All posts in “tech”

6 Gadgets To Have on Your Radar This Week

It’s December already and, believe it or not, new gadgets are still getting announced and released. From affordable hi-fi wireless earbuds to a $20 smartwatch, a new Sonos soundbar to Apple’s new wireless charger — we’ve rounded up the best new gadgets that were announced this week.

Cambridge Audio Melomania Touch

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Cambridge Audio already makes some of the most affordable and best-sounding wireless earbuds, which are the Melomania 1 ($79.95). Now the company has released a slightly higher-end pair, called the Melomania Touch, which add touch controls (for volume), extra long battery life (up to 50 hours) and a new “High Performance” mode that utilizes new amplification technology to make the audio sound even better. They’ll be available in January.

Price: $149.95

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Wyze Watch

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Wyze, the company best-known for its incredibly good and cheap smart home cameras, just announced its first smartwatch — and it costs just $20. The Wyze Watch promises a lot of features that you’d get in a more expensive smartwatch, such as activity tracking, sleep tracking, blood oxygen monitoring and heart rate tracking. It also has an impressive 9-day battery. We’ll have to wait to test to get the full rundown, but right now this smartwatch seems almost too good for its price. Once again, it costs just $20. That’s like $180 less than the cheapest Apple Watch.

Price: $20.00

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Sonos Arc SL

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It appears that Sonos is going to release a mic-less version of its Dolby Atmos soundbar called the Sonos Arc SL — and it will be exclusively available at Costco. Android Central broke the news this week and it looks legit — we’ve linked to the story below. We don’t know the exact pricing of the Sonos Arc SL (or when it be officially announced), but you can expect to it cost slightly less than the $799 Arc. For context, Sonos’s One SL is $20 cheaper than its One.

Price: TBD

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Satechi USB-C Magnetic Wireless Charging Cable

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Satechi just announced an alternative to Apple’s MagSafe Charger for anybody who has an new iPhone. It costs $10 less than Apple’s option, but there’s a catch. Even though it will magnetically connect to your new iPhone, it won’t be able to reach the 15-watt max charging speed that true MagSafe chargers promise. Instead, Satachi’s charging cable will max out at the 7.5-watts. It also does not come with an wall adapter.

Price: $29.99

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MagSafe Duo

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The MagSafe Duo, Apple’s fancy 2-in-1 wireless charger that can simultaneously charge an iPhone 12 and an Apple Watch, finally went on sale this week. I reviewed the MagSafe Duo a few weeks back and thought it was cool, but it definitely expensive considering that it doesn’t come with a companion wall adapter and there are many other wireless chargers that are significantly cheaper.

Price: $129.00

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Razer Hammerhead True Wireless Pro

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Razer’s newest pair of wireless earbuds are designed for mobile gamers. They are THX-certified and have noise-cancellation, which allow them to get the best possible sound out of movies and games. Additionally, they have an IPX4 water-resistance rating, so they should be safe to workout with. They are available now.

Price: $199.99

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The Best Wireless Chargers for iPhone or Android

If you’ve bought a new smartphone in the last few years, there’s a good chance that it supports wireless charging. Android smartphones have supported it for almost a decade, while Apple, admittedly late to the party, introduced the first iPhone to support wireless charging to 2017 — it was the iPhone 8— and every new iPhone has supported it since.

The Shortlist

Wireless charging is convenient because it allows you to charge your smartphone without the need of a charging cable. You just place it on the charging pad or stand and — boom — it starts charging. There are a couple tradeoffs with wireless charging, however. The main one is that it typically won’t charge your smartphone as fast as a wired connection. Also, wireless charging solutions are a little more expensive.

Wireless chargers will work with Android and iPhone

iPhones and Androids both us a wireless charging standard called “Qi” (pronounced “chee”), so all chargers that use that standard (virtually all of the modern ones) can charge both phones. Most Android smartphones can wirelessly accept up to 10-watts of power, while iPhones can wirelessly accept up to 7.5-watts of power. And yes, that means that Androids can wirelessly charge a little faster.

The iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max can accept up to 15-watts of power over Apple’s new MagSafe standard, which is twice as much as over a traditional wireless charger. But MagSafe is, at its core, still a Qi charger, so it can charge older iPhones and Android alike, albeit slower.

The other thing you need to consider before buying a wireless charger is how many devices you need it to charge at once. These days, many wireless earbuds, headphones and smartwatches support wireless charging, and you can buy a wireless charger that can charge several devices at once — but those are also more expensive.

Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Stand

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Best All-Around

The Belkin Boost Up Wireless Charging Stand is one of the best wireless chargers for a number of reasons. Its 10-watts of power mean that it’s capable of fast charging every non-MagSafe capable phone as fast as it can be wirelessly charged. It can charge a smartphone either vertically and horizontally, which is great for streamers who need to watch videos while they charge. It’s also very affordable and comes with the necessary wall adapter, which frustratingly is becoming less and less common.

Price: $34.99 $29.99

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Nomad Base Station (Apple Watch Edition)

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Best Upgrade

Nomad makes few different versions of the Base Station. The Apple Watch Edition is a little more expensive, but it also adds a floating puck to charge your Apple Watch. On top of that, the Base Station can wirelessly charge two smartphones (or a iPhone and AirPods Pro) at the same time. It’s also one of the nicest looking wireless charging pads out there, and one of the very few that does not require you to place your gadgets very precisely over the charger’s induction coils, making it extra user friendly.

Price: $149.95

RavPower Fast Wireless Charger

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Best Budget

If you’re looking for a traditional wireless charging pad, this one by RavPower is an easy one to recommend. It’s capable of fast charging most smartphones. It comes with the necessary wall adapter and charging cable. And it’s less than $30.

Price: $25.99

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Apple MagSafe Charger

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The MagSafe Charger is specifically designed to work with the iPhone 12, iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. This is because Apple’s new iPhones are integrated with a magnet that allows them to magnetically connect to this MagSafe Charger and then charge faster. That’s right, this MagSafe Charge can charge the newest iPhones at 15-watts (except for the 12 mini, which maxes out at 12-watts), which is twice the 7.5-watt speed that all other iPhones accept from a wireless charger. The only downside is that the recommended 20-watt USB-C charger is sold separately.

Price: $39

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Anker PowerWave Stand Upgraded

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Anker has been making some of our favorite wireless chargers for years. The PowerWave Stand Upgraded is neat because it allows you to charge your smartphone vertically (traditionally) or horizontally, in case you want to watch a video on your smartphone as it charges. It also supports up to 10-watts of charging, so it’ll charge your iPhone or Android fast. The only downside is that it doesn’t include a wall adapter, so you’ll have to buy your own.

Price: $19.99

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Google Pixel Stand

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If you have a Pixel smartphone from the last few years (Pixel 3 or later), there is a legit advantage to buying the Pixel Stand. It effectively turns your Pixel smartphone into a smart display with Google Assistant while charging; it can display albums from Google Photos or display the weather. It also charges via USB-C and is capable of wireless charging any compatible smartphone.

