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    The Best Umbrella You Can Buy 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

    After more than 35 hours of research, followed by testing of every noteworthy umbrella currently available. we found that the EuroSCHIRM Light Trek is the best umbrella for most people. It was among the widest and deepest umbrellas when open, and among the smallest when closed. That means it provides better rain protection without sacrificing portability. Combine that with superb build quality and strong, lightweight materials–like fiberglass and anodized aluminum–and you have one truly excellent umbrella that will survive the elements and the test of time.

    How we decided

    There’s definitely a tradeoff between protection and portability, but the best umbrella is the one you have with you. Big enough to keep your upper body dry and small enough to tuck away when you go indoors. We wanted something that could easily be slipped into a coat pocket, bag, or purse, but we ignored really tiny umbrellas.

    Our recommendation defies the cliché of inverted umbrellas piled into trash cans on city streets. According to lifelong umbrella maker, Gilbert Center, these days fiberglass is the most durable material out there. “It doesn’t break and it doesn’t rust.” Combine that with a shaft made of tempered steel, instead of the more typical aluminum, and you’ve got a good umbrella that isn’t going to break when you need it most. Still, in the case that yours fails, it should have a decent warranty.

    The Best External Blu-Ray Drive

    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

    The $80 Samsung SE-506CB is the best external Blu-ray drive for most people—if you need one at all. It’s the best Blu-ray drive you can get for the least amount of money, and it’s the quietest one we tested. The Samsung is well-liked by Amazon buyers, and it’s conveniently thin, light, and compact.

    Who needs this?

    If you have a laptop without a disc drive and want to back up music and movies from discs to your computer, or need a disc drive for work, you should pick up one of our recommendations. If you're trying to backup or transfer files from your computer, you should use a USB hard drive or flash drive instead.

    You shouldn’t buy one of these for a desktop computer that has room for an internal drive, because internal drives are generally faster and cheaper than portable ones. You also shouldn’t buy an external drive to use with a tablet.

    What makes a good Blu-ray drive?

    We surveyed hundreds of Wirecutter readers to find out what people care most about in an external Blu-ray player. Using this information, we came up with a set of criteria to decide which drive is best for most people.

    For starters, it must read and write dual-layer DVDs and Blu-rays. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed use their external drive only at home, but size and weight are still important. A lighter, more compact drive is easier to store when you’re not using it.

    Some older laptops don’t provide enough juice to power the Blu-ray drive. It’s not necessary for most people, but for these older machines you’ll need a Y-cable that plugs into two USB ports.

    What You Should Know about Getting an FCC License for Flying FPV

    As much as we love to give you an inside look at all sorts of cool toys and gadgets, the job also includes a responsibility to educate you on the finer points of using those toys responsibly and lawfully. Such is the case with our recent videos featuring Carlos Puertolas (Charpu). Those videos have captured the attention of many readers who are now interested in First Person View (FPV) quad-rotor racing--including me. What you might not know is that one of the prerequisites for most types of FPV flying is obtaining an amateur radio license (aka “ham radio license”) from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Don’t let that fact quench your FPV ambitions. Getting a license is easy, and maybe even a little bit fun.

    Why Do I Need a License?

    Assuming that you are using a standard, off-the-shelf radio system, just flying a multi-rotor (or operating any other type of RC vehicle) with a line-of-sight perspective does not require a FCC license. That is because RC systems sold in the US go through a certification process with the FCC. The certification ensures that the system does not create interference with other equipment. The FCC also verifies that the radio works acceptably well in the presence of interference from other sources. As long as you do not modify any part of the system, you can be reasonably sure that an RC system will perform as intended, while not stepping on the signals of any other flyers or drivers.

    The license comes into play when you introduce an FPV system into the mix. Most video transmission systems used for FPV do NOT have a FCC certification. Therefore, the FCC places the burden of preventing and tolerating signal interference on the operator. The amateur radio license is the FCC’s way of determining that users of this equipment have demonstrated adequate training and proficiency to uphold that responsibility. It’s the same logic that’s behind getting a driver’s license.

