Gadget Guru: T3's nutty professor of tech is the man to straighten you out

This month: best baby monitors, favourite keyboards, top iPhone 7 cases, electronic locks and more

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Gadget Guru is back and he is here to answer your tech-related questions and queries. So crack open a brew and let T3's resident technomancer deliver you the essential tech knowledge you need.

What’s the best baby monitor with iPhone support, GaGu?

When Guru last used a baby monitor, it picked up a rather candid conversation between the next door neighbours. Granted, GaGu bought the receiver specifically for that purpose after rifling through their bins for baby monitor receipts, and he immediately reported his salacious findings to the relevant authorities. But his eavesdropping ways are a strong argument for keeping your baby’s shenanigans privately buried in your Wi-Fi network.

The Fredi Day&Night Camera fits the bill perfectly, with a 720 signal, two-way audio and pan and tilt functions.

Guru would say, though, that iPhone compatibility shouldn’t be your primary concern. Notifications and alerts are not 100 per cent reliable, and in order to take a look at the burbling and wriggling of your spawn you’ll need to unlock your phone, open the app and wait for a connection. A right royal pain in the behind. Also, as you’ve likely noticed by now, attaching the word ‘baby’ to a product tends to double its price.

You would be well served, if you’re prepared to dedicate an old phone as a screen for progeny observation, simply picking up an IP camera which supports infrared. On the cheaper end, the FREDI Day&Night Night Vision Wi-Fi Camera‚ which apparently retails for £80 but can be found for closer to £30‚ fits the bill of baby monitor perfectly, with a 720p signal, two-way audio and pan and tilt controls.

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You asked for the best, though, so GaGu must take a flick through his secret suggestion notebook. Let’s see here: The Nest Cam IQ (£299) does 4K streaming (though it downsamples it to 1080p before it hits your phone) and has useful baby-watching features such as motion detection, infrared and two-way sound communication… plus a less friendly hefty price tag. The £179 Motorola MBP853 Connect is even more baby focused – it comes with a portable screen, and operates on DECT as well as Wi-Fi, but you can pipe its video and audio to your phone if you wish. 

What’s your favourite keyboard, Guru?

As you know by now, Guru must maintain a delicate balance between jumping on nerdy trends and pouring boiling scorn on them. In the case of mechanical keyboards, which have recently turned the corner from clacky office annoyance to colourful, expensive, customisable, desk status symbol clacky office annoyance, GaGu’s affections are definitely landing more on the positive side despite his better judgement.

The big problem with an enthusiast market is that there’s not one single item to recommend. If you’re happy to only dip your toe in the water, there are stacks of pre-built and very good keyboards pouring onto the market from manufacturers like Corsair, Razer, Logitech and more. The far eastern market is picking up too; take a look at Bloody’s range of Light Strike keyboards, oddly abbreviated ‘LK’, which combine a mechanical action with actual lasers for almost instantaneous actuation. They’re surprisingly good for a brand with such a silly name.

The truest test of an exciteable typing man is browsing the likes of Massdrop and somehow selecting what’s right for you. First choice is the keyswitches themselves: opt for Cherry Blue switches if you like to type noisy, browns if you prefer a softer feel, or a smooth-moulded, hens-teeth rare Cherry clone like the Outemu if you really want to be on the cutting edge.

Then there’s everything else. Will you go for a full keyboard layout with a number pad, a 75 per cent, 66 per cent, the weird split form of the Ergodox? Do you want keyswitch dampers and LEDs? Will you go pre-built or whip out a soldering iron for a build-it-yourself kit? Just which sparkly artisan keycaps will you decide to drop upwards of £15 per key on? This is a hobby that, however satisfying it may be, gets very expensive and very silly very quickly.

Can a drone lift my dog?

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Even if a drone could lift your dog, it should not lift your dog. Dogs are notoriously bad pilots. With their soft fur and penchant for cuddles, they also deserve to treated well. So, as long as you promise to keep things humane, let’s sidestep the canine part of the equation and look instead at general load carrying.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Even if a drone could lift your dog, it should not lift your dog.

Pretty much every consumer drone on the market will be ill-equipped to carry any more than its own weight, particularly since shifting (or wriggling) loads tend to throw off computerised flight stabilisation. 

You’ll need to look to the commercial market if you really want to dangle something heavy 500 feet up. DJI’s farming-focused Agras MG-1, for example, uses eight rotors to drag a 10kg canister of pesticide airborne, but it’ll set you back around £10,000.

There are less-beefy models around, if 10 kilos is too much; invest something like £3,000 in a hex- or octo-copter and you should be able to carry a DSLR. Be warned, though: that payload will also cost you around half of the average flight time.

What’s the best iPhone 7 case?

Never let a good phone go unsheathed. Your typical wimpy shells don’t cut it in Guru’s rough-and-tumble domain, particularly when the house booby traps are set for the night.

While he’s yet to find anything that’ll withstand an EMP, hopefully something comes along before the anti-robot-uprising measures in the kitchen are deployed, though there’s some surprisingly good impact protection out there which will deflect all kinds of drunken fumbling.

The 3-layer protection of Otterbox’s Defender series (£42.99) really does take a knock or 12, and Speck’s more slimline Presidio range (from around £20) utilises a proprietary material called IMPACTIUM to lessen the combination of floor and phone. Guru would buy it just for the name alone.

Are electronic locks safe?

A lock is only as strong as the will of the person trying to get through it. If a criminal has a set of bolt cutters up one sleeve and a petrol-powered angle grinder up the other, Guru presumes we’re dealing with klepto wizards from the wrong side of the tracks‚ so it won’t matter if your security is Bluetooth-based or not.

In short, yes, electronic entry locks can be equally as safe as using key locks. Every model Guru has seen will take submersion, zapping with nine volts, smacking with a hammer, and not give up the goods. If you really want to hold on to something, though, the key is to slow offenders down – use three individual locks, surround your possessions with mousetraps and superglue, whatever works.

How do I stop my cat clawing my furniture?

A cat’s gonna do what a cat’s gonna do, and a cat’s gonna do just about the most anti-social thing possible. If that means your favourite seat gets torn to shreds then by golly that’s going to happen.

There are chemicals, like Feliway’s Feliscratch, which you can squirt onto a scratching post to promote its use, or you could try an audible alarm; the Tattle Tale vibration sensor is around £20. Whether these work is down to the determination of your particular feline. Probably best just to cut your losses and surrender, to be honest.