The Honor 8 Pro is Huawei’s best flagship yet

There’s Huawei, and then there’s Honor. While both are technically the same company, the Honor brand takes some of the best bits of Huawei’s smartphones and packages them up in new devices that don’t take as much of a bite out of your bank account. That’s been the general distinction between the two, anyway, but the line has become blurrier as Honor has begun breaching the mid-range with smartphones like the Honor 8. And now, it’s been all but scrubbed out with the announcement of the £475 (nearly $ 593) Honor 8 Pro today, which is every bit a new Huawei flagship.

Let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Tucked away inside the Honor 8 Pro is Huawei’s best homegrown chip: the Kirin 960 with four 2.4GHz cores and four 1.8GHz cores. With 6GB of RAM and 64 gigs of expandable storage backing that up, it’s a beast by any account. It’s also running the latest version of Huawei’s EMUI (5.1), which is built on top of Android 7.0 Nougat. Among the improvements are a better blue light filter and new camera feature co-developed with GoPro called Highlights, which automatically creates video stories from what’s available in the gallery (much like HTC’s old Zoe highlights feature, then).

Like some other Huawei devices, the Honor 8 Pro uses machine learning to optimize performance, predicting your daily Facebook check so the app loads faster than it would do otherwise. Algorithms also promise to delay the inevitable slowdown of the device as file fragmentation and other forms of wear and tear take their toll. Apparently, you can expect the device to still function at 80 percent efficiency after 500 days of use.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This won’t become apparent for some time, of course, but what’s immediately obvious is just how gorgeous the Honor 8 Pro is. Whereas the Honor 8 was clad almost entirely in glass, the Pro is mostly metal (barring the Gorilla Glass 3 covering the display) The navy blue model I’ve been playing around with catches the light in all kinds of visually appealing ways — this will be the only color available at launch, but black, gold and potentially more hues are in the pipeline. It looks and feels like a seriously premium device, and there are soft curves in all right places. With antenna bands running horizontally close to the top and bottom ends of the handset, there’s no denying the Honor 8 Pro gives off strong iPhone vibes.

The only downside to this beautiful body is that it’s a bit on the big side, though it’s still nice and thin at 6.97mm deep. This does mean, however, there’s enough space for a 4,000mAh battery with fast-charging support that’ll apparently keep the thing going for two days of regular use. More importantly, though, there’s room for a vibrant, stunning 5.7-inch Quad HD (2,560 x 1,400) display. To showcase this striking screen, the Honor 8 Pro comes with the Jaunt VR app preinstalled, and the device’s box actually converts into a cardboard VR viewer. It’s not particularly comfortable, but it’s a nice touch to include this accessory as standard, and in a clever way.

I kinda feel like Huawei’s shot itself in the foot with the Honor 8 Pro. All things considered, I don’t know why you’d buy the new Huawei P10 flagship over the Honor 8 Pro, especially as the former has a few inferior specs and is significantly more expensive at £549. The P10 does have the Honor 8 Pro beat in the camera department, though, at least on paper. Still, you’re getting an excellent dual 12-megapixel camera setup (f/2.2 on both) on the new Honor device that takes some delightful shots, as well as an 8MP shooter up front for selfies. In wide aperture mode, you can play around with focal point and background blur, which is always fun, and as one of the two sensors is monochrome, you can snap native black-and-white pictures. Low-light performance is also very impressive as far as my brief experience with Honor 8 Pro has shown.

The Honor 8 Pro is available to pre-order in the UK today from Huawei’s vmall store for the introductory price, including various accessories, of £474. The official launch is set for April 20th, at which point it’ll also hit Amazon. There’s no word on US pricing or availability yet, but I’m fairly sure we’ll hear more about that in due course as Honor continues to push its brand in the region. And what better phone to do that with than the gorgeous Honor 8 Pro?

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The best hair dryer

By Shannon Palus

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After more than 20 hours of research and interviews, more than five hours of putting seven dryers to speed, heat, and time tests, and a holiday season’s worth of hair styling, we worked our way through all the marketing claims to find out that no hair dryer is going to make your hair look better or dry faster than the leading competition. The Xtava Peony tied for second-lightest of all the dryers we tested, has a curved handle and a long cord, and will make your hair look just as good as a dryer that costs 10 times the price. We’ve now used our top two picks for a year, and even after pitting them against a $ 400 luxury dryer, we still like them just as much.

Who should get this

If you have a hair dryer that’s 1,800 or more watts, not too heavy, and in possession of a long-enough cord, and—if you prefer a curly or wavy hairstyle—a diffuser attachment, you can stick with what you have now.

However, if you have a cheaper hair dryer that tires your wrists or is slowing down in its old age and you blow-dry your hair frequently, you might consider switching to our pick before your current one bites the dust. A good hair dryer isn’t just competent at getting the water off your hair: It’s light enough for you to hold above your head for several minutes, the buttons are easy to push without getting in your way, the handle fits easily in your hand, and the plastic’s finish feels nice.

How we picked and tested

An armful of the dryers we considered. Photo: Michael Hession

Most of the buzzwords and specs on hair dryer boxes are useless at best and pseudoscience at worst. No clinical studies say one type of hair dryer is better for your hair than another—at least, none that we, nor the dermatologists that we interviewed, could find. After speaking to experts, I looked for hair dryers that were hot and fast. A few qualities that don’t have anything to do with speed or heat helped us narrow down what to test: multiple heat settings, a cool-shot button, a nozzle that’s compatible with attachments, and an intake filter that’s removable so that you can clean out debris. I also considered cord length, diffuser attachments, and how a dryer felt to hold. See more about hair dryer claims and the features that matter in our full guide.

To test, I looked at the basic stats of seven hair dryers (plus the Dyson Supersonic, a luxury dryer released after the initial round of testing), using a weather meter to test speed and heat, an iPhone app to test volume in decibels, and a postage scale to weigh them.

Next, I timed them drying a swatch of hair wetted with five grams of water with the dryers on their highest setting. With a few dryers eliminated, I put my four favorites to a few more time tests with the hair swatch and took them home for a couple weeks to use daily. I found few differences in drying time, but I did learn that a number of other features, like button placement and size, cord length, and weight are rarely discussed but are very important to the overall experience of using a hair dryer.

Our pick

The Xtava Peony, our top pick. Photo: Michael Hession

This dryer is as inexpensive as a dryer you’d find at a drugstore, but it will dry your hair just as well as a luxury device. It’s lighter than most we tested, smaller, and by far the easiest one to hold, and has a nicely curved handle. The buttons on this one are all located in a logical position. (Sounds like a small thing, but we disqualified one dryer from our favorites for having buttons that would poke your hand.)

Most important, it gets the job done just as quickly as every other dryer we tested: The Xtava Peony took about the same amount of time to blow-dry a hair swatch in testing trials as the rest, and the same amount of time to blow-dry my head of hair during my morning routine, as nearly every other dryer I tested. It made my hair look just as nice as the $ 300 dryer I tested did.

This dryer’s housing is shiny and sleek. Sure, that’s superficial, but the way the housing looks was the only difference that I noticed between the drugstore dryers and the stuff on sale at Sephora. With its sleek design, this one won’t look cheap sitting in a fancy bathroom.

