Wirecutter’s best early deals for Black Friday

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

Amazon Fire HD 10

Street Price: $ 150; Deal Price: $ 100

The 10″, newer model of our budget pick in our best Android tablets guide, with a big $ 50 discount.

The 10 is quite similar to the 8, and with this price, makes it much more interesting as a media consumption tablet. We wrote, “The 2017 Fire HD 8 is slower, has a lower-resolution screen, and is more limited than the ZenPad, but it’s a great cheap tablet for media consumption, especially for Amazon content.”

Amazon Fire TV Stick

Street Price: $ 40; Deal Price: $ 25

A new low on our runner-up pick in our best media streaming devices guide.

We wrote, “If you’re a heavy Prime video user or want voice search, the Fire TV Stick offers a compelling alternative to the Roku that has really improved over the past few months.”

Bose QuietComfort 25

Street Price: $ 280; Deal Price: $ 180

Our pick for 3 years running, this the first substantial sale we’ve ever seen on the Bose QuietComfort 25, a huge $ 100 off.

The Bose QuietComfort 25 is our pick in our best noise-cancelling headphones guide. We wrote, “The amount of noise reduced is incredible: noticeably and significantly more than the vast majority of noise-cancelling headphones. In our testing, they dropped an average of 24.2 dB of noise, including over 30 dB at some frequencies, and more low-bass reduction than any headphone we’ve tested.”

UE Roll 2

Street Price: $ 75; Deal Price: $ 50

While we’ve seen this price a few times, it’s only a few dollars above the best we’ve seen.

The UE Roll 2 is our pick in our best portable bluetooth speaker guide. We wrote, “The Roll 2 sounds full, with smooth reproduction of everything from bass notes to cymbals, and it plays loud enough to fill a hotel room or a spot at the beach with sound. It’s so watertight, it will survive being dunked 1 meter underwater for 30 minutes.”

OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker

Street Price: $ 200; Deal Price: $ 136

Only a few dollars off from the best price we’ve seen on our pick in our best coffee maker guide.

We wrote, “Simply put, the OXO On makes it easy to brew a really good cup of coffee. If you grind your beans to the correct particle size (which is extremely important) and weigh the grounds so they extract just enough, the OXO will take the reins from there.”

GoPro Hero5 Black + $ 50 Gift Card

Street Price: $ 450; Deal Price: $ 350

Even with a new model out, drops are rare. This discount + the extra giftcard make this a great deal.

The GoPro Hero5 Black is our pick in our best action camera guide. We wrote, “The Hero5 Black builds on the success of its predecessor, the Hero4 Silver, with new features that significantly enhance its usability. The built-in waterproofing is the most important addition, since it means you can shoot anywhere, anytime, without fiddling with a case.”

Netgear Orbi RBK50

Street Price: $ 350; Deal Price: $ 280

We haven’t seen this drop below $ 320 before now, so save some money on one of the easiest ways to improve your home network.

The Netgear Orbi RBK50 is our pick in our best wi-fi mesh-networking kit guide. We wrote, “Netgear’s Orbi RBK50 is the best Wi-Fi mesh kit for most people, because it covers all the bases in the simplest way. It ranked at or near the top of the pack for throughput in every location we tested, and it required far less of our time and effort than most of the kits we tested for it to do its best.”

9.7-inch iPad (5th generation)

Street Price: $ 330; Deal Price: $ 250

While we have seen drops to around the $ 300 range, this sale drops an extra $ 30 off of previous prices and makes for a new low

The 9.7-inch iPad (5th generation) is our pick in our iPad guide. We wrote, “The things that have made all iPads great tablets—such as an unbeatable selection of outstanding apps, stellar hardware quality, long battery life, and unrivaled customer support—help them continue to best other tablets on the market.”

Oculus Rift + Touch

Street Price: $ 400; Deal Price: $ 350

The first drop below $ 400 we’ve seen, and it’s a big $ 50 savings.

The Oculus Rift + Touch is our pick in our best VR headsets for PC and PS4 guide. We wrote, “It’s clear Oculus put a lot of thought into building a headset that will appeal to gaming veterans and newcomers alike with a comfy fit, quick startup process, and wide range of content.”

