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The 3 Best Cameras Under $1,000

Which camera to buy? When my editor challenged me to come up with the three best cameras for under $1,000, I somehow thought it would be the easiest assignment in the world — just pick the most expensive model under $1,000 from the top three makers, Canon, Nikon and Sony. Right?

But as I mulled the prospect, a multitude of variables emerged. I wanted to ensure that every camera could be purchased at that price with a good lens; it’s a decision that essentially took most pro-level full-frame cameras out of consideration. I also wanted to be sure that several user types would be considered – serious amateur photographers who don’t mind larger rigs and might upgrade their lens options later on, or trigger-happy enthusiasts shooters who want a compact camera, equipped with easy Wi-Fi transfer capability to smartphones. (“Easy” being the keyword here.)

On this hunt, I couldn’t ignore my own experience. First, I tend to believe that if you’re investing more than $500 in a camera, you should really consider an interchangeable-lens model rather than a point-and-shoot, even if the latter comes with a big zoom. This allows you to expand your capabilities with a few extra lenses as your interest grows, but it still leaves you with a perfectly great camera if you use the same lens for the rest of your life. There are exceptions: If you know you want great image quality but need a compact form, any point-and-shoot from Sony, Leica, Panasonic, Fuji, Canon, Olympus, or Nikon that costs at least $400 will likely be great for you.

Word of warning here, however: Be extra careful of those big zooms. The greater the advertised optical zoom in a camera, the smaller the sensor that’s needed to accommodate it. For some folks, it may not matter – and it’s hard to argue that the Queen Mother of optical zooms in point-and-shoot cameras, the Nikon P1000 with its 3000mm zoom lens, isn’t an extraordinary achievement. But the bottom line is that that camera and others with big on-board zooms use tiny sensors – often the size of smartphone camera sensors – thereby diminishing image quality across the full range. Alternatively, you can make up a lot of ground here simply by cropping in images taken with a camera equipped with a larger sensor and smaller zoom, and have a better overall product.

This brings me to my second bias: Sensor size. Try, if at all possible, to buy a camera with a sensor that’s at least one-inch in size. Unfortunately, the photography industry uses the most illogical, random, and, frankly, utterly asinine labeling system for sensor sizes (1/2.3-inch, Full-Frame, APS-C, Medium, for example, along with the worst of them all, micro four-thirds), but generally you want to target micro four-thirds, 1-inch, APS-C, or full-frame sensors. These generate the best image quality and give you the most data to work with while editing.

Okay, so at long last, what are these three mythical beasts I deem so worthy in my unassailable wisdom?

Sony a6400 (w/ 16-50mm Lens)

Why we picked: Sony’s sensors are unmatched in the industry, so that’s my first motivation for choosing this model. The A6400’s 24.2-megapixel sensor produces outstanding images, thanks to its robust image processor. (It also cranks out great 4K video.) The second reason I chose it is that it’s mirrorless, meaning it has no mechanical mirror that flips out of the way with every shot. As a result, it’s more compact and has a digital viewfinder that shows the scene as it would be captured in the shot. Finally, it uses E-Mount mirrorless-specific lenses, so if you eventually upgrade to a full-frame Sony, you’ll still be able to use those lenses, as well. But ultimately, this is an incredibly versatile and capable camera with automatic eye-tracking to ensure people are in focus, fast autofocus, and 11 frames-per-second shooting for action sequences. It’s a great camera, and the best camera you can buy short of a full-frame model.

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Fujifilm X-T30 (w/ 14-45mm Lens)

Why we picked: Camera aficionados revere the Fujifilm brand with good reason: The cameras continue a rare tradition of stellar mechanical build quality, even when the mirror action is replaced with a mirrorless configuration. The smartly organized and tactilely satisfying dials provide instant access to key setting controls that you can usually manipulate without looking. It’s a classic form-follows-function design, and the overall look and feel of the Fuji is fantastic. It will make you shoot more just so you can experience holding the thing in your hand. When you actually look at your images, you’ll be just as thrilled. The quality from its 26.1-megapixel APS-C sensor is top-notch, and it has such photographic grace-notes as a rear touchscreen that helps not just navigate menus quickly, but also set exposure and focus. It’s kind of a pity that the best-designed products are the ones geared for professional users, but this is a great example of a camera that delivers that quality for non-pros, too.

Nikon D5600 DSLR (w/ 18-55mm and 70-300mm Lenses)

Why we picked: Sometimes you just want to tell camera critics to stick it in their sensor holes. I get that. Snooty writeups can be off-putting when you’re really looking for a great value and a great range of capabilities—nuances of button placement and mirror use be damned. Having used this camera extensively, I can attest to its raw potency as great, versatile, and affordable camera. It has a solid 24-megapixel sensor, Wi-Fi connectivity for quick mobile transfers and even remote camera control, a swiveling touchscreen, and a huge range of lens options. In fact, you can buy this camera body and two key lenses (18-55mm and 70-300mm) for less than $800. That initial versatility in its own right makes it a huge win.

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 Tera Cabin Is A 3D-Printed Getaway In The Woods

3D printed homes don’t come as a shock anymore. Ever since this unique method of building entered mainstream techniques we’ve seen a number of experiments employing this kind of printing. The Tera Cabin is one such example, though the difference this time is that it’s far more utilitarian than its superfluous contemporaries.

Using the same space-grade technology as Marsha, which won the NASA Centennial Challenge, SpaceFactory takes 3D print to a whole new level with the Tera Cabin. In and of itself, the dwelling is an impressive experiment. But it stretches beyond just being great because its aesthetic underpinnings have a purpose. The Tera Cabin gives a taste of what life on another planet would be like. And you don’t even have to leave Earth to experience such a sensation.

The cone-like exterior seems rightfully futuristic, like something you’d see in a Ridley Scott sci-fi movie. This structure comes formed thanks to a sustainable mixture of sugar and basalt. It boasts a living area, a sleeping loft, and a bathroom. The windows, which you’ll see come in diamond shapes, provide views of the rural vastness outside. You can also go to the outdoor terrace that overlooks the riverbank for more spectacular voice of the wilderness enveloping the dwelling.

Each stay in this futuristic getaway will contribute to research and development. Comfort and science; two birds with one stone. It will also help SpaceFactory fund future projects. The Tera Cabin will open its doors for visitors starting March 2020. Hit the link below for more information.

CHECK IT OUT

Beware: Your MacBook Pro Might Not Be Allowed on a Plane Anymore

In June, Apple announced a recall for certain 15-inch MacBook Pro models that were sold between mid-2015 and 2017 on the grounds that their batteries could pose a fire risk. Now, for the same reason, the FAA is banning these models from flights in the U.S., according to a statement shared with Bloomberg.

You can (and should) check to see if your MacBook Pro is affected by checking its serial number on Apple’s website. If it is, you can (and should) send it in or take it to an Apple store for a free battery replacement, though that process may take as long as two weeks.

For the time being, we don’t know exactly how the ban will be enforced in U.S. airports. The problem is with the batteries, not the MacBook Pros themselves, so MacBook Pros with replaced batteries should be safe to fly. Still, it’s easy to imagine how strict, better-safe-than-sorry enforcement of the restriction could result in a de facto ban of repaired models, and potentially unaffected models as well. In short, it’s probably best to not fly with your 15-inch MacBook Pro for the forseeable future, if you can avoid it.

Listen to Spotify on Your Phone? Here Is a Hi-Fi Upgrade

With a paid subscription base of over 50 million users in the United States alone, digital music streaming is replacing CDs and digital downloads with Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, Apple Music, and YouTube.

Convenience and access to tens of millions of tracks across all genres of music has proven to be a compelling reason for consumers to abandon physical media for their favorite music stored in the cloud, which is accessible 24-7. That growth of digital streaming services has also served as the catalyst for the exponential growth of personal audio; consumers spent $6 billion on new headphones in Q1 2019.

The one legitimate criticism leveled against digital streaming and the product categories that it supports is that sound quality has taken a backseat to features and convenience. Until recently, smartphones delivered less than optimal sound quality from their 3.5mm jacks. Now most smartphone manufacturers, including Apple, Samsung and Google, have removed the headphone jack from many of their smartphones, which has met with fury from many smartphone owners, but could open a door to better sound quality in the process.

Portable DAC/headphone amplifiers, which improve the listening experience on your phone at the expense of some power draw, have gained a lot of traction in recent years. When AudioQuest introduced the first DragonFly in 2012, the DAC/headphone amplifier became an instant best-seller because it elevated the sound quality of USB devices like laptops at an entry-level price. Then, with the DragonFly Red and DragonFly Black, listeners were able to essentially turn their smartphones into high-end music servers –– and for less than $200. The DragonFly plugged into their iOS, Android, or Windows-based devices via a Lightning or USB connection, or through a made-for-Android OTG USB-A Female to USB-C adapter.

