All posts in “tech”

4 Great Portable Monitors for Your Home Office

If you need an extra screen for you laptop more than you need it for your desk, a portable monitor could be the solution. Cheaper than buying a tablet (many of which can double as portable monitors) and it provides the extra screen space that you’re used to with the external monitor at work. It’s also thin, lightweight and travel-friendly, just like a tablet, so you can take it anywhere.

When shopping for a portable monitor, there are a number of things to consider. There’s its size and picture quality. There’s its number of ports, which is important if you want to connect things other than your laptop (like a smartphone or gaming console). There’s whether or not you want it to have a touchscreen, which is important for graphic designers and artists. And then there’s its battery situation; some portable monitors have a built-in battery, while others need to draw power from your laptop.

The field is growing, and it’s more vital than ever as more people work from previously uncommon spaces. Here are some of the best options you can find right now.

The Budget Model: Asus MB168B

This is a 15.6-inch portable monitor that’s a little older and lacks some modern conveniences, like a USB-C connection and a touchscreen display. However, it’s affordable and still provides an extra screen space you need to stay organized while working from home.

The Gaming Model: Dragon Touch S1

The Dragon Touch S1 is a relatively new 15.6inch portable monitor that produces a HD picture. It has a number of connections — including a mini HDMI port, two USB-C ports and micro-USB port — so you can connect a number of devices, such as your laptop (PC or Mac), smartphone or gaming console. And it has two built-in speakers so, in case you hook up to a gaming console, you’ll still be able to hear sound.

The No-Nonsense Model: Lenovo ThinkVision M14

The Lenovo ThinkVision M14 is a 14-inch portable monitor that stands out for a number of reasons. It has two USB-C ports, which allows you to use the display and simultaneously (via pass-through power) charge your laptop. It has an innovative base that both swivels and pops up, so you can better match its height to that of your laptop. And it’s one of the thinnest, most beautifully designed portable displays you can buy.

The Touchscreen: ASUS ZenScreen Touch MB16AMT


The ZenScreen Touch MB16AMT is a 15.6-inch portable monitor with a number of high-end features. It’s the only option on this list that has a touchscreen display, which makes it a great option of graphic artists and designers. It has built-in speakers and a wealth of connectivity ports, so you can hook up a gaming console, like an Xbox or Nintendo Switch, directly to it. And it has a built-in battery (7800mAh capacity) and can run for about four hours on its own.

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

Everything You Need to Build an DIY Outdoor Movie Theater (For Cheap)

It’s summer, and if you’re looking for a project, transforming your backyard into an outdoor movie theater isn’t actually all that difficult. All you need are a few key components, such as a projector, speaker(s), a streaming device and an (optional) projector screen, depending on if you have a natural wall that can act as a screen or not. You don’t have to spend more than a few hundred bucks if you don’t want to.

Here are the essential components you need to build a DIY outdoor movie theater.

A Projector

There are a number of factors you need to consider before buying a projector for a DIY outdoor movie theater. You’ll want to account for image quality, the image size it creates, and its connectivity options; you need to make sure it’s compatible with the media player or laptop you’re going to hook it up to. Since the outdoor home theater isn’t likely to be a permanent fixture in your backyard (because projectors aren’t weatherproof), you also want to make sure it’s small enough to move.

Sony MP-CD1

Released in 2018, the Sony MP-CD1 is a small, portable and easy-to-use projector. It has an HDMI connection and comes with an adapter, so you can easily use it with a laptop, smartphone or gaming console, and project a picture that’s up to 120 inches (which is huge). It has a built-in 5,000mAh battery that can last between two-and-three hours and has USB-A and USB-C ports for charging. It also has a 3.5mm jack to connect a separate speaker. On the downside, the Sony MP-CD1 doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or an operating system, so you can’t play or watch anything without connecting it to a source. The picture is less than HD quality, which is about the same as other pico projectors.

Nebula Mars II Pro

The Nebula Mars II Pro is a significant upgrade over other pico projectors. It’s still very much portable, but its larger size enables it to have a bigger battery (that can last up to four hours on a single charge) and much-improved speakers. It has a neat autofocus feature so it’s really easy to set up. Maybe most importantly, it has an Android operating system so all you have to do is connect to Wi-Fi and you can stream content from Netflix, Hulu or YouTube; and yes, you can also download content directly to the Mars II Pro and watch it later without a Wi-Fi connection. It also has a 3.5mm jack to connect a separate speaker.

