Test Drive: Reviewing What’s New on the Canadian Market
Find out if the latest merch on the Canadian market is worth your hard-earned money. Read our reviews as we test out the newest products.
Test Drive: Kobo Forma
Think there’s no need for an eReader upgrade? Think again. The new Kobo Forma is by no means revolutionary, but it has successfully convinced me to turn my back on paper books for good. First things first: this is the nicest eReader I’ve ever seen and held. The latest model from the Canadian manufacturer is remarkably lightweight, boasts a stunning eight-inch screen—when it comes to eReaders, bigger is always better—and a thick side grip that enables the device to auto-rotate, depending on which side you hold it. Even more impressive is the Kobo Forma’s battery life: imagine reading a handful of books over a two-week period and never once having to think about recharging. It’s also Kobo’s most travel-friendly and klutz-proof eReader yet, as the Forma is waterproof for up to 60 minutes in two metres of water. Carrying over a much-loved feature from previous Kobo models, the Forma’s backlight changes from blue to yellow during evenings. Storage sizes are available in 8GB and 32GB. Pay no mind to the price tag: the Kobo Forma is worth every penny. – Robert Liwanag
Kobo Forma, $300.
Test Drive: T-Fal Extreme Titanium cookware
There are few items in our kitchen cupboards that are as high-maintenance as our non-stick pans. Sure they’re handy, but their promise of easy cooking (and even easier clean-up) has always come at a price. Scrape the surface with a metal utensil? They’re toast. Accidentally toss them in the dishwasher? Curtains. Stack another pan on top of them on the shelf? Well, you get the idea.
Enter the Extreme Titanium series from T-Fal, which addresses each of these weaknesses head-on with an ultra-durable new design. The non-stick titanium is half the weight of steel, yet delivers the brand’s most scratch-resistant surface yet—dishwasher-safe and resilient against metal utensils. There are plenty more bells and whistles, too, including a Thermo-Spot heat indicator that shows when the pan has reached the ideal temperature for cooking, and an even-heat distribution base to help ensure the best results every time.
We put our frying pan sample through a week’s worth of home cooking—everything from seared steaks to Brussels sprouts—and are seriously impressed with its results. The glowing Thermo-Spot heat indicator is particularly helpful, effectively taking the guesswork out of when to pop ingredients in the pan. As promised, clean up is a breeze, and made even easier by the fact that the pan cools off so rapidly after it’s pulled from the cooktop, it can be hand-washed a mere 10 minutes later. (Yes, we still hand-washed, even though it’s not necessary—it’s a hard habit to break!)
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to add this high-performing piece of cookware to your arsenal. – Brett Walther
Test Drive: Dyson Cyclone V10 Vacuum
Full confession: I drank the Dyson Kool-Aid about five years ago, and I’ve never looked back.
At that time, I was living in a condo with wall-to-wall broadloom. I would run my battered old bag-based upright over the carpets only the weekly, and figured it was doing a decent job—until the day I brought my first Dyson home. In a single pass through the living room, its canister was filled to the brim with previously invisible dust and debris that years of bag vacuuming had failed to capture. It was an epiphany—albeit a pretty gross one. From that day, I vowed that the only thing I’d ever trade for my beloved Dyson Ball Animal upright would be the Next Big Thing from Dyson. Well, that Next Big Thing is here—and it’s proven a worthy upgrade indeed.
The new Dyson Cyclone V10 has two major advantages over its upright predecessor: First, it essentially combines two vacuums in one, transitioning effortlessly from floor vac to hand vac depending on your choice of attachment. Second—and this is the really revolutionary bit—it’s cordless. With engineering genius James Dyson himself citing it as “the reason why I’ve stopped developing corded vacuums,” the V10 cuts the cord, but retains the brand’s legendary full-size suction power for an impressive 60 minutes. Not only does the cord-free design eliminate the need to change outlets as you move from room to room, but it also makes quick work of traditionally tough-to-vacuum surfaces like stairs (not to mention your car). Another surprising perk? Despite being dubbed the Cyclone, it’s surprisingly quiet: Acoustic baffles built into the motor keep the decibels so low, you can get your clean-freak on in the wee hours without disturbing the neighbours. – Brett Walther
Dyson Cyclone V10 vacuum, from $600, Dyson Canada.
Hate household chores? Here are 20 cleaning tasks you can do in one minute or less.
