All posts in “tech”

What’s Actually the Difference Between a Cheap and Expensive Soundbar?

If you’re getting a new TV, you probably should get a soundbar. In the quest for thinness, most TVs have had to sacrifice sound quality. Not all soundbars are the same. You can find options like the Vizio SB2920 for as cheap as $78 or the Sonos Arc way up at $799.

But what are you actually paying for if you go for the upgrade?

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Better ‘bars mean better drivers and more channels.

One of the most important factors that determines the sound quality of a soundbar is its number of channels. Entry level soundbars tend to have two channels, a dedicated left and right channel for stereo sound. You can go way further than that though. A three-channel soundbar has an additional dedicated center, which helps with produce mid-range (and dialog) A five-channel soundbar is way more advanced, as it can manage to support actual surround sound. More channels, more immersive sound.

On top of that, most entry-level soundbars don’t have dedicated tweeters (for highs), midrange drivers (for midrange) and woofers (for lows), but have full-range drivers that handle everything. This results in a less accurate sound.

The Vizio SB2920 is a two-channel soundbar with a grand total of two full-range drivers. The Sonos Arc is a five-channel soundbar with a total of 11 drivers (eight woofers and three tweeters). This is the meat of what you’re paying for if you go for an upgrade pick.

High-quality soundbars can put their drivers to better use

Immersive sound technologies like Dolby Atmos are all the rage right now, but not a lot of soundbars actually support them. The reason is that it’s difficult and expensive to get a soundbar certified for Atmos. The soundbar has to have the proper number of channels (at least five), the proper hardware, and pass certain tests by Dolby. But when it works properly, a full-on Dolby Atmos is the pinnacle of a home theater experience.

A soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos, like the Sonos Arc, has to have a specific type of surround-sound channels with upward-firing drivers. These drivers help the soundbar to create dedicated virtual height channels, enabling it to create really immersive audio experiences. Basically, it doesn’t just sound like the audio is coming out of the TV, but from above and way to the left and right of it as well.

The Vizio SB2920 does not support Dolby Atmos. No way, no how.

Expensive soundbars double as great speakers in general.

Pretty much all the newest soundbars, cheap or expensive, have built-in Bluetooth so you can stream music straight from your smartphone or laptop, just like a traditional Bluetooth speaker. The best soundbars also have built-in Wi-Fi and integrated technologies that enable it to do much more.

For example, the Sonos Arc has a four-microphone array and can function as a Google Assistant- or Alexa-enabled smart speaker. You can ask Alexa or Google (depending on which smart assistant you use) to set timers, questions about the weather, or to control your other smart home devices; additionally, you can use voice commands to adjust your TV’s volume or change channels. The Arc also supports other higher-resolution streaming methods that require Wi-Fi, such as AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect.

The Vizio SB2920 only has built-in Bluetooth. No Wi-Fi. No smart speaker capabilities. But depending on what you actually need, maybe that’s just the ticket.

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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.
Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

The Best Compact Cameras to Buy in 2020

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.

The Smartphone Upgrade: Ricoh GR III

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

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.

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

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The Vlogger: Sony RX100 VII

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

Sony’s RX100 line of compact shooters have 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 capabilities, 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 amateur (and even serious) vloggers.

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.

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Big Zoom: Panasonic Lumix ZS200

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

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.

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

DSLR Alternative: Canon PowerShot G1 X Mark III

Sensor: 24.2MP APS-C
Lens: 15 to 45mm (35mm equivalent)
Date released: November 2017

Canon’s PowerShot G1 X III is essentially as close to a DSLR as you’re going to get in a compact shooter. It’s one of the only compact cameras that packs a large 24-megapixel APS-C sensor — in fact, it has the same same as in the company’s EOS 80D DSLR and its EOS M mirrorless cameras — as well as Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus technology, to help you shoot in-focus photos and videos. Additionally, it packs a bunch of manual controls, a 3x zoom lens and an articulated touchscreen display. And then it’s all packaged in compact and weather-proof body.

The G1 X III is a high-quality compact camera designed for most advanced shooters looking for DSLR-like controls and image quality.

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The Grail: Leica Q2

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

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.

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.

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The Interchangable Upgrade: Fujifilm X-T30

Sensor: 26.1MP APS-C X-Trans BSI CMOS 4 Sensor
Lens: multiple lens kits available
Date released: March 2019

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, professionals 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 sensor, fast processor, incredible autofocus (on par with Sony’s APS-C offerings) and shoots 4k video at 30 frames per second.

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

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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.
Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

The Best July 4th Tech Deals Happening Right Now

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Special Offers


We’ve rounded up the July 4th tech deals that are running right now. You can expect a number of other deals to pop up when we get closer to the holiday — we’ll add them when they go live.

Bowers & Wilkins PX7

Save $120: World Wide Stereo is offering an exclusive discount for Gear Patrol readers on all of Bowers & Wilkins’s newest wireless headphones and earphones, including the B&W PX7, company’s new flagship noise-canceling headphones. To get the discount, just enter the code GEARPATROL at checkout.

Apple Watch Series 3

Save $30: Amazon is selling the Apple Watch Series 3 (38mm) for $169, which is $30 cheaper than Apple is currently selling it and $10 cheaper than Amazon has ever sold it. If you’ve been thinking about buying an entry-level Apple Watch (or you know somebody who would like one), now is the best time to buy one.

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SimpliSafe The Essentials Security System

Save 35%: SimpliSafe is running a Fourth of July promotion offering 35% off a number of its DIY home security systems. Its The Essentials package is a great entry-level system that’s compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

Apple AirPods Pro

Save $19: Amazon is discounting the Apple’s wireless earbuds with active noise-cancellation. They’re the perfect upgrade for anybody already loves their AirPods.

GoPro Hero8 Black

Save $100: Released this past fall, the Hero8 Black is the company’s flagship action camera. Adorama is discounting it by $100 right now.

Google Nest Mini

Save $20: Staples is selling Google’s tiny smart home speaker for $29, which is more affordable than you’ll find anywhere else. Available in either charcoal and chalk.

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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.
Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

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What’s Actually the Difference Between a Cheap and Expensive Stereo Receiver?

A stereo receiver is a simple but very necessary part of any audio system that includes a pair of passive speakers. Less complex than AV receivers (which require a TV in the loop and need to worry about supporting various home theater sound technologies), high quality stereo recievers can come pretty cheap. One of our favorites, the Yamaha R-S202BL, costs right around $150.

