Cool Tech Products That Should Be On Your Summertime Shopping List
Summertime is officially here, and it’s always a good time to check out the latest and greatest tech products that show up at my door. From home lock security solutions to great new home robot vacuums and the best lightweight Windows laptop on the market, I’m sure you’ll find these products compelling and transformative in your home or apartment.
The New Dell XPS 13” Plus: Who needs the MacBook Air?
While Apple got credit for “inventing” the thin-and-light laptop category the moment Steve Jobs pulled the MacBook Air out of an envelope at MacWorld San Francisco in 2008, the truth is that this ground-breaking product has not gotten a significant facelift for over a decade (putting aside processor upgrades to Apple Silicon).
Since then, Dell has established itself as the de facto leader in the thin-and-light notebook category in the Windows arena since introducing its XPS 13” in late 2013. Its newest model, dubbed the Dell XPS 13 Plus, builds upon the Austin-based company’s legacy of creating the best lightweight laptops on the market. With a flashy (though not gaudy) and premium build quality, the laptop now offers an outstanding 3.5K OLED screen. In my testing, I found the keyboard and trackpad (more on that in a second) exceptionally easy to use.
Like a MacBook Air, the Dell XPS 13 Plus is particularly minimalist, with only 2 USB-C ports. The keyboard is flush-mounted with the palm rest, which has no discernible lines for the integrated touchpad. At first glance, I was doubtful of this design approach because of usability considerations, but after using the new XPS 13 Plus for several days, the trackpad functionality works intuitively well. Capacitive buttons have replaced the traditional hotkeys and Function keys at the top of the keyboard.
From a performance standpoint, the laptop benefits from Intel’s latest Alder Lake processors, which offers an excellent multi-core combination of performance and power-savings technology. The laptop’s OLED panel provides perfect viewing angles, and I couldn’t detect any backlight bleed, not uncommon in notebooks with OLED screens. With battery life of up to 14 hours, weighing only 2.73 pounds and a $1,299 starting price point, the Dell XPS 13 Plus is more affordable, equally powerful, more configurable and slightly lighter than a MacBook Air. In short, it’s the best ultraportable laptop on the market.
Kwikset SmartKey Security offers convenience and peace of mind
According to FBI statistics, a home burglary happens every 30 seconds. While this statistic is alarming, it’s surprising how many homeowners or apartment dwellers have not upgraded to some type of smart lock. After all, the crucial line of defense in protecting your domicile is your lock. James Bond-like skills are not required to pick the average lock — — sadly, numerous online videos provide lock-picking tutorials for even inexperienced burglars.
The Kwikset SmartKey has its origins in the standard Kwikset deadbolt, which has been around for years. Although the SmartKey was introduced in 2008, it’s still unique as it offers a different technology than any other lock on the market. The purpose of the SmartKey is that it permits the owner to quickly change to a new key without the hassle (and expense) of calling a locksmith. Replacing the lock on a typical door can cost $250 or more.
While the lock doesn’t have a drill-resistant plate, the cylinder is tough to drill (one of the favorite techniques of burglars). What’s so exceedingly appealing about the SmartKey is that it’s entirely different from the traditional pin-tumbler lock. The lock cannot be compromised by picking, and even the screws on the lock are drill-resistant. Kwikset offers its SmartKey technology in various deadbolt and knob models with prices that start as low as $20. Even if you’re not ready for a conventional “smart” door lock, the Kwikset SmartKey capability is ideal for homeowners and apartment dwellers who need to loan someone keys that might not be returned or doors that require a different key by Airbnb landlords.
Dreamtech DreameBot D10 Plus and Yeedi Vac 2 Pro: 2 new powerful robot vacuums
iRobot and Neato Robotics tend to get much attention in the robot vacuum market. Still, new up-and-coming companies provide great value and more versatility than legacy brands.
The DreameBot D10 Plus from Dreametech is one of them. Among its many appealing features are an auto-empty dock, which provides up to a generous 45 days of dust and debris storage, a mopping capability and a powerful 4,000PA suction motor.
Reasonably priced at $599 (and an introductory price of $399 before July 10th), the DreameBot D10 Plus includes the mentioned above large auto-empty dock and one spare bag. Additional replacement bags are available from Amazon, and a 145ml water tank cartridge with a cloth map attachment is also included.
The best robot vacuums offer LiDAR navigation capability and advanced SLAM algorithms to provide impressive map drawings of your home’s floor layout, and the DreameBot D10 Plus is no exception. Using its easy-to-use and intuitive smartphone app, you can schedule cleaning, target zones within rooms for cleaning and map “no go” zones and virtual walls. On the ground floor of my home, which spans about 500 square feet, it took 58 minutes to vacuum my hardwood floors and living room floor rug, which looked immaculate without any dirt visible to the naked eye. All of this was accomplished on the standard setting, which presumably will extend battery life if you have a larger floor layout.
I found the mop capability reasonably helpful though it won’t be a substitute for conventional manual scrubbing using a mop. To mop, you simply have to rinse and wring the mop pad, attach and fill the water tank and you’re off to the races as it instantly recognizes that the vacuum is now in mop mode. Its ability to “clean” a floor is somewhat compromised as you can only put water in the tank without any detergent. Still, the capability is helpful for a quick mopping run after vacuuming the room.
The Yeedi Vac 2 Pro is an equally compelling alternative to a Neato Robotics or iRobot Roomba robot vacuum. The Yeedi Vac 2 Pro provides powerful 3,000PA suction capability, excellent 3D obstacle avoidance and 240 minutes of runtime. I found it particularly useful on my rugs, which continually get overrun with hair that my miniature pincher sheds daily.
The Vac 2 Pro benefits from an “oscillating” mopping system that moves back and forth to imitate mopping patterns; this results in a significantly faster but more thorough cleaning outcome. It can detect 3D obstacles more quickly, which comes in handy if you have children who tend to leave their clutter on the floor.
In my experience, the Vac 2 Pro excelled at detecting carpet on my second floor, automatically increasing the suction in vacuuming mode. I was also impressed with Vac 2 Pro’s ability to generate intelligent visual maps that identify various home rooms and create a professional whole-floor cleaning path that maximizes cleaning coverage.
Like the Dreamebot D10, the Vac 2 Pro includes an auto-dustbin with 2.5L of dirt capability, a generous size that shouldn’t require you to empty it for at least 30 days. At a promotional price of $540 until mid-July, the Vac 2 Pro is also a great choice that offers more value and functionality than comparable models from Neato Robotics and iRobot.
Mark Vena is the CEO and Principal Analyst at SmartTech Research based in Silicon Valley. As a technology industry veteran for over 25 years, Mark covers many consumer tech topics, including PCs, smartphones, smart home, connected health, security, PC and console gaming, and streaming entertainment solutions. Mark has held senior marketing and business leadership positions at Compaq, Dell, Alienware, Synaptics, Sling Media and Neato Robotics. Mark has appeared on CNBC, NBC News, ABC News, Business Today, The Discovery Channel and other media outlets. Mark’s analysis and commentary have appeared on Forbes.com and other well-known business news and research sites. His comments about the consumer tech space have repeatedly appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, TechNewsWorld and other news publications.
SmartTech Research, like all research and tech industry analyst firms, provides or has provided paid services to technology companies. These services include research, analysis, advising, consulting, benchmarking, acquisition or speaking sponsorships. Companies mentioned in this article may have utilized these services.