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How to get the most from everyday items

Published July 25, 2012 6:42 pm

Advice on pillows, electric toothbrushes and smartphone apps.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

There are plenty of useful items in the marketplace, but the bottom line is that some are just better than others.

Experts from the Good Housekeeping Institute tested a pillow sold on television, electric toothbrushes and some favorite apps, and found out which ones offer consumers the most value.

Total Pillow • Does it really work?

The Pitch • Available for just $20, "The amazing versatile pillow . . . cradles you in comfort!"

The Truth • Reviews from consumers and Jordan Metzl, a sports-medicine specialist at The Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, were mixed. While some testers liked how "soft" and "compact" the pillow was, others commented that it was "too small" and "tricky to twist." One pillow split down the seam, releasing microbeads — a potential choking hazard. Metzl rated the pillow average for neck and lumbar support but below average for aligning the neck and spine.

The Bottom Line • If conventional pillows have let you down, Total Pillow might be worth a try. But it's not as dreamy as the infomercial claims.

Electric toothbrushes

They've been evolving since our last test, in 2008. We brushed up on eight fresh models, from a supermarket steal to a top-of-the-line buy. Here, three that came out sparkling.

Sonic-Style • Philips Sonicare Diamond-Clean ($220). This rechargeable wins the day for its "super-sleek" design, power ("like a pressure washer") and extras, including a second brushhead and a glass that doubles as a charging station. Five quiet modes make for a customized clean.

Rotating • Oral-B Professional Care Smartseries 5000 ($160). The SmartGuide smiley-faced timer earned fans: "It made me brush longer," said one. Users loved the pressure sensor but not the brush's heaviness. The holder stores four brush heads.

Battery-operated • Brushpoint Oscillating Clean Power ($4). At this price, switching from a manual is a no-brainer (although users preferred rechargables). This cheaper option has a strong motor and a design that makes it easy to reach back teeth. Although feature-free, it held a charge the longest.

Smartphone apps

There are more than 500,000 life-improving, money-saving, schedule-organizing smartphone applications, and sorting through them to find the best of the best can feel impossible. We asked you to tell us which apps you love most. From there, we evaluated their features and tried them out against similar programs. Now all you have to do is download.

Weight-loss apps• We found MyFitnessPal (free; android, BlackBerry, iOS, Windows) to be the easiest, most-comprehensive app for recording your calorie intake and daily exercise. With more than a million foods, it has the largest database of any of the ones we've tried. "How to Cook Everything" ($10; iOS) is a terrific, user-friendly cookbook that allows you to easily plan healthy meals. Thumb through it at the grocery store while considering what to do with that beautiful bunch of beets.

Shopping apps • We love Key Ring Reward Cards (free; Android, Blackberry, iOS, Windows) as much as our readers do. When compared with similar apps, we could scan store cards more accurately, making it a snap to take advantage of loyalty programs. Deal-finding apps such as ShopSavvy tend to have limited partners. It's better to look for convenience features, such as picture scan and voice search, within more robust apps. One to try, Google Shopper (free, Android, iOS).