Test Drive: TravelPro Platinum Elite Carry-On
When you’re travelling abroad using just a carry-on, it’s important to start with the right luggage. And by “right luggage,” I’m basically referring to the new Platinum Elite from TravelPro, which checks all of the boxes.
First off, it’s not black. Everyone seems to have the same black suitcase these days, and unless you’ve remembered to tie a brilliantly-hued ribbon around the handle to make it stand out, you’re likely to run into chaos on the luggage carousel. Between the handsome grey upholstery and leather accents, no one’s going to mistake this as their own.
Second, it’s carry-on size. (In fact, it’s what’s referred to in the industry as a “tote”—even smaller than a standard carry-on.) If you can pack everything you need for your trip in a single carry-on (or in this case, tote), it could save you a bundle in checked bag fees, not to mention that hassle at baggage claim.
Finally—and this is what makes this carry-on really special—it’s “smart” luggage, and by that, I’m referring to the fact that it’s got a USB chargeable port around the back. This can be an absolute lifesaver if you’re stuck in a terminal with a delayed or cancelled flight and your phone is running on empty. What’s more, it could save the day if you end up losing your actual phone charger on your trip, because as long as you’ve got a USB cord you can still connect to the carry-on’s power bank.
It’s also worth noting that the power bank that charges from this USB port is completely removable. That’s an important consideration when you’re shopping for smart luggage, as a number of airlines have recently banned luggage with permanent built-in power banks over safety concerns. This style, though, is green-lit for all airlines—you can simply disconnect it if you happen to be flying on one of those carriers with such restrictions in place. – Brett Walther
Platinum Elite carry-on spinner tote with integrated USB Port, $389.99, TravelPro.
Keep these 50 brilliant packing hacks in mind when preparing for your next flight.
Test Drive: Deebee’s Organics Superfruit Freezie juice bars
If I’ve learned anything from the recent heat wave, it’s that you never really get over your summer cravings from childhood. Not only have I been longing to spend every free moment at the beach (preferably at Long Point, Ontario—site of our family cottage, and in my opinion the best beach in Canada), but I’ve also had an insatiable appetite for freezies. Now, I’m not talking about the freezies from my childhood (just what flavour was “blue”, anyway?), rather, I’m referring to the next-gen freezies that check all of the boxes grown-ups look for in a guilt-free summer snack: namely, calorie-count, sugar content and pronounceable ingredients. The new Superfruit Freezie juice bars from Deebee’s Organics satisfy each of those considerations—and they’re Canadian, to boot (an increasingly important factor given the current political climate). At just 35 or 40 calories per freezie, the Victoria-based company’s juice bars boast no refined sugar yet still pack intense flavour into each bite (or lick, if you can restrain yourself). Your biggest problem might be hiding them from your kids, so I’d recommend keeping them in the freezer at the office for a tasty afternoon pick-me-up. You’re welcome. – Brett Walther
Test Drive: IKEA Eneby Bluetooth speaker
There are many miraculous things our modern-day smartphones can do—but doubling as a boom box isn’t one of them. Sure there are a few wallet-friendly ways to amplify your smartphone speaker (popping your phone into an empty serving bowl, for instance), but that’s hardly a solution if you’re playing DJ at a pool party, or need a soundtrack to accompany your vacuuming. These are just two instances where a Bluetooth speaker comes in handy, delivering the desired decibels without cluttering up your living space with unnecessary cords. On August 1, IKEA Canada is jumping on the Bluetooth bandwagon with the launch of Eneby—its first foray into the world of wireless speakers. Available in two sizes (one designed with portability in mind, the other ideally-suited for integration into a home entertainment centre), Eneby can sync up to eight Bluetooth-enabled devices. The sound quality in our advance sample was clear and powerful, and we loved the ease of operation—there’s just a single knob that serves as both power and volume control. Not surprisingly, the folks at IKEA have considered aesthetics as well as performance, and design aficionados will love the vaguely retro minimalist look of the mesh fabric-covered speaker (available in two colours). Just as predictably for IKEA, Eneby comes with a modest price tag, setting you back a mere $99 for the 30-inch square model (shown here). Start the car, indeed. – Brett Walther
Eneby speaker, $99 (30” square), IKEA Canada. (Available August 1, 2018)
Don’t miss our top 10 finds from the last IKEA catalogue.
