Apple's new AirPods are here and they have been well-received but losing these wireless earbuds is a real concern when you consider the cost to replace and the current back order. James Martin looks at Apple's newest offerings to see if the concern is myth or reality.
A friend who owns a local hi-fi store once brought me into the store’s listening room to hear some of their best audio equipment: A pair of Wilson Sasha loudspeakers ($26,900 for the pair) driven by a Ayre KX-R Twenty preamp ($27,500) and a pair of Ayre MX-R Twenty reference mono block amplifiers ($29,500 for the pair), anchored by a JL Gotham subwoofer ($15,000). While the system’s overall audio performance was stunning, I’ll never forget the sensation I got from the JL Gotham sub: It produced the tightest, deepest, cleanest, and most authoritative bass I’d ever heard.
Ever since that day, I’ve searched for a subwoofer that could offer a similar experience at a far more accessible price. My search is finally over: SVS’ new SB16-Ultra subwoofer delivers what I’ve been looking for at a price of $2000.
Ezviz recently released the second iteration of its indoor home security camera, the Ezviz Mini Plus. At the same time it issued its first outdoor model, the Ezviz Husky ($129).
The Husky is a bullet-style camera, though a slightly more attractive one than you might expect. Most of these types of cameras take their design cues from the CCTV cameras found outside commercial buildings, a look that can give your home the feeling of a high-security compound. The Husky’s smooth surfaces and more compact design make it seem less severe and undoubtedly easier to blend in to the exterior of your house.
The camera has an IP66 rating—it’s dust- and waterproof—and can withstand temperatures from -22 degrees F to 140 degrees F. It sits on a triple-axis mount, which can be securely affixed to the side of your house with a few supplied screws.
Cobra’s packaging barely hints that this dual-channel system is actually the CDR895D Drive HD model. But look for the box with the two cameras (front 1080p/160 degrees, rear 720p/130 degrees) behind the plastic window, and you’ll know you’ve got the right product. This probably is the right product for many users, thanks to its relatively low price and near 360-degree coverage.
The lightweight front camera mounts using a smallish suction cup, while the rear camera uses a semi-permanent adhesive mount. The whole deal is connected via a rather elegant y-cable with inline couplers. Figuring out where to run the wires will be the hardest part of the installation (hint: under the carpet).
Thinkware’s dual-channel F770 is unique for relying on a Wi-Fi connection and an Android or iOS app that’s used for viewing video and advanced settings. There are also Wi-Fi and GPS/power status lights, but feedback (warnings, notifications, etc.) is largely via a friendly voice. For local control when your phone isn’t handy or practical, there are power, record, Wi-Fi, and mic buttons on the unit. Using F770 takes some getting used to, but the combination of methodologies as a whole works extraordinarily well.
Unlike its DriveAssist 50LMT cousin, the single-channel Garmin Dash Cam 35 produced excellent video in all lighting conditions. And its large (for a dash cam) 3-inch display makes it a bit easier to see what’s going on than the 2-inch types used in the Cobra CDR895D and Viofo A119.
Garmin's DriveAssist 50LMT is really a navigation unit with camera thrown in. We’re judging it here it purely on the basis of its dash cam abilities, where it has one surprising limitation. Still, as a total package, it has broader appeal.
As far as ease of use is concerned, the DriveAssist 50LMT is the standout product in the roundup. The large 5-inch, 480x272-pixel touchscreen makes both browsing the interface and configuring the camera a snap. As we’re here for the 1080p/30 fps/90-degree field-of-view camera, we won’t review the navigation features, but they are lifetime, top-notch, and include voice command.
At $100, including the optional $10 GPS mount, the Viofo A119, with its 1440p/60 fps/160-degree camera, is the unqualified bargain of the roundup. It’s also thoughtfully designed, with a camera lens that adjusts both vertically and horizontally. This allows you to mount it (semi-permanent tape is used) anywhere on the windshield and still cover the entire front panorama.
While it’s inexpensive, the A119 sports a boatload of features: time lapse recording for parking surveillance, as well as lane-departure and forward-collision warnings.
The A119 is also easy to use—at least, once you get used to pressing the record (up), mic (down), and hazard buttons (enter) to navigate. Get past that and you find logically laid out menus, and spot-on translations (it’s multi-language), at least the English.
Dash cams are already essential in many countries because of scam artists who try to create accidents so they can sue you. They’ve also proven useful for catching the occasional meteor, as happened in Thailand and in Russia a few years ago.
But while auto cons aren’t as common here, recording your excursions is a reasonable precaution to take—especially if you’re driving professionally.
