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    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (September 2015)

    Your phone is something you more than likely carry with you at all times and use to run every aspect of your day to day life. It's fine to spend a little money on the perfect phone, but which phone is that? There are a ton of options, and it's only getting increasingly complicated as more unlocked phones start hitting the market. As we do every month, let's dive in and see which phones are available on your carrier of choice, and which of those might be best for you.

    Carrier-branded Phones

    Carrier exclusives are mostly a thing of the past. There are occasional bespoke phones designed for one network or another, but the big flagship phones are usually available on all the major US carriers. I think your best overall option if you're going through the carriers is still the Galaxy S6, which you can get on all of them for $20-30 per month on a payment plan.

    The GS6 has a Super AMOLED panel, and it's really just fantastic. It's 5.1-inches and 1440p in resolution, which is small enough that most people should be able to use it comfortably one-handed. It's a stunningly beautiful screen, and I have no doubt it's the best you can get on a smartphone right now. This continues to be one of the primary selling points of this phone. There are devices you can get with better software or longer battery life, but none of them are as pleasant to look at.

    Everything You Should Know about Android Pay

    Android has had NFC payments since way back in 2011 with the Sprint Nexus S 4G. In the intervening years Google Wallet's usage hasn't exactly rocketed upward, and then Apple Pay happened. To offer a more full-featured alternative for Apple Pay, Google announced a revamped version of its payment platform at I/O this year -- Android Pay. This new way to pay via NFC is now rolling out to devices, but what's different other than the name? Here's everything you should know about how Android Pay works.

    Separating Wallet and Pay

    Before you can start using Android Pay, you'll need to receive an update to Google Play Services. That's the framework that makes all your Google apps and services work. It should happen automatically in the background in the coming weeks, and when it does, the Play Store will update your Wallet app, turning it into Android Pay.

    Going forward, Android Pay is your NFC payment app and Wallet is for sending money to others.

    So the new Android Pay app is actually the same package name that Wallet was using before, which is why it completely overwrites it. Wallet still exists, but it's a new app listing in the Play Store, and it's not for paying in stores. From now on, Android Pay is your NFC payment app and Wallet is for sending money to others via your Wallet balance, as well as managing your Wallet debit card.

    This is very narrow functionality for each app, and I'm really not sure why Google bothered separating them. Couldn't the money sending just be bundled into Pay? At any rate, you'll need to open Android Pay to set everything up, and that's where things get tricky.

    Let's Compare the No-Contract Plans from US Mobile Carriers

    For many years, the two-year contract was king in the US mobile industry. You'd pay $200 to get a shiny new phone, and you'd be stuck for two years. If you broke it or needed to change carriers, you'd have to spend a whole lot more money, and there really were no viable early upgrade options. Contracts also hid the true cost of smartphones, but as no-contract payment plans and early upgrade policies take over, we're faced with a whole new kind of calculation.

    How can you get the best deal? Let's check out the current offerings from the big four US carriers and see if we can figure it out.


    AT&T is the only carrier that's still fully committed to selling 2-year contract phones, although only AT&T stores can offer them. All the third-party sellers of AT&T devices have to use Next, AT&T's payment plan option. I dare say this is one of the more confusing payment plans offered right now as AT&T has bundled the payment plans and early upgrade stuff into one oddly named package. Note, AT&T will not buy out any payment plans or ETFs you have with other carriers. There's a "buyback" program for your old phone, but it's really not a good deal.

    Phones on Next: For your new AT&T Next plan, you pick a phone and the total cost of the device determines how much you'll pay monthly. There are four different versions of AT&T Next. For all of them you own the device and only pay tax (on the full value) at the time of purchase.

    Next 24 is divided into 30 monthly payments (I know, it's dumb) and you can upgrade to a new phone after 24 payments (ah, that's where 24 comes from). You also have Next 18 and Next 12 with a total of 24 payments and 20 payments, respectively. They have upgrade options at 18 and 12 months. Finally, there's Next with down payment. This one has a 30% down payment and smaller monthly fees. You can upgrade here after 12 months.

