All posts in “Tech Desk”

4 Noise-Canceling Headphones That Are on Sale Now

If you’re looking for a solid pair of wireless noise-canceling headphones, but don’t want to fork over MSRP prices – we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find four great deals on some of our favorite noise-canceling headphones by Sony, Bose, Sennheiser and Jabra.

Sony WH-1000XM3

Sony’s flagship noise-canceling headphones typically cost $348, which is what they’re going on Amazon and Sony’s website, however you can get a pretty sweet deal if you shop on eBay. It’s selling new, black or silver models for $270

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

Even though these aren’t Bose’s flagship noise-canceling headphones anymore (that title now belongs to the Headphones 700), the QuietComfort 35 II are excellent and arguably more comfortable and travel-friendly than the above Sony’s. They’re also on sale on eBay.

Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2

The price is a little bit of a misnomer, here. That’s because Sennheiser just released a newer version of this headphone, the Momentum Wireless 3, and is likley trying to phase out these new-year-old models. That said, these are great-sounding noise-canceling headphones with a great industrial design.

Jabra Elite 85h

Jabra’s noise-canceling headphones have been getting rave reviews online. In his review, David Carnoy of CNET wrote that “The Jabra Elite 85h is a good alternative Bose and Sony noise-canceling models for slightly less money, particularly if you value call quality.” And now Amazon is selling these headphones for an extra $50 off.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Is This Still the Perfect Entry-Level Smartwatch?

Last fall, Fitbit released the Fitbit Versa – and I loved it. It was a simple-to-use smartwatch that was slim and bespoke, relatively affordable, an excellent fitness tracker and it had a battery life that lasted nearly a week. It was a great entry-level smartwatch for basically anybody, but especially casual smartwatch wearers, and it worked equally well with both iPhone and Android.

The next generation of that smartwatch, the Versa 2, doesn’t mess too much with last year’s success. It has the same relative look and feel of the original Versa, but Fitbit updated in nearly every way. It has an even simpler design, a better processor, a new OLED display (a welcome improvement over the Versa’s LCD display), and improved sleep tracking. The most “touted” new feature is the addition of Alexa integration, so you can tell the smartwatch to do things like set alarms and control your other compatible smart home devices. Lastly is price: the Versa 2 comes exactly the same as last year’s Versa.

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The Good: The Versa 2 is a better entry-level smartwatch than last year’s Versa, which is something you’d both expect and welcome. The two most important upgrades are that the Versa two now has an always-on display (if you select it) and superior sleep tracking feature, called Sleep Score, which gives you a nice little rating out of 100 – the higher the number, the better your sleep. If you’re fine wearing a smartwatch to bed and you want to track your sleep, the Versa 2 is exactly what you want.

As was true with the Versa, a huge selling point of the Versa 2 is its battery life. If you elect to not have an always-on display (it’s off by default) the Versa 2 can last between five and six days on a single charge; if you have the always-on display, it lasts around three days. Either way, this battery life which is huge, especially when you consider an Apple Watch lasts roughly 18 hours and is not designed to wear while you’re sleeping.

There are two other big reasons to buy a Versa 2. First, it’s solid and intuitive fitness-tracking abilities. It has an always-on heart-rate monitor and can accurately track things like steps and calories. It also, like the Apple Watch, has automatic workout detection, so if you forget to start a walk, run, bike ride or pool workout, the smartwatch won’t skip a beat. And secondly, the Versa 2 is very slim and lightweight, and it’s one of the most comfortable smartwatches that I’ve ever worn.

Who It’s For: The Versa 2 is an entry-level smartwatch designed for anybody who wants a good fitness tracker with some smartwatch-y features (like see call and text notifications, and control music). If you’re somebody who wants to keep track of your sleeping, the Versa 2 is particularly good. It works equally well for iPhone and Android users.

Watch Out For: The new Alexa integration might come as a welcome addition for some, but it really shouldn’t be the main reason to buy this smartwatch. The fact is that most people don’t really need (or want) to talk to Alexa when they’re outside the house. Also, talking to Alexa on the Versa 2 isn’t like talking to Siri on the Apple Watch. For instance, you can’t tell Alexa to send text messages, open certain apps or even play/pause music; all it can do is answer specific queries (“Alexa, what’s the weather?”), set timers and alarms, and control some of your connected smart home gadgets. The other thing is that there’s no speaker, so you won’t be able to hear Alexa and all its answers will just appear on the screen – it’s far from a seamless experience.

As was true with the Versa, the Versa 2 lacks a dedicated GPS, meaning if you want reliable workout data you’ll have to have your smartphone nearby. This is a big bummer for runners. There’s also no LTE model available for the Versa 2.

There’s a new Spotify app that’s available on the Versa 2, which isn’t available on the Versa, but it’s not super helpful. Like with the Apple Watch, the Spotify app on the Versa 2 doesn’t let you download anything (playlists, albums, songs, podcasts) for offline listening. If you’re a Spotify Premium subscriber, only a select few Garmin and Samsung smartwatches do this.

Also, the Versa 2 still comes with a proprietary charger. The annoying thing is that it looks and feels just like the proprietary charger that came with the original Versa, which I didn’t like to begin with, but it’s actually not the same and won’t work with previous Versa smartwatches. I still have and use my Versa, and mixed up the chargers on several occasions, which was obviously frustrating.

Alternatives: Fitbit has a right to feel frustrated after the latest Apple hardware announcements. That’s because, in addition to announcing new high-end Apple Watches, Apple also dramatically reduced the price of its two-year-old smartwatch – you can now buy an Apple Watch Series 3 for $200, which is the exact price of the Fitbit Versa 2. Basically, if you have an iPhone and you want an entry-level smartwatch that works well with it, the Series 3 is probably a better bet.

Verdict: The Versa 2 is a better version of last year’s Versa, which was the best entry-level smartwatch for most people, Android or iPhone owner, who just wanted an easy-to-use smartwatch to track fitness. A year later, the Versa 2’s main problem is that there’s more competition, especially within its $200 price range. The Versa 2’s best qualities are its 6-day battery life, its great fitness and sleep tracking, and it’s super-slim design. If you those things are important to you, then the Versa 2 remains one of the best – if not the best – entry-level smartwatches you can buy. However, the reality is that the Versa 2 will feel more like a glorified fitness tracker than an actual smartwatch, especially if you have an iPhone or Samsung smartphone.

What Others Are Saying:

• “If you’re not wedded to Fitbit’s platform, the Versa 2 is a harder sell when you compare it with other $200 smartwatches, such as the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active and the Apple Watch Series 3, which both have GPS, onboard music storage and contactless payments. One feature that could set the Versa 2 apart is Fitbit’s new subscription service, but it will take a lot to convince me to spend $80 more per year. Still, the Versa 2 is a very good fitness-focused smartwatch that offers plenty of insights into your overall health, subscription or not.” — Mike Prospero, Tom’s Guide

• “Overall, the Versa 2’s fitness tracking features are the best and most comprehensive you’ll find on any smartwatch, even though it doesn’t have a dedicated GPS radio and relies on your phone for GPS tracking.” — Dan Seifert, The Verge

• “If not for its connectivity problems, the Versa 2 would be an excellent smartwatch. It offers accurate, comprehensive fitness features and a nice design for a reasonable price. It’s also one of the longest-lasting smartwatches around, while the Alexa integration makes it more useful than its predecessor. I just wish Fitbit would get its Bluetooth act together already, and give me a better OS.” — Cherlynn Low, Engadget

Key Specs

Display: 300 x 300 pixel touchscreen AMOLED
Water resistance: swimproof; up to 50 meters
Sensors: 3-axis accelerometer, optical heart rate monitor, altimeter, ambient light sensor, vibration motor, NFC
Battery life: up to 6 days; ~3 days with always-on display

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Fitbit provided this product for review.

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Amazon’s Echo Buds Sound Great But There’s a Catch

One of the star products to be announced at Amazon’s big hardware event today was the Echo Buds ($130), the company’s first true wireless earbuds. Not only do they undercut the cost of most true wireless earbuds, including AirPods, by a ton but Amazon revealed that they’ve partnered with Bose to integrate its noise-reduction technology (which is a little different than its noise-canceling technology) into the Echo Buds. And these earbuds cost just $130.

After the event, I was able to get a little hands-on time with Echo Buds and was even able to listen to two songs (“Trampoline by Shaed” and Bruce Springsteen’s “For You”) and here are my initial impressions.

First and foremost, they sound great, especially for $130 earbuds. It was loud with good mids and strong bass. I’ve tested a boatload of true wireless earbuds in the past two-plus years and these are right in the mix with the better ones.

The noise-reduction ability also seems good at first blush, but I’m not ready to say its perfect just yet. I tested the Echo Buds in a crowded room, and while I could barely hear the noise around me, these earbuds fit really snug, and it’s hard to tell which of these two things was primarily responsible for the effect. Still, there’s plenty to be hopeful for here so far. (It’s also worth noting that, to my understanding, noise-reduction technology isn’t as Bose’s full-fledged noise-cancellation technology.)

But there are a couple of catches. The biggest is that the Echo Buds require you to download and use the Alexa app to get the most out of them, which is at best a hassle. You need the Echo Buds setup properly in your Alexa app to enable the noise-reduction technology and the “Hey Alexa” features, and Amazon still has a ways to go in proving that these added Alexa features will actually be useful. If you don’t want to deal with the app, you can use them as standard Bluetooth buds, but you’ll be missing out on the noise-reduction technology.

They also charge with micro-USB, a style of charger that’s rapidly phased out and can’t deliver the kind of quick charge power that USB-C can. But mostly it’s frustrating you won’t be able to charge your earbuds with the same charger you use with a new laptop, Nintendo Switch or Android phone.

