical retailers, the steamy NA-148XS1 will cost £600 and the NA-148XR1 will be around £550.

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    The perfect pocket party speaker from Braven

    by  • February 22, 2015 • 0 Comments

    If you loved the Beolit 15 Bluetooth speaker I showed you on Friday, but are looking to spend a little less, how about these glam little numbers from Braven? LUX Bluetooth speaker | Braven | girlabouttech.com

    Called the LUX, they again come in three colours, and I’m a big fan (see what I did there?) of their Art Deco-esque design and clutch-bag look. They may not be as loud as the Beolit 15, but they do double as a battery pack for your smartphone or tablet, which is handy should either gadget die mid-listen.

    I’m also told the LUX is ‘party proof’, being water resistant and therefore suitable for use in the kitchen or bathroom, as well as outside. You’ll get up to 12 hours of listening before you need to recharge your LUX, too.

    LUX Bluetooth speaker in gold | Braven | girlabouttech.comIf you want one though, you’d better get in there sharpish – the LUX is a limited edition available from the end of February, priced £89.99. It can be pre-ordered now at Amazon or direct from braven.eu.

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    Brighten up rainy days with the B&O Play Beolit 15

    by  • February 20, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Beolit 15 Bluetooth speaker | B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen | girlabouttech.comBelieve it or not, I’ve just been brainstorming ideas for our July issue with the rest of the Ideal Home team. I know what you’re thinking. How on earth can we turn our thoughts to those sunny summer living features when outside it’s greyer than an elephant in his best suit?

    Well, I’ve been inspired by two Bluetooth speakers launched this week – I’ll be sharing one with you today, but do come back on Sunday to see the other! Both are perfect for taking outside and filling your garden with summer party ‘choons’.

    Here we have the very pretty Beolit 15, £399 from B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen. Admittedly, it’s quite pricey for a Bluetooth speaker, but you do get a quite incredible 24 HOURS (!!!) of playback time from a single charge, True360 sound that speads your music in every direction and 240W of peak power, which is enough to fill the largest of rooms.

    Beolit 15 speaker | B&O PLAY by Bang & Olufsen | girlabouttech.comThe Beolit 15 comes in three colours, Polar Blue, Natural Champagne (above) and Shaded Rosa (top), and is made from anodised aluminium with a leather handle. You can buy one now from the B&O PLAY online store.

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    Design your own smartphone with Moto Maker

    by  • February 17, 2015 • 0 Comments

    If only buying a smartphone was like buying a car – so just as you can customise everything from your your vehicle’s wheels to its upholstery and even the engine size, you could specify every element of your handset. But hang on, what’s this?

    Moto X Moto Maker | Motorola | girlabouttech.comIt’s Motorola’s new Moto Maker, which allows you to design your very own version of its new and very impressive Moto X smartphone. You can’t choose everything – I’m sure many smartphone owners would like to be able to specify their screen size or the amount of RAM, for example, and you’re not able to here. So what are your options?

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    Avoid Pancake Day flip outs with the Swan Party Wok

    by  • February 15, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Come Dine With Me Party Wok and Pancake Maker | Swan | girlabouttech.comNutella and banana? Crispy bacon and maple syrup? Salted caramel, ice cream and pretzels? Whatever you’re planning to pop on your pancakes this coming (Shrove) Tuesday, I have just the gadget to help. I’m a lemon juice and sugar kinda girl, by the way. A pancake purist, if you will.

    This is the Swan Party Wok – but don’t be fooled by the name, as it’s also a rather fine pancake maker. Just remove the individual wok pans, whip up some batter, pour it into the dips in the non-stick plate and get flipping. It beats standing anxiously over the hob while everyone else waits at the table, and means you can all enjoy your pancakes hot.

    Part of Swan’s ‘Come Dine With Me’ range, the Party Wok and Pancake Maker is currently available for £45 at Argos and comes with a two-year guarantee.

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    Practically perfect in every way? Samsung’s WW6000 washing machines

    by  • February 13, 2015 • 0 Comments

    WW6000 washing machine | Samsung | girlabouttech.comLast year, Samsung wowed us with the WW9000 – a beautifully designed, app-controlled washing machine that could do clever things like work out exactly how much detergent to add to each wash. The one big draw back? It cost £1,700.