Price: $79

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Belkin 3-in-1 Wireless Charger with MagSafe

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We’re still in the early days of MagSafe, but right now this is one of the few non-Apple MagSafe wireless chargers that can also wirelessly charge your other devices. Specifically, its designed to also wirelessly charge your AirPods and Apple Watch. It’s pretty expensive, but it does come with its own charging cable and wall adapter. And if you don’t like the white finish, it’s also available in black.

Price: $149.99

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PhoneSoap Wireless

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This is a 2-in-1 wireless charger and UV-light sanitizer — and yes, it can charge your smartphone and sanitize it at the same time. It has a convenient USB-A charging port on its outside, which allows it to act as a sort of hub to charge another device. Also, the case is large enough to sanitize your other EDC besides your smartphone, such as your keys or wallet.

Price: $99.95

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Apple MagSafe Duo

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The MagSafe Duo is Apple’s fancy new 2-in-1 wireless charger that has a foldable design. It can charge any iPhone 12 via MagSafe and an Apple Watch at the same time. It’s really optimized as a travel charger, as it can fold up into a light and compact formfactor that can be easily packed into a bag. It costs $129, which isn’t cheap, especially given that it doesn’t come with a wall adapter. To get working to its full potential, Apple recommends pairing it with a 20-watt power USB-C adapter that supports Power Delivery (PD).

Price: $129

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Mophie Dual Wireless Charging Pad

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Mophie is another big name in wireless charging that makes a wide variety of high-quality wireless charging pads and stands. This is its Dual Wireless Charging pad. It’s capable of wireless charging two devices at once. Plus, it has an integrated USB-A port that, if you have an extra charging cable, allows you to charge a third device.

Price: $69.95

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The Battle of the $100 Smart Speakers: Which Sounds Best?

This is the first year that Amazon, Google and Apple all have a new smart speaker that costs $100 (give-or-take a buck). As usual, both Amazon and Google have released new-and-improved versions of their $100 smart speakers. And Apple has finally got into the action, releasing a smaller and more affordable version of its HomePod ($299), called the HomePod mini.

Both Amazon and Google have improved the audio performance of their flagship smart speakers, the Echo (4th-gen) and Nest Audio, respectively, but kept the $100 price. And while the Apple HomePod has been crowned as the best-sounding smart speaker for some time, the HomePod mini is much smaller and naturally doesn’t sound as good. So the playing field is more level.

When it comes to choosing a smart speaker, there are bigger concerns than sound quality. Namely, whether it plays nice with the other devices in your house. Nevertheless, we pit the Echo (4th-gen), Nest Audio and the HomePod mini all against each other, tested by using Spotify (and Apple Music on the Homepod mini). I listened to each head-on so that they were on a level playing field, though Apple’s Homepod has an objective edge when you’re listing to it at an angle owing to its 360-degree audio design.

Lastly, if you’re looking for the best possible sound any of these $100 smart speakers — buy two and configure them in a stereo pair. It’s easy, simple and each of these smart speakers is capable of doing it.

Here’s how they performed:

Amazon Echo (4th-Gen)

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The fourth-generation Echo is my least favorite-looking smart speaker of the bunch, mainly due its cheap-looking volume control buttons on the top, but it sounds very good and gets surprisingly loud. Amazon gave decked it out with the same 3-inch woofer as the 3rd-generation Echo, but added a second tweeter to help it with mid-range and high frequency sounds. While this Echo gets just about as loud as the Nest Audio, it’s able to create a more spatial sound — or stereo effect — that sounds lively.

Price: $99.99 $69.99

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Nest Audio

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The Nest Audio’s sound is very comparable to the new Echo. The big difference is that the Nest Audio’s sound feels more directional — like it’s coming right at you — and it’s not quite able to capture that same stereo effect. That, however, doesn’t mean that it sounds worse. The vocals on a lot of songs (like London Grammar’s “Rooting For You” or Pearl Jam’s “The End”) strike me as grittier and slightly more real-to-life.

Price: $99.99

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HomePod mini

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The HomePod mini is definitely the outlier of the group because it sounds so different. It doesn’t get nearly as loud as the Nest Audio or Echo — its max volume is probably 75% of those other smart speakers — so it may struggle to fill particularly large rooms. On the flip side, the HomePod mini definitely sounds better than the Echo and Nest Audio when playing slower tracks with strong vocals and instrumentals, which is a lot of what I listen to. There’s a clarity and realism to its sound that’s really quite striking.

Price: $99

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And the winner is…

None of these options is a slouch, but if you were to twist my arm I’d tell you that the HomePod mini is the best. It’s not the beefiest speaker of the bunch, but “louder” isn’t “better.” While it can’t get as loud as the Echo or Nest Audio or deliver the same pump-up, bass-heavy sound that I crave when working out, it’s clearly the best-sounding smart speaker for music with strong vocals and instrumentals and that’s exactly what I like to most of the time.

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iPhone 12 Pro vs iPhone 12 Pro Max: Which Takes Better Photos?

Apple gave us four new iPhones this fall and, for the most part, their differences are pretty obvious. The iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 mini are exactly the same in every way, except the mini is smaller and takes a hit on battery life because of that smaller size. The iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max seem almost the same, except in sized, but there’s actually a huge difference in the camera.

The iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max both have triple rear-camera systems consisting of wide (main), ultra-wide and telephoto lenses. The ultra-wide lens is the exact same on both smartphones, but the Pro Max has superior wide and telephoto cameras. Specifically, the Pro Max’s wide lens has much larger sensor — 47-percent larger, to be exact — which allows it to take better photos in low-light situations. And the Pro Max has a longer telephoto lenses (2.5x vs 2x) with slightly better optical zoom (5x vs 4x range) and digital zoom (up to 12x vs up to 10x).

In theory, the iPhone 12 Pro Max should be better at taking zoomed-in photos as well as low-light photos. And after using both new iPhones for the past month, that’s exactly what bears out in practice. The differences aren’t enormous to the casual observer, but they’re there, especially in conditions where smartphone cameras traditionally suffer.

The biggest difference that I noticed was when shooting in Night mode because the iPhone 12 Pro Max was way quicker. Because it didn’t need those extra long exposures, it could can a Night mode photo a second of more quicker than the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here are 10 different photos to compare below. So what do you think? Are the Pro Max’s photos worth the extra $100?

Photo #1: The night sky

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Both the above photos were shot in early November using the wide (main) cameras on photo smartphones. And both used Night Mode. They’re similar at a glance but, you can really tell the difference when you look at the tree branches in the top-left of each photo, and to a lesser extent with the docks and pylons in the water. The Pro Max’s photo just shows a little more detail in both those areas. Also, it’s worth pointing out that the Pro Max’s Night mode used a 2-second exposure, while the Pro used a 3-second exposure.

Winner: Pro Max

Photo #2:

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I convinced my brother to be my model for these photos by trading away some TV time, but unfortunately I’m not super impressed with either of these Night mode photos. Drastic lighting conditions like this are a challenge for any camera, and the iPhone 12 is no exception. And while the large sensor size should help the Pro Max’s results, I struggle to find too much in the way of improvement.

