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Best of the best: The 100 IndyBest buys you need on your radar

We look back at the most-shopped articles of lockdown – and what’s in highest demand as we come out

Eleanor Jones
Tuesday 01 June 2021 08:16
<p>Of the thousands of products we’ve tested in the past year, these are the ones we think you should know about</p>

Of the thousands of products we’ve tested in the past year, these are the ones we think you should know about

Here at IndyBest, we test a lot of products. In fact, since lockdown began in March 2020, we’ve published more than 3,000 articles, highlighting the absolute best buys in categories spanning everything from tech to beauty.

With shops closed for longer than we ever anticipated, online shopping naturally took on a whole new significance. But even now that bricks-and-mortar doors have reopened once again, we know you still want to be sure you’re spending your money on something that’s going to live up to all of those impressive claims you see on the box (or the brand’s website). And that’s where we come in.

Whether you’re in need of a new cordless vacuum, a printer for your home office or the mattress that will finally deliver your perfect night’s sleep, we pride ourselves on putting a range of items to suit all budgets well and truly through their paces, so you can find the right one for you.

No matter what we’re testing, we make sure we consider everything from the quality of materials to ease of assembly and use and, crucially, value for money, to bring you our pick of the best of the best.

To mark the lifting of the restrictions we’ve all been living under, we wanted to celebrate with 100 of our favourite finds in all areas over the past 12 months, from the Bluetooth speaker we think is worth every penny, to the VPN that’ll change the way you stream for good.

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So without further ado, here’s the IndyBest top 100 that we think you need to know about – keep scrolling for all of the shopping inspiration you could ever need.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Best of the best: Tech

Budget smartphones

If you’re investing in a new phone, you needn’t spend a fortune – as our review of the best budget smartphones shows. We were particularly impressed with the Xiaomi redmi note 9T (£179, Amazon.co.uk) – not only is it ready for 5G, “the note 9T has snappy processing speeds thanks to MediaTek’s 800U chip – great for gamers and streamers – and its screen is comparable to any other phone at this price”. In short, this affordable brand is really disrupting the market.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best budget smartphones, from Android to iOS

Electric toothbrushes

Electric toothbrushes might not be the most glamorous of purchases, but they really can make all the difference to your oral care routine – just ask your dentist. We’ve tried dozens of models, but our best buy is the Philips sonicare protective clean 5100 (£90, Amazon.co.uk) – it has plenty of clever features to ensure optimum brushing, and “really hits the sweet spot between delivering the most useful advances in toothbrush tech at a really good price”, our tester noted.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best electric toothbrushes that keep teeth healthy, bright and pearly white

Kids’ tablets

In the age of homeschooling, tablets for kids really came into their own, but they’re still valuable investments now they’re back in the classroom. Our recommendation is the Amazon Fire HD 10 kids tablet (£199, Amazon.co.uk) which is suitable for children aged 3-7 and has myriad merits to its name. While it’s not the cheapest, the price includes a year’s subscription to Fire for Kids Unlimited, which offers access to games, books, movies, educational apps and more, making it better value than you might initially think.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best kids’ tablets for learning and playing games

VPNs

The world of VPNs can be a confusing one, so we’ve broken it down to make it as simple as possible. You can, of course, read our full guide to the best VPNs for a wider overview, but if you just want a great all-rounder with no fuss, go directly to our best buy, Express VPN (£6.20 per month, Expressvpn.com). “It’s flaming fast, is simple to use and runs on a laundry list of operating systems and devices – whether that be Mac, Windows PC, Linux, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire stick or even your PlayStation console or home router,” said our tech writer Alex Lee. “All the main requirements of a good VPN are checked off.”

Buy now

Read more: 7 best free and paid-for VPNs for streaming and security on your Android, iPhone, PC and more

Running headphones

Run, don’t walk (see what we did there?) to our best buy in the running headphones category: EarFun’s air pro headphones (£69.97, Amazon.co.uk). They’re a great alternative to AirPods that pack “big bass and the kind of noise-cancelling technology that you usually get with earphones double the price”, according to our reviewer.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best running headphones that won’t fall out during a workout

Wireless earbuds

If your earbud needs extend beyond of the world of running, however, we’d suggest the Sennheiser CX 400BT true wireless earbuds (£143.29, Amazon.co.uk). They’re a real powerhouse set with 20 hours of battery life, and we think the fit and style are just as good as the brand’s £239 momentum pair.

Buy now

Read more: 11 best wireless earbuds for quality sound and noise cancellation

Home printers

WFH is a more regular feature than ever, so you need a printer that really delivers. Enter our best buy, the Epson ecotank ET-2710 (£172.97, Amazon.co.uk) – not only does it have cheap running costs when it comes to ink, it’s a doddle to set up, and once you’ve got it going, our reviewer says “the print quality and speed is at least on a par with any other printer on the list”.

Buy now

Read more: 8 best home printers to upgrade your wireless office set-up

Compact cameras

We may have more powerful cameras than ever on our phones, but those serious about upping their content game will still want an excellent compact camera to accompany them. We rate the Sony ZV-1 (£699, Amazon.co.uk) above all others: it’s pricey, yes, but if you want smart auto settings and crystal clear quality, particularly when it comes to vlogging or streaming, it really is best in class.

Buy now

Read more: 8 best compact cameras for the perfect shot every time

Bluetooth speakers

OK, so our top pick for the best Bluetooth speaker – the Transparent small speaker (£375, Transpa.rent) – to shop now is a real aesthetic beauty, but our reviewer swears it sounds just as good as it looks. “The sound is incredibly clear, with a solid bass and impressively full general sound for a compact speaker,” they said. For a more purse-friendly pick, we also like the very capable Kitsound diggit 55 (£49, Very.co.uk).

