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9 best kitchen gadgets under $20 that you’ll use every day – CNET

As much as I love my kitchen workhorses — the giant wooden cutting board, measuring cups, microplane and razor-sharp knives — there’s also a special place in my heart for the smaller extras that I don’t strictly need, but that make cooking (and eating!) smooth as butter.After singing their praises to (aka pushing them on) my family and…

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9 best kitchen gadgets under $20 that you’ll use every day     – CNET

As much as I love my kitchen workhorses — the giant wooden cutting board, measuring cups, microplane and razor-sharp knives — there’s also a special place in my heart for the smaller extras that I don’t strictly need, but that make cooking (and eating!) smooth as butter.After singing their praises to (aka pushing them on) my family and friends, I thought I’d share info on these cheap, easy-to-clean favorites with you. They’re all products I actually own and use in real life and that are simple to incorporate into your cooking routine. Most of all, they’re versatile tools you can use daily (I do!), which means they’re not just inexpensive, but also high-value. Here are the tools I never want to be without, and how I use them.

Xujia via Amazon

The wide, saucer-shaped bowl, long handle and pleasant weight make these beautiful spoons perfect for almost everything — eating soup, curries, rice dishes, spooning yogurt out of the tub, spooning anything out of any tub, really. My Korean friend calls them “jjigae spoons” (a type of stew) or rice spoons, but in my family, they’re known as “life-changing spoons,” which is how I first convinced my family to adopt them. I hardly ever use “regular” spoons anymore. You can buy long-handled spoons online or in many Asian markets. My personal preference is to get a set with round handles, not the thin kind with the flat ends. Prices vary, but they’re not expensive either way — say $16 for a pack of 5 good quality spoons, or even $15 for a pack of 8.

Amazon

I’m sure I could live without a pair of kitchen shears like this one from Henckels (also known for making reliable knives), but I don’t particularly want to. A dedicated pair of shears makes opening food bags, cutting meat and fish and trimming green beans dead-easy. Storing them with your knives or utensils keeps them accessible where you need them and eliminates cross-contamination with your other scissors. Sturdy shears can butterfly poultry and this model unhinges for dishwashing — it’s dishwasher safe if in need of thorough sanitizing, but it usually cleans easily with soapy hot water and a sponge. This particular model costs under $20 on sale.

Tovolo

Bench scrapers, also known as pastry or dough scrapers or cutters, are typically used to pry dough off a work surface, though I use mine multiple times a day for either scraping or lifting items from my cutting board to a pan or bowl. I used to use the side of whichever knife I had in my hand, but this useful kitchen tool shovels more diced onions at a time and is safer anyway. I’ve also used straight-sided bench scrapers, but the offset design is much easier for sliding under a pile of chopped food. It’s equally adept at its intended purpose of working with bread and pastry dough. This Tovolo bench scraper is the one I use and costs around $10.

Lifver Home via Amazon

Small bowls are hardly interesting or new and I have plenty of them, especially fluted and ribbed ramekins. But these wonderful dip bowls have made cooking and serving food more of a delight. I just love them. They’re useful enough for daily prep and pretty enough to serve on. You can mound a surprising amount of food in the hollow, like lemon zest, olive oil, wasabi or even grated cheese like fresh parmesan. They cost $18 for a set of eight 3-ounce bowls.Here’s how I use them:Spoon restUsed tea bag holderSalt piggyEgg holderPrep bowl for ingredients like garlic, shallots, gingerPrep bowl for blending spices (the mix flows into the pan really easily, without getting stuck in creases)Garnish serverServer for individual desserts, like squares of chocolate, a brownie or a tiny scoop of ice creamSugar caddy for after-dinner coffee or teaRing valet (especially when taking off to work with slimy or sticky food)

Prep Solutions via Amazon

My dad endearingly referred to these as “rubber fingers.” This set of two — one with a pointy end (pictured) and one that looks more like a paddle, cost $8 and are awesome for scraping, scooping and pushing down all types of food. Think the last little bit of something gooey like peanut butter from the jar, or getting every little bit of beaten egg out of a small bowl. I still use full-size spatulas for large work bowls, pots and pans, but these nonstick minis work better than spoons or my finger and fit really well into drawer dividers. They’re machine washable, too.

