biOrb AIR LED Terrarium

From the moment we play with a dollhouse as children, humans have a fascination with manipulating representations of life in miniature. Perhaps it’s some God-like desire for control of the universe. Or perhaps we’re overthinking the enchantment of this range of interactive micro-environments from Germany.

BiOrb is the worlds-in-a-bowl division of Oase, which started out in 1949 as a repair shop for agricultural machines and has grown into a global name in the “creative water industry”—meaning ponds, fountains, waterfalls, lakes, and other water features for gardens, terraces, and balconies.

For indoor-nature-lovers, BiOrb makes aquariums and terrariums from a high-end acrylic that the company says is 10 times stronger and 23 percent clearer than glass, as well as better insulated. Starting at $99, sometimes discounted by third-party retailers, they are exceptionally beautiful and come in a variety of stylish shapes and sizes, from reimaginings of the traditional goldfish bowl to modernist cubes.

Also coming to the U.S. this fall: a new range of BiOrb Earth vivariums, costing close to $2,000 each, in which you can go full Truman Show and create a complete eco-system for reptiles or amphibians and the plant life of your choosing by downloading the BiOrb app to select the type of climate you need based on the species of animal you have. The vivarium then creates the most authentic natural environment, replicating everything from sunlight and rainfall to temperature spots and even jungle sounds. Vivariums are fascinating but also quite a responsibility. The BiOrb aquariums likewise need considered attention.

That’s why our choice from the extensive range would be the $432 BiOrb Air LED Terrarium, which, like the vivariums and aquariums, has a number of tropical-climate features to deploy but without the danger of inadvertently harming a living creature should your Zeus-like powers go awry.

While the coming vivariums are app-controlled, and some of the BiOrb aquariums have a remote control, the terrariums automatically manage lighting, humidity, watering, and air circulation based on options you enter using buttons. The onboard tech on the terrariums includes a clean-air system, a misting unit, and L.E.D. lighting to simulate sunrise, daylight, sunset, and nighttime.

BiOrb has a line of naturalistic tank ornaments designed by Samuel Baker, a British artist specializing in such things, but you can equally install your own found or purchased features.

As for plants, fish, animals, and suitable foods, BiOrb recommends getting to know local pet and fish stores, but tropical plants can be bought either from stores and nurseries, which often have terrarium-specific plants, or online. BiOrb especially recommends Steve’s Leaves (search “terrarium” on the site) and Glass Box Tropicals.

Roku’s new streaming stick gives new meaning to “remote control,” allowing you to bring your favorite shows with you when you travel. (Roku Streaming Stick 4K+, $70)


In these days of TV-streaming systems that know you personally, that have all your passwords stored, and that know exactly where you’re up to on your Netflix viewing, hotel TVs are a big downer.

Nobody in the world has ever wanted to watch that fascinating video about the hotel chain, and if you’re unlucky, you’ll find that the last guest somehow locked the TV into a Japanese network you can’t exit without calling the front desk and having someone come up, with requisite tip you can’t pay because you don’t have any cash.

A big welcome, then, to the Roku Streaming Stick 4K+—their latest H.D., Dolby Vision, and Voice Remote Pro version—which, along with the prodigious abilities of any Roku player, has the capacity to work from hotel Wi-Fi. Just plug it into the room TV’s HDMI socket, follow the well-written on-screen instructions, and in no time you’re watching the same stuff as at home.

Roku also markets the 4K+ to students because it works equally well with university-dorm Wi-Fi.

One possible drawback: you do need a Roku subscription. Another: remembering to travel with the Roku remote that comes with the stick seems a little retrogressive. It would be great if it could be controlled with a phone app.

OneAdaptr’s namesake product puts an end to vying for outlet access on the road. (OneWorld 65, $69)


We would venture that this just-launched power adapter from Hong Kong’s OneAdaptr is both the dullest and the most useful travel gadget you will ever buy.

It’s a highly uninteresting-looking, three-by-two-by-three-inch, six-ounce plastic block, but claims to be the most powerful all-in-one international adapter on the market. We certainly don’t know of anything else quite like it. Sturdy plugs for outlets in more than 200 countries slide out of it with ease. The only power outlets in the world it can’t work with are the old British-style round-pin sockets still sometimes seen in India and South Africa.

The cleverest thing about the OneWorld 65 is that you can plug a MacBook, iPad, and iPhone directly into it, with no need for the bulky white power bricks so many of us routinely forget to pack for trips.

This super-adapter will also power the majority of P.C. laptops, but most of these have their own power brick, so they need to be plugged into the OneWorld 65’s universal outlet—less neat.

The OneWorld 65 can power and fast-charge up to six devices simultaneously, at the correct voltage, and has both a fuse in case it’s overloaded and a thermal cutout in case it overheats, although, as it can handle 10 amps, that’s unlikely.

Plug it into one outlet and you’ll have at your disposal a universal power socket, three USB-C outlets, and two regular USB. Just don’t forget the cables.

Grado Labs’ headphones, though not the most handsome, have the irresistible sound quality of a siren song. (Grado Prestige SR325x, $295)

Grado Prestige SR325x

Over-ear headphones, if you think about it, look slightly ridiculous, like something from a Victorian illustration depicting how people will look in the 20th century.

Which is why headphone designers try to make them as slick and unnoticeable as possible. In many cases, they even sort of get away with it.

Not so Grado Labs, which hand-builds headphones in the Sicilian-American family business’s former fruit store, in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Grado headphones look almost defiantly homemade. You wouldn’t wear them on a plane, partly because sound insulation is not their thing but mostly because to anyone other than a hi-fi aficionado, they look like you made them yourself in your basement.

The fittings (apart from the quite-nice leather headband) on this, Grado’s latest, are cheap plastic, and the cable a thick, awkward, tangly, fabric-covered snake of a thing. Wireless? Forget it. And the ear cups—thin, squishy foam. The box is poor. Even the typography on the headphones themselves is just … bad.

And yet. The Grado Prestige SR325x sound like a dream. They are simply gorgeous. They are super-light, considerably more comfortable than they look, and deliver a wonderfully rich, natural, and balanced sound for rock, jazz, or classical music.

Even when you’re playing from a digital source via a smartphone, the sound will remind you of listening to a great turntable and really high-quality vacuum-tube amplifier of 50 years ago. It’s addictive.

There’s also the price, which for an American-made product of serious audiophile quality is very reasonable indeed at $295. If you prefer, however, they have an identical new model, the SR80x, for just $125. This pair also sounds pretty good—a little less refined and more restrained bass—for the incredible value.

If you’re listening to these wired Grado headphones on a phone, you’ll need one of those awkward dongles to turn a USB-S or Apple Lightning outlet into a 3.5-mm. socket.

Another, arguably less cumbersome way of doing it is to buy the credit card–size Khadas Tea Bluetooth amplifier we featured here in February. Keep that in a back pocket with the Grados plugged into it, and the amp will connect wirelessly to your phone or computer.

Based in London and New York, AIR MAIL’s tech columnist, Jonathan Margolis, spent more than two decades as a technology writer for the Financial Times. He is also the author of A Brief History of Tomorrow, a book on the history of futurology