Winner: Draw

Photo #3: Puppy sleeping

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This is a top-down photo of our 11-week-old puppy. It was late morning and she was sleeping in the sun. Both photos look almost identical, with the same lights and darks of the sun and shadows. And Della (our dog), looks like an adorable seal pup in both.

Winner: Draw

Photo #4: American flag

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These photos were taken while the sun is setting over the river. Both photos do a good job of lighting the photo, and you see in great detail the bark of the tree, the sky and the river-side homes in the distance. Here, you can see the Pro Max’s advantages in the detail of the clouds. (But I could be picking it because I captured the flag better, too.)

Winner: Pro Max

Photo #5: The HomePod mini

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This photo of the HomePod mini, Apple’s tiny new smart speaker, is one of the clearest examples of the Pro Max winning. The Pro Max’s photo is better lit and you can see more detail in the speaker’s mesh fabric and it just looks like the nicer photo.

Winner: Pro Max

Photo #6: Portrait mode of a puppy

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I’ve learned that it’s nearly impossible to capture a Portrait mode of a puppy while they’re awake because they never stay still for long enough. That’s why this Portrait mode is of our puppy sleeping — it’s way easier. Both photos were taken using the combo of the iPhone’s wide and telephoto lenses, which is why the Pro Max’s shot looks closer (it has the stronger telephoto lens). Other than that, however, the two shots are virtually identical.

Winner: Draw

Photo #7: Sandy Hook beach (Zoom #1)

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These photos were taken on the beach of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, and in the distance you can see the skyline of New York City (as the crow flies, the distance is about 22 miles). The photos are pretty close, captured with the with wide (main) cameras of both iPhones, but the main point is to show you the zoom capabilities highlighted in the next (below) photos.

Winner: Draw

Photo #8: Sandy Hook beach (Zoom #2)

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These photos were taken from the exact same location as the above and it really shows off the Pro Max’s superior zoom capabilities. This is no contest.

Winner: Pro Max

Photo #9: Kite surfers

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These photos were also taken on Sandy Hook and what you can’t tell is that it was absolutely blowing — 30mph winds at least. Both photos were taken with the wide (main) cameras and I didn’t even tap to meter. And as far as I’m concerned, both these photos are basically identical. The only way you can tell there’s a difference is that the kite surfers are placed slightly differently.

Winner: Draw

Photo #10: The ultra-wide bridge

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These are ultra-wide photos of the Highlands-Sea Bridge which connects Sandy Hook to Sea Bright. You can also see the Twin Lights lighthouse on top of the hill. Both photos were taken with the ultra-wide cameras of both smartphones and, as you can see, they’re very similar.

Winner: Draw

4 Tech Tools for Enhancing Communication in the Classroom

Communication is vital in every aspect of life, and that includes the classroom. When students are able to express themselves freely and effectively to their teachers and colleagues, they start developing a skill that they will use for life.

In today’s world, technology has dominated every sphere of life, and so it is only normal that we embrace modern methods of reaching out to each other. Unlike situations when educators are usually against these new ways, classroom technology tools are actually a big help for everyone involved. They are also inevitable since the youth of today know no other means of communication but tech.

Learn to Use the Tools

While developers are busy ensuring all stakeholders have the right tools to communicate effectively, parties need to learn to use them effectively to reap the benefits. A teacher who wants to start a new way of establishing communication with students could use a communication essay to see what students feel should be addressed. That way, they get to say whether they need reminders for essays or assignments, or even free counselling sessions. With examples on areas they find hard to address, students can help teachers gather the information that developers can use as a basis to perfect these tools.

Incorporating these tools in learning is an option since the youth has been brought up on technology. They are on their phones most of the time, and so it is only logical to talk to them in the methods they are best versed with these days.

Here are four examples of tools for effective communication in the classroom.

Remind

This app was built for education, which is how it brings together anyone capable of using texts to communicate. You simply need to download the app to receive messages wherever you are. Educators can make essay reminders to students while keeping parents up to date with meetings or anything else they need to know. Creating a group is even better as everyone in it can respond immediately and see what others feel about a situation too.

Padlet

This “virtual wall” allows kids to bring their best to a discussion among their peers in their school as well as all other parts of the world. As a collaborative effort for schoolwork, they can contribute to a project that everyone is doing by adding their voices, research, and citations to a paper. As a communication tool with others in foreign countries, they can learn more about foreign culture, which brings them closer to creating a borderless world.

Visme

Students can up their presentation skills – which they will need outside school – using this web tool. This tool makes it easy to create infographics and reports that are usually part of school work. Being a free web tool, it provides every student willing to use it the skills they will find quite an effective throughput their lives.

Seesaw

While the kids are already covered, parents and teachers likewise need an effective way to communicate, and no app has better support than Seesaw. Parents can engage teachers through this platform in a meaningful way, where they can even share samples of parts they feel could be improved. It even shows a social feed of a student’s work and their progress.

Benefits of Using these Communication Tools

Introducing the use of technology to communicate among parents can be a little daunting since some of them may not be used to working with these tools, but it’s only usually a matter of time before they get on board. It gets even better when they see the benefits.

  • Ease of Mind

When everyone – parents, teachers, and students – have a platform where they can express themselves, they stay on top of things, and might no longer need to catch up at a later time. Parents may also feel relieved in the knowledge that they can interact with their children’s educators without having to be physically present.

  • More Time for Teachers

When teachers don’t have to spend portions of their time reaching out to parents through email and phone calls, they’ll have more time for proactive teaching. Kids get the benefits of this through better, more thorough education and quality time from their teachers.

  • Students Become More Responsible

Since these avenues foster communication between students, their parents, and teachers, students become more responsible. They know they can no longer sleep on their essays if they promised to send them within a certain period. Eventually, everyone’s job becomes easier.

Skills for Life

Students will not only need effective communication skills now but in the future too. After school, they would be seeking employment and entrepreneurial positions that require them to interact with the help of various digital tools, and it helps to start them early. So, whether reporting on a research paper or simply verifying that they have the right task for assignments, students should be encouraged to embrace these digital communication tools.

Alexandre Pain presents the modular Citroën ME concept EV platform

Although carmakers regularly showcase concepts produced in-house, these are normally under a set of restrictions. While wouldn’t necessarily call it boring, but most are notably generic when it comes to presentation. Occasionally, industrial designers are struck with inspiration and with enough time on their hands dabble on cool projects such as this Citroën ME.

We find it fun, quirky, and unconventional, which are usually the ingredients for something remarkable. Furthermore, being an emission-free option adds to its appeal. At first glance, the all-electric two-seater appears to be assembled like a LEGO set. To our surprise, the designer, Alexandre Pain, intends it to be a modular platform.

So far, Volkswagen appears to be the first carmaker to introduce one to the market, which it calls the Modularer E-Antriebs-Baukaste (MEB) system. The Citroën ME might not exist outside of digital space, but who knows what the future might bring right? This vehicle sports a symmetrical form factor.