    Upgrading: AT&T's upgrading system doesn't seem very fair to me. When you've made the required number of payments (or paid that much in a lump sum), you can trade in your phone and get a new one. The payments start over again and AT&T waves the few remaining payments on the old phone. They're basically buying the device back for almost nothing.

    The Best Business Laptops Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer's guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

    If you need a business laptop that's tougher and more serviceable than an ultrabook, you should get the Lenovo ThinkPad T450s. After more than 30 hours of research and testing, it's the one we recommend, because it offers the best mix of a great keyboard, speed, durability, configuration options, and user-serviceability over the competition.

    Who is this for?

    Most people, even business people, don't need a traditional business laptop anymore—an ultrabook will be smaller, lighter, and good enough for most people. But some people still need more battery life, more power, more ports, or security features that you just can't get on an ultrabook, and they're willing to deal with a thicker, heavier laptop in exchange for those things and for greater durability.

    How we decided

    Most business laptops have the same guts as ultrabooks. We tested performance just to make sure there were no surprises, but we focused on the things that make business laptops great: the keyboard and trackpad, build quality, battery life, display, upgradeability and serviceability, and warranty and support.

    The Best Wi-Fi Router (for Most People)

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy.
    Read the original full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    After spending a total of 200 hours researching and testing over 20 Wi-Fi routers, plus analyzing reader comments and feedback, the $100 TP-Link Archer C7 (v2) is the router we recommend for most people right now. This dual-band, three-stream wireless-ac router usually costs between $80 and $100—the same price as many older, slower routers. But unlike those slower routers, the C7 supports the fastest connections of every major device you can buy today.

    We compared the Archer C7 against 21 different routers over a 10-month testing period. On most of our tests, the Archer C7 was the fastest—outperforming routers that cost twice as much. You won't find a better-performing router than the Archer C7 for less, and you'll have to spend a lot more money to get a better one.

    The Best Mirrorless Camera for Beginners

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article here.

    After 60 hours of research and 25 hours of testing, we found the $600 Sony a5100 is the best mirrorless camera for beginners. It stands out from the dozens of competitors we considered by delivering superior photo quality while being easier to use right out of the box thanks to simple menus and controls. Plus, it offers enough flexibility to keep up with a new photographer's developing skills.

    The Sony a5100 takes photos as well as cameras that go for hundreds more by employing a sensor that rivals DSLRs.

    How we decided

    We looked over the entire range of mirrorless cameras currently available for less than $600 and narrowed the field down to four final candidates for hands-on testing: the $550 Olympus E-PL7, Samsung's $400 NX3000, the $500 Panasonic GF7 and the Sony a5100. We toted them around everywhere to see how they performed in the situations most novice shooters find challenging, putting each camera's autofocus, low light and flash capabilities to the test.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Mounting Action Cameras

    I've been attaching small digital video cameras to my RC vehicles for several years. I started with one of the original Flip cameras--remember those? Since then, cameras have shrunken in size and grown in ability. My knack for successfully utilizing on-board cameras has similarly improved. In this guide, I will share some of the lessons I've learned over the years.

    Although I can utilize the same mounts for both cameras, the weight and frontal area of the GoPro Hero 3 and Mobius are very different, making them suited for different applications.

    The Camera Equipment

    My current cameras for onboard filming are a GoPro Hero 3 Black, a wide-angle Mobius action camera, and a Mobius with the standard lens. The wide-angle Mobius gets much more use than the other two. Its small size (2.4"x1.4"x.7"), bantam weight (1.4 oz), and good video performance make it applicable to a wide range of RC applications. The camera's $80 price tag also makes me more willing to strap it to a fast-moving object, as opposed to the much more costly GoPro.

    There are times, however, when I want the image quality that only a GoPro can provide. When the Hero 3 is locked in its housing, it is more than three times the weight of the Mobius and has about four times the frontal area (aerodynamic drag). I just have to be more selective with the vehicles that I choose for the GoPro. Not all of them can handle the extra burden gracefully. The new Hero 4 Session looks promising, with a weight (2.6 oz) and frontal area falling in the gap the between the Mobius and Hero 3. As soon as I can justify the expense, I'm sure I'll have a Session in my camera bag as well.