Lastly, the plastic Echo Buds do feel a little bit cheap compared to headphones like Master & Dynamic MW07s or Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless. But at the price point, you can’t really complain too much.

All in all, Amazon’s first buds are certainly impressive, and it’s a real surprise that they’ve got a type of Bose’s noise-canceling tech before Bose’s true wireless buds have even come out. But with Bose is gearing up to release the Bose Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700 in early 2020, it seems more that the headphone maker has plenty more in store for its own product, which will no doubt cost a lot more.

The Echo Buds ($130) are available for pre-order right now, for a ship date of October 30th.

The Sonos Move Does It All, For Better and For Worse

The Sonos Move ($399) represents a bunch of “firsts” for Sonos. It’s the company’s first Bluetooth speaker, its first portable speaker and, thus, its first speaker to have a built-in battery (which Sonos had to build from scratch). Unlike all other Sonos speakers before it, the Move is designed to be listened to in, around and outside the home. And if you’re wondering, yes, the Move is weatherproof and drop-resistant, making it Sonos’s first truly rugged speaker, too.

Of course, the Move is still a Sonos speaker and it’s designed to work as such. It can connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network and, via the Sonos app, be grouped with other Sonos speakers in a multi-room system. It’s also a smart speaker, just like the Sonos One, so you can speak to Amazon’s Alexa or Google Assistant and request a song, adjust the volume or ask about the weather.

There are a couple of big questions surrounding the Move. In terms of sound quality, how does it compare to other Sonos speakers? And how should the Move be used? Is it more of a traditional Sonos speaker that, instead of being tethered to the wall, can be carried from room to room? Or is it more a portable Bluetooth speaker, designed to be listened to outside?

The biggest question, at least for me, has to do with the “Sonos experience.” The audio company is so beloved because its speakers sound great and work with almost every music streaming service, but, most importantly, they’re easy enough for anybody to use. So the fact that the Move can be constantly be moved around, switched between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modes – does that negatively impact that Sonos experience?

The Good: The Sonos Move has that “Sonos sound” – it sounds warm, lively and punchy, both inside and outside, just as you’d expect from a Sonos speaker. Sonos specially designed it with a downward-firing tweeter and forward-firing woofer, and the result is that the Move has more of a 360-dree sound than any other speaker. (Fun fact: even though the Play:1 and Sonos One speakers have a dotted grill the wraps sound most of the speaker, both are still forward-firing and not omnidirectional speakers.) In terms of sound quality and power, the Sonos Move sounds more closely to the Sonos One ($199) rather than the larger and more expensive Play:5 ($499); but it’s definitely in-between the two.

The other neat thing about the Move is that Sonos rejiggered TruePlay technology so that it works with the Move. TruePlay is the in-app feature that helps tune each Sonos speaker so that it sounds best for the room it’s in; it’s a typically a one-time process that requires you to wave your smartphone around while the speaker makes some strange noises. Sonos knew this would be a pain in the ass with the Move, to have listeners set up TruePlay every time they moved the speaker, so they developed Automatic TruePlay.

Instead of going through the app and waving your phone around (typical TruePlay behavior), the Move uses its built-in microphones and automatically tunes itself ever time you move it. It’s convenient and you can hear the difference. For example, when you move the Move from an open space to a closed-in space, like a media cabinet, you can hear the speaker lower its bass and crank up its mids and treble. All this happens in the space of a few seconds and, again, it requires nothing out of the listener (the microphones have to be on, though). Pretty cool.

When it’s not on its charging dock, or charging via USB-C, the Move has a ten-hour battery life – which is decent. That said, it has a pretty neat trick to save battery life. Anytime the speaker is not powered and it’s not playing music, meaning it could be in either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth modes, the Move will automatically turn off after a few minutes. According to Sonos, the Move can stay in this “Suspend mode” for up to five days before needing a visit back to the charger.

The biggest thing, at least for me, is that the Move doesn’t really complicate or change the Sonos experience. Because it’s the first Sonos speaker that has automatic TruePlay, it arguably makes the Move even easier to set up than other speakers. If there’s one caveat to this “Sonos experience,” it’s that the Move will automatically connect back to your home’s Wi-Fi when switching back from Bluetooth mode, but it won’t regroup with your other Sonos speakers. Basically, you’ll have to visit the Sonos app if you want to regroup your speakers after using the Move as a Bluetooth speaker. Not the end of the world, but something to watch out for.

Who It’s For: The Sonos Move won’t be for everybody. In fact, it’s a speaker with a hint of irony about it. Sonos designed it so that it could work for anybody in any situation – whether that’s indoors or outdoors, in your home or far from it – but it’s actually a speaker that’s optimal for a select few people. It’d be a great addition to somebody’s household who just wants a great-sounding speaker in every room of their house, but only wants to buy one speaker. If the person has a Sonos system and has an outdoor space (backyard or patio) that’s covered by Wi-Fi, then the Move would be a great way to extend your home’s sound outdoors. Finally, if the person is just a die-hard Sonos enthusiast, they really can’t go wrong with the Move.

Watch Out For: The Sonos Move loses many of its best features when being used as a Bluetooth speaker. It can’t function as a smart speaker, so you can’t access Alexa or Google Assistant. Its automatic TruePlay doesn’t work, so it won’t sound as good as it possibly could. It’s can’t operate as a stereo pair with another Sonos Move (both speakers have to be connected to Wi-Fi for stereo pairing).

It’s also the first Sonos speaker that you’ll have to worry about replacing its battery (because it’s the only one to have a battery). Sonos claims that its battery should last roughly three years or 900 charges, but this will be an extra cost down the road; Sonos will sell the replaceable batteries, but they have yet to announce pricing. It’s worth noting that even if the Move’s battery does die, as long as it’s connected to power it will still function as a typical Sonos speaker.

At $399, the Sonos Move definitely feels expensive for what it is. It’s also not a small speaker and even though Sonos claims that it’s a great portable Bluetooth speaker (which I feel it definitely is), I have a hard time picturing many people lugging this 6-pound speaker to the beach.

Alternatives: As far as getting an entry-level Sonos speaker, you could buy two One ($199/ea) or two One SL ($179/ea) speakers, each of which has almost the same audio quality as the Move. If you don’t care about the versatility of the Move, just the audio quality, the Play:5 is a little bit more expensive and definitely is the superior-sounding speaker.

If you’re not committed to the Sonos ecosystem, there are plenty of alternatives. For instance, the UE Blast ($100) and UE Megablast ($170+), both of which are smart Wi-Fi speakers that work with Alexa and they are two of the best portable Bluetooth speakers, too.

It’s worth point out that Bose, arguably Sonos’s biggest speaker rival, recently released the Bose Portable Home Speaker ($349), which is a very similar speaker to the Sonos Move. The Bose Portable Home Speaker works with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, is compatible with Alexa and Google Assistant, and can be grouped with Bose’s other multi-room speaker.

Verdict: The Sonos Move is a completely different kind of Sonos speaker, yet it still manages to feel…like a Sonos speaker. It sounds great, truly, and in some respects, it’s actually easier to set up and get playing than any other new Sonos speaker. That said, it feels a little expensive for what it is and unless you’re really going to take advantage of its versatility – take it from room to room, take it outdoors, and use it as true Bluetooth speaker – Sonos makes several other more affordable speakers that you’ll probably enjoy just as much.

What Others Are Saying:

• “For a lot of serious Sonos fans, the Move will be a no-brainer. Folks have been wondering for years when Sonos will make the jump to Bluetooth and make its famously exceptional multi-room wireless speaker systems more versatile. A lot of those people have invested hundreds if not thousands of dollars into their Sonos systems, and the idea of adding one more—one that has Bluetooth, that can go anywhere—is exciting. The Move sounds like a Sonos speaker. It works with all the other Sonos speakers. Sure, a Sonos diehard will love this thing. The average consumer just looking for a portable speaker, however, might not be so enthusiastic.” — Adam Clark Estes, Gizmodo

• “The Move also cannot connect to multiple phones or devices at a time either, so you only get to have one DJ at your party. Oh, and though Sonos is known for its ability to group multiple speakers into ad-hoc zones, this isn’t possible on Bluetooth. And that’s despite many competing speakers, like that Megaboom we keep mentioning, having the ability to daisy-chain together. For now, it’s clear that Sonos still sees Bluetooth as an add-on, not a core focus. Sonos could add more Bluetooth features in the future via app updates (something it does frequently), but the company’s heart still lies with Wi-Fi..” — Jeffrey Van Camp, Wired

• “The biggest question that most people seem to have about the Move is about whether it’s worth the nearly $400 price tag. Frankly, it’s a tough price to swallow for what largely amounts to a $200 Sonos One with a battery bolted to the bottom of it. It’s also a lot more money than the typical Bluetooth speaker costs. But the Move also does things that no other Sonos speaker nor any other Bluetooth speaker can do, and it does it all without compromising on sound quality, volume, or features.” — Chris Welch, The Verge

Key Specs

Drivers: One downward-firing tweeter, one mid-woofer; two Class-D digital amplifiers
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay 2
Battery: up to 10 hours
Water Resistance: IP56 rating
Weight: 6.6 pounds

Sonos provided this product for review.

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This Is the Best Smart Lock for Most Homes (And Now It’s on Sale)

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This Absurd Backup Battery Can Charge Every Gadget You Own and Then Some

Portable power is a quickly evolving category, and Ecoflow’s Delta 1300 demonstrates just how far it’s come. Lithium-ion batteries are not just for your phone; this compact and powerful battery bank is a lightweight gas-free, emissions-free generator that’s powerful enough to run woodshop tools, office electronics, a portable refrigerator or medical device, and light enough to carry between locations. As an emergency back-up generator, it will keep you charged and comfortable in a power outage, but it has so much functionality it won’t gather dust while you’re waiting for the next blackout. In addition to charging phone, drone, and laptop, and to running circular saws, air compressors, and lights, Delta can charge an electric car enough to eke out another five to seven miles until you can get to a proper charger.

