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T3

GADGET GURU

If you could replace all your chores with nap time you’d… end up awake at 4am, probably (ILLUSTRATIONS: STEPHENKELLY)

Q OLE BERGMANN, CARDIFF

Is there a truly no-effort robot vacuum out there?

A Robot vacuums, it is fair to say, suck. Some of them are also bad, at least on the lower rungs. A cheap robot vacuum will meander over your rug in much the same manner as Guru does with his 3AM kebab after a particularly long night – and it’ll similarly eat socks because it can’t quite see what it’s doing. Avoid the lower end, because you will spend more time dragging things out of its stupid brushes, emptying its dirtbox, and cursing its inefficiency than you will watching your cat take an adorable little ride on it.

Mid-range vacs, starting around the £600 mark, do a lot better. They usually have some kind of internal mapping system built in, so they learn the layout of your room and cover the whole thing rather than careening around idiotically. They’re not completely self-reliant, though; GaGu’s Neato Botvac D6 (£599), despite its laser navigation, frequently reverses over the kids’ toys, and you still need to empty its small dust canister with alarming regularity (Guru Towers is… dirty).

A cheap robot vacuum will meander over your rug in much the same manner as Guru does with his 3AM kebab

For the ultimate in robotic luxury, iRobot has finally cracked the formula by getting a bit meta. The Roomba i7+ (UK price TBC, but $1,099 in the US) comprises a combination of the Roomba i7 vac and the Clean Base charger, the latter of which basically includes a little vacuum for your vacuum, sucking the dirt out of the roving unit. Nice as that is, Guru will hold onto his wallet until iRobot introduces a third robot which sucks the filth out of the Clean Base directly into his outside bin, then puts it out on a Tuesday morning.

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Q DAVID WHITE, HUDDERSFIELD

My TV isn’t showing the whole picture. Help!

A Fun fact: GaGu recently learned through experience that a major high street electronics retailer has licensed the name of a traditionally reputable Japanese electronics manufacturer to plaster on its own-brand televisions. These TVs are very, very bad. But they cost £150, and GaGu Jr can’t yet tell the difference, so we’ll not start naming names. Guru was reminded of this because his offspring’s personal TV (amongst its many foibles) slices a good few pixels from the edges of the screen, and even his team of boffins hasn’t yet worked out how to do anything about it.

You, reader, likely have a slightly better TV. If you’re losing part of your picture, there are few things to try. First, make sure you’re feeding the right signal into it; check the settings on your cable box, your games console, your streaming box, or whatever you have plugged in, and make sure you match both resolution and frequency with a supported mode on your TV.

Dig into your options, and ensure you’re not viewing in a ‘zoom’ or similar picture mode. Even 16:9 might not be the right mode for you; pick the ‘match source’ mode, or whatever your TV labels it. Still not fixed? Sift through your menus and look for options surrounding overscan, and either switch it off or adjust the values until everything fits nicely.

If there’s no overscan menu to be seen, you might want to play with GaGu’s favourite: the service menu. It’s a hidden menu found in most TVs, generally reserved for actual technicians to use to diagnose and fix faults: you may break something, so be careful, but googling your TV model number should lead you to the right combination of remote buttons to get you there.

Folding phones are just a matter of months away. Maybe even good ones…

Q SIMON KENDALL, RICHMOND

Foldable, rollable – are my current screens obsolete?

A Sometimes it feels as if CES (that’s the Consumer Electronics Show, for the uninitiated) is just a tool specifically designed to terrify us into thinking we’re behind the curve. Foldable phones like the Royale Flexpai, LG’s rollable Signature OLED TV R, the transparent Samsung Window TV, 8K everywhere – they’re little glimpses into a future that sometimes makes GaGu want to rip his current screen off the wall and toss it straight in the bin.

That’s the thing with curves, though: they’re curvy. GaGu will charitably put you, dear reader, right next to him, driving that curve gracefully, while this brand new tech has come out of the gates so hard it’s careened off it and ended up embedded in the trackside barrier. It’ll catch up with you, but it needs some time to bolt its wheels on first.

Q JADE TANNER, CAMBRIDGE

What’s the best Blu-ray setup?

A The real question is which metadata-rich video format you opt for, be it Dolby Vision or the almost-ready HDR10+. The former works with 12-bit colour (HDR 10+ only does a paltry 10-bit) and the metadata it depends upon is painstakingly created by hand by professional colourists at studio level. HDR10+, on the other hand, has its metadata cooked up by a vice-free robot using an upscaling algorithm, making it much easier to produce. So get yourself a player that supports both, like the superb Panasonic DP-UB9000EBK (£850). This means that even if your TV only supports one now, when you upgrade it, you’re ready for any amount of exciting metadata.

Q MIKE DAVIES, CHESTER

How do I get more mileage from my car?

A There are so many mechanical things that could affect your car’s efficiency, but here’s a few things: replace your air filters and spark plugs; pump your tires up to the correct pressure for your load; reduce that load wherever possible; always use the correct oil.

In terms of your driving, use the pulse and glide technique, where you accelerate hard to the speed you need to go (which helps your engine work closer to its maximum efficiency) then coast for a while before repeating the process. On the motorway, stick as close to 60mph as you can, and use cruise control to keep yourself from going gung-ho with your right foot.

On the motorway, stick close to 60mph, and use cruise control to keep yourself from going gung-ho with your right foot
Turn your whole house on and off with a smart button; great for arguments with the kids

Q KAY LAURENCE, PERTH

What can I do with a smart button?

A With the tiny bluetoothbased Flic button (£30) you can do a whole host of phone related shenanigans through its over-enthusiastic app, while Logitech’s Pop button (from £35) does a little less but is also less likely to get swallowed by a child.

Look for HomeKit integration (the version of the Pop sold through Apple’s store, a Hue switch of some kind, or the £55 Fibaro button) if you want to trigger scenes and automations on Apple’s platform – Guru would suggest not relying on a button to fire off IFTTT applets, because it’s very slow and unreliable recently. Who knows why.

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