But that is just the baseline, and you can go a lot further if you want to splurge. The Cambridge Audio AXR100 is a two-channel stereo receiver that costs $500. And the extremely high-end includes things like the McIntosh MAC7200, which costs $7,500.

So what exactly is the difference between a stereo receiver that costs $150 and one that’s considerably more expensive? Let’s break it down.

A bigger investment means more (and better) amplification

The speakers are the most important component in any hi-fi system, so you should pick them first. Once you know what kind of speakers you’re going to use, you need to choose an amplifier that is going to properly drive them. In this case, that’s your stereo receiver.

In general, the bigger and better the speakers you have, the more powerful the stereo receiver you’re going to need to drive them. But power isn’t everything. For example, the Yamaha R-S202BL and the more expensive Cambridge Audio AXR100 can both deliver 100-watts per channel, but what makes the Cambridge Audio AXR100 better is the build quality of the built-in amplifiers. Not only are the components higher-grade, but the AXR100 also has both right and left channels, which contributes to more accurate sound.

There’s also the matter of impedance (the amount of resistance in the receiver’s electronic circuits), frequency range (which high and low frequencies it is able to hit) and total harmonic distortion (which how much distortion is added or avoided). Higher-quality amplifiers are going to have a lower impedance, a wider frequency range and the lower the total harmonic distortion. The Cambridge Audio AXR100, for example, has a much wider frequency range with less distortion, which allows it to provide better sound to speakers with the ability to showcase it and ears that are able to appreciate it. The McIntosh MAC7200, meanwhile, offers the same general benefits, but up an additional tier.

We recommend asking an audio professional about a specific pairing between receiver/amplifier and speakers before buying. In general, however, the more expensive the speakers, the more expensive it’s going to be to drive them.

Wan it to look nice? That’ll cost you.

You may not be surprised to learn that the price of a stereo receiver is going to vary depending on how well it is made and how well it looks. The nicer and more expensive stereo receivers are going to have better internal compartmentalization, meaning the different components inside it don’t interfere with one another and add unwanted distortion, as well as better circuitry. They’re going to be made with better materials and have more polished finishes, and have higher-quality displays, knobs and buttons.

There’s also a huge demand among audiophiles for vintage stereo receivers. Marantz, Sansui, Yamaha, Pioneer and Onkyo were some of the biggest names in stereo receivers during the ’60s and ’70s, and people still love them because they can still work well and, more importantly, they have a very appealingly retro vibe. The problem is that working vintage stereo receivers are difficult to come by and those that are can be fairly expensive. You can sometimes find non-working vintage stereo receivers online for relatively cheap, but refurbishing can be expensive because a lot of the busted parts aren’t made anymore.

More expensive receivers give you more options.

It’s pretty much a given that new stereo receivers are going to have built-in Bluetooth these days, allowing you to stream music to your system from your smartphone; and yes, both the Yamaha R-S202BL and the Cambridge Audio AXR100 have built-in Bluetooth. It’s common for more expensive stereo receivers to also have built-in Wi-Fi, which allows them to support more advanced streaming technologies like Apple Airplay 2 or Chromecast. Unfortunately, neither the Yamaha R-S202BL and the Cambridge Audio AXR100 have built-in Wi-Fi (which is one of the biggest flaws of the Cambridge Audio AXR100).

The more affordable the receiver, generally the less it’s able to do. The Yamaha R-S202BL lacks a subwoofer output, for example, so it’s not great if you want to build out a system. It also doesn’t have a built-in preamp and can’t connect directly to a turntable. The Cambridge Audio AXR100 has a subwoofer output and a built-in preamp. It also, like the Yamaha R-S202BL, has a preamp output that gives you the option of adding your own external preamplifier.

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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.
Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

These Are 10 of the Most Gorgeous Gadgets of 2020, According to Design Experts

The Design Zentrum Nordrhein Westfalen in Essen, Germany hosts an annual design competition for the best-designed products of the year. It’s called the Red Dot Design Awards. The prestigious competition has taken place every year since 1955 and spans a number of categories, including cars, audio, watches, home entertainment and cookware (just to name a few). This year’s design award winners have just announced and we’ve gone through them — in the categories of audio, TVs and home theater and mobile — to select some of our favorites. Below, every one of the products is a newly-minted Red Dot Design Award winner for 2020.

Google Nest Mini

Google’s tiny-little smart speaker has been around for a few years, but in the past year it was given a new name (previously the Google Home Mini) and a new colorful and fabric-laden look. This is what the Red Dot Design Award jury had to say about the Google Nest Mini: “This speaker houses a large number of smart functions in a compact design and enhances any room with its appealing appearance.”

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Sonos Move

The Sonos Move is the comppany’s first portable speaker with Bluetooth built-in. Sonos also regiggered its TruePlay technology so that the Move will automatically sound great for whichever room its in. This is what the Red Dot Design Award jury had to say about it: “[The] Sonos Move captivates with a universal design which brings together robustness for outdoor use and understated elegance for indoor use.”

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Bose Portable Home Speaker

The Bose Portable Home Speaker is a portable Wi-Fi- and Bluetooth-enabled speaker that’s effectively a direct rival to the Sonos Move. According to the Red Dot Design Award jury: “The elegantly designed speaker is impressively versatile. It is perfectly set up for use while on the go and cuts a good figure at home as well.”

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Apple AirPods Pro

The AirPods Pro are Apple’s first wireless earbuds that have active noise-cancellation and, come iOS 14, they’re about to gain support for some pretty cool immersive sound technologies. According to the Red Dot Award jury, “the AirPods Pro lift the quality of in-ear headphones to a new level. They are very light and deliver an impressively powerful immersive sound.”

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Technics SL-1200MK7

Technics revived its iconic SL-1200 turntable series after a nearly 10-year hiatus. The Red Dot Award jury stated that “the Technics SL-1200MK7 sets standards for turntables with a direct drive, thus making it ideal for professional DJs.”

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Cleer Crescent

Announced at CES 2020, the Crescent is Clear Audio’s crescent-moon-looking smart speaker. It’s expected to be released later this year. The Red Dot Award jury stated: “An iconic-looking shape as well as highly sophisticated technical equipment characterise the Cleer Crescent smart audio speaker.”

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LG OLED Signature TV (77 ZX)

If you’re spending $20,000 on TV, it better be stunning and its picture better be near perfect — and, well, LG’s flagship 8K OLED just about delivers. Accordin to the Red Dot Award jury: “The OLED television is captivating with its understated design and inventive bracket, which allows the TV to blend in to the wall.”