Runner-up

Our runner-up pick, the Rusk CTC Lite. The cool-shot button is the wide blue one near the top of the handle. Photo: Michael Hession

The Rusk CTC Lite is lighter than almost all dryers we looked at. The buttons were all nicely placed—easy to push but hard to push accidentally—and the cord is long enough (8 feet, 7 inches) to reach distant outlets. The housing is nice: It’s glossy, the logo is understated, and the nozzle is on the shorter side. The sound of the air is smooth. It comes with both a concentrator and a diffuser.

At 0.95 pounds, the Rusk CTC Lite is very, very light. Of the seven dryers we tested, it was second lightest by only 0.04 pounds. Like the Xtava, the buttons are easy to reach. Unlike other dryers, the cool-shot button is wide, so holding it down for several seconds won’t be uncomfortable.

The CTC Lite was originally our top pick, until it doubled in price, making it more expensive than the Xtava. We like the sleek black design and lighter weight a little better than the Xtava’s—but because they do the same thing for your hair, we don’t feel the CTC Lite is worth the extra cost for most people.

Budget pick

The Conair Comfort Touch Tourmaline Ceramic dryer, our budget pick. Photo: Michael Hession

Our pick is already on the inexpensive side for a dryer, but another one we liked is about the same price and includes a diffuser. If you don’t dry your hair often or our top pick is sold out and you want a dryer that comes with a diffuser and you have an outlet near your mirror, the Conair Comfort Touch dryer will do a good job and doesn’t have any hugely annoying design features. What makes this dryer less desirable than our other picks is the clunky and cheap casing: it has a thicker handle and a shorter cord that make it harder to maneuver.

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

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

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The best bluetooth headsets

By Marianne Schultz and Nick Guy

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

If you’re hopping on and off the phone throughout the day, or if you’re typically talking on the phone while driving (despite the safety concerns), the Plantronics Voyager Edge is the best Bluetooth headset for most people. After putting in 50-plus hours of research and testing more than 15 models over the past three years—including 12 hours of testing and three new models for the latest update—the Voyager Edge continues to lead the pack with its combination of stellar sound quality, long battery life, excellent Bluetooth range, and comfortable fit.

Who needs this

If you don’t do much talking on your mobile phone, but you prefer to talk hands-free, you’re probably fine using the earbuds that came with it. But a good mono (one-ear) Bluetooth headset is a great accessory if you speak on the phone frequently and want the convenience of having your hands free—you don’t want to stay tethered to your handset by a wire, or to have to hold the phone with your shoulder while you talk, which is terrible for your neck and back. A headset is also appealing if you need to be sure that your voice sounds clear to the person on the other end, even when you’re talking in an environment with a lot of wind or other background noise.

If you have a new iPhone 7, which lacks a headphone jack and has only a single Lightning-connector port for headphones or charging, a Bluetooth headset lets you charge your iPhone while you take calls hands-free.

How we picked and tested

Three headsets we tested for the 2016 update to this guide, from left: Jabra Steel, Plantronics Voyager 5200, and Plantronics Voyager Edge. Photo: Marianne Schultz

For our 2016 update, we looked for any newcomers to the market since the previous iteration of this guide. Consulting reviews on sites such as PCMag and ComputerWorld, and user reviews on Amazon, we narrowed the options down to two new models from major manufacturers that seemed worthy of hands-on testing.

You shouldn’t expect exceptionally long battery life, but you at least want your headset to last through a workday. We consider five hours of actual talk time to be the minimum. Some headsets, including our top pick, come with a charging case—a battery-equipped storage case that charges the headset when you put it inside—to extend battery life significantly, but the headset itself should still be able to last a good while alone.

In terms of functional design, you want a headset that charges via Micro-USB rather than with a proprietary cord or charger. You probably already have at least one or two other gadgets that use Micro-USB cables, so it’s nice to be able to use the same cable and charger for everything.

We tested for battery life, comfort, sound quality, and Bluetooth range. We also looked for headsets with excellent controls that allow you to answer calls and adjust the volume easily and intuitively. We gave bonus points to models that allow you to perform some of these functions hands-free, using just your voice. For more on our testing procedures, see our full guide.

Our pick

The Voyager Edge sits comfortably in your ear. Photo: Marianne Schultz

The Plantronics Voyager Edge remains our pick for most people because it’s a solid all-around performer. As in the past two years, it came out on top in our latest batch of audio-quality and comfort tests. In terms of battery life, it came in second out of the three headsets we tested this year, with a talk time of 6 hours; however, its included charging case gives it a total of 16 hours of talk time, the longest of the bunch. The Plantronics Voyager 5200 bested the Edge in Bluetooth range, but the Edge’s range is more than sufficient for most people. The Edge also has simple pairing, easy-to-use controls, and a smartphone companion app that makes it easy to adjust the headset’s settings.

The Voyager Edge supports Bluetooth 4.0, plus NFC pairing with compatible smartphones. We found pairing with an Apple iPhone 7 Plus to be quick and easy, and using the headset is just as simple. In addition to voice control, the Voyager Edge has sensors to determine whether you’re wearing it. The headset has physical buttons for on-off, volume level, call answer, and voice command, each of which are easy to find and press.

Call quality is the most important aspect of any Bluetooth headset, and the Voyager Edge excels here. In our tests of call audio quality, it was edged out slightly by the more-expensive Voyager 5200 in a quiet office environment, but performed better than the 5200 in a busy coffee shop and a windy car—the Edge was a solid, all-around performer, particularly given its compact size. The Voyager Edge is usually around $ 30 cheaper than the Voyager 5200, so the minor differences we heard in audio quality makes the Edge a better overall value.

Runner-up

The Voyager 5200 fits over the ear for a more secure fit, but it’s more of a hassle to put on. Photo: Marianne Schultz

The Voyager 5200 is a beefier headset with more features. It has an additional microphone for noise-cancelling (for a total of four, compared with three on the Voyager Edge), and its Bluetooth range is the most impressive of the bunch. Plantronics says the 5200 can reach 98 feet without audio dropping out; in our tests we noticed dropouts in voice calls at just over 70 feet, but streamed music didn’t get choppy until around 150 feet.

A budget alternative

Photo: Marshall Troy

The Plantronics Explorer 500 is a good choice for people who don’t want to spend a ton and are willing to give up some audio quality. The Explorer 500 is smaller than the Voyager Edge, but its battery lasts about an hour longer. It also has great Bluetooth range: In our tests, audio didn’t drop out until around 54 feet for voice and 95 feet for music. In our quiet-office and coffee-shop tests, however, our listening panel didn’t love the audio the 500 transmitted. One panelist in an earlier test described voice as sounding “blobby” in the office, and in another test the Explorer picked up more background noise than other units did. In the coffee-shop test, it lost some audio whenever plates clinked in the background.

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

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

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The best stylus for your iPad or other touchscreen device

By Serenity Caldwell

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After testing 18 styluses in five categories for over 20 hours to find the best touchscreen stylus for sketching, writing, and navigation, we think the Adonit Mark is the one most people should buy, thanks to its unmatched combination of accuracy, comfort, and price.

Who this is for

A stylus makes it easier to draw, sketch, doodle, write notes, and use devices in cold weather, and they help people with accessibility issues that might make touchscreen navigation difficult.