Few people are as well situated geographically as I am to test dash cams. Within two blocks there are major four- and six-lane thoroughfares, numerous bike lanes, joggers, dog walkers, oblivious ear-budded pedestrians, and a major bus nexus serving both public and private coaches. The opportunities for near-accident are endless.
Apparently, a Brix can change quite a bit in appearance and still remain a Brix. When Gigabyte first launched the line, it was a reference to lookalike versions of Intel’s Next-Unit-of-Computing (NUC) systems: bare-bones machines in the form of 4x4-inch blocks. Then it expanded to encompass teeny-tiny tower versions of said mini-PCs (like the Brix Gaming UHD).
Now the term includes the Gigabyte PC, a 10-liter small-form-factor PC. This “Gaming GT” line of Brix systems sports full desktop-sized CPUs and GPUs, and sells as complete machines with Windows 10 Home installed.
While Android users who have switched from iPhone already lament the loss of the superb Messages app, they’re also giving up another neat feature: the ability to send and receive texts from their Mac. As a recent full-time switcher to Android, keeping track of conversations on my Macbook is one of the main things I’ve missed, and I’ve learned to keep my phone within arm’s reach whenever I’m at my desk.
Android SMS for iChat offers something of a solution. While it’s not quite as polished as Apple’s native syncing with the macOS app (which is actually called Messages rather than iChat now), the service actually does manage to spoof Apple’s system into syncing the messages received on your Android phone. And while there are some bugs and wrinkles that keep it from being a true replica of the iCloud-iPhone experience, it should provide enough home cooking to keep switchers happy.
Intel’s Tuesday rollout of 7th-generation Kaby Lake CPU for desktops has met a dubious fanfare of leaked reviews that dismiss the new chip as one huge Core i Yawn. Kaby Lake seems to offer barely any movement forward and when overclocked, apparently gets to nuclear-fusion levels of heat output.
But it's too early to write off Kaby Lake. There’s a lot more to it that you still need to know.
Linksys bid its time before jumping into the consumer mesh Wi-Fi router market, watching Eero, Luma, Netgear, and Google wade in with new products in 2016. Now, Linksys is making a splash at CES where it debuted its Velop Whole Home Wi-Fi system. We’ve benchmarked the heck out of a three-node system and found it to be one of the best yet. It’s also one of the most expensive, with a single router priced at $200, a two-pack at $350, and a three-pack going for $400 (a substantial discount over buying three singles).
You’ll find benchmarks conducted with Windows PCs further down, but I performed the same tests with a MacBook Pro. (Click here if you’d prefer to read that version.)
Don’t confuse the Kenmore Alfie with the Amazon Dot. Kenmore’s puck-shaped device aims to simplify your shopping experiences, not control your smart home. In that sense, it’s more like an Amazon Dash, except that pushing its button initiates a speech-recognition session that helps you buy any product from virtually any retailer.
Kenmore’s website offers this example of Alfie’s abilities: “Alfie, I’m searching for a drill with a budget of $40. What do you recommend?” goes the query. The response, displayed on the Alfie smartphone app along with a picture of the product is “Hi Mary, I recommend Craftsman 3/8-inch Corded Drill, now for $39.99. Let know if you’d like to order it!”
Home security systems, whether DIY or professionally installed, come in two basic flavors: Professionally monitored systems that can contact emergency responders on your behalf, but that come with contracts and monthly service fees; and self-monitored systems you pay for just once, but that notify only you of an emergency. The Smanos W020 WiFi Alarm System is the latter, but calling it a “system” is a something of a misnomer because it’s really just an alarm. The sensors and accessories needed to trigger it are sold separately.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because it allows you to assemble just the right collection of components for securing your home, versus whatever Smanos might consider to be the average home. And Smanos’ devices are reasonably priced: The W020 itself, for example, costs $100. You can add a motion sensor for $39, door/window sensors for about $28 each, key fob remotes for $25 each, and a security camera for $125.
Saffron’s Drift Light isn’t a smart bulb. Rather, it’s part of a small but growing category of bulbs which aren’t quite dumb.
As with the Philips SceneSwitch, there are no apps in order to install to control the Drift Light. Rather, you set the mode you want by quickly turning the bulb off and on again. Turn it on once and it’s set for “Daylight”—an indefinite, sustained glow that lasts until you switch it off. Turn it off and back on again within two seconds and you’ve got “Midnight,” which dims from full strength to off over the course of 37 minutes. Flip it off and on again within another two seconds and you have “Moonlight,” which dims from full strength to a low, nightlight level over those 37 minutes.
