GHD Unplugged review

One-minute review

Since as far back as 2001, when GHD launched its original ceramic-plated hair straighteners in UK salons, the brand has been at the forefront of hair technology and trends. While many of us were still scalding our foreheads with steam-powered straighteners, or even using clothing irons to get rid of kinks and curls, GHD became pioneers of the flat-iron styler movement. 

Two decades later, and dozens of standard and limited-edition straighteners later, GHD had appeared to be moving away from the products it was best known for, instead concentrating recently on expanding its range of some of the best hair dryers, hot brush and curling tong ranges. That was until it came out swinging with the launch of the GHD Unplugged. 

Not only does the Unplugged show GHD is still very much committed to its straighteners range, it also signals a significant move into an entirely new market – the market of cordless stylers. 

As its name suggests, the GHD Unplugged can be used on-the-go and is the first styler in the entire GHD collection, past and present, that runs on battery power. It’s the latest of six flat irons in the GHD range – the others being 2018’s GHD Platinum Plus, the recently re-released 2021 GHD Max, 2011’s GHD Mini and GHD Gold, and the 2007 GHD Original IV. It’s also the smallest, and most expensive of the lot. 

The Unplugged has been designed to perfectly fit into a handbag, offering a way to quickly and easily smooth hair if you get caught in the rain, or to upgrade your style from day to evening should you find yourself on an impromptu date, or night out after work. This compact design, as well as its flight-friendly battery and the fact it charges via standard USB-C, also lend itself very well to weekends away or overseas travel.

GHD Unplugged price and availability

  • List price: $299/ £299 / AU$475

The GHD Unplugged is priced at $299/ £299 / AU$475 and is currently available in either black or white directly from GHD’s official website in all three regions. In the UK, it’s additionally available from beauty retailer Complexions.co.uk. We’d expect it to soon become available at existing GHD stockists including Amazon, Lookfantastic, and Cult Beauty now it’s on sale, as has been the case with previous releases.  

The price you pay for getting GHD-quality styling on-the-go puts the Unplugged at the top end of GHD’s range, coming in at $49 / £110 / AU$120  more than GHD’s flagship Platinum Plus and three times the price of its entry-level GHD Original IV in the UK, and twice the price in Australia. The GHD Original IV isn’t available in the US . 

This is despite the on-board technology sitting midway between the two. Outside of GHD, it’s  $200 / £100 / AU$225  cheaper than Dyson’s Corrale – a much larger, more powerful cordless rival. 

GHD Unplugged on a dressing table

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Design

  • Small and compact
  • One temperature setting 
  • Battery level indicator light 

The majority of cordless straighteners, by their very nature of being portable, are designed to be small enough and light enough to fit easily in a handbag. GHD Unplugged takes this a step further.  It’s incredibly compact and much smaller than even the photos would suggest coming in at  8.7 inches / 22cm long and weighing 10.5 oz / 300g. 

We thought this compact size would make it difficult or fiddly to use but GHD appears to have achieved a delicate balance between making the cordless straighteners big enough to use but small enough to pack in your handbag or similar. 

Whereas previous GHD straighteners, as well as the majority of flat irons from rival brands, are long, thin and rectangular in shape, the Unplugged has a tapered design. At one end, the plate end, the GHD is a mere 1 inch / 2.5cm wide and this extends to 1.6 inches / 4cm wide on the end where you hold the straighteners. The plates themselves are narrow at 0.8 inches / 2cm wide, and this means they sit between the 0.5 inch / 1.27cm wide plates seen on the GHD Mini and the 1 inch / 2.5cm plates on the Platinum Plus. We reviewed the black model and it has the same smooth plastic finish and elegant design seen on the Platinum Plus. Even the metal details on the hinge are almost identical. 

The GHD Unplugged being held vertically against a coral background

(Image credit: TechRadar)

On the top of the styler is a large – almost oversized –  power switch that is surrounded by an LED which glows a soft white when the styler is in use. When you first plug it in, this light flashes and the Unplugged emits a gentle beep to let you know it’s ready. After switching this button on, the Unplugged emits a longer beep and the light comes on and pluses intermittently to show that the plates are heating up. 45 seconds later, this light stops pulsing and the straighteners emit a short sequence of musical beeps to let you know they’re reached their 365 degree F / 185 degree C temperature setting and the styler is ready to use.

Below this switch is what GHD refers to as the ‘smart battery level indicator’ strip. This thin row of lights gives you a visual indication of how much battery is remaining and each bar of light represents around 20% of the charge.

And at the end of the straighteners is the USB-C charging point, fitted discreetly inside the top of the curved hinge. This position is great because it’s both out of the way, and it’s where you’d expect a cable to be so you know exactly where to plug the charger in. It also allows you to more easily use it while it’s charging. In the box you get a USB-C charger and plug as well as a protective case, too.

If you don’t use the styler for three minutes, it will automatically shut off to preserve battery life. Regular GHDs turn off after 30 minutes of inactivity, by comparison.

The GHD Unplugged on a dressing table

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Performance

  • Surprisingly powerful for such a small appliance
  • Cord-free design makes complex styles easier
  • Hair can get caught in the hinge

 We have short to mid-length, fine hair, and the GHD Unplugged handled a range of styles and finishes with ease. Throughout our testing, we switched out all of our current tongs, wands and stylers and used the Unplugged exclusively.  Some mornings we used it to create smooth, straight styles. On other mornings we used it to curl, or add S-bend waves to our hair. We also used it on a journey back from London after getting sweaty running for the train. Proving how easy it is to use, on that train journey we fixed our style without the need for a mirror; running it through our hair almost as easily as we would a hairbrush. 

