A smooth-operating razor – and next-level noise-cancelling headphones

Jonathan Margolis test-drives the latest gadgets and gizmos

GilletteLabs Heated Razor, £199
GilletteLabs Heated Razor, £199

The best hot-towel-effect shave a man can get

Men’s wet razors entered an arms race when, in 1971, Gillette introduced the twin-blade Trac II. Three‑and five-blade razors followed in more recent times. I own, and occasionally use, a seven-blade Dorco razor from South Korea, which I bought on impulse. It’s pretty good, although I’d have a tough time proving it was any better than the five-blade Harry’s device I use normally. And I have no doubt someone is working on an eight- or nine-blade model, as we speak.

So to this new £200 electronic wet razor from Gillette. The Heated Razor from the brand’s fancy-pants GilletteLabs subdivision was, rather oddly, crowdfunded after years of development. It wasn’t a matter of Gillette being short of R&D cash, but just that crowdfunding platforms are something even big corporations now use to drum up early adopters for a new concept. And a new idea the Heated Razor certainly is. The blades have a heated bar operated by some complex electronics in the rechargeable handle. You can choose two heating levels, a conceit designed to instantly recreate the sensation of a hot-towel shave. Now, I know hot-towel shaves, being a sucker for them; they feel great, but I have never had one anywhere in the world after which I haven’t needed a proper shave. I am an absolutist when it comes to shaving: only smooth-skinned perfection will do. And that is hard to come by. Almost impossible on my face.

But the hair-softening hot-towel effect actually works better with this beast than with the real thing. And although some reviews of the Heated Razor have been so-so, I’ve found it sensationally good. The best shave I have ever had. If this is a gimmick, it is one my face thoroughly approves of.

GilletteLabs Heated Razor, £199, from gillette.co.uk.

Logitech Slim Folio Pro, shown here for 3rd Gen iPad Pro 12.9in, £119
Logitech Slim Folio Pro, shown here for 3rd Gen iPad Pro 12.9in, £119 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

The perfect iPad/keyboard/mouse combo?

In a not greatly publicised development, Apple has made it possible for an iPad with an accessory keyboard to double as a laptop. The latest iPad operating system now supports a mouse, even though this functionality is currently buried in the accessibility features aimed at those with restricted motor abilities. Most people using an iPad with a keyboard would employ an Apple Pencil or their finger as a pointing device; I can’t work easily that way.

So, if you are keen to reduce your device count, which tablet keyboard should you go for? Apple’s is the sleekest but lacks lighted keys for those who don’t touch-type and can’t see in the dark. I found an unbranded one for £60 on Amazon; it’s more agile and effective, but a bit on the heavy side. My recommendation, therefore, comes from Logitech, with its Slim Folio Pro. Logitech faithfully follows all the twists and turns in iPad models, with Apple-quality products that include the all-important lighted keyboard. For me, Logitech plus a Bluetooth mouse is the way to go. The charge lasts for ever and it’s easy to detach and reattach. Be sure to buy the exact version for your iPad, though.

Logitech Slim Folio Pro, shown here for 3rd Gen iPad Pro 12.9in, £119, from logitech.com.

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A recording studio in your pocket

Last year, I reviewed Sennheiser’s Ambeo, a microphone for iPhones that records binaurally, the way our ears hear. Binaural recordings are markedly more vivid and immersive than stereo. So, whether you’re recording a musical turn on the street or a company meeting, Ambeo will do it with sound that swirls round you eerily, so to speak. But it’s only for iOS devices and is wired, which isn’t hugely convenient. It also requires you to place it in your ears like earphones – which it can double as, by the by.

Verse, by Hooke, a Brooklyn startup headed by a former Broadway sound engineer, is a step up. The key difference, apart from also working with Android phones (as well as laptops, DSLR cameras, GoPros and more), is that it sends the sound to your phone wirelessly. The other difference is that, while for street binaural recordings putting the mics in your ears is the best option, for recording your friends’ or kids’ band, you want to set up your mics freestanding. In a studio, you would place them on a dummy head, to replicate the layout of ears. Hooke, however, includes a cardboard, foldable substitute, so you can carry a full-on studio-quality recording kit in a couple of pockets.

Hooke Verse, $160, from hookeaudio.com.

Hooke Verse, $160
Hooke Verse, $160 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

Headphones that dial down the background din

After two terrific and innovative Bose products in the past year (Sleepbuds and Frames sunglasses) and now these uniquely talented headphones, I have made a major decision. I will (probably) refrain from referring again to the Massachusetts audio meisters as boring-but-important.

At first glance, the new Bose 700s are just unusually stylish, cleverly engineered and extra light (250g). But holding them, you’ll be struck by the fascinating mechanism you use to adjust them to your head, and the gloriously squidgy headband, filled with foam. Having finished admiring the headset’s build, its prodigious audio quality and comfort will become evident – the 700s sound tremendous and feel lovely, with one of the best noise-cancelling systems I’ve encountered. You can adjust the sound deadening from considerable isolation to transparency, where you can hear everything around you.

But here’s what’s unique. The 700s have hidden microphones to suppress background noise when you’re making a phone call, so the person at the other end can’t hear the din – a boon for anyone who does one-to-one and conference calls from public places. It radically improves the quality of the sound for the callee. The phones also have 20-hour battery life – excellent – and built-in access to Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Siri voice control.

Bose 700, £350, from bose.co.uk.

Bose 700, £350
Bose 700, £350 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

@thefuturecritic

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