The Good: The Delta 1300 has 6 AC outlets, 2 USB-C PD ports, 4 USB outlets, and it’s rechargeable from a wall socket, carport, or solar panel. This unit plugs into the wall with the same cord you’d use to plug in a computer. There’s no specialized, device-specific power brick required, so you don’t have to worry about misplacing your charger. The Delta can juice 13 devices simultaneously, which means you’ll be popular at festivals and trade shows with one of these in your tent, van or booth. A large LCD screen tells you how much battery the lithium-ion bank has left, both by percentage and hours. The readout is based on the Delta’s activity at any specific time. For example, it’ll likely read 99 hours when you plug in your dead cell phone. If it’s charging a large Dometic fridge/freezer, the readout will more likely be 20-32 hours. It’s super portable at around 30 lbs and the size of a toaster oven with oversized handles that are easy to grab

Who It’s For: If you’ve ever considered a gas-powered generator as an emergency backup, you’re a candidate for Delta. If you want to run power tools away from a wall plug or without the hassle of ultra-long extension cords you need one of these. If you live off-grid, whether you’re stationary or mobile, Delta can power your lights, tools, electronics and appliances. In an emergency not only will it power a fan or heater, lights, and microwave, it can power a medical device like a CPAP. It can also give people who require electrical medical devices some freedom to roam.

Watch Out For: It’ll take you some time actually using the Delta before you’ll be able to get a good handle on how long it will actually last in various scenarios. Most electrical devices pull power at a variable rate, so the number of remaining hours of power displayed on Delta’s screen may change without notice if your gadgets suddenly get a bit hungrier. I plugged a Dometic fridge/freezer into the Delta, and the screen told me I had 38 hours of run time. Four hours later, the screen told me I had 20 hours of run time. The change makes sense. When the fridge needed cooling, its energy consumption was greater. The Delta records its own power output continuously and as it does, the unit adjusts its battery life readout. When the fridge reached temperature, then the remaining battery time on Delta’s screen went back up. That said, the battery life estimates shared by EcoFlow seem to be extremely accurate and not inflated.

Alternatives: There are other battery-powered generators out there, as well as gas-powered generators. Most gas generators are more expensive, as are other powerful battery generators. Gas generators are loud, smelly and you can’t run them safely inside because of their carbon monoxide emissions. They need annual maintenance. Delta requires no annual maintenance. The battery maintains its charge for a year untouched, and the only noise is a quiet hum. The only emission from Delta is a little bit of heat.

There are other battery power banks on the market, like the Goal Zero Yeti 1400. That unit takes 12 times longer to charge plugged into a wall, it weighs 50 percent more, and it’s slower to charge with a solar panel. EcofFow’s claimed power capabilities for the Delta 1300 are considerably greater than those claimed by Goal Zero for the Yeti 1400. The Yeti 1400 is twice the price and claims a lifecycle of 500 charges, versus EcoFlow Delta’s claimed life of 800 charges.

Review:

To use Delta, you press the power button and then press a second on/off switch for AC or DC power. The LCD screen, in addition to telling you hours and battery percentage remaining, indicates high and low temperature, whether the fan is working, input, output with an overload warning.

We ran every tool we had and charged every device: circular saws, table saws, shop vacs, computers, phones, fridges and more. We were only able to fully drain the battery during the course of normal use when we plugged in a full freezer trying to cool its contents from 14°F to 0°F. The battery lasted at least 20 hours; we woke up to it needing a recharge.

Delta goes from zero percent charge to 80 percent charge in an hour, and can fully charge with just two hours plugged into the wall. EcoFlow says Delta charges in four hours via a solar panel. In order achieve such short charge times, EcoFlow also developed a charging technology, bi-directional X-stream Charge, that allows alternating current AC from a wall outlet to be directly inputted into Delta’s inverter, increasing its charging power at the same time. “By passing through the inverter directly, we can increase charging speed to more than ten times of the traditional AC to DC adapter cable,” said EcoFlow found Eli Harris. The proprietary charging technology also integrates all direct current power supplies below DC 60V, from an adapter, solar or car DC output, into one input port. The result is that users don’t need to consider whether they recharge Delta with a wall plug or solar panel. The system automatically recognizes the power source.

In addition to a new charing technology, the company built an entire proprietary internal integrated architecture from the ground up to maximize Delta’s power storage efficiency. EcoFlow designed and developed every component inside Delta, which includes more than 100 battery cells. Harris said one of the company’s biggest challenge was effectively monitoring and managing the operation of the whole system in real-time. EcoFlow’s battery management system was key. Harris and his team built it so the main controller collects the temperature and power status of each battery cell in real-time and then adjusts the charging current and the voltage to ensure the safest, fastest charging rate. When the unit is in idle, the battery management system monitors and adjusts the unit’s power status to ensure lower power consumption and extended standby power storage, which is how the company achieved a shelf-life of a year plus.

Delta is designed to take a beating. The unit we tested was pre-production, so did not have the correct casing. But we know from testing EcoFlow’s River battery bank that they know how to make their power banks durable without a heavy, bulky full-steel casing. Harris says that Delta’s housing was inspired by Tesla, and that final production will use a combination of aerospace-grade aluminum and high-strength steel to give Delta maximum strength and structural rigidity. It will be combined with impact-absorbing plastic, protective rigid metal plates, and four aluminum pillar reinforcements so that Delta is worthy of withstanding the hazards of a job site, garage project or bouncing around in the back of an off-road vehicle.

Verdict: Harris says he created EcoFlow to build this generator, and while we expect the company to blow this battery’s capacity out of the water with future versions, this one is undoubtedly worth owning for anyone who needs a reliable source of power or backup power. The Delta raised over $1M in the first 48 hours on Kickstarter, and it’s currently nearing $1.5M. Delta 1300 is an awesome solution for home or home office, van life and for powering tools away from a wired source of electricity. None of the claims made on EcoFlow’s Delta Kickstarter page are exaggerated. We were impressed with Delta’s power, versatility, quick charge time and compact size. Support Delta before the campaign closes on October 19—and as thanks for your trust in the company’s technology, you get peace of mind via a lifetime battery warranty.

Key Specs

Weight: 30 lbs
Ports: 6 AC outlets, 2 USB-C PD, 4 USB
Shelf Life: 12 months
AC Output: 1600w (surge 3100w)
Charge Time: 1.7 hours
Type: Lithium-Ion
Price: $699

EcoFlow provided this product for review.

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Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

This Is the Best Smartwatch for iPhone Owners

The Apple Watch has been the best smartwatch for anybody with an iPhone for years, but it feels like the fifth-generation model, the Apple Watch Series 5 ($399+), has the most to live up to. That’s because its predecessor, the Series 4, set the bar so darn high. It was the first Apple Watch to look different, with a larger edge-to-edge display and a thinner, lighter body; plus Apple gave it a bunch of innovative features (like fall detection and an electrical heart sensor) and basically upgraded it in every way.

Now that the Series 5 is here, you’ll notice that it looks strikingly similar to the Series 4. It’s the same size and thinness; it has the same rotating crown dial with a little red circle; and it has many of the same sensors and health tracking features. But the differences are there. The Series 5 is the first Apple Watch to have an always-on display. It’s the first Apple Watch to have a built-in compass. And it’s the first Apple Watch to come in four different finishes, including aluminum, stainless steel, ceramic and all-new titanium.

The Apple Watch Series 5 is available in GPS-only and cellular models, and starts at $399.

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The photographed Apple Watch Series 5 has the all-new titanium case. It’s a 44mm model and goes for $849.

The Good: The always-on Retina display is the standout feature of the Series 5. Even for people who have worn an Apple Watch for years, like myself, it’s going to feel like a big deal because it actually changes the way you interact with the Apple Watch. With the always-on display, there’s no need to rotate your wrist to see check the time or see that your workout is still tracking – it’s just there. It also will probably prevent many social faux pas that were caused by previous Apple Watch models; seeing other person check the time or look at their watch can be distracting, after all.

It’s true that the always-on Retina display is always-on, but it’s not always bright. The watch face still lights up when you raise your wrist, just like it did with the Series 4, but it then transitions to an idle dark mode when you lower your wrist back down; what’s happening is that the display’s refresh rate gets lowered to one screen refresh per second (or 1Hz), which allows the Series 5 to use very little battery life and give the appearance of always being on. This allows the Series 5 to get the same full-day battery life as its predecessor. Apple updated all its old Apple Watch faces so they work with the Series 5’s always-on display – pretty cool – plus they added quite a few new ones, too.

The Series 5 is the first Apple Watch to have a built-in compass. There’s a dedicated compass app on the Series 4, but other Apple Watch apps, like Apple Maps, take advantage of it.

As mentioned before, Apple is offering the Series 5 in more options than ever. The aluminum version of the Series 5 is the most affordable and is the only one that can be purchased without cellular. The stainless steel version is heavier and more durable, so it feels more premium, but it starts at $699. The brand-new titanium version is significantly lighter than the stainless steel version, and it’s also more scratch-resistant, corrosion-resistant and hypoallergenic. And then there’s the ceramic version, which a high-end material that’s usually reserved for luxury watches. If you purchase any Series 5 through Apple Watch Studio (meaning online or in an Apple Store), you can pair it with almost any watch band you want (there are some restrictions).

