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  • Author Sophie Charara
  • Published August 15, 2014

Nine ways to upgadget your home

Home cinema looking a bit dated? Appliances an embarrassment? You need to upgadget – and quick
 
To the casual observer, you look pure tech: Android smartphone, fitness band, expensive headphones. But we know your dirty secret – flatscreen and consoles aside, your home is stuck in the 1950s. It’s OK. You’re not alone. But giving your home a tech makeover is the most satisfying of all geek projects, and with everyone from established tech giants to Kickstarter upstarts coming up with weird and wonderful home gadgets and apps, now is the perfect time to get into some tech DIY. Here’s how.

 

1 Build a NAS to store your tunes… 
…with a Synology DS212j. This is for those thinking more long term about music and movies in the home. Add hard drives of your choice to this nifty network streamer to connect your media hoard and you can even stream music over AirPlay to an AirPlay enabled speaker or player if you have one. It’s £170 without any drives so it’s not exactly cheap but it runs quietly and it’s worth it when you’re not completely relying on services such as Spotify for your music fix.
 
2 Fine-tune your TV  
Maybe you’ve been watching your TV on bright, attention seeking default settings for a while. There’s no harm in calibrating it which largely means turning all the settings down. Feeling advanced? Some DVDs such as Star Wars Episode III include the THX Optimiser which you can use to further improve the picture and boost performance.
 
3 Colourfy your home with a Philips Hue system
Lights might not be the first thing you go for in your home project but once you’ve seen Philips Hue in action you’ll be hooked. Controlled via Android, desktop and even some smart-watches, you can dim one or all of your lightbulbs, switch them all off with one press of a button and set different moods, varying the colour of the lights. You can even set the bulbs to change colours to a pattern or music track. Discotastic.
 
4 Heat up (or cool down) with a smart thermostat  

 
In time for winter, best to get your intelligent heating up and running now. You’ve got plenty of choices – Nest’s Learning Thermostat looks the neatest set-up and made by one of the hottest Internet of Things companies around. But Hive by British Gas, Honeywell and Tado all have their own offerings too so shop around. Put simply, you can turn on the heating from your bed or from the train on the way home.
 
5 Spruce up the kitchen with connected accessories
Whether it’s an app-controlled Wi-Fi iKettle from Firebox, Dualit’s Dual-Max juicer or PolyScience’s Smoking Gun, it’s no longer good enough for your kitchen bits to match the tea towels, they’ve got to be connected or geeky too. LG has a microwave with an Auto Pizza setting for baking – convection tech means it can serve as a second oven.
 
6 Monitor your plant’s vitals… 
… with a Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor. It isn’t too steep at £70 and lets you know how plants are doing via the internet, although if your bonsai tree dies while you’re away there won’t be much you can do. If you care more about yourself than the greenery, pick up an indoor Netatmo module – it measures temperature, humidity, air pressure and even noise. Because you deserve it too.
 
7 Treat your TV to the speaker system it deserves 

 
Like the LG LAB540 SoundPlate. It’s an all in one soundbar, Blu-ray player and TV stand. That means you get all the power and thrills you’d expect from an outboard speaker and subwoofer in a format that won’t obstruct your TV screen. It’s made to support the weight of – and look great with – all of LG’s 32-55in televisions.
 
8 Embrace your robotic overlords  

It wouldn’t be a next-gen home of the future without a robot or two. The LG Hom-Bot square is a fully robotic dirt-sucker, with twin cameras keeping track of details on the ceiling and on the floor to make sure it doesn’t miss a spot. There’s a turbo mode that kicks in when Hom-Bot realises it’s on a carpet and the square design, plus long side brushes means it won’t leave uncleaned bits tucked away in the corners. There’s a digital bumper to stop Hom-Bot running amok and knocking things over via a combination of ultra-sonic, optical and accelerometers.
 
9 Be the first of your friends to get a 3D printer  
True early adopters should consider parting with £1,250 and joining at-home 3D printing fans and makers with an Up! Plus 2. The next revolution in physical objects will be messy, frustrating and creative but this is the better choice over printers such as a Makerbot. Summon up all your patience and clear a new work desk. You’ll be printing vases, figurines and tools in no time.
 
Sophie Charara is a reviewer on Stuff magazine.
 
Consider your imagination fired. While you’ve got your credit card on overdrive, why not check out LG’s amazing range of Smart TVs here.

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