Apple Watch Series 1

Street Price: $ 280; Deal Price: $ 210

Already a good sale, but if you use your Target Redcard, you can get an additional 5% off.

The Apple Watch Series 1 is our pick in our best smartwatch for iPhone users guide. We wrote, “If you want a smartwatch for managing your phone notifications, tracking activity and recreational exercise, and doing the gee-whiz things you can accomplish with apps (like texting with your voice or finger, checking sports scores, creating reminders, and adjusting your smart thermostat), the Apple Watch Series 1 is your best bet.”

Nikon D3400 (w/ AF-P DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens)

Street Price: $ 450; Deal Price: $ 397

While we used to see regular sales on the D3400, those have slowed down considerably. This latest deal matches the best price we’ve seen on this bundle.

The Nikon D3400 is our pick in our best DSLR for beginners guide. We wrote, “The Nikon D3400 is Nikon’s current entry-level model, and while it’s available for around $ 500, it can take better photos than cameras that sell for hundreds more.”

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The best computer and mobile accessories to give as gifts

Perhaps the person on your list is already quite happy with their laptop or mobile device (slash, you’re not up to buying them a new one). There are plenty of accessories that make for affordable, and dare we say, practical gifts. Included in our holiday gift guide are two styles of keyboards, a high-end mouse, a battery pack, selfie and battery cases, a 400GB (!) microSDXC card, Bluetooth trackers and a wireless charging pad — useful for, say, a new iPhone owner.

Source: Engadget Holiday Gift Guide 2017

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What to expect for Black Friday 2017

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

Black Friday’s coming up fast and we’re already seeing a lot of deals going live, so here’s what we expect:

  • Get that shopping list ready soon. Your favorite deal, the one that says it’ll go live on Friday? There’s a decent chance it’ll be available earlier. We’ve already seen some of the most interesting deals going live early, a fair few from Best Buy jumping the gun a week ago to beat other retailers.
  • That TV/instant pot/whatever you wanted sold out already? Don’t buy your backup option just yet. Not only have we seen some great deals go live already, but we’ve seen sold out products pop back in stock. It’s not uncommon for retailers to put up great deals on Black Friday and once they sell out for the day, put up additional stock on Cyber Monday.
  • Update your billing and shipping info. This is the most boring part of shopping, but you’ll be really aggravated with yourself if you do grab that one thing you wanted and it sells out because you had to update all of your info.

Here are some Black Friday deals we’re seeing pop up already:

Logitech Harmony Companion

Street price: $ 130; deal price: $ 100

This particular model has been bouncing between $ 130 and $ 140 a lot, so this recent drop to $ 100 is a welcome discount.

The Logitech Harmony Companion is our upgrade pick in our universal remote control guide. We wrote, “More elaborate and a little harder to set up, the Harmony Companion doesn’t require line-of-sight to your gear, is able to control Wi-Fi and Bluetooth devices, and can even run your smart home.”

KEF Q100 Bookshelf Loudspeakers

Street price: $ 550; deal price: $ 249.98

A huge drop on our previous upgrade pair of bookshelf speakers.

The KEF Q100 Bookshelf Loudspeakers is our previous upgrade pick in our best bookshelf speaker guide. They’re not our current pick, but they’re still a fantastic deal.

Fire HD 10

Street price: $ 150; deal price: $ 100

A huge drop and the first discount we’ve seen on the new and improved HD 10. The 10 is quite similar to the 8, and with this price, makes it much more interesting as a media consumption tablet.

The Fire HD 10 is the larger version of the 8, which is our budget pick in our tablet guide. We wrote, “The 2017 Fire HD 8 is slower, has a lower-resolution screen, and is more limited than the ZenPad, but it’s a great cheap tablet for media consumption, especially for Amazon content.”

Samsung Qi Certified Fast Charge Wireless Charger

Street price: $ 35; deal price: $ 24

A welcome discount on on a newly released Qi charger, this deal is only on this particular color.

The Fast Charge is a faster version of our pick in our best Qi wireless charger guide. We wrote, “In our testing, it fully charged our iPhone 8 and Galaxy S8 about 15 minutes faster than our top pick.”