    EVEN THOUGH SOME FPV EQUIPMENT IS RATHER SIMPLE, AS SEEN HERE WITH THE SET-UP ON MY DJI PHANTOM, IT IS BENEFICIAL TO UNDERSTAND HOW IT WORKS TO AVOID INTERFERENCE.

    As I write this, there are only a handful of FPV systems that do not require a license. Most of them are Wi-Fi-based systems such as those seen on the Phantom 2 Vision+ and Blade 350QX2. Wi-Fi video systems typically have limited range and measurable latency. This may be ok if your only goal is to cruise around shooting video. But the latency alone makes Wi-Fi systems inadequate for racing.

    I am only aware of one non-Wi-Fi FPV system that is FCC certified and can be used without a license. The operational range for this system is estimated to be about 600’. Of course, variables such as your flying altitude and any solid obstacles between the video receiver and the aircraft could impact that value. If this system meets your performance requirements, then you’re all set. Certainly, the future holds other FPV systems with FCC certification. Until then, your license-free options are limited. Unless a video transmitter has specific markings stating that it is compliant with FCC Part 15 requirements, you will need a license to operate it legally.

    The Best On-Ear Headphones At Any Price

    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

    The $180 Bose SoundTrue offer the best combination of sound quality, portability, and comfort, of any on-ear headphone. If you don’t like in-ear headphones, or need something more portable than bulky over-ear headphones, the SoundTrue are the ones to get.

    Why should you trust me?

    We came to this conclusion after dozens of hours of research and, with three other audio professionals, testing 53 different pairs back to back. The SoundTrue were the clear winner among our panel.

    When it comes to on-ear headphones, we focused on three necessary features: size, comfort, and sound quality. The Bose SoundTrue excel at all three. Incredibly light and compact, they have pillowy soft ear pads that are like wearing nothing at all on your head. Not only are they comfortable, but they fold up and fit into one of the smallest cases in all of our testing, so they’re truly portable.

    None of the competition even came close to the SoundTrue’s compact build, and light, hands-down most-comfy fit.

    Who Should Buy This?

    On-ear headphones should only be seriously considered by people who want something more portable than over-ear headphones, yet can’t seem to find a comfortable fit with in-ear headphones. For everyone else, chances are you can get a better deal for the same or better sound quality out of a pair of over-ear or in-ear headphones depending on your priorities.

    Check out our $150 Over-Ears article for similar priced headphones to our top pick here, or $300 Over-Ears article for something even higher quality. I’d say our $200 in-ear pick sounds just as good as the Bose, but are even more compact.

    Also worth mentioning is these headphones aren’t sweat proof, so if you’re looking for something for the gym or running, check out our Best Workout Headphones article.

    The Best Space Heaters for Most People

    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

    Space heaters are a great way to give your home’s main heating system a little extra help, and most people will be very happy with one (or both) of the two best models we’ve found for small and large rooms. We performed more than 60 hours of research on more than 100 heaters, then had a Ph.D physicist perform head-to-head tests on 37 finalists to find the best for most people.

    For Fast Heat in Small Spaces

    If you need to quickly warm up small spaces, like a 10 ft. by 11 ft. bedroom or office, nothing beats the $25 Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater. It has a low price, compact size, light 3-pound weight, rapid performance, simple ease of use, and great warranty. Of everything we tested, the Lasko 754200 heated our test areas the fastest. It’s as big as a loaf of bread, and the heater’s outside topped off at 133 degrees Fahrenheit—one of the lowest surface temperatures of any we tested—so it easily travels between rooms and fits anywhere.

    The drawbacks? Like all fan-driven heaters, it’s a little loud. We measured 44 decibels from six feet away (roughly the same as a refrigerator when its compressor runs). It has an overheat sensor, but there’s no tip-over switch to ensure that the heater turns off if it’s knocked over. There’s no true temperature control; it just goes hotter and colder. Last, it doesn’t hold on to the heat it produces once it’s been turned off.