The Series 5 is the first Apple Watch to have a built-in compass. There’s a dedicated compass app that you can access, which I rarely used, but the real benefit of the compass is how it works with other Apple Watch apps, such as Apple Maps. For example, when you’re using Apple Maps you can now see which direction just by looking at your Series 5. You’ll see the “field-of-view cone” rotate with direction you’re looking, which makes Apple Maps on the Series 5 feel way trustworthy. (Previously, you’d have to take out your iPhone to get the same sense of direction.) For those who are easily disoriented when navigating from A to B, like me, or have difficulty grasping your bearings when getting off the subway – like me – this new Apple Watch feature will save you a headache and a five-minute walk in the wrong direction.

The best part of the Series 5, and maybe you’ll roll your eyes, is that it feels like an Apple Watch – familiar – and it has all the best features of the Series 4. You can still pair it with your AirPods and listen to music sans iPhone. It still has the heart rate sensors and built-in ECG. It still has fall detection and Emergency SOS. It still has a GPS and it can track your runs. It’s waterproof enough so you can wear it swimming. It still tracks your steps and other metrics so you can complete your activity rings. And, of course, it works super well with iMessage.

The last thing to note is that all Series 5 models have 32GB of internal memory, which is actually twice as much as the 16GB on the Series 4. This might not be a huge deal for people who don’t plan on downloading music or a bunch of extra apps on the Series 5, but if you do, or if your current Apple Watch is already nearing its max storage, it might make sense to upgrade to the Series 5.

Who It’s For: Any iPhone owner who wants Apple’s best-ever smartwatch. Or if they desperately want an Apple Watch with an always-on display. Or if they want one of the Series 5’s higher-end finishes (and they’re willing to pay for it). The last big reason to get the Series 5 is if they’re going to take advantage of the Series 5’s built-in compass.

Watch Out For: No matter which Apple Watch Series 5 you buy, aside from the obvious difference between cellular and GPS-only models, they’re all going to have the same functionality. That means that the $1,300 ceramic model and the $399 aluminum model are built with the same internals and will keep track of the same metrics. There’s little downside to getting the cheaper models, other than how their aluminum finish looks and feels. (Although the stainless steel and titanium models are slightly more durable.)

One thing that I’ve been hoping for awhile is that the Apple Watch will start playing better with Spotify. Yes, there’s a Spotify app for the Apple Watch. And yes, if you have an LTE model you can stream music, but I wish the Spotify app would allow you to download albums and playlists for offline listening, similar to what several Garmin and Samsung smartwatches can do. As with previous Apple Watch models, the Series 5 is really only designed to download and store playlists from Apple Music.

Alternatives: The Apple Watch Series 4 is the most obvious alternative, but Apple did something a little bit sneaky this year – they stopped selling it. You can still purchase the Series 4 for third-party sellers like Amazon or Best Buy, for a slightly discounted rate. The Series 4 looks and feels (especially the aluminum models) very similar to the Series 5, and it’s a great option for Apple Watch wearers who don’t need always-on display.

If you don’t want to pay that much for a Series 5 (or Series 4), Apple is still selling the Series 3 but it lowered the starting price to just $199 – it’s undoubtedly the best entry-level smartwatch for people with an iPhone. The trade-offs are pretty clear, however, as the Series 3 doesn’t have the large nice display, the slim design or the many fancy sensors that enable a lot of the Apple Watch’s newer features. The Series 3 does have a built-in GPS and it’ll still accurately track your runs.

Verdict: The Apple Watch Series 5 is undoubtedly the best smartwatch that Apple has ever made, and it comes with the feature – an always-on display – that most people having been asking for. That said, with a few spec bumps and a few new capabilities, the Series 5 is admittedly an iterative upgrade over last year’s Series 4. If you’re not swayed by the premium materials, like the new titanium case, it really comes down to Series 5’s always-on display and how much you want it.

Key Specs

Case sizes: 40mm or 44mm
Case options: Aluminum, stainless steel, titanium and ceramic
Display: Always-On Retina display
Processor: 64-bit dual-core S5 processor
Storage: 32GB
Sensors: electrical and optical heart rate sensors, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass
Water resistance: 50 meters
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0

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Apple provided this product for review.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

iPhone 11 Pro Review: Hands Down, The Best iPhone Ever

The most compelling and conspicuous feature of the iPhone 11 Pro is its triple-camera system, and after using it for the better part of the week, it’s definitely the best and most versatile set of cameras that Apple has ever put in any iPhone. The ultra-wide lens will feel like a pretty significant upgrade for anybody who has an older iPhone, but as the iPhone 11 has it too, it really comes down to the telephoto lens and how if you’ll take full advantage of it. This extra lens enables the two Pro models to take two different kinds of Portrait Mode photos, one that is really zoomed-in (which is similar to what the iPhone XS could do) and one that is more zoomed-out (which is exactly the same Portrait mode as the iPhone 11) for those who want to grab for background in the photo. If you find yourself taking a lot of photos of people and pets, rather than landscapes, this extra telephoto lens feels like a real selling point.

The nice thing about all three lenses is that they all take the same quality photo. Each is a 12-megapixel camera that has its own high-quality sensor, so you can expect a pretty decent photo nobody which lens you’re using (this is not the case for most other smartphones with a multi-camera system). Each of the three lenses is capable of shooting 4K video at 60fps, which is a nice feature for vloggers and videographers to have. It’s worth noting that despite the extra lenses, like the iPhone 11, the Pro’s Night Mode only really works while using the wide lens (you can technically use Night Mode with the ultra-wide lens, but it’s really just a blown-up shot taken by the wide lens.

Night Mode on the new iPhone 11 Pro is pretty incredible.

Aside from the size and triple-camera system, the third big selling point of the iPhone 11 Pro is its hardware. Its OLED display is significantly better than the LCD display of the iPhone 11, but it’s also better than the Super Retina display of last year’s iPhone XS; the new “Super Retina XDR” display is brighter (1,200 nits versus the iPhone XS’s 600 nits) with double the contrast ratio. It’s easy to get lost in the tech jargon, but the bottom line is this: iPhone 11 Pro’s display is the best and brightest display ever in a smartphone. So if you’re somebody who plays a lot of mobile games or streams lots of shows on your iPhone, that’s a good reason to upgrade to the Pro.

Battery life is the last big reason to upgrade to the Pro if you have an older iPhone. To date, the iPhone XR has been the gold standard of long-lasting iPhones, getting almost two days of juice, and the iPhone 11 Pros are almost at that level. Apple claims that both iPhone 11 Pros get four and five hours better than their predecessors, the iPhone XS and the iPhone XS Max, and it’s actually pretty noticeable. The secret to the improved battery life is, yes, the A13 Bionic chip helps with energy efficiency, but Apple also put a slightly larger battery in its newer phones. This is a pretty significant thing, as it also means that the new iPhones are ever-so-slightly heavier and thicker – Apple is sacrificing design for usability, which is actually a breath of fresh air.

There are a quick few things to add to round out the “good” features. Apple says the Face ID is 30-percent faster on the new iPhones and even better at recognizing your face when resting flat on a table; however, in the week I’ve had the phones I’ve actually had a difficult time telling the difference – it’s still fast. Apple also improved AirDrop on the new iPhones, allowing you to point your iPhone at other new iPhones and AirDrop files to whomever you’re pointing at (although the iPhones must have Apple’s new U1 chip and iOS 13). And, finally, Apple is including an 18-watt USB-C wall adapter and a USB-C to Lightning cable in the box, which makes the iPhone 11 Pro feel a little bit more “Pro.”

Galaxy Note10+ Review: Big, Beautiful, Best in Class

For years, the Samsung Galaxy Note has been catering to faithful fans of the stylus and, this year, there are two options on the table, a first for the line. While smaller (“smaller”) Galaxy Note 10 is the chief successor to the Galaxy Note line, with a 6.3-inch screen and form factor that’s similar to its forebear, the Note10+ is attempting to carve out a larger, more premium niche with its gargantuan 6.8-inch screen, beefier batter, surplus of RAM, and staring price of $1099. The result? A beautiful phone with hardly any serious flaws other than that it may just be far more phone than you need.

The Good: The Galaxy Note10+ is a beautifully made device. Samsung’s build quality has been top notch for ages and the Note10+ is no exception with its satisfying heft and screen that curves over the edges. It comes in a variety of colors but the “Aura Glow” version I tested is notably eye catching. Like the underside of a CD, it changes color as it catches the light and while it struck me as over the top at first, the effect really grew on me.

Like any good, big phone, the Note10+ has a big, 4,300mAh battery that lasts ridiculously long. Even a Saturday of strenuous use streaming Formula 1 and then reading far too much Twitter for hours on ends was not enough to take its battery much lower than 30 percent by the end of the day.

The Note10+ sports a terrific camera system, very similar to the one currently offered on Samsung’s line of S10 models, which means it takes fantastic photos, as any phone at this price point should, but doesn’t quite offer any surprises.

The S Pen, now updated with an accelerometer and gyroscope, now has increased utility outside of just writing on the screen. Waving the pen through the air like a wand will allow you to do some a few potentially useful tricks like change camera settings on a phone that you might not be holding.

Who It’s For: The Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ is, at its core, for one type of person very specifically: the kind who absolutely loves a stylus. With its powerhouse performance, fantastic build quality, great camera, and stellar battery life, it’s a suitable and satisfying computing companion for anyone, but if you aren’t dying for the stylus, Samsung’s Galaxy S10 Plus slightly smaller but otherwise comparable in almost every way, with the added bonus of a bigger battery and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Watch Out For: While the S Pen’s new wand-like air commands are novel and theoretically useful, I didn’t find a lot of value to them in practice. They also support a limited suite of apps, perhaps most noticeably the camera, where it could come in handy for long-range selfie set up. Maybe. And though Samsung has provided the software tools for other apps to make themselves compatible, it seems hard to imagine this becoming much more than a gimmick.