Buy now

Read more: 11 best Bluetooth speakers for every budget

Noise-cancelling headphones

“These headphones put Bose back in the lead where noise cancelling is concerned, able to quell the engine of a 747 effectively or to make phone calls easily heard even in noisy situations,” said our reviewer, in praise of the Bose headphones 700 (£229, Johnlewis.com) that found themselves at the top of our list. “They’re also highly adjustable, with 11 different noise-cancelling settings.”

Buy now

Read more: 11 best noise-cancelling headphones to help you focus when working from home

4K TVs

If you don’t already own one, a 4K TV is the next logical upgrade from your existing model – it’s the ultra high definition standard, with amazingly sharp quality even on larger screens. The 55in Panasonic TX-55HZ2000 (£2,229, Johnlewis.com) came out on top in our test: our reviewer praised not only the display, but the impressive sound and user-friendly interface, too.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best 4K TVs for a needle-sharp viewing experience

Video doorbells

Ring’s video doorbell 3 plus (£159, Ring.com), ticked all of our reviewer’s boxes this year: “We liked the quality of the 1080p HD video on the Ring video 3 plus, and the clarity of the two-way talk was excellent,” they said. Along with the upfront cost, it’s worth noting there’s also a subscription of £2.50 a month or £24.99 a year, which is actually one of the more affordable packages available.

Buy now

Read more: 7 best video doorbells for upgrading your home security system

Antivirus software

While we’re on the subject of security, antivirus software is always a good idea. Norton’s 360 premium (£44.99, Norton.com) was our winner – it offers really comprehensive protection for up to 10 different devices, including computers, smartphones and tablet PCs, under a single subscription.

Buy now

Read more: Best antivirus software for protecting your connected devices

Electric scooters

Scooters: categorically not just for kids anymore. We put the market’s top electric scooters through their paces and the Pure Air electric scooter (£449, Pureelectric.com) came out on top: “It strikes an uncompromising balance between value, battery life, comfort and build quality. It looks super smart, sporting a sleek design and quality satin finish in a range of colours,” our reviewer said.

Buy now

Read more: 8 best electric scooters that really go the distance

Electric bikes

We also took to the streets on an array of electric bikes over the past few months, and promptly fell in love with the Raleigh motus cross bar (£1,899.99, Rutlandcycling.com). Why is it so great? As our reviewer notes, “there’s none of the brute jerkiness of less sophisticated electric bikes – which can sometimes feel like you’re taking off on a rocket – making for a smooth, fun and comfortable ride.”

Buy now

Read more: 8 best electric bikes to boost your pedal power

USB microphones

Streamers, you need the Rode NT-USB mini (£87.95, Scan.co.uk) in your life. It was chosen as our best buy because “it delivers superb sound quality in a compact and professional-looking package”, according to our reviewer – not bad for a model that comes in at under £100.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best USB microphones for podcasting and streaming

Car phone holders

With staycation road trips on the agenda, a solid car phone mount is even more of an essential than usual. We found that the Belkin car vent mount pro with magsafe (£34.99, Amazon.co.uk) was the best of the bunch for your iPhone, but we also rated the much cheaper PNY expand car vent mount (£5.99, Currys.co.uk) as a great all-rounder.

Buy now

Read more: 7 best car phone holders for hands-free access

Tablets

Even in light of the launch of the iPad pro, the older iPad air (£545.52, Amazon.co.uk) is hard to beat. Our reviewer said: “Unlike the iPad pro, the iPad air comes in five cute colours – space grey, silver, green, rose gold and sky blue – all of which look great. Since the front is all glass, you only see the colours in the anodised aluminium that forms the back and edge, and which gives the iPad its premium build quality.”

Buy now

Read more: 10 best tablets for drawing, gaming and films

Gaming headsets

For under £100, the Razer blackshark V2 + USB soundcard (£99.99, Razer.com) knocks spots off the competition in the realm of gaming headsets. “The real USP is undoubtedly the superior features that come with Razer’s partnership with THX – the movie-standard audio company of George Lucas fame,” our tester raved. Not only does this deliver a lifelike and realistic 360 degrees of sound, but you are able to create “profiles” for your favourite games – a fantastic personal touch.

Buy now

Read more: 8 best gaming headsets – enhanced audio for PS4, PC, Xbox and Nintendo

Gaming mice

To really complete your home gaming setup, you’ll need a mouse to go with your headset. Our recommendation is the Razer viper 8K (£64.99, Amazon.co.uk) – our tester described it as “an ambidextrous design that will suit everyone – it has an 8,000 Hz polling rate (as the name suggests), which means it’s stunningly fast and responsive”.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best gaming mice for speed, comfort and control

PS5 accessories

The console may still be proving elusive, but if you’ve been lucky enough to bag one, we recommend picking up an extra Sony PlayStation 5 dualsense controller (£56.98, Amazon.co.uk) stat. Our reviewer ranked the brand name as the best because “besides looking and feeling good, it also has some useful features such as haptic feedback, which is a form of far superior vibration, and a set of trigger buttons that are much more responsive and tactile than previous PlayStation controllers”.

Buy now

Read more: 8 best PS5 accessories that will enhance your gaming experience

Webcams

Whether you plan on keeping Zoom a regular part of your day or not, the Logitech C922 pro HD stream webcam (£94.99, Logitech.com) is worth a look. “The thing we liked about the C922 is that it does everything across the board very well – including being a sub-£100 model with some of the features of many of the more expensive webcams on this list,” said our reviewer. “It’s easy to set up and use and very crisp in terms of HD camera quality and clarity.”