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Motorola razr

The razr is a beautiful reimagining of the company’s classic flip phone. The new model is packed with bleeding-edge tech, like a 6.2-inch folding plastic OLED screen. This is what the Red Dot Award jury had to say: “The design of the Motorola razr mobile phone reinterprets the appearance of classic flip phone models. Elegantly designed, it rests comfortably in the hand and evokes nostalgic memories. ”

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NVIDIA Shield TV

This 4K media player has a unique design for optimized cooling, and its remote has triangular design which feels better in your hand and allows it stand on its own. According to the Red Dot Award jury: “The media player and remote control are appealing with their stand-alone design, which creates a sense of uniformity despite their differing geometry.”

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Anker PowerPort Atom III Slim

The PowerPort Atom III Slim is a 30-watt power adapter that’s a little over half-an-inch thick (0.63-inches to be exact) and is capable of fast charging any of the latest iPhones and charging USB-C laptops. According to the Red Dot Award jury: “The elegant PowerPort Atom III Slim power bank impresses with its extraordinarily thin profile and remarkable performance.”

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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.
Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

Garmin welcomes the MARQ Golfer into its high-end wearable lineup

Garmin is a multinational company in the United States that specializes in a wide range of products. It produces state-of-the-art GPS navigational assistance systems for both commercial, professional, and consumer use. Over the years it has been offering reliable and innovative wearable devices the goes beyond our expectations. These are usually focused on sports, fitness, and survival among others. As such, those who love to play Golf might want to check out the MARQ Golfer smartwatch.

This gadget is a premium alternative for users who want more than just basic functions and connectivity. With a name like MARQ Golfer, this becomes a reliable digital tool that will improve your game. The software engineers go the extra mile to code in over 41,000 courses around the globe into its memory. Thus, no matter where you want to play, Garmin assures you that all the relevant information is on your wrist all the time.

Everything in the MARQ catalog is Garmin’s luxury-grade option for individuals who prefer their tech with a touch of class. Hence the 46 x 14.7 mm case flaunts a titanium construction while the bezels include a ceramic insert. Meanwhile, its 1.2-inch 240 x 240 resolution memory-in-pixel (MIP) display sits below a domed sapphire crystal for protection. These are the type of materials normally seen on high-end timepieces.

Overall, buyers who probably want something with basic functionality might want to steer clear of this $1,850 smartwatch. However, users who want the absolute best that Garmin can offer should enjoy what the MARQ Golfer brings to the table. It even boasts up to 12 days of battery life, Each unit comes with a breathable nylon band (jacquard weave) and an extra silicone rubber strap.

Purchase the MARQ Golfer now: here

Images courtesy of Garmin

Mophie’s UV Sanitizer Can Charge and Clean Your Smartphone

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Mophie and Invisible Shield both just announced two different UV smartphone sanitizers. The Invisible Shield UV sanitizer ($60) is the simpler and more affordable option, while the Mophie UV sanitizer ($80) is a little more expensive because it has an integrated 10-watt wireless charging pad.

Both UV sanitizers use UV-C light technology to kill 99.99% of germs and harmful bacteria that are on your smartphone. And both take about five minutes to do the cleansing business. It should be noted that the Mophie UV sanitizer cannot simultaneously clean and wirelessly charge your smartphone as the wireless charging pad is located on top of the UV sanitizer and not on the inside. Both UV sanitizers are large enough to clean your other smaller electronics, too, like a smartphone or wireless earbuds.

Mophie’s UV sanitizer is available right now. The Invisible Shield UV sanitizer should be available in the coming weeks.

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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.
Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

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5 Affordable Turntables That Even Audiophiles Would Want

When discussing turntables, audiophiles tend to bristle if you utter the expression “entry-level.” But the reality is that the brands offering turntable packages understand that the vast majority of first-time buyers see $500 as their ceiling. And that $500 turntable is expected to plug-n-play, be reasonably well made, and sound phenomenal as well.

Established high-end audio brands like Pro-Ject, Rega, and Audio-Technica have decades of experience building high-performance turntables and wisely chose to embrace this new generation of listeners with entry-level packages that can stand the test of time. Affordable audiophile-grade turntables have taken massive strides in both build and playback quality – making them worthy analog sources that will bring justice to your record collection at a price that won’t break the bank.

U-Turn Orbit Custom

This turntable is upgraded with a Grado Black cartridge and a Pluto Phono pre-amplifier, both of which can be added when purchasing from U-Turn Audio’s website.

U-Turn Audio was one of the first American turntable manufacturers to take advantage of the resurgence of vinyl with affordable tables hand-built in Massachusetts made from American-sourced parts. Fast forward seven years to 2019, and we find this upstart brand offering entry-level turntables priced below $500; that have real hardwood plinths, acrylic platters, and their internal Pluto phono stage which can be bypassed if your existing amplifier already offers a phono pre-amplifier. U-Turn offers a limited selection of moving magnet phono cartridges from Ortofon, Audio-Technica, and Grado Labs to finish off your table. The Grado Black1 keeps this remarkably confident-sounding entry-level turntable affordable and audiophile approved.

Pro-Ject T1 Phono SB

Pro-Ject Audio Systems are the leading manufacturer of audiophile turntables in the world; their brand-new manufacturing facilities in Slovakia and the Czech Republic produce 100,000 audiophile tables a year for both the Pro-Ject brand and many others. That level of volume allows them to offer turntables like the T1 Phono SB which includes electronic speed control, dustcover, built-in phono pre-amplifier, and Ortofon OM5e moving magnet phono cartridge for only $349. It’s rare to find a heavyweight glass platter on an entry-level turntable, but Pro-Ject has provided the T1 SB with that added level of performance that makes it stand out against the competition. The one-piece aluminum tonearm is not as fancy as the carbon fiber variety that Pro-Ject supplies on its more expensive tables, but it works well with the supplied cartridge.

Rega Planar 1 Plus

Rega have been building audiophile-approved turntables in the United Kingdom for more than 40 years; the RB-300 series tonearms are one of the best-selling high-end audio components in history. The Planar series turntables are considered a benchmark in affordable high-end design – products that are known to play nicely in the sandbox with a wide range of cartridges, and big on what the Brits call “PRaT’ (Pace, Rhythm and Timing). Rega tables run a little fast creating that boogie factor, something that you’ll notice about the Planar 1 Plus that includes a Rega Carbon cartridge, internal phono pre-amplifier based on their excellent FONO stage and RB-110 tonearm. Some Rega fans view the entry-level package as a step-down in quality from a basic Planar 1, but it’s hard to dismiss the quality of the overall package that is true to the Rega creed.