At 6.8-inches, the Note10+ is _a lot_ of phone. I’m a man with relatively large hands and still had trouble negotiating its heft one-handed on the train even with the aid of a PopSocket. Of course that is part of the 10+’s appeal, but it’s something to be aware of, especially considering the smaller, 6.3-inch Note10 also exists and will be, for most normal people, indisitinguishable in terms of performance despite its slightly less overkill supply of RAM.

Alternatives: If the stylus isn’t your main concern, there are many. Chiefly the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus which is slightly smaller, slightly cheaper, but otherwise extremely similar. Google’s Pixel line, with its cleaner version of Android, also provides a possible substitute, with the Pixel 4 due for announcement in the next month or two.

But if the stylus is your bag, a Note is pretty much your only choice. The smaller Note 10 is a great way to get almost the same phone but with a smaller screen (and slightly less RAM, less battery power) for $100 cheaper if the Plus’ gargantuan size isn’t a must for you. If you’re not sold on the latest and greatest, the Note 9 is also an option. It only has a two-camera cluster, and sports a fingerprint reader on its back instead of under the screen, but is still a more than capable device you might be able to find at something of a discount.

Verdict: The Note10+ is a real powerhouse of a phone and if it has a primary flaw it is only that it may be more phone than you need or want to pay for. But if its price or size doesn’t make you wince at the prospect, it won’t let you down.

Key Specs
Size: 6.8-inch
Display: Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Rear Camera: 16MP ultrawide (f/2.2), 12MP dual-pixel wide (f/1.5, f/2.4), 12MP telephoto (f/2.4)
Front Camera: 10-MP dual-pixel (f/2.2)
Durability: IP68
Capacity: 256GB, 512GB internal, up to 1TB with MicroSD

Samsung provided this product for review.

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Here’s All the New Audio Gear That Sonos Just Announced

It’s exciting times for Sonos. The multi-room speaker giant just announced three new products at IFA, Europe’s biggest consumer tech trade show. There’s the Sonos Move, the company’s first-ever portable speaker; the Sonos Port, which is the next-generation version of the Sonos Connect; and there’s the Sonos One SL, a new entry-level Sonos speaker. We’ve given you a brief rundown on all three new products below.

The push for new products shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve followed Sonos. Patrick Spence, the company’s CEO since 2017, is actively moving the company to be more open and forward-thinking, as well as pushing it to expand its product line. Since Spence took over, Sonos has released its first smart speaker, partnered with IKEA to make the most affordable Sonos speakers (Symfonisk), and now it has entered a completely new market: portable audio.

Sonos Move

The Sonos Move is the company’s first-ever portable speaker. It has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing it to be way more versatile than any other Sonos speaker to date; you can use it like a Sonos One smart speaker – yes, the Move can be integrated with either Alexa or Google Assistant – or you can use it as a portable rugged Bluetooth speaker. There’s a new three-button array on the back of the speaker that allows you to toggle between modes. The Sonos Move costs $399 and is available for preorder now; you’ll be able to pick it up in stores or buy online on September 24.

Sonos Port

The Sonos Port is the next-gen Connect ($349) you’ve been waiting for. It works the same way, hooking up to your existing stereo or receiver and turning your non-Sonos sound system into one that works just like it, but the Port adds some big things. First, it supports AirPlay 2. Second, it has 12-volt trigger, which enables the Port to automatically turn on your connected receiver when signaled through the Sonos app. And third, it’s matte black and actually looks like it will blend in with your other stereo components. The Sonos Port costs $399 and is available for preorder. A select number of models will starting on September 12, but they’ll be available everywhere starting in January 2020.

Sonos One SL

The Sonos One SL is essentially a Sonos One speaker without the built-in mics that allow you to talk to Alexa or Google Assistant. Or you can think of it as a Play:1 speaker but in the body of a Sonos One. Either way, the Sonos One SL is the company’s new most entry-level speaker – aside from the Ikea x Sonos Symfonisk speakers – and it costs $179. It’s available for pre-order right now in either white or black. Sadly, the introduction of the Sonos One SL means that Sonos will be phasing out its original Play:1 speaker.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Terrific Tripods to Take Your Photography to the Next Level

Looking for a tripod? There’s no wonder. A tripod might be the signal most important tool for photographers and videographers, other than the actual camera, because it opens up a world of creative opportunities. It’s great for nighttime, landscape, wildlife and sports photography, or basically anything shot with a telephoto lens, plus it provides the much-needed stability for long exposures, hyperlapses and panoramas. And then there’s the relief aspect; photographers just don’t want to hold a heavy camera for that long.

So what kind of tripod should you buy? It depends on what type of photos you’re looking to take, as well as what kind of camera you’re shooting on (DSLR, mirrorless, point-and-shoot or even smartphone), but ultimately, here’s what you need to know: a big and heavy tripod is gonna do a much better job stabilizing the camera, which is why most professional studios you large full-sized tripods, but most people are willing to give up some of that stability for a tripod they can pack in bag.

Manfrotto 5-Section Compact Action Tripod

Best Tripod Under $100: Manfrotto makes some of the best and most popular tripods that you’ll find. This one, the 5-Section Compact Action Tripod, is great because it’s surpisingly durable and sturdy, plus it comes in at well under $100, making it a solid-buy for budget-conscious photographers. It has a joystick head to help you adjust the angle of your camera. And it’s really lightweight – less than three pounds – and compact. It’s an ideal tripod for photographers using an entry-level DSLR with a standard lens or a compact travel camera.

Manfrotto 500 Fluid Video Head with 190X Video Tripod

Best Video Tripod: Videographers shooting in 4K tend to need heavier, more supportive tripods because they are typically better at eliminating vibrations. This one by Manfrotto, for example, is over seven pounds and it’s sturdier than any other tripod on this list. It has a number of key features for video, too, like an innovative head with fluid cartridges on both pan and tilt axes, a leveling column and a five-pound counterbalance; all of which allow the photographer to move their camera smoothly and accurately. There are admittedly more moving parts in the system, but this Manfrotto tripod still manages to be pretty intuitive to use.

CamKix Premium 3in1 Kit

Best for Action Cameras: This is a simple, affordable and pretty great impulse buy for anybody with an action camera (or even a compact camera or smartphone). The tripod has a socket-ball mount with a locking switch that allows you to rotate the camera a full 180 degrees. And there’s a telescopic pole attachment, which you can use to achieve better height on your shots, or just use it as a glorified selfie stick. It’s worth pointing out that while compact cameras and smartphones can be attached directly to the tripod, your GoPro needs to be housed in a GoPro mount.

MeFoto Globetrotter Travel TriPod

Best Travel Tripod: As the name hints, the MeFoto Globetrotter is one of the best travel tripods. It’s compact and lightweight (less than four pounds), and it’s carbon fiber frame is strong enough to support larger systems (up to 26 pounds). It has five leg sections so you can set the camera to stand over five-feet high, and the cushioned legs actually come together to convert the tripod into a monopod, which is neat. This is an ideal travel tripod for anybody shooting DSLR or mirrorless.

Peak Design Travel Tripod

One for the Future: Peak Design’s first tripod is, as you’d expect, designed for adventurers and outdoor photographers. It’s super compact and packable, about the size of a water bottle, and everything on the tripod is designed to be efficient and intuitive. For example, there are latches instead of annoying twist locks, to quickly extend the legs; to adjust the orientation of the ball head, there’s a single adjustment ring instead of a series of knobs; and small levers let you spread the legs wider to help you take low-angle photos. It’s available in aluminum or carbon fiber, the latter being the noticeably lighter (and significantly more expensive) model.

The Peak Design Travel Tripod is available for pre-order today. It’s expected to ship in January 2020.

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The $200 Headphones That Punch Way Above Their Weight

The headphone industry has reason to be happy in 2019. With Q1 sales of over $5.9 billion, consumer appetite for the personal audio category has never been stronger. Wireless headphones have led the charge, outperforming all other categories with a staggering 40-percent increase in global sales. The news, however, for on-ear and over-gear headphones has not been as rosy with single-digit levels of growth; the silver lining for manufacturers of luxury headphones is that the average sale price has risen to almost $130 pair.

Consumers are buying more expensive headphones from brands like Audeze, Sennheiser, HiFiMan, Grado and Beyerdynamic, but the market remains focused on brands like Sony, Bose and Apple who are commanding significant market share with their wireless IEM products. An outlier in this mix of global brands has been upstart 1More with their affordable Triple-Driver IEMs and Triple-Driver Over-Ear model that made our recent luxury headphones buying guide.

The Triple Driver Over-Ear have been favorably reviewed by every major headphone publication; their overall performance for $200 makes them a tremendous value in a category dominated by similar products that are 2x or 3x the price. Like many brands, 1More manufactures all of its products in China which has made it possible for them to keep their products affordable.

If you want a pair of audiophile-level headphones that works well with your smartphone and doesn’t need a separate headphone amplifier, the Triple-Driver Over-Ear are a great pair of over-ear headphones — especially for the value.

1More has built a pair of travel headphones that are built to last; my personal pair have survived dozens of plane trips and weekly train commutes from New Jersey to New York and Maryland. The Over-Ear have a stainless-steel and leather headband, along with rotating leather cushioned ear cups, that fits comfortably and then folds compactly when you’re done listening to them.

If you have a large head (like myself), the adjustability of the headband is a major plus. The closed-back design makes them a smart choice for commuting and airplane travel; the ear cups achieve an above-average seal so the level of leakage is acceptably low (you don’t want people to hear what you’re listening, too. On the downside, the earcups aren’t replaceable and the size might be an issue for those with large ears.

