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Battery-Powered Beauty

For me, product design is about usability, of course, but it’s also about appearance. Yes, I buy things for how they look, and I do it without any shame. I’ll spend twice/thrice the price of mass-marketed beer for a craft double IPA if you name it inventively and put it in a pretty can, provided it also tastes good. It’s just how I’m wired, and I make no apologies for it. Utility comes first, or flavor as the case may be, but beauty in product design matters too.

HOTO makes tools—electric drills and screwdrivers, utility lights, a rotary tool kit à la Dremel, and so on. They even make a set of hand tools, no electricity required. Everything they make is ostensibly useful, but what distinguishes this brand from Home Depot fare is the design. They look nice. You might not even bother to put them away when you’re done using them. A spot on your TV console or a bookshelf and they'd not be out of place. For someone like me, who spends an inordinate amount of time fetching tools from the basement (because there’s always something to fix), not having to put them back again is a real selling point.

I can’t attest to the quality of these tools, and this should not be construed as a product review. There are plenty of other places if you’re looking for unboxing videos and star ratings. Moreover, I only own one HOTO product, and it’s a bit of an oddball in their catalog. The HOTO Tire Inflator (aka AIR PUMP/AIR COMPRESSOR) is a product I would have had tremendous use for in my years of near-daily long-distance bike commutes. If you’re a cyclist, you know that no matter what you do, flats happen. This device would have eased the pain of getting rolling again after replacing a punctured tube. These days, it’s going to save me trips to the gas station to put air in the tires whenever the weather changes, or filling up deflated bike tires in the spring.

The first thing you notice about the HOTO air pump is its reassuring heft and satisfyingly minimal set of controls. Next, you may see the reflection of your face on its very shiny surface. I don’t know how long it will take to become scratched and dull, but presently it looks beautiful. The HOTO is not going to fit into a jersey pocket like the hand pump pictured next to it. And at almost a pound and a half (0.62kg), weight weenies need not bother. But for those instances where a backpack or a pannier bag is a part of your ride, it’ll do just fine and save you a sketchy ride on a half-inflated tire. The HOTO maxes out at an impressive 150psi, whereas with the hand pump, my arm would have given out before I hit 80. Someday, I may have a bike commute again, but until then, I’ll top off the air pressure on my road bike or my old Prius, and keep it perched on a living room shelf.

All photos copyright 2022 Kirk Samuelson


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