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    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like the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO if you have a laptop or desktop that boots from a mechanical hard drive or a cramped, outdated SSD.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.

    The State of USB Type-C Accessories

    You have to give the USB Implementers Forum some credit: they weren't kidding when they told us at this year's CES that the new USB Type-C connector would make it to our computers and peripherals real soon. The release of Google's new Chromebook Pixel and Apple's 12-inch MacBook have spearheaded that launch, compelling both cable and computer accessory makers to get compatible products into the marketplace. The good thing about USB Type-C is that it's backwards compatible with previous USB 2 and 3 connectors, so you can do a lot with adapters. It'll also of course work with upcoming USB 3.1 Gen 2 devices, with potential speeds that are double that of USB 3.0 (aka USB 3.1 Gen 1).

    Here are the cables I bought for the MacBook, and the accessories I'm looking forward to testing as the USB Type-C connector gets more widespread adoption. This excludes Apple's $80 USB-C Digital AV multiport adapter (with HDMI, USB-C, and USB-A connections), as that hasn't even shipped yet!

    Testing the Apple Watch: How it Works

    We're starting to test the new Apple Watch for our long-term use review. Today, we run through some common questions about its basic features, how app integration works, connectivity with our phones, and Siri functionality that you can't demo in stores. What questions do you have about the Apple Watch?

    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.

    Android Wear's Second Big Update Adds Wi-Fi Support

    Google today announced a that its Android Wear smartwatch software would be getting a major update in the coming weeks--the second since the platform's launch last year. All seven of the current Android Wear devices will get some of these features, which include a streamlined app list, wrist-flicking gestures, emoji drawing (to send canned symbols, not actual sketches), and always-on apps (like the low-power mode of the watch face). Watches that have a Wi-Fi radio (including many existing models) will get Wi-Fi pairing support, meaning the watch doesn't have to be close to the phone to get updates, as long as they're both connected to the internet.

    Wi-Fi pairing is the feature I'm most excited about, but I would still prefer Google optimize Android Wear for smoother performance over adding new features. After using the Apple Watch in store for a little bit, the UI on my Asus Zenwatch feels sluggish. LG's Watch Urbane will be the first device to get this update, and I expect that rollout to other devices to be just as slow as the last major software patch.

    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.

    Show and Tell: Nixie Tube Clock

    For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares a recent purchase: a relatively inexpensive Nixie tube clock that makes for a beautiful desk display. This clock makes use of Russian IN-14 cold cathode tubes paired with a simple control board with RGB LEDs for color accents. The only thing not included is a cheap 12V power supply you can easily get online.

    Apple Watch Hands-On Demo Impressions

    The Apple Watch is finally available to try in person, so we book the very first appointment at our local store to get a demo and check out the hardware. Norm, Jeremy, and Gary share their impressions from trying on the different models and bands and discuss navigating the UI with the digital crown.

    Testing: Zoom Q8 HD Camera for Podcasting

    I've been looking for the right camera for our mobile podcasting setup ever since we started recording video podcasts away from our studio in 2012. When we first started Still Untitled, we used a GoPro HeroHD 2 to record the show. Over the years, we've upgraded those GoPros to newer models, but have remained pretty dissatisfied with the cameras--they just aren't meant to be used for long videos with lots of talking.

    The action cameras I've tested have a hard time maintaining a consistent clock over long videos, which isn't a problem when you're recording a ride down a mountainside or your first time skydiving, but when you need to sync separate audio and video tracks, it's a huge pain in the ass that involves stretching the duration on either the audio or the video. Most action cams also lack viewfinders, so it's difficult to reliably frame your shot, and all this is compounded by the fact that action cameras simply aren't designed for long shoots. The camera have overheated over 40 minutes of runtime, which causes lost or corrupted video. It isn't a great experience.

    We've tested pro cameras for podcast use before too, including the Panasonic cameras we use in the studio and the Sony PXW-X70 that Joey had on loan from B&H in January. Our aging Panasonics are tied to the proprietary P2 storage cards, which require a special (and very expensive) P2 deck to grab footage from. The Sony camera produced great video and integrated easily into my Premiere Pro-based workflow, but it is much more expensive than I was looking for and is frankly overkill for long, static shots.

    On paper, inexpensive point and shoot cameras seem like the perfect middle ground between inexpensive action cameras and fixed lens prosumer models. We've used Norm's Sony RX100 Mk III for the last half dozen or so episodes of Still Untitled with reasonably good results. However, it's not an ideal solution either. While it's capable of maintaining a constant clock (making A/V sync easy), most point and shoots lack line-level audio inputs and they are universally limited to 30 minute maximum record times, either due to sensor overheating issues (rare) or strange European tariffs (common).

    Enter the Zoom Q8. The Zoom Q8 was designed for exactly the situation we shoot Still Untitled in every week, longer fixed shots where audio is really important. Zoom specifically calls out podcasters, YouTubers and folks who want to record live music from the audience as potential users of this camera. While I can't speak to the latter, the two former use cases are spot on. I've used the Q8 to record three episodes of Still Untitled, and the results are exactly what I was looking for in this type of camera.

    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.

