Mon. Feb 26th, 2024
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    Every month or so, we like to ask our staff about their favorite stuff — whether it’s pet toys, travel aids, kitchen gadgets, or straightforward tech. And the results are usually very different, very interesting, and a lot of fun.

    Since Amazon is currently pushing a lot of deals through its current Prime Day sales, we looked through some of our recent “favorites” articles and found deals on a lot of the tech, kitchen tools, travel aids, and pet toys we like. So we thought we’d list a few in case you have read about them in the past and thought, well, that sort of sounds good, but it’s a bit pricey. (Or — that’s pretty cheap, but maybe I’ll wait until the price goes down some more…)

    So here are some of our staff’s most-liked gear and gadgets.

    Tech tools

    Electronics repair kit

    Alex Cranz, managing editor

    Open screwdriver tool kit showing all the various bits and parts.Open screwdriver tool kit showing all the various bits and parts.

    A 46-piece screwdriver kits that can help you repair practically any tech device out there.

    I own at least two of these little Tekton Everybit Tech Rescue Kits, and I frequently buy them for friends and family, too, because for an average price of $35, you get a screwdriver with nearly every bit you’d need for most gadgets (including the weird ones for Apple products), a plastic and a metal spudger, tweezers, and a suction cup. I’ve replaced batteries in iPhones with this kit. I’ve built entire PCs with this kit. I’ve swapped out backplates on Steam Decks and housings of Joy-Con controllers with one of these kits. I’ve even used it to repair my eyeglasses.

    One of the best parts of the kit is it all goes in a single case that can be tossed in a computer bag or purse or be left in a desk drawer at the office. But honestly, the main reason I love it is the selection and quality of the bits. Too often, precision screwdrivers have super soft bits that strip the first time you use them with a screw that’s been tightened by a machine. Given that most gadgets have at least one too-tight screw, I’ve gone through quite a few cheap screwdriver kits before I settled on this one. While I’m slowly building out a high-quality selection of precision screwdrivers, most people don’t have that luxury or necessity. This is a great alternative — plus, you feel like kind of a badass when someone asks you to help fix a gadget, and you just pull this kit out of your bag in the middle of Starbucks and get to work. 

    Electric screwdriver

    Dan Seifert, deputy editor

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    Hoto’s electric screwdriver is perfect for making small to medium-sized repairs around the house. In addition to a USB-C port, the screwdriver comes with a case and 12 steel bits.

    Cranz can talk all she wants about that little screwdriver kit, but I’m here to say the Hoto electric screwdriver is one of the best cheap tools you can keep in your kitchen gadget drawer. It’s compact, comes with enough bits to cover anything you might need, and is ridiculously powerful — I’ve used it to drill screws into walls without bothering with a pilot hole. It also charges over USB-C and has a handy light when it turns on to help you see where you’re screwin’. My only complaint is that the bits themselves are stored in the case and not on the screwdriver itself, but at this price, there’s really little to find fault with here.

    This screwdriver is so nice I’ve now bought it twice — because once he saw mine, my father-in-law insisted on having one, so it was an easy Father’s Day gift.

    Safety cutter

    Hand holding green safety cutter over a wrapped brown tube.Hand holding green safety cutter over a wrapped brown tube.

    A cutting tool with a ceramic blade that’s quick, easy and safe.

    I admit TikTok made me buy this small safety cutter, but it’s been indispensable to someone who may or may not have an online shopping addiction. The Slice Micro Ceramic Blade safety cutter’s tiny blade cuts through paper packaging tape cleanly, opens plastic wrapping, and keeps me from going insane opening blister packaging. It doesn’t damage whatever is inside, which unfortunately happens very often with my regular metal box cutter. 

    The downside is that it’s so small you may lose track of it if not in use, but it does have a handy dandy hole for a keyring and a built-in magnet. And while it doesn’t fully slice through a cardboard box, it will still leave a scratch, although that could ultimately damage the ceramic blade if not used properly. I’ve had my Slice Micro for a few months, so I’m not worried about it dulling yet, but it is unclear if the blade is replaceable.  

    Help for the cook

    A multipurpose rice cooker

    Victoria Song, senior reviewer

    rice cooker with bowls of ricerice cooker with bowls of rice

    A 5.5-cup-capacity rice cooker and warmer that not only cooks rice but also comes with a steaming basket to double as a steamer and a cake menu setting to bake cakes.

    A lot of people will tell you that rice cookers are single-use appliances meant only for rice — they’re wrong. A rice cooker is best at cooking rice, but it can do a lot of the same things as an Instant Pot. For instance, you can use it to cook hardboiled eggs or oatmeal, steam vegetables, make porridge, make one-pot meals, and even bake a cake. 