    The Best Lightning Cable

    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

    Even though most Lightning cables look the same on the outside, their insides can vary dramatically. This affects everything from long-term durability to charging speed. After measuring the charging speed of 44 cables and then sending the top 11 to our electrical engineer for teardown analysis, the $12 Monoprice 3-ft. MFi Certified Lightning to USB Charge/Sync Cable (available in black and white) is the one we'd buy.

    Monoprice’s latest cable stands out from its competitors because it’s very, very similar to Apple’s own Lightning cable, which costs $7 more at full price, and it’s sturdier than previous editions of the same cable. Plus, Monoprice’s lifetime warranty guarantees that if something goes wrong with the cable, they’ll swap it out.

    How we tested

    After combing through thousands of cables, we tested 44 cables’ charge rates by plugging them into a USB power monitor, which was connected to a 12-watt adapter. We wanted to confirm that both iPads and iPhones charged at full speed from each cable. Next, we tested to see if the Lightning plug would fit in Lifeproof’s Frē, a cas with notoriously small port openings. After we narrowed things down, the top cables were shipped off to our electrical engineering consultant Sam Gordon. He tore the cables down, evaluating the internal structures for components such as braided wires and electromagnetic shielding.

    How to Build a FPV Racing Quadcopter!

    After learning about the world of FPV quadcopter racing, we couldn't wait to build our own. With the help of Lumenier and FPV quadcopter flyer Charpu, we learn about all the components needed to build a solid mini racing quadcopter for under $850, camera and FPV goggle kit included. Charpu helps us assemble the quadcopter and gives useful tips for first-time builders. It's really not that difficult!

    How to Get Into Hobby RC: Building Foam Airplanes

    Electric airplanes made of molded foam are very popular in the RC world right now. While this class of airplanes used to be limited to small models with modest power, there is seemingly no limit to the size and power handling of modern “foamies”. Perhaps the largest contributor to their popularity is the marginal effort that’s required to assemble an attractive and nice-flying foam model. There are, however, some things to be aware of, and habits you should develop to court success with these aircraft. I recently assembled and flew a newly-released foamy to illustrate what I’m talking about.

    THE COMPLETED FLITEWORK STEARMAN IS AN ATTRACTIVE AND AEROBATIC MODEL. UNFORTUNATELY, I ALSO TESTED ITS TOUGHNESS.

    The Flitework Stearman

    The model that I used for this article is the Flitework PT-17 Stearman. It is a 1:8 scale model of the 1942 Boeing PT-17 that is owned and flown by The Flying Bulls in Austria. Most of the model is constructed of molded Expanded PolyOlefin (EPO) foam, a popular material for RC planes. This is a Receiver-Ready (RR) model, meaning that all of the control servos and power system components are included and installed. The user must provide a radio receiver and transmitter, as well as an appropriate battery to power the airplane.

    This was my first experience with a Flitework model. Overall, I would consider it a little above average among the current crop of RR foamies that I’ve seen. The mold quality of the foam components was excellent and the finish applied to the airplane was well executed. There is nothing worse than factory-applied trim schemes with sloppy paint overspray or crooked decals. I was happy that neither sin was displayed here.

    THIS SHOT WAS CAPTURED WITH A MOBIUS CAMERA MOUNTED IN THE FRONT COCKPIT OF THE STEARMAN…WEEE!

    Despite my positive first impressions with this model, my unboxing inspection also revealed a few common shortcomings that I would need to address. The positive side of this is that the corrections were easily implemented and didn’t incur any extra cost. As I outline the basic assembly steps, I will cover those changes, as well as some tips and tricks that may not be intuitive.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: A Snapshot of the Multi-Rotor Market

    Buying a multi-rotor can be a daunting experience. There are so many different models already on the market, with more emerging every day. Those choices represent a wide range of sizes, capabilities and quality, not to mention price points. In an effort to make the candidate pool a little less overwhelming, I have compiled an overview of currently-available multi-rotors. Consider it a snapshot of this ever evolving scene. Obsolescence will come quickly.

    To make the list more manageable it has been abridged to include only those aircraft that meet the following criteria:

    • Hobby Grade – Parts can be replaced or upgraded as needed.

