A total headcase

Last spring, Dyson floated the radical notion of combining noise-cancelling headphones with personal air purification. On paper it looked like a mad idea, and the pictures of the prototype looked mad too. Overall, the collective response was one of incredulity – but hey, we once thought similarly about bagless vacuum cleaners, and yet here we are.

Just over a year later, the finished product is sitting on my head and covering my nose and mouth, the result of what Dyson describes as the biggest challenge its engineers have ever tackled. How do you miniaturise an air purifier, place the motors into two headphone cups and cancel out the sound of the motors – along with any other environmental hubbub – to create a noise-free, easy-breathing musical experience? Who knows why they’ve done it, but they have. They really have.

Dyson Zone, £749.99, dyson.co.uk

Dyson Zone, £749.99, dyson.co.uk

It’s hardly the Zone’s USP, but it needs underlining: when noise cancelling is on and the equaliser is set to “neutral” via the MyDyson app, the sound is quite perfect. Music I’ve laboured over making is reproduced exquisitely and accurately, with the kind of flat response you’d expect from headphones costing four times as much. As regards personal air purification I’ll have to trust the stats, but given Dyson’s three decades in the airflow business and a thumbs-up from an independent lab, I’m happy to do that. When the “visor” (the name they give to the purification attachment) is magnetically clipped to the headphones, you begin to breathe a gentle, cooling stream of air, free of particles measuring more than 0.1 microns across – including pollen – and filtered of acidic gases such as NO2 and SO2. The app tells you how much air and noise pollution surround you, and you’re fully equipped to take action against both.

HTSI tech columnist Rhodri Marsden discusses the Dyson Zone

It's telling, perhaps, that Dyson didn't ask me to model the Zone for use in their advertising campaign, but this is what a 51-year-old man looks like while wearing one. The air purification visor clips on and off magnetically. And given the fantastically transparent quality of the audio, these are almost worth buying, regardless of this thing-- although then you'll be carrying around two fairly weighty motors on your head for no reason.

But anyway, when you put the thing on, it sends information about noise and air pollution levels to the app, and noise cancelling and air purification kick in accordingly. If you walk faster, it sends more air through. And if you fancy an air boost, there's a small button here.

Music controls are via a very neat joystick here, which I much prefer to the whole ear tapping thing on most headphones, which you invariably trigger by accident.

Right now, in leafy Essex, it's quiet, and the air is fresh. But city dwellers may well appreciate the pollution-free zone that this thing transports you to.

Rhodri Marsden discusses the Dyson Zone © FT

Yes, it looks bizarre. But while I was wearing it outside London’s Liverpool Street station (and feeling rather self-conscious), a mother and daughter came up to me and asked me for directions without even mentioning it. Maybe the device suffused me with a majestic air of wisdom. I tapped the earcup to turn off noise cancelling, deftly dipped my visor, and pointed them heroically towards the Elizabeth Line. Dyson Zone, £749.99, dyson.co.uk

Playing a blender

Unveiled at CES earlier this year, the BlenderCap is billed as the world’s most powerful and compact portable blender. While I’ve not yet felt compelled to make smoothies away from home, if I had the urge to do so then this is the unit I’d reach for.

Cruz BlenderCap, $129
Cruz BlenderCap, $129

A silver, vacuum-insulated bottle (that keeps contents cold for 24 hours) screws into a small solid blender base, charged via USB-C. One button press kicks a 18,000rpm motor into action, pulverising whatever you’ve put into the bottle. It’s beautifully conceived by two former Apple designers, feels super-safe to operate and performs excellently. Additional bottles in various colours can be purchased, with the clear one a perfect choice for use in the kitchen. Cruz BlenderCap, $129, cruzlife.com

Wild one

Part of the appeal of venturing into the wilderness is that no one can contact you. But the unexpected can happen, and having an emergency communication channel that doesn’t depend on mobile coverage is probably a good idea.

Cat S75, £549; satellite plans from £4.99 a month
Cat S75, £549; satellite plans from £4.99 a month

The Android-based S75 offers just that: satellite connectivity, allowing messages to be sent back and forth to standard mobile networks when you’re in that dreaded zero-bar scenario. All you need is a clear view of the sky and a paid-up subscription (£4.99 a month gets you 30 messages plus free SOS assistance). The phone is resistant to dust, sand, dirt, water, heat and cold. Sorry, intrepid explorers: all your excuses for not replying to that text have been eliminated. Cat S75, £549; satellite plans from £4.99 a month, catphones.com

Little wonder

Maximum geek points for this dinky 7in mini-laptop that’s fully modular, upgradable, repairable and ultimately recyclable. It’s a Linux machine, so you’ll need workarounds for unsupported software you’re used to running on your PC or Mac, but it has broad appeal; it’s super-portable, easier to work on than a tablet or smartphone and has a decent spec for its size: a quad-core processor, 8GB of RAM and lots of connectivity, including USB-C, HDMI, micro-SD, WiFi and Bluetooth.

MNT Pocket Reform, from $999
MNT Pocket Reform, from $999

It also has a whiff of exclusivity, with each machine hand-assembled in Berlin. $1,399 gets you the higher-spec version with a 1TB SSD and a plush white Piñatex case (a vegan textile made from waste pineapple leaves, don’t you know). MNT Pocket Reform, from $999, mntre.com

Carry on screening

This pint-sized projector quickly transforms a nearby wall into a 120-inch screen, auto-keystoning and auto-focusing to give a vivid, bright display. Crucially, it’s powered via USB, so if you have a power bank that outputs at least 65W you don’t need mains power. (I had it working nicely with Excitrus’s excellent NitroCharge 120 Pro.)

XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro, £529
XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro, £529

It’s an Android TV device, so set-up is particularly smooth for Android phone owners; just a few clicks and you’ll feel instantly at home, with the usual range of streaming apps (no Netflix, but there are ways around it). Two 8W speakers give an impressive stereo field, but if you prefer to use headphones there’s a 3.5mm jack socket provided and an HDMI port for additional input flexibility. XGIMI MoGo 2 Pro, £529, xgimi.com


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