    I grew up with giant 10-cup rice cookers at home, but I didn’t appreciate how versatile this appliance was until I left the country for college. A tiny two-cup rice cooker kept me fed in my cramped 250-square-foot Tokyo apartment. It was programmable, so I could wash my rice, stick it in the cooker, and know that when I woke up late for class, I could still whip up some ochazuke or oatmeal for a quick, cheap, and nutritious breakfast. (It also took the hassle out of steel-cut oats.) Whenever I had a craving for sweets, it was so easy to take pancake mix and bake a Japanese-style cheesecake for one.

    I’ve since graduated to a 5.5-cup Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker, and it’s one of the handiest tools I have for meal prepping. When I was sick this past winter, I made ample use of its porridge setting to make a congee-type dish with chicken and ginger — just like my mom used to make when I was a kid. The fact that it’ll keep something warm for days, meant I could crawl out of bed, scoop out some porridge, and crawl back into bed with minimal effort. When I’m feeling lazy, I throw eggs in there, and bam — some extra hard-boiled protein. Mine also comes with a little basket, so it’s super easy to throw in veggies or steam frozen dumplings.

    But what I like most is that rice cookers are more space-efficient than Instant Pots. In my kitchen, the one spot where I could fit an Instant Pot is instead occupied by a rice cooker, blender, and spoon rest. A multitasking kitchen gadget that doesn’t take over your entire counter? That’s a must if you live in a small space.

    Old-fashioned toaster oven

    Amelia Holowaty Krales, senior photo editor

    Hamilton Beach Countertop Toaster Oven Hamilton Beach Countertop Toaster Oven

    A solid, basic toaster oven that fits four slices of toast or a nine-inch pizza.

    I love a toaster oven! It’s compact, works fast, and is perfect for reheating pizza, making nachos, and yes, even toast. I use my toaster oven more than my regular oven for sure — and probably more than any other item in my kitchen. I have a pretty basic model like this one, but these days, many come with other features, like air frying and convection oven capabilities.

    Seal in your fresh food

    Black squarish flat machine with meat and green vegetables separately stored in plastic bags.Black squarish flat machine with meat and green vegetables separately stored in plastic bags.

    Keep food fresh by squeezing all the air out of the package and sealing it for long- or short-term storage.

    I never knew how much I needed a vacuum sealer until I actually got one. I’m the type of person who shops at wholesale clubs despite only needing food for two people, so when I buy meat, I get a lot of it all at once, some of which inevitably gets stored in my fridge or freezer. That’s where my vacuum sealer comes in.

    While I can’t speak to the quality of other vacuum sealers, the FoodSaver I have is awesome. Not only does the thing help keep raw meat and other food fresher for longer in the fridge but it also helps save space in the freezer (each package of meat becomes much flatter when all the air is sucked out of it). With this little machine, I can load up whatever I want in one of the FoodSaver bags, insert the open end into the machine, which vacuums up all the air and then closes the bag using its heat sealing feature in one fell swoop. It’s pretty neat!

    For the traveler

    Carry-on backpack

    Kaitlin Hatton, audience manager

    Gray backpack with brown leather-like accents.Gray backpack with brown leather-like accents.

    Expandable backpack that comes with a lot of storage space and packing cubes.

    Earlier this year, I committed to traveling more, and so I took a look at the gear I had that could be replaced after years of trekking the globe. My ratty old secondhand carry-on bag was the first thing to be replaced. After several days of weighing the pros and cons of various travel bags, I stumbled upon this Lumesner carry-on backpack on Amazon, and it fit all of my needs. It can carry a laptop, several days’ worth of clothes, my 40oz Hydro Flask bottle, and more. The bag even includes some packing cubes. It’s very comfortable, and the weight is well distributed when it’s completely full. It’s an inexpensive alternative to many name-brand carry-on bags, too. So far, I’ve used it on a handful of trips, and the quality has held up. It also holds onto pet fur, though, so I had to add a small lint roller to my travel necessities. But that’s just life while traveling with a dog anyway.

    An extension cord for awkward situations

    Sarah Jeong, deputy features editor

    Anker cube power strip on table in between a person with a phone and a computerAnker cube power strip on table in between a person with a phone and a computer

    This all-in-one 20W USB C power cube boasts three AC outlets, two USB-A ports, and one USB-C port.

    Nobody wants to carry a power strip or an extension cord with them on their vacation. It’s probably unnecessary if you’re staying in relatively modern buildings and definitely unnecessary if you’re camping. But sometimes you want to stay in a charming historical hotel or a lovely cabin in the woods, and it’s only when you go to charge your devices at night that you realize that the only electrical socket in the bedroom is in the corner farthest away from the bed and there’s already two lamps plugged into it. 