Buy now

Read more: 8 best webcams for video calls and streaming

Best of the best: Home and garden

Mattresses

Eve Sleep’s premium hybrid mattress (£978, Evesleep.co.uk) was newly crowned the best buy in the increasingly competitive mattress category this year, thanks to its outstanding durability and comfort: “No mattress scored higher for edge to edge support,” our expert tester confirmed. However, also rated very highly are the Simba hybrid (currently on offer for £610.35, Simba.com) and the Emma hybrid (£789, Emma-mattress.co.uk).

Buy now

Read more: Best mattress 2021 – memory foam, pocket sprung and hybrid

Mattress toppers

Perhaps you don’t have a whole new mattress on the cards, but a topper can make all the difference to your slumber too. We recommend Simba’s hybrid topper (£209, Simba.com) for upgrading your existing setup: our reviewer said that “the generous depth (made up of 2cm high-density foam, 2cm of conical pocket springs and 2.5cm of latex) is incredibly comfortable, springy and supportive especially around key pressure points”.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best mattress toppers for a well-supported sleep

Fans

Unlike countries such as the US, where aircon is far more common in residences, a good fan is essential for surviving the great British summer. The incredibly multipurpose Dyson pure + cool fan heater air purifier (£549.99, Argos.co.uk) gets our vote: “Not only is this a fabulous fan – almost silent, noticeably smooth airflow, automatic operation and no dangerous blades – but it doubles up as an effective heater in winter, and it also purifies air, capturing allergens, bacteria, pollen and mould spores inside your home,” explained our reviewer. Or, for a more of a no-frills fan, try the Bionaire oscillating tower fan (£49, Amazon.co.uk), which also ranked highly.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best fans for staying cool this summer

Pressure washers

Is there anything more satisfying than using a pressure washer? We think not – and if you want a new one, our money is on the Nilfisk core 140-6 home pressure washer (£169.99, Robertdyas.co.uk). Not only is the cheery royal blue exterior a joy to look at, its features, including an on/off trigger and internal reel for the hose, are really innovative, and its price is rather reasonable considering.

Buy now

Read more: 7 best pressure washers to clean cars and patio

Office chairs

The Humanscale world chair (£564, Wellworking.co.uk) has been sought after throughout lockdown, and there’s no sign of the demand slowing, even with its fairly high price tag. Our reviewer loved the way this all-mesh chair “uses your body weight to automatically adapt to the most ergonomic position for working, reclining the chair and repositioning the armrests, which are attached to the back of the chair so they move with you”.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best ergonomic office chairs that make working from home more comfortable

Cordless vacuum cleaners

The Dyson V11 absolute (£599, Ao.com) is a masterclass in lightweight, ergonomic cleaning – in fact, our reviewer went as far as to call it “mind blowing”, adding that it “has seriously raised the bar in the world of cordless vacs”. For our best buy this year, it was a no brainer.

Buy now

Read more: 13 best cordless vacuum cleaners for hassle-free hoovering

Pet vacuum cleaners

Having a cat or dog doesn’t have to mean a home full of pet hair, especially with our best buy, the Dyson animal V11 (£499, Dyson.co.uk), by your side. “When it comes to suction the vacuum really is an animal, performing superbly on all surfaces and clearing up even the most matted sections of animal hair in just one sweep,” said our reviewer.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best pet vacuum cleaners that tackle hair and dirt with ease

Robot vacuum cleaners

That said, no matter how lightweight and swift a vacuum is, it’ll never compete with the minimum-effort levels of a robot vacuum cleaner (it’s the future, people). Our top pick right now is the Roborock S5 max (£369, Myrobotcenter.co.uk), which comes with Alexa voice control and a built-in mop function. We found it had no problem with navigating rugs and different surfaces, and with an impressive 180 minutes of battery life, this was one of the longest-running robots we tested.

Buy now

Read more: 8 best robot vacuum cleaners that clean floors and carpets effortlessly

Handheld vacuum cleaners

Our fourth and final vacuum category is the world of handhelds, and we think the Gtech multi MK2 K9 (£169.99, Amazon.co.uk) delivers the best bang for your buck. Our reviewer called it “a well-balanced handheld that can handle everything from awkward dusty corners to pet hair on scratching posts and stairs”.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best handheld vacuum cleaners for hard to reach spots

Steam cleaners

Once the vacuum has worked its magic, finish the job with our top steam mop, the Hoover CA2IN1D capsule 2-in-1 steam cleaner (£119.99, Very.co.uk). “This nicely designed steam cleaner was ready for action in less than 30 seconds after filling the tank, while the strength of the steam at max was brilliant for shifting seriously stained tiles in a high-traffic hallway,” said our tester.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best steam cleaners to keep your floors sparkling

Non-stick frying pans

You’ll never regret buying a proper non-stick pan. We trialled a range of sizes and styles, cooking everything from bacon and eggs to steak and frittata, and the ProCook professional anodised non-stick frying pan (£49.99, Amazon.co.uk) was our winner. “Great for curries, sauces and anything that needed a combo of frying and low heat, this is a versatile pan for every cook,” our tester declared.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best non-stick frying pans you need in your kitchen

Cordless drills

You can always rely on Bosch for a near-perfect power tool. Our reviewer loved the Bosch advanced impact 18 (£120, Amazon.co.uk) and praised its “brushless motor that delivered real power to jobs in wood, plastic, brick, metal and even limestone”.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best cordless drills that will take the drama out of DIY

Gas BBQs

Get grilling this summer with our best buy, the John Lewis & Partners 3 burner (£279, Johnlewis.com), which our reviewer found to be a pretty nifty bit of kit. “A dependable lighting system and efficient burners produced some delicious food that was never in danger of burning or being overcooked, thanks to controllable cooking,” they explained. “We particularly liked the addition of the circular grill in the middle, which was really useful for a pan full of potatoes or corn.”