    Using a collection of GoPro mounts, nylon fasteners, and various homemade bits, I can attach a small video camera to nearly any RC vehicle.

    There are tons of mounting gadgets made for the GoPro. Between the parts made by GoPro, aftermarket mounting kits, and the simple foam/wood adapters that I've made myself, there are limitless options for mounting a GoPro to an RC vehicle.

    Mobius cameras include a plastic cradle with a 1/4-inch female insert on the bottom (the standard thread found on tripods). In my review of the Mobius, I explained how a simple modification of a GoPro pivot arm allows me to mount the smaller camera to any of the GoPro mounts--a handy, and much-used capability.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Recording Flight Data

    Last month, we covered the basics of RC telemetry systems – including how they work and why they're useful. Despite the apparent benefits, telemetry is not for every modeler or every RC aircraft. In fact, many hobbyists feel that only large, high-dollar models warrant the expense and added complexity of telemetry components. That opinion is debatable, but there are alternatives for those who would like the benefits of in-flight performance data without the overhead of telemetry. One way is to use a GPS recorder.

    Modelers often wonder how fast their airplane can fly or how far it travels during a flight. A GPS logger can answer these questions without the need for a real-time telemetry system.

    There are numerous GPS recording devices available, and many are tailored for the demands of specific activities such as hiking or driving. The Hobbico Big 5 GPS Meter ($90) is intended for use in RC airplanes. It collects time, location, altitude (present and peak values), and speed (present/average/peak) data. Following a flight, you can scroll to read selected parameters on the Big 5's LCD screen. Or, you can upload the data to a computer and plot out the entire flight on Google Earth.

    The Unit

    The Big 5 unit measures 2.56" x 1.57" x 0.82" (65mm x 40mm x 21mm) and weighs 1.4 ounces (40 gr). To invoke a common yardstick, it is very nearly the same physical size as a GoPro Hero 3 (but lighter). This size and weight make the Big 5 unit compatible with a wide array of RC airplanes. I'd say that most models weighing at least 12 ounces are fair game.

    Power for the Big 5 comes from a built in 200mAh LiPo battery that is recharged via USB. You can expect up to 150 minutes of operating time. This is adequate for any RC application that I can think of. It may fall short, however, if you want to repurpose the Big 5 for something else, such as a long bike ride. In any event, you can operate the unit with external power via the USB port or the 3-pin RC-style plug.

    The Hobbico Big 5 is a GPS recording device created specifically for use in RC airplanes.

    Up to six hours of data can be saved to the built-in flash memory. There is no provision to expand the storage capacity.

    This GPS unit can be attached to your model using whatever method you like. I use self-adhesive Velcro. The prime consideration when mounting the device is to avoid placing it such that electrically conductive material (metals, carbon fiber) are blocking the signal path up to the orbiting GPS satellites. You will also want to ensure that the Big 5 does not upset the model's center of gravity.

    The Best Bluetooth Keyboard

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article here .

    After testing 20 Bluetooth keyboards with a four-person panel, and using our favorites for months of daily work, we found the Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard K810/K811 (Windows/Mac) is the best Bluetooth keyboard for most. The Easy-Switch has a rechargeable battery that lasts a few weeks to several months, and is able to instantly switch between three devices, a feature the competition universally lacked. At $100 it's expensive for a keyboard, but no other Bluetooth option comes close to matching the Easy Switch's versatility, comfort, and features.

    The Logitech's concave keys comfortably cup your fingers.

    Who is this for?

    A Bluetooth keyboard is a great option if you need a keyboard that can connect to any device—desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, television. If you have a keyboard that you're happy with, and you only need to use it with a computer, or don't mind sacrificing a USB port, then you don't need to upgrade.

    The Best Voice Recorder

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article here.

