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: Blanquil weighted blanket
A November this dark and dreary is enough to kick anyone’s nesting instincts into high gear. Trouble is, when it’s pitch black at 4:45PM, and there’s more snow in the forecast, there’s only so much that scented candles and carb-heavy comfort food can do. It’s time to break out the big guns, and in terms of cozy home accessories, that can only mean one thing: A weighted blanket.
An exclusive to Sleep Country Canada, the new Blanquil weighted blanket is the closest thing to wrapping yourself in a hug. It turns out there’s science behind that sensation, too, as the blanket’s 15-pound weight simulates deep-pressure touch therapy to release a feel-good chemical called oxytocin into the body. Blanquil owes its weight to thousands of eco-friendly glass beads, held in place by a quilted construction to ensure the blanket never gets lumpy or loses its shape. Wrapped in an ultra-soft, washable micro-plush cover, it’s an impossibly comfy cocoon that turns a lazy night on the couch into proper relaxation therapy.
Definitely one to add to your wish list this holiday—particularly if you’re prone to the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. – Brett Walther
Blanquil 15-pound premium weighted blanket, $249, Sleep Country Canada.
Check out our great Canadian gift guide for more inspired ideas.
Test Drive: J.P. Wiser’s Manhattan Whisky Cocktail
If there was a Mount Rushmore of cocktails, the Manhattan would certainly make the cut. (The Old Fashioned, the Mojito and the Margarita would be my other choices for immortalization—sorry, Martini.) Made with whisky, sweet vermouth and bitters, the classic Manhattan is strong, spicy and endlessly enjoyable. It made me smile, then, when I found out about J.P. Wiser’s Manhattan Whisky Cocktail. As someone who loves his drink but lacks the skills to prepare even the most basic concoction, I was thrilled to read the instructions that came with the iconic Canadian distiller’s latest ready-to-serve offering: pour over ice, stir and garnish with a maraschino cherry. Job done! Whether you’re looking for a great gift this holiday season or simply want to entertain with ease, J.P. Wiser’s Manhattan Whisky Cocktail should be your new go-to beverage. – Robert Liwanag
J.P. Wiser’s Manhattan Whisky Cocktail, $30, LCBO.
Test Drive: Remington Pro Hair Dryer with Colour Care Technology
There are three boxes a hair dryer needs to check to get the seal of approval from Toronto-based pro hairstylist Andrew Jandu. “I look for something with power, a lightweight design, and a thin nozzle that allows me to apply concentrated heat,” Jandu says. With that in mind, we asked Jandu to give Remington’s new Pro Hair Dryer with Colour Care Technology a test drive in his fast-paced salon setting. Not only did he find the dryer delivered on those three key criteria, but he also appreciated the built-in heat-sensing technology designed to reduce colour fading. “Around 80 per cent of my clients have coloured hair, whether it be semi-, demi- or permanent colour,” Jandu says. “Anything you can do to prevent overheating is going to help maintain that colour.” Jandu was also impressed by the $50 price point. “I would expect to pay $150 for a dryer like this, particularly as it comes with a diffuser,” he says. — Brett Walther
Remington Pro Hair Dryer with Colour Care Technology, $50, Amazon.
Find out the sneaky reasons your hair is falling out.
Test Drive: Sol Cuisine plant-based burgers
I have a feeling this will go down in the books as the “Summer of the Meatless Burger.” Plant-based alternatives certainly seem to be rivalling the traditional beef patty in terms of popularity, and heck, they’re even tempting meat lovers such as myself to give them a grilling (literally speaking).
One of the best plant-based burgers I’ve sampled this season is the Portobello Mushroom and Quinoa burger from Sol Cuisine. Made from high-quality, protein-rich ingredients, this frozen veggie burger has an edge on its competition in terms of its delicious flavour and—perhaps even more importantly—its appealing texture. (It’s a far cry from those grainy, pasty veggie patties you might remember from the days before any of us had ever heard the term, “vegan.”)
Nonetheless, Sol’s offerings are indeed suitable for vegans, and they’re Canadian, to boot. Just another reason to feel good about chowing down on these better-for-you burgers. – Brett Walther
Sol Cuisine plant-based burgers (Sunflower Beet depicted), $6, Sol Cuisine.