Razer DeathAdder Elite

Street price: $ 60; deal price: $ 50

Matching the best price we’ve seen on our gaming mouse pick.

The Razer DeathAdder Elite is our pick in our best gaming mouse guide. We wrote, “It’s comfortable for a wide range of hand sizes and grips, has seven easy-to-reach buttons and an accurate sensor, and has a simple, effective design.”

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What we’re buying: Lightroom on a new iPhone, Google’s Pixel 2 cases

This month, we’re making the most of our devices, whether that’s by testing mobile photo-editing apps, trying out an iPad keyboard that matches its surroundings, or simply just laying down a little too much cash for a pretty-looking Pixel 2 phone case.


Timothy J. Seppala

Timothy J. Seppala
Associate Editor

I’ve been using Adobe’s Lightroom on my phone for a few years now. It’s never been the most user-friendly image-editing suite for iPhone (that’d be Google’s Snapseed), but it makes up for that shortcoming with sheer power. Adobe focused on adding incredibly useful features to the mobile app, like support for both editing and capturing uncompressed RAW files and high-dynamic-range (HDR) photos.

Since I upgraded to the iPhone 8 Plus, the app has gotten even more useful. This is mainly because of the extra processing power afforded by the A11 Bionic processor. While Apple crowed at launch about how much games and AR would benefit from the chip, what won me over was that now it takes only a few seconds to export an edited RAW file at max resolution. On my old iPhone 6s, that would take anywhere from 20 to 30 seconds. In that time, I can export and upload five or six photos to Instagram on Apple’s second-newest phone. What’s more, on my old phone, using the “professional” mode brought everything to a grinding halt. Setting exposure and ISO was a chore, and a handful of adjustments were grayed out because the hardware wasn’t capable enough. Dragging the white-balance selector around was a stuttery experience too.

That isn’t the case with the 8 Plus, but I’m usually getting better results shooting in auto or HDR mode; I shoot only full manual with my Nikon, but I’m fine letting the computer take over on my phone.

More than that, even with the 8 Plus, making adjustments to ISO and shutter speed sometimes brings the app to a crawl. It’s intermittent, though, and I rarely use the pro setting, so it’s not a huge deal. Given how buggy iOS 11 has been for me, I’m willing to blame the system software and not Lightroom.

This brings us to HDR. Apple has made huge strides with the iOS camera app’s HDR setting (it’s turned on by default out of the box) and, depending on the use case, it often produces better photos than Lightroom does — especially in low-light situations. That probably has a lot to do with the new hardware’s dedicated image signal processor. Snapping a photo at a concert using Lightroom results in an unusable image full of purple grain where the shadows are, and outdoor shots at dusk typically don’t fare a whole lot better.

For instance, a photo taken of the gaping hole in my parents’ garage roof blew out all the highlights and turned everything a sickly yellow, while the default camera app looked approximately like what I saw onscreen when I hit the shutter. Daylight HDR photos usually look overprocessed and unnatural, but every now and again the shadows and highlights aren’t blown out and I get better results than with the iOS camera.

As far as actual editing goes, Lightroom is as good as it ever was, if not a little better, thanks to the device I’m using it on. Aside from the speed improvements I mentioned earlier, editing on the 8 Plus’ bigger screen is a lot more enjoyable than on my 6s. It’s also easier to see fine details and how different adjustments like sharpening or clarity affect them. Holding my phone in landscape makes editing an even more comfortable experience. Editing tools tuck into the right rail and expand when I tap on them, and disappear just as quickly.

I keep mobile photos and shots taken with my Nikon camera siloed off from one another and typically don’t edit iPhone shots anywhere but on my phone. And for that, Lightroom CC is great. It doesn’t quite allow for the more stylized edits I favor for my DSLR stuff, but for throwing a set of pictures to Instagram after an impromptu photo walk through my neighborhood, it does the trick. And if I want to get really crazy once I get back to my laptop, I can always use the Lightroom camera to grab some RAW files. Will the app’s shortcomings, like wonky HDR, stop me from using it? No, because for me it’s still better than Snapseed’s mostly gimmicky editing tools and iOS’ bare-bones options for tweaking.