    After 36 hours of research, testing eight different devices in a number of real-world settings and then playing the audio we collected to a four-person blind listening panel to evaluate its sound quality, we've determined that the best audio recorder for taping meetings, lectures, and interviews is the $100 Sony ICD-UX533. It recorded the most intelligible and truest-to-life sound clips of all the recorders we tested. It's easily pocketable and its intuitive, easy-to-press function buttons combined with a legible, backlit screen gave it the best user interface out of all the models in our test group.

    Who is this for?

    If you want to record a lecture, meeting, or interview, this pick is for you. It's ideal for students, radio journalists, and anyone who needs to record meetings for future reference. On the other hand, if you're a musician, a professional podcaster, a radio journalist or if you belong to some other profession that requires the use of a high-quality audio recorder on a regular basis, this pick isn't for you.

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (July 2015)

    It's about to be fall phone season, and that means you need to be extra cautious about buying a new device. Getting a new phone can be a two-year investment (at least for most people). You don't want to get the wrong thing and regret it on a daily basis. What's a phone nerd to do? Well, let's try to figure that out.

    The Galaxy S6, LG G4, and what's on the horizon

    The days of carrier exclusives have not come to a close, but they're very much waning. There are several great phones that are available on all four major carriers, and more on on the way. Both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4 are available everywhere right now, so we'll hit those first. But in just a few weeks the new Moto X Style will arrive direct from Motorola. After we hash out the "universal choices, we'll see if any carrier-specific devices stand out.

    Samsung is using a its customary Super AMOLED screen on the Galaxy S6 (and S6 Edge) and it's really just fantastic. It's a 5-inch 1440p AMOLED, which is small enough that most people should be able to use it comfortably. It's a stunningly beautiful screen, and I have no doubt it's the best you can get on a smartphone right now. It gets very bright, very dim, the colors are good, and it's extremely crisp. It's really impossible to find a fault with this display.

    LG has stuck with an LCD for the G4 as its AMOLED panels still aren't very good (you need look no further than the G Flex 2 to see that). The only unique thing about this panel is the slight top to bottom curve it has. It doesn't really seem useful to me, but it does look kind of neat. Its 5.5-inches and 1440p in resolution. LG has bumped up the brightness and colors compared to the LCD on the G3, which is a good thing.

    The Best Coffee Maker Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a list of the best gear for your home. Read the full article here.

    After two months spent surveying readers; interviewing coffee experts; researching makes, models, and reviews; and testing five finalist machines with a 10-person tasting panel, we recommend the $190 Bonavita 1900TS. It's the best coffeemaker for most people who love good coffee but don't have the time or patience for pour-over. The 1900TS brewed the most consistently delicious coffee among all of the machines we tested. That's thanks to a smart internal design: a wider showerhead, a flat-bottomed filter (the normal, wavy kind), and a built-in pre-infusion timer.

    Why you should trust us

    To get to these picks, we talked to coffee experts of various backgrounds from different parts of the industry: Humberto Ricardo, the owner of the renowned Manhattan coffee shop Third Rail Coffee; barista Carlos Morales, who just won third place in the Northeast Brewers Cup Championship; and Mark Hellweg, who founded and runs the speciality coffee accessory company Clive Coffee, which recently developed and released a high-end coffee machine of their own design. We also chatted with pretty much every barista we encountered at shops to get their perspectives.

    Tested Builds: DIY Arcade Cabinet Kit, Part 1

    Time to start more weeks of builds! This week, we're joined by Jeremy Williams to assemble his new Porta-Pi DIY Arcade Cabinet Kit. the Porta-Pi is a desktop-sized arcade emulator that runs on either a Raspberry Pi or mini computer. Jeremy had built an earlier version, but the new model has a larger screen and more powerful computer inside. Let's get to building! (Follow along the rest of the week by joining the Tested Premium member community!)

