The best wireless outdoor home security camera

By Rachel Cericola

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 spending almost three months looking, listening, adjusting angles, and deleting over 10,000 push notifications and emails, we’ve decided that the Netgear Arlo Pro is the best DIY outdoor Wi-Fi home security camera you can get. Like the other eight units we tested, the Arlo Pro lets you keep an eye on your property and provides smartphone alerts whenever there’s motion. However, it’s one of the few options with built-in rechargeable batteries to make it completely wireless, so it’s easy to place and move. It also delivers an excellent image, clear two-way audio, practical smart-home integration, and seven days of free cloud storage.

Who should get this

A Wi-Fi surveillance camera on your front porch, over your garage, or attached to your back deck can provide a peek at what really goes bump in the night, whether that’s someone stealing packages off your steps or raccoons going through garbage cans. It can alert you to dangers and can create a record of events. It should also help you to identify someone—and if it’s a welcome or unwelcome guest—or just let you monitor pets or kids when you’re not out there with them.

How we picked and tested

Photo: Rachel Cericola

During initial research, we compiled a huge list of outdoor security cameras recommended by professional review sites like PCMag, Safewise, and Safety.com, as well as those available on popular online retailers. We then narrowed this list by considering only Wi-Fi–enabled cameras that will alert your smartphone or tablet whenever motion is detected. We also clipped out all devices that required a networked video recorder (NVR) to capture video, focusing only on products that could stand alone.

Once we had a list of about 27 cameras, we went through Amazon and Google to see what kind of feedback was available. We ultimately decided on a test group based on price, features, and availability.

We mounted our test group to a board outside of our New England house, pointed them at the same spot, and exposed them all to the same lighting conditions and weather. The two exceptions were cameras integrated into outdoor lighting fixtures, both of which were installed on the porch by my husband, a licensed electrician. All nine cameras were connected to the same Verizon FiOS network via a Wi-Fi router indoors.

Besides good Wi-Fi, you may also need a nearby outlet. Only three of the cameras we tested offered the option to use battery power. Most others required an AC connection, which means you won’t be able to place them just anywhere.

We downloaded each camera’s app to an iPhone 5, an iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy S6. The cameras spent weeks guarding our front door, alerting us to friends, family members, packages, and the milkman. Once we got a good enough look at those friendly faces, we tilted the entire collection outward to see what sort of results we got facing the house across the street, which is approximately 50 feet away. To learn more about how we picked and tested, please see our full guide.

Our pick

The Arlo Pro can handle snow, rain, and everything else, and runs for months on a battery charge. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The Arlo Pro is a reliable outdoor Wi-Fi camera that’s compact and completely wireless, thanks to a removable, rechargeable battery that, based on our testing, should provide at least a couple of months of operation on a charge. It’s also the only device on our list that offers seven days of free cloud storage, and packs in motion- and audio-triggered recordings for whenever you get around to reviewing them.

The Arlo Pro requires a bridge unit, known as the Base Station, which needs to be powered and connected to your router. The Base Station is the brains behind the system, but also includes a piercing 100-plus–decibel siren, which can be triggered manually through the app or automatically by motion and/or audio.

With a 130-degree viewing angle and 720p resolution, the Arlo Pro provided clear video footage during both day and night, and the two-way audio was easy to understand on both ends. The system also features the ability to set rules, which can trigger alerts for motion and audio. You can adjust the level of sensitivity so that you don’t get an alert or record a video clip every time a car drives by. You can also set up alerts based on a schedule or geofencing using your mobile device, but you can’t define custom zones for monitoring. All of those controls are easy to find in the Arlo app, which is available for iOS and Android devices.

If you’re looking to add the Arlo Pro to a smart-home system, the camera currently works with Stringify, Wink, and IFTTT (“If This Then That”). SmartThings certification was approved and will be included in a future app update. The Arlo Pro is also compatible with ADT Canopy for a fee.