If you use an iPad or other tablet largely for browsing the Web, watching video, or playing games, you’re likely better off manipulating the screen with your finger. But even if you’re just a casual iPad or iPhone user, a simple stylus might be in the cards for you this year: With new drawing-focused messaging features in iOS 10, and with most social applications incorporating some form of doodling, it’s becoming more and more useful to be able to draw coherently on glass.

How we picked and tested

The finalists, from left to right: Apple Pencil, Adonit Pixel, Lynktec Apex Fusion, Adonit Mark, Studio Neat Cosmonaut, Adonit Mini. Photo: Serenity Caldwell

Professional digital artists and avid note-takers have different needs than the average iPad user, so we picked and tested a few different styluses with those groups of people in mind, as well as a model for children and people with accessibility issues.

We picked three to five top styluses from each of the five stylus categories described in our full guide (rubber nib, mesh nib, “other” nib, active (powered) fine-tip nib, Bluetooth-powered nib) based on popularity, outside recommendations, our own stylus experience, and comparison testing.

We put the initial group of 18 models (including the Apple Pencil) through three rounds of tests on the three most recent iPad models: an iPad Air 2, a 9.7-inch iPad Pro, and a 12.9-inch iPad Pro. As for the apps, we used Apple’s Notes, which provides a good baseline for drawing features without too much overprocessing, along with the Paper app for precision and balance tests.

We designed our initial tests to evaluate the four most important characteristics of a great stylus: comfort, resistance, balance, and precision. For more on our testing procedures, see our full guide.

Based on our tests, we chose six semifinalists to test with our illustration and cartooning experts. Both artists experimented with the tools while engaged in their regular workflows.

Our pick

Photo: Serenity Caldwell

The best stylus for most people and most uses is the Adonit Mark. It feels like a high-quality pen in your hand, with an anodized finish you can’t help but want to touch. Its weight is evenly distributed across its body, allowing you to hold it close to the nib or near the other end and still have control. The Mark’s mesh nib is thicker, more durable, and smoother to write with than the competitions’. And perhaps best of all, this model is one of the most affordable styluses out there.

Don’t get us wrong: The Mark doesn’t beat the Apple Pencil—no stylus we tested does. But if you don’t have the money for a $ 100 stylus or you don’t have an iPad Pro, the Mark is the next best thing. Although we do have some long-term testing concerns about the durability of the mesh nib based on past experiences, the Mark’s nib is replaceable, and though Adonit doesn’t currently sell replacement Mark nibs, the company says you can request them through customer service.

The balance of this stylus is impeccable, and it feels great for writing and drawing whether you like to grip it at the nib, middle, or end. The Mark’s matte-black (or silver) anodized-aluminum finish provides a satisfying grip, and the coating is enjoyable to touch. The Mark really proved itself during our speed and precision tests. While writing or tracing, you can hold the Mark in just about any position and still get good grip and control—and you can easily avoid accidentally rubbing your palm against the screen.

The Adonit Mark feels great in the hand, and it writes and draws well. Photo: Serenity Caldwell


Runner-up: For kids and accessibility

If the Adonit Mark is sold out or you don’t enjoy mesh-nib styluses, you can’t go wrong with the Studio Neat Cosmonaut. Photo: Serenity Caldwell

The Studio Neat Cosmonaut looks very different from most of the contenders in the stylus field—both its body and its nib are larger than those of every other modern stylus option we’ve seen. But this bigger size makes it a perfect choice for kids and people who have trouble gripping smaller pens.

The Cosmonaut’s rubber-coated aluminum body is sturdy and balanced; it feels great in the hand of a child, adult, or senior. It’s a big tool, and though its balance and resistance allow you to do excellent line work, you have to trust in the Cosmonaut’s nib precision—the stylus’s chunky body often blocks your view of the area you’re working on. For zoomed-in illustrations, loose sketching, or big writing, however, the Cosmonaut is a delight to work with. The Cosmonaut can get heavy during lengthy drawing sessions, and at around $ 25 at the time of this writing, it’s more expensive than the Mark. But if you want a solid stylus with a unique profile and excellent durability, you can’t go wrong with it.

For iPad Pro users: Apple Pencil

Photo: Serenity Caldwell

If you’re a professional illustrator, calligrapher, or artist, or if you need impeccable handwriting and annotation on glass, you need the Apple Pencil. If you’re an intermediate artist taking the next step, you need the Apple Pencil. And if you like using a stylus to navigate your tablet, you’ll love the Apple Pencil. The big caveat is that the Pencil currently works only with the iPad Pro models. But because Apple makes the Pencil, as well as the iPad, iOS, and software kits for developers, the Pencil can take advantage of special features (such as side-touch shading, thanks to data gathered from the Pencil’s tilt) that styluses from other makers simply cannot.

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

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The best lenses for iPhone photography

By Erin Lodi

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After more than 16 hours of research during which we considered 70 lens attachments and tested 15 models (with hands-on shooting that included a hiking trip through the Cascade Mountains and sightseeing on a Grand Canyon road trip), we found that Moment’s Tele and Wide mobile-photography lenses are the best for avid smartphone photographers. They offer image quality as good as that of anything we tested, along with a straightforward attachment system that doesn’t lock you into using a case you don’t like (unlike most of the competition).

Who should get this

By adding extra optics directly on top of your phone’s existing camera, lens attachments allow you to appear either closer to your subject or farther away from it without reducing resolution. This mimics the effect you’d get from switching lenses on a DSLR or mirrorless camera. But because you’re putting additional lenses in front of an existing lens, many lens attachments produce photos with noticeable blurriness and color distortion around the edges of the frame. So you still have plenty of good reasons to go with an actual DSLR or mirrorless camera, especially if you plan on printing your photos. But smartphone lens kits are fun to play around with for photographers of all skill levels, and the best among them can produce surprisingly sharp images.

How we picked and tested

We considered a wide swath of iPhone lens accessories. In a clockwise spiral from top left: CamKix, iPro, Manfrotto, Moment, Ztylus, ExoLens, AGPtek, Olloclip, and Photojojo lenses. Photo: Erin Lodi

We looked for a mobile-photography lens that would fit the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 7, and iPhone 7 Plus—though not every lens will work with the latter, and we’re keeping our eyes open as more become available that will.

Above all, we wanted a portable, affordable, easy-to-use lens attachment to help produce amazing photos. We focused on finding a good wide-angle option and a good telephoto option, as those are the most commonly available choices and often the most practical applications of iPhone lenses. For more details on how we picked and tested, and a note on lenses for the iPhone 7, see our full guide.

We took each lens out for some real-world testing around Seattle. Photo: Erin Lodi

For this guide, we read up on every recommended smartphone lens attachment we could find on the Internet, including considering what highly respected review sites such as The Phoblographer, CNET, Fstoppers, Cult of Mac, and Macworld had to say. We also asked friends of various levels of smartphone-photography prowess what they would want out of such an attachment.

Since 2015, we’ve conducted hands-on testing with 15 iPhone lens models. We toted these lenses around Seattle, testing them in some everyday shooting situations. We filled our backpack with them and put them to work while hiking in the Cascade Mountains. And we brought them along on an epic summer road trip to see the Grand Canyon.