Buy now

Read more: 9 best gas BBQs to suit every outdoor space

Lawn mowers

“This is a superb all-rounder that’s light, manoeuvrable and small enough to fit through garden gates and take care of a small to medium sward,” our reviewer said of the Ego LM1701E-SP lawnmower (£309, Cheapmowers.com), our current best buy. “Without fail, we were always left with a precise finish and a real professional cut” – high praise indeed!

Buy now

Read more: 10 best lawnmowers that will keep gardens neat and tidy

Fire pits

The hottest garden accessory right now (sorry), fire pits are a surefire way to make garden gatherings cosier in an instant. We’re backing the Indigenous reclaimed fire pit (£220, Indigenous.co.uk) as this year’s best buy: our tester says that “the wrought iron stand and grill gives the durability, and the weathered, russet-toned appearance makes it a real thing of beauty”.

Buy now

Read more: 12 best fire pits for evenings spent in the garden

Patio heaters

Another toasty outdoor option is the Kettler Kalos copper lantern heater (£189.09, Garden4less .co.uk), our best buy in the patio heater category. It won points for its contemporary look and helpful handle, plus the soft glow lighting it emits. There’s a choice of three sizes to suit all garden spaces too.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best patio heaters to suit any garden or outdoor space

Chiminea

At just £80, we couldn’t rate this La Hacienda chiminea (£80, Argos.co.uk) more highly. Our reviewer was particularly impressed that “the model burned very efficiently, and is nicely designed so that even on windier evenings we weren’t covered in ash or enveloped in smoke”.

Buy now

Read more: 11 best chimineas to take the chill out of alfresco evenings

Pillows

The Simba hybrid pillow (£99, Simbasleep.com) promises to give you your sweetest dreams yet – despite having trialled countless other options, our reviewer recommended this for almost every type of sleeper. “For exceptional support and terrific cooling action, this one is hard to beat,” they said.

Buy now

Read more: 12 best pillows that provide comfort and support

Anti-snoring pillows

This is a niche that we did a deep dive into this year, testing various models at a range of price points, and the Levitex pillow (£70, Levitex.com) scored highly. Our reviewers gave the pillow top marks in terms of comfort, restfulness and feel, waking up each morning without any shoulder or neck pain. “The form and design made side sleeping a breeze all night, resulting in a low snore score every night,” they noted.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best anti-snoring pillows for a better night’s sleep

Linen bedding

Linen bedding isn’t just an Instagram sensation, it’s also one of the comfiest ways to sleep. The Secret Linen Store’s violet white 100 per cent linen bedding (from £32, Secretlinenstore.com) won the best buy trophy from our tester: “In pure snowy white, it’s as soft on the eye as it is to the touch,” they said.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best linen bedding sets that are low maintenance and chic

Air fryers

Another social media sensation, an air fryer will be worthy of a spot in your gadget collection even once the trend dies down – especially when it comes to the Ninja airfryer AF100UK (£119, Ao.com). “This basket-style machine is quicker than most and it can cook both chips and fried foods with no oil at all,” our reviewer said. And with a capacity of 3.8l, the basket can fit up to 900g of fries (plenty for four to six people).

Buy now

Read more: 8 best air fryers for cooking up a storm in the kitchen

Kettles

Your kettle is probably one of the most-used items you never give much thought to – until you have to buy a new one, that is. For those in the market, our best buy is the Russell Hobbs purity glass brita kettle (£39, Amazon.co.uk), not only for its chic design, but its quick boil time and minimal limescale build-up even with prolonged use.

Buy now

Read more: 15 best kettles for the perfect brew

Slow cookers

They may be winter staples, but we make good use of our slow cookers whatever the weather these days. The Crock-Pot 5.6l time select slow cooker (£69.99, Argos.co.uk) is a household name in the US, but it beat out the competition on our shores too. “The capacity is big enough for larger families, as well as entertaining, and the bowl can go on the hob, in the oven and in the dishwasher,” our reviewer said. “The stainless-steel finish with digital display looks the part too, especially in more modern kitchens.”

Buy now

Read more: 9 best slow cookers for stews and casseroles

Fridge freezers

The sleek-looking LG Centum GBB92MCBAP 70/30 fridge freezer (£1,399, Ao.com) takes the guesswork out of one of your biggest appliance purchases. Our reviewer describes it as “beautifully finished, marvellously quiet and a pleasure to use, with effort-busting features such as its ice-free compartments” – plus it’s superbly energy efficient.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best fridge freezer guide – how to choose your appliance

Dishwashers

Because no one likes doing the dishes, do they? The Miele G5210SC full-size dishwasher (£929.99, Currys.co.uk) is a premium pick with performance to match: “Everything works just as it should, from the easy-to-manipulate trays and baskets within the machine, to the dishwasher’s ‘eco’ program, which gets the appliance’s water consumption down to a remarkably low rate,” our reviewer said.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best dishwashers that take the load off household chores

Bean-to-cup coffee machines

“The Siemens fully automatic coffee machine EQ9 (£1,499, Ao.com) is the business and if you’re serious about your coffee, or if you’ve tried other machines before and are now ready to take the next step up in terms of kit and budget, then this is what you should be looking at,” said our reviewer. If you’re after a more entry-level option, we also liked the Beko CEG5311X (£279, Ao.com).