Detachable headphone cables are more common with more expensive headphones and 1More provides an excellent sounding copper detachable cable with the Over-Ear model; a feature that has saved them on numerous occasions from my less than elegant arm movement. The 52-inch length of the headphone cable is longer than what is supplied by most manufacturers and gives you some slack if your playback device is tucked away. One negative is the absence of an in-line mic and controls on the supplied cable; which is somewhat ironic as 1More includes this feature on their less expensive Triple-Driver IEMs.

The Triple-Driver have three advanced drivers including a 40 mm titanium dynamic driver, ceramic tweeter, and bass reflector. The 32-ohm impedance makes them smartphone-friendly, and while they certainly sound better connected to the new DragonFly Cobalt DAC/Headphone amplifier from AudioQuest, the 1More offer a very balanced sounding presentation that is consistent with most smartphones via their 3.5mm stereo connection.

While not the last word in bass response, the Triple-Driver Over-Ear offer a fairly detailed sounding presentation with a slight bump in the mid-bass. Vocals are clean sounding thanks to a neutral midrange and their overall tonal balance makes them a solid option for most types of music. If you’re looking for analytical sounding studio headphones, the 1More will not be your cup of tea; they are also not as warm sounding as the Master & Dynamic MH40 ($249).

In a market filled with over-achieving audiophile headphones like the HiFiMan Sundara ($349), and sub-$300 wireless earbuds from Sony and Bose, the 1More Triple-Driver Over-Ear headphones offer a lot of performance for only $200.

The Best Retro Tech to Still Hunt for Today

It’s easy to understand the appeal of heirloom watches, classic cars, or vintage clothes, but it can be harder to imagine how gadgets and gear more broadly classified as “technology” can have usefulness that stands the test of time. Old computers are a fun novelty, but you’ll be hard-pressed to use them in any remotely modern way. Smartphones from as little as seven or eight years ago are often worthless as anything more than paperweights. But there are exceptions to the rule, bits of gear that work just as well — if not better — today, albeit perhaps a little differently. Here are some examples.

Buckling Spring Keyboards

Photo: Wikipedia

If you’ve ever thought about how computer keyboards used to be louder and clickier back in the day, chances are you’re thinking of the venerated Model M. These classic beige beasts were included with IBM PCs starting back in the 1980s and sport a unique “buckling spring” design unlike what you’ll find in a modern keyboard, even a mechanical one. The Model M may be old, it’s not obsolete. Enthusiasts collect, restore, modernize, and even sell these pieces of computer history, and you can use one with your laptop, if you’re willing to pay the price.

Old School Stereo Recievers

There’s no shortage of new hi-fi audio equipment, but classic Marantz equipment from the 70s is not only still functional but still desirable. Not only do Marantz receivers have retro flair, but they offer incredible sound and have stood the test of time for decades already. Models like the Marantz 2270 will cost a pretty penny nearly 50 years on, and you can expect to pay over $1,000 for one, but you can also expect it to be the last stereo you’ll ever need to buy.

Film Cameras

Photo: Japan Camera Hunter

Digital cameras are absolutely terrific, even if the ability to see a picture right after you’ve taken it seems old hat after several decades of dominance. But good old-fashioned film cameras still have their charm, not only thanks to the long, long legacy of film photography and development, but also because they can do things that a digital camera could never dream of—like shooting with no battery power required. There is a whole army of vintage cameras worth exploring, depending on your price range, your preferences, and your access to film, but the Fuji GW690III is a great place to start thanks to its hefty build quality, price, and the size of its negatives.

CRT Displays

Photo: Smithsonian American Art Museum

The modern TV and monitor market is obsessed with size and resolution. The age of 8K is on the horizon. But if you’re trying to recapture the warm, fuzzy visuals of classic retro gaming, that added resolution is only going to make your NES graphics look uncanny. If you want authentic visuals, you’re going to need scanlines, those faint, classic, horizontal stripes that define the pre-digital picture of cathode ray tube TVs. CRTs are, for the most part, out of production but plenty of old models are still floating around. Among the various choices, vintage gamers often point to the Sony Triton as an option worth hunting for. And in addition to those beautiful lines, you’ll also have all the retro ports you need to plug in your old Sega Genesis with no need to fiddle with adapters.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

You Want a Trackball, You Just Don’t Know It Yet

For decades, the standard set of tools for computing has been more or less set in stone. When you sit at a desk, you use a keyboard for typing in words and you use a mouse to point and click things. If you have a laptop, maybe you use its touchpad. If you’re really out there, you might use a Magic Trackpad or its equivalent. And that’s fine! It’s OK to be normal, but if you really want to the next level of comfort and productivity at your desk, it’s time to put away childish things and upgrade. My friend, you should be using a trackball.

Trackballs, while a little tough to get the hang of, are rarer than they should be. And they’re more comfortable, more useful, more efficient and dare I say cooler than every alternative, and now that I’ve seen the light after years of missing out, I’ll never go back. If you make the switch, and you should, you’ll see what I mean. Let me make the case.

The Case Against the Venerable Mouse

For all their popularity, there are a ton of reasons not to use a traditional mouse. First and foremost is the ergonomics. Do you ever get pain in your wrist after a long stint at the computer? I know I used to, and if you’re using a standard mouse, it’s no wonder. It might feel like you are in a resting state, but various parts of your hand and arm are actually tense. If you hold your mouse with a so-called “claw” grip, muscles on the back of your hand are too. Worse yet, standard mouse posture, with your palm parallel to the desk, keeps your forearm in a perpetually twisted state. Twisting your wrist to the left or right as you point and click can cause further stress. Also, you may not have it (yet), but “mouse elbow” is real.

One solution to this problem is a vertical mouse which holds your wrist in a better position like the Logitech MX Vertical. But even a vertical mouse requires precious acreage on your desk. Unless your sensitivity is through the roof, you’ll always need a decent amount of room to slide the dang thing around, lift it up, set it down and then slide it around again. And if a glass of water or can of soda encroaches on that space, you’re asking for trouble.

Standalone trackpads, with their stationary footprint, are an improvement and can offer some fun gesture controls depending on your computer’s operating system, but come with their own downsides. All that swiping and tapping can still tweak your wrist and, worst of all, clicking and dragging becomes a true nightmare. If only there were a way to solve all of these problems at once…Surprise, there is! It’s called a trackball.

Why You Should Try a Trackball Instead

Completely stationary, a trackball lets you dial in a comfortable, relaxed position and keep it all day every day while simultaneously freeing up your desk for mugs, post-its, chargers — whatever you want. There are a wide variety of vastly-different trackballs, so you have creative license to figure out which model works best for you.

The choice between designs that offer a small ball you control with your thumb or a larger ball you operate with your index or pointer gives you a variety of control options and ergonomic setups the world of mice just can’t match. What’s more, trackballs virtually all include a wealth of extra, programmable buttons to customize to your various needs. To top it all off, they’re uncommon, exotic and, by this nerd’s definition, even cool.

Kensington Expert Wireless

My first trackball

• Ambidextrous design
• Four programmable buttons
• Physical scroll wheel
• Included wrist wrest
• Wireless connection by Bluetooth or USB

Price: $75

I started exploring trackballs after a bout of ulnar wrist pain that dogged me constantly and would flare up after long days at the office. Sitting stationary at your desk all day isn’t ideal for fitness, but maintaining a comfortable and healthy posture is crucial to your arm and joint health while you are doing it. And if you don’t have a Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) or similar pain from your time with a mouse, good! But it’s worth being proactive to avoid. If you don’t believe me, just ask the guy who invented Kirby.

The first trackball that I bought was the Kensington Expert Wireless ($75), and it was for the extremely shallow reason that I liked the way it looked, but it turns out to have a whole host of other features that make it appealing. I’m righthanded, but its symmetrical design makes it a rare option that also works for lefties. And while folks swear by trackball models that put a smaller, marble-sized ball under your thumb, but I instantly fell in love with the cue-ball design that lets me pilot my pointer with my more dexterous index and middle fingers. Switching overtook a little bit of getting used to, a few weeks of minor fumbling with the cursor, but the improvement in comfort was immediate and extreme. It was love.

Once I got acquainted with my Kensington, I knew I would never go back, but I did want to go forward and explore more. For all its appeal, the Expert Wireless has a few flaws that were a particular problem for me. Chiefly, instead of any sort of scroll wheel, it has a scroll ring that loops around the ball. It’s a joy to spin around and around and around, but it requires just enough wrist movement that it still can cause me a bit of pain. And while its included wrist rest works well enough, its relatively flat design left a little to be desired. So I decided to dig a little deeper.

That’s when I discovered the Elecom Huge ($55), a common sight on Reddit’s haven for trackball nerds. With its mitten-shaped design, it’s almost obscenely comfortable to use, and the thumb-mounted left-click button and traditional scroll wheel mean that I never have to move my wrist at all — a small improvement that feels almost magical in practice.

Elecom Huge

My current trackball

• Hand-shaped ergonomic design
• Eight programmable buttons
• Physical sensitivity switch
• Wildly comfortable sculped palmrest
• Wireless connection by Bluetooth or USB

Price: $55

The buttons on the Elecom Huge are, frankly, a little bit overkill. In addition to left and right click, the Huge has three programmable function buttons, a scroll wheel that clicks in and tilts up and down and forward and back buttons for your browser. Without the help of third party software (I use a program called Steermouse), you won’t be able to reprogram them all, but you’d be hard-pressed to come up with uses for each. So far, having a copy and paste buttons within finger’s reach has been my particular joy.