    So this year Samsung is back with something a bit more palatable, price wise, the WW6000 series. Product manager (and Girl About Tech favourite) Nick Bevan is pretty excited about them, and I think he has every right to be. They’re a lot prettier than Samsung’s regular EcoBubble washing machines, and have some excellent user-friendly features that show real insight into what customers actually want from a washing machine.Nick Bevan | Samsung | girlabouttech.comThe first of these is the Super Speed wash, which cleans a 5kg load in 59 minutes with a ‘proper’ wash performance. It’s a feature that will please anyone used to the quicker wash times that you used to get with older, less energy efficient machines, and who isn’t satisfied with the 15-minute quick wash you’ll find on many new models, which is almost always optimised for small loads up to 2kg, and only for lightly soiled clothes.

    Another is Bubble Soak. ‘Lots of machines have a stain-removal cycles,’ says Nick. ‘Samsung had one called Stain Away, which added an extra soak to the programme to target 30 stubborn stains. The problem was, people weren’t using it. They didn’t really trust it because it was a different option on the dial and they wanted to set the machine to a programme they were used to, like Cotton 40°C. It’s amazing what people wash on Cotton 40°C – it’s usually not cotton!’

    Because of this, Bubble Soak is a button not a cycle, so it can be added to your preferred programme, whether it’s cotton, synthetics, demin or a baby care wash. It removes stains by gently spinning and soaking your clothes in bubbles for up to 30 minutes before the wash cycle starts.

    Another thing that the WW6000 machines are is quiet – every one will have a noise-reducing digital inverter motor, which works using magnets rather than brushes, and the three at the top of the range (there are seven in total) will also have vibration reduction technology (VRT).

    VRT is designed to get rid of the dum-dum-dum sound that occurs if the load becomes unbalances and is thrown from one side of the drum to the other. It works via a series of ball bearings positioned around the drum that equalise the load.

    Prices are yet to be unveiled on the WW6000 series but expect them to start at around £600 when they arrive in the spring.

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    Hitting the spot: Caple’s unique inset induction hob

    by  • February 10, 2015 • 1 Comment

    C950i multi-zone induction hob | Caple | girlabouttech.comRaise the alarm! Four induction zones have broken free from their rectangular prison and are roaming free on the worktop – I repeat – are roaming free on the worktop.

    Yes, in a first for the UK, the C950i multi-zone induction hob from Caple features four modular zones and a central control panel that can be fitted flush into your worksurface. The resulting look is quite spectacular, albeit you’ll need to factor in the cost of having the five holes cut out, or ‘templated’. I’m told the installation is relatively simple though – the control panel has plug to connect it to the mains, then each zone has a wire that can be plugged into the control panel.

    The zones themselves come in black only, and each have power levels ranging from 0 to 9. In addition, each one has a ‘keep warm’ setting (around 70°C) and a ‘booster’, which heats the zone at extra-high power for around 10 minutes – handy for boiling water for pasta or noodles. Two of teh zones have a diameter of 300mm and a cooking output of 3kW and two with a diameter of 270mm and a cooking output of 1.4kW.

    Other features include a pause button – this reduces the heat of all the zones to a minimum while you pop off to answer the phone or deal with the kids. Then, when you’re ready to resume cooking, press pause again to recall the temperatures of all of the zones.

    There’s also a child-safety lock so little ones or pets can’t accidentally turn the hob on or tamper with the settings, residual heat indicators to warn if the surface is still hot once you’ve finished cooking, and an automatic safety shut off if you leave a zone on for too long without a pan touching it.

    Available now, the C950i induction hob costs from around £1,845.

    Incidentally, if you are planning a kitchen makeover, you’ll find gazillions of looks to shop on our new website, theROOMedit.com. Created by the editors of the UK’s bestselling homes magazines and leading interiors website Housetohome.com, it brings you a carefully chosen selection of gorgeous decorating images, together with click-to-buy shopping so you can get the style you love whatever your budget.

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    Yummy! Samsung serves up its stylish Chef Collection

    by  • February 6, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Who said appliances can’t be sexy? Not Samsung…Chef Collection appliances | Samsung | girlabouttech.comAvailable in the UK this Spring, this stunning collection has been put together with the help of the seven Michelin-starred chefs that make up Samsung’s Club des Chef. Three of them were on hand to introduce the new appliances at Samsung’s glamorous European Forum in Monaco yesterday – we have, from the left, Davide Oldani, Elena Arzak and Michel TroisgrasChef Collection chefs | Samsung | girlabouttech.comMichel explained that the appliances ‘give every cook the opportunity to be a professional chef’. I couldn’t help but be charmed by his enthusiasm, but the high-end look of these products leads me to believe not ‘every cook’ will be able to afford them!