This is, in part, because the temperature of the Unplugged – and all GHD stylers for that matter – has been designed to maximize the styling power while minimizing the amount of times you need to run the plates over your hair. According to GHD, using a styling appliance above 365 degrees F / 185 degrees C will create cracks in the hair’s cuticle that can result in tangles and splits. While styling below this temperature will often take many passes of the tool to achieve a good result, which dries out the hair,  causing split ends. 

The Unplugged’s ease of use and styling ability also comes from the precision of its small plates and the freedom that comes when you don’t have to contend with cables. We’re far from hair styling experts. We struggle with curling our hair with flat irons, and waves are usually impossible or uneven. The Unplugged changed all this; its small design meant we felt more in control than we usually would and we could move the styler and our arms freely, without getting tangled up. 

If we were being picky, there were a few issues we encountered with the Unplugged. Technology-wise, the GHD Unplugged sits at the mid-way point of the rest of the GHD range – adopting the dual-zone plate technology seen on the GHD Gold. This technology uses two sensors, one in each plate, to regulate their respective temperatures and keep them both at 365 degrees F / 185 degrees C and it’s more than adequate enough. Yet, it’s not the most advanced, premium GHD sensor technology; that’s found on the GHD Platinum Plus with its ultra-zone technology, and this is a tad galling given the GHD Unplugged’s premium price. 

Elsewhere, having gotten used to the closed wishbone hinge on the Platinum Plus – a feature that was designed to prevent your hair getting trapped – we would often catch our hair in the Unplugged when the spring hinge opened as we pulled it away from our head. Then there were times we would accidentally knock the power switch. We often had to reposition our hands to prevent this from happening. 

Plus, and we’re aware this is an incredibly picky point, but waiting an extra 15 seconds for the Unplugged to heat up – 45 seconds versus the 30-second heat-up time on all other GHD products – was noticeable. 

And all of that is before we even factor in just how expensive it is. 

Close up of the GHD Unplugged power button

Image Credit: Future / Vicky Woollaston (Image credit: TechRadar)

Battery life

  • Battery lasts up to 20 minutes between charges
  • Takes around two hours to fully recharge
  • Battery can be recharged with a USB-C cable

The GHD Unplugged has a 20-minute run-time, which on paper seems measly. Especially when you consider it takes two hours to get the Unplugged’s battery back up to full charge, and when the industry standard is 30 minutes. However, in reality 20 minutes was more than enough for us to use the Unplugged once or twice a day for five days. The addition of the battery level indicator helps you keep on top of this. Following our testing period, we’ve got into the habit of plugging it in overnight, like we would with our phone, so we haven’t once been caught short. 

We should also praise GHD for adding a standard USB-C charging port, as opposed to a proprietary port like that seen on Dyson’s Corrale. Not only does this mean you can use any existing USB-C cables to charge the GHD Unplugged, it also means you can use the Unplugged’s charger to charge any of your existing USB-C devices, such as your smartphone. When you’re travelling, this means you only realistically need to take a single plug and cable for all your portable devices. 

It is possible to use the GHD Unplugged while connected to the mains, however this defeats the point of its cordless design. Plus without the rotating connector seen on other wired models, it can make things a little fiddy and awkward. 

The charging port on the GHD Unplugged

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Should I buy the GHD Unplugged?

Buy it if…

You’re a regular commuter or traveller
Everything from its weight and shape to its ergonomic function, USB-C charging port and flight-friendly battery makes the GHD Unplugged the ideal styler to take with you wherever you go. Whether that’s on your daily commute, on business trips or on weekends away and holidays. 

You want to create a wide range of hair styles
The freedom of movement that comes from the Unplugged’s cord-free design, coupled with its small and precise plates, makes it much easier to create a range of styles from waves and curls to sleek and smooth finishes. Even if you’re not usually adept at such styles. 

You’re a GHD fan
If you’re already a GHD fan, you need the Unplugged in your collection. It combines the styling prowess seen across the rest of the range in a much more compact, convenient design. In fact, even if you’re not a GHD fan, the Unplugged will make a great addition. It’s different enough from almost every other styler we’ve used to complement your current styling tool range, rather than replace any one thing in particular. 

Don’t buy it if…

You’re on a budget
No matter which way you look at it, $299/ £299 / AU$475 is a huge sum to shell out on a hair styler. Especially one that doesn’t come with the most advanced or cutting-edge technology on the market. You can get cordless straighteners that do a not too dissimilar job for half the price, namely the $200 / £148 / $AU$275 Lunata Cordless Iron Plus.  

You have thick, long or natural hair
The narrow plates worked perfectly for our short, fine hair but they will likely fall short when it comes to thick, long or natural hair. The GHD Unplugged will still have its uses, such as taming frizz or tackling thinner sections of hair around your face, for example, but paying such a hefty price tag for these two things is likely going to be a stretch. Plus, even if you do think it could handle your hair,  chances are the relatively low battery life will become an issue as it will take you longer to style. 

You want the most advanced sensor technology
For a product that costs as much as it does, we would have expected the GHD Unplugged to run the most advanced technology. Alas, it does not. It runs older tech which, in of itself, is far from bad technology. It’s still leaps ahead of some of GHD’s rivals, but for a premium price, we want premium technology. 

First reviewed: July 2021

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