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BenQ HT2050A

The BenQ HT2050A isn’t a portable projector like the two cheaper options on this list, meaning it requires a constant connection to power. But that’s basically it’s only downside. It’s able to produce a picture that’s significantly better (full 1080p) and brighter (up to 2,200 lumens), and it’s able to short throw a 100-inch picture from just a few feet away. Additionally, it has more connectivity options so you should have no issue connecting a separate streaming device, laptop or speaker system. (There’s built-in operating system so you need to connect to a separate media source.) Finding a place to mount it so that it will work for your outdoor setup may prove to be a challenge, though.

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A Projection Screen

If you don’t have conveniently placed wall in your backyard — let’s be honest, most of us don’t — then you’re going to need to invest in a portable projection screen. They’re relatively affordable and can be set up pretty much anywhere. Plus, they reflect light without altering the projected image, meaning your movie theater is going to look great.

TaoTronics Projector Screen

The TaoTronics Projector Screen is probably the best projection screen for most people. It’s rugged enough to leave outside, in case you don’t want break it down after every time you use it. It comes with a sturdy tripod and creates a big, 100-inch screen.

Gemmy Movie Screen

This is alternative take on the outdoor projector screen. Instead of relaying on a tripod or stand, the Gemmy Movie Screen is inflatable. It’s essentially like an air mattress, as you just plug it in and it self inflates (and stands!) within minutes. It creates a screen that’s more than 100-inches and will be a great partner for most portable projectors.

Speakers

If you’re serious about an outdoor home theater, you’re going to want to buy separate speakers. Just like TVs and their small built-in speakers, projectors don’t sound the best. Fortunately, most projectors — including portable projectors — have a number of different connectivity options and can work with a variety of types of speakers.

Sony SRS-XB43

The SRS-XB43 is one of Sony’s largest new portable speakers for 2020. It has a IP67 waterproof rating, USB-C charging and a battery life that can last up to 24 hours. Unlike Sony’s smaller new portable speakers, the SRS-XB43 has a line-in headphone jack, meaning you can simply connect it directly to a projector.

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Audioengine A2+ Wireless

Audioengine’s A2+ Wireless is one of the best sets of small powered speakers you can buy. They make great desktop speakers, or you can hook them up to an entry-level turntable that has a built-in phono preamp. The A2+ Wireless have built-in Bluetooth as well as a line-in connection, so they’ll work with any of the above projectors.

Sonos Five

The Sonos Five is a newer and slightly upgraded version of the company’s now-antiquated Play:5. It’s a wireless speaker that needs a constant connection to power, and, because it has a line-in jack, it can connect to a projector and play audio without Wi-Fi. Additionally, it’s humidity-resistant, optimizing it for sultry summer nights (just don’t leave it outside over night).

A Media Player

It’s actually pretty easy to watch movies and shows on a projector — even small pico projectors — because you can connect directly to them via HDMI. A streaming portable streaming device, like a Roku or Amazon Fire stick, is nice because they don’t need a separate power source since they draw power directly from the projector; however, you want to make sure you either have a good Wi-Fi connection in your backyard, as most of those devices don’t allow downloads for offline viewing. Or you could just hook up your laptop or smartphone directly to the projector. The other option is to connect a device that can play physical media, like a DVD or Blu-ray player, but those options can be pretty arduous by comparison.

Roku Streaming Stick+

This little streaming stick brings Roku’s wildly popular smart operating system to your projector, plus all your favorite streaming services, such as Netflix, Hulu and Disney+. It supports HD and 4K streaming, although most projectors can’t stream in true 4K (and if they can, they’re usually expensive). It also comes with a remote, unlike some other affordable streaming sticks.

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Apple TV

An Apple TV is an excellent streaming device for everybody locked into Apple’s ecosystem and it’s suprisingly portable (although it does need to be plugged into a separate power source besides the projector). If you have a higher-end projector that can handle 4K content, the Apple TV 4K is your best bet. Again, it doesn’t allow for downloads for offline viewing (only your smartphone, tablet or laptop can do that.