    The first model to catch my eye was the new 80cm-wide induction cooktop with what Samsung are calling Virtual Flame Technology. This is essentially a set of LED lights that surround each cooking zone and change colour and intensity as it gets hotter – it’s essentially a hi-tech alternative to the’ visual heat’ you get with a gas cooktop.Chef Collection induction hob | Samsung | girlabouttech.comThere was a bit of heated debate between myself and other journos at the Forum as to whether this is genuinely useful or a gimmick, but I can see how it might chime with our caveman instincts and give us a better sense of control as we cook.

    Talking of control, I like the magnetic knob that lets you change the temperature if you’d rather not fiddle around with the touch controls. And because it’s removable, it won’t detract from the look of the hob when it’s not in use, or get in the way when you’re cleaning it.

    The induction hob has four zones, two of which can be combined to create a large flex zone for wide dishes and pans. Like all of the Chef Collection appliances, the price is TBC but I’ll update this post when I have the details.

    Just as beautiful was the Chef Collection Oven. Its colour touchscreen was super-intuitive – I especially like the ‘frequently used oven mode’ that appeared when you turned it on. However,  I was more excited by the companion app, which lets you keep an eye on your food and control the cooker from the comfort of your sofa. So if it looks like something’s cooking too quickly, you can turn the temperature down or reduce the time. And when it’s finished cooking (or preheating), the oven sends a notification to your smartphone.

    Another of its features is something called Gourmet Vapour Technology – or as I like to call it, steam. We’ve seen this in ovens before, but just to remind you, a shot of steam in combination with traditional heat can work all sorts of magic. If you’re baking bread, you’ll get a crunchier crust, if you’re cooking puff or choux pastry, it will help the layers to expand, and if you’re roasting a joint, you’ll get moister, juicier meat while still achieving a golden-brown finish.

    Last but not least we have a set of Chef Collection fridge freezers. There are a few options here, including an RB8000 ‘Kitchen Fit’ model. It’s shallower and has a special hinged door so that it can sit flush within a bank of 60cm-deep cabinets.Chef Collection kitchen fit fridge freezer | Samsung | girlabouttech.comAmong its other features are a recessed handle with a decorative blue underlight, a Chef Zone compartment in the fridge with a separate temperature control so you can use it to store meat and fish, and my personal favourite, the Chef Pan. This stainless-steel tray can be pulled out from the fridge and be used to marinate, store and cook in – it even slots straight into the Chef Collection Oven.

    The Chef Collection is due to land here in the UK in March, joining the existing WaterWall dishwasher, £899. Expect a premium price tag!

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    Use the Force: Hoover’s new cooker hood is sci-fi-tastic

    by  • February 3, 2015 • 1 Comment

    HVSD607B 90cm cooker hood | Hoover | girlabouttech.comPart extractor, part Darth Vader, the HVSD607B Decor cooker hood from Hoover is the first I’ve seen with the potential for its own John Williams soundtrack. It’s also got more gadgets than the Death Star, including touch and remote controls, an LCD display, LED lighting, a timer and a filter saturation indicator that lets you know when it’s cleaning time. Here’s what it looks like when it’s shut!

    HVSD607B 90cm cooker hood closed | Hoover | girlabouttech.comI’m itching to say ‘The Force is strong with this one’, but while the extraction rate of up to 750m³/hour ain’t bad, it can be beaten. Still, it’s enough for all but the largest kitchen and the hood runs quietly at a maximum of just 67dB. You can select from four speeds, and if you’d rather not install ducting, it can also be used in recirculating mode.

    Available imminently, the 90cm-wide hood will cost around £600. You can log on to the Hoover website for more details.

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    Prynt – the phone case that prints your photos

    by  • January 30, 2015 • 6 Comments

    Prynt Smartphone Case | girlabouttech.comO to the M to the G! It’s a smartphone case that will print out your pictures instantly. You want one don’t you? So do I. Think of all the fun we could have!

    You will have to be patient though, as the lovely people at Prynt don’t have any more available to buy until October. However you can pre-order them here for the price of $99 plus $15 postage (around £75 in total), including 10 papers for printing.

    Prynt is the first of its kind, and attaches to your phone like any ordinary case – it’s currently available for the iPhone 5, 5C, 5S, 6 and Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5. You don’t need to pair it up by Bluetooth or anything like that – once it’s clipped on, it will work. Just choose a picture from your smartphone gallery or social media feed (or take a new one), press print, and it will magically appear in just 30 seconds. Prynt In Action | girlabouttech.comYou can even record a five-to-10 second video to accompany each photo, so when you scan the printed photo with the Prynt app, the video will play. I think it’s a great way of bringing back extra memories of the day a picture was taken.