If not for the presence of the windshield most folks would likely find it difficult to tell which is side faces forward or back. According to Pain, the ME apparently draws elements from the Citroën Ami and Mehari. Overall, the EV looks like a lot of fun to drive around the city.

It packs a 22-kWh battery which may not be as impressive as most commercial models, but it’s enough to give it up to 124 miles of range. Top speed should hit around 50 mph, which is not bad for urban mobility. Instead of a traditional lighting setup, it relies on twin array of LED lights – white for the front and red for the rear. It’s such a shame that the Citroën ME will never see production.

Learn more about it here

Images courtesy of Alexandre Pain

Give the Gift That Inspires Better Health with Fitbit

The holidays are always a stressful time of year, and 2020 is certainly no exception to that. This year should get coal in its stocking while the rest of us deserve gifts, and if there’s ever been a gift that keeps on giving, it’s good health — especially this year. Obviously you can’t exactly gift health, but the new Fitbit Sense is about as close as you can get. The advanced health smartwatch helps you tune-in to your body, providing tools for stress management, heart health, skin temperature and more, making it so much easier to stay on top of your health and wellness. Plus, if you order between now and the 30th you’ll save $50 off your purchase, with free two-day shipping on all orders placed on 11/30.

Price: $329 $279

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We Got the Latest AI-Powered Headphones from Crowdfunding Legends, xFyro

xFyro has been a major player in headphone tech ever since they made crowdfunding history in 2018. Raising almost $2M for their waterproof earbuds (xFyro ARIA), xFyro has been launching awesome and affordable buds on the regular ever since.

And now, they’ve done it again. We couldn’t wait to get our hands on the latest xFyro offering, xFyro ANC.

These ultra-sleek earbuds are destined to launch xFyro into headphone history yet again, and here’s why:

xFyro ANC are the first true wireless headphones powered by artificial intelligence.

That’s right. Little robots in your ears playing instruments to recreate any song you want.

Just kidding.

xFyro ANC features AI-powered noise cancellation technology. The algorithm in the xFyro software learned thousands of sounds and is able to listen to them via the mic and sort them into “critical” and “non-critical” categories.

Then, it allows the sounds you need to hear to pass through to your ear while canceling the sounds you don’t.

Pretty sweet.

xFyro ANC can do a lot more than that, too. Let’s take a look at why these are the headphones are on all of our Christmas lists this year.

AI-Powered ANC

The most advanced feature of xFyro ANC is, as you might expect, the ANC.

These earbuds come with three different listening modes, including:

  • Transparency Mode (AI-powered)
  • Standard ANC (normal ANC, but 50% more powerful)
  • No ANC (no noise cancelation)

The new tech here is Transparency Mode, which uses a custom algorithm that “listens” to sounds in your environment while you blissfully enjoy your tunes with ANC.

xFyro ANC’s AI learned over 6000 unique sounds and frequencies. When it hears a sound that you need to be aware about, like a siren or a voice speaking in your direction, it will allow that sound—and only that sound—to pass through the ANC barrier and into your ear. Other sounds, which it deems noise, are blocked so you can enjoy your music in peace.

This tech is undoubtedly cool. But it’s so much more than that.

Transparency Mode ensures that you never have to press pause or take off your headphones if you don’t want to. Whether you’re talking to a cashier, walking through traffic, or working on a project, you won’t have to miss a beat of your music or your life. You can even have full conversations while wearing your headphones AND listening to your music.

It’s a game-changer for people who never leave home without their headphones on (and who hate to take them off).

What makes xFyro even better is that the noise-canceling power is super strong. At 30 dB of ANC power, they’re 50% stronger than AirPods Pro for unrivaled noise cancellation from true wireless headphones.

Nanoparticle Speakers

For years, headphone manufacturers have been trying to figure out how to put big sound into tiny earbuds. xFyro has found the answer.

xFyro ANC’s drivers are made with a latticed nanoparticle called graphene. This material is 200x thinner than paper and 1000x stronger than steel. It’s super small but amazingly durable, making it perfect for building tiny speakers.

Graphene speakers deliver louder volume, a wider audio range (including decent bass in earbuds…finally), and fewer artifacts for a crystal-clear listening experience.

And if that wasn’t enough, xFyro went ahead and increased their driver size for even more dynamic audio and volume. xFyro ANC’s speakers are about 40% larger than the average earbud speaker. These babies sound so good that you’d swear you were listening to pro-grade over-ear headphones.

100-hour Battery Life

xFyro ANC’s Transparency Mode allows you to keep your headphones on indefinitely. So, xFyro had to provide a battery that could do the same. And they’ve knocked this one out of the park.

xFyro ANC last much longer than every earbud on the market. They go for 10 hours on a single charge and hold 90 additional hours in their charging/carrying case. That’s a total of 100 hours of battery life in your pocket. You could keep these earbuds in for a full workday for 2 weeks straight and still have enough juice to fly halfway around the world on just ONE CHARGE.

The earbuds are also highly efficient when ANC mode is on. You can expect up to 8 hours of battery life even when using the AI.

If the battery happens to quit, the headphones are fast-charging and can be powered for 1 hour or more of playback in just 15 minutes.

Durable as Hell

Are you tired of having to take your headphones out every time you break a sweat or feel a raindrop?

xFyro ANC are built for pretty much anything. They’re ready for the gym, the beach, the trail, and whatever weather is in store.

With an IPX5 waterproof rating, the xFyro ANC can sustain heavy rainfall with no issues. They’re also sealed to prevent dust and particles from getting into any cracks.

Additional shockproofing prevents damage in case of drops or spills. But that won’t happen if the earbuds are in your ears, thanks to the ergonomic fit.

Speaking of that…

Like-Nothing’s-There Fit

xFyro’s ultimate goal with the xFyro ANC design was to create a pair of headphones you never want or need to remove. So, they hired ergonomic specialists to design the most comfortable inner-ear fit imaginable.

And the results are pretty astounding.

xFyro ANC are hands-down the most comfortable earbuds out there. We’re so tired of plastic earbuds slipping out, and we hate itchy earbud materials that are supposed to increase grip (unsuccessfully). With xFyro ANC, the experience has been revamped entirely.

The buds fit snugly in the ear canal by contouring to the shape of your body. The ear tips are plush and malleable, and the buds themselves were designed using thousands of images of human ear canals. Once they’re in, the sensation of wearing them just fades away. It feels like you’re wearing nothing at all and your music simply exists all around you. You have to feel it to believe it.

xFyro ANC ships with three ear tip sizes, so you can customize your fit and find the perfect nothing’s-there feel.

