In the consumer tech world, there’s always something new to buy. Want to know a secret? Many upgrades aren’t worth your money and time.
That 8K TV? Not necessary until there’s more supported content. Expensive HDMI cables? The gold plating looks nice, but the cheap ones do the same job.
But there are the tech standouts that you’ll genuinely use and appreciate. Here are 10 things I use all the time, and you will too:
Keep your tea or coffee hot all-day
There’s nothing quite like the annoyance of coming back to your morning beverage – tea in my case – and realizing it’s gone cold. I finally pulled the trigger on an Ember smart mug. I know it’s expensive, but hear me out. My tea stays hot, even if I forget about it for an hour.
Choose your preferred temperature between 120 and 135 degrees (I like the default 135), and your drink stays hot for up to 80 minutes on a single charge. It’s smart enough to turn itself off when empty or if you haven’t touched the mug in two hours.
Looking for a more affordable alternative? A Mr. Coffee Mug Warmer is available for about $12.
A DVR for cord-cutters
You’ve joined the streaming revolution, but how can you record your shows without your cable-owned DVR? Buy your own. There are many options, and it comes down to how much storage space you want.
The Amazon Fire Recast is a solid option. It can record up to two shows simultaneously and store up to 75 hours of HD programming.
If you’re a TV and sports fan, there’s a more powerful option. Record up to four shows at once and store up to 150 HD hours. Pair it with an Alexa-enabled device and you can also manage your recordings with your voice.
Compressed air that never runs out
Compressed air is great for getting dust and dirt out of all the little crevices in your gadgets. The problem? It’s expensive – not to mention how annoying it is when you run out halfway through cleaning your messy keyboard.
Instead, try a compressed air electric duster. These things are seriously powerful and can blast out debris just as well as canned air. This one blows air up to 67.5 mph. It also has a handy built-in light for those dark, hard-to-reach spots.
Let someone else vacuum and mop
It took me a long time to get on the robot vacuum bandwagon. Now that I have, I’m not going back. Sure, sometimes I have to rescue my vacuum from a tight spot, but I can’t complain when it spends all day vacuuming my floors.
There are a lot of brands and price points out there. I went with the iRobot Braava Jet M6. It vacuums and mops, and you can even send it to mop up a spill with a voice command. That’s handy. It maps your home, so it gets smarter the more you use it.
On a tight budget? A model from Eufy gets great reviews.
A solar charger for your phone and tablet
Power banks are great to have around, but what if you lose power? Or maybe you’re going on a camping trip without much access to electricity or even a long plane ride. Solar charging stations have come a long way.
The Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Power Bank is available for under $50 and can charge a phone up to 10 times or a tablet three to four times.
A better way to light candles
I don’t like dealing with lighter fluid, and buying lighters only to toss them out later is a waste. I upgraded to an electric lighter that charges via USB.
These lighters use a strong electrical pulse to light, making it easier to light the grill on a windy day. Love that. It charges through a micro USB cable in about an hour.
Make sure no one is listening
Are Big Tech companies listening to you? That’s a complicated question. Smart speakers and smart assistants are accidentally triggered all the time. Here’s how to stop them altogether. Companies like Facebook don’t need to listen because they gather so much of your data in other ways.
Don’t take chances if you’re worried about someone listening in when you’re having a private conversation or sensitive meeting. Many new devices (like your phone or laptop) have microphones controlled by software, so there’s no physical switch to disable the microphone.
Products like the Mic-Lock microphone blocker are designed to work around this. The Mic-Lock houses a semiconductor circuit that mimics a live microphone. This trick disables your device’s microphone and blocks all audio.
When you left on a light in the car
You’re in a rush, finally make it to the car and it won’t start. Instead of waiting for roadside assistance, take matters into your own hands. A portable jump-starter is a must for any driver. You may not need it often, but it’s a total lifesaver when you do.
It can jump-start engines up to a V8. As a nice bonus, it’s also a powerful LED flashlight, power bank with USB data ports, compass, thermometer, reflector strip and emergency alarm.
Robot bartender to make your favorite drink
OK, you may not technically need this one, but I had to include it. The Bartesian Premium Cocktail Machine is like a Keurig for cocktails.
Pop in a pod, choose your preferred strength and hit mix. A few seconds later, you have the perfect margarita, cosmo, or whatever you like.
Get the fuzzies off your couch and clothes
This is one of those “Hey, why didn’t anyone tell me that existed?” products. The fuzz that accumulates on couches, chairs and other furniture can make them look ratty. The same goes for blankets, pillows, sweaters, and other clothing prone to pilling.
Fabric shavers make your fabric look new again by gently removing lint. I like this one from Philips. It runs on AA batteries and can buzz through your couch cushions in just a couple of minutes.
We all have way more photos than we know what to do with. Between your physical albums and the digital images clogging up your phones and computers, you probably have so many pictures it’s hard to organize them all. I share smart strategies for cleaning up your massive photo collection in this episode.
Listen to the podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for my last name, “Komando.”
Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation’s largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today’s digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.