    • Ready-to-Fly (RTF) – The multi-rotor is ready to fly, or very nearly so when purchased. A transmitter is included. Smart phone controllers don’t count (sorry Parrot).

    • Available from US retailers – No offense to our foreign readers. This criteria is meant to weed out the clones, and knock-offs of dubious origin.

    The multi-rotors shown here have been divided into two categories: small and medium. The primary difference being that medium multi-rotors are capable of carrying an action camera such as a GoPro. Of course there are multi-rotors that would fit into large, X-Large, Jumbo, etc. categories. These ships are intended for hauling high-quality video equipment. Due to their complexity and cost, they should really only be considered by experienced pilots. So they have been omitted from this list.

    I have chosen to include only RTF models simply because that is what most people prefer. With small quads, RTF is really the only option. There is nothing wrong with using an unassembled kit for your medium multi-rotor. In fact, there is a strong case to be made that building your own aircraft will provide you with a much better understanding of its inner workings and abilities. You just have to be willing to dedicate the time and effort required to get it assembled, outfitted and tuned.

    Please note that this is not a ranking. I have personal experience with only a handful of the listed models. So any type of hierarchy would be disingenuous. Comparing listed features is one thing. Actually flying and exercising those features is quite another.

    The Best Carry-On Bag for Travel

    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

    No matter how much you travel, the right carry-on luggage should last you for years. On the inside it should fit enough clothes for at least a five-day trip with room for a little more, but on the outside it should be small enough that it won’t get you gate-checked. For the majority of flyers (people who fly under 25,000 miles annually), we recommend the $165 Travelpro Platinum Magna 22-inch Expandable Rollaboard Suiter. For those who fly more than that (or less), we have picks for you too.

    How We Decided

    Over the years, we’ve spent hundreds of hours on research and testing. To determine what the perfect bag should have, we consulted a host of industry experts, including travel writers from other publications and flight attendants who know what to look for. We even took bags to a flight attendant training facility, walked them around mock airplane cabins, and had experienced flight attendants try their hand with them and give us feedback. We then took our own measurements, and did our own load, usability, and ruggedization testing.

    What we concluded is that you’re looking for a bag that has a fabric exterior (not a hard shell) which makes it tough yet flexible. You want two, seal-bearing wheels (four wheelers sacrifice storage space for their overall footprint). You want YKK zippers, aluminum telescoping handles, roomy suiter compartments, good warranties, user-replaceable parts, and maybe most importantly, maximum cubic volume while taking up minimum space.

    With all that in mind, we came up with three bags as our picks, for three levels of travel frequency and budget.

    How To Replace a Cracked Smartphone Screen!

    How many of you have ever dropped and cracked your smartphone? For some phones, the process of replacing a shattered display isn't as daunting as your might think. Will walks through the repair of a broken Samsung Galaxy S4 phone, using iFixit tools and explaining each step along the way. Follow along the teardown and reassembly! Plus--giveaways!

    The Best Android Smartphone for Your Network (November 2014)

    The top OEMs have now laid their cards on the table. All the major phones of late 2014 are available for purchase, and you've got some decisions to make. We won't see anymore big announcements until CES in January, but more likely February at Mobile World Congress. This is one of those rare times you can buy a phone and not immediately feel like you missed out when something better comes along two weeks later. But which one to get?

    The Nexus 6 is big news this month, but a number of other phones still have a lot to offer.

    AT&T

    If you're on AT&T, you've got a number of really good options. The Nexus 6 is certainly one of them, but it's a huge phone. There's also the much smaller Moto X and the somewhat smaller LG G3. Truly an embarrassment of riches.

    Let's start with the LG G3 before we got to Motorola's offerings. At 5.5-inches, the LG G3 is a sizeable phone. That big LCD does come with an excellent 2560x1440 resolution. Surprisingly, LG manages to make the overall device not feel too huge. The bezels are incredibly thin and there are no buttons around the edges. Instead, LG stuck those on the back, and they're quite useful in that position. The back is smooth plastic, but it's not of the sketchy Samsung variety--it actually feels solid for a phone with a removable back.

