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    How To Make a Realistic Horror Skull Prop

    Time for another prop-making tutorial with effects artist Frank Ippolito! This week, we stop by Frank's shop to learn how to transform a cheap plastic skull into a gory horror prop using simple materials. By layering and sculpting cotton and latex, we can simulate gross charred flesh on the skull or any other body part. It's very effective! (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 Water-Resistant Bluetooth Speakers

    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.

    If you are looking for the best all-around value in a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker today, the best one to buy is the UE Megaboom. While there are lots of less expensive models, most that truly approach the Megaboom's performance cost about the same, and none that we've seen can offer its mix of sound quality, features and ruggedness. We came to this conclusion after narrowing down 50-some Bluetooth speakers to 13 water-resistant finalists and testing each of them with the Wirecutter AV team and a deep swimming pool. The $300 Megaboom is pricey, but if you have other budgetary or functional needs, we have a few other picks as well.

    Who should buy a water-resistant Bluetooth speaker?

    Water-resistant Bluetooth speakers are intended for outdoor or indoor use. This might seem like a feature everybody would want, but it can come with a price: Most water-resistant Bluetooth speakers don't sound as good as the best conventional portable Bluetooth speakers, which we tested in our Best Portable Bluetooth Speaker guide.

    In general, portable Bluetooth speakers are a great buy for people who own smartphones and tablets, so you can play music from them. The rechargeable battery built into the speakers lets you take them anywhere, and water resistance expands your options even further, especially in the summer months or on vacation near beaches and pools.

    The Best Gaming Laptop 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 looking at all the gaming laptops out there and testing a few ourselves, we concluded that the $1,790 Asus ROG G751JT is the best gaming laptop for most people.

    The Asus has the best combination of raw gaming power and build quality that you can get for less than $2,000. It will play the vast majority of modern graphics-intensive games on high settings at full resolution, plus it has a great cooling system, keyboard, and trackpad. It isn't perfect, but no other gaming laptop can match the Asus ROG G751JT right now.

    The best gaming laptop for most people, the Asus ROG G751JT-DH72.

    Who's this for?

    Gaming laptops definitely aren't for everyone. Desktop computers offer better gaming performance per dollar, and ultrabooks are slimmer, lighter, and have much better battery life. Gaming laptops are a good fit for students, deployed soldiers, and other road warriors who want to play demanding PC games at LAN parties or when traveling.

    How did we pick this laptop?

    We spent a lot of time researching components to come up with an ideal configuration that would play most current games well without being prohibitively expensive. We decided that the "ideal" gaming laptop would cost less than $2,000 and have an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M or better GPU, an Intel Core i7-4710HQ CPU or higher to avoid bottlenecking the graphics card's performance, 8GB to 16GB of RAM (anything more is serious overkill), and at least a 256GB solid state drive and a 750GB hard drive.

    The Best Fitness Tracker 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.

    If you're looking for the best way to track your activity and exercise, the $150 Fitbit Charge HR is the fitness tracker we'd recommend for most people. According to our tests—which included 60 hours of research and 10 days of real-world testing—the Charge HR is more accurate at counting steps than most other wrist-worn trackers, and it works seamlessly with Fitbit's popular social ecosystem. It has continuous heart rate monitoring for both resting and active use; automatically activated sleep tracking with vibrating alarms; and a legible OLED screen with caller ID. And unique among trackers in this price range, the Charge HR uses a strap modeled after a traditional watch band, which means it won't fall off accidentally.

    For a deeper dive into the full research and testing we did on our picks, (as well as a longer list of trackers we looked at), check out our full version of this guide.

    How To Get into Hobby RC: Short Course Trucks

    'Short Course Trucks' are currently some of the most popular vehicles for RC racing. There are several reasons for the popularity of these designs. First of all, they replicate the full-scale short course racers that compete at outdoor tracks and stadiums all over the US. Perhaps a more significant aspect is that short course trucks are exciting to drive. Many short course designs are close adaptations of the top-tier 2-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive buggies that are at the cutting edge of RC off-road design.

