A demo video was published with the released of Google Gemini showing off some amazing capabilities. Yet, the video was edited to make it look like one seamless interaction shot in real time, which is wasn’t.
The Chromebook market has grown so much over the past few years that choosing the best Chromebook for you can be hard. The combination of years worth of software updates and manufacturers making laptops with more power, better build quality and long battery life means there are a ton of good Chrome OS machines that work well as everyday drivers. But there are a few things you should keep in mind when shopping for a Chromebook, and some of them are unique to this swath of Chrome OS-toting laptops. We’ve reviewed a number of Chromebooks over the years and we hope this guide can help you pick the best one for you, plus give you insight into our current top picks.
What is Chrome OS, and why would I use it over Windows?
That’s probably the number one question about Chromebooks. There are plenty of inexpensive Windows laptops on the market, so why bother with Chrome’s operating system? Glad you asked. For me, the simple and clean nature of Chrome OS is a big selling point. Chrome OS is based on Google’s Chrome browser, which means most of the programs you can run are web based. There’s no bloatware or unwanted apps to uninstall like you often get on Windows laptops, it boots up in seconds, and you can completely reset to factory settings almost as quickly.
Of course, the simplicity is also a major drawback for some users. Not being able to install native software can be a dealbreaker if you’re a video editor or software developer. But there are also plenty of people who do the majority of their work in a web browser. But Google and its software partners are getting better every year at supporting more advanced features. For example, Google added video editing tools to the Google Photos app on Chromebooks – it won’t replace Adobe Premiere, but it should be handy for a lot of people.
Google has also added support for Android apps on Chromebooks, which greatly expands the amount of software available. The quality varies widely, but it means you can do more with a Chromebook beyond just web-based apps. For example, you can install the Netflix app and save videos for offline watching. Other Android apps like Microsoft Office and Adobe Lightroom are surprisingly capable, as well. Between Android apps and a general improvement in web apps, Chromebooks are more than just a browser.
What do Chromebooks do well?
Put simply, web browsing and really anything web based. Browsing, streaming music and video and using various social media sites are among the most common daily tasks people do on Chromebooks. As you might expect, they also work well with Google services like Photos, Docs, Gmail, Drive, Keep and so on. Yes, any computer that can run Chrome can do that too, but the lightweight nature of Google Chrome OS makes it a responsive and stable platform.
As I mentioned before, Chrome OS can run Android apps, so if you’re an Android user you’ll find some nice ties between the platforms. You can get most of the same apps that are on your phone on a Chromebook and keep info in sync between them. You can also use some Android phones as a security key for your Chromebook or instantly tether your laptop to use mobile data.
Google continues to tout security as a major differentiator for Chromebooks, and I think it’s definitely a factor worth considering. The first line of defense is auto-updates. Chrome OS updates download quickly in the background and a fast reboot is all it takes to install the latest version. Google says that each webpage and app on a Chromebook runs in its own sandbox, as well, so any security threats are contained to that individual app. Finally, Chrome OS has a self-check called Verified Boot that runs every time a device starts up. Beyond all this, the simple fact that you generally can’t install traditional apps on a Chromebook means there are a lot fewer ways for bad actors to access the system.
As for when to avoid them, the answer is simple: If you rely heavily on a specific native application for Windows or a Mac, chances are you won’t find the exact same option on a Chromebook. That’s most true in fields like photo and video editing, but it can also be the case in law or finance. Plenty of businesses run on Google’s G suite software, but more still have specific requirements that a Chromebook might not match. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll also miss out on the way the iPhone easily integrates with an iPad or Mac. For me, the big downside is not being able to access iMessage on a Chromebook.