Over the past several years, AudioQuest has come out with a number of DAC/headphone amplifiers under the DragonFly name. With each new iteration, there is one primary problem it tries to solve: how to improve the DAC/headphone amplifier sonically, while also improving how it interacts with a listener’s smartphone or laptop and their and headphones. This means how it deals with battery draw, noise (created by the device it is connected to), and how it works with every platform that consumers might use. The brand new DragonFly Cobalt ($299) is on a different level, however; it significantly improves the sound quality of every device that it is connected to but also addresses the key areas that have limited its overall performance.

First, power consumption. Battery life is a major limiting factor for any portable device, and if you use your smartphone as a streaming platform for both audio and video, it’s frustrating how quickly it can run out of juice. Connect something like a portable DAC/headphone amplifier, which powers itself on its hosts battery power, and you end up looking for a wall outlet to recharge even faster. The DragonFly Cobalt features a new ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip and Microchip PIC32MX274 microprocessor which draw significantly less current and offer a 33-percent increase in processing speed over the DragonFly Red. Our test with the DragonFly Cobalt connected to both an iPhone 6S and LG V30, saw a dramatic reduction in battery use providing additional hours of playing time.

Two, noise reduction. The Cobalt also addresses the issue of noise (electrical, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) created by the host device with more robust power supply filtering. Older DragonFly’s have been known to have noise issues, meaning they picked up some of the jitter and digital noise from the smartphone or laptop and it impacted the output and sound quality. The Cobalt has fixed that, however, and the reduction in noise should improve the resolution and transparency of the sound quality, allowing you to hear greater levels of detail in your music.

Three, sound quality. The DragonFly Cobalt supports 24-bit/96kHz playback, MQA, and incorporates the ESS Sabre 9601 headphone amp, and bit-perfect volume control; the headphone amplifier can output 2.1 volts of power opening up the door to dozens of headphones.

The main issue is the price. The DragonFly Cobalt is $100 more expensive than the company’s other DragonFly DAC/headphone amplifiers, and $299 is not an inexpensive upgrade to any smartphone or laptop. In the world of portable high-end components, however, the DragonFly Cobalt is remarkably affordable for what it offers.

The DragonFly Cobalt is a solid piece of engineering when you can pack more performance, greater power efficiency, and wider compatibility in a smaller chassis and the Cobalt delivers on all of its promises. The industrial design is sleek and we applaud AudioQuest for including a rather pricey adapter as part of the package.

Sonically – the differences between the Red and Cobalt are not insignificant. We’ve always found the Red to be slightly analytical sounding with some headphones and powered loudspeakers, but the Cobalt is far more relaxed and natural sounding. Vocals and instruments have a warmer, more fleshed out tone, and there is a noticeable difference in the level of background noise; something that is much more apparent through IEMs and more neutral sounding headphones.

Bass doesn’t extend that much lower through the Cobalt, but there is a definite improvement in the resolution and overall tone. Horns have more than enough bite without sounding hard and the decay of notes is far more obvious through revealing headphones or loudspeakers. Soundstage depth and width is well above average for a portable device and the Cobalt is much easier to listen to for longer periods of time than the Red.

Music moves along with respectable pace through the DragonFly Cobalt and it works just as well on the desktop making it a legitimate DAC option for desktop audio systems and your home audio system.

The Current State of Wearables, Explained

Wearables have come a long way from the simple fitness trackers of a decade ago. Not only are they lighter, smaller, more powerful and more capable, they’re finding new homes beyond the wrist. But are we really ready to wear so much tech?

To understand how dramatically the wearables landscape has changed, just flash back to 2009, when Fitbit launched the original Tracker. The tiny clip-on device could report how many steps you’d taken, calories burned, your sleep patterns and — well, not much else, actually. Still, it was a revelation at the time. Now it seems quaint.

The technology’s watershed moment came in 2015, with the release of the Apple Watch, which showed not only that people were willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for a sophisticated wearable, but also that the balance of power in the category had shifted from fitness and outdoors manufacturers like Fitbit and Garmin to tech behemoths like Apple. Today, many of the major players in the wearables industry are smartphone makers. Apple, now with AirPods to sell alongside its Apple Watch, still leads the way by a large margin.

“According to my estimates. Apple is selling approximately 45 million wearable devices per year, bringing in nearly $15 billion of revenue,” says Neil Cybart, an industry expert for Above Avalon, an Apple analysis website. “No other company comes close to these numbers.”

But wearables in 2019 aren’t limited to the wrist, or the ears. As innovation continues apace, companies are starting to compete for other real estate on the body. Many of today’s wearables perform similar tasks — fitness tracking and health monitoring, notifications for phone, email and text, quick access to select apps — so design and marketing play a major role in a product’s success. But no matter where a wearable is designed to live, in order to survive it needs to strike a particular balance between innovation and everyday usability.

That’s easier said than done, especially when you venture beyond the wrist. Here, the challenges facing a category that’s trying to lure you in head to toe.

Wristband Wearables: Differentiate or Die

The wrist remains the most coveted spot on the body for wearables makers, and for good reason. It’s where we’re most accustomed to wearing accessories (thank the prevalence of the wristwatch for that), easy to access but also easy to ignore. That makes it an ideal spot for a fitness tracker and also, now, for potentially life-saving activity-monitoring devices. In a sign of Apple’s ambition, the Series 4, the first Apple Watch to offer fall detection and heart screening, expands the potential market for a $400 health-screening smartwatch beyond fitness freaks, into a massive (if decidedly less sexy) market: the elderly. Apple wants to make a tracker for everyone.

Other brands, those without a billion or so consumers with an iPhone already in their pocket, have gone in the opposite direction with more specialized products. Garmin focuses on durable, purpose-built wearables designed to help specific athletes — cyclists, swimmers, hikers, golfers and others — train and perform better. The company’s lightweight Forerunner series of smartwatches, for example, is packed with features for the serious road racer, from lactate threshold and V02 max estimates to ground-contact time balance, stride length, vertical ratio and more. For hikers and trail runners, the company offers a still-more-targeted wearable option with its rugged Fenix series.

Even the OG name in fitness trackers, Fitbit, diversified after sales began to soften a few years ago. In addition to its signature Charge, currently in its third generation, the company now trumpets low-cost smartwatches starting at just $160, a training app, a smart scale and the Ace 2, a tracker for kids aged six and up.

But the market for wrist wearables has outgrown the arm. Garmin, Suunto and other smartwatch makers also manufacture chest straps, power meters, eyewear and more — a new product ecosystem offering more accurate data tracking (the wrist isn’t the best place to monitor heart rate, after all) for more dialed-in training. Even companies without a smartwatch, like Wahoo, are all-in on the accessories game.

But no matter the product strategy, the goal is the same: to create products the consumer integrates into daily life. “We want our products to be increasingly indispensable to the customer, where literally the more they wear it, the value multiplies,” says Phil McClendon, who leads Garmin’s consumer product manager team. For this reason, when it comes to valuable wearable real estate, it’s going to be hard to beat the wrist: convenient, articulate and fashion-ready.

Face: The Next Frontier

Smart eyewear is a fascinating niche within wearables, defined in equal part by huge hype and public failure. Google Glass, Magic Leap, Microsoft HoloLens, Snap Spectacles: all busts. But that hasn’t stopped companies both new and established, including North, Vue, Vuzix and even Intel, from throwing their products against the wall — or, rather, the face.

But even with all that attention, it’s clear neither companies nor consumers have nailed down exactly what the category should be. Entertainment? Gaming? Education? Or maybe some combination of all three? Whatever it is, the consensus is that it needs to wear easily.

“Eyewear is a medical device and a fashion accessory,” says Jay Sales, director of Advanced Technology at VSP Global. “You wear it on your face. So anything that is too clunky, too heavy or too difficult to wear will of course affect the adoption rate.”

VSP Global recently released Level, a pair of eyeglasses much like any other but with activity-tracking functionality built into the temple via several sensors and a battery. For those who wear glasses every day, it makes the adoption of a health tracker essentially frictionless.

The future of facial wearables seems to be devices that provide defined value and look very much like glasses — not like “facial wearables.”

“Smart eyewear has slowly reached a maturation point from the days of explosive hope and hype to more of a focus on users’ true needs,” Sales says. The category is trying to outgrow the realm of tech geeks and early adopters, into the mainstream; as these devices become less dorky and conspicuous, and more streamlined, focused and fashionable, that might finally become a possibility.

Smart Clothing: Still an Awkward Fit

Despite the attention of seasoned professionals, wearable technology just doesn’t hang right with the apparel industry. Perhaps the highest-profile example so far is the Project Jacquard collaboration, in 2017, between Levi’s and Google, which delivered a denim jacket with one sleeve woven with capacitive threads that can respond to simple smartphone commands — swipe up or down on the sleeve to play or pause music, or read a text message. It’s basically a $350 jean jacket with a smart sleeve that can survive up to 10 washes.

There are other, perhaps more practical applications. Wearable X, in New York, makes smart yoga pants with haptic sensors that lightly vibrate, to encourage wearers to either keep moving or to hold a position; other, more granular feedback comes via the companion app. Ambiotex offers sports shirts woven with sensors to provide athletes with real-time data.