So Much More

We could go on and on about the xFyro ANC, but there are too many features to fit in one article. We’ll list a few more of the perks here:

  • Touch Controls: No buttons for a sleek, seamless, and dustproof earbud
  • Dual-Beamforming MIc: Crystal clear calling in any environment
  • Bluetooth 5.0: The most advanced wireless technology
  • Digital Assistant Access: Access Google or Siri with your voice alone
  • Quick USB-C Charging: Charge xFyro ANC 2x faster with USB-C

To get the full specs on xFyro ANC and to see the earbuds in action, visit xfyro.com.

xFyro Early Black Friday Sale

Remember when we said xFyro ANC were on our Christmas lists? Well, we’re tearing those up and throwing them away (sorry Santa), because xFyro is having a stellar Early Black Friday Sale. Folks who are planning grab one soon or even beyond Cyber Monday can use the code: BFCM2020 to take $25 off the regular $125 price.

During the sale, you can pick up xFyro ANC for up to 65% off the retail price. The sale lasts for all of November, but shipping times are already getting extended due to high demand. If you want your xFyro ANC before the end of the year (or before stock runs out), head to the xFyro site and get your pair now.

If you’re a music lover, or just have to have the latest gear (like us), then you can’t miss the chance to grab xFyro ANC fresh off the line. Happy holidays and happy listening!

The Best Laptop Stands for a More Comfortable Home Office

A laptop stand might seem unnecessary but it has a simple, important job: to make you more comfortable while you work. It raises the laptop’s screen so you don’t have to hunch over it, which puts more strain on your neck and back. It also raises the keyboard, which alleviates pressure on your wrists.

Laptop stands come in all different shapes and styles (as well as prices), but the most important thing is that you want to make sure you get the right laptop stand for your work setup. For example, if you don’t have an external monitor or a wireless keyboard and mouse, you want a stand that keeps you laptop close. If you have a wireless keyboard and mouse but no external monitor, you can have a stand that elevates your laptop’s screen higher of the desk. And if you have an external monitor, you might even want a vertical laptop stand which allows you to work and have your laptop completely closed.

The other thing to consider is if you’re laptop stand will be a permanent solution on your desk or if you need to be more mobile. While a lot of people are planning to work remotely for a while and they’re thus can buy a laptop stand that’s more of a fixture, some people still have to travel and need a more mobile desk — and you can buy a laptop stand that’s lightweight and collapsible, and thus more portable.

After function, comes aesthetic. Because the reality is that most people want a laptop stand that makes their workstation look nice. You can buy laptop stands that perfectly match your MacBook or PC laptop. Or you could buy one to match your desk.

Twelve South Curve

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Best All-Around

Twelve South makes accessories specifically designed for Apple products and this laptop stand is no different. Apple even sells it. But even if you don’t have a MacBook, it’s backless design will accommodate most laptops. Designed to elevate your laptop 5.8 inches off the desk surface, this stand aligns your screen with an external monitor (if you have one). It’s also made of aluminum and comes in Space Gray, meaning it’ll blend in naturally with the latest MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

Price: $60

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Grovemade Walnut Laptop Stand

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Best Upgrade

Grovemade’s entire Desk Collection is pretty stunning. This Monitor Stand stands out for its simplicity and elegant design. It makes the wood the star of the show, and it comes in walnut or maple. You’ll pay a little more for the stlyishness, but you are going to be staring in the general direction of this thing most of the day.

Price: $150

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Satechi Aluminum Laptop Stand

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Best Budget

This is a great budget option if you’re looking for an ergonomic and minimalist laptop stand. It has rubber grips at its base to prevent sliding and even a cutout for cable management. But best of all, it’s very lightweight and has a completely collapsible design, meaning it’s travel solution if you find yourself frequently on the move.

Price: $48

ObVus Solutions Laptop Tower Stand

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The Tower Stand effectively does the same job of a standing desk. Its sturdy base and adjustable height allow you to quickly switch between working sitting down and standing up. Plus, since it’s so small and lightweight, you can easily move it. (Most standing desks are very heavy.)

Price: $75

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Twelve South BookArc

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This vertical stand is pretty for people who use an external monitor and have their laptop in “closed-display” mode. It’s arc-shaped design elevates your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air off the desk, so it looks nice. You can buy it in either silver or space gray.

Price: $59

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Yohann MacBook Stand

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Frankly, the Yohann Wooden MacBook Stand is unlike anything else. Yes, it’s minimalist and it’s made of wood, which are two boxes that a number of other stands on this list also check. But this stand elevates a MacBook in a way that looks both precarious and magical. If you’re looking for a stand that’s a statement piece, this is it.

Price: $179

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PWR+ Laptop Table Stand Adjustable Riser

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This laptop stand might not be the prettiest, but it’s unique for its adjustability and versatility. It can be placed on a desk and used like a traditional laptop stand, but it can be configured in such a way that it forms a kind of makeshift desk. So if you frequently work from your couch or your bed, this adaptable stand is exactly what you need.

Price: $50

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Wall Desk by Nordic Appeal

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The Wall Desk definitely stands out from the pack. It’s beautiful, fashioned completely out of oak or walnut. You can also use it as a wall-mounted stand (provided you purchase knobs) that functions as a floating desk.

Price: ~ $195

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Apple’s M1 MacBook Pro Is Impressive As Hell

Last week, Apple announced its first three new computers built with the company’s new M1 chip. There’s a new M1-based MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac Mini. It marks the first time in 14 years that Apple has integrated its Macs with anything other than an Intel chipset, but it’s super exciting because of the huge leaps in both performance and battery life that the M1 chip promises.

When comparing Apple’s new laptops, the M1-based MacBook Air and M1-based MacBook Pro, the two are actually very similar. The MacBook Pro has a slightly brighter screen, a slightly heavier design and slightly improved performance (thanks to its active cooling system and larger battery), but the M1 chip kind of acts as a great equalizer. Or as John Gruber of Daring Fireball put it: “The [new M1 MacBooks] are best thought of not as three different computers, but rather three different manifestations of the same computer.”

Apple sent me a review unit of the new 13-inch MacBook Pro so I could check out the real differences that the M1 chip makes. The short version? These MacBooks are great.

The new Pro is outwardly identical to the old one.

For better or worse, the new MacBook Pro looks and feels like any of the MacBook Pros that Apple has sold in the past few years. Some of its details will be new to you if you haven’t updated in a few years, like the Touch Bar as well as the new-and-improved keyboard with scissor switches, instead of the much-maligned butterfly switches. But compared to last year’s 13-inch MacBook Pro, the M1 version is identical except for its guts. It still even has the same 720p webcam.

Also, only the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro has been updated with the M1 chipset. The more “pro” versions of the MacBook Pro — like the 13-inch model with four ports instead of two or the 16-inch MacBook Pro that was released earlier this year — are still kitted out with the trusty Intel chipset. It’s a decision sort of at odds with Apple’s branding of the M1 as it’s “most powerful chip,” but the switch is doubtlessly coming for the other MacBooks soon.

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The M1-based MacBook Pro has the same keyboard, trackpad, Touch Bar and display as the previous 13-inch MacBook Pro.

Tucker Bowe

It’s fast and quiet.

There are a few things I noticed right away switching from my older 2016 Intel MacBook Pro to one with Apple’s M1 chip, and that’s that everything seems to run just a little bit quicker. A big part of this sensation has to do with its new “Instant Wake” feature, which basically allows the MacBook Pro to instantly start up after its been sleeping and work just as quickly as if you’d been using it for the last 15 minutes. There’s no waiting time, which is a feature that iPads and iPhones have been able to do for a long time and it’s nice to see it actually work on a Mac.