Finally, gaming Chromebooks are not ubiquitous, although they’re becoming a slightly more reasonable option with the rise of cloud gaming. In late 2022, Google and some hardware partners announced a push to make Chromebooks with cloud gaming in mind. From a hardware perspective, that means laptops with bigger screens that have higher refresh rates as well as optimizing those laptops to work with services like NVIDIA GeForce Now, Xbox Game Pass and Amazon Luna. You’ll obviously need an internet connection to use these services, but the good news is that playing modern games on a Chromebook isn’t impossible. You can install Android games from the Google Play Store, but that’s not what most people are thinking of when they want to game on a laptop.
There’s another potential change on the horizon, as Valve and Google are working to bring the massive Steam catalog to Chromebooks. Right now, Steam is only available as an early alpha on a handful of devices with higher specs, but it works a lot better than I expected. Of course, you’re still not going to run the most demanding games on basic laptops, but the Steam catalog is so vast that there are plenty of titles that worked on the Chromebook I tested it with. Hopefully, Steam will be supported on more devices soon, but the list is somewhat limited at the moment.
What are the most important specs for a Chromebook?
Chrome OS is lightweight and usually runs well on fairly modest hardware, so the most important thing to look for might not be processor power or storage space. That said, I’d still recommend you get a Chromebook with a relatively recent Intel processor, ideally a 10th-gen or newer Intel i3. Most non-Intel Chromebooks I’ve tried haven’t had terribly strong performance, but that’s starting to change – as we evaluate more of these Chromebooks, we’ll recommend ones that have enough power to be good everyday computers.
As for RAM, 8GB should be the target, unless you’re looking for a budget model and know that your needs are fairly modest. Storage space is another place where you don’t need to spend too much; 64GB should be fine for almost anyone. If you plan on storing a lot of files locally or loading up your Chromebook with Linux or Android apps, get 128GB. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never felt like I might run out of storage when using Chrome OS.
Things like the keyboard and display quality are arguably more important than sheer specs. The good news is that you can find less expensive Chromebooks that still have pretty good screens and keyboards that you won’t mind typing on all day. Many cheap Chromebooks still come with tiny, low-resolution displays, but at this point there’s no reason to settle for anything less than 1080p. (If you’re looking for an extremely portable, 11-inch Chromebook, though, you’ll probably end up with a lesser screen.) Obviously, keyboard quality is a bit more subjective, but there are plenty of affordable options that offer strong typing experiences.
Google has an Auto Update policy for Chromebooks, and while that’s not a spec, per se, it’s worth checking before you buy. Basically, Chromebooks get regular software updates automatically for about six years from their release date (though that can vary from device to device). This support page lists the Auto Update expiration date for virtually every Chromebook ever, but a good rule of thumb is to buy the newest machine you can to maximize your support.
How much should I spend?
Chromebooks started out notoriously cheap, with list prices often coming in under $300. But as they’ve gone more mainstream, they’ve transitioned from being essentially modern netbooks to the kind of laptop you’ll want to use all day. As such, prices have increased a bit over the last few years. At this point, you should expect to spend at least $400 if you want a solid daily driver. There are still many budget options out there that may be suitable as secondary devices, but Chromebooks that can be an all-day, every-day laptop will cost a bit more.
There are also plenty of premium Chromebooks that approach or even exceed $1,000, but I don’t recommend spending that much. Generally, that’ll get you a better design with more premium materials, as well as more powerful internals and extra storage space. Of course, you also sometimes pay for the brand name. But, the specs I outlined earlier are usually enough. That said, if money is no object, there are a few really fabulous options out there.
Best affordable Chromebook: Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 5i
Lenovo has been making some of the best affordable Chromebooks you can buy for several years now, and the IdeaPad Flex 5i is an affordable laptop that provides just about everything you could want in a basic Chromebook. The 13.3-inch, 1080p touchscreen is extremely bright and fairly sharp; I wish it had a taller aspect ratio than 16:9, but it’s pretty common in Chromebooks. This Lenovo Chromebook runs on a 11th-generation Intel Core i3 processor and includes 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. While the processor is starting to show its age, it should still be sufficient for most tasks. Eight hours of battery life is pretty good for a laptop in this price range, and the backlit keyboard is excellent for such an affordable device. The key caps feel a little small under my fingers, but that’s the only real complaint I have.