    Older buildings especially suffer from what I can only describe as loose socket syndrome, where those very convenient modern boxy socket extenders with five different USB and USB-C charging ports simply cannot stay in place and fall right out of the wall because they’re too heavy. After one (totally pleasant) vacation where I had to charge my phone, watch, AirPods, and laptop in a weird corner of my room with the plug-in charging hub propped up on a strategically balanced mountain of books and sham pillows, I bought this Anker combination extension cord / power strip. It’s not a full power strip — just a cube with a few sockets along with USB and USB-C charging ports at the end of a five-foot cable. I’ve brought it on a few trips since then. It takes up extra space in my suitcase but each time has left me feeling vindicated about the purchase. 

    The three prongs at the end of the cable are static, rather than folding flat for easy packing. This is key because the loose sockets of older buildings reject the beautiful convenience of folding prongs. There are more than enough sockets for one person, and with some finagling (and maybe an extra charging brick), it can accommodate two people’s devices.

    If you’re traveling overseas, don’t forget to purchase a different plug type for the region you’re going to or pack an adapter. 

    Universal Travel Adaptor 

    Victoria Song, senior reviewer

    Travel adaptor on power strip connected to phones and laptop.Travel adaptor on power strip connected to phones and laptop.

    Epicka’s Universal Travel Adapter is an all-in-one adapter that includes four different plugs that cover over 150 countries.

    In my youth, I forgot to pack plug adaptors for international trips one too many times. Buying them once you’ve landed in another country isn’t always easy, either. And if you’re like me, your relatives in rural Korea don’t always have more than one plug for your American devices — in which case, you’ll have to share with your six other cousins. Nope. Absolutely not. Which is why I never leave this country without a universal travel adaptor.

    Basically, it’s six plug adaptors in one. Depending on which one you get, it might come with USB ports so you can charge multiple devices in one outlet. Granted, it’s bulkier than buying one or two specialized adaptor plugs, but if you’ve got a multi-continent itinerary, it’s a game-changer. What I like about this one from Epicka is that it comes with a spare fuse in case things go sideways with voltage.

    The only caveat is that, although it says “universal,” it’s technically only the four most common types of plugs. That’ll get you by in most countries, but it’s not a guarantee in places like Brazil, South Africa, or India. Even so, I’ll take this over price gouging at airport electronics shops or having to take time out of my schedule to visit a local hardware store.

    Apple EarPods

    David Pierce, editor-at-large

    lightning earpodslightning earpods

    Apple’s wired earbuds are comfortable, provide fine audio, and includes a built-in remote.

    Here’s a little-known fact about Apple’s wired headphones: outside of a professional microphone, they’re probably the best gadget on the planet for sounding good on phone and video calls. Add in the fact that their battery never dies (because they don’t have one!) and the fact that they’re more comfortable to have in your ears for hours than any of the AirPods, and the old-fashioned EarPods are a staggeringly useful accessory. 

    You can get EarPods with a Lightning jack for your iPhone or a 3.5mm jack for everything else on Earth. Heck, they’re under $20, get both! I have a set in my suitcase (for emergency plane-screen situations), a set in my backpack, and a set in my car. If you ever call me and think gosh, David sounds so great, there’s only one reason for it: wires.

    Memory card holder and reader

    Becca Farsace, senior producer

    Sim card holder with drawer open to show sims.Sim card holder with drawer open to show sims.

    An SD, microSD, and SIM card holder with a built-in 3.1 USB-C card reader and SIM card removal tool.

    As a video person who is constantly on the move, there is nothing better than the consolidation of gear — especially when it pertains to dongles. So when fellow video extraordinaire Vjeran Pavic (The Verge’s supervising producer) recently surprised me with a very cute birthday note and this magical little gadget, I was elated. 

    And if that wasn’t enough, it has a carabiner hook. It is everything I have ever wanted in a rubber case and more. To have both my SD card reader and all my cards in one place is priceless (well, actually $39.95). Thank you, Vjeran. <3

    Products for your pet

    Hair remover

    Mitchell Clark, former news writer

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    The ChomChom is a reusable cat and dog hair remover that works great for furniture.

    The ChomChom pet hair remover is an extraordinarily simple device — it’s basically a couple of pieces of plastic, fabric, and rubber. But through some dark magic, it’s better at getting cat hair off my couch, cat tree, and other upholstery than even the adhesive-laden lint rollers (though those are still superior if the thing you’re trying to de-pet is yourself). I’d explain more, but honestly, I think the ChomChom can best be explained with this GIF:

    ChomChom pet hair remover.
    GIF by Mitchell Clark / The Verge

    I know I’m stretching the definition of “tech” here, but I just had to share the ChomChom because the first time I saw someone use it, my jaw dropped. I hope it can change your life like it did mine. (Note: as far as I can tell, the limited-edition cat ChomChom that I paid extra for is 0 percent more functional than the regular one. It was still worth it, though.)