Want to elevate your BBQ game this summer? These grilling tricks from professional chefs can help.
Test Drive: Old Spice Fiji with palm tree body wash
This body wash from Old Spice looks and feels much more expensive than its price tag would suggest. As part of the iconic American brand’s Fresher Collection, the 2019 Fiji with Palm Tree body wash is a nature-inspired update on an old favourite. Its scent conjures a breezy island vacation, while the generous lather leaves skin feeling clean and hydrated every time. Who cares about feeling manly when you can smell this fresh? – Robert Liwanag
Old Spice Fiji with Palm Tree body wash, $5, Walmart.
Test Drive: Nespresso Essenza Mini
Millions of households in North America and Europe have made the jump to single-serve coffee machines, and now more than ever, there are enough models on the market to truly make your head spin. For the most bang for your buck, there’s still simply no beating the Nespresso Essenza Mini. Small and stylish, it also happens to be Nespresso’s easiest-to-use coffee maker. The Essenza offers espresso and lungo sizes, and despite its 19 bar high-pressure pump, it’s a fair bit quieter than Nespresso’s other machines. What it lacks in features—there aren’t any latte art wands to be found here—it makes up for in good old-fashioned durability. (That shot of Ristretto will taste the same every time!) The Essenza Mini is available in two shapes: a bigger, dome-shaped model (pictured above), and a slimmer, rectangular model. – Robert Liwanag
Nespresso Essenza Mini machine, $179, Nespresso Canada.
Test Drive: Burt’s Bees hydrating sheet mask
If your last at-home mask came with a 12-page instruction manual and an endless list of unpronounceable ingredients, it’s high time you gave Burt’s Bees a go. The natural health and beauty brand’s hydrating sheet mask is a truly refreshing experience in every sense. First off, it’s incredibly easy to apply—simply pull the mask from the pouch and slap it on your thirsty mug. There’s no plastic backing to fuss with, and very little excess serum, which means no nasty drips down your neck while you’re wearing it. The next big selling feature of this soothing single-use mask is the fact that it absorbs so quickly. Having tried masks with recommended applications of nearly half an hour, I was pleasantly surprised to find this one takes just five minutes to work its moisturizing magic. In that relatively short time frame, the clary sage, kiwi and willow bark extract-based formula leant my skin a radiant, healthy glow—comparable results to other masks I’ve recently used that cost considerably more. At just $5, it’s easily one of the best bang-for-your-buck sheet masks on the market today. – Brett Walther
Hydrating sheet mask, $5, Burt’s Bees.
Test Drive: Oral-B Genius 9600 electric toothbrush
I’ve only owned a handful of electric toothbrushes in my lifetime. My issues with them were always the same: too bulky, not enough cleaning choices, a laughable battery life. I recently had the opportunity to test out the Oral-B Genius 9600, the brand’s most advanced electric toothbrush to date. My expectations were high. Could this be the one? Much to my delight, it was—and more.
After a week’s worth of brushing, I couldn’t be more impressed by the Genius 9600’s feel and performance. The built-in timer is particularly helpful: the brush vibrates and its light ring flickers every 30 seconds to remind you to start cleaning another area of your mouth. Equally valuable is the pressure sensor, which lets you know when you’re brushing too hard. Six cleaning modes are included: daily clean, pro-clean, gum care, sensitive, teeth whitening and tongue cleaner. Plaque be gone! Did I mention that the battery lasts up to two weeks?
Its other selling points are the Bluetooth connectivity and travel case. On the whole, the Oral-B app—which can be downloaded from your smartphone’s app store and connected to your toothbrush—is simple and fun to use. It teaches you how to clean better and gives great feedback—almost like a virtual dentist. A neat feature is the app’s Position Detection Technology, which uses your smartphone’s camera to track and show the spots where you have and haven’t cleaned. Even better is the Genius 9600’s sturdy travel case, which comes with a power connector and USB port. (That’s right: as you’re charging your toothbrush, you can hook your smartphone up to the case and charge that, too.) – Robert Liwanag
Oral-B Genius 9600 rechargeable electric toothbrush, $290, Amazon.