Other things in the Flex 5i’s favor include that it has both USB-C and USB-A ports, a microSD card slot and a security lock. At three pounds and 0.66 inches thick, it’s not the lightest or slimmest option out there, but it’s totally reasonable considering the price. Finally, the Flex 5i will receive software and security updates until June of 2029, so you can buy this computer and have it covered for years to come.
Ultimately, the Ideapad Flex 5i hits the sweet spot for a lot of Chromebook buyers out there, providing a level of quality and performance that’s pretty rare to find at this price point. That said, given this laptop has been out for over a year now, we’re keeping an eye out for a replacement from Lenovo, as well as comparable options other manufacturers release.
The Lenovo Flex 5i is no longer available directly from Lenovo, but you can commonly find it on Amazon for about $400 (as of this writing, it is selling for $368). That’s an outstanding value.
Best premium Chromebook: Acer Chromebook Spin 714
Acer’s Chromebook Spin 714 has long been one of the best premium Chromebook options out there, and this year’s update is no exception. It’s a modest tweak to the 2022 model, but given how good that computer is I have no issues recommending the latest edition. We haven’t tested it yet, but Acer will have a review model for us soon.
The Spin 714 features a 14-inch, 1900×1200 touchscreen. That works out to a taller 16:10 aspect ratio than you’ll get from the 1080p panels on most Chromebooks. I’m a big fan of taller laptop screens, and while this isn’t as luxurious as the few 3:2 ratio Chromebooks on the market, it’s still a comfortable and high quality screen.
One noteworthy new feature is the 2K webcam included in the Spin 714. In a world where we’re all doing more video calls than we’d like, having a camera that doesn’t reduce you to a blurry spot is definitely appreciated.
As for the rest of the hardware, the 13th-generation Intel Core i5 processor should be more than enough power for most tasks, and the keyboard and trackpad on the 2022 model are solid, if not the best. The same can be said for battery life: I got about seven hours using the Spin 714 in my normal daily routine. That’s not exceptional, but it’s in line with what I’ve seen on other i5-powered Chromebooks. Rounding out the hardware is 8GB of RAM and a generous 256GB of storage space. The latest Spin 714 model isn’t listed on Google’s support page, but last year’s model is supported until June 2030; the latest model’s window should run through June of 2031.
Another bonus is that its hardware meets Google’s recommended specs to run Steam, so gamers might want to give it a shot and see what games they can install.
Just as the name suggests, the Spin 714 has a 360-degree hinge which lets you use the laptop in tablet mode. I’m not a fan of this convertible design – I don’t know who wants to use a 3-plus pound tablet, but Acer did include a built-in stylus for handwriting notes or drawing in apps like the built-in Chrome Canvas.
The latest Spin 714 costs $700 – not an unreasonable price for a computer with these specs and built quality. For most people, the Lenovo model will be enough. But, if you’re a serious multitasker, want a better display and keyboard, or just want a computer that’ll last as long as possible, the Acer Spin 714 is easy to recommend. We’ll update this guide once we receive our test model from Acer so we can give updated impressions, particularly on battery life.
Best Chromebook with a large screen: Acer Chromebook 516 GE
Acer introduced the Chromebook 516 GE in the fall of 2022 as part of Google’s push to make devices suitable for cloud gaming, but you don’t need to be a gamer to appreciate this laptop. For $650, you’ll get a 16-inch display with a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution and a 120hz refresh rate. NVIDIA’s GeForce now gaming service supports up to 4K visuals at 120hz on its Ultimate tier so you’ll get to see those benefits. This laptop also supports Steam, yet another reason gamers might be interested in trying it. But even non-gamers should enjoy the 516 GE’s crisp and clear screen and refined hardware.