Fluance RT85

Audiophiles often dismiss entry-level tables for using MDF plinths, cheap tonearms, and bargain-basement cartridges, but none of those criticisms could be leveled at the Fluance RT85. With a solid wood plinth, acrylic platter, 9-inch aluminum tonearm, and pre-installed Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge, the RT85 is a genuine audiophile turntable that delivers speed stability, a dynamic sounding presentation, and a lot of performance for the money. The only item not included in the box with the Fluance RT85 is a phono pre-amplifier which will run users between $130 for a Schiit Audio Mani or Moon by SimAudio 110LP V2 which retails for $399. Both work exceptionally well with the Ortofon 2M Blue and would elevate the sound of the RT85 to end-game table performance for most people assembling an entry-level high-end audio system.

Audio-Technica AT-LP5x USB

Audio-Technica turntables are very popular for a simple reason; they offer great bang for the buck. They may not offer the construction quality of the better entry-level tables from Pro-Ject or Fluance, but they come standard with quality moving magnet cartridges that can be upgraded for a small increase in price. Audio-Technica makes uber-expensive phono cartridges like the AT-ART1000 which retails for $4,999.95 so the brand is not without high-end credibility. Just released at IFA 2019 in Berlin, the AT-LP5x USB turntable is a direct drive turntable equipped with a die-cast aluminum platter, external power supply, pre-mounted AT-VM95E cartridge, support for 78 RPM playback, internal phono pre-amp, and USB output for those who want to digitize their vinyl. The AT-LP5x USB is well-built, quiet in the groove, and sounds balanced and forceful at a very affordable price.

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

We Are Rewind Re-invented the Modern Cassette Player

As they say, everything that’s old is new again. This is particularly true when it comes to the world of music and, specifically, portable listening experiences. The vinyl record led to the cassette tape, led…

Olympus Is Done With Cameras

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The company has axed its camera division


Olympus is getting out of the camera business. Dogged by persistent whispers that it was preparing to give up the ghost — which until now it had vehemently denied — Olympus is finally selling its imaging business, home of the OM-D and Zuiko brands, to Japan Industrial Partners (JIP) which purchased Sony’s flailing VIAO brand back in 2014.

Olympus’s statement on the sale explains that its imaging division has been operating at a loss for the past three financial years, citing the growing camera-competency of smartphones as a chief cause for its struggles. Aside from being a long time camera manufacturer, having introduced its first camera way back in 1936, Olympus also spearheaded the ultra-compact Micro Four Thirds digital camera format with partnership from Panasonic. The cameras, which occupied a particular niche with lower resolution images but also smaller and more convenient lenses and a lower price point than larger sensored alternatives, found a measure of critical acclaim (I loved the recent flagship OM-D EM-1 MK III!), but less in the way of widespread commercial success. Panasonic took a breather from the format to launch a full-frame camera last year, and with Olympus now out of the game, the future of the format seems grim.

JIP has continued to put out products under the VIAO brand it purchased from Sony, and so it is reasonable to expect it will continue the development of the OM-D camera line in some form to make good on its investment. No matter what happens though, things will never be the same.

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

Eric Limer is Gear Patrol’s tech editor. A resident of Weehawken, NJ, his current obsessions include mechanical keyboards, mechanical pencils and Formula 1.

More by Eric Limer | Follow on Instagram · Contact via Email

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MAXOAK Bluetti AC200 2000W AC/1700W Solar Power Station

MAXOAK is back with another amazing product guaranteed to solve your power problems during blackouts. The innovative minds behind the Bluetti AC200 2000W AC/1700W Solar Power Station know that it can be difficult to find a reliable power generator. In this modern age of technology, competition in the market is stiff and the product price outweighs the features.

However, the Bluetti AC200 ensures that you get your money’s worth and more. It packs absolutely useful features not found in any other of its kind. It boasts over five output options, a wireless connection, and an amazing 2000W of AC power. All these packed in one compact, tough, and portable construction guaranteed to serve you for many uses.

Moreover, this versatile generator gives you multiple recharging options in case it runs out of juice. With its immense power, you have the freedom to charge both small and big appliances. It can even power your refrigerator, TV, and air conditioner to save you from the sweltering heat and boredom during blackouts. It is the perfect off-grid power solution for those who want to feel at home while in the great outdoors.

Limitless Power Solution

Bluetti AC200

The Bluetti AC200 Power Station runs on a 1700Wh lithium battery and provides 2000W of continuous AC power. It is built with 3C LG premium electric-vehicle battery so you’re certain of its high quality and durability.

This portable generator can charge multiple devices at the same time thanks to its vast output source. It has six 2000W AC output where you can plug in big and small appliance and comes with a USB-C 60W PD for fast charging. It also has four USB-A plugs and a couple of 15W wireless chargers. For outdoor purposes, it comes with four DC 12V outputs and a 25A RV connector.

Bluetti AC200

The possibilities are endless when it comes to this power source. Whether you want to charge your smartphones, portable gaming consoles, and other mobile devices. It can definitely be a source of electricity for your power tools, home and kitchen appliances, and other electronics. It even gives Teslas 11 miles on the road.

To put it in a practical perspective, using the Bluetti AC200 on a 150-1200W refrigerator gives you 13.-26 hours of life. Meanwhile, a 110W TV can run for a max of 23 hours and a 10W light with over 47 hours of illumination. A 1500W window type air conditioner can run for 4.3 hours. This power source even comes with an emergency light: LED light with three modes including full and medium brightness and SOS.

Multiple Ways to Recharge

Bluetti AC200

The Bluetti AC200 Solar Power Station comes with five recharging options. This means you’re not limited to the wall socket or the solar panel. You can use your car’s 12/24V DC output or through gasoline/diesel generator or lead-acid batteries. This handy gear has a built-in PV 700W/35-150V and an MPPT technology to make solar charging a breeze. It only takes 3.5 hours for a full charge.