But what I think I love most about the Huge is its amazing aesthetic. Your mileage may vary when it comes to style, but for my money, it’s a sharp, neo-Thinkpad antidote to the theoretically-all-white-but-eventually-dingy aesthetic of Apple’s hegemonic peripheral mice and keyboard. Its swooping palmrest and the ruby red crown jewel, which is surrounded by an army of buttons, make the Huge seem more like something you’d use to pilot a spaceship than a mouse cursor. It’s a visibly strange and specialized tool, but it’s one that I’ve learned to master. Also, it gives me a nerdy but endless sense of satisfaction whenever I lay hands on it.

That, I think, is perhaps my best argument for trying a trackball. Or at least it’s my favorite. For cubicle cowboys and desk jockeys, it’s easy for an unassuming computer to melt into the background with whatever mouse and keyboard you were assigned by IT. And if that’s not a problem for you, great! But the right keyboard, the right trackball, can give you a sense of ownership and agency that adds a spark of joy to your day when you sit down to get to work. You’re not just using any computer, you’re using your computer, tricked out just how you like. Yes, it’s a nerdy endeavor, but you’re sitting there all day either way. Might as well be comfortable, and maybe even have a little fun.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

The Best Thing About This Speaker Isn’t Just How It Sounds

The high-end British audio company Naim Audio makes some of the best audiophile-grade wireless speaker systems you’re likely to find. Its Mu-so range, consisting of the Mu-so and smaller Mu-so Qb, is also notable for the huge glowing volume dial on top of both speakers. If you’re a big fan of volume dials and love some great “knob feel,” then the Mu-so speakers and their associated dial are simply as good as it gets.

Earlier this year, Naim Audio announced the Mu-so 2 ($1,599), which is second-generation version of the original Mu-so ($999) that was released roughly five years ago. Though the two speakers look strikingly similar the Mu-so 2 has been totally gutted and revamped. It has six, new, individually amplified drivers, a new processor with 10 times the power, the ability to stream tracks up to 32bit/384kHz, support for AirPlay 2 and Chromecast, support for Tidal, Spotify Connect, Roon, and Bluetooth, all topped off with HDMI ARC and optical connections so you can use it as a soundbar. And yes, also a new volume dial.

The new dial on the Mu-so 2 has an entire new interphase and more functionalities, including 15 touch sensitive buttons to quickly play favorite playlists or switch inputs. Its famed “halo” light that forms a ring around the dial now has a proximity sensor and automatically lights up when you hover your hand over it. It’s undoubtedly the coolest thing on the whole speaker.

On the Mu-so’s volume dial, the new interphase allows you to save playlists from Spotify or Tidal, or even radio stations. This way you can play music without needing to pull out your smartphone or open your computer.

Simon Matthews, the design director at Naim Audio, is one of the main brains behind all of Naim Audio’s products. I was able to chat with him about the new Mu-so 2, as well as what makes what I consider to be one of the coolest volume dials in all of speakers, so special.

The below interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: How did you look to improve the volume dial on Mu-so 2?
A: Well, firstly, it’s important to say that we certainly set the bar high with the original Mu-so’s volume dial. Customers have really expressed with enthusiasm that they love our tactile, well-executed volume dial and that it delivers precision and pleasure in equal measure in use. There is a very funny and equally disturbing Youtube review of the volume know of gen 1 Mu-so called ‘knob feel review.’ It’s had 100,000 hits. Watch it at your own discretion, here.

So although we really nailed the principle of an oversized, bearing driven and highly responsive volume dial, with all product user interface elements internally located, for Mu-so 2 we completely redesigned all the elements from the ground up. Firstly, we needed to do this to accommodate all the new features and connectivity that Mu-so 2 offers over the original Mu-so. Secondly, we wanted to get closer to the iconic design language of volume control on our $270,000 Statement amplifier. So now we have an acrylic cylinder, mirrored on the inside, which transmits light magically from deep in the product to create a very distinctive ‘halo’ design language which clearly differentiates the Mu-so 2 from what has come before.

Naim Audio Mu-so 2

Key specs

Speaker: wireless multiroom stereo speaker system
Drivers: six drivers; six 75-watt Class D amplifiers
Total power: 450 watts
Connectivity: Apple AirPlay 2, Chromecast Built-in, Spotify Connect, Tidal, Roon Ready, Bluetooth, Internet Radio, 3.5mm (headphone jack), optical, HDMI ARC

Price: $1,599

Q: Why did you add the proximity sensor?
A: In terms of proximity, it wasn’t a customer-driven requirement but we could see a lot of benefits to the end user. Now the product can present itself as ‘always ready’ and wakes up magically with the waft of a hand. It just feels like there is now one less obstacle between the user and the music that means so much to them.

Q: Are there any volume dials on other speakers or vintage audio components that inspired the Mu-so?
A: For sure, there is a world of sexy volume dials over the years that have stuck in my mind. Dieter Rams’s work tends to be ‘ground zero’ for me in terms of perfection of placement and form. Every designer in the audio industry owes some debt to his groundbreaking work. Jonathan Ives and the development at Apple of the iPod wheel is also an iconic ‘portal’ into a music collection and deserves a round of applause. Beyond audio, I am always inspired by great science fiction and its representation of an exciting future way of living. If a little of the monolith and HAL 900 from 2001 slipped into my subconscious during the design phase then I won’t complain!

Q: What about sensitivity of the volume dial?
A: Sensitivity across both generations is the same. We have 100 discreet step changes with very sophisticated algorithms controlling bass management and loudness to ensure that when the volume changes the character of the song always remains the same. Sensitivity was determined by a complex set of criteria looking at all likely input sources, understanding the gain of our state of the art digital architecture, and mathematically ensuring we always operate within safe boundaries whilst not always respecting the neighbors. In the end, all the science is in service to the music and that’s what gets the Naim R&D team out of bed every day.

Q: In this age of streaming, where most people are either adjusting the volume via an app or using voice commands, what is the importance of Naim’s volume dial?
A: I think that as we take on more and more all digital experiences then it is clear to see that people crave a reaction to this trend, and the “analog” experience of a gorgeous tactile volume dial answers that need beautifully. It appeals to the child in all of us and it’s important we always find time to listen to that child because it’s often when we are our happiest.

The Best American Audio Companies That Are Keeping Passive Speakers Alive

Wireless smart and active loudspeakers have taken a considerable slice of the pie in the past three years; the category generated more than $3.2 billion in revenue in 2018 and has experienced a level of growth not seen since the launch of the iPad and Android-based tablets. But before you stick a fork in passive loudspeakers, it’s worthwhile to point out that the category still generates billions in revenue; passive loudspeakers are also able to deliver superior sound quality at both the entry-level and extreme high-end.

Passive loudspeakers may not represent the future of home audio, but dozens of manufacturers around the globe, and particularly three in the United States, are holding firm: their passive speakers sound better than the vast majority of speakers out there.

Magnepan, Zu Audio, and Spatial Audio are all located in the states and build their products domestically. Each audio company offers something different than the traditional passive loudspeaker you might find in your local Best Buy.

Quality doesn’t come cheap and it should be noted that you can’t drive any of these passive loudspeakers with A/V receivers and expect great sonic results. It’s true that each company has a very different philosophy when it comes to transducer technology but they all share one thing in common; their products offer world-class levels of transparency and resolution that could make you rethink how a loudspeaker is supposed to sound.

Magnepan

Magnepan is an audio company based in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, that has been manufacturing full-range planar loudspeakers for almost forty-eight years. Its planar magnetic loudspeakers — which utilize very low mass, razor-thin film ribbon drivers — have a specific dipole design; there’s no speaker cabinet and the sound radiates from the back and front of the loudspeaker. The effect is that the sound has a level of openness and transparency that you don’t hear from conventional loudspeakers.

Magneplanar speakers utilize a full-range ribbon tweeter and quasi-ribbon driver to reproduce the entire frequency spectrum of sound; the trade-off is that the panel needs to be larger to accurately reproduce mid and low bass information. And you shouldn’t expect subterranean bass from this type of driver. Magneplanar speakers are known for their resolution, speed, clarity, and the illusion of soundstage depth and height. They require space (a minimum of 2-to-3 feet from the wall to allow their sound to really open up) and a very powerful amplifier to work properly; 100-200 watts at a minimum.

Magnepan’s loudspeakers can be surprisingly affordable by high-end standards; the .7 ($1,395) and 1.7i ($1,995+) full-range models are $1,450 and $2,200 respectively, but the new LRS (Little Ribbon Speaker), which retail for $650, offer better sound quality than most loudspeakers below $1,000.

Zu Audio

If Magnepan represents the old guard of American high-end audio, Zu Audio is new money. Based in Utah, the company focuses on full-range single-driver loudspeakers housed in beautifully finished cabinets that don’t require a lot of power. Zu’s product range is comfortable with 5-400 watts of power, but your choice of solid-state, tubes, or class D amplification will have a significant impact on the final sound.

The Omen MK. II loudspeakers ($2,250), for example, are its hook. The 10-inch full-range driver is augmented with a super tweeter and the 36-inch tall cabinets are built to last. Every Zu loudspeaker inspires confidence with its heft and high level of finish quality.

If you’re looking for an audiophile loudspeaker that is overly focused on imaging and soundstage depth, the Omen MK. II is not for you. Zu’s speakers create a wall of sound that flesh out great sounding recordings with midrange punch and a lot of detail; which can also be too much of a good thing with bad ones. A small nitpick is that they are sensitive to placement; a few inches in either direction can have a significant impact on the sound.

Spatial Audio

Spatial Audio is another Utah-based company, but they are better known for their M-series open baffle loudspeakers that have turned a DIY concept into an innovative piece of industrial design; the speakers not only look sleek and expensive, but sound impressive as well.