Runner-up

The Nest Cam Outdoor records continuously and produces better images than most of the competition, but be prepared to pay extra for features other cameras include for free. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The Nest Cam Outdoor is a strong runner-up. It records continuous 1080p video, captures to the cloud 24/7, and can actually distinguish between people and other types of motion. Like the Nest thermostat, the Outdoor Cam is part of the Works With Nest program, which means it can integrate with hundreds of smart-home products. It’s also the only model we tested that has a truly weatherproof cord. However, that cord and the ongoing subscription cost, which runs $ 100 to $ 300 per year for the Nest Aware service, is what kept the Nest Cam Outdoor from taking the top spot.

Like our top pick, the Nest Cam Outdoor doesn’t have an integrated mount. Instead, the separate mount is magnetic, so you can attach and position the camera easily. Although it has a lot of flexibility in movement, it needs to be placed within reach of an outlet, which can be a problem outside the house. That said, the power cord is quite lengthy. The camera has a 10-foot USB cable attached, but you can get another 15 feet from the included adapter/power cable.

The Nest Cam Outdoor’s 1080p images and sound were extremely impressive, both during the day and at night. In fact, this camera delivered some of the clearest, most detailed images during our testing, with a wide 130-degree field of view and an 8x digital zoom.

The Nest app is easy to use and can integrate with other Nest products, such as indoor and outdoor cameras, the Nest thermostat, and the Nest Protect Smoke + CO detector. You can set the camera to turn on and off at set times of day, go into away mode based on your mobile device’s location, and more.

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

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The best Z-Wave in-wall dimmer

By Rachel Cericola

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 spending more than 25 hours swapping out receptacles, flipping switches, programming timers, and talking to home-automation experts, we’ve determined that the HomeSeer HS-WD100+ is the best Z-Wave in-wall dimmer for smart-home systems. Like the other six units we tested, it features straightforward remote operation, as well as easy dimming and scheduling. It’s the only model we tested that supports multi-tap features, so you can sync a single switch with multiple lights and appliances around your house, and it works with all Z-Wave–certified smart-home hubs.

Who should get this

The advantages of smart lighting are pretty easy to grasp. We’ve all left lights on when we haven’t meant to, or forgotten to do the same when we’d wanted to, leaving us returning home at the end of the day to a completely dark house. Smart lighting lets you schedule it all automatically or control everything remotely.

You can find many smart-lighting devices, including bulbs, switches, and dimmers. Some work alone using Wi-Fi, others connect to a smart-home hub using wireless technologies such as Z-Wave or ZigBee. A Wi-Fi–enabled smart bulb is easy to get up and running, but if you want to automate a lot of lights in the home—and especially if you’ve already invested in other smart-home gear and you’re using a smart-home hub—you’ll want to get a smart switch.

We specifically picked Z-Wave in-wall dimmers, versus regular on-off switches, because they offer dimming, which can add ambiance and save electricity. We went with Z-Wave over ZigBee because there are currently more in-wall dimmer and smart-home hub options for the DIY crowd with this technology.

It’s important to note that swapping out light switches isn’t for everyone—in fact, doing so is dangerous. If you aren’t comfortable with turning off the power and poking around inside the wall, please hire a licensed electrician to do the job.

How we picked and tested

Photo: Rachel Cericola

In order to find out what makes a good Z-Wave in-wall dimmer, we talked to Mitch Klein, executive director of the Z-Wave Alliance. He said to look for products that are Z-Wave certified, which ensures they will be compatible with other Z-Wave devices, as well as UL compliant. A good in-wall dimmer should allow you to customize the dimming levels, as well as to create scenes, which enable you to bring up a group of lights at set dimming levels at a single touch of a button. Also, you should look for dimmers that are “all-load” compatible, which means they’ll work with a variety of bulbs, including CFL, LED, incandescent, fluorescent, and halogen.

Next, we compiled a list of available dimmers by searching Google, the Z-Wave Alliance website, and Amazon. To be considered, a device needed to be a dimmer, Z-Wave compatible, and designed for installation inside the wall. It also needed to be Z-Wave certified. We avoided those that were proprietary to one specific platform.

My licensed-electrician husband installed the dimmers to be tested, and we connected each dimmer to hubs from SmartThings and Wink, currently two of the most popular options available. All of the dimmers worked, allowing us to turn lights on and off with the hubs’ apps, to dim the lighting on a scale from 1 to 99 percent, and to set timers that would trigger the applicable light to go on and off (and even dim) at a certain time of day. For each of our tests, we used apps on an iPhone 5, an iPad, and a Samsung Galaxy S6. To learn more about the installation and testing process, please see our full guide.