    The LG G3 is packing some impressive hardware even several months after launch including 3GB of RAM, a 3000mAh battery, a Snapdragon 801, and 32GB of storage with a microSD card slot. The device is fast, but probably not quite as snappy as the Moto X or Nexus 6. The battery life is very good, though. The high resolution of the G3 limits screen time to about 5 hours, but it can make it a few days in standby. The software is also very reliable in that it won't start wakelocking for no reason.

    The G3's 13MP camera is the same resolution as the Moto X and the Nexus 6, but it's probably a little better than either in actual performance. Low-light shots are good and it focuses super-quick with the laser range-finder right next to the lens.

    LG's Android skin has gotten surprisingly good in the last year. It's no longer just aping Samsung, and there aren't too many unnecessary additional features. The skin isn't very heavy and the choice of colors isn't nearly as garish as TouchWiz. The fact that LG is now finally using the proper on-screen buttons setup is hugely encouraging too. LG didn't load the G3 down with marginally useful features, instead sticking with a few good ones like guest mode and Knock Code. Knock Code is a particularly cool feature that lets you securely unlock the phone while also waking it up with a series of taps on the screen.

    This Is The Best Cheap Wi-Fi Router Today

    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

    If I wanted the cheapest good Wi-Fi router I could get, I would buy the TP-Link TL-WDR3600. It's a wireless-n router that costs $60 but outperforms some routers that cost twice as much. It took more than 150 hours of research and testing to find our pick. Of the 29 routers we looked at and the seven we tested, the TL-WDR3600 has the best performance for the lowest price.

    Our Pick

    The TP-Link TL-WDR3600 is a dual-band, two-stream router that's faster, more consistent, and has better range than other routers near its price range. Unlike many cheap routers, it supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, and it has Gigabit Ethernet ports and two USB 2.0 ports for sharing printers and storage with your network. It's a great upgrade from your ISP-provided router, and it supports a connection type that's six times as fast as wireless-g (the previous standard found in routers from 2007 or earlier).

    Since the TL-WDR3600 is a wireless-n router, wireless-ac devices won't be as fast as they could be on a wireless-ac router. We don't think that's a dealbreaker yet. Wireless-ac only started showing up in high-end laptops, smartphones, and tablets in 2013. Wireless-n devices are still much more common. Wireless-ac devices work just fine with a wireless-n router, though. In our tests, the TL-WDR3600 even outperformed some more expensive wireless-ac routers at long range.

    The TL-WDR3600 is easy to set up, but beyond that its user interface is complex and unintuitive. This is a common problem with TP-Link routers, but we think this router's performance and low price make it worth the hassle. At this price, performance is more important than an interface you'll rarely have to deal with. And if you can manage the interface, you'll find features common in more expensive routers, like parental controls, guest networks, and a DLNA server for streaming media.

    The Best Projector Screen 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

    The Best Projector Screen for most people is the $200 Silver Ticket 100”, which I found after spending 90 hours building (or painting) screens, watching movies and TV, taking measurements, and comparing them side-by-side. The Silver Ticket is easy to assemble, available in a variety of sizes, and has a surface that is relatively neutral. There are screens that are better, or cheaper, but none offer the balance and value the Silver Ticket does.

    How We Decided

    We set out to review 100-inch, 16:9 screens, with as close to 1.0 gain as possible (reflecting the same amount of light that hits the screen). This is a good-sized, “average” screen that works for most people. You can go larger, though the image will be dimmer. As almost any modern projector can create a bright image on a 100-inch screen, a gain of 1.0 is fine.

    To test the contenders, every screen was built and tested in my home theater room. I used an Epson 5020UBe projector combined with a Lumagen Radiance 2021 video processor to make the projector as accurate as possible. Using a spectrometer and a colorimeter I measured the images off the lens, then off the screen, to see how much of a color shift each screen introduced and calculate the actual gain. I watched a variety of things on each screen to look for sparkles, hotspots, texture, or other issues.