Safety Guaranteed

Bluetti AC200

Just like MAXOAK’s other power generators, the Bluetti AC200 has a built-in battery management system that ensures safety. It prevents short-circuit, overheating, overcharge (both for battery and output), overvoltage, overcurrent, and more. To ensure safety during use, an LCD screen displays real-time charging and battery status, input/output power, and alerts you when there is a malfunction. It is also equipped with a fan that keeps the machine cool when the temperature reaches 45 degrees.

Eco-friendly and Portable

Bluetti AC200

The Bluetti AC200 Solar Power Station is unlike diesel or gasoline-powered generators that give off a bad smell and a loud noise when in use. On the contrary, it is quiet so you don’t have to worry about disturbing anyone in their sleep or breathe in the smell of gas.

Moreover, it comes in a compact size that can easily be carried to your next outdoor adventure be it by hand or through its added trolley. Outside of its amazing features, the Bluetti AC200 Solar Power Station also boasts a modern and sophisticated exterior appeal. It is one power source that you can proudly show off to friends and family to entice them to get one for themselves.

Get the super early bird discount at 45% off its original price if you preorder now before July 1

Preoder Here

If you would like your product reviewed and featured on Men’s Gear as well as its vast social media channels, e-mail Joe@mensgear.net

There’s Yet Another Fantastic Reason to Buy AirPods and AirPods Pro

<!–There’s Yet Another Fantastic Reason to Buy AirPods and AirPods Pro • Gear Patrol<!– –>

Optimized Charging


We learned this week that both of Apple’s wireless earbuds, the AirPods and AirPods Pro, will be getting some serious software updates come this fall. As part of iOS 14, Apple will roll out an automatic switching feature for both AirPods or AirPods Pro that will allow them to automatically detect which device you’re listening to — be it iPhone, iPad or Mac — and then switch to that it. No dealing with Bluetooth Settings required. The other (and more interesting) feature will only affect AirPods Pro. It’s called “Spatial Audio” and it’ll allow your AirPods Pro to play more immersive surround sound; it’ll even support Dolby Atmos.

Something that has more recently been revealed is that iOS 14 will also improve the lifespan of the AirPods and AirPods Pro. Both wireless earbuds will gain an “optimized charging: feature. Essentially, the AirPods and AirPods Pro will learn your usage habits and only charge fully to 100 percent when you’re about to use them. This result is that it will prevent the wireless earbuds from aging as quickly and, hopefully, they have a longer lifespan.

iPhones, iPads and Macs have already had this optimized charging feature, but iOS 14 will mark the first time that Apple’s wireless earbuds will have it.

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

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

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All the Most Exciting News From Yesterday’s Big Apple Event

Yesterday at its WWDC developer conference, Apple dropped a lot of new updates and features that will be coming to the iPhone, iPad, AirPods, Apple TV and Mac this fall. No actual hardware was actually announced, but there were a lot of details about the upcoming iOS 14 and macOS “Big Sur.” We’ve rounded up the most exciting announcements from WWDC 2020 that you need to know.

iOS 14 is snagging a whole host of Android’s best features.

iOS and Android have always copied features from their competitors, and this year iOS 14 is getting a bunch of features that Android users will know well. iOS 14 is getting widgets for the home screen, allowing you to see information like the weather or upcoming appointments in your calendar at a glance right next to all the apps on your home screen. iOS 14 is also introducing picture-in-picture video (like Android has had with YouTube), so that you can watch video from select apps in a floating screen while you do other things in other apps. You’ll also be able to hide the apps you don’t use; iOS will let you hide entire pages of your home screen, and instead, get access to your apps through the new App Library: a home screen page that contains all the apps on your phone, automatically organized into folders based on type, with the apps that you use the most often surfaced for an easy click.

iMessage is making group messages infinitely better with threads and mentions.

Apple is bringing some key improvements to iMessage. First, you’re going to be able to pin conversations to the top of your iMessage conversations. This way, you’ll be able to find more important conversations faster. The biggest change to your actual messages is the new feature that allows inline replies and mentions when in group chats. This is a popular feature that has been on workplace apps like Slack for a long time because it makes group conversations to be way more manageable, and it should make your larger group chats more pleasant to be in as well.

Your iPhone is getting translation powers

iOS 14 is going to bring a brand-new app called Translate that’s very similar to the Google Translate that Android apps have had for years. The Translate app will have a side-by-side that will allow two people to have a conversation in two different languages.

App Clips will make managing third-party apps much easier.

App Clips are a software feature that enable you to use third-party apps to do things like pay for parking, rent a car or order food from a specific restaurant, without you having to actually download them. These new App Clips are compatible with Apple Pay and Sign in with Apple, and you can use them by scanning a QR code or a specific App Clip code to instantly summon them onto your phone, for the 30 seconds or so you need to use them.

AirPods Pro are getting Dolby Atmos surround sound.

Apple announced two new features that are coming to the AirPods you already own. First, there’s automatic switching. If you use your AirPods or AirPods Pro with multiple devices at the same time, like an iPhone and iPad, your AirPods will automatically and instantly be able to detect which one you’re using and switch to it. No more having to deal with Bluetooth Settings.

The biggest update is just for AirPods Pro. Apple is bringing a new “Spatial Audio” feature that allows you to listen to a more immersive 3D sound. The feature utilizes the built-in accelerometer in the AirPods Pro to know exactly where your head in relation to the screen you’re watching, and it’ll then adjust the audio accordingly. This new Spatial Audio feature will support audio immersive sound technologies that sound like you’re listening to a 5.1-channel, 7.1-channel or a Dolby Atmos home theater system. Basically, there’s another reason to upgrade from the regular AirPods.

A new sci-fi series called Foundation is coming to Apple TV Plus.

[embedded content]Apple announced that a brand-new sci-fi series would be coming to Apple TV Plus in 2021. It’s called Foundation and it’s based on the award-winning novels by Isaac Asimov. According to Apple, it “chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization.” You can watch the trailer below.

The Apple Watch will (finally) get its own sleep tracking app.

The Apple Watch is getting a few key updates with watchOS 7, including more customizable watch faces (that you can actually share with other Apple Watch owners) and a dedicated Fitness app (previously, the Activity app) that can track dancing and cycling workouts. But the most anticipated upcoming new feature is sleeping tracking. With watchOS 7, your Apple Watch will have a native app called Sleep that will track your sleep cycles, as well as enable you to set bedtimes at night and alarms to wake you up in the morning. There’s also a Sleep Mode that will dim your Apple Watch screen at night. Naturally, this sleep tracking will demand more in terms of battery life from your Apple Watch, so if you’re committed to using it, you’ll probably need to charge your Apple Watch during the day.