I’m not a “pro” user who is constantly transferring huge files using editing programs like Final Cut Pro that really push a computer’s CPU, so suffice it to say I don’t really push this thing to its absolute limits. But over the course of typical use (browser tabs, browser tabs, and more browser tabs), I found it next to impossible to get the fan running. My 2016 MacBook Pro, which is of course showing its age in general, kicks up the fan the second I’m doing anything more rigorous than browsing the web. But nothing really seemed to bother the M1-based MacBook Pro. I was playing Apple Arcade games, such as The Pathless or Hot Lava, and streaming Apple TV+ and Netflix, specifically See and The Queen’s Gambit, and the computer was just quiet. It was pretty wonderful.

The battery life is no joke.

The killer feature of the M1 chip, at least in my mind, is its hugely improved battery life. Apple claims that M1-based MacBook Pro is able to deliver 17 hours of web browsing, which is huge improvement over the 10 hours that its predecessor was able to deliver.

And I’ve noticed it. It’s about five o’clock in the evening and I’ve been working on the M1-based MacBook Pro since around 8:30 in the morning — and my battery is at 31 percent. That’s mostly web browser work, though with apps like Slack and iMessage, and a few video calls sprinkled in. With that workload, it doesn’t seem like the Pro would make it to the max rated 17 hours, but I can see how it would be possible if you were only browsing the web. Either way, the battery life is plenty enough for a full day’s work with breathing room to spare.

m1 macbook air
The M1-based MacBook Pro replaced the previous 13-inch MacBook Pro in the company’s lineup. It starts at $1,299.

Tucker Bowe

Is a M1-based MacBook Pro worth buying?

My initial reaction is heck yes. If you need a new MacBook in general, the M1 chip seems like the way to go. It’s fast. It’s long-lasting. And it’s impressively quiet.

But there are reasons to pump the brakes. The new MacBook Pro and MacBook Air are kind of first-generation products, and it’s possible there are still some kinks that will need to be worked out when it comes to software compatibility.

But most of all, these new Macs feel like old shells with guts. Could Apple radically redesign them to take even more advantage of the new power and efficiency of the M1 chip? Or offer power comparable to older MacBooks but in a much smaller form factor? Or both? We’ll have to wait and see, but an evolution in form factor seems very likely and it’s worth considering whether you might want to wait for that.

Price: $1,299+

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Some of the Best Wireless Earbuds Are on Sale Right Now

If you like listening to music while you exercise, you’re probably no stranger to lost, broken, or water-damaged headphones. And if you’re no stranger to Gear Patrol, then you’ve almost certainly heard us rave about Jaybird’s Vista True Wireless Earbuds. The brand’s lightest, most compact and most advanced headphones to-date feature industry-leading battery life and #EARTHPROOF shock, dust, water and sweat-proof IPX7 construction (not to mention rich, high-quality sound). That’s 16 hours of total listening time whether you’re running, cycling, working out or just plain working. Plus, from now until November 30th the brand is offering 45 percent off the Vista headphones, bringing the price down to a shockingly low $99.

      Buy Now: $179 $99


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    Altifarm Enverde’s Pico Planter Turns Any Novice Gardener Into A Pro

    If planting is not your forte but you want to try your hand at it anyway, then the Pico Planter from Altifarm Enverde can help. This modular farming equipment turns you into a pro in no time.

    You don’t have to have a green thumb to see your plants grow and survive. This innovative device takes care of that part. All you need to do is sow the seeds, refill the water, and harvest your produce. You can plant anything from herbs, salad greens, succulents, and more.

    The Pico Planter uses multi-spectrum OSRAM LED grow lights mounted on a corrosion-resistant telescoping arm to simulate sunlight. This means you can plant anywhere and all-year-round without having to worry about the plants’ much-needed hours of sun.

    The LED lights work via a USB Type-C cable and an aluminum heatsink keeps the LED module rigid and lightweight. The module also helps the LED chips last longer thanks to its excellent heat dissipation properties.

    This ingenious device offers multiple mounting options. You can hang it on a wall, lay it flat on a surface, or attach magnets so you can stick it to your fridge or anywhere with a magnetic surface. The arm stretches up to a foot to accommodate your growing plant.

    The Pico Planter uses a self-watering system so you don’t have to worry about over or underwatering. Once a week of watering is enough and a transparent window on the planter’s body indicates when it’s time for a refill. Plants also grow quicker and healthier thanks to the ventilation holes below that provide root oxygenation.

    Get It Here

    Images courtesy of Altifarm Enverde

    7 of the Best New Gadgets That Snuck Out This Week

    With the new M1 MacBook Pro and MacBook Air, the last of Apple’s big hardware announcements is behind us. So too are the releases of the next Xbox and Playstation consoles (though, most people aren’t likely to get their hands on them any time soon). But there was still a surprising amount of cool and new product releases this week. We’ve rounded it all up below.

    Samsung Smart Monitor

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    Samsung announced two lines smart monitors that are aiming to replace your TV. The company’s M5 and M7 lines are external monitors that have integrated Samsung’s Tizen smart operating system, which allow them to stream apps like YouTube, Hulu, Netflix and Apple TV Plus. The M5 line consists of two HD monitors (27-inch and 32-inch models) and starts at $270, while the M7 line consists of one 4K monitor (32-inches), which goes for $400. These monitors will be available for purchase in the coming weeks.

    Price: $270+

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    Sony LSPX-S2 Glass Sound Speaker

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    Originally announced at CES almost a year ago, the Sony LSPX-S2 is finally available for purchase in the US. It’s a clever portable Bluetooth speaker (and the successor of the Sony LSPX-S1) that’s designed to look like a modern lantern or candle. The cylindrical design is able able to harness the company’s “advanced vertical drive technology” to play 360-degree sound that’s capable of filling a room.

    Price: $450

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    Cambridge Audio Edge M

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    Cambridge Audio announced a new power amplifier to its high-end Edge line of audio components. The all-new Edge M has a minimalist industrial design, similar to much of the rest of the line, but it has twice the power of the Edge W (which has a power output of 200 watts). The even bigger difference between the Edge W and the Edge M is that that latter has monoblock design, as opposed to the Edge W’s stereo, so each unit is meant to drive a single channel with even less distortion. This also means you’ll need to Edge M units to drive a pair of (really nice) loudspeakers.

    Price: $4,000

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    Twelve South AirFly Pro Switch Edition

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    If you have a Nintendo Switch and Apple’s AirPods or AirPods Pro, this is the perfect Bluetooth adapter for you. It lets you listen to your AirPods with the portable game console because, believe it or not, the Switch still doesn’t have built-in Bluetooth.

    Price: $55

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    Logitech G Pro X Superlight

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    The Logitech G Pro X Superlight is essentially a smaller and less-feature-rich version of the company’s popular gaming mouse, the Logitech G Pro Wireless. It’s going to cost you $20 extra bucks to get the Superlight version, but you’re getting a lighter model with almost twice the battery life.

