BEST STANDING DESK
Pro: Sleek and functional; doesn’t need to clamp to the desk
Con: None to speak of
Best for: Those who want to alternate between standing and sitting at their desk
Retail price: $350
The standing desk fad that’s sweeping hip workplaces around the country is actually based on a substantial amount of health research. Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic has a scary statistic to share: Here in the United States, we spend more than half of our waking hours sitting down, split between watching television, driving a car and working at a desk. Other studies have linked excessive sitting to health problems, including an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and several types of cancers.
Spending the workday at an elevated standing desk is not the only solution to these potential problems, of course. Even taking a five-minute standing break every hour is better than sitting all day. But if you want to give a stand-up work day a try without replacing your current desk, consider the $350 Kangaroo Pro Junior, an adjustable platform that sits on any desktop and quickly converts it from standing to sitting and back again.
The Kangaroo Junior consists of an adjustable 24-by-18-inch platform that serves as the base for a keyboard and mouse (or laptop). A second, smaller platform mounted on an adjustable arm supports a monitor at eye level. Once the two platforms are adjusted to the proper height, a stabilization leg wedges in between them for added support. The Junior requires no clamps to anchor itself to the desk, making it easy to clear work space for a sit-down.
The Kangaroo comes in a few variations with different sizes of work space platforms, but we like the nicely priced Junior model, which should provide plenty of space for most users without adding too much bulk.
BEST HAND-HELD VACUUM
Pro: High powered; great suction
Con: A bit heavy
Best for: Spot cleaning and pet hair
Retail price: $50
When shopping for a high-quality hand-held vacuum, you should enter the store with a long checklist of deal-breaker features. If a hand-held is too heavy (over five pounds), requires a cord or has a battery life of less than
10 minutes, your frustration when
it dies mid-cleanup will outweigh its convenience. A bagless model with at least 10 ounces of dirt storage is also must, and the chamber should be easily emptied over a garbage can when finished. You’ll want a fast recharge time — less than 10 hours is ideal.
Dyson’s popular line of hand-helds satisfies all of these requirements, but at a great cost: Their cheapest current model is $200. That’s why we recommend the Black & Decker 18V Pivot, a vacuum with a great feature set that’s a tremendous value at $50.
The Pivot’s power is its biggest asset. It runs at 35 air watts. For comparison, the $400 Dyson DC44 runs at just 28 air watts (but goes up to 65 in “power” mode). All that suction means the Pivot will work not only for light jobs like crumbs or dust on flat surfaces, but on tougher messes embedded in carpets, furniture fabric and car floorboards.
Pro: Easy to clean, versatile
Con: Takes up counter space; not ideal for hard-root veggies
Best for: High-quality green juice from leafy greens; capable with all other things
Retail price: $230
While opinions can differ on exactly how good vegetable juice is for your health, most nutritionists agree that it’s a fast and convenient way to consume and digest the vitamins and nutrients in fresh leafy greens and vegetables without all the fiber in the pulp. Having a juicer on your counter can make getting your daily equivalent of vegetables as quick and simple as downing a beer. It’s not as much fun, but perhaps it’s preferable to eating three giant salads every day.
In a home juicer, you have lots of options. We recommend the $230 Omega 8003 for anyone looking to add more green vegetable juice to their daily routine.
There are two main types of juicers intended for home use, and each has its strengths and weaknesses. One kind uses an augur — essentially a screw that forces produce tightly into a small chamber — to extract juice. The other employs a high-speed blender-like mechanism to squeeze juice from produce with the help of centrifugal force. While augur-based juicers like the Omega 8003 are a little slower and not as good at juicing hard fruits and vegetables like carrots and apples, the experts we consulted praised them for introducing less spoilage-quickening oxygen into the juice. Many also said augur-based models produce better-tasting juice, and extract the most usable liquid from healthy leafy greens like kale. The Omega is also quiet, easy to clean and versatile: It can process wheat grass as well as extrude pasta, nut butters and baby food — features most other juicers in this price range can’t offer. Add to that a 10-year warranty, and the Omega 8003 becomes a great value for daily home juicing.