The new macOS is “Big Sur” and it looks more like iOS than ever.

macOS is adopting iconography from iOS, and has a newer, simplified look for windows that brings the visual elements of MacOS a little more inline with how iOS looks. Most of the details are minor and cosmetic, but it all adds up to a much more unified look across all Apple devices. macOS is also picking up some other features directly from iOS, like Control Center.

Apple’s Macs are about to get a huge, huge change under the hood

Just as rumored, Apple is starting to make its own microchips for Macs, the same way it makes its own microchips for the iPhone and iPad. It’s an nerdy, under-the-hood change, but it’s a big big deal, that brings Apple’s laptops, phones, and tablets much much closer together than ever before, and maybe even lays the groundwork for them to eventually share the same operating system. In the meantime? If the transition goes as planned, Apple’s next generation of MacBook with these chips are going to be thinner and have better battery life than ever before. There may be a few hitches along the way though; this change also requires developers to make changes to their apps to support this big change. All of Apple’s first party apps (as well as the Office apps from Microsoft and Adobe’s Creative Suite) have already been converted, which should hopefully make the transition fairly smooth. For apps that haven’t been converted, Apple’s “Rosetta” technology will let you run apps that haven’t been converted.

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

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

Wyze’s First-Ever Outdoor Security Camera Has an Ingenious New Feature

<!–Wyze’s First-Ever Outdoor Security Camera Has an Ingenious New Feature • Gear Patrol<!– –>

Your Next Travel Gadget?


Wyze, the company best known for making some of the best affordable smart home cameras, just announced its first-ever outdoor smart home camera. The all-new Wyze Cam Outdoor is essentially a wire-free and weather-resistant version of the company’s Wyze Cam V2 ($20). It’s capable of 1080p live streaming and recording video, and it has night vision and two-way audio.

The other big difference, besides having a built-in battery and an IP65 rating, is that the Wyze Cam Outdoor has an interesting new travel mode so, according to the company, “adventurous users can watch after their hotel rooms while on vacation or take time-lapses of their campsite while sleeping under the stars.” At the time of writing, we’re not exactly sure how this will work (in terms of connecting to Wi-Fi and what features might be compromised), but it certainly sounds unique; to my knowledge, no other smart home camera is designed as a travel gadget.

As for price, the Wyze Cam Outdoor and its companion base station will cost $50. The base station magnetically connects to the camera and can be mounted to walls or ceilings with screws. If you want to use a third-party mount, you can (it’s compatible with any 1/4″—20 camera mount); you can buy the Wyze Cam Outdoor without the base station for $40.

Like with other smart home cameras, Wyze offers 14 days of rolling video storage for free. The camera will start recording footage whenever it detects motion or hears a loud sound. However, it only captures clips that are up to 12 seconds if you don’t subscribe to its Complete Motion Capture plan ($1.49 per Wyze Cam per month). If you subscribe, the camera will record motion for as long as motion is detected. There’s also a MicroSD slot if you want a local storage option.

The Wyze Cam Outdoor is available for pre-order right now.

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

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

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FaceTime on iPhone Is Getting a Game-Changing New Feature

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Multitasking, Finally!


Apple announced a host of new features coming to the iPhone with iOS 14, which will officially be rolled out this fall, and one of them is going to have a big impact on FaceTime.

Apple is calling the feature “Picture in Picture” and it will allow you to watch a video, like on YouTube or Apple TV Plus or FaceTime, while also using other apps. The video will appear as a little screen that you can move around your iPhone’s screen, or off it completely (you’ll still be able to hear the audio, which is neat), allowing you to multitask and do other things.

This is a pretty big deal because, for the first time, you’ll be able FaceTime with your somebody and also do other things, like get caught up on email, Instagram and Twitter. Previously, this Picture in Picture feature only worked with FaceTime on the iPad; if you were using FaceTime on your iPhone, it took up the entire screen.

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

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

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The Most Important Announcements From Today’s Big Apple Event

At WWDC 2020, Apple’s annual developer conference, a lot of updates and new features were announced that will be coming to the iPhone, iPad, AirPods, Apple TV and Mac this fall. No actual hardware was actually announced — except for the new chipset coming to Macs — but it was still exciting because a lot of the Apple devices you already own are about to get a lot better. We’ve rounded up the most exciting announcements from WWDC 2020 that you need to know.

iOS 14 is snagging a whole host of Android’s best features.

iOS and Android have always copied features from their competitors, and this year iOS 14 is getting a bunch of features that Android users will know well. iOS 14 is getting widgets for the home screen, allowing you to see information like the weather or upcoming appointments in your calendar at a glance right next to all the apps on your home screen. iOS 14 is also introducing picture-in-picture video (like Android has had with YouTube), so that you can watch video from select apps in a floating screen while you do other things. You’ll also be able to hide the apps you don’t use. iOS will let you hide entire pages of your home screen, and instead, get access to your apps through the new App Library: a page that contains all the apps on your phone, automatically organized into folders based on type, with the apps that you use the most often surfaced for an easy click.

iMessage is making group messages infinitely better.

Apple is bringing some key improvements to iMessage. First, you’re going to be able to pin conversations to the top of your iMessage conversations. This way, you’ll be able to find more important conversations faster because they won’t get bogged down by multiple and frequently-churning group texts that over your iMessage. The biggest change to iMessage is the new feature that allows inline replies and mentions when in group chats. This is a popular feature that has been on workplace apps like Slack for a long time because it makes group conversations to be way more manageable.

Your iPhone is getting a new app: Translate

As expected, iOS 14 is going to bring a brand-new app to your iPhone. It’s called Translate and it’s a language translation app that’s very similar to the Google Translate that Android apps have had for years. The Translate app will have a side-by-side that will allow two people to have a conversation in two different languages.

App Clips will make managing third-party apps much easier.

App Clips is a brand-new feature coming to your iPhone with iOS 14. It enables you to use more third-party apps to do things like pay for parking, rent a car or order food from a specific restaurant, without you having to actually download them. These new App Clips are compatible with Apple Pay and Sign in with Apple, so you essentially just have to scan a QR code or a specific App Clip code (or NFC) and it’ll securely let you pay for them.

AirPods Pro are getting Dolby Atmos surround sound.

Apple announced two new features that are coming to the AirPods you already own. First, there’s automatic switching. If you use your AirPods or AirPods Pro with multiple devices at the same time, like an iPhone and iPad, your AirPods will automatically and instantly be able to detect which one you’re using and switch to it. No more having to deal with Bluetooth Settings.