    The Best In-Ear Headphones Under $40

    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 in-ear headphones on a budget, get the Brainwavz Delta with Mic. After 32 hours of research on hundreds of in-ear headphones under $40, seriously considering 179, and testing 68 with our panel of audio experts, we found the Brainwavz Deltas are the best for the money. Our panel unanimously voted them the best-sounding of all the ones tested in this category, plus they fit comfortably in most ears, and are a steal at $22. They sound better than the Apple Earpods, so if you're looking to upgrade or replace those, or want something decent and inexpensive, these are your best bet.

    How Did We Choose What To Test?

    After doing research on existing professional reviews, I looked to the user reviews on Amazon, Crutchfield, etc. to see what real people had liked and had come out since our last post.

    We then brought in a faceoff panel consisting of audio professionals and musicians who were asked to listen and give me their top picks. From there we took into account price and features, and in the end, chose a winner.

    Tested In-Depth: Feiyu G3 Ultra 3-Axis GoPro Gimbal

    This week, we test a motorized stabilizer for GoPro cameras: the Feiyu-Tech G3 Ultra. Like the gimballed mounts used for quadcopter cameras, this handheld rig can keep a GoPro Hero 3 or 4 fixed on its rotational axes. The result is video that is relatively stable compared to footage from GoPros attached with rigid mounts. Akin to a portable steadicam. We discuss its potential uses and compare some test footage. (Thanks to B&H for loaning us this unit for testing.)

    The Best Wi-Fi Hotspot You Can Buy

    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 regularly travel with devices needing Wi-Fi, get Verizon's Jetpack MiFi 6620L. Its battery life is among the best we’ve seen in hotspots, it runs on the largest and fastest U.S. LTE network, and its pricing is competitive.

    Is my smartphone enough?

    Just about every smartphone can act as a hotspot, sharing its connection over Wi-Fi with tablets or laptop. But if you work on the road a lot, a hotspot offers a more reliable data connection than your phone and will run for much longer on a charge than a phone in tethering mode. Think two full days of work versus five hours.

    How we picked and tested

    We started with networks. Our best-wireless-carrier research and outside reports like PCMag’s “Fastest Mobile Networks” and RootMetrics’ testing all pointed to Verizon.

    AT&T, however, isn’t far behind and in parts of the U.S. beats Verizon. It also ended an advertising scheme to track subscribers’ unencrypted Internet use, while Verizon took until January to announce an opt-out.

    The LTE networks of T-Mobile and Sprint, even after recent progress, can’t match the big two’s rural coverage--important in a device used often on the road. (For more on this, check out our guide to the best wireless carriers.)

    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.

    How we picked

    Wireless-ac, or IEEE 802.11ac, is the latest mainstream Wi-Fi version, and your new router should have wireless-ac. It's the new standard in many laptops, smartphones, and tablets from 2013 and later, including many of our recommendations at the Wirecutter. New MacBooks and high-end Windows laptops have wireless-ac, and so do almost all flagship smartphones from the past year: the iPhone 6, HTC One, Moto X, Samsung Galaxy S5, and more. Unless you go very cheap, your next gadget with Wi-Fi will probably have wireless-ac.

    Our Wi-Fi router pick is dual-band, which means it supports both 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals—giving you a way to escape 2.4GHz wireless interference from your neighbors' Wi-Fi networks and giving you access to the much faster speeds of 5GHz wireless-ac. The vast majority of laptops, phones and tablets support one or two streams, but high-end laptops like the MacBook Pro support three. A three-stream wireless-ac router ensures that you're going to get the fastest connection on any device you own—or plan to buy in the near future.

    Any router you buy should be dual-band: a 2.4GHz band for wireless-n and earlier, and a 5GHz band for wireless-n and -ac (5GHz faster, but it can have worse range than 2.4GHz and not every device supports it).

    The Best Portable Document Scanner

    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 to buy a scanner that lets you digitize all of your personal and business documents without taking up much desk space—and that is light enough to take on the road—the $255 Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i is the way to go. The S1300i offers the best combination of speed and accuracy when creating searchable PDF files. Plus, it comes with the most comprehensive and user-friendly scanning software of any of its competitors, allowing you to easily convert documents, receipts, and business cards into formats that can be read by word processing, financial, and contact management software.

    We came to this conclusion after more than 70 hours of research and hands-on testing, including analyzing scanned texts for accuracy over a variety of typefaces and font sizes. For more information on how we chose what to test, check out our full guide.

    In Brief: Pebble Time Smartwatch on Kickstarter

    Pebble, the most successful smartwatch so far, yesterday launched its second-generation product: Pebble Time. It's a much bigger advancement over the original Pebble than the Steel--Time uses a color e-paper display, is 20% thinner, has an integrated microphone, and utilizes a new timeline system for notifications. The new timeline software will make its way to previous Pebble models, too. Battery life is expected to be a full week, and the watch will retail for $200 ($180 on Kickstarter now, tax-free). The new watch debuted on Kickstarter, where funding after one day is already closing in on the $10.3 million campaign of the original Pebble. Timing for this pre-order is smart for Pebble, as the campaign will end just as Apple readies the launch of its Apple Watch. Even though Pebble won't be shipping Time until May, it'll have secured backers' dollars before April. Pebble Time works for both iOS and Android, though it won't have feature parity between the two platforms.

    Norman 3
    Tested In-Depth: LG Ultra-Widescreen 21:9 Monitor

    Will reviews a new ultra widescreen computer monitor from LG--the first we've tested that's both a 21:9 display and also curved. We discuss what you can do with that extra screen real estate, software that helps manage your desktop, and what movies and games look like at that aspect ratio.