Does your sous vide gear really need WiFi?

If you spend a considerable amount of time reading J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s writings on better cooking through science, you’ll come across his sous vide steak guide. I’ve read what Lopez-Alt and others have to say about the culinary method for preparing a slab of beef, or, more specifically, that cooking a thick steak in a low-temperature water bath before searing produces stellar results. But that process can take a couple of hours for a thicker ribeye or New York strip. Also, keeping watch for that long sounds like an awful way to spend an evening.

That’s where Nomiku’s WiFi sous vide comes in. Thanks to wireless connectivity, you can keep tabs on dinner via a companion app for Android and iOS. At a time when seemingly all of our household devices are connected to the internet, is WiFi essential to the sous vide experience? The $ 199 Nomiku makes a compelling case.

When you’re first starting out with a new gadget, it’s helpful to read the directions. But even if you’re the type who hates to do that, as I am, Nomiku’s WiFi sous vide is still relatively easy to figure out. The device itself is controlled by a rotating dial around the touchscreen display. While you can use your phone to set the cooking temperature and time, you’ll need to interact with the device itself for some setup — mainly connecting to your home WiFi network. From there, entering the temperature and time is straightforward, even if you don’t glance at that step-by-step list.

At that point, you can still manually dial the settings on the device each time you want to cook. Nomiku’s WiFi model clips on the front of your sous vide container or pot rather than attaching to the backside like the Classic option (which doesn’t have WIFi capabilities). This means you’re not reaching across somewhat hot water to make adjustments, if you need to do so. The WiFi model is noticeably larger, so you’ll want to make sure you have a cooking vessel that will accommodate both the device and whatever you’re cooking.

This is 2016, though, and you use your phone to do nearly everything. That includes monitoring your precious steaks while they cook slowly in a warm bath. The Nomiku Tender app is where I spent most of my time in my own tests. I found that I could enter temperatures and cooking times much faster than when I had to rotate the physical dial and tap the display. What’s more, I didn’t have to stand in front of the gadget to do so, provided I’d already filled the cooking container with water and put the Nomiku in place.

Before I get into the finer points of the app, let’s chat about the difference between the Android and iOS versions. I have a Moto X, so naturally I tried the Android offering first. I found that it was a pain to use; even connecting to the Nomiku felt like a chore. My wife has an iPhone 6s, though, so it was easy for me to make the jump to the iOS version. Tender offers a better experience for the iPhone in both design and usability, but a Nomiku spokesperson told me the company is working to get the Android version on par with its iOS counterpart.

Once you set the water temperature, it takes a few minutes for the Nomiku to heat it to the desired level. I’ve been told a watched pot never boils, so I’d assume the same applies to a sous vide. Thankfully, I didn’t have to find out: The Tender app will notify you when your cooking setup is almost ready for action. I found that by the time I received the alert and placed my seasoned steaks in a bag with some fresh rosemary, the Nomiku had heated the water to the correct temperature.

From there, cooking is as easy as dropping the goods into the water and setting the timer. The Nomiku displays the temperature and time info on the built-in display as well as inside the Tender app, so if you leave your phone on the deck when you grab another beer, you can glance over at the device for an update while you’re in the kitchen. The first two times I used the device, the iOS app blew up with alerts that the temperature had dropped about eight minutes from the end of the cooking time. After speaking with Nomiku about the problem, it turned out that I had a defective unit that was lowering the temperature before it should have. The company quickly sent me a replacement, though, and I’m happy to report that I haven’t experienced the same issue since.

While the Tender app is great for controlling the Nomiku remotely, it also serves as your recipe box, with a library of dishes collected from other users. Looking for something besides steaks, I used one of the recipes for some slow-boiled eggs. Perhaps more importantly, you can save your own settings in the app so that you don’t have to remember them in the future. This is particularly useful when cooking steaks once you find the perfect cooking time. With both recipes from others and your own saved items, tapping on the food and selecting “Start cooking” will wake up the Nomiku and set it to the correct temperature before you even get up from the sofa.

When the cooking time is nearly up, the Tender app will send a notification to your phone. In the case of my steaks, that was my cue to fire up the grill so I could get a nice sear on the outside. Sure, you could eat the meat immediately, but it wouldn’t be nearly as appetizing or look as good as it does after you use a grill or cast-iron skillet to put a crust on it. Once you’re finished cooking, simply dump the water and let the Nomiku air-dry. The bottom is also removable for easy cleaning.


Yes, I know I didn’t let it rest. Maybe next time.