The biggest update is just for AirPods Pro. Apple is bringing a new “Spatial Audio” feature that allows you to listen to a more immersive 3D sound. The feature utilizes the built-in accelerometer in the AirPods Pro to know exactly where your head in relation to the screen you’re watching, and it’ll then adjust the audio accordingly. This new Spatial Audio feature will support audio immersive sound technologies that sound like you’re listening to a 5.1-channel, 7.1-channel or a Dolby Atmos home theater system. Basically, there’s another reason to upgrade from the regular AirPods.

A new sci-fi series called Foundation is coming to Apple TV Plus.

[embedded content]Apple announced that a brand-new sci-fi series would be coming to Apple TV Plus in 2021. It’s called Foundation and it’s based on the award-winning novels by Isaac Asimov. According to Apple, it “chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization.” You can watch the trailer below.

The Apple Watch will (finally) get its own sleep tracking app.

The Apple Watch is getting a few key updates with watchOS 7, including more customizable watch faces (that you can actually share with other Apple Watch owners) and a dedicated Fitness app (previously, the Activity app) that can track dancing and cycling workouts, but the most anticipated upcoming new feature is sleeping tracking. With watchOS 7, you’re Apple Watch will have a native app called Sleep that will track your sleep cycles, as well as enable you to set bedtimes at night and alarms to wake you up in the morning. There’s also a Sleep Mode that will dim your Apple Watch screen at night. Naturally, this sleep tracking will demand more in terms of battery life from your Apple Watch, so if you’re committed to using it, you’ll probably need to charge your Apple Watch during the day.

The new macOS is “Big Sur” and it looks more like iOS than ever.

macOS is adopting iconography from iOS, and has a newer, simplified look for windows that brings the visual elements of MacOS a little more inline with how iOS looks. Most of the details are minor and cosmetic, but it all adds up to a much more unified look across all Apple devices. MacOS is also picking up some other features directly from iOS, like Control Center

Apple’s Macs are about to get a huge, huge change under the hood

Just as rumored, Apple is starting to make its own microchips for Macs, the same way it makes its own microchips for the iPhone and iPad. It’s an nerdy, under-the-hood change, but it’s a big big deal, that brings Apple’s laptops, phones, and tablets much much closer together than ever before, and maybe even lays the groundwork for them to eventually share the same operating system. In the meantime? If the transition goes as planned, Apple’s next generation of MacBook with these chips are going to be thinner and have better battery life than ever before. There may be a few hitches along the way though; this change also requires developers to make changes to their apps to support this big change.

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

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

The Complete Guide to Fluance’s Fantastic Turntables

Welcome to Brand Breakdown, a series of comprehensive yet easy-to-digest guides to your favorite companies, with insights and information you won’t find on the average About page.

If you’re in the market for a good affordable turntable, you’ve undoubtedly come across Fluance. The Canadian-based audio company makes some of the best and most popular “bang-for-your-buck” turntables. It combines high-quality components (drive units, enclosure technologies, crossovers and wood cabinets) with a cool retro-inspired aesthetic, and it’s able to keep the price down by stripping away some of the more advanced, lesser-used features.

Fluance has only been in the turntable business for the last four years. The company dates back to 1999 and really built its reputation on hi-fi speakers and home theater speaker systems, but decided to go into turntables because the team had so many in-house vinyl enthusiasts. Today, you can get an entry-level turntable with a built-in phono preamp for as little as $200, or you upgrade to something a little higher-end. Either way, you’re not spending more than $500.

Getting Started

All of Fluances turntable models start with “RT” followed by a number (ranging from 80 to 85). The RT stands for “Retro Turntable,” and the numbers don’t indicate any specific value. They do indicate a general trend though: the higher the number, the nicer the turntable.

All of Fluance’s turntables look similar. They have engineered MDF wood plinths that are available in either a piano black or walnut (except RT80, which only has the black finish). With each model, from the RT80 through to the RT85, there are iterative fashion and performance improvements. Each turntable is fitted with a different cartridge from Audio Technica or Ortofon. Moving up the series each of those cartridges are able to provide better audio performance with increased channel separation, clarity and sound accuracy.

Entry-Level Versus Reference Lines

Fluance’s turntables can be separated into two categories: entry-level and the reference line.

The two turntables that makeup Fluance’s entry-level line are the RT80 and the RT81. Both turntables have built-in phono preamps and can be plugged directly into a pair of powered bookshelf speakers, or a powered amplifier and a pair of passive bookshelf speakers. The main difference between the RT80 and the RT81 has to do with the specific components that impact sound quality. The RT80 has a hollow body while the RT81 has a solid body, so the latter is heavier and better at canceling out vibrations. The RT80 has a conical cartridge so it’s more forgiving yet lacks some performance.

The four higher-end turntables — the RT82, RT83, RT84 and RT85 — are what Fluance refers to as its Reference line, and they have a couple more notable differences over the more affordable RT80 and RT81 turntables. First, they don’t have a built-in phono preamp. Second, they have a three-foot design, as opposed to the four feet on the RT80 and RT81, to reduce surface contact and minimize distortion. And third, their motor has been moved to the outside of the platter, further away from the cartridge, to help reduce noise from being picked up by the stylus.

When comparing each of the Fluance’s Reference turntables, they’re all pretty much the same except for the cartridge and platter: the higher the number, the higher quality the cartridge and platter. All four turntables were designed to be more customizable and offer a more pure analog signal. Fluance has developed its own stand-alone phono preamp, the Fluance PA10 ($80), to use with any turntable in its Reference line.

The Turntables

Fluance RT80

The RT80 is the of the company’s base model and most entry-level turntable. It has a built-in phono preamp so it is easy to incorporate into an existing audio system or hook up to powered bookshelf speakers. It has a hollow body plinth and an Audio Technica AT91 cartridge.

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Fluance RT81

The RT81 was the company’s original flagship turntable before it introduced the Reference line. It’s essentially an upgraded version of the RT80. It has the same built-in preamp, but includes a rubber mat, a solid body plinth and an Audio Technica AT95 cartridge.

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Fluance RT82

The RT82 is the most affordable turntable in Fluance’s Reference line. It has the key upgrades over the RT81, such as a three-foot design and a motor that’s been moved to the outside of the platter, and doesn’t have built-in phono preamp. It has an aluminum platter, a rubber mat and an Ortofon OM 10 cartridge.