It also includes Intel’s 12th-gen Core i7 1240P processor, 8GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. Given the laptop’s size, it’s good that Acer didn’t skimp on ports here: there’s an HDMI port, USB-C, USB-A, ethernet and a headphone jack. The keyboard has gamer-friendly LED lights that you can customize, but more importantly it’s just a solid and comfortable keyboard, whether you’re playing games or just typing up reports. The trackpad is large and responsive, as well.
The 516 GE only weighs 3.75 pounds too – pretty light for a laptop with a 16-inch screen. Between the powerful hardware, solid design, good trackpad and keyboard and great screen, anyone who wants a bigger Chromebook will likely be happy with this model. As for support, Google says the 516 GE will continue receiving updates until June of 2030.
Honorable mention: HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook
If you just want the nicest Chromebook you can buy, with top-shelf specs and design, the $999 HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook might meet your needs. For starters, the screen is an absolute stand out. It’s a 14-inch, 2,560 x 1,600 touchscreen that maxes out at an extremely bright 1,200 nits.
The keyboard and trackpad, meanwhile, are probably the best I’ve tested lately. The keyboard has an extremely satisfying clickiness when you’re typing. It’s no mechanical keyboard, but it felt reassuringly solid and there was no real adjustment period needed when I started banging away on this laptop. The large trackpad is excellent, with great responsiveness and a solid click. There’s also a fingerprint reader so you can unlock the laptop without a password, another premium feature that I wish I saw in more Chromebooks.
From a specs perspective, the Dragonfly Pro includes a 12th-gen Core i5 i5-1235U processor – not the absolute latest, but plenty of power nonetheless. That’s matched with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage, and I definitely noticed the extra RAM makes a difference in responsiveness across the board.
Other niceties include an 8-megapixel webcam, a shooter that exceeds what you’ll find on most laptops, whether they’re in this price range or not. HP did this without resorting to a huge bezel, either – the top bezel is thicker than the ones on the side, but not so much that the laptop feels unbalanced. And the Bang & Olufsen quad speaker setup is shockingly good. With volume set to about 33 percent, the laptop was plenty loud to fill my office, and it was also fairly well balanced, with prominent bass, surprising stereo separation and clear highs. These are definitely some of the best laptop speakers I’ve ever heard.
That said, there is a major caveat here. The HP Dragonfly Pro’s battery life is poor — under 5 hours poor, which is very disappointing for a $999 laptop. It’s bad enough that I went back and forth on recommending this device. People who don’t travel a lot and do most of their work at their desk might not care, but in that case, why bother getting one of the thinnest and lightest Chromebooks out there?
The other downside is that you don’t get a variety of ports here – just four USB-C, and no headphone jack. That’s not a total dealbreaker, as I don’t often find myself plugging much into my Chromebooks, but again it’s definitely worth knowing.
This laptop is otherwise a total delight to use, as it is extremely well built, powerful and features a great keyboard and screen. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to everyone with these battery issues, but if you want one of the nicest Chromebooks you can buy and don’t spend a ton of time away from a charger (and have plenty of disposable income), you’ll probably enjoy the Dragonfly Pro.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-chromebooks-160054646.html?src=rss
There are dozens of smartwatches out now to consider, when just a few years ago, the market was much less crowded. Today, the wearable world is filled with various high-quality options, and a few key players, like the Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch and Fitbit Versa, have muscled their way to the front of the pack with their smart features. Maybe you’ve been eyeing a couple of smartwatches and haven’t been able to decipher which will be best for you, or maybe you’ve been wearing a smart timepiece for quite some time and think it’s about time for an upgrade. Regardless of which camp you fall into, the list of specs you’ll want to consider before deciding which is the best smartwatch for you to buy is a long one, and we’ll help you make sense of it. After testing numerous smartwatches, we’ve come up with our top picks and buying advice that will help you make sense of all of your options.
What factors to consider in a smartwatch
Apple Watches only work with iPhones, while Wear OS devices play nice with both iOS and Android phones. Smartwatches made by Samsung, Garmin, Fitbit and others are also compatible with Android and iOS, but you’ll need to install a companion app on your smartphone.