Wearable tech hasn’t had the impact on the apparel industry that it’s had elsewhere, because the use case for most garments doesn’t lend itself to wearables’ purpose of adding value while becoming indispensable; civilian clothing, whether it’s a jacket, a shirt or a pair of shoes, isn’t worn every day, let alone 24-7. Without the ability to continually collect data and offer ever-more-specific feedback, smart clothing will always face limited utility (the possible exception: uniforms of all types).

It’s hard to say right now whether the next few years will unveil the innovations that overcome those obstacles or if the category will simply up and die. When it comes to the potential for wearables, it may be that the eyes are truly bigger than the torso.

The Best Active Speakers of 2019 (And Which Pair You Should Buy)

Active speakers combine all of the traditional components of a stereo system into a pair of speakers. The amplifier is built inside the speaker and it’s optimized to provide the best possible sound quality for that specific speaker. Most active speakers have a sufficient number of inputs for all of your playback devices and, in most scenarios, a pair of powered or active speakers require only a power source and a minimal number (if any) of cable connections.

The two biggest advantages of active speakers are 1) sound quality and 2) ease of use. An active speaker pair is able to deliver stereo sound in a way that popular Wi-Fi speakers, such as a single Sonos Play:5, simply cannot. The speaker-and-amp combo means that active loudspeakers have less moving parts; there’s no need for a separate receiver or an external amplifier, like you would need with passive bookshelf speaker system. And since they support both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming, you can easily stream music using the service (Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz and Apple Music) you already use. Simply open your preferred music app, select the music and the source (your loudspeakers), and then press play.

Essentially, active speakers are able to deliver audio perform than traditional Wi-Fi speakers, but be just as simple and easy to control. And with a multitude of inputs and connectivity options, they’ve way more versatile. In addition to streaming from your smartphone or laptop, it’s very easy to connect most pairs of modern active speakers to a television or a turntable, too.

Active loudspeakers won’t be perfect for everybody. They’re powered speakers, meaning they do require a power source, and aren’t portable. They’re notoriously powerful, so maybe not great for small rooms; and they’re more expensive thanks to there being more components inside each speaker. Lastly, active speakers lock you into a “sound” thanks to the designer’s owner internal components (amplifier, DAC); unlike a passive speaker system where you can adjust the sonic flavor with your own components.

Vanatoo Transparent Zero

Best Budget: Vanatoo has flown under the radar for a number of years with its Transparent One Encore active speakers; which are one of the best sounding active loudspeakers below-$1,000, but if you’re operating on a limited budget need to pay close attention to their Transparent Zero desktop speakers which offer a lot more sound quality than you would expect for the price. The Transparent Zero support Bluetooth aptX, include USB, optical, and analog inputs, and 4 x 48-watt per channel class D digital amplifier. The 4-inch aluminum woofer, 4-inch passive radiator, and 1-inch soft dome tweeter offer a full-range presentation with surprisingly deep bass response considering the size of the cabinet. The angled-baffle makes them work well on desktops and bookshelves and that should appeal to students or people who work remotely.

Key Specs

Drivers: 4-inch aluminum cone woofer, 4-inch long-throw passive radiator, 1-inch soft dome tweeter
Frequency Range: 56Hz – 20kHz
Power: 48-watts per channel
Resolution: up to 24-bit/96kHz
Connectivity: Bluetooth (aptX)
Inputs: USB, Toslink Optical, and analog inputs
Weight: 4.5 pounds (master) and 4.0 pounds (slave)

Kanto Audio TUK

Best Under $1,000: Kanto is well known for its affordable active loudspeakers, and the TUK might just be its best. It has ribbon tweeters, which many higher-priced speakers have utilized for years, allowing them to deliver a superior level of detail and airiness. Each speaker has an AMT tweeter and a 5.25-inch aluminum midrange woofer, so in addition to playing rich, detailed audio – they also get loud; the TUK are particularly adept with electronic music, pop, and hip-hop. Kanto has wisely chosen to integrate a MM phono stage, USB DAC, headphone amplifier, and support for Bluetooth aptX HD making the TUK one of the most complete active loudspeaker packages available at any price. Pro tip: the optional stands should be considered mandatory. The TUK will appeal to anyone looking for a complete home or desktop system that comes with everything you need in the box to begin enjoying right away.

Key Specs

Drivers: 5.25-inch aluminum concave cone (woofer), 28 x 35 mm air motion transformer (tweeter)
Frequency Range: 50 Hz – 20 kHz
Power: 130-watts per channel
Resolution: up to 24-bit/96kHz
Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2 (aptX) with Qualcomm aptXTM HD and AAC codec
Inputs: USB, Optical (TOSLINK), RCA, RCA with Dedicated Phone Pre-amp
Weight: 11.1 pounds (master) and 9.9 pounds (slave)

KEF LSX

Most Versatile: KEF introduced the LSX as a more affordable alternative to the award-winning LS50 Wireless, and for many music listeners, the smaller design may be a smarter buy. The LSX feature KEF’s signature Uni-Q driver array with a 4.5-inch midrange driver, and .75-inch aluminum dome tweeter which is powered by a 100-watt power amplifier inside each loudspeaker. What sets the KEF apart from almost all of its rivals is support for Roon, Tidal, Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, and one of the most intuitive control apps for iOS and Android devices. The LSX can be set-up as a completely wireless system – meaning the two speakers don’t need to be wired together, like the LS50 Wireless, giving you more freedom to place them wherever you want around your room – but they can achieve higher resolution audio (up to 24-bit/192kHz) when tethered together. One aspect of the LSX that is somewhat glaring is the omission of an internal phono pre-amplifier, so be prepared to add your own if you want to listen to vinyl.

Key Specs

Drivers: 4-inch Uni-Q driver
Frequency Range: 49Hz – 47kHz
Power: 100-watts per channel
Resolution: up to 24-bit/192kHz (wired); up to 48kHz/24-bit (wireless)
Connectivity: wi-fi, Bluetooth
Inputs: 3.5mm jack, Toslink Optical, ethernet
Weight: 7.7 pounds (slave) and 7.9 pounds (master)

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Acoustic Energy AE1 Active

The Analog Solution: The AE1 are the one active speaker pair on this list that don’t support Wi-Fi and Bluetooth sources – you can’t stream music to them – but they have a huge sonic edge. They feature a full-range two-way design, with a rather robust 50-watt class A/B power amplifier in each loudspeaker. The AE1’s 5-inch woofer, and 1-inch metal dome tweeter have a directness about them that makes them sound far more authoritative than comparably priced systems. The AE1 offer transparency, detail, and impressive soundstage depth in a package that does not take up a lot of space. While you can connect sources to the AE1 directly and use its awkwardly-placed rear volume control, the better route is to connect the loudspeakers to an inexpensive pre-amplifier like the Schiit Audio Freya which will provide greater flexibility and more inputs. The AE1 may not offer the wireless flexibility of its rivals – but it beats almost all of them if sound quality is your biggest priority and don’t mind having to connect them to your playback sources.

Key Specs

Drivers: 125mm ceramic aluminium sandwich cone (driver), 25mm aluminium dome (tweeter)
Frequency Range: 40Hz – 25kHz
Power: 100-watts per channel
Resolution: 42Hz – 28kHz
Connectivity: None
Inputs: RCA or balanced XLR connections
Weight: 35 pounds total

Dali Callisto 2C

Go Big: With the Callisto 2C, Dali enters the active arena with a three-piece system (2 loudspeakers and Sound Hub) designed for stands or placed on a sturdy media credenza. Powered by a 250-watt class D power amplifier, the Callisto 2C’s 6.5-inch woofer, and unique tweeter array which consists of a 1-inch soft dome tweeter, and hybrid ribbon module can fill a large listening space with ease. The system produces an enormous soundstage with one of the smoothest sounding tweeters you’ll likely to hear. The Sound Hub – which is upgradeable, making this system somewhat format-proof for the foreseeable future– accepts digital and analog sources and transmits to the loudspeakers supporting up to 24-bit/96kHz playback. The system is also MQA-certified if you enjoy streaming from Tidal in that format. If you are looking for a full-range wireless active loudspeaker that can work with both music and movies, and you have a relatively large space to fill, the Callisto 2C might just be what you’re looking for.

Key Specs

Drivers: 6.5-inch low-loss wood fibre woofer, hybrid tweeter
Frequency Range: 47Hz – 30kHz
Power: 250-watts (total)
Resolution: up to 24-bit/96kHz
Connectivity: Bluetooth (AAC/AptX HD) or Wi-Fi
Inputs: RCA
Weight: 10.1 per speaker

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7 Ways To Be More Productive on a PC Without Spending a Dime

In its more than three decades of development, Windows has packed in so many tools, features, and options, that you’d be forgiven for not knowing all the productivity tricks you can take advantage of. Here’s how to wring every last drop out of Microsoft’s flagship operating system.

1. Block the distractions


Do Not Disturb isn’t just a mode for your smartphone, because Windows comes with something very similar called Focus Assist. It quietens down notifications and postpones other interruptions so you can get on with some serious work, and the mode can be enabled manually or automatically.

