Weekend Recommender: Gadgets and tech we love

Learn about a portable charger, kitchen appliance, wearable, and more this weekend

Can you believe it’s March already? The holiday season and ice cold weather look to be in the rear view mirror and we’re ready for spring.

As we prepare for warmer temperatures and start to break free of cabin fever, some of us are cleaning out our homes and offices. In some cases we’re de-cluttering altogether; in others, we’re replacing our old gear with new stuff.

If you’re like us, and on the hunt for new things, you’ll like what we’ve got in store for you. Before you go off blindly buying something you’ve never heard of just because it’s on sale, do a little homework. Ask around, check reviews, and turn to others for help.

The Weekend Recommender is our way of highlighting the cooler devices we’ve encountered along the way. Generally, it’s an assortment of tech and mobile-related things, but it’s also a handy place to learn about other items, too.

Gourmia Digital ExpressPot Pressure Cooker

We’ve come to love the various Gourmia devices that have come our way. Some are smarter than others, but each of them deserves a spot in our kitchen. This pressure cooker is no exception as it’s packed with features.

With a six-quart capacity, it’s big enough to knock out a meal for a large family. And, it doesn’t really matter what you’ve got on the menu because there are more than a dozen cooking modes. Indeed, there are 13 of ’em, including stew, rice, soup, and simply keeping things warm.

The pressure cooker isn’t exactly small, but that’s fine with us because it essentially replaces a few of our kitchen devices. This means more counter and pantry space and less cleanup hassle. Simply take out the stainless steel insert and toss it in a dishwasher and you’re good to go.

If you’ve never cooked with a pressure cooker, you owe it to yourself to try one. Meat, veggies, beans, and other foods simply taste better when they’re prepared this way. Thank to the SpeedSense Technology, you can cook food 70% faster while, at the same time, retain more flavor and nutrients.

There’s practically zero setup to worry about and the cooking modes take the guesswork out of times and temperatures. Things couldn’t be easier. $200 at Best Buy

Polk Command Bar

Try as we might, we can never truly get the speaker settings right on our televisions. Sometimes it’s too heavy in bass, other times it’s hard to hear dialogue. Then there’s the whole question of whether or not it’s surround sound.

Sound bars are not new, but they’re getting better with each generation. Not only do they provide increasingly more robust audio, but today’s models are smart, too.

The Polk Command Bar is an excellent all-around speaker for people looking to get a well-rounded sound. Not just from your TV, mind you, but your phone, too. Yep, it’s got Bluetooth inside so you can quickly connect your handset for blasting your favorite playlists.

That’s not all, either. This is the first speaker first third-party soundbar to offer full integration with Amazon’s MRM (multi-room music) ecosystem. In other words, the Command Bar works in tandem with your Echo Dot and other speakers for music throughout the house. Alexa, play The Dark Side of the Moon.

Of course you can also use the speaker for other tasks, including the connected home stuff like dimming lights or pulling up the next episode of a show. Oh, and there’s even an HDMI port in the sound bar that can power your Amazon Fire Stick.

There are two main components at play and they work together wirelessly. Simply install the Polk app on your phone, plug in, and walk through the process; it takes just a few minutes.

Included in the box are HDMI and Optical cables as well as a remote. The latter is convenient for hopping between sources, changing EQ levels, fine-tuning audio, or prompting Alexa.

The Command Bar provides crisp, clear, and thunderous audio no matter the source. It sounds better than anything we’ve used in the past and it’s a perfect companion to a growing smart home setup. $300 at Polk

Coal Portable Charger

Take a look at all of the various gadgets and gizmos you charge on a regular basis. What do they have in common? Unfortunately, it’s not the plug they each use. No, some of our stuff is on microUSB while others are on USB Type C. Then there’s that whole Lightning port that Apple uses. What a mess.

The Coal solution is a simple one: a single cable with a variety of tips. And, while it’s not an entirely new concept, it is among the best looking and more durable ones we’ve seen. It also happens to come with a portable charger and/or wall charger.

Available in 8,000mAh and 12,000mAh capacities, the Coal Catalyst is a portable power bank with multiple ports. Plug your preferred cable in via one of the USB ports and top off your phone, Switch, or earphones.

Don’t have a cable with you? Not to worry, this one comes with the aforementioned handy cable. It’s a nice one, too; it’s braided and won’t tangle up from being tossed in your backpack or bag.

Choose from five different designs and color palettes, each of which looks hip and modern. The finish is soft to the touch and feels better than that boring old black brick your co-worker lugs around.

With enough juice to charge your standard phone multiple times over, the digital read-out lets you know how much is left in the tank. $45 at Amazon

Withings Pulse HR

There’s no shortage in selection when it comes to wearables and activity tracking devices. Nearly every major phone maker has tried its hand at one and the old guard of traditional watch manufacturers is doing the same.

We’ve seen most of the phone companies get out of the smart watch business, leaving it to brands like Fossil and TAG Hueur. And, for good reason. They know how to craft compelling and quality hardware. The same applies in activity trackers. Sometimes you need to stick with the names who have been in the space for some time. That’s why we like Withings.

The Withings Pulse HR is one of the latest wearables from the company that is no longer under the Nokia umbrella. It’s a thin, lightweight way of keeping track of all of your activity and fitness information — and it’s packed with a few helpful extras.

Designed to go wherever you do, the Pulse HR has a stainless steel case with polycarbonate coating and water resistance up to 50 meters. In addition to the usual fare of steps, distance, calories, and sleep, you’ll find connected GPS and continuous heart rate monitoring.

The connected GPS tracks distance, pace, and elevation through assistance with your phone. As for the heart rate, it’s gathered in BPM and you’ll track how rigorous your activities get and when you’re in intense or peak zones.

When it comes to activities, the Pulse HR lets wearers keep an eye on some 30+ different modes. Simply hold down the side button and pick the activity you are about to start; among them are biking, soccer, running, yoga, swimming, and walking. Some of them are automatically detected which is great for those times you go from walking to running without planning.

Because it’s paired to your phone (via Bluetooth), the Pulse HR can notify wearers of phone calls, texts, and whatever other apps you select. Everything Withings-wise is handled in a very friendly dashboard with a modern interface.

With up to 20 days of usage per charge we love that this only comes off the wrist like twice a month. Contrast that with others which might require weekly or almost daily charging and you’ll see why we like it. $130 at Withings

Solo New York Lead Slim Brief

We’re fans of the Solo New York brand, having come to rely on its various backpacks for build quality and features. Given we like to carry around so many gadgets, notepads, chargers, and other items, we appreciate having pockets and pouches.

Sometimes we find the situation calls for us to leave all the extras behind and carry just the necessities. Often that means a laptop, charger, notepad and writing utensils. To that end, the Lead Slim Brief gets that job done.

First and foremost, this bag is incredibly light, even once filled up. There’s room for a Chromebook or laptop up to 15-inches with a few other pockets to tuck other items away. We’ve managed to toss in notepads, pens, a magazine, portable charger, and a couple of cables without fuss. Oh, and did we mention that the outside pocket is perfect for carrying the Nintendo Switch?

When we go really minimal we can easily carry the bag using its handles, but the detachable shoulder strap adds convenience. The Lead Slim is comprised of a black fabric that stays clean and wipes down in a breeze. Pick one up for about $50 from Solo New York.

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