Rob LeFebvre
Contributing Editor

There are plenty of reasons to use an external keyboard with an iPad, including better accuracy and comfort when typing for extended periods. I have my favorites, of course, like the Logitech K811, which can hold up to three different devices in its memory. However, being able to physically attach one onto an iPad is my own personal holy grail for iOS-capable input devices. The Brydge 10.5 iPad Pro keyboard is what I’ve been looking for — an input device that makes my iPad look like a laptop with a good-looking, protective form factor. It has backlit keys, doubles as a clamshell case for your 10.5-inch iPad Pro and comes in space gray, silver, gold or rose gold to match the finish on your precious iOS device, turning it into a MacBook mini of sorts. The keyboard has the same thickness and rounded design as the iPad Pro 10.5-inch, making it the perfect companion for my tablet of choice. It also works with any other device as a standard Bluetooth keyboard, of course.

The Brydge keyboard has nicely spaced keys, and, while they’re not full-size, they are easy to hit and use, even when touch typing. The keys are responsive, and the F and J keys both have a little raised bump on the lower half so you know where to place your fingers for touch typing — just like a MacBook.

At first, I had a little trouble hitting them with enough force to register a key press, but I was able to train my fingers to do so within just a few minutes. There are three brightness settings (low, medium and high) for the backlit keyboard so you can match the brightness of the keyboard to the ambient light from your iPad and the room. There’s even a small handrest below the keys themselves — not enough room to rest my admittedly large hands in their entirety, but roomy enough to rest part of them during long typing sessions.

Why not just get an Apple-made Smart Keyboard, though, which is thinner and adds less weight to your iPad? Well, aside from the extra $ 20 it costs and the lack of backlit keys, Apple’s own input device is pretty flimsy in comparison. Sure, it’s more spill-resistant than the Brydge, but the Smart Keyboard isn’t really my favorite way to type on an iPad when it’s in my lap; it feels flimsy. The Brydge, however, is made of the same metal construction as the iPad itself. The Brydge’s hinge keeps the iPad at the exact angle I want without flopping around at all. I’m able to use it on my lap when I sit with my legs extended to my coffee table in front of me (my usual posture), as well as in a cross-legged position while sitting on my bed or in a large chair. I can also see it being pretty fantastic for tiny lap trays in the coach section of an airliner, where a larger MacBook might have trouble fitting in (especially if you’re behind one of those travelers who insist on leaning their seat back during the flight).

The Brydge feels so much like typing on my MacBook Pro that I have to keep reminding myself to touch the screen and not search for a touchpad. It’s a solid, useful, stylish peripheral that has boosted my writing productivity on my iPad.

Mat Smith, Engadget


Mat Smith

Mat Smith
Bureau Chief, UK

I like to hop between Android and iOS phones, but one of the minor frustrations I’ve found with Google-powered smartphones is the relative lack of case options. If it’s not an iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy slab, there’s often not much to choose from, or it’s a bunch of unremarkable plastic or rubbery sleeves. I wish I were brave enough to carry my phones around “nude,” without a case, but that’s not going to happen.

Imagine my surprise, then, when Google’s own Pixel 2 family launched with official case options that are actually attractive, eye-catching and well, desirable. When all phones are mostly all the same — slabs of metal and plastic in metallic hues — the case represents one last attempt to deliver some kind of self-expression. I have the completely black Pixel 2, which means that my case, the “midnight” color, is the only way I can get a splash of neon orange on my power button. (The “cement” number also tempted me with its minty blue button.)

The case is downright tactile: the outside is a knitted fabric slightly similar to the Google Home Mini speaker, a nylon-polyester material with a pixelated look (get it?) that stands out. It’s still a solid case, and that does mean it adds a bit of thickness to either the Pixel 2 or the Pixel 2 XL, but neither of these phones was particularly chunky to begin with — it’s not a major complaint, but if you wanted a slender case for your phone that only minutely affects its thickness, this isn’t the one for you. Cleverly, despite its rigidity, these cases are compatible with the squeeze-to-launch Google Assistant motion. I rarely use the function, but I was surprised that something so solid could still deliver my squeezing efforts. That “welded silicone” logo on the rear of the case doesn’t come cheap ($ 40 / £35), but the fabric case is now making my Pixel 2 a conversation point. And it’s a positive one.