Open Windows Settings via the cog icon on the Start menu, then choose System and Focus assist. Set the times when you want the mode to turn on automatically, or enable it using the check boxes at the top (you can still allow alerts from apps you give priority too, if you want). Focus Assist can also be switched on from the Action Center (click the notification button to the far right of the taskbar).

2. Pin websites and apps to the taskbar


Open applications appear on the taskbar but you can make it easier to get to the programs and the websites you use most often by pinning your favorite shortcuts to the taskbar permanently. Right-click on a program then choose Pin to taskbar to do exactly that.

To pin websites to the taskbar, fire up the Microsoft Edge browser that comes as part of Windows itself. When you’ve got the website you want to pin open on screen, click the three dots in the top right corner of the Edge interface, and choose Pin this page to the taskbar.

3. Keep more on the clipboard


The Windows clipboard now goes beyond the basics to help you juggle multiple images, text and website addresses at the same time. From the Windows Start menu, click the cog icon then choose System and Clipboard to set up the various available features.

Turn on Clipboard history to save multiple items to it, and by enabling Sync across devices you can access the same clipboard items from any device that you’re signed into using your Microsoft account. To see the contents of the clipboard, hit Win+V.

4. Talk it out


Windows now comes with a very simple dictation tool for inputting text via your voice wherever text input is accepted: Just press Win+H to start talking. To configure the feature, open Windows Settings via the cog icon on the Start menu, then select Ease of Access and Speech.

Cortana is around too, enabling you to run web searches, set reminders, check your schedule and much more. To turn on the “hey Cortana” voice shortcut, open up Windows Settings (the cog icon on the Start menu), then choose Cortana and Talk to Cortana, and turn the top toggle switch on. Alternatively, click the Cortana button by the taskbar search box and start talking.

5. Snap your windows in place


Keep your desktop windows organized and your desktop less cluttered by snapping open app windows into place: Try dragging the title bar of a window to the left or right of the display, and watch it snap to half the screen space (or use Win+Left arrow or Win+Right arrow to do the same trick).

It means it’s easier to compare documents or websites side by side, and saves you a lot of clicking between open windows. You can also snap windows into a corner of the display (add the Up arrow or Down arrow to the shortcuts we just mentioned to do this via the keyboard), and fit up to four on screen at once. Click in the very bottom right-hand corner to see the desktop again.

6. Expand your desktop space


Maybe you need a bit more room than one Windows desktop affords. You could plug in an external monitor, but you can also create extra desktops with Windows’ own multiple desktops tool: Click the Task view button (just to the right of the search box on the taskbar) or press Win+Tab, then New desktop at the top.

Open application windows can be dragged between desktops—just pick them up and drag them from the Task view screen—while the taskbar and desktop wallpaper gets shared across all your desktops. It’s a great way of getting more room for the jobs you’ve got to do, or separating out different programs for different projects.

7. Work faster with AutoHotkey

Free productivity utilities for Windows don’t come much better than AutoHotkey, which essentially enables you to program your own keyboard shortcuts and macros—launching particular actions using a few well-chosen key presses.

The program can take some getting used to, and requires a little basic coding, but the tutorial and Script Showcase are good places to start. You can launch programs or open folders with mouse gestures, type out your full address just by entering “myad”, log the time you spend in certain apps, and so much more besides.

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

Here’s Everything New and Cool About Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10

Samsung just announced the Galaxy Note 10, its newest beast-of-a-smartphone and for the first time it’s two smartphones: there’s the Note 10 and the Note 10+. This means that just like the company’s flagship Galaxy S line, you can decide if you want a big or a small smartphone. Oddly enough, the bigger of the two, the Note 10+, is actually similar in size to last year’s Note 9.

The two Note 10 smartphones have the typical spec bumps over last year’s Note 9. They have newer processors, brighter displays and better camera systems. Maybe the biggest difference, however, is the look and feel of the two Note 10s: they’re thinner, narrower and lighter – Samsung says the new design makes the new smartphones easier to wield one-handed.

The Note 10 admittedly borrows some of the best new features from its Galaxy S10, which was released this past March. But there are a bunch of new things that power users and Note lovers will like. Here are the cliff notes on what’s new and cool about the Note 10, as well as how it stacks up to Samsung’s past smartphones.

What the Note 10 Borrowed from the Galaxy S10

Hole-Punch Display: The Note 10 has essentially the same edge-to-edge Cinematic Infinity Display as the S10. And compared to last year’s Note 9, the front-facing camera on the Note 10 is now central and in the display, giving you that “hole punch” look.

Ultrasonic Fingerprint Reader: Like the S10, there’s no rear-fingerprint sensor on the Note 10. It’s also HDR10+ Certified. Instead, there’s an ultrasonic fingerprint reader built into the front display.

A Triple-Camera System: The Note 10 has a similar rear-camera system as the S10, consisting of three lenses: 12MP wide-angle, 12MP telephoto and 16MP ultra-wide. The difference is the Note 10’s rear cameras are vertically configured.

Wireless Power Share: Wireless power share was a feature that Samsung first brought to the S10, and it allows you to essentially turn your smartphone into a Qi-wireless charging pad so it can charge your other devices. Now, the Note 10 also has this feature.

What’s New with the Note 10?

Thinner, Narrower, Lighter: As mentioned before, the Note 10’s is an easier device to use with one hand. It’s considerably thinner, narrower and lighter than the Note 9.

No Headphone Jack: Some compromises had to be made in order to achieve the Note 10’s thinness. One of those was the headphone jack. The Note 9 had one. The S10 had one. The Note 10 does not.

New S Pen Colors: No matter what color Note 9 you bought last year, it came with a yellow S Pen. Not with the Note 10. The stylus will now match the color of the smartphone’s body: Aura Glow, Aura White and Aura Black.

Way More S Pen Functionality: The S Pen (aka the stylus) is a defining feature of Samsung’s Note line and last year, with the Note 9, Samsung gave it a pretty neat trick. Thanks to a button on the S Pen, you could use it as a remote for your phone’s cameras (to take better selfies). The S Pen on the Note 10 can do the same thing and more. With new “Air Actions,” you use the S Pen like a wand and do things like switch between front and rear camera, or zoom in on a subject from afar.

Works with Macs: DeX is a feature that lets you connect your Samsung smartphone to an external monitor or PC, and share files between the two devices. It also allows you to use your smartphone as a computer. While previous Samsung smartphones have been able to do this, the Note 10 introduces something called “Samsung DeX for PC.” It enables the Note 10 to plug into any PC or Mac computer using just a standard USB cable, and drag and drop photos or other files between the two devices. Other Samsung smartphones required an HDMI cable and dongle to do this, and they weren’t compatible with Mac. The Note 10 makes things nice and simple.

Better Video: Samsung likes to target filmmakers and other video creators with its Galaxy Note line and so Samsung is making it easier to shoot better videos and also edit those videos on the Note 10. It now has Live Focus Video, which allows users to background blur to videos so their subject stands out more (the S10 had this). The Zoom-In Mic amplifies the sound from the in-frame subjects while blocking out background noise. And a new and improved Super Steady stabilizes video footage, and it works with hyperlapse videos, too. There’s an improved Video editor feature that lets Note 10 users edit videos right from their phones; the S Pen works as an editing tool, helping users “choose the precise moment they want to trim.”

Fast Charging: The Note 10 can charge fast. Real fast. Each smartphone comes with 25-watt adapter but can accept up to 45-watts (you have to purchase a 25-watt adapter separately). This means that at max, a 30-minute charge can get you a full day’s worth of power.

Note 10 versus Note 10+: What’s the Difference?

The Size: The Note 10+ has a 6.8-inch display while the Note 10 has a 6.3-inch. For comparison, the Note 9 has a 6.4-inch display, making it slightly larger than the Note 10; however, the Note 10 has considerably smaller bezels.

DepthVision Camera: The Note 10+ has slightly better video shooting capabilities. It has a DepthVision camera which allows it to, according to Samsung, “take a scan of an object, and instantly turn it into a movable 3D rendering.” This will enable to Note 10+ to better pull off things like AR and 3D capabilities.

Expandable Storage: Both Note 10 smartphones can be purchased with either 256GB or 512GB of internal storage. However, only the larger Note 10+ comes with a microSD card slot in case you need extra storage.

5G, If You Want: Like the S10+, Samsung is also launching a 5G-compatible model of the Galaxy Note 10. However, you can only purchase a 5G model of the larger model, the Note 10+. That said, it’s probably too early to buy a 5G smartphone anyway.

Pricing and Availability

What About colors? Both Samsung’s Galaxy Note 10 smartphones will be available in several colors, including Aura Glow, Aura White and Aura Black in carrier and Unlocked models.

Let’s Talk Price: Pricing starts at $950 for Galaxy Note 10 and $1,100 for the Galaxy Note 10+.

When Can I Buy? The Galaxy Note10, Galaxy Note10+ and Galaxy Note10+ 5G all can be preorder starting on August 8, 2019. Between then and August 22, consumers can get a $150 Samsung credit with a Galaxy Note 10+ or Galaxy Note10+ 5G and a $100 Samsung credit with a Galaxy Note10. Preorder customers can create their own Galaxy kit by choosing from select mobile accessory bundles or smartwatches like the Wireless Charging Duo pad or Galaxy Watch Active.