Our pick

Moment’s .63x-magnification wide lens (18mm equivalent) and a 2x telephoto lens (60mm equivalent). Photo: Erin Lodi

Moment’s Tele and Wide lenses stood above the competition thanks to their impressive image quality, their simple attachment method (which works with many third-party iPhone cases), and their ease of use and portability. We tested both the .63x-magnification wide-angle lens (about 1.5 times as wide as the standard iPhone lens, an 18mm equivalent) and the 2x telephoto lens (60mm equivalent). If you have an iPhone 7 Plus, you won’t need the tele option, because your phone already has a similar built-in lens, but the Wide is still a great option.

A bayonet-style mount on a metal plate that adheres to your phone allows you to attach your Moment lenses with just a quick turn. Photo: Erin Lodi

In our tests, images came out crisp and clear, with very little distortion and no vignetting. We noted only minimal chromatic aberration (a common problem with cheaply made lenses in which colors fringe and blur, especially at high-contrast edges).

The Moment 0.63x lens is about half again as wide as an iPhone’s standard lens. Photo: Erin Lodi

Moment lenses attach to your phone via a stainless steel mounting plate that sticks to the back of your iPhone using a strong but not permanent 3M adhesive. A bayonet mounting system on the plate lets you twist the lens on. The mounting ring is small enough that you can use it through the camera opening on many slim phone cases, including our pick for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the Incipio NGP, which means your favorite method of iPhone protection should work with Moment lenses. If you’re careful, the lens attachment will remain mounted until you unscrew it. But we recommend removing the lens from the mount before stowing your handset in a bag or backpack to avoid having it dislodge, and to prevent any uncovered lens surfaces from attracting dust or smudges.

Budget pick

The Aukey lens-and-case set offers great quality for its current price of $ 15, but it doesn’t hold up next to our main pick. Photo: Erin Lodi

If you’re not willing to spend almost $ 100 on a smartphone accessory, or if you just don’t think you’d use a high-quality lens attachment often enough to justify such a cost, the Aukey PL-WD03 110° Wide Angle Lens & Case Set is a bargain entry-level lens-and-case combo for the iPhone 6/6s and iPhone 6/6s Plus. (The company has no plans for an iPhone 7 case, but this model does come with a clip mount that isn’t as secure but works on any phone.) The set’s slim black case snaps over your phone and allows you to screw on a lens attachment. The image quality was noticeably worse when we compared it closely with that of the Moment lenses, but compared with other low-cost lenses we tested, the Aukey delivered better-quality images with less distortion or vignetting.

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

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The 12 best tech gifts for fashionistas

Buying clothes and other apparel as gifts is always something of a risky proposition — and that’s doubly true if the person you’re shopping for prides herself on having good taste. Indeed, you might want to skip clothing altogether and focus on services your intended can use to do what they do best: be fabulous.

You might consider a gift card to Stitch Fix, where your friend will get a box of five items personalized to their tastes, with an option to return whatever they don’t like. Alternatively, there’s the Glam app for on-demand blowouts, manicures and makeup appointments, while Decorist offers online interior design consultations. If you’d still prefer to buy a physical gift, might we suggest headphones that look like a necklace, this sturdy-yet-stylish iPhone case or a fitness tracker that could pass for jewelry.

For our full list of recommendations in all categories, don’t forget to stop by our main Holiday Gift Guide hub.

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The best smart leak detector

By Rachel Cericola

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

After spending over 10 hours pouring water, mopping it up, and changing wet socks to test the performance of seven DIY leak detectors, we’ve decided that the D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor is the best smart water sensor currently available. It’s one of the few options that doesn’t need a smart-home hub, making it a more affordable solution than the competition because it can work with your existing Wi-Fi network. It can—like the rest of the units we tested—deliver alerts whenever water is present, but it also throws in a few perks that aren’t available on any other smart water sensor at this price.

Who should get this

Water sensors are small devices that can alert you whenever water is present around the refrigerator, the washing machine, sinks, and toilets—even in the basement. If you’ve got a leaky basement or appliances of a certain age, a smart water sensor makes for a strategic addition to your home.

Some smart water sensors work alone via Wi-Fi, and others connect to a smart-home hub; when wetness occurs, both can send a message to your phone so you can respond with a towel or a plumber. The units we’re talking about here can’t actually shut off the water; they simply alert you to the danger so you can respond quickly.

Though you can get a leak sensor that will set off an eardrum-piercing tone for as little as $ 10, if you want to get alerts and remote access, be prepared to pay a bit more: Our recommendations hover around the $ 60 mark.

How we picked

We tested a variety of smart water sensors, including Wi-Fi models and those that work with Z-Wave smart-home hubs. Photo: Rachel Cericola

We compiled a list of smart water sensors by doing a Google search for reviews and roundups; once we had a list, we looked for feedback on Amazon and Google. Although we found a million different leak sensors, when you factor in the smart aspects, the list of what’s out there is much smaller. We narrowed that list further using features, availability, and price. The average cost for a smart water sensor that fit our criteria is about $ 60; you really shouldn’t pay more than that. That narrowed our list down to seven products to submit to our water-torture tests—each product is easy to set up, works with an app, and can be used almost anywhere you expect water to make an appearance.

How we tested

We used a spray bottle to determine how little water would trigger an alert. Photo: Rachel Cericola

For each of our tests, we used apps on an iPhone 5, an iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy S6. Most of the devices used either the SmartThings or Wink hub, so we used the applicable app; when the device connected via Wi-Fi, we used that device’s specific app.

When dousing each smart water sensor, we used four different amounts of water to see if it would react and how quickly. We used measuring cups to douse each sensor with one-quarter cup of water, as well as a full cup. We also measured sensitivity using a spray bottle and, finally, by completely submerging each unit in a bowl of water.

The main purpose of these devices is to alert you to water, whether you’re at home or away, so we made sure each detector delivered those alerts to a mobile device from afar. Anything beyond their basic features was considered a bonus—for instance, quite a few of the devices on our list allowed you to check on room temperature and even battery life.

Our pick

The D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor is a reliable smart water sensor that’s also affordable. It’s actually the least expensive option we tested—not coincidentally, it’s also one of the few models that doesn’t need a smart-home hub. Instead, it uses Wi-Fi to deliver water alerts through the mydlink Home app (available for iOS and Android devices) and integrate with other smart devices in the home. It’s also the only model on our list that relies on power from the wall rather than a battery.

The D-Link device performed well throughout our testing, sending out alerts about six to 10 seconds after the sensors first touched water. It also features an audible alarm that you can hear from about 35 feet away, though that sound doesn’t travel as well through floors.

The app associated with the D-Link DCH-S160 Wi-Fi Water Sensor—mydlink Home—is pretty basic. Other than a record of when water was present, it offers options to change the device’s name, add in a personal photo, and create rules. For instance, we set the device to send both push notifications as well as an email whenever water was present; texting is not an option here.

For a stand-alone device, it does offer a few integration options as well. If you search the D-Link Water Sensor channel on IFTTT, there are ways to get phone calls, post to Slack, trigger the Nest thermostat, and more. It also works with other D-Link Connected Home devices, which you can control and set up integrations for from the same app.

A pick for smart-hub users

If you don’t have access to an electrical outlet, and don’t mind using a Z-Wave hub, the Fibaro Flood Sensor is a great choice. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The Fibaro Flood Sensor features an audible alarm that also triggers when someone tilts or tampers with the device in any way. It has a temperature sensor and a visual “drop” display that can change color based on if there’s water, weird temperatures, or bad network connections. As an added bonus, this little circular device can actually float—which can end up being a huge bonus if a leak turns into a flood. However, unlike the D-Link, it requires a smart hub, a requirement that kept it from being our top pick.