Our Pick

We especially liked the customizable LED indicator lights on the HomeSeer dimmer. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The HomeSeer HS-WD100+ is a reliable Z-Wave in-wall dimmer that provides remote on-off, dimming, and scheduling, similar to its competition. However, it also adds multi-tap features that allow you to set up certain rules, triggers, and dimming levels, based on how you tap the actual switch. This is a really cool feature that no other Z-Wave in-wall dimmer currently offers, which allows you to assign specific tasks to tapping or holding the on or off position on the rocker: For instance, we had the HomeSeer dimmer installed in our living room, but we set it so that tapping the on position twice would trigger a different Z-Wave dimmer in the dining room to turn on.

Although the HS-WD100+ was designed to work with one of HomeSeer’s controllers, it is Z-Wave certified, so it will work with any Z-Wave–certified hub. In fact, it is Z-Wave Plus certified (the only switch we’ve found with this certification), which promises better compatibility and an easier setup.

This is also the only switch in our test group that supports the Z-Wave scene and central scene classes (the latter only when you use it with the HomeSeer hub). This may not be a big deal if you’re controlling only one light switch; however, if you plan to install Z-Wave switches throughout the house, this feature might be important because the scene modes can make for faster transition times with large setups.

Without a HomeSeer-branded hub, you won’t have instant access to the extra features of the HS-WD100+. If you use a SmartThings Hub, you will need to enable the tap features yourself. For anyone with a fear of code, this may be a turnoff, but adding these functions is as easy as a quick copy-and-paste into a browser tool. Once you do that, you will have access to all of this dimmer’s perks. If you have the Wink Hub, the HS-WD100+ is just another dimmer, which could make our runner-up pick a better choice.

Runner-up

The GE dimmer doesn’t look any different from a conventional dimmer, which might make it appealing to some people. Photo: Rachel Cericola

The GE Z-Wave In-Wall Smart Dimmer (model number 12724) is a great choice for anyone who doesn’t have a need for bells and whistles. It works with all sorts of Z-Wave smart-home hubs to provide remote control and dimming from anywhere, as well as all of the standard Z-Wave in-wall dimmer features, such as scenes and customized scheduling so you can turn the lights on and off at specific times of day. The drawbacks? It doesn’t doesn’t allow upgrades (the company plans to release another model down the line that will).

In our tests, once connected to each smart-home hub, the GE 12724 performed similarly to every other switch on our list. It reacted quickly and reliably, and was smooth and sturdy in operation, delivering a nice “click” when pushed. It’s very plain looking and doesn’t have an LED indicator, though it does include a tiny light at its base that you can customize to go on or off depending on the status of the dimmer switch.

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 Wirecutter’s best deals: Save $49 on a Vantrue dashcam

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, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

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.

Apple iPad (5th Generation)

Street price: $ 330; MSRP: $ 330; Deal price: $ 300

A nice drop on the new iPad lowers the price to $ 300 for the 32GB model. This $ 30 off sale is also available for the 128GB size ($ 400 with discount). Silver, Gold, and Space Gray colors are all eligible for the discount in both storage capacities. We’ll continue to track the new iPads for future sales but at present these match the lowest prices we’ve seen for it. Shipping is free.

The 5th gen iPad is our new top pick in our Best Tablet guide. Dan Frakes and Nick Guy write, “The 2017 standard iPad—the 9.7-inch non-Pro model, officially called the “iPad (5th generation)”—is a familiar device. Its body is almost exactly the same as that of the 2014 iPad Air,2 and except for improved processors, its internals mostly match those of the iPad Air 2, the model it replaces (and our previous top pick). Yet the 2017 iPad remains the best tablet on the market for most people because of that familiarity: It shares its predecessor’s unique combination of performance, features, hardware quality, app selection, and accessory ecosystem, and improves on its value.”