Key specs

Display: 6.3-inch AMOLED Infinity-O Display (10); 6.3-inch AMOLED Infinity-O Display (10+)
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Rear Camera: 16MP Ultra Wide; 12MP Wide-angle; 12MP Telephoto (10+ has an DepthVision Camera)
Front Camera: 10MP Front
Battery: 3,500mAh (10); 4,300mAh(10+)
RAM: 8GB with 256GB storage; 12GB with 512GB storage
Storage: up to 512GB (expandable microSD on 10+)

Control All Your Devices Using The Sevenhugs Smart Remote U

For the longest time, Logitech is the brand of choice when it comes to universal remotes. The company’s aptly-named Harmony series is still everyone’s go-to option to control multiple devices with just one gadget. However, a fresh upstart is stealing some of its thunder with an innovative product of their own. The Sevenhugs Smart Remote U is the follow up to its original successful Kickstarter project. This new model costs $100 less than its predecessor but manages to pack all of our favorite features except for one.

This caveat is hardly a dealbreaker given that this smart remote is practically compatible with over 650,000 devices. Its seems that the only thing missing from the Smart Remote U is the Point Mode. This feature allows the gadget to recognize the device you are pointing at and switch the control buttons on the screen. This clever function uses motion sensors and an indoor positioning system to recognize what you’re pointing at. Other than this, you’re still holding one futuristic piece of technology.

For convenience and superior compatibility, this digital remote control is equipped with Bluetooth, infrared, and Wi-Fi connectivity. The maximum number of devices profiles one remote can store is 80, which is quite impressive. Users can customize everything through a companion app for both iOS and Android platforms. Instead of physical buttons, you will be using the dynamic 3.4-inch touchscreen to interface with your collection of devices. Meanwhile, the built-in 700 mAh battery is good for three days of use. Finally, the included charging base keeps your Sevenhugs Smart Remote U ready at all times.

Get it here

Images courtesy of Sevenhugs

The Best Compact Travel Cameras of 2019

While there are no reliable statistics on how many digital SLR cameras are stolen on vacations annually, it’s fair to say that the number is high — very high. Digital SLRs, especially in developing countries, attract about as much attention as a gold Rolex or a red Ferrari. But there is a better option for producing near-DSLR quality photos in a smaller, sleeker package that won’t peg you as the well-endowed photographer.

A new wave of compact digital cameras has been hitting the market steadily over the past few years, with each new release getting closer to pro-level DSLR’s in terms of optics quality and resolution. Pocket-sized and powerful, these compact cameras are changing the way that consumer and prosumer photographers capture moments while on the road. Before you head out on your next adventure, consider leaving the DSLR behind and opting for one of the more sensible options below.

– Additional Contribution by AJ Powell

The Smartphone Upgrade: Ricoh GR III

Photographers love these little cameras. The previous GR II was the first of Ricoh’s GR cameras to come with built-in Wi-Fi and NFC, so you could quickly upload photos to your smartphone, and the GR III is able to do the same thing. But it’s got way more in its locker. The GR III is a slightly smaller camera than GR II, and packs more megapixels (24.2 vs 16.2) and has two stops better ISO. It’s also Ricoh’s first GR with a touchscreen. The downside to the new GR III is that there still is no viewfinder; plus it’s fairly expensive.

Who Should Buy: This is a great entry-level travel camera for photo enthusiasts who want a nice upgrade from their smartphone camera.

Key Specs

Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
Lens: 28mm f/2.8 Lens (35mm Equivalent)
Date released: March 2019

The Vlogger: Sony RX100 VII

Sony’s RX100 line of compact shooters has long been a fan favorite and the VII is the latest and greatest model — it’s really just a great all-around compact shooter. With 4K HDR shooting capabilites, terrific advanced tracking and autofocus features, a flip-around viewfinder and an external mic port (a first for a Sony RX100), the VII is really the perfect camera for amatuer (and even serious) vloggers.

Who Should Buy: Sony’s RX100 compact cameras are probably the best all-around travel cameras for most people. The new VII is the best option for vloggers, thanks to its built-in mic port; but the V and VI are almost equally good in terms of performance and 4K video shooting, and they’re most affordable.

Key Specs

Sensor: 20.1MP 1-inch Exmor RS BSI CMOS Sensor
Lens: Zeiss Vario-Sonnar f/2.8-4.5 Lens, 24-200mm (35mm equivalent)
Date released: August 2019

Big Zoom: Panasonic Lumix ZS200

The standout feature of the Panasonic’s Lumix TZ200 (known abroad as the Lumix SZ200) is its zoom. Like many of the cameras on this list, it has a very good 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor, but it combines that with a 15x zoom lens — you can’t really find a better zoom lens in this good of a compact camera (without breaking the bank). Of course, the Lumix TZ200 is a good all-purpose travel camera, too; it can shoot 4K video and, in macro mode, it can capture 8K stills in bursts of 30 frames per second.

Who Should Buy: It’s an ideal travel camera for casual photographers looking for something pocket-friendly camera that also has excellent zoom.

Key Specs

Sensor: 20.1MP 1-inch High-Sensitivity MOS Sensor
Lens: Leica DC Vario-Elmar 15x Zoom Lens, 24-360mm (35mm equivalent)
Date released: March 2018

Best Budget: Canon PowerShot G9 X Mark II

If you’re in the market for a really great compact camera that’s relatively affordable, check out the PowerShot G9 X Mark II. Price is one thing – it’s the only camera on this list under $500 — but it’s also one of the smallest compact cameras with a fairly large, 1-inch 20-megapixel sensor, that you’re likely to find. The camera itself is solid with a bunch of modern features. It has Digic 7 processor and a touchscreen viewfinder, plus it has a built-in 3-stop ND filter which more advanced photographers will love. The major downside is it can’t shoot 4K video.

Who Should Buy: Casual photographers who want a nice camera upgrade over their smartphone. They also should not want to shoot a ton of video.

Key Specs

Sensor: 20.1MP 1-inch High-Sensitivity CMOS Sensor
Lens: 3x Optical Zoom f/2-4.9 Lens, 28-84mm (35mm equivalent)
Date released: February 2017

The Grail: Leica Q2

The Leica Q2 is the company’s newest fixed-lens compact digital camera and it looks basically identical to the company’s original Q, which was a smash hit amongst photographers who valued portability, fast speeds, minimalism and, most importantly, could afford the Q’s immense price tag. Like its predecessor, the Q2 once again proves that a Leica can have autofocus, an electronic viewfinder and a fixed lens – and still be a real Leica. The new model is more durable (and now splash-resistant) and has better connectivity, but more importantly a significantly upgraded sensor, with almost double the resolution (47.3 vs 24.2), which helps the Q’s signature “rangefinder digital crop” feature work even better.

Who Should Buy: The Leica Q2 will likely be a grail item for most people. If money is no object (or you just want to splurge), however, this is a travel camera to buy if you want to be the envy of all your friends.

Key Specs

Sensor: 47.3MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
Lens: Summilux 28mm f/1.7 ASPH. Lens
Date released: March 2019

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The Interchangable Upgrade: Fujifilm X-T30

Even though it’s not technically a point-and-shoot digital camera, you can think of Fuji’s X-T30 as the sensible upgrade. The interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera is a pretty perfect travel camera for a lot of photographers, professional or just an enthusiast. It’s small and lightweight, plus it’s not terribly expensive, but the performance levels you get with this thing are off the charts. It has a huge image senor, fast processor, incredible autofocus (on par with Sony’s APS-C offerings) and shoots 4k video at 30 frames per second.

Who Should Buy: Professional photographers looking for an excellent travel camera and don’t want to lug around their heavy gear. It’s also for casual shooters who want to shoot more with manual controls.

Key Specs

Sensor: 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 Sensor
Lens: N/A
Date released: March 2019

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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.

The Trusty Travel Charger I Keep In Every Bag

There are few things that stress me out more than the terrifying notion of being left alone with my thoughts, so that means I always have a couple of things on hand: my phone, some Bluetooth headphones and, crucially, a backup battery to charge them. I’ve used dozens in my day, from big bricks to little lipstick cylinders but about two years ago the Anker PowerCore Fusion 5000 won my heart and I went and bought a few extra for good measure.

A little bit bigger than a stack of Post-Its, the Fusion has 5,000 mAh of storage, enough to let you charge the typical phone once and some change. It’s nothing compared to bigger blocks like the Anker PowerCore II 20000 I also own and which can do approximately four times the work on a full charge. If I’ve remembered to charge it. And that brings us to the beauty of the Fusion that beats mere brute force: it’s the built-in plug.

Since the Fusion is both backup battery and wall-charger, that’s one fewer thing to carry in a small bag, which is essential if, like me, you primarily travel by subway, bus and train with as little luggage as possible. But better yet, if since I use it as my one and only charger, I’ve got no choice but to plug it in before bed in order to charge my phone overnight. And since it charges itself once it is done with whatever’s plugged into it, I’m never left in the lurch with a dead or half-full backup battery. I love my PowerCore II 20000 but it takes what feels like weeks to charge.