    Like Polaroids and other instamatic systems, the Prynt case doesn’t require any ink, as it’s contained and developed within the photo paper itself. Refill papers are avilable for $5 for a pack of 10 through Prynt’s app.

    The case also has its own internal battery, so it won’t draw power through your phone, and comes in three colours – pink, white and blue. Unusually for me, I’m quite taken with the pink – will any of you be placing an order?

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    LG’s magic cordless vacuum is under your spell

    by  • January 24, 2015 • 0 Comments

    CordZero vacuum cleaner | LG | Innofest | girlabouttech.comOn first inspection, LG’s new vacuum looks much like any other cylinder cleaner – until you realise (a) it’s cordless and (b) it’s on motorised wheels.

    Yes, like a loyal hound, the CordZero follows you around – but it won’t be nipping at your heels. That’s because, due to its unique RoboSense technology, the CordZero ‘watches’ you, maintaining a contant distance behind you as it moves along on said wheels. Given Boy About Tech won’t let me have a dog, this could be the next best thing.

    With no power cord to repeatedly plug and unplug, you’re free to roam from room to room without any tangling or hassle, saving yourself a bit of time in the process. You’ll be able to clean for about 40 minutes, and there’s no drop off in suction power thanks to the lithium-ion battery on board.

    Nor should it trouble you too much if you have to haul it up the stairs – LG says its Smart Inverter Motor is, on average, 28% smaller and 22% lighter than conventional vacuum motors, and also 13% more efficient. And although it’s bagless, it’s even easy to empty, since the CordZero has a motorised compresser on board. This packs dirt into compact, easy-to-manage wedges that are less likely to break up or create a cloud of dust as they are dropped into the bin.

    CordZero is part of a new cordless vacuum cleaner range that also comprises a 2-in-1 stick cleaner, a handheld cleaner for bedding, and the existing HomBot Square robot. Like everything I’ve seen at Innofest this week, prices and availability will be announced shortly.

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    Wardrobe meets washing machine – LG’s updated Styler

    by  • January 23, 2015 • 0 Comments

    I’m in Lisbon, Portugal, where – when I’m not attempting to eat my own bodyweight in nata – I’m checking out LG’s latest appliances and gadgets at their annual ‘Innofest’. First up we have their updated Styler, the love child of a wardrobe and a washing machine.

    STYLER | LG | INNOFEST | girlabouttech.comNow the Styler is nothing new – LG has demoed its original version at many shows over the years – but this update is 30% smaller and a lot prettier, with rounded edges, a black glass door and touchscreen controls.

    So what exactly does it do? Well LG calls it a ‘one-of-a-kind clothing management system’, designed to refresh clothes without detergents. It’s essentially made for those hard-to-maintain outfits that would normally linger in the wash basket until you remember to take them to the dry cleaners. We’re talking coats, cashmere sweaters, silky dresses and so on.

    Among the Styler’s programmes are ‘Odour Removal’, which gets rid of smokey, foody or sweaty pongs and replaces them with a choice of two fragrant aromas, and a Quick Refresh function that uses steam to keep your clothes looking and smelling fresh. Steam can also be used to eliminate any germs and bacteria lurking deep inside clothes and soft toys, by way of a 90-minute Sanitary Cycle approved by the British Allergy Foundation.

    A Moving Hanger Action gently shakes the clothes after they have been steamed to remove any wrinkles (see below), and a Gentle Dry cycle generates warm air but keeps it at a low enough temperature that your favourite delicates aren’t in danger of shrinking.

    The Smart Diagnosis and NFC Tag On features found on LG washing machines are on board the new LG Styler, too. You can use the former to find out if anything is wrong with the machine, and the latter to update the Styler with more programmes as they become available.

    The Styler’s price tag wasn’t confirmed in Lisbon, but it’s likely to be high. I had a quick chat to LG’s UK commercial director, Andy Mackay, and he thinks it’s going to be a hit with premium hotels, who would no doubt see it as a great draw for busniess travellers living out of a suitcase. I agree – I’m sure they’d make use of the Easy Pants Crease Care feature on the inside door. It removes creases at the back of knees while maintaining perfect pleats up front.STYLER IN SITU | LG | INNOFEST | girlabouttech.com

    But what about having one at home? With a capacity for four outfits in total, the Styler won’t be replacing your wardrobe any time soon, but if I had unlimited space and a healthy bank account, I’d consider getting one. Well, anything that means I don’t have to iron or remember to pick up the dry cleaning is a winner in my book.

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