Roku Streaming Stick (3600R)

Street price: $ 50; MSRP: $ 50; Deal price: $ 40

While we’ve seen the Roku media streaming stick as low as $ 35, it typically sells for at least $ 10 more. The aforementioned $ 35 pricing tends to be offered during the holiday season only – otherwise, the Roku stick doesn’t dip below $ 40 (with a few rare exceptions), so this is as low as you’re likely to find one if you’re looking to cut the cord or just add a great streaming interface to your setup. Shipping is free.

The Roku Streaming Stick is our pick for the best media streamer. Chris Heinonen writes, “The Roku Streaming Stick is the best media streamer for most people because it offers the largest selection of streaming content, a clean and responsive user interface, and a useful search function.” He continues, “The Streaming Stick offers the same interface, speed, and content as the more expensive Roku 2 and 3. It also has a private listening mode so you can watch your content without disturbing others. You also get an RF remote instead of IR, so it doesn’t need to be in sight to work.”

1More Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones

Street price: $ 80; MSRP: $ 100; Deal price: $ 69

This is a new low price on our runner-up pick earbuds under $ 100. If you have a Costco membership, they’re available for only $ 65. If you don’t have a membership, don’t fret – the $ 4 surcharge isn’t too much of a burden and doesn’t detract much from the great deal price. We normally see these earbuds stick close to the $ 100 price range with occasional drops down to $ 80, so this is a great deal price to pick them up. Shipping is free.

The 1MORE Triple Driver In-Ear Headphones are our runner-up pick in our guide to the best earbuds under $ 100. Lauren Dragan writes, “For iPhone or Android users that require a three-button remote, the 1More Triple Driver headphones are a wonderful choice. Via a switch (according to 1More), one model works with iPhones and most Android devices, too. Although our panel wasn’t as in love with the sound of the Triple Driver as we were with the Marshall, everyone agreed that the 1More performed vastly better than the majority of the other headphones we tested this round.”

Vantrue OnDash R2 2K Ultra HD 2.7 Inch LCD Dashboard Camera

Street price: $ 129; MSRP: $ 160; Deal price: $ 80

While there have been other deals on the R2 at $ 90 with a $ 10 gift card, this is only the second time we’ve seen a deal for this Vantrue dash cam at a flat $ 80. It’s available with free standard shipping. This sale lasts until Saturday, May 20th.

The Vantrue R2 is our runner-up pick for the best dash cam. Eric Adams writes, “Its packaging, instructions, and general usability are on a par with the Z3, and its image quality is also top notch. While just as crisp as the Z3, the R2’s images have slightly more contrast. This makes them more attractive, but not quite as useful as they could be in different scenarios, as some areas tend to be too dark, and the night vision is also a hair darker.”

Turning to quality and value, Adams writes, “It also has a slightly wider 170° field of view, which exceeds our preference just a bit. But we’re hair-splitting here: Both the R2 and our top pick, the Z3, are sensational cameras…. If you like its slightly better photographic output or you need a dash cam right away and the Z3 is unavailable, we recommend the R2.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Thursdays, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, 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 Wirecutter’s best deals: Save $70 on an Apple Watch Series 2

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, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

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.

Garmin Forerunner 230 Running Watch

Street price: $ 190; MSRP: $ 250; Deal price: $ 155 with code AFFEMFIT

This is the lowest price we’ve seen on this GPS running watch at $ 155 after applying coupon code AFFEMFIT. While the street price of the Forerunner 230 has fallen under $ 200 in recent months, this is still a new low by a nice margin and a good opportunity to pick one up if you’re a runner looking to up your game. Black, Yellow, and Purple colors are available at the $ 155 price. Shipping is free.

The Garmin Forerunner is our pick for the best GPS running watch. Jim McDannald writes, “The Garmin Forerunner 230 (FR 230) has everything we were looking for in a great GPS running watch. It takes the accuracy and long battery life of our previous pick, the Forerunner 220 (FR 220), and makes the screen larger and more readable during activities, while retaining a light and small profile that won’t feel weird wearing as an everyday watch. The FR 230 can pass along smartphone notifications and track your steps and other casual activities. The interface and data syncing are easy enough to use if you are new to GPS watches, but the FR 230 also contains deep features and optional app downloads that experienced runners and statistics wonks can dig into. It can track some advanced running metrics we’ve only seen in higher-priced models and can also work with separate cycling monitors for speed and cadence. All of these features rest on top of Garmin’s unparalleled reputation for making reliable GPS watches; adding up to a watch that, while right in the middle of the pricing curve at about $ 250, feels many product cycles ahead of its competitors.”