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

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The best places to buy and sell a used iPhone

By Jackie Dove

With a new iPhone arriving soon, many people will look to sell their old iPhone for some quick cash. But which places offer the best return and the smoothest process? To find out, Tom’s Guide tested seven services that buy and sell used iPhones.

To find out where you can expect the best return on your dollar, we bought an iPhone from each reseller service and then turned around and re-sold that phone to same service where it came from. We also rated each service on their convenience, ease of use and responsiveness to come up with our rankings.

The key takeaways from our testing:

  • Glyde and Swappa top our rankings of the best places to buy and sell a used phone.
  • Walmart and Best Buy finished at the bottom.
  • We resold our iPhones for an average of 52 percent of what we had paid for them.
  • We got the highest rate of return from marketplace services that connect smartphone buyers with sellers; the worst return came from big-box retailers.

How we tested

To best measure how much return you can expect from iPhone resellers, we selected services that both buy and sell used iPhones, evaluating seven. In addition to Glyde and Swappa, we also looked at Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Gazelle and Walmart. We bought a used iPhone from each service, and then — without activating or using our newly purchased phone — sold the same model back to the seller where we purchased it.

From most resellers, we bought a 16GB iPhone 6. We purchased a 16GB iPhone 6 Plus from Amazon and GameStop due to availability issues, though we stuck with iPhones released in 2014 to get comparable quotes from resellers. Also, due to availability, some of the iPhones we purchased were tied to specific carriers, which we’ve noted below. In our experience, unlocked phones not tied to any one carrier generally fetch higher prices (though AT&T and Verizon phones have a high resale value, too).

MORE: The Best iOS Apps You’re Not Using

As you might expect, there’s a gap between what resellers will charge you for an iPhone and what they’re willing to pay out when you try selling that same phone back. Just like with cars that depreciate the moment you drive them off the lot, that iPhone you’re hoping to unload will never recoup its value. In our testing, resellers make their money by buying low and selling high.

When ranking these seven services, in addition to measuring how much we got back when reselling an iPhone, we also took the entire process into account. Were the instructions easy to follow? How quickly did it take to get a quote on our iPhone? Did the reseller offer cash or store credit? And how promptly did we receive that cash or credit after completing the sale?

Glyde: Our top pick

What we bought: Space Gray iPhone 6 (AT&T)
What we paid: $ 359.50
What we got back: $ 265.60
Rate of return: 74 percent
Cash or credit: Cash and bitcoin
Pros: Best rate of return; Clear explanation of policies with explicit breakdown of fees; Option to wait for a better price; Can verify your identity via PayPal; Flexible payment options
Cons: You’re not required to post a verification photo, a step that can help weed out scammers.

Glyde offers a straightforward, colorful and easy-to-navigate website where you can find an assortment of second-hand iPhones as well as Android models from Samsung, HTC, LG and others. To sell my iPhone 6, all I needed to do was select the website’s Sell tab and type in the phone’s model number, carrier, color and condition. Several questions from Glyde covered details about physical appearance and scratches, personalization, and whether I had included accessories like a power adapter and cable.

Note that prices can change, often from day to day. After trying a dry run, I went back to Glyde to re-enter information about the phone I was trying to sell, and the market price had dropped to $ 316 from $ 326.

The market price is what the buyer is going to pay, not the amount I would pocket. Glyde charges a 15-percent transaction fee, while a kit with packaging to ship off your phone will cost you $ 3. Glyde was the most transparent service when it came to spelling out fees. I wound up collecting $ 265.60. (That amount would have been $ 274.10 if I had stuck with the quote from my dry run.) That’s still the highest percentage of return from any vendor we tested, as we got back 74 percent of what we paid for the iPhone.

MORE: Upgrading to the iPhone 7? Read This Before You Do

While I was disappointed with the price drop over two days, I decided to take my profit immediately and hit the List for Sale button. From there, you type in information about the phone, enter your email and Glyde account password, and verify your identity with your credit card or PayPal account. Click the button, and your item is listed. You can post your listing on Facebook, Twitter and Google + right from Glyde’s page.

Two days after I listed my phone for sale, a buyer bit and then reneged within an hour; Glyde notified me via email about both events. The next day, another person offered to buy, which I quickly confirmed. A packing box arrived in the mail, with a prepaid label; all I had to do was drop the package into the nearest mailbox. Three days after the buyer receives and accepts the phone, Glyde posts the money into your account. From there, you can transfer the cash to your bank account, opt for Bitcoin payment or have a check mailed to you for a $ 2 fee.

Swappa: Runner-Up

What we bought: Space Gray iPhone 6 (Verizon)
What we paid: $ 465
What we got back: $ 325
Rate of return: 70 percent
Cash or credit: Cash
Pros: Posted items are approved quickly by Swappa; Ability to adjust listing; Solid rate of return; Added protection via PayPal purchases
Cons: Time-consuming process required for shooting photos of your phone; Agreeing to an immediate trade will lower your rate of return; Mandatory $ 10 PayPal transaction fee.

Swappa — as in “you wanna swappa?” — is an electronics website that features a fun interface for selling several dozen brands of phones, including Android devices as well as the iPhone. Just type in the specific search term to find the model you want to sell, and if it appears, you get an immediate idea of how much cash you’ll get.

My Verizon-tied iPhone cost $ 465, and from the site’s initial offer, I would have pocketed up to $ 307 in cash, which came to 66 percent of the total I paid for the device. Swappa also gave me the choice of selling my phone for from $ 340 to $ 559 if I wanted to wait for a better deal. I opted for a better return — and to take the deal, I had to register, either through Facebook or Google+ or via email and password.

It took longer to get my listing up on Swappa than it did with other sites. The process requires you to shoot a verification photo of the phone and its accessories using a specific, rather low-tech approach. You have to set up your shots with the site’s verification number handwritten on a piece of paper next to the phone, and then powerup the phone you’re reselling, so the screen is lit when you take your picture. You repeat the process with any included accessories. The idea is to prevent scams, and Swappa at least offers ample instruction on how to take your picture.

MORE: The Best iPhone 7 Carrier Deals

After I took the photos, Swappa took 15 minutes to verify and approve my entry. From there, it’s a matter of waiting for someone to buy your phone. If you’ve tried to get a higher price, you can revise your listing to Swappa’s lower price, which I did after waiting three days. The phone sold only after I settled on a new price: $ 335, which netted me $ 325 once I took into account a mandatory PayPal transaction fee.

That PayPal fee is the only cost — there’s no fee to sell on Swappa — and using PayPal to handle transactions felt safer than having to punch in credit card information. Swappa reviews and approves all listings before buyers can see them. Swappy promptly answered my questions about my listing when I sent queries via email and posted them to Swappa’s Facebook page. When my phone sold, I was notified that money had been deposited in my PayPal account, after which I had two days to mail out the phone.

As an extra added layer of protection, anyone who sells a stolen phone, or one with a damaged screen or water damage violates Swappa’s terms of use, giving buyers recourse through PayPal.

