Let’s admit it — most, if not all, of the people who work here at The Verge are gadget enthusiasts. But while most of those gadgets come under the heading of tech — headphones, smartphones, laptops, speakers, and all the other electronic gear that we love to play with — there are also some really interesting, fun, and useful gadgets out there that we don’t usually think of as tech, per se.
So, for this article, we asked the staff to come up with their favorite non-tech gadgets — things that don’t have Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or an app. Admittedly, some of what they came up with sit on the border between tech and non-tech — where, for example, do espresso machines belong? But hey, let’s not be picky. Here are the kitchen gear, home tools, and personal items that we most treasure.
I spent ages talking myself out of buying a home espresso machine, but I finally got one a few years ago, and the only regret I have is not buying one sooner. I love my espresso machine. It’s not super fancy, which is fine for me. My model has the built-in grinder, which I keep loaded with Olympia Coffee Big Truck. It’s simple, reliable, easy to take care of, and makes consistently good espresso. I have used it nearly every day going on three years now, and it’s still going strong. My latte art skills are sketchy, but that’s on me, not the Barista Express. — Allison Johnson, reviewer
Over the past year, I’ve fallen in love with Hario’s lineup of V60 drip coffee makers. But it wasn’t until last Christmas that I finally got one of their decanters, which are big enough to make two (or even three, at a push) cups of coffee in one go. You put a paper filter into the plastic funnel at the top, pour in some water, and then lift out the funnel to pour your delicious brew from the glass decanter.
I’m not going to claim that it’s anywhere near as simple as using a standalone coffee machine or even an Aeropress, and you should be prepared to use scales if you want to get the proportion of coffee to water right. But if you’re someone who likes the ritual of making coffee and wants something that’s a little more affordable than a Chemex, then the V60 is a great option. —Jon Porter, reporter
Kitchenaid stand mixers are famed for their reliability and classic aesthetics, but for my money, their greatest utility is the attachment system. And there’s no attachment I love more than the Fresh Prep shredder, which lets me quickly and easily turn a two-pound block of cheese into an easy topping for nachos, casseroles, and more. If you frequently find yourself turning mass amounts of vegetables, cheese, or anything else into shreds, and you’re still using the standard box shredder to do it, please do your arms a favor and pick up this attachment — if you have a Kitchenaid , that is.
The one downside of this gadget is the price. It’s actually very reasonable for the Fresh Prep kit; I got mine on sale for around $40 (it comes with large and small shredders, as well as a slicer that I’m pretty sure I’ve never used). But there’s no getting around the fact that it hooks onto a bulky, $300 mixer that a lot of people won’t use often enough to justify how much counter space it eats up. If you’ve already got one, though, it’s well worth adding the shredder to your arsenal. (And if you don’t, there are actually manual versions available on Amazon. I can’t speak to their quality, but they should at least keep your thumbs safe from the box grater’s bite.) —Mitchell Clark, news writer
I flipping love my Zojirushi Micom Rice Cooker. Forget soaking your rice for 30 minutes before cooking, and forget scraping burnt bits of rice from the bottom of your pot. You know what I like doing? Washing my rice the night before, hitting the schedule button on this Zojirushi, and waking up to a pot of perfectly cooked rice that stays warm until I’m ready to eat. I can cook up to 5.5 cups at a time, which is excellent for making fried rice the next day. It can handle multiple types of rice — brown, white, long-grain, short-grain, you name it. It’s even good at making oatmeal and porridge. Hell, it can do basically anything a pressure cooker can do. I can hard boil my eggs, bake a cake, make soup, and steam veggies with this baby. I splurged for a fancy-pants Zojirushi with multiple settings, but there are plenty of affordable options that also take up way less space than an Instant Pot. Also, it sings Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to me when it’s done cooking. What’s not to love? —Victoria Song, reviewer
Yes, it’s a screwdriver. Yes, I’m aware you can buy screwdrivers (even multi-bit ratcheting screwdrivers) from any number of brands. I have five different ones on my workbench! But once I put the MegaPro, I knew I’d never need to buy a sixth.