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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

Will iOS 14 Work On My Current iPhone?

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It’s Apple’s biggest iOS update ever


Apple’s biggest iOS update ever, iOS 14, will roll out this fall and it’s going to bring features to the iPhone including inline replies in iMessage, disappearing apps and widgets, compact call notifications and a totally redesigned Home screen. Basically, it’s going to drastically change (and improve, hopefully) the way you use your iPhone. And if you’re wondering if your current iPhone will support iOS 14, the answer is probably yes.

iOS 14 will be supported on the iPhone 6s and later, which is every iPhone that has been released in the last five years. We’ve listed the complete list of supported iPhones, below, along with when each was originally released.

• iPhone SE (2020)
• iPhone 11 (2019)
• iPhone 11 Pro/ 11 Pro Max (2019)
• iPhone XS/ XS Max (2018)
• iPhone XR (2018)
• iPhone X (2017)
• iPhone 8/ 8 Plus (2017)
• iPhone 7/ 7 Plus (2016)
• iPhone SE (2016)
• iPhone 6s/6s Plus (2015)

Also, if you own an iPod touch that’s already running iOS 13, it will also support iOS 14.

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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How a 100-Year-Old Company Is Still a Cornerstone of Modern Hi-Fi

Turntable manufacturers tend to make every part of the turntable themselves — the plinth, the motor, the tonearm and the platter. There is, however, often a notable exception for what is arguably a turntable’s most crucial component: the phono cartridge. While some companies, like Audio Technical and Cambridge Audio, do get into the cartridge business, many more including Pro-Ject, Fluance and U-Turn, have chosen to partner with Ortofon. Pro-Ject’s most popular turntable, the Debut Carbon (DC), comes with an Ortofon cartridge. So too does every turntable in Fluance’s Reference line.

So, what’s the deal? Why don’t more turntable manufactures make their own phono cartridges? And what makes Ortofon cartridges so special?

One of Ortofon’s biggest strengths is that it is in no way new to the game. Founded over 100 years ago in 1918 by two Danish audio engineers, Axel Petersen and Arnold Poulsen, the company developed one of the first synchronized sound film systems and helping to usher in an era of music and dialog. According to Louis Dorio, the product specialist at Ortofon, it was after World War 2 when the company became primarily concerned with producing record manufacturing and playback equipment, like record cutting heads and cutting amplifiers used in the mastering process.

“Ortofon developed the first cutting head that could actually offer wide frequency response, the way we listen to music today,” said Dorio. “Of course, at the time, listeners couldn’t make use of these new HiFi records without a new cartridge, so the natural thing to do was develop cartridges that could satisfy the demands of the new recordings.”

The first Ortofon cartridge was a moving coil cartridge, the MC Mono-A cartridge, and it was developed by Holger Christian Arenstein in 1948. Since then, Ortofon has been a fixture in the hi-fi world, manufacturing everything tonearms to cables, but they’re still best known for the over 50 cartridge models they make.

The business has changed a lot for Ortofon in the past 15 years, and that’s because the vinyl industry has changed a lot in that time as well. Before 2010, audiophiles and DJs were the primary groups listening to vinyl, and in fairly small numbers, leaving Ortofon content to produce a variety of high-end cartridges in relatively modest quantity. Since then, there’s been a vinyl boom. More vinyl means more turntables, which in turn means more phono cartridges.

Part of Ortofon’s continued relevance, and the lack of competition from turntable producers themselves, has to do with the difficulty of achieving the scale of production the boom has required. Ortofon’s factory in Nakskov, Denmark is pretty uniquely suited to mass-producing excellent phono cartridges. And producing cartridges at any scale is far from easy. “Each individual component of the cartridge has a big influence on the sound,” explained Dorio. “Whether it be the diamond shape, cantilever material, the choice of coil wire material, how many coils, the magnet chosen and its intensity, and the type of rubber suspension that will be used. And that just scratches the surface really, as most of it gets into physics and how it can be applied to produce a good sounding final product.”