The smartwatch OS will also dictate the type and number of third-party apps you’ll have access to. Many of these aren’t useful, though, making this factor a fairly minor one in the grand scheme of things.
The best smartwatches generally cost between $300 and $400. Compared to budget smartwatches, which cost between $100 and $250, these pricier devices have advanced operating systems, communications, music and fitness features. They also often include perks like onboard GPS tracking, music storage and NFC, which budget devices generally don’t.
Some companies make specialized fitness watches: Those can easily run north of $500, and we’d only recommend them to serious athletes. Luxury smartwatches from brands like TAG Heuer and Hublot can also reach sky-high prices, but we wouldn’t endorse any of them. These devices can cost more than $1,000, and you’re usually paying for little more than a brand name and some needlessly exotic selection of build materials.
Battery life remains one of our biggest complaints about smartwatches, but there’s hope as of late. You can expect two full days from Apple Watches and most Wear OS devices. Watches using the Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor support extended battery modes that promise up to five days of battery life on a charge — if you’re willing to shut off most features aside from, you know, displaying the time. Snapdragon’s next-gen Wear 4100 and 4100+ processors were announced in 2020, but only a handful of devices – some of which aren’t even available yet – are using them so far. Other models can last five to seven days, but they usually have fewer features and lower-quality displays. Meanwhile, some fitness watches can last weeks on a single charge.
Any smartwatch worth considering delivers call, text and app notifications to your wrist. Call and text alerts are self explanatory, but if those mean a lot to you, consider a watch with LTE. They’re more expensive than their WiFi-only counterparts, but cellular connectivity allows the smartwatch to take and receive phone calls, and do the same with text messages, without your device nearby. As far as app alerts go, getting them delivered to your wrist will let you glance down to the watch face and see if you absolutely need to check your phone right now.
Activity tracking is a big reason why people turn to smartwatches. An all-purpose timepiece should function as a fitness tracker, logging your steps, calories and workouts, and most of today’s wearables have a heart rate monitor as well.
Many smartwatches’ fitness features include a built-in GPS, which is useful for tracking distance for runs and bike rides. Swimmers will want something water resistant, and thankfully most all-purpose devices now can withstand at least a dunk in the pool. Some smartwatches from companies like Garmin are more fitness focused than others and tend to offer more advanced features like heart-rate-variance tracking, recovery time estimation, onboard maps and more.
Health tracking on smartwatches has also seen advances over the years. Both Apple and Fitbit devices can estimate blood oxygen levels and measure ECGs. But the more affordable the smartwatch, the less likely it is that it has these kinds of advanced health tracking features; if collecting those kinds of wellness metrics is important to you, you’ll have to pay for the privilege.
Your watch can not only track your morning runs but also play music while you’re exercising. Many smartwatches let you save your music locally, so you can connect wireless earbuds via Bluetooth and listen to tunes without bringing your phone. Those that don’t have onboard storage for music usually have on-watch music controls, so you can control playback without whipping out your phone. And if your watch has LTE, local saving isn’t required — you’ll be able to stream music directly from the watch to your paired earbuds.
Most wearables have touchscreens and we recommend getting one that has a full-color touchscreen. Some flagships like the Apple Watch have LTPO displays, which stands for low-temperature polycrystalline oxide. These panels have faster response times and are more power efficient, resulting in a smoother experience when one interacts with the touchscreen and, in some cases, longer battery lives.
You won’t see significant gains with the latter, though, because the extra battery essentially gets used up when these devices have always-on displays, as most flagship wearables do today. Some smartwatches have this feature on by default while others let you enable it via tweaked settings. This smart feature allows you to glance down at your watch to check the time, health stats or any other information you’ve set it to show on its watchface without lifting your wrist. This will no doubt affect your device’s battery life, but thankfully most always-on modes dim the display’s brightness so it’s not running at its peak unnecessarily. Cheaper devices won’t have this feature; instead, their touchscreens will automatically turn off to conserve battery life and you’ll have to intentionally check your watch to turn on the display again.