Lodge via Amazon

I had never heard of a pan or pot scraper until my colleague Rich Brown sang its praises. I have an elaborate and finely-tuned method for steaming and scraping off stuck-on crud from pots, pans and bakeware, but I started getting a lot of time back once I began using this $5 tool — or $8 for two.This kitchen gadget fits into your palm and easily scrapes away gunk with its flat and curved edges, which can also better reach into corners. Still expect a little sponge work, but mostly to wipe away loosened and leftover stuff. I was amazed with how my Lodge pot scraper obliterates the scum that builds up in a ring around the pan, say the leftovers of reduced marinara. It cuts through residue faster and more efficiently than a hard plastic spatula and it won’t gunk up the scrubby side of a sponge with cheese, egg or starchy buildup. I recommend keeping it visible on your sink, near your sponges and dish soap. I initially put it into a drawer and forgot about it, but now it’s top of mind. 

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

My friend bought a fancy new dishwasher with built-in wine holders and gave me three purple silicone tubes that help keep your wine glasses safe in the machine. “Here, you like wine,” she said. “You should use these.”She was right. They may look derpy, but this perfect gift probably saved my wine glasses more than once. You fit one grippy end around your overturned stemware (as pictured) and slide the other end, a hollow tube, over a peg on the bottom rack of your dishwasher. A wire that runs two-thirds the length of the attachment supplies structure. If a glass feels extra wobbly in the center of the bottom rack, I’ve been known to clip on two of these silicone holders for extra stability, one on either side. I used to hand-wash my wine glasses and still managed to break one here or there. Not anymore. It costs about $12 for a set of eight. I’ve run them in the dishwasher on a weekly basis for almost two years.

Jessica Dolcourt/CNET

Great for elegantly draining pasta, reaching for items on the top shelf, juicing lemons and even cleaning window blinds. A pair of 9-inch or 12-inch silicone-tipped tongs costs about $15 and has become a trusty kitchen companion that does far more for a chef than just flip browning veggies and meat. Here are seven clever uses for kitchen tongs.

Endurance via Amazon

I love a small saucepan for so many reasons, including frying perfectly round eggs one at a time and reducing broth and sauces. Melting butter and making modest quantities of caramel or hot milk and cream are also great in an itty-bitty pan, especially if you’re trying to keep a small amount of liquid from evaporating too quickly.I bought a “cup measuring pan” that’s a lot like this one, with a long handle, and I like it, though it’s not as thick as some of my other kitchen pots. I’d also happily consider a butter melting pot for butter, sauces, warming milk and boiling single eggs, but I currently use a tiny milk frothing jug for that, intended for espresso. Whichever pan you get should cost between $15 and $25, tops. Mine was about $15. 

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Acer’s new smart speaker is a colorful contribution to the market – CNET

Acer’s new smart speaker will be available in early 2021. Acer If you’re interested in smart speakers, but not impressed by what you’ve seen from Amazon, Google or Apple, there are third-party speakers out there. Acer on Wednesday announced the Acer Halo, a $109 smart speaker with DTS sound, LED display and more.The Acer Halo sits…

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Acer’s new smart speaker is a colorful contribution to the market     – CNET

Acer’s new smart speaker will be available in early 2021.
Acer
If you’re interested in smart speakers, but not impressed by what you’ve seen from Amazon, Google or Apple, there are third-party speakers out there. Acer on Wednesday announced the Acer Halo, a $109 smart speaker with DTS sound, LED display and more.The Acer Halo sits on a base lit up by RGB lighting you can customize. The glowing lights can sync with streaming music, too. That music streams from a speaker with DTS sound designed to project in 360 degrees to fill the room.