Gazelle

What we bought: Space Gray iPhone 6 (Verizon)
What we paid: $ 406
What we got back: $ 210
Rate of return: 52 percent
Cash or credit: Both
Pros: Quick and easy resale process; Multiple options for getting paid for your device; Inspection processensures quality selection of phones on sale.
Cons: Middle-of-the-road payment for trade-ins, compared to other resellers.

Gazelle has an attractive site that makes it easy to get started with your sale: The company trades in iPhones and Samsung Galaxy models as well as Android devices from HTC, Nokia, LG and others that cover the four major carriers.

If you take Gazelle’s offer on your phone, you have a choice of payment via Amazon gift card (which adds an extra 5 percent to your total), PayPal, charitable donation or standard check delivered within 10 days of Gazelle verifying the phone’s condition. Customers buy your phone from Gazelle, not you directly, and the company inspects the device before selling it as certified pre-owned to guarantee the condition. To ensure buyers are satisfied, there is a 30-day return policy.

After you enter your email address and a minimum amount of information about the phone’s brand, capacity and physical condition, you do not have to wait for a buyer — just accept the Gazelle offer, box up the phone and choose how you want to be paid.

As a reseller, Gazelle will appeal most if you want to unload your phone quickly and would like some options for how you’ll be reimbursed. We got back only half of the value of the iPhone we had bought, though.

Amazon

What we bought: Space Gray iPhone 6 Plus (unlocked)
What we paid: $ 549.99
What we got back: $ 265
Rate of return: 48 percent
Cash or credit: Amazon gift card
Pros: Process is clearly explained; Trade-in offer is immediate; Amazon offers free mailing label for sending in your phone.
Cons: Prices paid are fairly low; You’re restricted to store credit; Trade-in links can be hard to find.

To sell your old smartphone on Amazon’s massive website — which appears to sell a huge variety of almost every brand imaginable — requires an eagle eye and some clicking around to find the right path. In the end, typing the exact item into Amazon’s search box, clicking on a result and finding the trade-in link on the page was the quickest way to get an estimate.

For an iPhone 6 Plus that we bought for $ 549.99 from the e-commerce giant, Amazon offered $ 265 in trade — less than half of what we paid. While your phone’s appearance and condition may be acceptable to you, Amazon reserves the right to inspect the device and asks straightaway if you will accept a lower price or if you want the phone sent back if your price and Amazon’s don’t match. After my phone passed inspection, Amazon deposited the proceeds of my gift card directly into my account.

The company’s trade-in program offers an Amazon gift card in exchange for your used phone. If you don’t mind registering as an Amazon seller — which involves entering credit card and tax info — you can sell your phone on Amazon’s individual seller marketplace. But that’s a lot of hoops to jump through for a one-time sale, especially when the gift card can be used to buy any of the hundreds of thousands of things Amazon sells on its site.

GameStop

What we bought: Space Gray iPhone 6 Plus (AT&T)
What we paid: $ 459.99
What we got back: $ 240
Rate of return: 52 percent
Cash or credit: Both
Pros: Choice between cash or store credit; Simple process; In-store staff were helpful and professional during our testing.
Cons: Middling return on the value of our phone; Requires a visit to a brick-and-mortar store to complete your sale.

GameStop takes a different approach than other resellers because of its focus on games. While some resellers offer a mix of cash and credit, GameStop customers may be more inclined to trade in their phones for store credit in games, VR headsets and gaming systems, in addition to the refurbished iPhones and Samsung Galaxy models available on the GameStop site. The transaction is straightforward except for one thing: The final turnover of your phone for cash or gift cards must be done in person.

The website offers a list of the phone types GameStop accepts for trade. A working iPhone 6 Plus that has no missing parts, cracks or dents will trade or get cash totaling $ 240. That’s a little more than 52 percent of the $ 459.99 we had paid GameStop for the same phone the previous month. A damaged phone will trade for $ 95, while a dead phone gets $ 25.

My trade-in experience took just 15 minutes, as the pleasant and efficient clerk behind the counter tested the phone and looked up records. I walked out with a $ 240 gift card.
GameStop lets you search for stores within a 15-mile radius of your zip code. If there’s no retail outlet near you, you’ll want to turn to a different reseller.

Walmart

What we bought: Space Gray iPhone 6 (Straight Talk)
What we paid: $ 369
What we got back: $ 125
Rate of return: 34 percent
Cash or credit: Credit
Pros: Simple transaction requiring little information; Free shipping label supplied.
Cons: Very low return on resales; Limited to in-store credit.

You’ll find plenty of phones available for sale at Walmart, including contract, unlocked and refurbished phones available for the major carriers as well as the retailer’s in-house Straight Talk network. What you won’t find is the option to get cash back for your phone. It’s store credit and no negotiating.

It’s easy enough to go through the process, using the Gadgets for Gift Cards link. The used iPhone 6 we bought from Walmart netted a $ 125 offer, 34 percent of what we paid, which was the lowest return from any reseller. Interestingly, the phone was tied to Straight Talk. Had we tried selling back an unlocked phone or one tied to AT&T or Verizon, Walmart would have given us $ 160 in credit.

Once you approve Walmart’s appraisal, just log in to your account or create a new account with your email and mailing address. Walmart offers a printed label that you can use to pack up your phone and send it in. After that, just wait for your gift card to arrive via email, which it did within three days of receiving my phone.

Best Buy

What we bought: Space Gray iPhone 6 (AT&T)
What we paid: $ 599.99
What we got back: $ 208
Rate of return: 35 percent
Cash or credit: Gift Card
Pros: Trade-in process is simple, if you have no questions; Trade-ins at the store are handled efficiently by friendly staff.
Cons: Long wait times for answering questions on Best Buy’s 800-number; Low rate of return.

Best Buy has a busy website that features a vast variety of iPhones and flavors of Android phones for sale. But it’s still fairly easy to find the place to trade in your older iPhone. If you do, be prepared to accept payment in credit. Like Walmart and Amazon, Best Buy doesn’t deal in cash for phone trade-ins.

We paid $ 599.99 for an iPhone 6 that arrived in a sealed box (for an iPhone 6s oddly) but with no earbuds included, the only used phone we bought that was missing an item. That didn’t affect my trade-in price; when I turned in my iPhone for resale, the Best Buy clerk said I didn’t need to include accessories. But Best Buy’s offer was the second-lowest return from any reseller: just a $ 208 gift card, or 35 percent of what we paid for the iPhone.

MORE: Best Cellphone Plans for Your Money

Getting a quote from Best Buy’s website is simple enough. All I had to do was list the phone’s color, carrier and condition to get a trade-in value that I could redeem in person or by mail. Getting answers to questions proved more difficult. I called Best Buy’s toll-free number to ask about the missing earbuds and an issue with the phone’s IMEI number, and waited 20 minutes and through three transfers before I was told it would be a better idea to do my trade-in at a store. That took a much more efficient 15 minutes.

Other options

You don’t necessarily need to go through a reseller or e-commerce marketplace to unload your aging iPhone. Certainly, Craigslist offers the opportunity to find a willing buyer, and depending on your negotiating skills, you may be able to get a bigger return than you would from a reseller who’s going to offer you a set price.

That said, handling a sale on your own can be a hassle, and there’s always the risk of running into scammers. A reseller or reputable marketplace removes a lot of the headaches and potential risks.