Many smartwatches have NFC, letting you pay for things without your wallet using contactless payments. After saving your credit or debit card information, you can hold your smartwatch up to an NFC reader to pay for a cup of coffee on your way home from a run. Keep in mind that different watches use different payment systems: Apple Watches use Apple Pay, Wear OS devices use Google Pay, Samsung devices use Samsung Pay and so forth.
Apple Pay is one of the most popular NFC payment systems, with support for multiple banks and credit cards in 72 different countries, while Samsung and Google Pay work in fewer regions. It’s also important to note that both NFC payment support varies by device as well for both Samsung and Google’s systems.
Best overall: Apple Watch
When Apple unveiled the Apple Watch Series 9 in September, the company appears to be focusing on ways for you to interact with the device without having to touch the screen. It introduced a new Double Tap gesture that’s based on its Assistive Touch accessibility tool, allowing users to use a pinching action to navigate the system. If you’re unable to use your other hand to swipe, for example, you can Double Tap to bring up your Smart Stack or dismiss an alarm.
The feature is not something you can utilize throughout the entire watchOS interface, but when it does work, it could make little tasks a lot easier. Dismissing timers while cooking or starting a workout tracker when you’re already in the middle of your run are just some ways Double Tap could be very helpful.
Apple also brought on-device Siri processing to the Series 9, thanks to its new S9 system-in-package (SiP) processor. This way, the assistant responds slightly more quickly, but, more importantly, it can answer you even when you’re offline. It might not be able to pull web results when you’re disconnected, but it can at least control your music and timers. Later this year, Siri Health Requests will arrive, allowing you to ask it for your sleep, move and workout data, too.
Throw in a new Find My iPhone interface thanks to a second-generation ultra wideband (UWB) chip, brighter screen (that also gets dimmer at night), as well as a refreshed interface via watchOS 10, and the Series 9 feels like a meaty upgrade from its predecessor. The increased focus on Siri and touch-free interaction methods is also another advantage that the Apple Watch has over its competitors, and the company remains the king of the smartwatch category. Though it still lags its rivals on sleep-tracking, the Series 9 definitively beats out last year’s Series 8 to be the best smartwatch available now and the best Apple Watch for most people.
Best budget smartwatch: Fitbit Versa 2
Dropping $400 on a smartwatch isn’t feasible for everyone, which is why we recommend the Fitbit Versa 2 as the best sub-$200 option. Even though Fitbit has come out with the Versa 3 and 4, the Versa 2 remains our favorite budget watch because it offers a bunch of features at a great price. You get all of these essentials: Fitbit’s solid exercise-tracking abilities (including auto-workout detection), sleep tracking, water resistance, connected GPS, blood oxygen (SpO2) tracking and a six-day battery life. It also supports Fitbit Pay using NFC and it has built-in Amazon Alexa as a voice assistant.. While the Versa 2 typically costs $150, we’ve seen it for as low as $100.
Best smartwatch for Android: Samsung Galaxy Watch 6
The best smartwatch for Android users has long been one of Samsung’s Galaxy watches. Though Google may have given the company some competition with the debut of the Pixel Watch last year, it still trails behind on battery life and built-in features. And with the Galaxy Watch 6 series this year, Samsung continues to reign as smartwatch king for non-Apple users.
One of the company’s biggest advantages is its hallmark spinning bezel, which went away last year, only to be brought back in 2023’s Galaxy Watch 6 Classic. This model not only resurrects the fidget-spinner-esque ring, but also manages to be smaller and lighter than before. The bezel is slightly thinner, while still offering a smooth, tactile way to navigate Wear OS 4 without tapping at the screen. It’s not a huge change from the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, so if you’re wondering about upgrading based on size alone, don’t expect much of a difference. You’ll appreciate that the displays are brighter, though, and therefore easier to read in direct sunlight.