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    Wrensilva Loft

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    Wrensilva is known for making beautiful, high-end and expensive hi-fi consoles that blend seamlessly with other mid-century decor. The company’s newest creation, the Loft, fits that description as well. It’s an all-in-one console — complete with a Pro-Ject turntable, a Wrensilva preamplifier and two-way speaker, as well as built-in Sonos connectivity — that lets you switch seamlessly switch between vinly and streaming.

    Price: $4,999

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    Glow-in-the-Dark Powerbeats Earphones

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    Beats announced a special edition version of its Powerbeats wireless earphones in collaboration with design company Ambush — and the cool thing is that they glow in the dark. Granted, this glow-in-dark version will cost you $200, or $50 more than the regular Powerbeats, but it could be a handy feature for people who run at night.

    Price: $200

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    Looking for a Phone Case? RhinoShield is Offering 60% Off

    When it comes to your phone, owning a case is a must. Without one, your phone feels delicate, fragile and easy to crack with one accidental drop. But with one, your device can often feel clunky and look like a brick. RhinoShield delivers a case that ditches the brick but still provides the protection — offering beautifully designed protective cases with hundreds of prints and customization options. Beyond standard colorways, it also offers exclusive collections with PewDiePie, Ubisoft, a NASA-approved collection and more. Whether you own an iPhone or flagship Android, RhinoShield has a line of cases and screen protectors to outfit your device, as well as other accessories such as Apple Watch cases, AirPods cases, add-on lenses and cables. They’re even backed by a lifetime warranty — think of it as protection, for your protection. Plus, RhinoShield is currently having its biggest sale of the year with up to 60 percent off storewide for Black Friday — add code GearPatrol and get an additional 10 percent off. Snag free shipping over $40.

    Learn More: Here


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    The Best Tech Releases of the Week That Aren’t the PS5 or Xbox Series X

    This has been another big week in tech. Both the next-generation consoles, the Xbox Series X and PS5, are out in the wild — but good luck finding a place where you can actually buy one. That said, there was also a big Apple event where the company announced the first computers with the new M1 chip, which promises huge performance and battery gains. But there was a lot more than just that.

    Here’s what you should be aware of.

    Leica Q2 Monochrom

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    If you’re in the market for a crazy nice and crazy expensive black-and-white camera, check out the Leica Q2 Monochrom. It costs almost $6,000 and joins the company’s other black-and-white shooters, like the M Monochrom and M10 Monochrom. The Q2 Monochrom has a 47MP sensor and a fixed 28mm F1.7 ASPH lens, and the company claims it’s able to produce better images with more dynamic range than its Q2. But only in black and white, of course.

    Price: $5,995

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    MacBook Air with M1 Chip

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    This is the first MacBook Air to be integrated with Apple’s M1 chip (instead of Intel’s chipsets). The new MacBook Air is significantly more power efficient than previous models, with a rated battery life of 15 hours of web browsing compared to the previous Air’s 11 hours. It also has no internal fans, which should make it completely silent.

    Price: $999+

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    MacBook Pro with M1 Chip

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    Apple

    The new 13-inch MacBook Pro also has performance enhancements over the previous 13-inch Pro. Apple claims the new model boasts battery life to give you 17 hours of web browsing (versus the 10 hours of its predecessor) — Apple claims that it’s the longest-lasting battery that its ever put in a laptop. The new Pro still has a built-in fan, so it won’t be as quiet as the new Air.

    Price: $1,299+

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    Mac Mini with M1 Chip

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    The new Mac Mini looks very similar to the one that Apple has been selling for the last two years. It has two USB-C ports and two USB-A ports, along with a headphone jack and an ethernet port. Apple claims that it’s able to support two external monitors or Apple’s fancy (and huge) Pro Display XDR. You can purchase it with 8GB of memory and 256GB of SSD or 8GB of memory with a 512GB SSD. The more hearty configuration costs an extra $200.

    Price: $ 699

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    Wyze Robot Vacuum

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    Wyze, the company best known for its tiny and really affordable smart home cameras, has made a $199 robot vacuum to take on Roomba. The headline feature is its price, of course, but it’s also integrated with a LiDAR senor, similar to what’s in the iPhone 12 Pro models, which enables the vacuum to accurately measures distances and create a 3D map out your room. It should be able to navigate and clean your room without bumping into too many objects. It’s available for preorder now.

    Price: $199

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    Beoplay E8 Sport Rapha

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    The Beoplay E8 Sport Rapha are new wireless earbuds for cyclists. They’re simply the B&O’s Beoplay E8 Sport wireless earbuds that have been badged with Rapha logos and signature pink flair — so they’re not exactly a “new” product — but if you’re a fan of Bang & and Olufsen and Rapha, these might be the perfect wireless earbuds for you.

    Price: $350

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    Plugable TBT3-UDZ Docking Station

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    If you’re looking for a powerful docking station to anchor your work-from-home setup, Plugable makes some of the best. Its newest docking station, the TBT3-UDZ, is a beast. It has 14 different ports with USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 compatibility, and it supports of to 100-watts with Power Delivery (PD) of passthrough power. It also can support up to two 4K external monitors.

    Price: $299

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    Grovemade Wood MagSafe Dock

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    The Wood MagSafe Dock is essentially wooden coaster for your MagSafe charger. You still need to buy Apple’s MagSafe charger separately, but this thing will make it look darn nice.

    Price: $100 $80

    https://grovemade.com/product/magsafe-dock/

    Phiaton 900 Legacy Noise-Canceling Headphones

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    The 900 Legacy is the Phiaton’s newest pair of noise-canceling headphones and they have two standout features. First is the carbon fiber design which just looks really cool (at least in my opinion). And secondly, they are rated for an incredible 43-hour battery life with active noise-cancellation turned on.

    Price: $250

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    Apple’s HomePods Make a Sneaky Good Surround Sound System

    Apple finally created a smaller and more affordable smart speaker, the HomePod mini ($99) — and it’s impressive. I’ve been testing two HomePod minis over the last several days, and it’s easily my pick for the best-sounding and best-looking miniature smart speakers. But slipping under the radar are some updates to the original HomePod, including the ability to create the ultimate Apple surround-sound system.

    Alongside the launch of the HomePod mini, Apple gave the original HomePod Home Cinema mode that lets you set one or two HomePods (paired in stereo) as the default speakers for your Apple TV. And secondly, Apple has given the HomePod support for Dolby Atmos, even all by its lonesome.

    HomePod

    apple.com

    $299.00

    Dolby Atmos capability is a crucial element of a modern home theater system which creates virtual channels that trick your ears into thinking that sound is coming from all around you — left, right and above — instead of just right in front of you. Normally, this requires support from your TV, which means any set older than a year or two is no good for the setup, but the Apple setup circumvents that requirement completely. The audio is directly streamed from the Apple TV 4K to the HomePod over AirPlay 2, so there’s no TV passthrough.