    RC short course trucks are not only for racing; they are also well suited to bashing. Their wide tires let them run on a variety of surfaces. It also helps that they have meaty bumpers and full-fendered bodies covering the tires. These help to keep the truck right side up when knocking into things like curbs and other vehicles.

    The Cutback

    My first short course truck is the Tower Hobbies Cutback. Although it has some race-ready features (brushless motor, full ball bearings), the Cutback is primarily meant for bashing. That works out great for me since I haven't raced in years. That being said, the Cutback might be competitive at some local-level tracks.

    This truck arrives fully assembled, with a painted body and a 2-channel 2.4GHz pistol-grip radio. I had to provide four AA batteries for the transmitter and onboard batteries to run the truck. I'll talk more about those batteries in a bit.

    Short Course Trucks are a popular aspect of RC for both racing and bashing. The vehicles emulate full-scale off-road racers.

    This is a four-wheel-drive truck with three gear-type differentials, one on the front end, one on the rear end, and one on the drive shaft. The core of the chassis is a 3mm-thick aluminum plate. Attached to this plate is a nylon tub that houses the electronics and drive components. Other parts such as the suspension arms, bumpers and spur gear are made of molded nylon as well. Interestingly, all of these plastic parts are covered by a 1-year warranty with free replacement.

    The Best Hybrid Bike 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.

    After 50 hours of research and testing conducted over the past 2 years, we've determined that if you want a versatile bike for riding around town, a performance hybrid like the $490 Trek 7.2 FX is likely the right bike for you. In a world congested with countless nearly-identical bikes, the 7.2 FX is our top choice for the second year in a row, and it can work for anything from short road rides to commuting moderate distances to work. It's nimble, lightweight, and better-equipped for the price than any other brand-name bike in its price range.

    How we decided

    As bike people with decades of combined experience working on, with, and riding bikes professionally and casually, the writers of this guide know a thing or two about bikes. But we also spoke to Sarai Snyder, founder of Girl Bike Love and CycloFemme; David Studner, project manager for Trek's City Bike division; and the staff members at more than seven Bay Area bike shops, including Roaring Mouse Cycles, Missing Link, Bay Area Bikes, City Cycle of San Francisco, Mike's Bikes, REI, and Performance Bicycle. We then spent hours poring over the spec sheets of all the fitness hybrid bikes we could find in the $500 range to pick out the small differences that separate the great values from the mediocre. We then threw our legs over about a dozen top contenders over the past two years to figure out which would be best for most people.

    Tested's Quadcopter and Hobby RC Guides

    We've watched awareness and enthusiasm for quadcopters explode over the past year and a half--this is a really exciting branch of hobby RC. For our part, we've done our best to keep up with the hobby, from testing ready-to-fly quads to building our own multi-rotors. But between that videos that we've produced and Hobby RC guides written by Terry Dunn, there's a lot of material to digest if you're just getting started. So I'm putting all of our multi-rotor and RC coverage on this landing page as a beginner's resource and formal archive of topical content.

    I'll be updating this on a monthly basis, and please use this page's comments section to continue a discussion of all things multi-rotor-related.

    How to Get Into Hobby RC Guides

    This is Terry Dunn's bi-weekly column exploring all facets of the RC hobby, including multi-rotors. A great place to start is his first guide to getting started with general RC vehicles. The following guides cover multi-rotors specifically, with boats, planes, and car guides below it. I've marked what I consider to be essential reading with asterisks.

    Our videos covering some of these topics are embedded below.

    The Best Bluetooth Car Stereo 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 80 hours researching more than 60 Bluetooth-equipped car stereo receivers, surveyed hundreds of Wirecutter readers, and bench-tested a half-dozen front-runners to see which models were the easiest to use and offered the best bang for the buck. The $100 Pioneer MVH-X370BT is the one we'd recommend for most people. It doesn't have a CD player, but it does have the best Bluetooth smartphone support, easiest setup, and the simplest interface out of any of the six finalists we tested—some of which cost over twice as much.