Test Drive: Kobo Clara HD
Despite coming of age in an era where the song, show or film of my choice can be accessed at the touch of a button, I must admit I’ve always felt some resistance towards eReaders. Call it misguided nostalgia, but for this twentysomething, the act of cracking open a novel and flipping through its pages was as essential as the story I was reading. It’s a testament, then, to the Kobo Clara HD for changing my mind about these devices almost immediately. The latest budget model from the Canadian manufacturer features an amazing 8GB of storage—enough memory for about 6,000 ebooks—and a 6-inch E Ink screen with a 300ppi resolution. The first thing you’ll notice is how light and compact it is. Most impressive is the ComfortLight Pro, a feature that allows you to adjust the Clara HD’s frontlight colour from a cool blue to a warm orange—perfect for book lovers who enjoy reading early in the morning or late at night. If you already own an eReader, consider upgrading to the Kobo Clara HD. If you’re ready to make the scary jump from paper to touchscreen, look no further. – Robert Liwanag
Kobo Clara HD, $140.
Test Drive: Remington Verso
As long as beards remain a bold style statement the world over, electric shavers and trimmers are here to stay. But for men like me who can’t grow beards, the old-fashioned razor is still king of the marketplace, right? Maybe not. Enter the Remington Verso: an all-in-one tool for shaving, grooming and cleansing. The kit comprises a rotary shaver, beard and moustache trimmer (with a length-adjustable comb), and three different brushes for pre-shaving, daily cleaning and deep cleaning. The best part? The ergonomic Remington Verso fits right in the palm of your hand. After a few days’ worth of facial hair, I put this little gadget to the test. The charcoal-infused prep brush ensured a close and comfortable shave, and the deep cleaning attachment works well with any exfoliating cream you might have. The biggest draw, however, is the rotary shaver: it never once snagged on any hairs or irritated my skin, and has a long battery life to boot. Beard or no beard, the Remington Verso is a welcome addition to any man’s arsenal. – Robert Liwanag
Check out these 39 great tips for skin that glows.
Test Drive: Euroscrubby Multi-Purpose Scrubber
When it comes to identifying the germiest spots in the home, the poor old kitchen sponge is an easy target—and that’s not without research to back it up. A study published in Scientific Reports found the density of bacteria in kitchen sponges in the ballpark of 45-billion per square centimetre—which is apparently what you’d expect to find in a toilet. Ick! If that’s not enough to convince you to jump on the washable dish scrubber bandwagon, consider the launch of the (Canadian-owned!) Euroscrubby. Although you’d swear it’s made of heavy-duty looped plastic (the texture is like that of a rubberized terrycloth), the fibres are actually 100 per cent cotton, and designed to make quick work of stubborn baked-on food mess. Perhaps surprisingly, given its durability, the Euroscrubby is also non-scratch, which means it can tackle everything from the filthiest stainless steel barbeque grill to the most delicate non-stick frying pan. As each cloth has a lifespan of up to two years (an incredible investment for just $3!), regular sanitization is key, and couldn’t be easier: Simply pop it in the top rack of your dishwasher and run a heated dry cycle. Get scrubbing! – Brett Walther
Test Drive: Tanqueray Malacca Gin
Two years ago, we had the “summer of cider.” Last year most definitely belonged to rosé (or “frosé” if you really needed to cool down). This summer, however, gin is most definitely “in”—which is great news for connoisseurs of the classic spirit, as bartenders across the country expand their gin-based cocktail offerings far beyond the basic G&T. Contributing to this renaissance, Tanqueray has just launched Malacca—a gin based on a 180-year-old recipe from Charles Tanqueray himself. Sweet and citrusy with hints of peppercorn, rose and cloves, the distinctively flavoured Malacca lends itself beautifully to a refreshing summer cocktail (don’t miss this recipe for a Tanqueray Martinez), although it certainly holds its own with just a splash of premium tonic. The handsome bottle makes a great hostess gift the next time you’re invited to a backyard bash; just be prepared to bring the ingredients for that Tanqueray Martinez in bulk—your fellow guests are definitely going to be requesting refills. – Brett Walther
Tanqueray Malacca gin, approximately $32 (750 mL).
Don’t miss these seven tips for hosting a budget-friendly barbeque!