Buy now

Read more: 10 best bean-to-cup coffee machines for barista-quality drinks

Pod coffee machines

Prefer a pod when it comes to your morning java? The illy X1 iperespresso anniversary 1935 machine (£416, Illy.com) is where it’s at. Our tester found that “the machine takes illy’s iperespresso capsules, which are made from highly recyclable material, and produces wonderfully smooth and rich espressos with a silky crema that was robust enough to remain as we drank the last drops of the espresso”.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best pod coffee machines for an easy at-home brew

Coffee grinders

Once you’ve got a Melitta calibra coffee grinder (£97, Amazon.co.uk) in your kitchen, you won’t look back. “It’s easy to clean (the parts are dishwasher safe), holds a whopping 375g of beans and looks incredible,” our tester said. “You can’t fail to love this.”

Buy now

Read more: 8 best coffee grinders for the perfect espresso

Microwaves

Not all microwaves are created equal – the creme de la creme in our books is the Hoover chefvolution HMCI25TB-UK microwave (£149, Amazon.co.uk). “This microwave’s almost-silent operation, glossy black exterior and multi-functional capabilities make it an excellent addition to any kitchen for a fantastic price,” said our reviewer.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best microwaves for quick and easy oven cooking

Food processors

KitchenAid’s 1.7l food processor (£149, Kitchenaid.co.uk) is currently our best buy on the market: “It chopped, pureed, mixed and sliced with complete ease and earned top marks for kneading and cake mixing,” our tester reported. On a tighter budget? Try the Russell Hobbs go create food processor (£42.99, Argos.co.uk), which also made the cut in our top 10.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best food processors to make prep work a breeze

Blenders

For the likes of smoothies, sauces and more, however, make a beeline for the Tefal infiny mix tritan blender BL91HD40 (£154, Amazon.co.uk), which we became increasingly impressed with with each use. “The components are well made, the touchscreen controls are pleasant to use, and it won’t start until the lid is properly attached – a great feature for safety and cleanliness,” our reviewer said.

Buy now

Read more: 8 best blenders for smoothies, soups and sauces

Ice cream machines

Only serious sorbet makers need apply for this Cuisinart ice cream and gelato professional machine (£199, Amazon.co.uk), but if you’re a lover of all things iced, it’s well worth splashing the cash – “just throw the ingredients in and you’ll be gorging on ice cream in around 40 minutes”, our reviewer applauds. Alternatively, look to our budget pick, the Sensio 1.4l ice cream maker (£29.95, Amazon.co.uk), which will also have no problem filling plenty of cones.

Buy now

Read more: 12 best ice cream makers to whip up frozen treats at home

Sofas

Sofa.com’s Bowie sofa (£1,100, Sofa.com) takes the top spot in our edit of the best sofas: “Masculine in form with chunky wooden legs that echo its angular lines, this is a modern statement piece that demands attention,” said our reviewer – and it’s also exceedingly comfortable.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best sofas for a stylish upgrade to your living room

Sofa beds

Stylish sofa beds do exist – check out our best buy, the Alfred (£3,995, Sofaworkshop.com), which hides a sizeable metal bed frame and comfy mattress inside its modernist lines. It’s not cheap, so if you’ve not got much to spend, Habitat’s kota sofa (£350, Argos.co.uk), also made our list and is pretty elegant in its own right.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best sofa beds that are both trendy and practical

Portable heaters

Portable heaters are a great solution for all kinds of spaces, and we like the Mill Heat 99407 oil-filled radiator 1500W (£199, Amazon.co.uk) most of all. Our reviewer gave it the best buy slot because “it may not be as bulky as some of the other oil-filled radiators we tested, but clever design means the heated fins are enclosed and the hot air rises through the top of the casing, which distributes the heat efficiently”.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best portable heaters to keep your home warm this winter

Oven gloves

Lakeland’s heat shield gloves (£16.99, Lakeland.co.uk) were the surprise hit of our oven glove testing – they may not look like your traditional glove, but they can certainly stand the heat. “Despite the high-level protection, the gloves are still super flexible for brilliant dexterity and silicone dots on the fingers and palms of both sides provide a firm grip when holding hot utensils or dishes. And when they get dirty, you can simply pop them into the washing machine,” said our reviewer. They also come with a hefty three-year guarantee.

Buy now

Read more: 8 best oven gloves that take the heat out of the kitchen

Outdoor pizza ovens

Somewhat predictable, we’ll admit, but our best buy when it comes to outdoor pizza ovens is Ooni’s gas-powered Koda 16 (£499, Ooni.com) – it really does live up to the hype. “Ooni has come up with a good-looking and innovative gas-powered oven that heats up in just 20 minutes, and will turn out crisply bottomed, perfectly cooked pizzas in just under a minute,” our reviewer said.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best outdoor pizza ovens that are definitely worth your dough

Best of the best: Sport and fitness

Women’s hiking boots

“Lightweight, waterproof and yet still breathable, the mid-cut feels dynamic like a trainer, but supportive enough for hills and rocks, and for wearing with a pack,” our reviewer said of the Scarpa maverick GTX women shoes (£160, Scarpa.co.uk) – our reigning best buy. “These epitomised out-of-the-box comfort, and didn’t take any breaking in.”

Buy now

Read more: 9 best women’s hiking boots for rambling and trekking

Yoga mats

For many, a daily Yoga with Adriene ritual will extend well beyond lockdown – if that sounds familiar, you might want to add our best buy, the Yogi Bare lunar paws mat (£68, Yogi-bare.co.uk), to your wishlist. Not only is it a great size and thickness for both vinyasa and hatha yoga, proceeds from sales of the lunar paws mats go towards helping marine conservation society Sea Shepherd.

Buy now

Read more: 8 best yoga mats perfect for using at home or the gym

Rowing machines

Gyms are open again, but when you’ve got the likes of the Echelon rower (£1,119, Echelonfit.uk) at home, you could be tempted to cancel your membership. “What sets this ergo apart from the pack is its connected rowing experience via an app,” our reviewer explained – think Peloton on a rower, not a bike. Membership starts at £24.99 a month, giving access to hundreds of classes for all levels and desired outcomes – ideal for getting you motivated and keeping training on track.