    Building the Star Wars Rancor Costume, Part 1

    At this year's Comic-Con, we unveiled The Rancor Project: a huge foam-fabricated costume built by effects artist Frank Ippolito. The project was inspired by a test suit made by LucasFilm for Return of the Jedi, which never made it to the film. To show you how the Rancor was created, we visit Frank's workshop and walk through the design process, starting with a maquette sculpture and patterning by foam fabricator Ben Bayouth. Using these techniques, you can build your own creature costume! (Thanks to Model-Space.com for sponsoring this project!)

    Building a District 9 Alien Rifle Replica, Part 4

    Over the past month, Punished Props' Bill Doran built a 1:1 scale replica of the alien assault rifle from District 9 to unveil with us at Comic-Con. Bill's build logs and videos will walk through his design and fabrication process, and his finished piece was unviled with a surprise at SDCC. Place your questions for Bill in the comments below! Here are parts 1, 2, and 3.

    Here it is: the final part of the District 9 Gun Prop build! Fortunately, the molding process was fairly painless and yielded some very useful molds. When it comes to casting, having good molds can make or break a project, especially when you need 24 of something, as we did for this whacky alien gun.

    Dump Molds

    Most of the pieces for the gun were done with simple dump molds. This means all I had to do was mix up some Smooth-Cast 300 resin, tint it with a little SO-Strong black, and pour it into the molds we made. The only fancy business we did was to tap the mold around a bit to make sure no bubbles were trapped.

    This process was used for the top scope pieces, the barrel pieces, some of the side greeblies, and all 24 of the tubes that stick out the sides of the barrel length.

    The Best iPad Stylus Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    We spent 10 hours testing a total of 11 iPad styluses with a graphic designer and independently arrived at the same conclusion: The best stylus for most people is Adonit's newly redesigned Jot Pro ($30). The Jot Pro's unique clear plastic plastic tip allows for precise input; it doesn't block the iPad's screen like other rubber-tipped styluses so you can see what you're drawing as you draw. It's also comfortable to hold, and a number of small details, such as a spring-loaded tip that better mimics the feel of pen on paper, make the overall experience a pleasure.

    How We Decided

    You want a stylus with enough weight and glide to move freely, but with enough friction to be predictable. The idea is to replicate the feeling of pen on paper. We tested each stylus by navigating a maze, tracing the alphabet, sketching a variety of items, and tapping around a tablet. After our initial assessment, we started all over again, testing the pens in a different order to reduce any chance that becoming acclimated to a stylus might have skewed the results.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Preflight Tips and Tools

    The first flight of a new RC model is always an exciting event. Whether you've spent ten minutes or ten months getting your aircraft ready for this moment, you're bound to feel anxious – and probably a little nervous. The best cure for a case of the pre-flight jitters is having confidence in the mechanical, electronic, and aerodynamic soundness of your model. In this article, I will explain the baseline inspection steps that I execute before flying any new model.

    The steps shown here are primarily intended for multi-rotors and airplanes. Helicopters are a special case. The concerns are the same, but the techniques for addressing them are quite different. Even excluding helicopters, there are far too many variables among the different types of multi-rotors and airplanes to strive for a one-size-fits-all strategy. Rather, consider these steps as cornerstones of an individualized inspection routine that you can create for your specific model. It is often helpful to create a checklist to guide you through the process.

    Don't Harsh My Vibe, Man

    Vibration is bad news on RC models. It causes premature fatigue of mechanical and electronic components, distorts camera images and wastes onboard energy. For models with piston engines, some degree of vibration is unavoidable. You just have to isolate the fragile components the best that you can and live with it. On electric-powered models, however, there is no excuse to not find and eradicate all sources of vibration.

    The most common cause of vibration is an unbalanced propeller. Always assume that any new propeller is off-kilter. Most of the propellers I have ever used required some degree of tweaking to make them balanced. The good news is that balancing a propeller is usually a simple process.

    The key to eliminating vibration in electric powered multi-rotors and airplanes is to balance the propeller(s)…even brand new ones. This magnetic balancer works well with most RC propellers.

    The balancing device that I use in my shop is the Top Flite Power Point magnetic balancer. It suspends the prop magnetically, with the axis of rotation perfectly horizontal. This set-up allows you to detect very small balance deviations. This is especially helpful when working with small propellers.