This article was updated on December 30, 2016 to report the end date for DirecTV's promotional pricing.
Don’t rush into DirecTV Now, even if AT&T really wants you to sign up immediately.
DirecTV Now is a streaming video service that offers a big bundle of traditional cable channels, similar to Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue. And for now, the price is unbeatable, with a promotional rate of $35 per month for 100 channels that locks in for as long as you stay subscribed. That offer expires on January 9.
The number of laptop options in 2016 has been wide and varied. Form factors like convertibles and 2-in-1s have become as common as traditional clamshells, and the release of Nvidia’s Pascal GPU architecture may forever change our expectations of gaming laptops. No matter what you’re hunting for, it’s been a great year for anyone buying a new system.
To help you with your decision, we’ve been hard at work evaluating more laptops—our latest reviews include the Lenovo Yoga 910, 2016 HP Spectre x360, Acer Predator 15, Acer Swift 7, and 2016 Surface Book i7. Competition’s been fierce, and so we’ve also got new winners in our Best Ultrabook (2016 Kaby Lake Dell XPS 13), Best Convertible (2016 HP Spectre x360) and Best Gaming Laptop (MSI GT73VR Titan) categories, plus a couple of fresh runners-up, too. And with the launch of Nvidia’s game-changing Pascal GPUs, we’ve even introduced a new category: Best Portable Gaming Laptop.
A Savile Row suit can make anyone look like a million bucks—but only if it’s tailored appropriately. And so it goes for the Neonode AirBar, a surprisingly good peripheral that adds “touch” capability to an ordinary laptop or monitor, provided you buy the correctly sized AirBar.
Neonode’s AirBar certainly sounds like a steal: The slender sensor wand attaches to a laptop screen or standalone monitor, very much like Tobii’s line of eye trackers. Typically, native touch capabilities add about $100 or so to the cost of a new monitor, with no way to retrofit an existing touch-less device. Until now. The AirBar, which began shipping this week, is priced right at just $69. This unique gizmo is also a recipient of the Innovations Award for CES 2017, though it was first announced a year ago.
There's no question about it: The Oppo Digital UDP-203 is the best 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player you can buy. It's not just a high-end video device, it can also play high-resolution audio from SACD and DVD-Audio discs or audio files encoded with nearly any codec you can think of, and it's MSRP is $150 less than our previous high-end top pick, the Panasonic DMP-UB900. It’s the most feature-blessed player we’ve tested, and there are more features to come.
The UDP-203 features a handsome, black brushed-aluminum faceplate with an LCD status display right below the disc tray. A front USB 2.0 port provides easy access for files stored on mass storage devices, including 60 frame-per-second 2160p video. You’ll also find a complete set of transport controls here (play, pause, stop, track forward, and track back) that can also be used to navigate menus.
After the release of this year’s Man O’ War headset, I figured it was only a matter of time before Razer got around to updating its more mass-market design—it came even faster than I expected.
Just in time, too. The Kraken 7.1’s been an also-ran for years now, a chintzy headset backed by underwhelming audio. The 2016 Kraken V2—both the analog Pro variant and especially the USB-powered 7.1 V2—changes that, arriving packed with most of the Man O’ War’s improvements: better audio, a sturdier design, and a more refined look. Sure, it’s just as bulky as ever, but this is the Kraken’s best showing in a long time.
There’s been surprisingly little movement in the budget-friendly end of the headset market these past few years. HyperX released the critically acclaimed Cloud for under $100 in 2014, then followed up with the pretty solid and even cheaper $50 Cloud Stinger this year. You’d think that with HyperX commanding such strong word-of-mouth, other companies might step up their own efforts.
It hasn’t gone that way, though. A lot of fighting has happened around the $100 price, as well as in the wireless headset market, but the Cloud remains the default recommendation more than two years on.
HyperX first made a name for itself back in 2014 with the release of its Cloud headset. Featuring clean audio and an incredible level of comfort for a street price of $80, we’ve been recommending the Cloud ever since. It’s an excellent entry-level headset, with superb craftsmanship that you wouldn’t expect given its low price.
But a new contender has appeared to vie for its position as the top affordable headset—and the surprising part is that this one’s also made by HyperX.
A cheaper Cloud
With a list price of $50, the Cloud Stinger is one of the most budget-friendly gaming headsets you’re liable to find—at least as far as reputable, name-brand companies are concerned. (If you didn’t already know, HyperX is run by Kingston.)
Smart color light bulbs—LED-based bulbs that can be controlled by a smartphone and “tuned” to emit any hue in the rainbow—are no longer a new idea. What is new is how far this technology has come since its advent just a few years ago.