Aside from the temperature issue with the first unit I tested, I found the Nomiku easy to use, especially after I saved my recipes. I would suggest investing another $ 50 to $ 60 in a vacuum sealer if you’re going to get serious about sous vide, but for steaks, sealing ziplock bags with the displacement method worked fine. Speaking of price, I already mentioned that the new WiFi model will set you back $ 199. That’s the same price as Anova’s WiFi-equipped model, which also works in tandem with a mobile app. The Nomiku is typically $ 249, though, and there’s no indication of how long the current discounted price will stay in effect.

If you’d rather babysit a device the old-fashioned way, there are a number of sous vide options that don’t offer WiFi connectivity. The Nomiku Classic is also priced at $ 199 while the Anova version costs $ 179 and includes Bluetooth. There are a truckload of other options with a range of features. I used the WiFi Nomiku for steaks and slow-cooked eggs, but you can use a sous vide for fish, chicken and lots of other things. In fact, that’s where the Tender app is probably the most useful: giving rookies a starting point and inspiring experienced cooks to try something new.

At $ 199, this gadget is an investment, but I don’t think I’ve eaten a steak that was more tender than the one I slow-cooked in a hot water bath for over an hour and seared on a charcoal grill. It was a perfect medium pink from edge to edge. Sous vide makes it easy to cook a thick New York strip evenly, and, thanks to Nomiku’s connectivity, I didn’t have to constantly walk into the kitchen for a status update.

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The Gear Fit 2 is Samsung’s best wearable yet

Samsung has made plenty of wearables over the years, but few were as immediately impressive as the Gear Fit. Its curved screen and relatively slim design almost made us forget the company’s early, clunky Gear smartwatches. Now with the $ 179 Gear Fit 2, Samsung has refined its original design to make it a lot more useful for athletes. It has built-in GPS, a slightly larger screen and smarter activity tracking. It’s Samsung’s best fitness wearable yet, but it’s still a tough sell compared to competing devices from the likes of Fitbit.

Review: Samsung Gear Fit 2

Hardware

The Gear Fit 2 is an evolution of the original Fit’s design in all of the right ways. Its 1.58-inch curved touchscreen display is now flush with the band so that it no longer sticks out awkwardly. It reminds me of Microsoft’s Band 2, which also benefited from having a curved display sitting right alongside the wristband. The screen is also slightly wider now, which makes it more useful for actually reading information, and there’s less of a bezel around the sides so it’s almost like an edge-to-edge display.

Beyond that screen, the Gear Fit 2 looks restrained. The top half of the device is made from some fetching-looking metal while the bottom is more of a subdued plastic. There are only two buttons on the side of the device, which serve as home and power buttons. On the bottom there’s a heart rate sensor and two small connectors for its charging stand. The relatively minimalist design is a stark cry from the overly complex wearables we used to see from Samsung.

For the wristband, it looks like Samsung is using the same plastic material from the last model, which remains flexible yet sturdy without feeling too stiff. You can disconnect the wristbands easily from the sides of the device, which will be useful if you ever feel the need for a new look down the line.

Under the hood, the Gear Fit 2 now runs a dual-core 1GHz Exynos 3250 processor and 512MB of RAM. (As someone who remembers being very excited when I got 512MB of RAM on a desktop, I find that latter stat hard to fathom.) Both of those specs are significant upgrades from the first Fit, which had a measly 160MHz processor and 8MB of RAM. It’s no wonder we found the original to be underpowered. There’s also GPS onboard the Fit 2, along with 4GB of storage for music and a barometer sensor for stair-tracking.

Software

Samsung is using its homegrown Tizen OS to power the Gear Fit 2, something it also uses in TVs and other wearables like the Galaxy Gear 2. And instead of being tied to Samsung’s phones, the Fit 2 is now compatible with any Android phone running 4.4 or above. There’s no word about iOS support yet, though. (Is it even worth the effort?)

Thanks to Tizen, the Fit 2 is much more capable than its predecessor. You’ve got multiple watch faces to choose from (and more can be downloaded through the Gear app), some of which will show fitness stats alongside the time. You can also customize the screens you see as you swipe through the Fit’s interface. I have it set up to show the number calories I’ve burned, the number of steps and stairs I’ve taken, and my heart rate. Naturally, there’s also a screen for quickly logging a workout.

The Fit 2 supports 15 different workout types, including common things like running and cycling, and more specific activities like yoga and pilates. It’s now smart enough to automatically detect five different types of workouts, something competing health trackers from Fitbit and Jawbone have been able to do for years.