In 2007, Ortofon created its 2M series of moving-magnet (MM) cartridges, which is the company’s best-selling and most visible (they’re all bright colors) series of cartridges today, and they’re compatible with most entry-level phono preamps and entry-level integrated turntables. Ortofon also makes numerous moving-coil (MC) cartridges, which are better at preserving accuracy and sound quality, but also more expensive. That said, the company’s entry-level 2M series cartridges are still very good, which is why some of the biggest turntable manufactures have chosen to use them. “Even if you buy our least-expensive cartridge, it’s still free from distortion and it gets far more right than it gets wrong,” said Dorio. “One concept that we try to live by is the importance of ‘entry-level quality.’ We’ve always been focused on providing solid options for listeners who just want the best possible value from their money.”

The Ortofon 2M Blue is the company’s most popular upgrade from the omnipresent 2M Red Cartridge.

Should you find that you somehow disagree, the great thing about all phono cartridges is that they’re one of the most upgradable components in any hi-fi system. And higher-quality phono cartridge can have a big impact on your system’s overall sound quality; plus, it could help preserve the life of your records. If you have an entry-level turntable with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge ($100) and you’re looking for something to upgrade to, get the Ortofon 2M Blue ($236). And if you made that decision, you wouldn’t be alone. According to Dorio, it’s the most popular upgrade, and one that’s well-made.

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

Tarform returns with the retrofuturistic Luna electric motorcycle

When crafting something with a retrofuturistic theme in mind, there is a delicate balance that many should consider. Push the aesthetics toward one style too much and it could potentially ruin everything. Hence, with years of experience, comes the ability to envision exactly what you want and to execute everything flawlessly. This appears to be what Tarform brings to the table with its Luna platform. This new electric motorcycle model flaunts a striking design that will please its owner.

Over the years, manufacturers of automobiles and bikes have expanded their horizons. While most still produce traditional combustion engine rides, many have completely switched over to zero-emission alternatives. Fuel cells have been introduced in the past, but its safety profile in case of accidents is still subject to debate. Thus, rechargeable batteries are the ideal option for now.

With more consumers now understanding the devastating effects of pollution, clean energy is becoming the go-to solution. Tarform embraces the concept and carefully crafts its machines with this in mind. The Luna boasts a virtually reliable electric drive train that promises minimal maintenance and dependable performance.

The 55-horsepower rating of its 41 kW electric motor can take riders from 0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds. Meanwhile, Tarform lists the top speed at above 90 mph. A 10 kWh battery pack provides the Luna a little over 120 miles on a full charge. Recharging from 0-80% takes approximately less than an hour. Other notable features include a 3.4-inch HD display, Bluetooth connectivity, blind-spot detection with haptic feedback, and others more.

Reserve yours now: here

Images courtesy of Tarform

6 Notes App Features You Should Be Using, But Aren’t

Welcome to Product Support, a column devoted to helping you get the most out of the gadgets and software you already use.

If you have an iPhone, iPad or Mac, you’re probably well-acquainted with the Notes app. Apple’s digital note-taking app is a great place for keeping lists, jotting down quick ideas, drawing sketches and writing long-form drafts, and it can be an incredibly powerful tool because, as long as it’s synced with iCloud, everything on your Notes app will quickly sync across all your devices. No need to share via AirDrop or email. If you write on Note on your iPhone, it’ll automatically appear on your iPad and Mac as well.

Analog Options
Rhodia Goalbook Journal
Word Notebooks 3-Pack
Leuchtturm 1917 Soft Cover Small Pocket Journal

The neat thing about the Notes app is that Apple updates and adds new features to it all the time. For instance, you probably didn’t know that the Search feature in the Notes app can recognize typed or handwritten text, as well as images and scanned documents (like a recipe or receipt). And, more recently, the Notes app lets you organize folders within folders. (I know, mind blown.) You can find even more useful tricks and tips below. Go on, master the Notes app.

Quickly undo a typo.

Did you accidentally highlight something and delete it (also by accident)? This can be incredibly frustrating especially if you’re using the Notes app on an iPhone or iPad and you don’t have access to an actual keyboard (you can’t press Command + Z to undo on an on-screen keyboard). Also, there’s no quick “Undo” menu to select on the iPhone. Fortunately, Apple baked in a “Shake to Undo” feature where you can actually shake your iPhone to prompt an “Undo Typing” menu. This feature is on by default, but you can change it by going to into Settings > General > Accessibility > Shake to Undo.

