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Best money-saving tech

Andrea on March 15, 2014 - 5:09 am in Gadgets

Cutting-edge gadgets have much in common with fresh seafood — sky-high prices and a second-hand market that has people turning their noses up. So if you’re fed up of throwing your hard-earned cash into technology’s bottomless money pit, check out CNET UK’s guide to penny-pinching gizmos that are worth their weight in scallops.

Owl Micro

owl

Millions of people worldwide have installed wireless transmitters like this in their electricity meters and charted the ebbs and flows of their power usage. The Owl Micro is particularly small and simple to use, with just a live reading of power use and a running total of kWh. The idea is you’ll be horrified to see just how much juice your ultra-massaging chair or electric lawnmower is consuming and will return to a simpler, low-tech way of doing things, like buying a goat (for mowing the lawn, not the massages).

It’s a great idea in theory, and statistics seem to indicate that new owners do run around turning off lights and eating baked beans cold to save a few Watts. To rake in any real benefits, however, you’ve got to keep up the good work. Research by the Energy Trust of Oregon of 350 homes with new energy monitors found that families made modest energy savings in the first three months of use, less in the next three and none at all after nine months. If you haven’t saved at least a tenner after a year, don’t bother replacing the batteries. One for committed tree-huggers.

Costs £19 from Amazon.
Saves Potentially a large sum, but that’s up to you.

LG ST600 Smart TV Upgrader

LG ST-600

It’s fair to say there isn’t a handy little black box that can turn a G-Wiz into a Tesla Roadster, or an Archos media player into an Apple iPad 2. But there’s a modest-priced rectangle that can turn any flatscreen telly into a reasonable copy of a cutting-edge connected TV, saving you from having to upgrade. The LG ST-600 brings the tech giant’s Internet services to any TV with an HDMI port.
It links to your broadband via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, allowing big-screen browsing, YouTube, social networking and more.

There are some average apps and games to waste a few minutes, and you can even get stuck into emailing with an onscreen keyboard. (Top tip: download the LG TV remote to your iOS gadget for zippier navigation.)
Real scrimpers and savers could even hook up the ST-600 to a PC monitor, visit the BBC iPlayer site and stick two fingers up at TV Licensing — you don’t need a permit to watch on-demand programmes.

Costs £125 from Amazon.
Saves around £1,000 on not buying a new telly, plus £145.50 per year if you go licence fee-free.

Samsung Galaxy Europa

Samsung Galaxy Europa
The days of having dozens of gadgets and handfuls of chargers are over. If you’ve got the guts, you can now slim down your technological holdings to just a big telly and a decent smart phone. This affordable Android 2.1 mobile might have a squinty 2.8-inch screen and wheezy 500GHz innards, but it’ll do just fine for the financially cautious.

For a start, out goes the TomTom in favour of Google Navigation. Bin your iPod for the built-in music player (and Google’s smart, free cloud music service coming soon) and who needs a Kindle or a radio when you’ve got apps and Spotify?

To be fair, the dull 2-megapixel camera won’t usurp your standalone snapper — but the Europa will even help you there, sniffing out photo bargains using Red Laser or the Amazon app.
For a tariff, you can’t do much better than Three’s pay as you go deal: £15 per month buys truly unlimited data, 300 minutes and 3,000 texts. Unless you’re a real chatterbox, that’s your home phone line snipped, too.

Costs £40 pay as you go from CNET UK Mobile Deals.
Saves £200 in gadgets and around a tenner a month on the latest smart phone plans.

Cyclamatic FoldAway electric bike

Cyclamatic bike

Electric bikes promise the Earth — the ability to swap high-priced taxis and crowded buses for the freedom of the open road and the wind in your hair, all without the sweat in your armpits. This folding model goes one bike lane further, transforming (fairly easily) into something that can fit in the boot of a car or even roll on to a plane for a weekend break — although it does weigh a hefty 23kg, so wear all your clothes and pop a toothbrush in your back pocket.

 

From its 90cm by 70cm compacted form, it expands into a surprisingly good-looking aluminium ride, home to six-speed Shimano gears and enough battery oomph to propel you at up to 12mph for over 25 miles (with pedal assistance). The 20-inch wheels are beefy enough to cope with potholes and lithium-ion batteries mean no annoying memory effect if you charge them up erratically. Best of all, it doesn’t cost that much more than a normal folding bike. And if its utilitarian design is slightly nerdy, remember e-bikes are pretty much the only motorised vehicles you legally can ride without a crash helmet. Marlon Brando, eat your heart out.

Costs £500 from The Sports HQ.
Saves potentially a lot, depending on your private hire vehicle or congestion charge outgoings.

Belkin Conserve Valet

Belkin

Forget fancy, inefficient wireless charging systems that need weird docks, jackets and charger tips. This is about as old-school as recharging gets — a quartet of USB charging ports, a flat grippy surface where your gadgets can mingle and a sprinkle of eco-friendly green-tech.
The basics are pretty simple — just plug in your phone, camera, Bluetooth headset or sat-nav and let your local coal-fired power station do its thing. The clever bit is that when your gizmo is topped up, the Valet automatically cuts the power so you’re not leaking joules and volts all over the carpet.

It senses when new devices are attached and, unlike some own-brand chargers, the Valet draws absolutely zero power when not in use.
You get adaptors for mini-USB and micro-USB ports in the box, and the whole unit sits about the same size as a hardback book. A few words of warning, though, as this Valet won’t sully its white gloves with the likes of PlayStation 3 controllers or Nintendo handhelds, and will only charge iPads and Kindles slowly (and even then probably not to full power).

Costs £43 from Amazon.
Saves around £5-£10 per year of wasted electricity charging a stable of gadgets.