Open baffle loudspeakers have always had a big following in the DIY audio community; the absence of a cabinet that can negatively interact with the room and drivers, and the ability to experiment with a combination of driver technology are just two of the advantages. The disadvantages include not sounding great in smaller rooms, the need for a relatively large baffle, and not being very forgiving of bad recordings. The reality is that very few have succeeded in bringing this type of loudspeaker to market in a way that most people would consider them for a living room or den.

Spatial Audio builds and assembles its products in-house; its custom full-range drivers are mounted in a 2.5-inch thick multi-layered HDF slab that screams Ikea chic. The M4 Turbo S feature two 12-inch full-range drivers per speaker and are a very amp friendly load. What sets the Spatial Audio products apart from the other designs that have failed over the years are the room-friendly baffles; the M4 Turbo S work well in smaller spaces and the controlled directivity of the drivers minimizes their interaction with the room.

The M4 Turbo S delivers layers of resolution and impressive low-end performance. Their high sensitivity allows them to work with low-powered tube amplifiers, and even moderately powered integrated amplifiers. Their neutral sounding tonal balance makes them a good loudspeaker to experiment with if you want to compare the differences between solid state and tube amplification and they are very spacious sounding.

Give them enough space and drive them with quality amplification and you may not understand how a pair of floor-standing loudspeakers can disappear in a room like a pair of the world’s best bookshelf loudspeakers.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

3 Must-Buy Bourbons, A VR System You’ll Actually Want and Last Minute Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

In this episode of This Week In Gear: Tucker Bowe reveals the all-new Oculus Quest VR gaming system; Oren Hartov recounts a trip to Switzerland to study the history of the iconic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso watch collection; and Will Price philosophizes about – and samples – what makes three specific bourbons his “unicorn” bottles. Plus, our writers weigh in with one solid Mother’s Day gift idea each and J.D. DiGiovanni unveils Just Get This, Gear Patrol’s new one-stop shop for top product recommendations in every category.

This episode of This Week In Gear is presented by Flipboard, where quality content from the world’s best publishers and storytellers of every type is discovered.

Featured Products

Oculus Quest VR Gaming System

Oculus Quest is an all-new, all-in-one VR gaming system. It’s the big brother to the Oculus Go, which is best used for watching videos and live events. Set up the Quest with an app, and everything else is self-contained. Quest comes in two storage sizes: 64GB ($399) and 128GB ($499) and is avaialable now for pre-order.

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Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso Collection

Designed and engineered in the early 20th Century to protect watches worn by British officers while playing polo, the Reverso Collection dates back to 1931. The body of a Reverso can be flipped 180 degrees. Original Reversos featured a metal caseback on the side opposite the watch face; contemporary versions may feature a second face like the one shown in this episode.

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is next Sunday, May 12. That means you have ample time to shop for a great gift. These are the products our individual experts recommend, but if you want a more complete guide check out The 60+ Best Mother’s Day Gifts of 2019 now.

Featured Suggestions:
ARROW 5 Minute Beauty Kit ($16)
Opinel No10 Corkscrew Folding Knife ($35)
Rancourt & Co Lily Camp-moc ($210)
Sonos One Speaker ($199)
Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

Just Get This: Our Top Product Recommendations, All In One Place

Just Get This is Gear Patrol’s comprehensive list of the most noteworthy products on the market right now. If you’re in the market for a product and want a top-level recommendation, look no further. For quick and convenient access, check out the main website navigation for a link.

Three Bourbon Favorites

Staff Writer Will Price has a philosophy when choosing bourbons: among other criteria, a bottle must be accessible and affordable, but also special. These three bourbons qualify and then some: Elijah Craig Small Batch, Knob Creek Single Barrel and Heaven Hill 6-Year-Old Green Label.

Watch Now: This Week In Gear, Episode 4

In last week’s episode: Tanner Bowden reviews the all-new, magnet-construction Leatherman Free; Josh Condon rock-crawls in Jeep’s latest concept trucks; Will Price demonstrates Vermicular’s waterless cooking appliance; and Jack Seemer reveals the ultra low-cal now IPA from Dogfish Head. Also in this episode: Meg Lappe gives a one-minute rundown of the JaxJox KettleBellConnect. Watch Now

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here. In some instances, brands have provided access to, or loans of, the products included in this episode.

Watch Now: An Oven for Pizza Idiots, the 2019 BMW X7 & More

In this episode of This Week In Gear: Eric Yang and Will Price test Breville’s countertop pizza oven, Henry Phillips discusses the $5K Leica Q2 and Nick Caruso raves about the all-new BMW X7. Also in this episode, a Bryan Campbell reviews the Honda Talon side-by-side – in 30 seconds – and AJ Powell explains why the Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless earbuds are the last thing he bought.

This episode of This Week In Gear is presented by Crown & Caliber: the convenient online marketplace for pre-owned luxury watches. Visit crownandcaliber.com/gearpatrol to get $175 towards any watch purchase until May 31st.

Featured Products

Breville the Smart Oven® Pizzaiolo

“This thing is fuckin’ awesome at what it does. It works for the pizza idiot to the pizza savant.”

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Leica Q2

“All the improvements feel iterative, deliberate and genuinely helpful to the end user. The Q was my general price-no-object recommendation for a great camera for basically everyone. The Q2 takes that place no problem.”

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2019 BMW X7

The X7 very well may be everything great about BMW, fully realized.

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Honda Talon SxS

“Add an exciting application of DCT technology and it’s fair to say that while the Talon 1000R and 1000X aren’t necessarily game changers, they’ve sure as hell raised the bar.”

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Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless Earbuds

“I believe the Momentum earbuds could replace each headphone in my current rotation — including my Bowers & Wilkins P5 on-ear headphones.”

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Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Watch This Week In Gear, Episode One: We Review the All-New Porsche 911, Apple Airpods & More

Welcome to the premiere episode of Gear Patrol’s first video series: This Week In Gear, the ultimate news show for gear enthusiasts.

As the definitive executive briefing on what’s new in product culture, every week we’ll be talking shop about the latest and best gear, from outdoor & fitness, automotive and tech to home, style, grooming and watches. Hosted by Editor-in-Chief Eric Yang, every episode will feature insights from Gear Patrol staff experts as well as field tests, interviews, buying advice and beyond.

In this episode of This Week In Gear: Nick Caruso gives a rundown of the all-new 2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S; Tanner Bowden introduces The James Brand Ellis multitool; Jacob Sotak explains just how hugely advanced the Orvis H3 fly rod is; and Tucker Bowe describes what’s new in Apple’s second-generation AirPods. Also in this episode, a lightning-round Q&A with Staff Writer Meg Lappe.

This episode of This Week In Gear is presented by Crown & Caliber: the convenient online marketplace for pre-owned luxury watches. Visit crownandcaliber.com/gearpatrol to get $175 towards any watch purchase until May 31st.

Featured Products

2020 Porsche 911 Carrera S

Porsche’s all-new 911 is, as expected, a tremendous performer.

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The James Brand ‘The Ellis’

The brand’s first multi-tool is a gorgeous shot across the Swiss Army Knife’s bow.

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Orvis Helios 3D 8-Weight 9′ Fly Rod

“Without a doubt, the most scientifically accurate rod ever produced.”

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Apple AirPods with Wireless Charging Case

The second-generation earbuds feature incremental tweaks, which means they’re still great.

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Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

Apple’s New TV Streaming Service: Here’s What We Know

If you’ve been on the news pulse, you’ll know that Apple has shared some exciting announcements. This week alone, it’s released new, updated versions of the iMac, iPad and AirPods. Basically, it got all its new hardware announcements out of the way to clear the air for a big event it’s hosting on Monday, March 25th, when it’s expected to unveil a brand new video streaming service.

There’s long been speculation that Apple would throw its hat in the ring with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. It made waves at CES this year when it announced partnerships to integrate its HomeKit and AirPlay into pretty much every new smart TV coming out in 2019, meaning users won’t need an Apple TV device to access Apple TV services. And it’s been producing its own content, like Carpool Karaoke and Planet of the Apps with varying levels of success.

Content is key with any new video service, and it’s been reported that Apple’s budget for original content is more than $1 billion, which it’s spent to produce an expansive list of films and shows (you can read it in full at The Verge). It’s a big chunk of change, but it’s not much in comparison to the estimated $8 billion to $13 billion Netflix reportedly spent on original content in 2018, and is dwarfed by the $15 billion it could spend in 2019.

But notably, it’s anticipated that Apple’s video service will include partnerships with other premium subscription services. According to a recent Recode article, “it will also be able to offer its own bundles — for instance, it could offer a package of HBO, Showtime and Starz at a price that’s lower than you’d pay for each pay-TV service on its own.” There’s also a chance that Apple could bundle its other services, such as Apple Music, with its TV subscription plan.

Still, we don’t exactly know what Apple’s streaming video service will look like or how people would access it — there’s speculation that the service would be integrated into Apple’s TV app, although there’s currently no TV app for Mac. Another thing we don’t know is how much the new service will cost. A monthly charge of $10 seems like a safe place to start, but given that there will likely me copious bundle deals, it could easily cost more.

While there a lot of questions that won’t be answered until Monday, you can catch up on what we know for sure about its new hardware through the links below.

Apple’s New AirPods Are Better in So Many Ways

The new AirPods come with a number of welcome improvements, including faster pairing speeds, more talk time and improved microphone clarity on calls. They can also wirelessly charge.

Apple’s New iMacs Are Twice as Powerful as Before.

Apple is shrinking the gap between its entry-level iMacs and super high-end iMac Pros.

Everything You Need to Know About Apple’s New iPads

The iPad Air and iPad mini are decked out with Retina displays, A12 Bionic processors and Apple Pencil support.