That was what sold me on the first Fusion, but it was when I bought the second one that I really got into my groove. With a Fusion and omni-charging cable that lives on my wall to charge the gadgets in my living room and, a second set that lives permanently in my backpack, I always have a full charger ready to go at a moments notice: all I have to do is a five-second swap. And since the Fusion can usually be found for about $25, you can afford to have a few floating around the household. I’ve got three that cycle between the wall and two different bags.

I’m unabashedly in love with the Fusion, but I’d be lying if I said it was perfect. A 5,000 mAh battery is, in the grand scheme of things, pretty small. This is for maintenance charging that keeps your phone alive during typical use, not “I’m going to watch eight straight hours of max-brightness HD video on this plane” charging. For that, you’ll still want to have a big brick around, or access to an outlet.

Also, if you’re counting on charging a laptop, there are a few additional caveats. The Fusion can’t put out enough power to charge a laptop that is on and in active use, only enough to trickle charge it overnight. And because the Fusion can only charge itself when it’s not serving power to anything else, trying to charge a laptop overnight from one percent could leave you stuck with two mostly-uncharged gadgets in the morning.

A few similar chargers have my trusty Anker beat when it comes to some of these issues. The RavPower 6700mAh has a bigger battery for a dollar cheaper on Amazon right now. The ZMI Plugornot Zero not only has a bigger battery, but also supports Quick Charge 3.0, and comes in at $19. It’s superior on paper, but unlike the Fusion, I can’t vouch for it first-hand.

It’s possible the PowerCore Fusion 5000 (or its plug-bearing compatriots) doesn’t fit your life quite as perfectly as it does mine. No solution is perfect for everyone. But when it comes to keeping my phone topped off in the apartment, on a long day away from home, or a trip upstate, a small fleet of wall-plug backup batteries is my constant companion. And if it sounds good to you, I can’t recommend it enough.

Kind of Obsessed: I Found the Perfect Carry-On Weekender

I’m constantly traveling for my job, and few weekenders have ever impressed me. Now, I’ve found the perfect travel pack. Read the Story

Every Reason You Need to Upgrade to a Trackball

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 Sonny Portable Bidet Is An Eco-Friendly Personal Hygiene Gadget

Over the years, were are gradually learning new ways to improve personal hygiene. As such, we are going to touch-up on a routine can happen at any time — the call of nature. Going number one is pretty much fool-proof because we just let it run its course. For those who can spare a few more seconds, maybe wipe off the remaining moisture. Number two is more challenging in a sense, because of the cleanup job that comes right after. Therefore, it’s time to make it a little easier with the help of the Sonny portable bidet.

For centuries mankind has been using various stuff to wipe our bums clean. The invention of toilet paper continued to enforce that wiping is the only the way to go. However, studies tell us that this practice is akin to that of just spreading peanut butter all over. In other words, one big mess. Water is the best way to get all of the nasty stuff off. Those who have tried using a bidet can attest to its effectiveness and now you can have one handy in your pocket.

Installing a bidet at home means that you are saving a lot of money on toilet paper. Moreover, less usage means that it’s better for the environment. Sadly finding one can be difficult when you travel so the Sonny portable bidet is there to help. This portable personal cleaning gadget sports an anodized aluminum tube with a refillable water tank inside. A compact motorized pump sprays water out the business end and can last up to three weeks on a single charge. The set even includes a stylish charging dock that holds it horizontally while juicing up.

Back this project now

Images courtesy of Sonny

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.

Opinion: These $200 Headphones Are the Ultimate Value

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.

7 Ways To Be More Productive on a Mac Without Spending a Dime

Even if you’ve been using a Mac daily for years, you probably haven’t dug down to the bottom of everything it can do and all the features that it offers—which is why we’re here to help. These seven quick, free tips can boost your productivity on macOS and help you get more done in less time.

1. Stack your desktop icons


If you use your desktop as a dumping ground for files, folders, and shortcuts, you’re not alone. It’s handy for keeping everything within easy reach, but it can also mean wasted minutes and seconds hunting for the file you need.

Bring some order to your desktop with the help of Stacks: If you click on a blank part of the desktop then open the View menu and choose Use Stacks, files and folders will be automatically grouped and piled up by category. Select View then Group Stacks By to choose how your files get organized.

2. Save your searches

Don’t fritter away time running common searches over and over again from scratch, because macOS lets you save your searches in what are called Smart Folders: Basically, virtual folders with constantly updated search results in them.

Run a search in Finder as normal, using the search box to the top right and whatever filtering criteria you want (click the plus button to the far right to add more criteria). When you’ve got your search set up the way you want, click Save: Give your search (or Smart Folder) a name, and you can then access it from the Sidebar with one click in the future.

3. Type faster with text replacements


You don’t need to keep typing out commonly used bits of text—like your address or the shrug emoji—because your Mac can do the hard work for you. You type in a shortcut that you’ve already agreed on (like “my-ad”), and macOS automatically expands it to the full string of text.

Set this up by opening the Apple menu, then choosing System Preferences, Keyboard, and Text. A couple of examples are provided for you, and you can add new ones with the plus button underneath. These text replacements are applied across all the apps on your Mac, wherever you can input text.

4. Know your shortcuts

You’d be surprised at the difference to your productivity some well-chosen keyboard shortcuts can make. Apple provides a full list here, but some of our favorites include Cmd+W for closing a browser tab or Finder window, and Cmd+Space to quickly bring up the Spotlight search bar.

macOS even allows you to modify certain keyboard shortcuts or to create your own. From the Apple menu pick System Preferences and then Keyboard, and under Shortcuts you’ll find some keyboard combinations can be edited. Use the Restore Defaults button to roll back your changes.

5. Put the Dock on the Touch Bar with Pock

Pock is a really handy and free utility that duplicates some of the Dock’s features on your MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar (if your MacBook doesn’t have one, you can skip this tip). You can launch and switch to apps with a tap, as well as see information like the date, time, and current battery level at a glance.

With Pock up and running, you can opt to hide the Dock on screen, and give your apps some more room. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu, then Dock and Automatically hide and show the Dock to hide it away when it’s not in use.

6. Dictate, don’t type

Typing is all well and good of course but you can save your fingers some strain—and maybe speed up your writing at the same time—by taking advantage of the dictation function that comes as standard with every Mac.

You can find it by opening System Preferences from the Apple menu, then going to Keyboard and Dictation. Turn the feature on, and whenever you need to enter text on your Mac, press the Fn key twice or choose Edit then Start Dictation. When macOS is listening for spoken input, it’ll show a microphone symbol on screen—click Done underneath this to stop dictating.

7. Activate Hot Corners


Hot corners don’t actually raise the temperature of your Mac, but they do give you a simple and convenient way of navigating around different parts of macOS, all by moving your mouse cursor to the far corners of your display.

To turn hot corners on, open the Apple menu then choose System Preferences and Mission Control. Click Hot Corners and you get four drop-down menus for the four corners of the screen—each corner can have a different action assigned to it.

The available actions include locking your Mac, opening Launchpad or the Notification Center, starting the screensaver, showing the desktop (particularly useful), and putting the display to sleep.

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

New Balance 996 Collabs

New Balance enlisted the help of several Japanese labels and together they came up with some pretty rad designs. Most notable of all for us is this New Balance 996 kicks from nonnative. For its 996 Collaboration Project, nonnative took a simple approach, reducing the kicks to their bare essentials.

The focus is on materials, not so much the branding. Which is why the shoes swap out the large “N” logo typically found on the 996 in favor of a smaller, subtler “NB” logo. This is a radical choice, but a sublime and very calculated one. The change seems small, sure, but it takes a lot away, including the cruft endemic to New Balance shoes.

There’s also a hairy suede, something you don’t see everyday from a pair of New Balance kicks. The brand added a yellowed sole on top of the suede to make it look like a used sneaker from the ‘80s. We’re not entirely we’re too pleased with this design choice, but it’s something. This variant also has a thicker tongue plus elastic straps, which means you can wear it comfortably even without lacing up.

Other brands New Balance collaborated with for this project include United Arrows, N.Hoolywood, Beams+, atmos, and mita. They’re an oddball bunch — some drew inspiration from minimalist design choices while others took more risks. Still, any person will surely find something from this collection to like. But for us, nonnative’s simple, nondescript look reigns supreme. Hit the link below for more information.

MORE INFO

Photos courtesy of New Balance

The Complete Guide to Bose Headphones

Bose is one of the most popular audio companies in the world; it makes a little bit of everything, from portable speakers to sleep and hearing aids, home theaters systems to professional installations like for concert venues. And then, of course, there are its headphones.

The company is well known for bringing noise-canceling headphones to the general public — the QuietComfort Acoustic Noise Cancelling headphones were released in 2000 — and since then, it’s only continued to churn out industry-leading noise-canceling headphones. Its most recent iteration, the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, might just be the best noise-canceling headphones, ever.