Sony Bravia KDL-40NX723

Sony

Not is Sony’s 2011 range of LED TVs their most power-efficient ever, it boasts a selection of eco features. An ambience sensor will tweak picture brightness settings to suit day or night viewing, and a presence sensor will turn the TV off if there’s no one in the room. (Charmingly, it will also scold small children if they sit too close to the screen.)
There are all the usual connected TV gubbins for watching blurry YouTube vids on its gorgeous 40-inch display, but for real money-saving goodness, add a £90 Skype camera.

Four uni-directional mics can pick up sound from anywhere in the room and the camera is a step up from the usual webcam (as it should be at this price), letting you make crisp, clear videocalls to anyone in the Skype universe for nowt.
We could also try to make some spurious money-saving excuse for shelling out on 3D at home rather than at the cinema, but by the time you’ve bought a decent 3D Blu-ray player and replacement active shutter glasses for over-excited kids, it works out at about the same. Plus you have to clear up your family’s popcorn mess instead of just walking away.

Costs £1,400 from Sony.
Saves on international video calls, but don’t expect to save anything on 3D.

NewKinetix NK100 Re

NewKinetix NK100

How much use has your old iPod touch had since you upgraded to an iPhone, iPad or Android device? Not a lot, we bet. Here’s a great way to give it a new lease of life as a universal remote. The NK100 Re is a tiny infrared blaster that slots neatly into the touch’s USB port and takes control of your home cinema.
The app (available as a free download) has codes for thousands of AV devices pre-loaded, and there’s a learning function for any unsupported, older devices you might have knocking around.

The basic graphical interface is fully customisable, letting you drag and drop buttons, skin colours and add background images. Macro and Favourites are easy to set up, giving one-touch control for gaming or movies, and you can even Bump your settings to another iOS device.
Of course, there’s no reason to limit your iPod touch just to the living room. Download the Logitech Touch Mouse app (free) for use as a gorgeous multi-touch trackpad — better than anything you’ll find on a laptop.

Costs £55 from MyMemory.
Saves £50 compared to a Logitech universal remote with a colour screen, plus you’ll never have to buy AAA batteries again.

Bill Monitor

billmonitor

There are enough mobile phone price comparison sites out there that someone should launch a price comparison comparison site. Except that they don’t need to, because Bill Monitor is simply the best. Founded by big brain mathmos at Oxford University, Bill Monitor is one of only a handful sites to be endorsed by telecoms watchdog Ofcom. It’s independent, impartial and really easy to use.
The bill calculator walks you through your current usage of phone, texts, data, picture messages and premium rate calls, then analyses over 8 million contract combos to get the right one for you.

If you’re feeling trusting (and if you can’t trust Oxford boffins, who can you trust?), grant Bill Monitor access to your online billing information and it’ll pin-point the most suitable tariff in seconds.
Bill Monitor reckons it can get the right contract for over 99 per cent of users, and promises not to suggest a shift if you’re already on the best plan.

But there are a few missing pieces of the puzzle: it doesn’t work on business or pay as you go rates, it only looks for Internet pricing (shops occasionally have better offers) and it doesn’t look at your ‘calling circle’ or ‘favourite numbers’ to see how that might affect your bill. But for the vast majority of people, it’s worth giving Bill Monitor a try — even if only to feel smug when it can’t beat your current deal.

Costs nothing at billmonitor.com.
Saves an average of £17.50 per month, according to Bill Monitor.

Water Pebble

Water Pebble

Is nowhere safe from the green police? You start showering instead of bathing to keep your water bills down and the eco-warriors placated, then they point out that every unnecessary drop is literally pouring money down the drain. And probably killing a rare species of pygmy marmoset in Sri Lanka. Well, miniature monkeys rejoice, because the Water Pebble will save the world! Or at the very least, keep your other half from using up all the hot water.
Chuck it in the shower while you’re washing and it will learn your typical shower time.

For subsequent ablutions, you’ll get a green light to scrub your body, an amber light to start rinsing off and a red light to exit the shower before it explodes. (Not really. It just keeps shining its red light, like a disappointed traffic light.)
The Water Pebble then gradually reduce your showering time by 7 seconds each day, until you’re spending a mere 6 minutes in the shower. If you’re already spending under 6 minutes in the shower, award yourself a pat on your organic hemp-shirted back, but do just check whether people wrinkle their faces and edge away from you on the bus.

Costs £9 from Firebox.
Saves £36.50 per year. Halving your shower time might save you 10p, working out to annual savings of £36.50 for obsessive compulsives who shower daily or £5.20 if you only rinse off once a week like us.

Vouchercloud

Vouchercloud

It’s about time your smart phone started to pull its own weight. Whether this retail coupon app can offset handset upgrade charges, monthly bills and excess data charges will depend on how often you eat at chain pizza restaurants and buy suits on the high street. To be fair, although it’s heavily weighted to national brands, the app does contain thousands of offers, with something for even the fussiest of shoppers and diners.

The way it works, on both iPhone and Android, is simple. You wander about the shops in a consumerist haze and up pop vouchers for businesses nearby. They hope to lure you in with special offers, you hope to get a scorching deal. You can download vouchers for use later on and browse in categories that include hotels, cars, and health and beauty.
Serious shopaholics might want to upgrade to the premium vouchers — this costs £1.79 for a single use or £35 for a year. That sounds like a lot just for a voucher, but if it gets you a pair of fancy shoes or a slap-up meal at half price, you might consider it worthwhile.

Costs nothing, see vouchercloud.com for installation info.
Saves The more you spend, the more you save, but at the least it’ll get you discount fodder at high street eateries.
Source: Gadgets – Crave.Cnet.com

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