Quickly scan a document and sign it.

The Notes app actually has a built-in scanner function which makes it easy to scan a real-life document, sign it or mark it up (via the markup functionality in Notes), and then share it with whoever you need to it. All you have to do is start a new note, select the camera icon in the bottom-center of that note, and select “Scan Documents.” The app with then walks you through how to align the document so that it scans properly.

Share a folder with a friend.

The Notes app makes it incredibly easy to share your notes with others. You can set the permissions to “view only” if you don’t want other people to make edits, or you can open edits if it’s a more collaborative project. To share, just open the note in question and select the share button in the top-right; you can then select how you want to share: AirDrop, iMessage, Mail or another third-party app like Slack or Gmail.

Password protect specific notes.

If you’re worried about unwanted eyes seeing one of your notes, you can password protect it. To do this, simply go to the note in question, select the “share” icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen, and then select “Lock Note.” From there you can set a password (along with a hint in case you need help remembering) or enable Face ID (or Touch ID) to gain access to the note. All password-protected notes have a lock icon over them.

Have Siri take a note for you.

Siri, Apple’s voice assistant that comes built into your iPhone, iPad and Mac, can actually be pretty helpful in terms of taking notes. You can say “Hey Sir, start a new note” and then dictate what you want the note to say, and Siri will jot it all down for you and save it as a note. This is a great option if you don’t feel like typing or you want to create a note hands-free.

Create a checklist, not just a list.

A checklist is essentially just an interactive list where you can mark tasks as completed while leaving others open. To create a checklist, simply create a new note and then, at the bottom of the note, select the icon that has a checkmark inside a circle. Then type something and hit Enter (Return) when you’re done. Each time you hit Enter (Return) a new task will be created. To mark off a task as completed, simply select the circle (or bullet) next to it. You can deselect it the same way.

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

12 Essential Gadgets Under $20 That Everyone Should Own

Not every gadget you own has to be expensive. Sure, your smartphone, smartwatch and wireless headphones aren’t cheap, but there are a number of other inexpensive things that still provide real value. Below, are 12 affordable gadgets that you’ll use almost every day, and all of them come in at under $20.

Portable Battery

Mophie Powerstation Mini: A portable battery has become pretty essential, especially if you have an older smartphone. You can buy one in an array of different capacities and shapes. This 3,000mAh capacity charger can almost double your smartphone’s battery; plus it’s thin enough to slide into your pocket.

Security Camera

Wyze Cam V2: In past years, you couldn’t buy a smart home camera for less than $100 — but not anymore. The Wyze Cam V2 is a simple and easy to use gadget that works with most smart ecosystems (including Alexa and Google Assistant) and has a similar feature set and video capture capabilities as way more expensive options. It’s great for keeping a watchful on the dog or the front door when you’re away from home.

Portable Power Strip

Belkin 3-Outlet USB Surge Protector: A portable surge protector is a surprisingly useful travel companion because it lets you increase the space of any single outlet. This one by Belkin also has two USB ports, meaning you don’t even need a wall adapter (just the cable) to charge your smartphone, headphones or smartwatch. Make some friends at the airport!

USB Flash Drive

Sanfeya USB-C Flash Drive: A flash drive has been an essential gadget for seemingly forever. It safely and securely stores your most essential files without having need to deal the cloud, and it’s obviously portable. Sanfeya’s flash drive is unique because it has dual ends for USB-A and USB-C which lets it plug into older computers, and newer devices that don’t have traditional USB ports.

Gaming Headset

Xbox One Chat Headset: Sometimes a cheap gaming headset works just as well as the expensive ones. The sound might not be nearly as great, but they’re easier to operate and what you really need for playing with friends is the microphone. If you’re not a serious gamer or you just want a backup headset that doesn’t need to be charged, this simple chat headset for Xbox is great. Or the PS4 variety if that’s more your speed.