If you’re planning on using the money you get from trading in your phone to finance the purchase of a new phone and you’re committed to a specific wireless carrier, you may want to see what that carrier will offer you for your old phone. Verizon offered us the best quote on an iPhone 6, with a $ 265 trade-in value. AT&T quoted us a price of $ 200 for a 16GB iPhone 6, while T-Mobile and Sprint offered $ 191 and $ 159, respectively. Those quotes assume a phone is in excellent condition, and the amounts can vary based on which carrier your old phone is tied to. You receive the trade-in value in the form of credit or a gift card.

Where to buy a used phone

Our testing of reseller services focused primarily on selling a used iPhone, because that’s where you’re likely to experience the greatest amount of variance, from the money you get back for your phone to the simplicity of the resale process. In contrast, shopping for a used iPhone from these sites is a pretty similar experience, though there are a few differences worth noting.

In terms of selection, you’ll generally find each service offers a wide degree of smartphone models and capacities. In our search for a used iPhone 6, we found that models tied to AT&T and Verizon were plentiful while T-Mobile and Sprint devices were in shorter supply. Amazon, Glyde and Swappa offered the widest range of phones in terms of carriers and capacities.

Used iPhone shoppers will find the best range of prices at Swappa, though lower-priced phones are likely to have been well-used. Glyde, Gazelle, GameStop and Amazon also offer attractive pricing on used phones depending on what model you’re looking for.

We found it easiest to shop for a used iPhone at Glyde and Swappa, which conveniently group iPhone models together, allowing you to drill down to the version you want. Despite its wide selection, Amazon offers very cluttered search results; type in iPhone 6, and you’re just as likely to get entries for the 6s, 6s Plus and 6 Plus as you are for the model you want. Walmart and Best Buy feature helpful filters for removing superfluous search results.

We should note that we ran into one quirk when buying our phones from Glyde and GameStop, though that’s likely a result of how we ordered our iPhones. Because we bought our phones through our corporate office and shipped them to an editor at another location, both Glyde and GameStop flagged our initial purchases, requiring us to set up a PayPal account to complete the deals. Most shoppers won’t run into that problem, though it could flare up if you’re buying a used phone as a gift for someone who has a different address than yours.

More from Tom’s Guide:

  • Walmart, Best Buy Offer Worst iPhone Trade-in Deals
  • The Best and Worst iPhone Trade-In Deals
  • iPhone 7 vs iPhone 7 Plus: What Should You Buy?
  • Why You Shouldn’t Get the iPhone 7
  • iPhone 7 Camera Tech: Can Apple Be the Best Again?

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The Wirecutter’s best deals: $30 off the Amazon Tap

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read their continuously updated list of deals at TheWirecutter.com.

You may have already seen Engadget posting reviews from our friends at The Wirecutter. Now, from time to time, we’ll also be publishing their recommended deals on some of their top picks. Read on, and strike while the iron is hot—some of these sales could expire mighty soon.

Athlon Optics Midas ED Binoculars

Street price: $ 290; MSRP: $ 290; deal price: $ 250

The first time we’ve seen a drop on these binoculars since we started tracking them, and it’s a worthwhile one. At $ 250, they’re a full $ 40 below the street price.

The Athlon Optics Midas ED are our pick for the best binoculars. Daniel S. Cooper said, “Amazingly affordable with great optics, these binoculars have comparable performance to many models that cost thousands more.”

He went on to say, “The Athlon Midas ED pair’s optics aren’t its only strong suit: These are exceptionally durable binoculars that easily withstood the humid, dusty, and hostile environment of the Mexican rain forest and harsh sun of the Californian desert. And their focus dial adjusts reliably and smoothly across a wide range of depths, making it easy to focus on what you’re trying to see, no matter where it is.”

Anker PowerLine 3-ft Lightning Cable (3-Pack)

Street price: $ 25; MSRP: $ 40; deal price: $ 20

If you like having spare Lightning cables on hand, Anker’s currently offering a deal on a 3-pack of their PowerLine 3-ft Lightning cables. It’s $ 5 below their street price and only slightly over the usual cost of buying two Lightning cables individually.

The Anker PowerLine Lightning cable is our pick for the best Lightning cable. Nick Guy wrote, “Anker’s PowerLine cables charge iPads, iPhones, iPods—and the plethora of Lightning-based accessories Apple introduced over the past year—at their maximum speed (though the 12.9-inch iPad Pro can charge even faster with a special cable and charger). They also fulfill our readers’ number-one request: sturdiness. Anker builds its PowerLine cables with Kevlar fiber and PVC strain-relief collars that should prevent fraying during normal use. Plus they’re affordable: The 3-foot cable is half the price of Apple’s 1-meter (3.5-foot) Lightning to USB Cable. Add to this Anker’s reputation for stellar hardware, its fantastic customer service, and an awesome 18-month warranty, and it’s clear why this cable is our pick.”

Amazon Tap

Street price: $ 130; MSRP: $ 130; deal price: $ 100

This is the second time we’ve seen the Tap down to $ 100, matching a previous sale from the start of August. A couple days after that last sale started, Bed Bath and Beyond beat it with an $ 80 sale for a few days, but since that’s the only time we’ve seen a great BB&B sale on any our picks, we don’t think we’ll see that price again soon.

The Amazon Tap is a more portable pick in our Alexa guide. Grant Clauser wrote, “The Tap’s built-in battery lets you take Alexa voice control to the backyard or other places outside the home, though worse audio performance and the lack of an always-on microphone is limiting.”

For more about the always-on microphone, “The Tap doesn’t sport the always-on microphone for receiving voice commands that the Echo and Dot have. Instead, there’s a microphone button you need to press, similar to pressing the home button on an iPhone to call Siri to attention (if you don’t have “Hey Siri” enabled on your iPhone). This little inconvenience is meant to make the Tap’s battery last longer. It also makes it unsuitable as your main Alexa interface. You can’t shout commands across the yard, because the Tap isn’t listening.”

Refurbished Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 Lens

Street price: $ 350 (new); MSRP: $ 400 (new); deal price: $ 220

We’ve featured a deal on this refurbished lens before, but this comes in at $ 20 below the previous sale. At this new low, it’s even more affordable and even more of a reason to pick it up if you’re looking for a more capable prime lens. As always, Canon’s refurbished lenses come with a 1-year manufacturer warranty.

The Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 STM is the higher quality version of our prime lens pick in our Canon lenses guide. Tim Barribeau wrote, “If you’re willing to spend a bit more, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 is higher quality—and capable of gathering even more light—but nearly three times the price. Of the company’s two 50 mm offerings, the f/1.4 version is undoubtedly a better lens, but if you’re just starting out and you aren’t sure what you want out of a lens, the f/1.8 version is supremely affordable and worth getting as you feel your way around.”

Deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to The Wirecutter.com.

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The Gear Fit 2 is Samsung’s best wearable yet

Samsung has made plenty of wearables over the years, but few were as immediately impressive as the Gear Fit. Its curved screen and relatively slim design almost made us forget the company’s early, clunky Gear smartwatches. Now with the $ 179 Gear Fit 2, Samsung has refined its original design to make it a lot more useful for athletes. It has built-in GPS, a slightly larger screen and smarter activity tracking. It’s Samsung’s best fitness wearable yet, but it’s still a tough sell compared to competing devices from the likes of Fitbit.