This is exactly how long you should brush your teeth.
Test Drive: Moleskine device bag
Remember the days of cracked screens and entangled cords? With the Moleskine Metro Vertical device bag, it’s entirely possible to forget about them. This lightweight bag means business when protecting your most valued tech—in a simple black, it’s impossibly stylish, too. Inside you’ll find a padded compartment for laptops up to 15 inches in size, embossed honeycomb lining, organizer and business card holders. Perhaps most helpful are the adjustable webbing straps and handles, which allow you to use the bag as a backpack, carry as an attache case, or neatly place on carry-on luggage. No wonder it’s been included in Joe’s Perfect Picks, a line of oh-so-practical Staples Canada products hand-selected by Canadian fashion designer and entrepreneur Joe Mimran. The Moleskine Metro Vertical device bag provides maximum functionality and flare. Happy travels! – Robert Liwanag
Moleskine Metro Vertical device bag, $120, Staples.
Test Drive: Endy Duvet
Endy just loves proving Canadians wrong.
First off, they showed it was possible to buy a quality, affordable, Canadian-made mattress online—sight unseen. Now, with the launch of the Endy Duvet, they’re on a mission to prove that synthetic duvets are a legitimate alternative to feather-fill. That’s a tough sell to sleep snobs like me, who have always equated foam-filled duvets with too little insulation and too much, well… Sweat.
Both of those issues have been addressed in the design of the Endy Duvet. Incorporating high-tech Phase Changing Material fibres (developed by NASA, no less), it breathes better than other synthetics, and helps wick away moisture as well as its feather-filled competitors. What’s more, it takes into account the full range of temperatures that come with life in the Great White North, ensuring cozy comfort whether it’s +30 or -30 degrees.
Perhaps its biggest advantage over a feather-filled duvet is in terms of maintenance. You can bid adieu to those exorbitant dry cleaning bills, as the Endy duvet is machine-washable and dryer-safe. (Here are more things you didn’t know you could put in the washing machine.) Considering Good Housekeeping recommends dry-cleaning a feather duvet at least twice a year, that’s a significant savings over the duvet’s lifespan. Sweet dreams! – Brett Walther
Endy Duvet, $270 (double/queen), Endy.
Considering your own start-up? Don’t miss Endy co-founder Rajen Ruparell’s invaluable advice for entrepreneurs.
Test Drive: HiSmile teeth whitening system
In my 15 years as a journalist, there’s one product category I’ve reviewed more than any other, and that’s teeth whitening systems.
In the pursuit of the pearliest of pearly whites, I’ve subjected by teeth to just about every whitening process imaginable, from oral rinses to touch-up pens. I’ve suffered the agony of whitening strips (if you have sensitive teeth like me, avoid these at all costs), and gagged on gooey gels. About five years ago, however, I found one that really worked for me—a mouthguard-based system that bombarded my chompers with concentrated LED light. The problem? It was prohibitively expensive, took 45-minutes per application, and—somewhat alarmingly—vanished off the shelves of Sephora about a year ago.
Enter HiSmile—a new teeth whitening system that manages to improve on virtually every one of those drawbacks. Boasting a similar setup as my previous go-to—a gel-filled mouthguard that fires an intense LED light—HiSmile has the added advantage of being battery powered (the batteries are even included with the purchase of the kit). This hands-free, cordless design makes each 10-minute whitening session pass in the blink of an eye, as you’re free to do a bit of housework or catch up on your texts while you wait.
The results might not be immediately apparent upon removing the mouthpiece, but at the office the following morning, my workmates actually remarked on my significantly whiter smile. After repeating the process over six days, the results were nothing short of dazzling—all without any pain or tooth sensitivity.
For max whiteness, I found it was worth forking over another $26 for the HiSmile Day and Night toothpaste. I was initially doubtful these could improve on the already impressive whitening effect of the mouthpiece system, but using them—even every other day, alternating with my regular toothpaste—truly took the brilliance to the next level. Definitely something worth smiling about. – Brett Walther
HiSmile teeth whitening kit, $90, HiSmile.
Check out these 10 tips for healthy white teeth.