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Driving Rock Crawlers

    RC cars are supposed to be fast. Even if you’re not racing, the whole idea is to be speedy, right? Whether you’re slinging dirt or tearing down the street, you should be doing it like you’re on fire. That opinion does not stem from some unquenchable need for speed (I like slow airplanes). The main factor is that I require a challenge in order to enjoy RC…and where’s the challenge in driving a slow car? This mentality is what kept me away from RC rock crawlers for so long, despite their huge popularity. These are cars that are slow, sometimes really slow, on purpose. Hmm, no thanks.

    On the other hand, this column is all about exploring every aspect of RC. So I couldn’t very well ignore rock crawlers forever. With only marginal excitement, I obtained a rock crawler and endeavored to find out what all the fuss is about. I can tell you now that I’m really glad I took the plunge. Despite their pedestrian speeds, I found that these vehicles offer unique challenges of their own.

    What is a Rock Crawler?

    As the name implies, rock crawlers are designed to climb rocks and rough terrain that other RC cars can’t handle. Crawling has expanded over the years to include more than just negotiating rock piles. These days, the term “crawler” encompasses technical rock crawlers, rock racers, and trail rigs.

    Technical rock crawling is all about getting your vehicle over impossible obstacles. This activity is filled with radical, purpose-built machines. Rock racing is actually a full-scale racing sport in addition to RC. There are different aspects of rock racing, but the gist is that it combines elements of offroad speed as well as ridiculous obstacles (and mud, and noise). Trail rigs can still climb like a mountain goat, but they aren’t competition machines. They’re more about cruising with friends. Many trail rig drivers like to deck out their rides with scale details and drive them in places that normal RC cars dare not go.

    The Best Digital Kitchen Scale 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

    If you need an all-purpose digital kitchen scale for baking, cooking by ratio, or even measuring beans to brew coffee, the Jennings CJ4000 ($26) combines some of the best features we’ve seen in a scale. It’s easy to use and store, comes with an AC adapter to save on batteries, and you can disable the auto-off function—so you can take your sweet time mixing or brewing. The Jennings costs only a few dollars more than a bare-bones model, but does something none of them can: it measures in half grams for even better precision.

    How We Decided

    We spent nearly 30 hours researching, interviewing experts, and testing digital kitchen scales over the last two years. Of the 45 models we’ve considered, the Jennings CJ4000 has proved the most versatile for a range of kitchen tasks and the best for most people.

    Who should buy this?

    Anyone who wants more consistent results from their baking, cooking, or coffee brewing should consider getting a kitchen scale. It’s far more accurate to weigh flour, diced vegetables, shredded cheese, or any number of ingredients than to cram them into a measuring cup or spoon. And since you can pour everything into one mixing bowl—subtracting cups and spoons from the equation—this type of cooking and baking cuts down significantly on dishes.

    For precision coffee brewing, as with pour overs, a scale can help you get an accurate combination of beans and water every time. (If you’re into home espresso, see our other recommendations below for even more accurate pocket scales.)

    How To Fly and Tweak a Budget Mini Quadcopter

    Anyone who has been following this column will know that I am not a fan of gamepad-like transmitters for quadcopters (or any other RC vehicle, for that matter). From a practical standpoint, these off-nominal controllers may not teach you the fine movements and muscle memory that will be needed when you transition to a standard transmitter. Cramped controllers may even cause you to learn things incorrectly. In the aerospace business, we called that “negative training”, and it’s a bad thing.

    Bad habits notwithstanding, I typically find micro-sized transmitters that come with entry-level mini-quads just plain uncomfortable to use. Maybe it’s because I’m so used to standard transmitters. Maybe I have freakishly large, ape-like hands. Whatever the root of my distaste for tiny controllers may be, I try to steer clear of them. Sometimes, however, they find me. But that doesn't mean I'm stuck with them!

    I recently received a review sample of the Dromida Kodo mini quadcopter. It is marketed as a budget-friendly quad with a built-in photo/video camera. My initial impressions of the Kodo were positive. It shares a similar footprint and many features with the Heli-Max 1SQ, the model that got me into quads (you never forget your first).