While noise-canceling headphones are what it’s best known for, Bose makes plenty of other high-quality headphones and earbuds for people who don’t want or need noise cancellation, which degrades audio quality and costs a premium. From true wireless AirPod competitors to old-school wired earbuds, to just cheaper wireless over-ear cans, Bose makes a headphone for every style and, more importantly, for every budget.

Below, you’ll find a list of every consumer-facing headphone that Bose currently makes (we skipped out on the aviation headphones because, well, we’re not pilots). Each headphone has a brief description, where you can find out how old it is and what it’s good for, as well as a short suggestion as to who should buy it.

The Headphones (Over-Ear)

Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700

Recently released this summer, the Headphones 700 are the best wireless over-ear headphones that Bose has to over. The combine the best-in-class noise-cancellation with great audio quality. Other than the design overhaul, the biggest difference from the QuietComfort 35 II is that the Headphones 700 have a significantly upgraded microphone array. This allows the headphones to have a wonderful tranparancy mode (or ambient listening mode), and makes maybe the best headphones you can buy for call quality.

Wireless? Yes
Noise-Canceling? Yes

Who Should Buy? Anybody that wants the best noise-canceling headphones. Also if they talk on the phone while wearing headphones.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
Battery: Up to 20 hours
Charging port: USB Type-C

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Bose QuietComfort 35 II

The Bose QuietComfort 35 II is arguably still the most comfortable pair of noise-canceling headphones you can buy. Released in the summer of 2018, you can think of the QuietComfort 35 II as simplified, less sophisticated and more affordable version of the new Headphones 700. The lack the transparency mode, superior call quality, USB-C charging port and on-ear gesture controls, but they still boast really impressive noise-canceling skills. The also have the tradional foldable design — it folds more compactly — that many travelers really like.

Wireless? Yes
Noise-Canceling? Yes

Who Should Buy? If you don’t want to spend $400 on the Bose’s more premium Headphones 700.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Battery: Up to 20 hours
Charging port: micro-USB

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Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series I)

Released in 2017, the Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series I) are essentially the exact same headphones as the Series II. They have the same design, feel, sound quality and noise-canceling skills. The difference is that the Series I don’t have Google Assistant built-in and a dedicated button on the left ear cup to activate it. If you don’t care about talking to a virtual assistant while wearing your headphones, which allows you to play/pause music or skip tracks via a verbal command, then Series I or Series II shouldn’t matter to you. The catch is that the Series I is more difficult to find online and they aren’t usually that much cheaper than the Series II.

Wireless? Yes
Noise-Canceling? Yes

Who Should Buy? If you want great-but-older noise-canceling headphones, and you don’t care about having a dedicated button to activate a virtual assistant.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Battery: Up to 20 hours
Charging port: micro-USB

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Bose QuietComfort 25

The Bose QuietComfort 25 were released in 2015 and you can still buy them today. They are kind of like a wired version of the Bose QuietComfort 35. They have a slightly dated look, and boast almost as good levels of active noise-cancellation and sound quality as Bose’s QuietComfort 35. The important thing to remember is that even though these are wired headphones, they still need to be charged so you can turn on the active noise cancellation. Otherwise, they just work as normal over-ear headphones.

Wireless? No
Noise-Canceling? Yes

Who Should Buy? If you’re fine with buying old noise-canceling headphones and don’t care about them being wireless, the QuietComfort 25 are still

Connectivity: wired
Battery: 35 hours of active noise cancellation.
Charging port: micro-USB

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Bose SoundLink Around-Ear II

Released in 2015, the SoundLink Around-Ear II are Bose’s wireless over-ear headphones that don’t have active noise cancellation. They’re lighter and slightly more travel-friendly than a lot of the company’s other offerings, and they could sound quality at the forefront. At the time, the big selling point for the SoundLink Around-Ear II was their sound quality — Bose claimed that they sounded as good as wired headphones, which admittedly doesn’t hold up in 2019 (streaming and Bluetooth have gotten too good).

Wireless? Yes
Noise-Canceling? No

Who Should Buy? The SoundLink Around-Ear II is admittedly a difficult sell in 2019. You have to want good-sounding wireless headphones without noise-canceling, and still pay over $200 bucks for them.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Battery: Up to 15 hours
Charging port: micro-USB

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Bose On-Ear Wireless Headphones

As the name gives away, these have an on-ear design instead of the over-ear design of most of Bose’s other offerings. The trade-off is that the On-Ear Wireless Headphones won’t be able to block out ambient noises as well, but some people might find them more comfortable. Plus they’re well cheaper than most other Bose wireless headphones. It should be noted that many reviewers, including Sound Guys, have praised the sound quality of these headphones.

Wireless? Yes
Noise-Canceling? No

Who Should Buy? Anybody who wants wire-less on-ear headphones without any kind of noise-canceling abilities.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.1
Battery: Up to 15 hours
Charging port: micro-USB

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The Earbuds

Bose QuietComfort 30

The QuietComfort 30s are Bose’s wireless in-ear headphones with active noise cancellation, and they’ve set the bar for the category since they were released in 2016. The QuietComfort 30s utilize the same StayHear+ tips as all Bose’s other in-ear headphones and they use the same app as the company’s other QuietComfort headphones. The one caveat is that the QuietComfort 30s are a neckband-style of wireless headphone, so they’re fairly heavy and probably best served for office settings.

Wireless? Yes
Noise-Canceling? Yes

Who Should Buy? Anybody that wants the wireless noise-canceling headphones, but can’t wear over-ear headphones because it hurts their ears.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Battery: 10 hours
Charging port: micro-USB

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Bose QuietComfort 20

The QuietComfort 20 headphones have been around for years and years; and they’re essentailly an in-ear alterative to Bose’s QuietComfort 25. They offer the same great active noise-cancellation that the company is known for, just in a traditional wired and in-ear form factor. The QuietComfort 20 can also be switched to an “Aware” (aka ambient) mode, so you can better hear the world around you.

Wireless? No
Noise-Canceling? Yes

Who Should Buy? If you want wired, noise-canceling in-ear headphones, and you’re cool with paying a premium for them. In the age of Bluetooth, $250 wired headphones might be a tough sell, admittedly.

Connectivity: wired
Battery: 16 hours of active noise cancellation
Charging port: micro-USB

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Bose SoundSport Free

The Soundsport Free, released in the fall of 2017, are Bose’s first truly wireless earbuds. They utilize the same StayHear+ Sport tips as the company’s other in-ear headphones, making them naturally more sweat-resistant and more secure than AirPods. They work with the Bose Connect app, which is pretty basic but does have a “Find My Buds” feature that, when enabled, can help you find your earbuds should you misplace them.

Wireless? Yes (true wireless)
Noise-Canceling? No

Who Should Buy? Bose recently announced its next-gen truly wireless earbuds, the Bose Earbuds 500, which will be released later in 2019. This means that unless you get a great deal on SoundSport Free (they are out there) or you just can’t wait for a few months, it’s probably best to pass on the SoundSport Free for right now.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Battery: up to 10 hours (with charging case)
Charging port: micro-USB

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Bose SoundSport Wireless

The SoundSport Wireless are wireless sport earbuds that are very similar to the SoundSport Free. Instead of being true wireless earbuds, however, the two SoundSport Wireless earbuds are tethered together by cable. Aside from that, the two wireless earbuds have similar audio performance and use the same Bose Connect app. The SoundSport Wireless will last longer on a single charge (as opposed to the SoundSport Free which recharge every time they go back in their case).

Wireless? Yes
Noise-Canceling? No

Who Should Buy? These are good wireless earbuds, but they’re several years old so unless you really don’t want true wireless earbuds, like the SoundSport Free, I’d make sure that the SoundSport Wireless are on sale before buying them.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Battery: 6 hours per full charge
Charging port: micro-USB

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Bose SoundSport

These are wired, sport-focused wired earbuds and they’ve been around for years. The SoundSport use the StayHear+ Sport tips as the Bose’s other in-ear headphones, the idea being you know how they fit. There’s no noise cancellation or any way (or reason) to charge the SoundSport. They’re barebone wired earbuds.

Wireless? No
Noise-Canceling? No

Who Should Buy? If you want affordable wired earbuds, for general use or to workout with, these are an affordable option for anybody with a smartphone that still has a headphone jack.

Connectivity: wired
Battery: N/A
Charging port: none

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Bose Earbuds 500

The Earbuds 500 won’t be available until early 2020, but they might just be worth waiting for. They look to be the natural successor to the SoundSport Free, the company’s first go at truly wireless earbuds, but probably better in every way. The Earbuds 500 will likely have a longer battery life, a smaller charging case and charge via USB-C. They will be sport-focused, too, and a more affordable option to the company’s other new-age wireless earbuds, the Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700.

Wireless? Yes (true wireless)
Noise-Canceling? No

Who Should Buy? Nobody yet. The Bose Earbuds 500 will be released in 2020.

Bose Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700

At the time of publishing, every little is known about the Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700. Announced alongside the Earbuds 500 and the Noise Cancelling Headphones 700, the Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700 will be released in 2020 and will be the company’s first truly wireless earbuds with active noise cancellation.

Wireless? Yes (true wireless)
Noise-Canceling? Yes

Who Should Buy? Nobody yet. The Bose Noise Cancelling Earbuds 700 will be released in 2020.