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On the front of the speaker’s gray fabric cover, an LED light display provides visual information like weather or time. Acer is working on an app that will let you personalize the message or image displayed via LED.An LED display on the front of the speaker displays information.
Acer
The smarts behind this speaker come from Google Assistant. You’ll use the usual “Hey, Google” voice command to request music, podcasts, news and answers to questions. The Acer Halo is equipped with two far-field omnidirectional microphones to detect ambient noise and voice commands. A physical switch is available to mute the microphones.Acer isn’t the first third-party manufacturer to try its hand at a smart speaker. We’ve seen successful models from Bose and Sonos, among others. The Acer Halo Smart Speaker will be available in North America in early 2021 starting at $109. Its European price of 119 euros converts to about £110 or AU$200. 

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Google smart displays are getting a makeover, dark mode included – CNET

Google smart display interfaces are getting a new look.  Google Smart displays are just a few years old, but updates and redesigns are already in the works. Google just announced a brand new look for the user interface of its Google Assistant-enabled smart displays such as the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. Keeping tabs on…

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Google smart displays are getting a makeover, dark mode included     – CNET

Google smart display interfaces are getting a new look. 
Google
Smart displays are just a few years old, but updates and redesigns are already in the works. Google just announced a brand new look for the user interface of its Google Assistant-enabled smart displays such as the Nest Hub and Nest Hub Max. Keeping tabs on your homeThe overhaul starts with several new screens. The home screen now displays a quick glance at your day. In the morning that section is called “Your Morning” and it progresses throughout the day, displaying information like news, events on your calendar and the weather.

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Other new tabs across the top of the home screen will direct you to specific categories. Those tabs include Home Control, Media, Communicate, and Discover. Each tab holds tappable cards and widgets. On the Media page you’ll find music, videos, shows and recommendations. You’ll also be able to see and control what media is playing on other connected devices in your home. Media widgets will be customized to show content from your preferred streaming service. The Home Control tab displays a dashboard of all the connected devices in your home and tappable cards to adjust any device settings, like dimming lights or viewing the doorbell camera.The Communicate tab houses cards for video and chat settings, and the Discover tab displays ideas for things to do with your smart display like playing a game, hear a joke or find a new recipe. Dark mode and ambience settingsIn addition to organized tabs, Google-enabled smart displays are also several new ways to wind down in the evening and wake up each morning.Relaxing ambient sounds are coming to Google Assistant-enabled smart displays. 
Google
With dark mode on, your smart display’s color scheme changes, reducing light emission. You can set dark and light modes to activate automatically depending on ambient light of the sunrise and sunset. A selection of ambient sounds is also coming to smart displays for added relaxation options. A Sunrise Alarm feature is also making its way to smart displays, gradually increasing the brightness of your screen for 30 minutes before your alarm time. You can manage alarms on your display, set different alarms for weekdays and weekends, as well as choose alarm tones. Meetings and calendarsIn recent months, the team at Google improved Google Meet and Duo on smart displays and announced plans for Zoom to come to the device. Now smart displays will be able to link multiple Google accounts, so you can see personal and professional meetings all in one place. You can also cancel or reschedule meetings on your smart display. If you use Google Meet on the camera-enabled Nest Hub Max display, you’ll be able to move around the room while staying in frame. Google smart displays will support multiple accounts for calendars and meetings. 
Google
These new features and the new interface design will be rolling out in the coming weeks to all Google Assistant-enabled smart displays in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, and US.  

