Quantcast
Latest StoriesAccessories
    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.

    Norman 2
    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?

    Norman 3
    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.

    In Brief: Amazon Announces Echo, a $200 Connected Speaker

    Amazon just announced a $200 Bluetooth speaker that also doubles as a connected voice assistant, like Apple's Siri or Microsoft's Cortana. The Echo is primarily a cylindrical wireless speaker with Bluetooth support, but also Wi-Fi to tap into streaming radio or Amazon's own Prime Music services. Its novel feature is voice control, answering to the keyword "Alexa"--three syllables help distinguish it from the word "Echo". The device has seven microphones, which Amazon claims will be able to recognize voice commands from anywhere in the room, without yelling. With those commands, you can ask for weather reports, news, as well as control music playback. I think this is a really cool idea for a connected home accessory, though it doesn't tap into existing smart home technologies--yet. Echo is currently only available by invitation only, but Amazon Prime subscribers who get into the program can buy it for $100. Amazon's promo video introducing the Echo is below, and I'm looking forward to testing this.

    Norman 8
    In Brief: Microsoft Announces $200 Fitness Tracking Band

    Microsoft's answer to Apple's watch isn't a watch at all. It's a $200 fitness tracker dubbed the Microsoft Band, and was announced today as part of Microsoft's new cloud-based Health Platform. The band, which looks more like a Nike Fuelband or Jawbone Up than watch, has a thin rectangular display with Microsoft-style tiles that show information like step counts, notifications, and the time. 10 sensors on it track heart rate, calorie burn, and sleep quality--it's something Microsoft wants users to wear all day. It'll work with Android and iOS devices, but Windows Phone users will get access to Cortana integration for voice queries. Microsoft strongly emphasized that this is not a smartwatch, so it's not going to buzz constantly like the Pebble of Android Wear watches. The Microsoft Band is available now, and Microsoft Health will soon have an SDK and support for cross-platform applications.

    Norman 4
    Tested In-Depth: SmartThings Home Automation

    Will's been testing the SmartThings system since its successful Kickstarter campaign, and shares his experience setting up home automation for his family. SmartThings lets you set a house up to be contextually aware of a variety of events, with no reoccurring fees. We discuss what aspects of home automation may make sense for most people, and how home control works via the app.

    Show and Tell: Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Adapter

    For this week's Show and Tell, Will shares his current solution for playing back music and making calls from his phone in his car. While his car has an auxiliary audio jack, he prefers using this Kinivo hands-free receiver as an intermediary. Its decent audio, built-in micrphone, and music playback controls are why it's Will's pick for an aftermarket car Bluetooth solution. What do you use to listen to music from your smartphone while driving?

    Show and Tell: Ultimate Ears Boom Speakers

    For this week's Show and Tell, Will tests Logitech's Ultimate Ears Boom, a step up from the mini Bluetooth speaker we reviewed last year. The larger speaker is durable and meant to be used on the road, like for camping trips. Its 15-hour battery can last a weeklong road trip, but it's also great for backyard use.

    Show and Tell: Astro A38 Bluetooth Headset

    For this week's Show and Tell, Will shares a new bluetooth headset that he's been testing: Astro Gaming's A38. While the company is known for its gaming headphones, these wireless headsets are made to be worn outside the home, with good active noise-cancellation. Here's what Will thinks about them after some use.

    The Best $300 Over-Ear Headphones 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 I was looking to buy over-ear headphones for $300 or less, I’d get the PSB M4U 1, our recommendation for the second year running. After researching dozens of new headphones and testing 17, the PSBs remain the best for most people because they sound just as great playing acoustic concert guitar as thumping hip-hop.

    How We Decided

    We spent 20 hours researching the new headphones released since last fall. Anything on the new list that had good reviews or was too new to have any reviews yet, we brought in to be tested by our panel of four experts with decades of audio reviewing experience.

    The idea behind our panel is this: listen to all of these headphones back-to-back to get a sense of sound, build quality, comfort, and features as compared to each other. (To our knowledge this is the first time any publication has directly compared some of these products in the same test session.) Because these are headphones of a higher price range, we tested using an iPhone, Android phone, and iPod, in addition to the Sony PHA-2 Hi-Res DAC and the Dared HPA-55L headphone amp to see if there were varying results in sound quality.

    Apple Announces Its Watch Collection, Launching 2015

    Here it is. Apple's watch. And it's decidedly a watch, not a curved band or "wrist wearable" as we and some other people had predicted. Here's what you should know about it.

    The Apple watch is a touchscreen device worn on your wrist, running a special version of the iOS interface. The big deal here is the user interface--users will interact with it via touchscreen, voice, a dedicated button, and a crown dial on the right side. This digital crown dial is used to zoom in and out of applications as well as scroll and navigate. On the bottom of the watch are four optical sensors for monitoring the wearer's heartbeat, as well as an inductive charger for wireless charging. Activity monitoring is a big part of the Apple Watch, and an Activity app monitors different types of motion like workouts or sitting down at the office. Feedback is provided via a small speaker and haptic feedback provided over what Apple calls a "Taptic Engine." The color screen displays digital clockfaces like Android Wear watches, and you can tap into Apple services like Siri and the new Apple Pay. Developers will be able to adapt their apps and create Watch-specific apps with Apple's WatchKit SDK and APIs.

    The Apple Watch connects to iPhones--starting with the iPhone 5C--via Bluetooth 4.0, but also has Wi-Fi connectivity. As for when you'll be able to buy one, Apple has only said that its Watch will come out in 2015, with a starting price of $350. Apple Watch comes in two sizes--38mm and 42mm--as well as several different finishes and strap options. What are your thoughts about this new smart watch? We'll be talking about it in-depth on this week's podcast, which we're recording tomorrow.

    This Is The Best Wi-Fi Router

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter. Read the original full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    If your laptop, smartphone, or tablet uses the latest wireless-AC networking technology and you’re shopping for a new router, you should get the Netgear R6250. The benefits of wireless-ac are great: super-fast performance that can be stronger at longer distances than wireless-n routers. More than 100 hours of combined testing and research led us to the $150 R6250, which boasts the best combination of speed, price, and features of any router in its price range, and unlike more expensive and newer routers, has technology your most modern gear can actually take advantage of.

    How we decided on the R6250

    Our pick supports two data streams for wireless-n and three for wireless-ac. Our research indicates that two-stream wireless-N and -AC technology are the most common connection types for laptops, tablets, and smartphones, while three-stream wireless-ac is what you'll find on new top-of-the-line laptops like the latest MacBook Pro.

    How did we pick this price point? Basically, a $200 router can be faster than our main pick, but only if your devices can take advantage of it—most things we own today can’t. On the other hand, paying less than $100 for a wireless-ac router means sacrificing speed and/or range, and you might also lose a number of useful features, like media streaming, parental controls, and remote access.

    Our router finalists for speed and features, based on a lot of research and interviewing with the best wireless gear testers, were the Netgear R6250 ($150), Asus RT-AC56U ($112), Asus RT-AC66U ($170), and TP-Link Archer C7 ($99). We tested them by running performance benchmarks at four different testing stations inside a 2,700 square-foot, one-story house.