“IRL” is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they’re buying, using, playing and streaming.

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Texas authorities serve Apple a warrant for mass shooter’s iPhone

Authorities are persisting in their efforts to get access to the Texas mass shooter’s iPhone despite having missed an early opportunity. The San Antonio Express-News has learned that Texas Rangers served Apple warrants for data on both the perpetrator’s iPhone SE and a basic LG cellphone. In the case of the iPhone, the state law enforcement unit wants access to both local and iCloud info (such as calls, messages and photos) produced since January 1st, 2016.

It’s not known whether officials have obtained information since the warrants were obtained on November 9th. The company declined to comment to the Express-News citing a policy against speaking about law enforcement matters. In a previous statement, though, Apple said it had offered assistance to the FBI “immediately” after a November 7th press conference on the mass shooting, and vowed to “expedite” its response. The FBI didn’t reach out for help.

The Rangers’ warrant puts Apple in a difficult position. Although at least some iCloud data is accessible with a warrant, the iPhone itself is another issue. Police missed their opportunity to use the shooter’s fingerprint to unlock the phone without a passcode, and the nature of iOS’ encryption makes it very difficult for Apple and anyone else to access locked-down data. In the case of the San Bernardino attack, the FBI paid security experts at Cellebrite to get to a shooter’s files. Apple may once again be faced with a situation where it can’t fully comply with data requests.

Via: AppleInsider, TechCrunch

Source: My San Antonio

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Tesla made a phone battery pack that mimics Supercharger monuments

Tesla dropped an electric semi truck and a new Roadster at a recent event, but it apparently launched another product that didn’t get any stage time. The automaker has released, of all things, an external battery pack (the Powerbank) with USB, microUSB and Apple lightning connections that can charge your Android phone or iPhone on the go. Maybe that’s not as strange as it sounds, considering Tesla has a Gigafactory that pumps out batteries, including one for homes called Powerwall. In fact, the Powerbank uses a single 18650 cell with 3,350mAh capacity that’s also found in its Model S and X electric vehicles. (Obviously, though, the cars are powered by more than one cell.)

But you likely wouldn’t buy a $ 45 battery pack with those specs if it weren’t designed by Tesla when there are numerous cheaper alternatives. That’s probably why the company made sure it looks like a Tesla product through and through. It was designed after Tesla Design Studio’s Supercharger monument and wouldn’t look out of place inside one of the EV-maker’s cars. Unfortunately, you can’t get one anymore, no matter how much you’re willing and able to shell out $ 45 for the portable battery: it’s already marked sold out on the company’s website. You’ll just have to cross your fingers and hope Elon Musk and his team decide to produce another batch.

Via: 9to5mac

Source: Tesla

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The best phones under $500

Phone makers are trying to outdo one another by racing to add new, advanced features to their flagships, but these tools are not equally useful. Who really needs Face ID, Animoji or eye-sensing authentication? Some of us just want a good, no-frills phone. Plus, not everyone can or wants to spend almost a thousand dollars on something we’ll trade in after two years. For these people, there’s a range of options from truly basic sub-$ 250 phones to more powerful mid-range devices that can be had for less than $ 500. The latter group is better described as aggressively priced flagships that can serve you almost as well as their costlier counterparts — and there’s now a decent selection to consider.

What to expect

Although they cost hundreds less than their premium counterparts, mid-range phones often feature the same (or comparable) components. The best sub-$ 500 handsets use the latest CPUs and run the newest software, and some even offer amenities like nearly bezel-less displays and facial recognition. Some of these devices even outdo flagships when it comes to things like RAM capacity and software customization options.

What you might miss, however, is cutting-edge features like pressure-sensitive home buttons, depth-sensing infrared cameras and slow-motion video capture at higher rates than others. Those can be nice to have, but you’re unlikely to miss them. All told, you’ll find that these sub-$ 500 phones are almost as capable as a flagship twice the price.