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Fluance RT83

The RT83 is essentially the same turntable as the RT82, but with an upgraded cartridge. It has the very popular Ortofon 2M Red cartridge which is known for providing a flat-frequency response without coloration of the sound.

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Fluance RT84

The RT84 is the same the previous two Reference turntables, but with an upgraded cartridge. It has the Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge which has a nude diamond stylus resulting in even greater dynamics and resolution.

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Fluance RT85

The RT85 is the best performing turntable in Fluance’s current line. It has the same Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge as the RT84, but also has a heavier acrylic platter. The platter helps provide better speed consistency, and it also eliminates the need for a platter mat.

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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.
Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

The Cowboy 3 is one awesome e-bike that does not look like one

Aside from some of the coolest vehicles that we regularly feature on our pages, we love to showcase other types of transportation. Studies show there is a remarkable drop in pollution amid the current health crisis. With governments lifting restrictions experts already are already predicting issues with commuting via public means. As such, alternative personal mobility solutions such as the Cowboy 3 might be something to consider.

What appears to be just a regular bicycle, is actually a fully functional electric model. We always found e-bikes as a perfect zero-emission platform for a lot of reasons. Those hoping to stay fit and get to where they’re going can always use the pedals like a conventional two-wheeler. On the other hand, users can let the motor do all the work and ride off with ease all the way.

Unlike other similar machines, the Cowboy 3 retains the conventional bicycle look thanks to some clever engineering. What usually it away are the visible electric motors and huge battery packs that stand out like a sore thumb. Nevertheless, the manufacturer did a great job of seamlessly integrating its power source into the frame. Owners can get up to 44 miles on a full charge which just takes 3.5 hours to fill up.

Weighing in at just roughly 37.25 lbs. it should be easy to move around for storage or parking. You can even connect the e-bike wirelessly via Bluetooth to interface directly from your smartphone (via the companion app). Moreover, this allows the onboard crash detection system to notify your emergency contacts if you ever get into an accident. Finally, the Cowboy 3 also comes with LED headlight and a flashing brake light for low-light visibility.

Upgrade your commute now: here

Images courtesy of Cowboy

It’s Time to Upgrade Your iPhone Charger (And You Can Do It for Cheap)

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A Perfect Travel Gadget


Unless you bought an iPhone 11 Pro, which comes with a USB-C 18-watt wall charger, you’re likely charging your current iPhone slower than you could be. That’s because most iPhones come with the standard 5-watt wall charger. Fortunately, you can buy a more powerful wall charger for pretty cheap.

Take this 18-watt wall charger by Aukey for example. It’s just $10 and it has Power Delivery (PD) technology, so it’s able to deliver more power, faster to your iPhone. (Power Delivery is only supported by iPhone 8 and later; if you have an older phone, it won’t charge as quickly.)

The other big benefit is that this wall adapter is tiny. It’s roughly the size of a quarter and Aukey claims that it’s the world’s smallest PD charger. Basically if you travel a lot and are looking for small, powerful wall charger that’ll charge your current iPhone fast, this makes a great travel accessory.

Also, if you shop on Amazon, this normally $15 wall charger is on sale right now for just $10.

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

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

More by Tucker Bowe | Follow on Instagram · Twitter · Contact via Email

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What’s the Difference Between a $100 and $800 Soundbar?

If you’re getting a new TV, you probably should get a soundbar. In the quest for thinness, most TVs have had to sacrifice sound quality. Not all soundbars are the same. You can find options like the Vizio SB2920 for as cheap as $78 or the Sonos Arc way up at $799.

But what are you actually paying for if you go for the upgrade?

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Better ‘bars mean better drivers and more channels.

One of the most important factors that determines the sound quality of a soundbar is its number of channels. Entry level soundbars tend to have two channels, a dedicated left and right channel for stereo sound. You can go way further than that though. A three-channel soundbar has an additional dedicated center, which helps with produce mid-range (and dialog) A five-channel soundbar is way more advanced, as it can manage to support actual surround sound. More channels, more immersive sound.

On top of that, most entry-level soundbars don’t have dedicated tweeters (for highs), midrange drivers (for midrange) and woofers (for lows), but have full-range drivers that handle everything. This results in a less accurate sound.

The Vizio SB2920 is a two-channel soundbar with a grand total of two full-range drivers. The Sonos Arc is a five-channel soundbar with a total of 11 drivers (eight woofers and three tweeters). This is the meat of what you’re paying for if you go for an upgrade pick.

High-quality soundbars can put their drivers to better use

Immersive sound technologies like Dolby Atmos are all the rage right now, but not a lot of soundbars actually support them. The reason is that it’s difficult and expensive to get a soundbar certified for Atmos. The soundbar has to have the proper number of channels (at least five), the proper hardware, and pass certain tests by Dolby. But when it works properly, a full-on Dolby Atmos is the pinnacle of a home theater experience.

A soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos, like the Sonos Arc, has to have a specific type of surround-sound channels with upward-firing drivers. These drivers help the soundbar to create dedicated virtual height channels, enabling it to create really immersive audio experiences. Basically, it doesn’t just sound like the audio is coming out of the TV, but from above and way to the left and right of it as well.

The Vizio SB2920 does not support Dolby Atmos. No way, no how.

Expensive soundbars double as great speakers in general.

Pretty much all the newest soundbars, cheap or expensive, have built-in Bluetooth so you can stream music straight from your smartphone or laptop, just like a traditional Bluetooth speaker. The best soundbars also have built-in Wi-Fi and integrated technologies that enable it to do much more.

For example, the Sonos Arc has a four-microphone array and can function as a Google Assistant- or Alexa-enabled smart speaker. You can ask Alexa or Google (depending on which smart assistant you use) to set timers, questions about the weather, or to control your other smart home devices; additionally, you can use voice commands to adjust your TV’s volume or change channels. The Arc also supports other higher-resolution streaming methods that require Wi-Fi, such as AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect.

The Vizio SB2920 only has built-in Bluetooth. No Wi-Fi. No smart speaker capabilities. But depending on what you actually need, maybe that’s just the ticket.

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Tucker Bowe

Tucker Bowe has been on Gear Patrol’s editorial team since 2014. As a Tech Staff Writer, he tracks everything in the consumer tech space, from headphones to smartphones, wearables to home theater systems. If it lights up or makes noise, he probably covers it.

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