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Best robot vacuum for 2020: Neato, iRobot Roomba, Electrolux, Eufy and more – CNET

It used to be that robot vacuum cleaners were only to be seen in dream homes from the future. But now they’ve become reality. In fact they’re more advanced than they’ve ever been. They boast arrays of sophisticated sensors, lasers, CPUs, even AI-enhanced software. The fact is these robots are useful tools to keep your home…

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Best robot vacuum for 2020: Neato, iRobot Roomba, Electrolux, Eufy and more     – CNET

It used to be that robot vacuum cleaners were only to be seen in dream homes from the future. But now they’ve become reality. In fact they’re more advanced than they’ve ever been. They boast arrays of sophisticated sensors, lasers, CPUs, even AI-enhanced software. The fact is these robots are useful tools to keep your home nice and tidy.Living the robot vacuum dream can set you back a healthy pile of cash — some cost as much as four figures. While you don’t have to spend that much, you do get a lot in return. That includes multiple room and floor mapping, self-emptying dust bins, powerful suction and thoughtfully designed hardware. Despite all this sophistication, however, none of these machines can really replace a mop.

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To choose the best robot vacuum, I spent over 120 hours (that’s a lot of time) torture-testing a group of 12 robotic cleaning vacuums for things like suction power, their ability to perform on carpets and hard floor and how well each performed during each cleaning cycle. Among them are brand-new models that have recently launched, flagship models and compelling options offered across numerous online retailers. I excluded older models that likely won’t be sold for much longer. I update this list periodically.

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Get smart home reviews and ratings, video reviews, buying guides, prices and comparisons from CNET.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If someone were to give you a blank check and tell you to buy the best robot vacuum, this is the bot to get. That said, the iRobot Roomba S9 Plus costs a whopping $1,100. For that staggeringly steep sticker price though, this robotic vacuum delivers powerful suction and superb dirt and dust removal. On hardwood floors this Roomba picked up an average of 93% of our test sand, the highest amount in our test group, but it struggled a bit cleaning sand from low-pile carpeting and area rugs, earning a low average dust and sand pickup of 28%. That said, the Roomba robot vac removed an average 71% of sand from our mid-pile carpet while vacuuming. Again, this is the best result that we saw on this specific test. It also cleaned up more dog hair, pet dander and allergens than any vacuum in this test group, and the bot navigates and maps multiple rooms and floors. iRobot has also updated its app to let you designate “keep out zones” that you want the S9 Plus to avoid when cleaning. The app also lets you use voice commands to immediately clean a room using Alexa or Google Voice Assistant.The robot zipped through our test room in a short average time of 25 minutes, too. You can link the S9 Plus to the Roomba app and your home Wi-Fi as well. Best of all is the Roomba S9 Plus’ CleanBase docking station. The dock both charges the robot’s battery and empties its dustbin automatically, making cleaning even easier and keeping you from worrying about battery life. Now that’s convenient.

Read our first impressions of the Roomba S9 Plus.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

For roughly half the price of the Roomba S9 Plus, the $600 Neato’s D7 vacuums up dirt, dust and messes almost as well, making it the best robot vacuum at a midrange cost. On average this robotic cleaner picked up a greater amount of sand (36%) across low-pile carpet and rugs than the Roomba did. This automatic vacuum cleaner narrowly beat the S9 Plus for cleaning power on hardwood bare floors, too, collecting an average of 95% of the sand we put down. The vac cleaned dirt, dust and sand from midpile rugs less effectively though, notching a pickup average of 47% while cleaning. While the Neato can’t match the Roomba’s prowess at removing pet hair or empty its own dust bin, the D7 navigates more efficiently around furniture yet covers more ground thanks to smart robot vacuum built-in lidar laser navigation mapping. You can also control the cleaning robot using the Neato app as a remote control, as well as link it to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The app allows you to designate areas of your home as off-limits to cleaning, too.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Here’s a robotic vacuum that proves you don’t need to blow your budget to purchase a solid robot vacuum cleaner. Even though the Robovac 11S Max costs just $227 right now, it cleans floors effectively. That’s especially true when cleaning bare hardwood floors. It managed to remove an average of 71% of our test sand from this type of surface. The bot didn’t work as well cleaning carpets, earning sand-pickup averages of 21% and 27% on low-pile and mid-pile, respectively. And thanks to this vacuum’s basic navigation system, it took well over an hour to negotiate our test room. As far as time goes, that’s a lot. Still, the Eufy used its runtime wisely. The vacuum covered the space well, cleaning up and leaving almost no spots untouched. The Eufy is also self-charging, so again, no need to worry about battery life or factor that into overall cleaning time. It’s the best robot vacuum for value.