The best phones under $ 500

OnePlus 5T ($ 499)

Chris Velazco/Engadget

After years of honing its line of affordable flagships, OnePlus delivered a truly great phone in the OnePlus 5. And, come November 21st, it’ll be replaced with something better. The just-announced OnePlus 5T sports a bigger 6-inch, nearly bezel-less screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio like those on pricier phones. It also makes use of a surprisingly fast face-recognition unlocking system that could take on Apple’s Face ID. OnePlus also improved the dual-camera system that we already liked on the 5, while continuing to use the premium Snapdragon 835 chipset found in most contemporary flagships. Oh, and you’ll still find a headphone jack here, which should please those of you who are resistant to change.

Chris / Velazco

Moto Z2 Play ($ 499)

Motorola continues to excel at making budget-friendly phones — so much so that it won two spots on this list. The Z2 Play is the slightly more advanced of the pair, with its razor-thin design and compatibility with Motorola’s “Moto Mods” line of bolt-on accessories. You can snap these accessories onto the Z2 Play to add a JBL speaker, a projector or an Amazon Alexa speaker, giving the phone more functionality. On its own, the phone offers decent performance, thanks to its octa-core Snapdragon 626 chipset, while its 12-megapixel rear camera makes use of dual-pixel focus technology that results in fast speeds. As with other Motorola phones, the Z2 Play comes with the company’s useful software additions, including Moto Display, which allows you to check notifications without waking your phone. Motorola also coated the device with a water-repellent material to help keep it safe in wet conditions. The Z2 Play doesn’t offer the same epic battery life as its predecessor, the original Z Play, but it’s good enough to get you through the day.

Chris Velazco / Engadget

Essential PH-1 ($ 450)

You may not have heard of Essential, but the new company from the creator of Android drew plenty of attention within the tech world. Its debut product, the Essential PH-1, was designed to be a top-of-the-line device without “unnecessary features.” The phone crams flagship-level components like a Snapdragon 835 chipset, 128GB of storage and a quad HD display into a dense, sturdy body. The PH-1 is also the first handset to sport a notch where its camera juts into its all-screen front (sorry, Apple), which should give you some bragging rights if that stuff matters to you. Its dual 13-megapixel cameras work well in optimal light but are merely serviceable in dark situations, so if you intend to take a lot of pictures at night, you should look elsewhere. Those who want to keep using their wired headphones should keep looking too, since the PH-1 doesn’t have an audio jack. Although some glitches kept the PH-1 from living up to the hype surrounding its launch (and triggered a price cut from $ 699 to $ 450), it’s still a compelling phone — you’ll be getting what’s essentially a $ 700 flagship at practically half the price.

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Moto X4 ($ 400)

The Moto X4 trades in Mod compatibility for dual cameras, landmark recognition and built-in Alexa. Amazon’s assistant not only identifies you by voice but also answers your questions without waking the phone (so long as it’s you asking, not someone else). The X4’s 12-megapixel camera is capable, considering the price, and its landmark-detection feature provides potentially helpful information about historic buildings that it sees through the lens. The phone also meets IP68 standards for water resistance, meaning it can survive a dip for up to 30 minutes. Its Snapdragon 630 processor and 5.2-inch full HD display are also adequate for the money. My favorite thing about the X4, though, is its shiny, eye-catching design, which makes it look and feel more expensive than it is.

Will Lipman / Engadget

iPhone SE ($ 349)

Sure, the iPhone SE is due for an update, but as the only sub-$ 500 iPhone available, it’s the best choice for Apple fans on a budget. If you can overlook its dated design, the iPhone SE is a capable phone that performs well despite (or thanks to) its now two-year-old A9 processor. Its compact 4-inch size also makes it a strong option for those who prefer something smaller. Plus, Apple recently doubled the iPhone SE’s storage, which is another bonus. You’ll also like the 12-megapixel rear camera, which delivers accurate colors and crisp details, but its 1.2-MP front-facer will disappoint selfie lovers.