    How we decided

    I started by reading what few car stereo reviews remain from CNET, CarAudioNow, Crutchfield, and customer reviews from Amazon and Best Buy. I then interviewed experts from Crutchfield, about what to look for and conducted a reader survey to figure out what you wanted from a great stereo. This narrowed the list down from the over 100 available options down to a handful of representatives from each major company that places ease of use, robust Bluetooth capabilities, and value above fancier features like satellite radio and touchscreens. We focused on smaller single-DIN units because while you can use a single-DIN stereo in a double-DIN car, the reverse is not true. Also single-DIN units are the most ubiquitous among the population of cars on the road. Eventually I settled on representatives from most of the major brands: Alpine's UTE-52BT; Pioneer's DEH-X8700BS, DEH-X6700BT, MVH-X560BT, and MVH-X370BT; JVC's KD-AR959BS, Kenwood's KDC-X998 and KDC-X598, and Sony MEX-N5000BT.

    How to Get into Hobby RC: Testing WISE Stabilization

    In our continuing overview of artificial stabilization systems for RC, I wanted to test one of the newest systems on the market. WISE is a stabilization system recently released by Hobbico. Although the WISE module is a discrete unit, it is currently only available imbedded with Flyzone's flagship trainer, the Sensei FS.

    WISE (no, it's not an acronym) is meant to be a training aid for pilots learning to fly fixed-wing aircraft (as opposed to rotary-wing helicopters & multi-rotors). Like other stabilization systems, it uses accelerometers and gyros to sense what the model is doing. Using this data, the system can bring a wayward model back to level flight. It also damps overly-exuberant control inputs from the pilot to avoid getting the model into a bad attitude in the first place.

    The WISE module is factory-installed to a tray in the fuselage of the Sensei FS. It is connected between the radio receiver and flight control servos.

    The Sensei FS

    Flyzone's Sensei is a popular trainer model that has been around for a few years. With a 58" wingspan, it is a sizable airplane with Cessna-like looks. Other than the addition of the WISE system, little else seems to have changed in the new FS (Flight Stabilization) version. The airframe is made of molded foam components and it features a brushless power system.

    The Sensei FS can be purchased as a Receiver-Ready (Rx-R) or Ready-to-Fly (RTF) kit. Both versions are mostly factory-built with servos installed for each control surface and the motor/ESC and WISE module already in place. The primary difference is that the Rx-R model allows you to install a 6+-channel radio system of your choice. Going RTF gets you a Tactic TTX610 radio system with a TR624 receiver. The RTF also adds a 3S-2100mAh LiPo battery and a simple AC/DC charger. Hobbico provided an RTF kit for this review.

    Before getting to the specifics of the WISE system, let's talk a little about the Sensei FS. The quality of the kit is very consistent with others wearing the Flyzone badge. The foam parts are cleanly molded and the components fit together well. Assembly is a nuts-and-bolts operation, so no glue is required.

    The Best SSDs 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 were buying an SSD to replace a mechanical hard drive or an SSD that's running out of room, I'd get the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO. It has one of the best combinations of price, performance, and capacity of any drive you can get, plus easy-to-use software and a long warranty, and it comes from a company that makes excellent SSDs (and all their components).

    Who's This For?

    Replacing your boot drive with an SSD is one of the easiest ways to make an older computer feel newer and faster. If you've never used one before, you'll be amazed.

    Solid-state drives are three to four times faster than mechanical drives when reading or writing large files, and hundreds of times faster for the small random read and write operations your computer makes most during normal use. Since SSDs don't have any moving parts, they use less power, put out less heat, and don't vibrate. The one downside is that they're more expensive than traditional hard drives, but that price gap is dropping fast.

    You should get an SSD like the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO if you have a laptop or desktop that boots from a mechanical hard drive or a cramped, outdated SSD. It's also a good way to save money on a new laptop. You can usually save several hundred dollars by buying a laptop configured with a mechanical hard drive or small SSD and replacing or augmenting it with a high-capacity SSD. Most people should get the highest-capacity SSD they can afford. Right now 500GB is the sweet spot.

    How to Get into Hobby RC: Comfort Mod for FPV Goggles

    I've worn several different brands and models of FPV goggles. While some may be slightly better than others, I've yet to find any goggles that I thought were particularly comfortable. I tend to devote a good bit of time prior to every FPV flight fidgeting with my goggles to get them positioned just right. Their poor fit was something that I tolerated for the thrill of flying FPV. Recently, I decided to take a more proactive approach to the problem.