Buy now

Read more: 7 best rowing machines for working out at home

Women’s running shoes

Whether you’re pounding the pavements or the treadmill, do it with the Brooks adrenaline GTS 21 (£120, Brooksrunning.com) on your feet. “GTS stands for ‘go-to shoe’ because it’s an all-rounder, offering cushioning alongside stability for runners who overpronate,” our reviewer says. “You’re not going to break any speed records in this shoe but we’d happily do the majority of our miles in it.”

Buy now

Read more: 12 best running shoes for women that will really go the distance

Men’s running shoes

In the men’s running shoe arena, we’ve picked Saucony’s men’s endorphin speed trainers (£155, Saucony.com) as our champ. There’s plenty of fancy features to speak of, but “the endorphin speed is still a lightweight shoe at 221g, which means it’s very versatile and performed just as well when we tried to turn on the speed with some interval work as it did when we took it out for a long haul”, said our reviewer.

Buy now

Read more: 12 best men’s running shoes to help you smash your personal best

Running belts

A simple purchase but an important one: the right belt can really make or break your run. We like the FlipBelt classic (£28, Flipbelt.co.uk) – you post your phone, keys and snacks through openings into the four stretchy pockets and then flip the belt over so it sits against your body, keeping them extra-secure.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best running belts for carrying phones, water bottles and keys

Running watches

Our reviewer helpfully defines our best buy, the Garmin forerunner 945, (£429, Wiggle.co.uk) as the closest thing to the ultimate running watch that currently exists: “It packs just about every running-focused technology Garmin has into a shell that’s light enough not to weigh you down even on the longest run,” they say.

Buy now

Read more: 8 best running watches – GPS wristwear for tracking your workouts

Fitness trackers

When the floor was opened up to encompass fitness generally, not just running, this affordable Withings pulse HR tracker (£74.96, Withings.com) scored most highly. “This one can track over 30 different activities and the built-in heart rate monitor measures heart rate continuously during workouts,” said our reviewer. “There’s also sophisticated sleep monitoring that can analyse how well you’ve slept, showing a graph with details in terms of light and deep sleep on your smartphone.”

Buy now

Read more: 10 best fitness trackers to help you reach your goals

Hybrid bikes

The Boardman HYB 8.9 (£1,000, Halfords.com) is our best hybrid bike of the year, thanks to its versatile performance. “Boardman has gone for 12-speed gearing with a single chainring at the front for simplicity and an astonishing 51 teeth on the cassette,” our tester detailed. “Such a combination will let you tackle just about anything that British roads can throw at you.”

Buy now

Read more: 8 best hybrid bikes for city commutes and keeping fit

Bike locks

To keep your precious cycle safe, we recommend the robust Kryptonite kryptolock with kryptoflex cable (£54.99, Freewheel.co.uk), even if its name is quite the mouthful. “D-lock and cable combinations are a good idea as they allow you to quickly secure both wheels and the frame,” says our reviewer. “If you’re after something fairly small and light, this one is excellent.”

Buy now

Read more: 9 best bike locks to keep your wheels safe and secure

Best of the best: Kids

Mattresses for children

Our best buy for children’s mattresses, the Stompa s flex airflow mattress (£150, Stompa.com), represents amazing value. “For the top layer, the company uses the same breathable fabrics used on the likes of Simba and Made.com mattresses, with added breathable quilted topping for extra comfort,” our reviewer noted.

Buy now

Read more: 13 best mattresses for children to get a great night’s sleep

Baby monitors

Baby monitors aren’t just designed for practicality, they’re for peace of mind, so having a model you can rely on is crucial. Our current favourite is the Cubo Ai plus (£289, Amazon.co.uk) – it’s aesthetically pleasing, surprisingly easy to set up, and the sound quality is crystal clear.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best baby monitors, from video to audio models

Baby mobiles

Could this Little Dutch wooden music mobile (£49.95, Naturalbabyshower.co.uk) be any cuter? We think not – and our reviewer says its mesmerising for little ones too: “As the music box plays it also turns the hook holding all of the dangling toys, meaning they gently rotate as the melody plays out. Combined, this stimulated our mini tester, often leading to a slumber,” they said.

Buy now

Read more: 11 baby mobiles to send your little one into a sweet slumber

Baby bouncers

“This has a cult following like no other and we fully understand the appeal,” our reviewer wrote of the Babybjorn bouncer bliss (£210, Babybjorn.co.uk), the top baby bouncer we tried. “It’s not a cheap purchase but it will last you longer than most other bouncers as it can be a seat for newborn babies up to children aged two, and even thereafter little ones will still want to sit on it for its soothing and comforting bounce.”

Buy now

Read more: 9 best baby bouncers to keep your little one soothed and relaxed

Kids’ tables and chairs

Older kids will adore the Dandelion toddler table and animal chairs (from £50, Gltc.co.uk) as an adorable addition to their bedroom. “Testers young and old fell in love with the adorable fox and deer chairs, which have a nice high back, so provide excellent support for little ones and feel really durable,” our tester said.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best kids' tables and chairs that give children space to be creative

Best of the best: Fashion and beauty

IPL machines

Hair removal services were a casualty of the widespread salon closures, so it’s little surprise that the popularity of these devices has soared over the past 12 months. Our reviewer’s favourite? The Jovs venus pro (£239, Currentbody.co.uk), which earned points for its elegant design, ease of use and preloading of 500,000 flashes – “enough for a lifetime of treatments”.