Color LED bulbs aren’t quite a commodity yet, but they are getting close to maturity as far as the market goes. Today’s bulbs are more compact, much brighter, have better color representation, and, for the most part, feature control apps that do more than ever, and are easier to set up. Prices have also come down, with some no-name color-tunable bulbs now available for less than $10 each. (Buyer beware: You get what you pay for.)
Being huge fans of fast USB 3.0 SSDs, it’s a given that we’d like a faster USB 3.1 model such as the G-Technology G-Drive Slim SSD even more. We do. We’re also guessing that Mac users will like the drive—its thin, 0.4-inch profile and aluminum/Space Gray styling make it look very much at home next to any Apple product.
If the smartwatch ever becomes a thing we buy out of necessity and not just curiosity, it’ll be the Gear S3 Frontier that deserves much of the credit.
While Apple and Google command most of the attention in the smartwatch space, it’s actually Samung that has consistently led the way, bringing innovative features and unique touches that push the limits of what we expect from wrist-worn wearables. The journey hasn’t been without its share of missteps—who can forget the original Galaxy Gear’s strap camera—but with each new model, Samsung refines a little more of its vision, taking a slow and steady approach on what is largely an unchartered path.
LIFX has taken its top-notch Wi-Fi color LED smart bulb and added a terrific feature to create the LIFX+: Infrared LEDs that illuminate the surrounding area even when the bulb is turned off (via software, that is). You can’t see this with your naked eye, but it will help your home security camera see in the dark.
“Night vision” cameras—of which there are many on the market—can’t really see in the dark. What they have is a sensor that can detect light in the infrared spectrum, and most models have a small infrared LED on the front to help light up the surrounding when the sun goes down. Infrared light is invisible to our eyes, but it makes a huge difference in what the camera can pick up. The catch is that those infrared LEDs aren’t typically very powerful, which is why nighttime footage from most of these cameras looks fuzzy and muted.
Competition in the small Bluetooth speaker market is incredibly fierce, so any new model must deliver something compelling and special to break through and grab our attention. Soundcast meets that challenge in a major way with its rugged and waterproof VG1. It’s on the expensive side at $150, but it delivers big sound that belies its small proportions
The oblong enclosure measures just 7 inches wide and 2.5 inches thick and is wrapped in a soft-touch rubber material that makes it easy to grip. You can also attach a sturdy shoelace-style lanyard to its left side to make it even easier to carry. A pair of 2-inch full-range aluminum-cone drivers are mounted in the front of the cabinet, and a passive radiator behind those fires surprisingly thick bass out the back.
Canary’s second home security product, the Canary Flex, isn’t as ambitious as its first. It’s a small indoor/outdoor camera with a magnetic mount, and it can operate on either battery or AC power. It has night vision, a passive infrared motion sensor, a three-axis accelerometer, an onboard mic, and a currently non-functional speaker, but it doesn’t have a siren or any of the environmental sensors that are packed into its strictly indoor stablemate. You don’t need to own the original Canary to deploy the Canary Flex, but the Flex is a terrific companion for that device if you do.
The Canary Flex is supremely easy to set up. Once you’ve installed the app on your smartphone, it will link to the camera via Bluetooth LE and then sniff out nearby Wi-Fi networks. Tell it which one to join, provide the network password, and you’re done.
For those upset after hearing Google senior vice president Hiroshi Lockheimer dispel the long-circulated rumors that the two operating systems would one day merge, there may be a sliver of hope that doesn't involve Google.
Lenovo's Yoga Book is a 2-in-1 tablet/laptop hybrid that runs either Windows 10 or Android. It's a unique design, with an even more unique keyboard and software features — at least on the Android version — that try to transform Android as we know it into a legitimate laptop.
For $499, the Yoga Book Android boasts an Intel Atom X5 processor, Android 6.0, 4 GB RAM, 64 GB storage (expandable up to 128GB microSD card), and an 8500mAh battery.
When Apple pulled the headphone jack off the iPhone 7, it also unveiled a new set of wireless earbuds called AirPods, and claimed they were so great, users wouldn’t mind the missing headphone jack. The AirPods didn’t come out for nearly three months after the new iPhone’s release, but now that they’re here, they’ve solved every problem an iPhone 7-using music lover could have, right?
Oh, heavens no. Like so many Apple products before them, the AirPods bring with them as many problems as they solve. With no onboard buttons, the AirPods require users to ask Siri to do everything, from changing a track to adjusting the volume. What’s more, Siri doesn’t have the same abilities in all music apps—an arbitrary restriction set by Apple to steer you toward Apple Music.