    A popular modification for FPV goggles is to mate them to the frame of ski goggles. These goggles typically have a much larger frame than their FPV cousins, which makes them more comfortable and easier to position correctly. I tried this modification on my Skyzone FPV goggles and I'm very happy with the result.

    A Proven Mod Method

    I didn't feel any need to innovate with this project, so I searched the web to see how other modelers have tackled goggle mods. I found that Jim T Graham from RC Groups posted a tutorial back in 2013 that also used Skyzone goggles. I used Jim's guide as my starting point and pushed forward.

    I chose to use different ski goggles than Mr. Graham (actually, he used motorcycle goggles). That deviation created significant differences in the challenges of our respective projects. Some aspects that were no issue for Jim required me to think a bit, and vice-versa. Although there is considerable overlap in our processes, I think that they are sufficiently different to warrant a separate overview.

    By integrating my Skyzone FPV goggles with a set of cheap ski goggles, my FPV flights are much more comfortable.

    The goggles I chose are just something cheap I found on Amazon. When shopping for goggles, don't worry about the lens coloring since you'll be discarding that bit in the initial steps of the modification.

    Milling Time: The (Near) Future of Desktop CNC Milling

    Over the past month and a half, we've explored a variety of desktop CNC options, including an affordable ready-to-cut mill, a build-it-yourself hackable kit, and a pricey 4 axis machine. But what does the (not too distant) future of desktop CNC milling look like?

    Things are moving very fast these days. It seems every week there is another new CNC mill project on Kickstarter--a little reminiscent of the desktop 3D printer boom. In the next few months, half of the machines listed below are expecting to start shipping. And new versions of established machines are already coming our way. Needless to say, there are a lot of options out there. I've read up on most of them, and the following mills are the ones I'm most excited about.

    Note: aside from the Othermill Version 2, I have not worked with any of these machines in person, yet. What you are about to read is mostly based on information from the companies, secondhand accounts, or are just my initial takes on what I've seen so far.

    Othermill Version 2

    Photo credit: Other Machine Co.

    ITP got the latest Othermill a few weeks ago, and it has already become a key part of our shop. It does everything the Othermill Version 1 does with some nice additional features. The cutting spindle is more powerful and cuts aluminum beautifully. This model is a bit more enclosed, and this makes a big difference in noise and mess. And now there are T-slots on the mill bed, perfect for fixtures and jigs.

    It's available for purchase now, and costs $2,200.

    Making Miniature Tested Blockhead Figurines

    Editor's note: Bill Doran makes armor, costumes, and space guns as Punished Props, and has written a series of books teaching foam armorsmithing. Bill recently stopped by the Tested office to drop off a few small figures he made, and shares how he made them in this guest article.

    I've had this idea noodling around in the back of my head for quite some time. Since I was going to be swinging by the Tested office this month, I figured it would be a great time to knock out this quick little project: miniature figurines of Will and Norm's blockhead characters.

    I had less than a day to build these guys from scratch, so most of my build decisions were based on whether or not I would have to wait for things to dry or cure. From start to finish, this entire build took less than 8 hours.

    I started by planning out the sizing on all of the figure pieces based on a screen cap from the Tested website. I measured out all of the sides of each piece and prepped my material.

    I ended up going with a high density, urethane tooling foam for this build. I wanted something that was easy to cut and shape, but was banking on not needing to fill, prime, and sand the surface at all, since that would add too much time to the build. This particular foam is so dense that it feels like stone! I got it from a company called 5 Axis a while back. They used to sell their off cuts on eBay.

    The Best Smart Thermostat

    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.

    Three years after the Nest Learning Thermostat's debut, the second-gen Nest continues to offer the best combination of style and substance of any thermostat. Its software and apps are solid and elegant, it learns your routines and the particulars of your house, and it's easy to change the temperature from your phone or computer so you won't have to get up from your cozy spot on the couch. It's (still) the best smart thermostat for most people, though the competition is catching up.

    Why a smart thermostat?