    Fuzzy cat bed

    Elizabeth Lopatto, senior reporter

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    Calming donut furry bed for cats and dogs.

    Jeeves loves to be in the office with me while I work. (I assume she’s supervising.) Anyway, to make her cozier, I got her this fuzzy cat bed. At first, she was afraid of it — she’s extremely shy around new people and objects — but now, a year later, it’s her favorite place to sit that isn’t my lap. Usually, she spends the afternoon snuggled up in it.

    Distracting dog toy

    Kaitlin Hatton, audience manager

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    Plush duck squeaky dog toy.

    Trudee, otherwise known as My Boss, is notoriously insistent on being the focus of my attention. At any given moment, she has 20 toys strewn about my apartment, but she will not play with them unless I’m watching her — like literally, no distractions, sitting within feet of her, just staring at her chew on her toys for hours on end.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love staring at my dog, but she doesn’t get the enrichment she deserves when her activity levels are tied directly to my ability to give her undivided attention. That is, until I bought the Pet Fit For Life Plush Wand. It has a toy attached to a long chewable rope that is suspended from a metal pole. Now, I not only toss the toy about the room from the comfort of my couch but also Trudee is so distracted by chasing it that she doesn’t notice if I am not making direct eye contact. It’s a win-win.

    Slow cat feeder

    A cat tries to get into a tall plastic tower with openings for food.A cat tries to get into a tall plastic tower with openings for food.

    A three-tiered puzzle that amuses your cat while it slows their eating.

    Despite many standoffs in pursuit of an acceptable wet food, our cat Olivia remains addicted to dry food. Last year, I recommended the Catit Senses 2.0 slow feeder, a pedestal with five plastic cups that slows down her eating pace. 

    This year, my in-laws gifted us the even more intense sequel, the Catit Design Senses food maze. This is a three-level tower that you load from the top; your cat then has to reach in with their paw to move food down each level. It’s intense! I would estimate that it takes her about three times as long to finish a meal in the tower as in her older slow feeder.

    Dog tracker

    Jennifer Pattison Tuohy, reviewer

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    Set up alerts and quickly track your pet; also monitor your pet’s day-to-day activity.

    As a puppy, my Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Gus, was the consummate escape artist. He could leap our five-foot-high fence in a single bound and often would if a dog, squirrel, or leaf happened to catch his eye. The Whistle Go Explore location tracker saved his furry butt a few times, first alerting us to his escapade (when the device disconnects from your Wi-Fi, you get an alert), then helping us track him down with its GPS location tool. 

    As he’s gotten older and lazier, it’s been a helpful tool for ensuring he’s getting enough exercise. Essentially a Fitbit for pets, the Whistle tells us how many steps he’s taken and how many calories he’s burned. It also has some neat health features on board thanks to an accelerometer that can track how much drinking, licking, scratching, and sleeping he’s doing. This info actually helped us realize that the poor boy has terrible seasonal allergies, and he’s now on a daily Zyrtec regimen and much happier for it.

    The downside is the $99 annual subscription fee, which is required to use the device. This does include GPS tracking, but I admit I let my plan lapse in my last round of budget cuts. (I’m currently looking into Whistle’s health tracker, which ditches GPS for a lower $40 annual fee).

    Self-cleaning litter box

    Antonio G. Di Benedetto, commerce writer

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    Automatic cat litter box with multiple sensors to keep things neat and odor-free.

    We have two cats, Pouncey and Oscar, who have always shared a litter box. Oscar, the younger one, is quite messy — jumping out of the box with reckless abandon and spreading litter all over. We initially had a covered box to slightly circumvent this, but last year, we opted for a pricey self-cleaning one to keep things tidier. (It was on sale for a little more than $400 then.) Like much smart home tech, it’s excellent in some ways and not so great in others.

    I love that I’m no longer scooping litter every day, and if we ever go on a trip, we don’t have to ask friends or family to handle poop duties in addition to feedings. But it’s a blessing and a curse because, if I don’t empty out the waste bin on time, it piles up too high. Ever try opening a jam-packed kitchen drawer with a ladle sticking up inside it? You know that sense of frustration when it hits the top of the frame and the drawer gets stuck? Picture that, but instead, it’s clumped-up cat pee smearing across the underside as you pull it out. Yeah, not ideal. So it handles the daily duties, but it keeps me on schedule, or I end up wrist-deep in the other doodies.

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