    I have to be careful about making comparisons between the Kodo and the 1SQ. They are indeed similar in several ways. The Kodo, however, is less than half the price of its closest 1SQ cousin, the 1SQ V-cam. Those very different price points ($59.00 and $129.99 respectively) are bound to result in different machines. But let's start by looking at what you get with the Kodo.

    How to Make a Two-Part Mold (of a Lightsaber!)

    Frank Ippolito joins us at Adam's shop for another step-by-step tutorial in prop making. This time, we learn how to make a two-part silicone mold that we can use to cast resin copies of complex objects. We demonstrate the technique by duplicating a lightsaber prop made by Adam! It's not that difficult! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

    The Best iPhone 6 Case (So Far)

    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

    After surveying almost 1,000 Wirecutter readers and testing 60 iPhone 6 cases over a period of about 30 hours (so far), our current pick for the best all-around case is the NGP from Incipio. The NGP has protected several generations of iPhones (and many other devices) and has a reputation for providing solid protection and a good fit. It’s slim enough to not detract from the iPhone 6’s svelte dimensions, while still offering comprehensive protection for the handset’s body, including its buttons. Openings along the bottom allow for compatibility with a wide range of accessories.

    Update: We’ve added two cases as also-great picks: STM’s Harbour, and Apple’s leather case.

    How we decided

    Truth is, there are plenty of good iPhone cases out there. A bad case is actually a pretty rare thing. But in looking for a few cases that work for most people, we sought out a case that can adequately protect your phone without adding too much bulk or unnecessary embellishments while doing so. Apple sets forth very specific guidelines for case developers. The main thesis: “A well-designed case will securely house an Apple device while not interfering with the device’s operation.” It goes into much deeper specifics.

    A respectable degree of shock absorption is important, as is a tight fit. The case should cover as much of the iPhone’s body as possible, including a raised lip around the glass display to keep it from laying flat on a surface. The best cases offer button protection with great tactility, mimicking or in some instances even enhancing what you’d feel with a bare iPhone. Based on these criteria, plastic shells are automatically out of the picture.

    The Best USB 3.0 Hubs 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

    The HooToo HT-UH010 seven-port hub ($40) is our favorite USB 3.0 hub because it’s compact, reliable, and has well-placed ports aplenty. But its main strength is its usability and design—we looked at many other hubs that were larger, had fewer ports, and weren’t as easy to use. We determined the HooToo is the best hub for most people after 100 hours of research, testing, and consulting with electrical engineers to learn about how power flows through USB hubs and where things commonly go wrong.

    How we decided

    A USB 3.0 hub is for people who have a computer with at least one USB 3.0 port and either want more of them or want them in a more accessible place. Most hubs have one or two charge ports, but a USB hub is not the same as a dedicated USB charging station.

    To find the best for most people, we surveyed hundreds of readers, interviewed engineers, and did our own research to find out what makes a USB hub great. We found that the best USB hub must have USB 3.0 ports and dedicated power. It needs to be reliable, well-designed, light, and compact. A decent warranty and LED indicators for each port are also useful. Most people want a hub with five to seven ports, but there was enough demand for four- and 10-port hubs that we decided to find a recommendation for each.

    Our Pick

    The HooToo HT-UH010 is the best USB hub because it has a great, usable design that most of the competition lacked. It has seven USB 3.0 data ports, a 1-amp charge port for smartphones, and a 2.1-amp charge port for high-power devices like iPads. The upward-facing ports reduce desk clutter, and the HooToo is sturdy and reliable for simultaneous USB 3.0 file transfers and device charging. It also has LED indicators for each data port, lengthy cords for easy setup, and an 18-month warranty.

    The vertically stacked ports mean you won’t have trouble plugging in bulkier USB devices next to one another. And, because the ports are located on top of the hub rather than arranged around the sides, devices stick up instead of fanning out and taking up valuable desk space. Much of the competition had side-facing ports that were too close together or made USB devices take up way more space on our desk. The HooToo hub is compact, and—bonus—it’s aesthetically inoffensive.