Buy now

Read more: 8 of the best IPL and laser hair removal machines to use at home

BB creams

Bare Minerals’s complexion rescue tinted moisturiser (£30, Bareminerals.co.uk) outranked several other strong competitors for our BB cream top slot. “We loved its broad-spectrum SPF30, light gel-cream formula and medium-light coverage,” our tester explained. “It’s brilliant on all skin types and the well-sized package lasts a good while.”

Buy now

Read more: 10 best BB creams that give glowy, lightweight coverage

Mascara

Choosing just one “best” mascara is a tough call, but when we put 22 different tubes to the test, we eventually awarded the merit to Lancôme’s lash idôle mascara (£23.50, Lookfantastic.com). “The next-level brush makes easy work of coating each and every lash thanks to the 250 different bristle sizes and 360 micro-bristles,” our reviewer said. “Its curved shape fits perfectly into the upper lash line, allowing for root-to-tip coverage.”

Buy now

Read more: 22 best mascaras for every look

Anti-ageing day creams

Moisturiser is the basic our beauty regime is built on, no matter what else is happening in the world. This Willowberry day cream (£27.99, Willowberry.co.uk) is the pick of the bunch in our anti-ageing moisturiser round-up, “with hyaluronic acid, antioxidants, vitamins and essential fatty acids, this light emulsion moisturises while imparting a healthy glow and we love the subtle coriander seed and geranium fragrance”, our tester reported. “This delivers real-life good skin in a jar.”

Buy now

Read more: 12 best anti-ageing day creams that help reduce wrinkles

Anti-ageing night creams

That’s your day cream sorted, but for nighttime, we recommend the Charlotte Tilbury night magic cream (£100, Charlottetilbury.com) as an indulgent treat for the complexion. “Lavishly thick, the elixir is almost a gel-like texture – which is so satisfying to apply, much like an extravagant serum, mask, and moisturiser hybrid,” our reviewer said. “We saw glowy, plumped up skin, and a welcome dewy effect that was most definitely new.”

Buy now

Read more: 14 best anti-ageing night creams to sleep your way to a youthful glow

Sulphate-free shampoo and conditioner

With haircuts off the agenda, attentions turned to treating our hair to the best possible at-home products. Sales of repairing treatments and hair masks soared, but we saw the biggest lift in purchases of sulphate-free products, and Faith in Nature’s dragon fruit shampoo and conditioner set (£9.99, Faithinnature.co.uk) is our best buy in that category. “Not only are all its products vegan, cruelty-free, made with natural ingredients and 100 per cent recyclable, but it remains consistently affordable,” our reviewer said.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best sulphate and paraben-free shampoo and conditioners that are kind to your hair

Hair oil

Oway nurturing drops (£32.30, Amazon.co.uk) feel closer to a gel in texture – thick, but not gloopy – without a hint of grease. Our tester saw marked improvement in terms of dryness and split ends, making this our best buy in the line-up.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best hair oils that lock in moisture, prevent damage and add shine

Teeth whitening kits

Spent too much time staring at your own smile on Zoom this year? You’re not alone – teeth whitening kits were also among our bestsellers in recent months. The cream of the crop is Spotlight Oral Care’s teeth whitening system (£39.99, Beautybay.com) – according to our tester, you can see “the beginnings of a glowing smile after two days, without any sensitivity”.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best teeth whitening kits for brightening your smile at home

Whitening toothpaste

Want a toothpaste rather than a treatment? Spotlight also wins here with its toothpaste for whitening teeth (£9.50, Beautybay.com). “You can be assured that your teeth are protected just as well as they would be with your usual toothpaste, only with added brightness and good short-term staining reduction,” our reviewer confirmed.

Buy now

Read more: 7 best whitening toothpastes for a dazzling smile

Hair straighteners

Possibly another symptom of shoulder-up dressing for webcams, but our commitment to straight, sleek hair hasn’t faltered. If you’re looking to invest in a new set, we think your cash is best spent on the Cloud Nine’s the touch model (£139.99, Johnlewis.com) – “the effects of these straighteners were long-lasting, surviving a few days of a humid holiday and even the tube during rush hour”, our reviewer, who tested the straighteners pre-pandemic, confirmed.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best hair straighteners for sleek hair with minimal heat damage

Hair curlers

We love it when a best buy isn’t the most expensive option on the market – as is the case with Mark Hill’s pick ‘n’ mix curler (£24.99, Markhillhair.com). “It’s borderline genius – after buying the curl fix handle, you customise the tool with the barrel that best suits your desired curl. These range from deep waves to corkscrew curls, but our favourite was the loose waver,” said our reviewer – the results lasted morning to night and even survived a 5km run in a ponytail.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best hair curlers for salon-worthy hair at home

Hair dryers

Rounding out our trio of heated styling tools is our best hair dryer: the ghd helios hair dryer (£159, ghdhair.com). “It’s light, easy to use, and delivers a quick and powerful blow-dry,” said our tester. “Even just a rough blow left hair much shinier than usual.”

Buy now

Read more: 10 best hair dryers that make every day a good hair day

Beard trimmers

The Philips oneblade trimmer (£32.99, Very.co.uk) wowed our reviewer with its results, especially when you consider the cost: “The oneblade from Philips may look simple, but don’t be fooled, there’s more to this trimmer than meets the eye,” they said. “This bitesize beard and body groomer is an all-in-one, head-to-toe grooming solution in a very affordable package.”