Test Drive: Dyson Supersonic hair dryer
There are two types of people in this world: Those who can’t believe anyone would pay $500 for a hair dryer, and those who have actually used a Dyson Supersonic.
As a former member of Camp A, I recently had the opportunity to test drive this little engineering marvel, and now can’t imagine my morning routine without it. Rather than setting a new gold standard for dryers, this innovative design exists in another category altogether, which makes a direct comparison with my (admittedly decent) previous hair dryer almost unfair.
The most significant upgrade you’ll experience when you jump on the Supersonic bandwagon is how quickly it dries. Using Dyson’s patented Air Multiplier technology (you’ll notice it’s got the same “loop” design as Dyson’s bladeless fans), it delivers a concentrated stream of high-velocity air at four precise heat settings. Even at the highest setting, however, there’s no risk of heat damage, as the temperature is regulated by an intelligent heat control system that maxes out at a relatively gentle 100 degrees Celsius. What’s more, it’s incredibly comfortable to use, with a perfectly balanced design owing to the fact that the motor is built into the handle rather than on the top. Likewise, the air intake is located at the very base of the wand—a thoughtful little detail that reduces the risk of long hair getting caught up in the workings. If you’re frequently swapping attachments, you’ll also appreciate the fact that the Supersonic’s three standard accessories—a diffuser, smoothing nozzle and styling concentrator—affix to the dryer via magnet: a more durable alternative to conventional screw-on/snap-on attachments that inevitably get worn and stripped over time.
Impressive performance aside, it’s those thoughtful design details that have earned this grooming tool a cult-like following—this reviewer included. – Brett Walther
Dyson Supersonic hair dryer, $500, Dyson Canada.
Struggling with thinning hair? Here are seven sneaky reasons your hair is falling out.
Test Drive: Crambé Face Forward rejuvenating facial oil
There’s always a price to pay when you trade winter’s chill for a week in a tropical paradise—and I’m not just talking about airfare. No matter how much I moisturize, I can always feel my skin tightening on the flight home; whatever dewy glow I’d gained on vacation immediately whisked away into Toronto’s ever-present polar vortex.
Desperate to avoid this drying-out following a scheduled trip to Fort Lauderdale, I spent the week before my flight adding a new product to my daily skin care regimen—Crambé Face Forward rejuvenating facial oil. Crafted from 100 per cent natural Abyssinian oil (harvested from Prince Edward Island, would you believe!), it goes on immediately after cleansing (I used it in lieu of my standard serum), promising “locked-in nourishment,” while “allowing dull, tired or dry skin to show its brighter side.”
Having shied away from oils before (I’m prone to an oily T-zone and figured oil was the last thing I should be adding to my face), I honestly had no idea what to expect, and found myself pleasantly surprised on nearly all counts. Far from greasy, the oil has a very light consistency, with a comedogenic rating of 0, meaning it doesn’t clog pores and helps balance your skin’s natural oil production. It also surpassed my expectations on the hydration front: I’m already five days into my return from Florida, and my skin is still retaining its healthy glow.
In all honesty, these are results that I haven’t been able to achieve from any combination of serums and heavy day creams in my past travels. Definitely something worth adding to your toiletry bag on your next trip to the sunny south. – Brett Walther
Crambé Face Forward rejuvenating facial oil, $59 (30 mL), Crambé Skincare.
Here are more packing hacks that will come in handy on your next vacation.
Test Drive: Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve
Although I appreciate a good bottle of bubbly—particularly during this season of a thousand celebrations—I confess to knowing precious little about champagne itself. In fact, one of the things I thought I knew—that a decent champagne should set you back $100—has recently been (soundly) debunked. Enter Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, with its Brut Réserve blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier—and a wallet-friendly price tag of just $49.95. The budget-conscious bubbles have apparently been the most popular brand in France for ages, and rank as the third leading brand of champagne worldwide. Having popped the cork for a flute or two, I consider myself a convert as well. Whether it’s for your own festive bash, or as a holiday hostess gift, it’s a little taste of luxury—for a little less money than you’ve been used to spending. – Brett Walther
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Réserve, $50.
These 10 holiday party planning tips will come in handy.
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