Honorable mention

ASUS ZenFone 4 ($ 349)

Also worth a look is the ASUS ZenFone 4, which stands out for its 12-megapixel dual cameras, which can save pictures as RAW files. It also features a dual-pixel sensor for faster autofocus, along with optical image stabilization and Portrait mode for artificial bokeh. The secondary sensor on its back side uses a wide-angle lens in the same vein as the LG G6, allowing you to capture landscapes and skylines more easily. The rest of the phone’s specs are typical for the price: a Snapdragon 630 processor with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Its 5.5-inch full HD IPS display can get pretty bright too, with a max setting of 600 nits. Some people might not like ASUS’s ZenUI skin, which runs on top of Android 7 Nougat, but camera aficionados who can put up with a slightly different (and cartoonish) UI might find the ZenFone 4 compelling.

HTC U11 Life ($ 349)

I sincerely hope “squeezable” sides won’t spread to smartphones other than the HTC U11 and the Google Pixel 2, but I have to admit they can be helpful at times. On the HTC U11 Life, pressure-sensitive edges detect when you’re squeezing the phone, and launch your designated apps. You can also set this to perform specific actions within some apps, like zooming out in Google Maps, which is more useful than the Pixel’s implementation. In addition to this novelty feature, the U11 Life packs a Snapdragon 630 chipset, a 5.2-inch full HD screen and built-in Alexa support. Each U11 Life also comes with a pair of HTC’s uSonic earbuds, which tunes audio based on the shape of your ear, making it an even better deal overall. But the reason for these is the missing audio jack on the U11 Life, so be aware that you won’t be able to plug in wired earbuds before you decide.

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The best Bluetooth audio receiver for your home stereo or speakers

By R. Matthew Ward

This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter, reviews for the real world. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After doing 13 hours of research and considering 76 models, we performed dozens of hours of real-world testing and 13 additional hours of focused, in-depth testing on the top 14 Bluetooth-audio receivers for adding wireless connectivity to an existing audio system. We think the StarTech BT2A Bluetooth Audio Receiver is the best receiver for most people thanks to its combination of connectivity, range, audio quality, and usability at a reasonable price.

Who should buy this?

Photo: Michael Hession

Whether it’s because your new smartphone has no headphone jack, or you aren’t ready to give up your old stereo in favor of a great Bluetooth speaker, a Bluetooth audio receiver can add wireless streaming capabilities to your existing home stereo or speakers with little loss in sound quality.

How we picked and tested

Photo: Michael Hession

The ideal Bluetooth receiver should sound as good as a direct, wired connection. It should pair with your devices easily and reliably, and should have a large-enough range to cover a typical living area. We also like when a Bluetooth receiver has a digital audio output, which allows you to use an optional, separate DAC (digital-to-analog converter) for better sound quality.

We considered 76 top Bluetooth receivers, and ultimately tested 14 models. For our tests, we paired each one first to a MacBook and an iPhone to see how easy it was to pair source devices to the receiver. We also tested how reliably the receiver connected and disconnected once paired, how well it reconnected following a disconnection, and how easy it was to switch to a different source. For devices that could pair with multiple devices simultaneously, we used up to six devices to test this feature.

To evaluate audio quality, we first used each device to listen to background music, then compared them head-to-head using our favorite test tracks. We also assessed the range of each receiver by measuring the distance at which music started skipping with both an unobstructed and obstructed line of sight. To read about our testing process in more detail, please see our full guide.

Our pick

The StarTech BT2A (right) and the nearly identical Monoprice Bluetooth Streaming Music Receiver (left) offer good sound, reliable connectivity, and good range at a reasonable price. Photo: Michael Hession

The StarTech BT2A Bluetooth Audio Receiver is our top pick for most people thanks to its combination of good sound quality, range, usability, connectivity, and price. In our tests, it reliably paired to new devices and reconnected to old devices, and it could remember up to eight paired devices. It comes from a reputable vendor, has a two-year warranty, and is reasonably priced.

In terms of audio quality, the BT2A—along with our runner-up, below—provided the best sound quality of the models we tested in this price range. Overall, these two models offered better dynamic range and crisper high-frequency and midrange detail compared with similarly priced models, along with minimal high-frequency distortion and a tight low end. The BT2A also features an optical digital-audio output, allowing you to upgrade audio quality by using an external DAC.