    The Best Juicer You Can Buy Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a list of the best gear for your home. Read the full article at TheSweethome.com.

    After pushing almost 25 pounds of leafy, crunchy, pulpy produce through nine top machines, we think the Tribest Slowstar ($380) is the best and most versatile juicer for the home. Its single vertical auger turns at a slow 47 rpm, making it one of the slowest juicers available—key for getting maximum nutrients and enzymes from produce—and it still yielded more juice than nearly every other model we tested, meaning there's less going to waste. It comes with a 10-year warranty on parts and the motor, so you can crank it up every day without worry about wear and tear.

    How we picked and tested

    We put 10 juicers through two tests. We noted ease of use, yield, foam production, flavor, ease of cleaning, and amount of prep required. First, we tested their abilities with greens and soft fruit by making a kale-grape juice with 8 ounces each of curly kale and Thompson green grapes. We then tested each juicer for their ability to juice hard fruits and vegetables, using 8 ounces each of carrots and apples, 4 ounces of celery, and 1 ounce of ginger. All yields were measured by weight. For more detail on our research and testing methodology, check out our full guide at The Sweethome.

    The Best iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Battery Case

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

    We've spent more than 140 hours testing 21 different battery cases (18 for the iPhone 6 and three for the iPhone 6 Plus), and we think the best battery case for most people is Anker's Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case. It provides an above-average 117 percent of a full charge to the iPhone 6—one full charge plus another 17 percent—and at only $40, it's by far the least expensive. The result is the highest ratio of charge percent per dollar and the lowest cost per full iPhone recharge out of all the models we looked at. It's also the lightest and thinnest battery case we tested.

    Anker's Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case.

    Why you might want a battery case

    Depending on how you use your iPhone, draining its battery during an average day can be easy. If you rely on your phone to last a full day, and you don't have the time (or physical access) to plop down next to a wall outlet, a battery case—which puts a moderate-capacity rechargeable battery inside a bulky iPhone case—can be a smart choice. In the best circumstances, a battery case can double the battery life of your iPhone and then some. And unlike with stand-alone battery packs, you don't need to bring a separate cable or figure out how to carry both devices together. You just slide or snap your iPhone into the battery case to get protection and power in a single unit. If you're looking only for some protection, we can also recommend a regular case.

    Building a District 9 Alien Rifle Replica, Part 3

    Over the course of this month, Punished Props' Bill Doran is building a 1:1 scale replica of the alien assault rifle from District 9 to unveil with us at Comic-Con. Bill's build logs and videos will walk through his design and fabrication process, and his finished piece will be paired with a surprise at SDCC. Place your questions for Bill in the comments below!

    In the previous part of this project, the molds we made were very simple. They were either one or two part box molds. The kinds you've seen Frank and Norm make in Tested videos. These types of molds made a lot of sense for the smaller pieces, but for the big body on the District 9 alien rifle, I decided to make a matrix mold.

    I have never made a matrix mold before, but I've seen so many of my mold maker friends adopt this technique for most of their big molding projects. There are many benefits to going this route vs a standard box mold. The most apparent upside is a drastic decrease in the amount of silicone used. Silicone isn't cheap and, especially with such a large mold, you're can save hundreds of dollars by going the matrix mold route.

    Diving into a new technique can be pretty scary, especially when it's such a large piece, but I didn't go into it alone. I had a ton of help from some of my mold maker friends. A huge thanks goes out to Thom from Sorenzo Props, Harrison from Volpin Props, and our friendly neighborhood Frank Ippolito!

    A Note on Print Coats

    For most of these molds, you'll see that I put down a "print coat" of Rebound 25 silicone before dumping in the Mold Star 15. It might be a little overkill, but I found that I was getting a bit of curing inhibition in the fine detail areas of other smaller molds using just the Mold Star. Not only did a brush on print coat of Rebound solve the problem, but it ensured that I captured all of the fine detail in the piece, perfectly and without trapping any bubbles.