Light and strong, grippy yet comfortable, easy to change the ratchet direction with one hand, with a long narrow shaft that reaches farther and more reliably than my other drivers, and a satisfying-to-open hidden stash of bits beneath its rotating cup on the end. Double-sided bits that don’t need to be squeezed or pinched to get them out of that handle and a shaft whose bit cavity is long enough I can fit impact driver extensions or even my right-angle attachment. I’ve never touched the square bits, but it’s got a great mix of Philips, Torx and flat. Oh, look at that — they also sell an “automotive” version that’ll hold 12 one-inch single-sided bits and has a magnetic end to hold on to screws. Looks like I’ll be replacing my other, inferior drivers with that one next. —Sean Hollister, senior reports editor
Miniature collapsible utility shovels don’t sound very useful until you own a tiny two-seater because that gets stuck in muck with shocking regularity. After many snowy mornings spent trying to dig my car out of its parking spot with whatever I had on hand, I decided it was time to explore my options. Selling my car for a more reasonable one that’s better suited for midwestern winters was out of the question. However, a teeny shovel that easily collapses for storage and allows me to quickly rescue my car from snow or mud is a good compromise. — Kaitlin Hatton, e-commerce social media manager
Five years ago, I had to purchase a folding saw as part of a prerequisite for joining the search and rescue team I volunteered with. Before that, I had always considered the humble hatchet to be a more versatile tool for the outdoors, something I could use to bludgeon firewood until my arms inevitably tired and I nearly keeled over after fewer swings than I care to admit. That changed when I picked up Bahco’s budget-friendly folding saw.
In the time since, I’ve become enamored with the little device. The seven-inch serrated blade conveniently folds into the handle and flips out in an instant, allowing me to feverishly tear through everything from hardwood to plastic without having to opt for additional tools. I’ve found it to be quicker and more efficient than an axe, and I don’t have to worry about my less-than-ideal precision, given I’m not swinging it around. It even has a convenient safety lock on the handle, so I can toss it in my backpack and not have to worry about it shredding my gloves, expensive rain jacket, and the rest of my SAR (search and rescue) gear. It’s an elegant tool for a more civilized age, and I’m here for it. —Brandon Widder, senior trade editor
I’m not much of a tool person or knife person, but I have an unabashed love for my Leatherman Wave Plus multi-tool. I received it as a birthday gift a few years ago from my wife, and it’s been used nearly every day since then.
There are more tools on it than I really need (18 in total), but the locking straight knife (excellent for opening cardboard boxes), needle nose pliers, and mini screwdrivers are what I make use of all the time. Whether I’m breaking down boxes from the weekly arrivals from Amazon, Target, and Walmart or installing a new smart light switch in my wall, the Leatherman is always the first tool I grab to get the job done.
It’s also a great fidget tool when I’m sitting at my desk — it’s really satisfying to repeatedly unfold and fold closed. Just be careful not to pinch your fingers when doing that, as I have done and likely will do again in the future. — Dan Seifert, deputy editor
At some point or another, if you live long enough, it’s very likely that you will need reading glasses. I hit that point — very reluctantly — a few years ago. Once I realized that I was squinting way more than was healthy for me, I accepted my fate and bought a pair of reading glasses. But that brought a new problem — I kept misplacing the things, or forgetting to put them in my bag, or leaving them in cabs. Until I got myself a pair of ThinOptics readers.
They can’t technically be called glasses because they’re made of plastic. And they don’t have earpieces; they sit on your nose like they were Ben Franklin’s specs. But they fold up into a small, flat case with a small keychain loop that I can hang in my backpack. And so when I leave my glasses at home, or accidentally sit on them, or (as once happened) leave them on the subway, I know that I always have a way to read my Pixel phone or my Mac Pro screen without spending the day in a desperate squint. —Barbara Krasnoff, review editor
Listen, you clip your fingernails every few days. Why not have the absolute best fingernail-clipping experience you can? Made of steel, the storied Japanese brand Kiya clippers make nice, clean cuts, and the plastic shell will even catch most of your trimmings. Keep those fingertips tidy! —Kevin Nguyen, features editor
A traditional watch
There are few non-tech gadgets and items I love as much as watches. While my small collection remains mostly humble and devoid of any luxury extravagance, I can’t help thinking about, reading about, or even writing about watches. Traditional watches are a mostly unnecessary tool these days, but they are one of my favorite ways to accessorize what I wear or how I’m feeling. I admire the craftsmanship and design of all kinds of watches and the way that some tell interesting stories or bring something out of me.
My gold G-Shock? When it’s not sitting beside me on my desk chiming on the hour, it’s what I wear with a black denim jacket and pair of Dr. Martens boots if I want to feel flashy. My two-and-a-half other G-Shocks (I sometimes wear my wife’s Pikachu anniversary Baby-G)? I admire their ruggedness and streetwear looks. My Seiko SKX013? It’s my first “real” automatic mechanical diver that isn’t too big on my dainty wrist and has as many stylings as the amount of NATO straps I throw at it (though I mostly stick with black). My $15 Casio F-91W? It’s so unassuming, but it’s got an infamous history. My manual-wind 1960s Timex Marlin reissue? I dig its mid-century numerals, and it reminds me of some of the classic Timex watches my dad owned and left behind.
Watches may no longer be necessary, but they are illogical purchases that continue bringing me years of joy and emotional value. — Antonio G. Di Benedetto, trade writer