Thanks to its onboard storage (and vastly more functional OS), the Gear Fit 2 can also send locally stored music right to your wireless headphones. It can also control music stored on your phone, and it can tap into Spotify through your phone as well. Basically, if you prefer to run completely unencumbered, or with your phone, the Fit 2 has you covered.

To control the Gear Fit 2, you’ll have to rely on Samsung’s Gear app for Android. And to track your workouts, there’s Samsung’s S Health app. More on those in a moment.

In use

In day-to-day use, the Gear Fit 2 felt just as comfortable to wear as the Apple Watch Sport and Jawbone’s Up24 (which are among my favorite wearables). It sits well on your wrist; most of the time you’ll forget it’s even there. I’d still like to see Samsung make it even thinner, so that it doesn’t rise above your wrist as much, but the Fit 2 is nonetheless on par with competing wearables in terms of thickness.

I also had no problem putting it on — and keeping it stable — throughout the day. The Fit 2 has a simple clasp design that makes it easy to slip on while you’re on the go. That’s a good thing, because I’ve fought with plenty of wearables (especially from Fitbit) that are simply a chore to secure. And even though it’s easy to wear, I also had no trouble with the Fit 2 falling off (which was a killer issue with the Jawbone Up3).

When it comes to tracking basic things like your steps and stairs climbed, the Gear Fit 2 seemed just as accurate as most other modern wearables. Its heart-rate tracking was also solid, delivering readings in line with what I’ve been seeing from the Apple Watch and recent Fitbit gear. But really, if you’re buying this you’re probably more interested in its GPS tracking, and in that regard it didn’t disappoint. It accurately mapped several of my runs through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park (I have a two-mile stretch that I cover regularly). It was also on par with RunKeeper’s location tracking, which I normally use on my iPhone during workouts.

Setting up a manual workout takes a lot of swiping and menu pressing if you’re moving between a variety of exercise types. But if you mainly do the same sort of workout, it’s pretty easy to just get up and go. The Fit 2’s touchscreen response is fast for such a small wearable, but even so, it’s not something you’d want to deal with much in the middle of an intense session.

The Fit 2 also surprised me several times by accurately tracking how long I walked during my work commute. That’s something other wearables have been doing for a while, but it’s still a useful addition for Samsung fans. It’s also the sort of thing wearables will have to get smarter about moving forward, so hopefully Samsung will be able to add automatic tracking support for more than just five workout types.

While you can view some basic post-workout details on the Gear Fit 2, you’ll have to turn to Samsung’s S Health app for a more detailed view. It’s a fairly clean-looking app: The home screen highlights your most recent workouts, heart-rate readings and steps. Tapping into a workout lays out everything you’ve done that day, and you can also step backward to previous days pretty easily. Despite its minimalist look, I still had some trouble navigating around S Health. And it wasn’t always obvious how to access more detailed information about workouts. But perhaps I’ve just been spoiled by better health apps from Fitbit and Jawbone.

As a smartwatch-like device, the Gear Fit 2 fares well. It can display notifications from your phone, and even though it has a tiny screen, there’s enough room to read short text messages and tweets. It’s not a screen where you’d ever want to read long emails, but that’s true of dedicated smartwatches too. You can also have the Fit 2 open up apps on your phone from its notifications, which helped me quickly reply to Hangout messages and texts on several occasions.

Samsung claims the Gear Fit 2 gets around three to four days of battery life from its 200mAh battery. In my testing, which involved constantly wearing it throughout the day and doing a few runs, it usually lasted around two and a half days before needing a trip to the outlet. Speaking of recharging, I was pleased to find that Samsung moved towards a larger charging cradle for the Fit 2. That may sound paradoxical, but the original Fit’s cradle was so small that I ended up losing it pretty quickly. This new version is better suited to staying in one place on your desk.

The competition

The Fitbit Surge.

Since it’s a GPS-enabled fitness wearable, the Gear Fit 2 is best compared to the likes of the Fitbit Surge ($ 229) and the Microsoft Band 2 ($ 175). Aesthetically, it has a lot more in common with the Band 2, but if you can get past its looks, the Fitbit Surge is probably a better buy for fitness junkies. Fitbit has a much more robust fitness platform, as well as better integration with third-party services. As with all wearables, aesthetics play a big part in the purchasing decision, though, so it’s understandable if you’d rather have a better-looking tracker instead of a more functional one.

Wrap-up

With the Gear Fit 2, Samsung has succeeded in making a capable and stylish fitness tracker. But it also doesn’t do anything significantly better or differently than the competition. It feels like a fitness tracker meant for people who really want something to match their Samsung phones, rather than something every consumer would desire. It’s ultimately unremarkable, but that’s mainly because there are so many decent alternatives out there.

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