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How we test robot vacuumsOur method for evaluating robot vacuums is straightforward, yet grueling. There are two types of tests we run. The first trial is to figure out how well a robot covers the floor while cleaning. We built an industry-standard testing room as specified by the International Electrotechnical Commission, just for this purpose. The IEC is an international standards body responsible for managing robot vacuum testing procedures, among other things, for vacuum manufacturers.  Obstacles in our test room mimic what robot vacuums run into in the real world.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET
Inside this room are objects designed to simulate typical obstacles a robot vac encounters for navigation as it cleans. These obstacles include wall edges, table and chair legs, couches and other furniture, and so on, plus bare tile and hardwood floors, as well as carpet.  Here’s a coverage photo of the iRobot Roomba S9 Plus as it moved through our test room. You can see the Roomba S9 covered the floor well, except for one slight section in the center (left, bottom).
Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET
We mount LED lights to the top of each vacuum cleaner. The dimensions of the lights correspond to the measured nozzle width of each particular robot vacuum we test. 

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As robots move through the room while cleaning, a camera overhead captures a long-exposure image of the entire room in low light. That photo will then have a light trail, created by the LEDs, that shows the exact areas where the robot traveled (and its nozzle position) during its runtime. We can also see areas of the floor the vacuum may have missed or gotten stuck. This is the coverage pattern created by the Neato D7. Its movement through our test room was very orderly, logical and effective.
Gianmarco Chumbe/CNET
You can see the navigation results of all the robot vacuums in our test group in the gallery below.
Some robot vacuums have a better sense of direction than others
See all photos

The second type of test reveals exactly how much physical debris a vacuum is able to pick up off of the floor. To mimic dirt of small particle size, we use a mixture of play-sand and landscaping sand. For bigger particle soil, we use grains of uncooked black rice. Robots then run in straight line mode across three types of flooring (low-pile carpet, medium-pile carpet and hardwood bare floors). We test robot vacuums on three types of floor surfaces.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET
We control for the specific nozzle width of each vacuum, too. We constructed an adjustable tool to soil our test floors. It lets us lay down a strip of precise area of soil to match the nozzle dimensions for every robot. The mass of soil isn’t chosen at random either. We measure a proportional amount that’s related to the flooring material, type of debris, plus each vacuum’s nozzle width. Our custom-built tool lets us match soil area to a robot vacuum’s nozzle width.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET
We conduct three cleaning runs (at minimum) on each floor type. We also perform cleaning tests with sand and rice separately. That comes to at least 18 tests per robot vac. We weigh the robot’s dust bin both before and after each run. From there we can calculate the percentage of debris pickup for every cleaning run and the average amount of soil a machine manages to remove. Additionally we run anecdotal (visual) pet hair tests for each robot, on all three floor types.  We run robot vacuums in a straight line during the debris pickup tests.
Tyler Lizenby/CNET
The chart below shows the fine particle cleaning performance data for all of the robot vacuums we tested. It should give you a pretty good idea about their cleaning performance on different kinds of flooring surfaces. Our rice-based, medium-size particle test didn’t show enough differentiation between each cleaner, which says they can all handle larger particles without trouble. For fur removal for pet owners, we judged anecdotally. Percent soil removed

Neato Botvac D6 Connected

Legend:
Sand from low-pile
Sand from hardwood
Sand from medium-pile
Note:
Results listed are the average percentage of total material removed from test surface

Want more robot vacuum options? Here’s a list of the other robot vacuums we tested besides the models listed above. More vacuum advice and recommendations

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