    If you upgrade to any smart thermostat after years with a basic one, the first and most life-changing difference will be the ability to control it from your phone. No more getting up in the middle of the night to turn up the A/C. No dashing back into the house to lower the heat before you go on errands (or vacation). No coming home to a sweltering apartment—you just fire up the A/C when your airplane touches down.

    The fact is, a cheap plastic thermostat with basic time programming—the kind we've had for two decades—will do a pretty good job at keeping your house at the right temperature without wasting a lot of money, as long as you put in the effort to program it. But that's the thing: Most people don't.

    Get a smart thermostat if you're interested in saving more energy and exerting more control over your home environment. If you like the prospect of turning on your heater when you're on your way home from work or having your home's temperature adjust intelligently without having to spend time programming a schedule, these devices will do the job. And if your thermostat is placed in a prominent place in your home, well, these devices just look cooler than those beige plastic rectangles of old.

    The Best Bluetooth Kit for Every Car

    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

    If you want Bluetooth in your car but don't want to spend the money and/or time to install a new head unit, you have three options, depending on your car's setup and whether your priority is making phone calls or listening to music. If your car has an aux-in (headphone-jack) setup, we recommend iClever's Himbox HB01 ($30). If you don't have an aux-in port and value call quality over sound, Motorola's Roadster 2 ($80) clip-on speakerphone is the best pick. If you don't have an aux-in jack, and music quality is more important for you than phone calls, get the Mpow Streambot Y FM transmitter for $37.

    Our picks, from left: iClever Himbox HB01, Motorola Roadster 2, Mpow Streambot Y.

    We spent 20 hours researching the latest version of this guide, comparing 10 new units to the 11 we originally tested, to find the best in each category. If you'd like to dig in deeper into what features to look for in a kit, how to deal with whiny audio cables, or you simply want additional picks besides the three mentioned here, visit our full guide.

    How we decided

    The most important thing we looked for when testing was ease of use and how close each kit came to a built-in-Bluetooth experience.

    The most important thing we looked for when testing was ease of use and how close each kit came to a built-in-Bluetooth experience. With that in mind, we set out to find the most promising candidates for each of the three types of kit. For aux-in kits, we eliminated any that required you to use your car's accessory-power outlet for power without also including a USB charger with at least 1-Amp output for charging a phone at the same time; we also eliminated any that didn't have phone-answering functionality, as well as those that had downright awful user reviews. For speakerphones, we focused on units with FM-transmitter capabilities, native voice commands, and the capability to auto-pair. Finally, dedicated FM transmitters were easier to narrow down because not many people make them anymore, and few have positive reviews; we tested only the ones that earned high ratings.

    The Best Mechanical Pencils

    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 talking to a half-dozen experts, surveying more than a thousand readers, researching 127 different models, and going hands-on with seven of them, we've discovered that the best general-use mechanical pencil for most people is the $5 uni-ball Kuru Toga. Thanks to an innovative internal mechanism, it'll never get blunt as you write, meaning your words and diagrams will always be at their sharpest and most defined.

    But we know that there are various ways in which people use mechanical pencils. If you have other needs, we have a couple other picks below, and even more in our full guide at the Wirecutter.

    How we decided

    We consulted with aficionados from the thriving network of stationery bloggers, interviewing a half-dozen pencil experts who between them have 36 years of experience covering all manner of writing utensils. We combined this with a survey of more than 1,000 readers to get an idea of what really mattered to people, and between the two methods were able to narrow down from hundreds of pencils on the market to just a handful, each of which were useful for different situation.

    Quick Tip: Fixing a Slow Windows Downloads Folder

    Despite its location on a fast SSD, opening the Downloads folder on my Windows machine took a really long time, several seconds. I'd tried everything I knew--emptied the folder, deleted the thumbnail database, moved it to a new location on the drive--to no avail. This morning, I finally fixed the problem, which occurs when Windows incorrectly determines that the folder should contain either pictures or videos. If it does that, it tries to create thumbnails for every file in the directory every time you open it, even if they're file types that shouldn't have thumbnails. All I had to do to fix the problem was open the Properties for my Downloads folder, click over to the Customize tab, and change the "Optimize this folder for:" setting to General items.

    Will 7