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Wireless Charger

Anker Wireless Charging Pad: Most of today’s new smartphones support wireless chargers. Heck, so do a lot of wireless headphones and earbuds as well. And you can get a great one, like this Anker, for less than $20. The days of you worrying about whether you have the right charger (Lightning, USB-C or micro-UBS) for your device are almost over.

Wired Earbuds

Panasonic ErgoFit: Everybody needs a good pair of cheap wired earbuds because you never know when your wireless headphones and earbuds are going to let you down. Either they run out of battery or they start having Bluetooth issues, it’s always idea to have a backup option. Plus, the in-flight entertainment systems on most airplanes still don’t have Bluetooth, so wired earbuds definitely still come in handy.

Tabletop Tripod

Linkcool Smartphone Tripod: A tripod might seem like photography equipment, but it can come in handy in a lot of ways. It allows you to record stable videos from far away or watch videos (like workout videos) without having to find a way to prop-up your smartphone. If you take a lot of video calls, it’s nice to have a hands-free option.

Headphone Adapter

Apple USB-C to 3.5 mm Headphone Jack Adapter: Frankly, not a lot of smartphones have a traditional headphone jack. And not many smartphones comes with a headphone adapter either. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have one on your person.

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Bluetooth Receiver

TaoTronics Bluetooth Receiver: This little portable Bluetooth receiver can plug into your old car’s sound system so you can wirelessly stream audio or answer hands-free calls. Or it can allow you to listen to your wireless headphones with things that don’t have built-in Bluetooth, like a Nintendo Switch.

Smart Plug

TP-Link Kasa Smart WiFi Plug Mini: A smart plug is a great entry-level gadget for anybody looking to grow out their smart home. It plugs into a wall out and, after an initial setup via an app, it lets you control your normally “dumb” devices — lamp, fan or air conditioner — with your smartphone or voice. This smart plug by TP-Link is great because it can work with both Alexa or Google Assistant.

Wireless Mouse

Logitech M185: It’s always a good idea to have a wireless mouse, even if you like using your laptop’s trackpad, because it can give you a nice bit of reprieve, plus it can be a better ergonomic solution. The Logitech M185 isn’t a feature-packed wireless mouse, but it has smooth travel and great (near year-long) battery life.

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

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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Top gadgets to have in your garage

If like so many of us your garage is your man cave,  you definitely keep your gadgets there, right? Well, we have a list of stuff that would go perfectly in a man cave like yours, so keep reading.

1. Even if you’re not that into high tech, you’ll love a good 3D printer in the garage. You can not only make tons of cool stuff but also make money. You can download ready designs off the internet, or do it yourself! Plus, this is a genius way to occupy kids and teach them a thing or two about technology. If you are looking for one, 3D printer UK has loads of options to offer. Small tabletop models, big industrial models. Whatever you’d like to have, the market is full of them. You can make anything from simple hooks to hang your gym gear to car parts and various moldings.

2. A signal booster is a great way to solve your connection problems. If you are going to be serious about your man cave, you need a cell phone signal booster to make sure you have fast internet available anytime. As this device works on a certain frequency to enhance your weak signal, it may vary from country to country. A mobile phone booster in Australia needs might be different from a cell phone signal booster in the USA. Mobile signal boosters can also vary according to their coverage, the signal they enhance, and operators they support. So make sure to do your research before getting one.

3. Great sound system. Remember when you were 15 and your parents wouldn’t allow you to crank the huge speakers up in the house? Well, now it’s the same with your wife and kids, right? Otherwise, there would be no need to recede to the garage. But anyway, a great sound system will give you an opportunity to relax and listen to your music for a change, instead of the ‘Frozen’ soundtrack for the gazillionth time. Everyone needs a break. Enjoy.

4. This is not really a gadget, strictly speaking, but you might still want to have it around. If your garage space is a little tight, you might want a stop sign. It sits on a long rod and when you park and hit the rod, the sign lights up. Again, this is very useful when you have very little space to maneuver.

5. Gym equipment. It’s not easy to find a quiet place to work out in the house, so the garage is the perfect solution. You can have a bench press machine, just to blow off steam and have some alone time, you can have weights, and even a treadmill if you have some space left!

There are tons of cool ideas you can try for your garage. Do some research before you buy any of the above and your garage will truly transform into a proper man cave!

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

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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.

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