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    Hands-on with Sony's $1100 Walkman NW-ZX2

    Sony recently unveiled a new Walkman music player, which plays what they call "high resolution" audio. The noisy booth at CES probably wasn't the best place to demo this $1100 player, but we try it out and ask a Sony rep just why they think audiophiles should buy in to Sony's new music playback ecosystem. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    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.

    Tested: Amazon Echo Speaker and Digital Assistant

    We've been testing the Amazon Echo, a home Bluetooth speaker that also connects to Amazon's new digital assistant. Using voice commands, we can ask it to perform some basic tasks, like checking the news or playing streaming music. We answer the most common questions people have about the Echo, and let you know whether it's worth the investment.

    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.

    CES 2015: DJI Inspire 1 Mount Handheld Gimbal Camera

    Quadcopter maker DJI loaned us a prototype of their upcoming Inspire 1 Mount--an accessory for the gimbaled camera that comes with their latest quad. We take the mount and camera to roam the floor at CES, testing the stability and video quality of this camera setup. The results were pretty good! (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Hands-On with Tobii Eye Tracking

    At CES 2015, we test out Tobii's new eye tracking system, which is being released as a PC gaming peripheral by SteelSeries. This IR sensor sits below your monitor to track what you're looking at with centimeter accuracy, and can be implemented in games built with Unity or Unreal. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    Testing: Dell P2715Q 4K Monitor

    The first generation of 4K monitors available for desktop use weren't great because they were TN displays that ran at 30Hz. Recently, Dell released a 4K monitor using an IPS panel, running at 60Hz. We review that display to see how it runs in Windows 8.1, test its image quality, and see if gaming is practical at 3840x2160.

    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.

    12 Days of Tested Christmas: Earphone Upgrade

    On the tenth day of Tested Christmas, Will recommends a way to improve the comfort of your existing earphones. By using fitted foam tips by Comply you can get your earphone closer to your ear canal and block out external noise. They're a great stocking stuffer!

    12 Days of Tested Christmas: Android Wear

    For the ninth day of Tested Christmas, Norm extols the virtues of Android Wear. We've tested both the Pebble and two Android Wear watches, and the latter platform is proving the case for smart watches as useful complements to smart phones.

    12 Days of Tested Christmas: Anker 5-Port USB Charger

    For the fifth day of Tested Christmas, Will shares his solution for charging all his mobile devices at his desk and nightstand. Instead of using multiple wall warts and chargers, he uses a single 5-port USB charger that can power phones tablets, and other USB devices at their fastest charging speeds.

    12 Days of Tested Christmas: Tile Bluetooth Tracking Beacon

    For this fourth day of Tested Christmas, Will shares a clever gadget that can be used to locate commonly misplaced objects around your house. Tile is a tiny Bluetooth dongle that you can attach to your keychain, remote controls, bag, or anything you commonly lose. Activate the Tile with an app and it'll chime a sound to help you find it.

    In Brief: Android Wear Gets Major Update

    Woot! As promised, Google is releasing a huge update to Android Wear today that'll finally allow developers and users to create custom watch faces. As outlined in this blog post, the update includes an official Watch Face API that lets devs program any watch face design, just like they would an app. And just like apps, Android Wear users can download those faces from Google Play--a bunch of new faces have already been released to coincide with this launch. Other updates include the ability to undo swiping away a Google Now card, a theater mode to completely dim the screen and mute notifications, and a new quick settings menu that you activate by swiping down on a watch face. All really useful stuff that Google has learned from user requests and feedback. The updates are rolling out this week to the existing six Android Gear watches.

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    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.

    In Brief: Dell's Two New 4K Monitors Look Decent

    We've been telling people that they should hold off on buying a 4K desktop monitor for a while. The first of these high-resolution monitors that went on sale over a year ago weren't great--they were inferior TN panels that ran at 30Hz at native resolution. But OEMs like Dell, Asus, and even Monoprice are iterating fast. Dell even has a 5K panel that's similar to the one in Apple's new iMac. This week, Dell announced two new 4K panels that are the first ones I'd consider getting. They're both 3840x2160 resolution panels, one at 24-inch and one at 27-inch, both priced under $700 (plus 10% off with a holiday promotion). And these monitors are 60Hz IPS displays with what Dell claims to be a wide color gamut (99% sRGB). $700 is still a lot to pay for a desktop monitor, but it's a lot less than the days when a 30-inch 1600p panel cost well over $1000. What's holding me back is how Windows would look on these screens at 100% DPI, or even scaled to 150%. Plus, physical screen size is a consideration, depending on how far your place your monitor from your face. Is this something you'd like to see us test?

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    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 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.