Fitbit Flex 2 Fitness Tracker

Street price: $ 100; MSRP: $ 100; Deal price: $ 60

Here’s a nice drop on our new budget pick for best fitness tracker, the Fitbit Flex 2. This is the first sale we’ve seen on the Fitbit Flex 2 since making it one of our picks and marks a $ 40 drop from the usual street price. Most of the sales we see on this Fitibit only drop the price $ 20 down to $ 80, so this is a great price to pick it up. Since the only other time we saw this Fitbit at $ 60 was last year during Black Friday sales, it’s unlikely that this deal will stick around for too long. The deal is currently available in black, lavender, magenta, and navy.

The Fitbit Flex 2 is our new budget pick in our guide to the best fitness trackers. Amy Roberts wrote, “If you just want a simple way to monitor and track your daily activity (including workouts), nightly sleep habits, and get reminders to be more active, the Flex 2 is a great choice—especially if all your friends are on Fitbit. Unlike other Fitbits, it’s water resistant to 50 meters so you can track swimming and shower with it. However, there’s no screen—just five status LEDs to track progress towards your daily step count goal. It also doesn’t track heart rate, but Fitbits in general continue to struggle with heart-rate accuracy, so we don’t see this as a major issue; it helps the Flex 2 maintain its slim profile and lower price. The Flex 2 syncs wirelessly to the Fitbit app on a smartphone or the Fitbit website on a computer to keep a record of your activity and link you to other Fitbit users—a real highlight, as research shows that friendly competition can be very motivating.”

Apple Watch Series 2 – 38mm Aluminum

Street price: $ 370; MSRP: $ 370; Deal price: $ 300

This is the first big drop we’ve seen on our upgrade Apple smartwatch pick. We haven’t seen many (or any) really worthwhile sales on the Apple Watch Series 2, so if you’ve been waiting for a decent sale, now is the time. This deal is available in space gray, rose gold, and white, as well as the 42mm size for $ 30 more.

The Apple Watch Series 2 is our upgrade pick in our guide to the best smartwatch for iPhone owners. Dan Frakes wrote, “The Apple Watch Series 2 has three features that make it far more useful than the Series 1 for outdoor or water exercise: onboard, no-phone-required GPS, a waterproof design (up to 50 meters in fresh or salt water) that can handle swimming or surfing, and a brighter screen that’s easier to see outside. Combined with the watchOS 3’s improved Health app, these improvements mean the Series 2 watch can compete with fitness trackers and running watches while also being stylish enough to wear in casual and work settings.”

Amazon Fire HD 8 Tablet

Street price: $ 90; MSRP: $ 90; Deal price: $ 65

This comes in $ 5 below the previous sale we featured last month and is one of the best sales we’ve seen on this tablet. Since those sales tend to be pretty short, it’s safe to assume that this one won’t last longer than a few days. Outside of the occasional lightning sale, this is likely the new best price you’ll find on the Fire HD 8.

The Amazon Fire HD 8 is our budget pick in our guide on the best Android tablet. Chris Heinonen wrote, “If you want a cheap tablet for watching videos, reading, or browsing the web, Amazon’s Fire HD 8 tablet is great. It doesn’t have access to the Google Play Store or any of Google’s apps, but it costs less than $ 100 and makes it easy to access Amazon content (especially for Prime members). Amazon’s Fire OS (based on Android) runs very well, and the Fire HD 8 offers better battery life than the Shield K1 or Pixel C. The display is only 1280×800, but that’s fine for a budget media tablet. Amazon’s app store is not as extensive as the Play Store, but it does have free versions of many apps and games that cost money on other Android tablets. The Fire HD 8 also has more extensive parental controls than other tablets, making it a great family device.”

Because great deals don’t just happen on Thursdays, sign up for our daily deals email and we’ll send you the best deals we find every weekday. Also, 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 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.

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 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.

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 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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