Review: Samsung Gear Fit 2

Hardware

The Gear Fit 2 is an evolution of the original Fit’s design in all of the right ways. Its 1.58-inch curved touchscreen display is now flush with the band so that it no longer sticks out awkwardly. It reminds me of Microsoft’s Band 2, which also benefited from having a curved display sitting right alongside the wristband. The screen is also slightly wider now, which makes it more useful for actually reading information, and there’s less of a bezel around the sides so it’s almost like an edge-to-edge display.

Beyond that screen, the Gear Fit 2 looks restrained. The top half of the device is made from some fetching-looking metal while the bottom is more of a subdued plastic. There are only two buttons on the side of the device, which serve as home and power buttons. On the bottom there’s a heart rate sensor and two small connectors for its charging stand. The relatively minimalist design is a stark cry from the overly complex wearables we used to see from Samsung.

For the wristband, it looks like Samsung is using the same plastic material from the last model, which remains flexible yet sturdy without feeling too stiff. You can disconnect the wristbands easily from the sides of the device, which will be useful if you ever feel the need for a new look down the line.

Under the hood, the Gear Fit 2 now runs a dual-core 1GHz Exynos 3250 processor and 512MB of RAM. (As someone who remembers being very excited when I got 512MB of RAM on a desktop, I find that latter stat hard to fathom.) Both of those specs are significant upgrades from the first Fit, which had a measly 160MHz processor and 8MB of RAM. It’s no wonder we found the original to be underpowered. There’s also GPS onboard the Fit 2, along with 4GB of storage for music and a barometer sensor for stair-tracking.

Software

Samsung is using its homegrown Tizen OS to power the Gear Fit 2, something it also uses in TVs and other wearables like the Galaxy Gear 2. And instead of being tied to Samsung’s phones, the Fit 2 is now compatible with any Android phone running 4.4 or above. There’s no word about iOS support yet, though. (Is it even worth the effort?)

Thanks to Tizen, the Fit 2 is much more capable than its predecessor. You’ve got multiple watch faces to choose from (and more can be downloaded through the Gear app), some of which will show fitness stats alongside the time. You can also customize the screens you see as you swipe through the Fit’s interface. I have it set up to show the number calories I’ve burned, the number of steps and stairs I’ve taken, and my heart rate. Naturally, there’s also a screen for quickly logging a workout.

The Fit 2 supports 15 different workout types, including common things like running and cycling, and more specific activities like yoga and pilates. It’s now smart enough to automatically detect five different types of workouts, something competing health trackers from Fitbit and Jawbone have been able to do for years.

Thanks to its onboard storage (and vastly more functional OS), the Gear Fit 2 can also send locally stored music right to your wireless headphones. It can also control music stored on your phone, and it can tap into Spotify through your phone as well. Basically, if you prefer to run completely unencumbered, or with your phone, the Fit 2 has you covered.

To control the Gear Fit 2, you’ll have to rely on Samsung’s Gear app for Android. And to track your workouts, there’s Samsung’s S Health app. More on those in a moment.

In use

In day-to-day use, the Gear Fit 2 felt just as comfortable to wear as the Apple Watch Sport and Jawbone’s Up24 (which are among my favorite wearables). It sits well on your wrist; most of the time you’ll forget it’s even there. I’d still like to see Samsung make it even thinner, so that it doesn’t rise above your wrist as much, but the Fit 2 is nonetheless on par with competing wearables in terms of thickness.

I also had no problem putting it on — and keeping it stable — throughout the day. The Fit 2 has a simple clasp design that makes it easy to slip on while you’re on the go. That’s a good thing, because I’ve fought with plenty of wearables (especially from Fitbit) that are simply a chore to secure. And even though it’s easy to wear, I also had no trouble with the Fit 2 falling off (which was a killer issue with the Jawbone Up3).

When it comes to tracking basic things like your steps and stairs climbed, the Gear Fit 2 seemed just as accurate as most other modern wearables. Its heart-rate tracking was also solid, delivering readings in line with what I’ve been seeing from the Apple Watch and recent Fitbit gear. But really, if you’re buying this you’re probably more interested in its GPS tracking, and in that regard it didn’t disappoint. It accurately mapped several of my runs through Brooklyn’s Prospect Park (I have a two-mile stretch that I cover regularly). It was also on par with RunKeeper’s location tracking, which I normally use on my iPhone during workouts.

Setting up a manual workout takes a lot of swiping and menu pressing if you’re moving between a variety of exercise types. But if you mainly do the same sort of workout, it’s pretty easy to just get up and go. The Fit 2’s touchscreen response is fast for such a small wearable, but even so, it’s not something you’d want to deal with much in the middle of an intense session.

The Fit 2 also surprised me several times by accurately tracking how long I walked during my work commute. That’s something other wearables have been doing for a while, but it’s still a useful addition for Samsung fans. It’s also the sort of thing wearables will have to get smarter about moving forward, so hopefully Samsung will be able to add automatic tracking support for more than just five workout types.

While you can view some basic post-workout details on the Gear Fit 2, you’ll have to turn to Samsung’s S Health app for a more detailed view. It’s a fairly clean-looking app: The home screen highlights your most recent workouts, heart-rate readings and steps. Tapping into a workout lays out everything you’ve done that day, and you can also step backward to previous days pretty easily. Despite its minimalist look, I still had some trouble navigating around S Health. And it wasn’t always obvious how to access more detailed information about workouts. But perhaps I’ve just been spoiled by better health apps from Fitbit and Jawbone.

As a smartwatch-like device, the Gear Fit 2 fares well. It can display notifications from your phone, and even though it has a tiny screen, there’s enough room to read short text messages and tweets. It’s not a screen where you’d ever want to read long emails, but that’s true of dedicated smartwatches too. You can also have the Fit 2 open up apps on your phone from its notifications, which helped me quickly reply to Hangout messages and texts on several occasions.

Samsung claims the Gear Fit 2 gets around three to four days of battery life from its 200mAh battery. In my testing, which involved constantly wearing it throughout the day and doing a few runs, it usually lasted around two and a half days before needing a trip to the outlet. Speaking of recharging, I was pleased to find that Samsung moved towards a larger charging cradle for the Fit 2. That may sound paradoxical, but the original Fit’s cradle was so small that I ended up losing it pretty quickly. This new version is better suited to staying in one place on your desk.

The competition

The Fitbit Surge.

Since it’s a GPS-enabled fitness wearable, the Gear Fit 2 is best compared to the likes of the Fitbit Surge ($ 229) and the Microsoft Band 2 ($ 175). Aesthetically, it has a lot more in common with the Band 2, but if you can get past its looks, the Fitbit Surge is probably a better buy for fitness junkies. Fitbit has a much more robust fitness platform, as well as better integration with third-party services. As with all wearables, aesthetics play a big part in the purchasing decision, though, so it’s understandable if you’d rather have a better-looking tracker instead of a more functional one.

Wrap-up

With the Gear Fit 2, Samsung has succeeded in making a capable and stylish fitness tracker. But it also doesn’t do anything significantly better or differently than the competition. It feels like a fitness tracker meant for people who really want something to match their Samsung phones, rather than something every consumer would desire. It’s ultimately unremarkable, but that’s mainly because there are so many decent alternatives out there.

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