    Apple TV 4K

    apple.com

    $179.00

    The result is incredible. The HomePod is by far and away the best sounding smart speaker you can buy. Apple’s acoustics team engineered the hell out of the HomePod, packing it with special technologies (like beam-forming) that make it sound exceptional for the space it’s in. And when you pair two together and give them support Dolby Atmos, it just puts everything over the top.


    How to setup your Apple Atmos system

    It’s actually pretty easy to setup an Atmos system with one or two HomePods and an Apple TV 4K. Here are the steps:

    1. Make sure your iPhone (which you’re using to set up the system), HomePod(s) and Apple TV 4K are all running the latest software. (It should be iOS 14.2, tvOS 14.2 and HomePodOS 14.2, respectively.)
    2. In the room where you have your TV and Apple TV 4K setup, place your HomePod. If you have one HomePod place it centrally (where a soundbar should be). If you have two HomePods, place on either side of your TV.
    3. Open the Home app on your iPhone and make sure your HomePod(s) is in the same “Room” as your Apple TV 4K. If you have two HomePods, you can then configure them in a stereo pair.
    4. Turn on your Apple TV 4K. You should see a message asking you if use the HomePod as your TV Speakers.
    5. Select Use as TV Speakers to turn on home theater audio.
      1. There’s a catch: It only works with your Apple TV.

        As good as Apple’s ultimate Dolby Atmos system is, it might not be for you. The biggest issue is that it relies completely on the Apple TV 4K to work and if you change inputs — say if you decide you want to play Xbox or PlayStation, or you want to want cable — the sound won’t come out of the HomePod(s). So the only reason to build out a Atmos system with owe or two HomePods and an Apple TV 4K is if you never really plan on switching inputs, or are willing to have an extra speaker like a soundbar for other uses. You have to be all-in on Apple, which probably isn’t realistic for a lot of people.

        The other thing that I wish Apple would do would be to enable you to designate two HomePod mini speakers as rear-channels so you’re able to get true immersive Dolby Atmos experience. Sonos allows you to do this with two One (or Play:1) or two Five (or Play:5) speakers when paired with its Sonos Arc, and it seems like a missed opportunity for Apple. Of course, since Apple rolled out the Atmos update to Home speakers two year after their release, there’s still hope we’ll get more software updates down the road. (If you’re wondering, the HomePod mini doesn’t currently support Dolby Atmos.)

        As for cost, the price to build the ultimate Apple Dolby Atmos system isn’t astronomical. You should buy two HomePods (even if one is enough for Atmos), which Apple is now selling for $299 a pop (but you can occasionally buy from Best Buy or Amazon for as little as $199 each), and an Apple TV 4K which costs $179. That’s a grand total of $747 if you buy the HomePods at full price or as little as $547 if you get a deal. It’s an investment, of course, but one that will save you the price of a new TV, and that is even lower if you already have a HomePod.

        For context, most Dolby Atmos soundbars and home theater systems run between $500 and $1,200. Those, of course, need a new TV that supports Dolby Atmos too. It may not be the perfect alternative for everyone, but if it fits the bill for you, it’s a terrific deal.

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      Can Your TV Handle the New Consoles? Here’s How to Tell

      The next-generation consoles by Microsoft and Sony — the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PS5, specifically — are all available for purchase and if you’re thinking about buying one, the first question you should ask is: Do I need to upgrade my TV first?

      What makes these next-generation consoles special is their power, speed and the improved graphics they’re able to deliver. And while you can hook theses new consoles to your older TV and you’ll see some improvements, they won’t be the drastic gains — especially in the graphics — that really make upgrading to these next-generation consoles worth it in the first place.

      So what should you look for?

      4K is the bare minimum.

      4K TVs are everywhere these days and you can get a great one for pretty cheap; most 50-inch 4K TV will probably run you between $500 and $600 (Vizio’s M-Series Quantum is one of our favorites). The reason why you should get a 4K TV is that they have four times as many pixels as standard HD TVs, meaning they can produce a much better picture. And the next-generation consoles take advantage of every one.

      4K at 120Hz is ideal.

      Refresh rate is one of the most important specs to look out for when buying a 4K that’s fit for the new consoles. The refresh rate is the rate in how frequently a TV is able to refresh its image. Most older TVs (and smartphones) have a max refresh rate of 60Hz, but a lot of new TVs have a max refresh rate of 120Hz, which is idea for the new consoles because it allows to adjust graphics quicker and just make the gameplay look and run much more smoothly. That said, you want to make sure that the TV can run 4K at 120Hz – a lot of TVs say that they have a max refresh of 120Hz, but they downgrade to a lesser resolution to get there, so check the specs to make sure you’re getting 4K at 120hz specifically.

      To get the most, you’ll probably need to upgrade.

      The reason why you want to buy a new TV that was made in 2020 is that there’s a good chance that it will support the newest technologies that these next-generation consoles can exploit. These technologies include high dynamic range technologies like Dolby Vision and HDR+, as well immersive audio technologies like Dolby Vision. They also are likely to have the latest HDMI technology that support these audio and video formats.

      Go for OLED to get the best results.

      If you’re upgrading to the best possible console, it makes it possible to upgrade to the best possible TV (within reason). And that means making the jump to an OLED TV like the LG CX. OLED TVs aren’t terribly expensive anymore — the 55-inch LG CX will run you just under $1,400 — but they’re the ideal partner for the next-generation consoles. OLED TVs deliver a far superior picture than a standard LCD TVs because they control each individual pixel. The result is a picture with significantly more detail and contrast.

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      How to Save on Sonos Speakers With the Upgrade Program Discount

      If you’ve owned Sonos speakers for a long time and were thinking about upgrading or expanding your Sonos system, there’s something that you need to know. Sonos just announced a new Upgrade Program that allows long-time Sonos owners to buy new Sonos speakers and get up to a 30-percent discount. This is not a trade-in program; you’ll still keep your old Sonos speakers. It’s an initiative by Sonos to encourage long-time listeners to expand their system with some newer products.

      Here’s how it works. You go to the Upgrade Program’s landing page — here — and sign into your Sonos account. Once you’ve signed in, you’ll see a list of the Sonos speakers that you own and which ones make you eligible for a discount.

      If you own a Connect:Amp (Gen 2), Connect (Gen 2), Play:1, Play:3, Play:5 (Gen 2), Playbar or Playbase, you can get a discount code and get 15-percent off any Sonos product. So if you’re thinking about upgrading to the Sonos Arc, which costs $799, you can buy it for $679 — saving you $120.

      If you own an even older product, like the Sonos Boost, Sonos Bridge, Connect:Amp (Gen 1), Connect (Gen 1), or Play:5 (Gen 1), you’re eligible a discount that gets you 30-percent off any Sonos product. So you can buy the Sonos Arc for $559 — saving you $240.

      The catch is that you can only use a discount code once per speaker. But you get a discount for each of the Sonos speakers that’s eligible for an upgrade. So if you have two older Play:1 speakers, you get two 15-percent discount codes which can be applied to two new speakers.

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