Test Drive: Hugo Boss Bottled UNITED
With Father’s Day just around the corner (it’s Sunday, June 17, in case you haven’t yet marked it in your calendar), sons and daughters across Canada are faced with the dreaded dilemma of what to buy daddy dearest. A new fragrance is always an option, but it can be hit-or-miss depending on how well you know your dad’s sense of style. What makes this new limited edition launch from Hugo Boss so giftable is the fact that it’s one of those versatile, goes-with-everything fragrances. Fresh and summery, Hugo Boss Bottled UNITED opens with crisp citrus notes (you’ll detect hints of blood orange and South African buchu), mellows out into mints (spearmint and peppermint) then rounds off with woody notes of vetiver and patchouli. What’s more, that mirror-finish chrome-look bottle will be a handsome addition to dad’s dresser. – Brett Walther
Test Drive: Fujifilm Instax Square SQ6
Instagram may have the fancy filters, and that mysterious “cloud” may offer unlimited storage for the thousands of selfies you’ll snap this summer—but they both have one drawback: You can’t truly disconnect when you’ve got that smartphone clutched in your hand. With that in mind—and driven by the recent trend for everything nostalgic—Fujifilm has reinvented the instant camera with the new Instax Square SQ6. It’s a charming analog-era throwback, in which you simply point and shoot, then wait a matter of seconds for your rapidly-developing print to pop out the top, toaster-style. Retro as the instant camera concept may be, this model’s been been given a 21st-century upgrade both inside and out (we’re loving the three contemporary colour options for the camera casing!). Sensors automatically adjust flash and shutter speed based on lighting conditions, and a selfie mode ensures picture-perfect portraits every time. (There’s even a tiny mirror next to the lens to allow one last zhuzh before you commit to the shot.) There’s great potential here for creating DIY photo collages of your holiday snaps (imagine your favourite prints clipped onto this glam alternative to a corkboard), but the biggest draw here is the fact that this is simply a camera. As such, it’s a genuinely welcome opportunity to put down the phone this summer and actually live in the moment, capturing just a handful of truly special images. – Brett Walther
Fujifilm InstaX Square SQ6, $160, Chapters Indigo.
Don’t miss these tips for taking brilliant flower photography this summer.
Test Drive: Vileda Handy Sweep Electric Sweeper
When it comes to chores in my Toronto condo, sweeping is about as popular as a trip to the dentist—and this coming from a guy who generally finds the process of cleaning rather enjoyable. I love, for instance, washing dishes by hand (the dishwasher never quite manages to meet my standard of cleanliness), and there’s something intensely satisfying about watching the dust and carpet fuzz (and if I’m crafting, glitter) collect in the canister of my upright vacuum. Sweeping my hardwood floors, however, remains a true chore, which is why I was super-excited to test drive the new Vileda Handy Sweep Electric Sweeper. Lightweight (it weighs-in at just one kilogram) and cordless (take that, canister vac!), it’s a compact design that’s incredibly easy to manoeuvre—something that’s particularly desirable when you’re in quarters as tight as my condo. The Sweeper made quick work of my hardwood floors, providing suction for more than a half-hour (over the span of a week and a half) before requiring a recharge. What I appreciated most, however, was the easy clean-up: The dust container lifts directly out of the head for emptying, and both it and the two counter-rotating rollers can be rinsed off under the tap. Does it make sweeping fun? Not exactly—but that was a tall order to begin with. What it does, however, is make sweeping less of a chore, and would certainly prove invaluable for anyone waging a daily war against pet hair. – Brett Walther
Don’t miss these 11 brilliant cleaning shortcuts lazy people will appreciate.
Test Drive: Weleda Men 24 Hour Roll-On Deodorant
I’ve been a big Weleda fan for years (nothing heals winter-worn hands quite like Weleda’s Skin Food), so I was super-pumped to give this a go—but skeptical, too: About five years ago, I’d tried a number of natural deodorants that barely got me through my morning commute before packing in. What better way to test drive the new Weleda Men 24 Hour roll-on deodorant than with arms day in my (non-air-conditioned!) condo gym. (Disclaimer: For me, “arms day” is roughly 20 minutes of cardio on the elliptical, followed by 40 minutes of free weights). Roll-ons are a bit of a rarity in the men’s deodorant market, so the application of the product was a bit unusual—but not unpleasant. In fact, there’s a refreshing cooling sensation as it goes on, and that lingers for several minutes. Luckily, the fragrance lingers even longer than that (the essential oil blend includes rosemary, vetiver and something called litsea cubeba—an aromatic Asian shrub, which I had to Google), getting me through my sweat sesh smelling fresh and fantastic. I’m hugely impressed—and (finally) jumping on the natural deodorant bandwagon. – Brett Walther