The Other Guys

Bose Frames

The Bose Frames are non-polarized sunglasses with special speakers built into each arm. The idea is that they’re designed to look like regular sunglasses, but also act as Bluetooth headphones. Since there’s no earbud that actually goes into your ears, the speakers have been engineered to shoot audio down into your ears; the neat thing is that the Bose Frames do a very good job at masking your audio so that the people around you can’t really hear what you’re listening to. They are available in two different frame styles, round (Rondo) or square (Aldo).

Wireless? Yes
Noise-Canceling? No

Who Should Buy? Anybody who likes the look and feel of the Bose Frames — they’re sunglasses will worn on your face — and wants to have a truly unique product. There’s nothing else like them on the market.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Battery: up to 3.5 hours
Charging port: proprietary charger

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Bose SoundWear Companion

Released in 2017, the Bose SoundWear Companion is a different kind of wireless headset. It doesn’t have any earcups or earbuds, but instead it sits around your neck adn has speakers that shoot sound up towards your ear — it’s essentially a portable speaker that sits around your neck. It’s water-resistant, so you can technically work out while wearing it, but it’s really designed for the person who works at home. It’s comfortable enough to wear for lengthy periods of time, but it also has excellent built-in microphones and works great as a speakerphone.

Wireless? Yes
Noise-Canceling? No

Who Should Buy? The Bose SoundWear Companion was previously selling for $300, which seems like a lot considering it should only be worn in specific settings (in a home office); however, Bose dropped the price to $150 making it actually reasonable.

Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.2
Battery: up to 12 hours
Charging port: micro-USB

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Throwflame TF-19 WASP Flamethrower Attachment For Drones

It’s going to be a hard decision to make when given the choice between playing with a drone or a flamethrower. The former is obviously safe and packs a lot of fun until the battery runs out. However, the latter is undeniably awesome as long as you understand and follow the rules for safety. Therefore, imagine being able to mess around with both at the same time. Now, you can make your dreams come true with the Throwflame TF-19 WASP. This unique accessory turns your drone into a fire-breathing monster.

That’s right, once you have this on your remote control flying machine, there’s no going back. As long as you stick to the guidelines, there’s a lot that you can do with it. Before getting one, it might be a good idea to check with your local legislation first.

Nevertheless, despite its capability of lighting stuff up on fire, it is reportedly legal to own one. It’s somehow ironic that the manufacturer is calling it the TF-19 WASP. That’s because we’re betting a lot of people will have a field day using it to take down nests of these aggressive insects.

On the other hand, before anything else, it needs to be compatible with the drone. The manual suggests that as long as your gear can carry a payload of at least five pounds, it should be good to go. In order to keep the Throwflame TF-19 WASP as lightweight as possible, most of its parts use carbon fiber. Boasting a one-gallon fuel capacity, users will have about 100 seconds worth of firepower at their disposal. Additionally, the flames coming out of the nozzle can reach up to 25 feet.

Light it up now

Images courtesy of Throwflame

In the Mirrorless Age, Here’s an Argument for a DSLR

In recent months, an interview with an executive from camera manufacturer Ricoh, owner of the Pentax brand, as well, caused a stir in the photography community thanks to the interview subject’s claim that DSLR photographers who switched to mirrorless cameras would eventually switch back to the tried-and-true technology.

Hiroki Sugahara, a marketing executive, argued that the mirrorless cameras were still the newcomer, and largely drawing interest because of that, and that DSLRs have their own benefits —— namely, the fact that photographers can see the image as it truly is in real life through the optical viewfinder, as opposed to the processed view generated by the electronic viewfinders used by mirrorless cameras. They can then “think how they can create their pictures and then imagine how they can get [the results they’re seeking],” he said.

Sugahara’s comments may smack of wishful thinking on the part of a company that lags well behind Nikon and Canon in mirrorless products, companies who themselves are lagging miles behind Sony in terms of mirrorless technology development — and indeed, the photo community was largely baffled by the argument. After all, the key benefit of the EVF in mirrorless cameras is the fact that they present the view as your camera is being set up to capture it, based on your settings. You’re then able to tune the image before you shoot it rather than having to keep shooting then looking down at the rear display and adjusting from there. Want to see the image as it truly is? Use your own eyes and just back away from the camera for a sec! Besides, with all the stats pointing toward the rise of the mirrorless camera in dominance, wouldn’t such thinking be, at best, a bit delusional?

For converts — full disclosure: like me — sure. Mirrorless is the way forward, and everything else is old-school. DSLR’s are the gasoline engines to Tesla’s pure electric drive. Except, that is, for a few niggling details. One, DIY Photography ran a survey with their piece referenced above asking readers about switching from DSLR to mirrorless. A perhaps surprising 42 percent said they were sticking with DSLRs, and only 31 percent indicated they’d switched to mirrorless. Seventeen percent said they shoot both, 7 percent said they’ve only ever shot mirrorless, and –– to Sugahara’s point specifically –– only 3 percent said they flipped to mirrorless then flipped right back to DSLR.

Another wrinkle: The simple fact that Canon and Nikon continue to dominate among professional photographers. I attend and/or shoot many events where pro photographers are working — car races and other sporting events, press conferences, product launches, aviation and space events, magazine photo shoots, and more. Overwhelmingly, DSLR’s are still dominant. I see mirrorless Sony A7’s in the mix here and there, but for the most part, it’s Canon and Nikon all the way.

Why is this so? In part, it’s due to the high costs associated with abandoning one system for another, and specifically the pain of rebuilding a large lens collection — even though lens adapters have diminished this onus somewhat. (Professional photographers will always prefer matched lens and bodies, though.) Also, the benefits of mirrorless cameras are, to many, merely incremental. Many photographers are well acquainted with how to expose for a multitude of scenarios, and they are perfectly happy to shoot through optical viewfinders or simply use the live preview mode that essentially does the same thing as a mirrorless camera’s EVF, just exclusively on the rear LCD screen rather than through the viewfinder.

Furthermore, their batteries last much longer, there’s no lag in the image showing up on the EVF, as happened until the tech improved with the more recent mirrorless generations, and they often have a better feel in the hand because they’re slightly larger — even though mirrorless cameras are equally touted for being lighter and smaller.

Finally, there’s no denying the fact that Canon and Nikon — as well as the premium camera makers such as Hasselblad, Leica, and Fuji — they all make fantastic cameras in a great variety of formats. One upstart to rule them all? Not so fast.

If you want an affordable interchangeable lens setup, a DSLR is absolutely still your best bet. If you want a more compact rig, you can find plenty of entry-level mirrorless options at all price points.

But ultimately, even to the converted such as myself, there’s one remaining reason why DSLR’s are absolutely worth hanging onto: Durability. One of the many reasons pro photographers value DSLR’s is that they’re engineered to be exceptionally resistant to dings, drops, shunts, water spray, and any of the multitude of threats working photographers encounter in their daily lives, whether it’s on the street working for a big daily, climbing Everest, or dashing up and down the sideline at the football stadium. DSLR’s are tough.

Mirrorless cameras are getting there, but they haven’t quite passed all the ruggedness tests yet. Furthermore, the fact that their sensors are covered by the mirrors means the dust and debris are far less likely to accumulate on their pristine surfaces. I can attest to this personally — every time I shoot above, say, f/16, where the camera brings closer details, including sensor and lens dust, into focus, I know I’ll have to spend time flicking spots out of each image in Photoshop later. Yes, I keep my sensors as clear as possible with the blower and have them professionally cleaned yearly, but the fact remains that every time you switch lenses with a mirrorless camera, you risk dust getting into the rig. For this reason, I carry a plastic bag constantly if I have to change lenses outside, and it’s one of the (several) factors that convinced me to travel everywhere with two camera bodies. No such complaints from the DSLR crowd.

Of course, an important caveat here is that most of this conversation is focused on professional and advanced amateur photographers, and most also refer to full-frame sensors — the pricier and higher-quality format compared to the average so-called crop-sensor found in most consumer cameras. At the consumer level, mirrorless shooting has already taken hold, mostly in the shape of point-and-shoot and more advanced interchangeable-lens cameras like the Sony A6000 series, but DSLR’s are still everywhere. If you’re navigating the “prosumer” realm for your own choices, it’s a bit easier to decide. Just go with your budget and needs. If you want an affordable interchangeable lens setup, a DSLR is absolutely still your best bet. If you want a more compact rig, you can find plenty of entry-level mirrorless options at all price points.

But as for my own shooting, both pro and recreational, make no mistake — I love mirrorless cameras and will not be switching back to DSLR. My images are simply better than they would be with the older tech, because of the advantages they afford and, I believe, the quality of Sony’s mirrorless sensor. That said, if I ever go up Everest or truly disappear into the wild on assignment, you can bet I’ll also have a DSLR every step of the way.

The Complete Guide to Sony Cameras

If you’ve decided to dig in with Sony camera gear, whether a point-and-shoot model or a more advanced interchangeable-lens camera, there are still many factors to weigh. Let’s parse out your options. Read the Story