Buy now

Read more: 8 best beard trimmers to keep your facial hair under control

Facial sunscreen

Outdoor socialising took on a new importance in the summer of 2020, so it’s reassuring that we saw an uptick in interest in facial SPFs, which has continued through to 2021. We love Dermalogica’s prisma protect SPF30 (£58, Lookfantastic.com) – a formula which when massaged in, “leaves skin hydrated, plump and not at all tacky, and works beautifully as an extra dose of moisture” – but if you prefer SPF50, La Roche-Posay’s anthelios ultra-light invisible fluid sun cream SPF50+ (£18, Boots.com) is our best budget buy.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best facial sunscreens – non-greasy SPFs for daily protection

Cream blush

Glossier’s cloud paint (£15, Glossier.com) is our ultimate cream blush crush. “We loved tapping this onto the cheeks with our fingers for a seamless, flushed-from-within look,” said our reviewer. “As it is so effortless to blend, we found that it was easy to apply on top of base products without disturbing any creams or powders underneath.”

Buy now

Read more: Best cream blush – get a healthy flush of colour with these formulas

Tinted moisturisers

Make-up coverage lightened up in 2020, with consumers reaching for dewier alternatives to their heavier pre-lockdown favourites. A good tinted moisturiser is still the perfect everyday solution, and we love Milk Makeup’s sunshine skin tint (£39, Cultbeauty.co.uk) above all others. Boasting SPF30, “the brand has managed to nail the perfect level of glow without leaving you looking shiny or like a disco ball”, our reviewer said.

Buy now

Read more: 14 best tinted moisturisers for a natural and glowy look

Lip balms

Dry chapped lips will be hard-pressed to find a better recovery treatment than the Laneige vanilla lip sleeping mask (£19, Selfridges.com). Our reviewer deemed it to be a little overnight miracle, saying “our lips had absorbed a lot of the product by the time we woke up but still looked like we’d applied balm in the last couple of hours. Even after washing our face, our lips were plump and healthy.”

Buy now

Read more: 10 best lip balms to treat and nourish dry, chapped lips

Fake tan

“We usually steer clear of lotion formulas as they have a reputation for being far streakier than their mousse counterparts. But this offering from beauty blogger Susanne Jackson’s brand has defied all of our expectations,” our tester wrote of the Sosu by Susanne Jackson dripping gold lotion (£17.50, Beautybay.com), our top fake tan pick. “Infused with shea butter, coconut oil and vitamin A and E, the hydrating lotion has a thick, gel-like consistency that doesn’t leave any streaks at all.”

Buy now

Read more: 10 best fake tans for a sun-kissed glow all year round

Men’s wash bags

The Smythson panama double zip washbag (£395, Smythson.com) is definitely a luxe selection, but as our reviewer points out, “this Italian-made wash bag is lightweight, super stylish and durable; and with its two zip compartments and internal slip pockets, it packs in more than your average man’s beauty cupboard”.

Buy now

Read more: 10 best men’s wash bags for packing all your grooming essentials

Women’s overnight bags

For trips further afield, look to Away’s the weekender bag (£195, Awaytravel.com). Our tester couldn’t rate this chic little tote highly enough: “Not only does it look beautiful (perfect for those holiday ’grams) but it’s designed beautifully too, in durable canvas with luxury leather accents (there are other colourways too) and intuitive pockets that you didn’t even know you needed,” they said.

Buy now

Read more: 9 best overnight bags for women – from leather holdalls to canvas styles

Best of the best: Food and drink

Rum

The best rum on our radar is Bacardi gran reserva diez (£43.99, Amazon.co.uk). This premium offering is aged in charred white oak barrels, for a minimum of 10 years, under the Caribbean sun – “mellow and delicious, recommended neat or on the rocks, this is one to take your time over”, our reviewer said.

Buy now

Read more: 11 best rums – dark, white and spiced tropical tipples

Coffee

Our best buy, Easy Jose indigenous community coffee (£9.50, Easyjosecoffee.co.uk) is coffee with a conscience: Easy Jose has worked with the Mayni and neighbouring communities for several years to help protect the forest and allow the people to earn a good income from the land, sustainably, by growing, hand farming and processing coffee. And, of course, it tastes pretty darn good too.

Buy now

Read more: 14 best independent coffee brands: Java worth getting out of bed for

Gin

Just the thing to get you in the spirit, No. 3 London dry gin (£34.95, Thewhiskyexchange.com) has earned our top spot on the list of the best gins this time around. “The No. 3 moniker comes from the gin’s perfectly balanced trio of elements: juniper, citrus and spice. All traditional gin hallmarks, but elements rarely combined so effortlessly, harmoniously – or memorably,” said our reviewer.

Buy now

Read more: 15 of the best gins to add to your home bar cart

Vegan chocolate

The Solkiki dark milk collection (£29.50, Solkiki.co.uk) exemplifies the way vegan chocolate has evolved and become increasingly delicious in recent years. “Using just the cacao for flavour, each bar tastes genuinely unique without any added flavours – we particularly loved the malty notes in the 65 per cent,” our reviewer said. “We’re not the only ones to think so, as these bars have picked up multiple awards between them.”

Buy now

Read more: 13 best vegan chocolate bars that mean you’ll never miss dairy

Whisky

Robert Burns single malt (£32.25, Thewhiskyexchange.com) won the title not only of our best budget whisky, but the overall best to boot. Our reviewer justifies this based on flavour: “The whisky is a top-notch tipple, fully deserving of a place at the Burns supper table, with light and fruity flavours, honeyed sweetness and a dry spicy finish.”

Buy now

Read more: 10 best Scottish single malt whiskies for Burns Night and beyond

Protein powders

We’ve deemed Bio-Synergy whey hey (£29.99, Wiggle.co.uk) the best workout boost for 2021. “The whey hey was the best on test thanks to its great taste (the coconut flavour was something we looked forward to drinking after a workout) and its impressive nutritional profile,” said our fitness expert tester.

Buy now

Read more: 7 best protein powders and shakes to achieve your fitness goals

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