Runner-up

While running our tests, we noticed that Monoprice’s Bluetooth Streaming Music Receiver appears to be functionally identical to the StarTech BT2A. When we opened both models, we found that they use the same circuit board and the same DAC, and they performed essentially identically in our testing. We made the StarTech receiver our top pick because it’s covered by a two-year warranty, versus only one year for the Monoprice receiver, but the Monoprice is also a safe buy.

An upgrade for better sound and better range

The Audioengine B1, our upgrade pick, offers substantially better audio quality than the StarTech receiver, as well as outstanding wireless range. Photo: Michael Hession

If you have nice speakers or a higher-end audio system—such as our picks for best receiver and bookshelf speakers—and you want a Bluetooth connection that can do them justice, the Audioengine B1 Bluetooth Music Receiver is a great upgrade choice.

The B1 is based on the same circuitry as Audioengine’s well-regarded D1 DAC, and the unit’s audio quality reflects this: It offers better sound, by a good margin, than the less expensive Bluetooth receivers we tested. Music is lively and involving, with crisp, clear highs; detailed midrange; and tight, clean bass. The Audioengine B1 also includes optical-digital output if you want to hook it up to an even better DAC in the future.

The B1 is also the only model we tested that includes an external antenna. According to Audioengine, the antenna extends the B1’s range to 100 feet, three times what most other receivers claim. In our tests, the B1 never skipped, even when at maximum range.

A pick for older speaker docks

Among the receivers designed to add Bluetooth to a 30-pin speaker dock, the Samson 30-Pin Bluetooth Receiver BT30 had the best range and audio quality, as well as the most reliable pairing and connection. Photo: R. Matthew Ward

Before Bluetooth speakers became ubiquitous, many people bought speaker docks—compact speaker systems with a docking cradle for a smartphone or MP3 player. The vast majority of these used Apple’s older 30-pin dock connector, which has since been replaced by the Lightning connector. If you have one of these 30-pin docks, you can use Samson’s 30-Pin Bluetooth Receiver BT30 to wirelessly stream music to it.

The BT30’s sound quality isn’t fantastic, but it is better than any of the other dock-connector models we tested. Its range is also superior to that of the other models we tested, and pairing and connecting Bluetooth devices is hassle-free.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

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Apple pushes iOS fix for unresponsive iPhone X screens in cold weather

Last week, reports trickled in that the brand-new iPhone X’s screen was unresponsive in cold weather. Apple has rushed out a new iOS update (version 11.1.2) to quick-fix the issue, which is available now to download.

The new update also fixes an issue that distorts Live Photos and videos shot with the iPhone X. It’s the second time in as many weeks that Apple has pumped out an iOS patch to fix an annoying flaw in the mobile operating system. Last week, it was the autocorrect flaw that switched the letter ‘i’ for gibberish.

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Appleā€™s 2019 iPhone could have a rear-facing 3D sensor

Apple has made no secret of its interest in augmented reality (AR) — in interviews CEO Tim Cook gives it as much attention as sales growth. Now, it’s rumoured that the company’s 2019 iPhone release will come with a rear-facing 3D sensor, potentially turning the model into a leading AR device.

People familiar with the plan have revealed that the sensor would complement, not replace, the existing TrueDepth sensor on the front of the iPhone X, Bloomberg reports. The current technology, which supports Apple’s Face ID, works by projecting a pattern of 30,000 laser dots onto the user’s face, measuring distortion to generate a 3D image for authentication. The proposed sensor would use a “time-of-flight” method instead, calculating the time it takes for a laser to hit surrounding objects, creating a 3D image from that.

Apple released ARKit this year, a software tool that helps developers make AR-based apps for iPhone. It’s proven successful with basic AR tasks, but struggles with more complex visuals and lacks depth perception. It’s thought a rear-facing 3D sensor would help mitigate these issues. However, sources say that the tech is still in its infancy, and might not be used in the final version of the phone. But there’s certainly no shortage of companies manufacturing time-of-flight sensors, so if it doesn’t make it into the 2019 model, it’s likely that it — or some kind of incarnation of the technology — will follow soon after.

Source: Bloomberg

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