What makes the Galaxy Watch 6 more compelling than previous models are its updated health and fitness tracking tools. The onboard skin temperature sensor now works overnight to help keep track of ovulation and menstrual cycles, while new sleep-coaching tools offer greater insight on how to get better rest. The company also added an irregular heart rhythm monitoring feature and will alert you if it detects anomalies in your cardio patterns. Runners will also appreciate the new personalized heart rate zones, which will help keep you precisely in the cardio ranges that are right for you, rather than those generated based on population data.
As usual, the Galaxy Watch 6 series also brings processor upgrades and some battery life improvements, alongside more apps optimized for your wrist. All told, the set of software updates coming to this year’s model, including support for Samsung Wallet (instead of just Pay), make the Galaxy Watch 6 more useful than before. Just know that if you have a slightly older model, most of these will likely trickle down to your device soon. If you’re considering trading in for a newer model, it’s worth paying attention to the actual hardware differences. For Android users thinking of getting their first smartwatch, though, the Galaxy Watch 6 or Watch 6 Classic are the best all-rounded option available.
Stylish smartwatches: Fossil and more
Yes, there are still companies out there trying to make “fashionable” smartwatches. Back when wearables were novel and generally ugly, brands like Fossil, Michael Kors and Skagen found their niche in stylish smartwatches that took cues from analog timepieces. You also have the option to pick up a “hybrid” smartwatch from companies like Withings and Garmin – these devices look like classic wrist watches but incorporate some limited functionality like activity tracking and heart rate monitoring. They remain good options if you prefer that look, but thankfully, wearables made by Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and others have gotten much more attractive over the past few years.
Ultimately, the only thing you can’t change after you buy a smartwatch is its case design. If you’re not into the Apple Watch’s squared-off corners, all of Samsung’s smartwatches have round cases that look a little more like a traditional watch. Most wearables are offered in a choice of colors and you can pay extra for premium materials like stainless steel. Once you decide on a case, your band options are endless – there are dozens of first- and third-party watch straps available for most major smartwatches, and for both larger and smaller wrists, allowing you to change up your look whenever you please.
Other smartwatches our experts tested
Apple Watch Ultra 2
The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is probably overkill for most people, but it has a ton of extra features like extra waterproofing to track diving, an even more accurate GPS and the biggest battery of any Apple Watch to date. Apple designed it for the most rugged among us, but for your average person, it likely has more features than they’d ever need.
Apple Watch SE
The Apple Watch SE is less feature-rich than the flagship model, but it will probably suffice for most people. We actually regard the Watch SE as the best smartwatch option for first-time buyers, or people on stricter budgets. You’ll get all the core Apple Watch features as well as things like fall and crash detection, noise monitoring and Emergency SOS, but you’ll have to do without more advanced hardware perks like an always-on display, a blood oxygen sensor, an ECG monitor and a skin temperature sensor.
Google Pixel Watch 2
Google made many noteworthy improvements in the Pixel Watch 2. Unlike the first iteration of the smartwatch, the Pixel Watch 2 is actually a solid contender when positioned next to the likes of the Apple Watch and Samsung’s Galaxy Watch. In our review, we praised its excellent heart rate measurements and health insights, plus it has stress management tools that excel over similar features provided by its competitors. However, software quirks and confusing data representations prevent it from earning a spot on our top picks list.
Garmin Forerunner 745
The Garmin Forerunner 745 is an excellent GPS running watch for serious athletes or those who prize battery life above all else. When we tested it, we found it to provide accurate distance tracking, a killer 16-hour battery life with GPS turned on (up to seven days without it) and support for onboard music storage and Garmin Pay.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-smartwatches-153013118.html?src=rss
Companies continue to find new ways to impress with true wireless earbuds. There’s no doubt the popularity of Apple’s AirPods helped make them a mainstay, but plenty of others offer reliable connectivity, great sound and active noise cancellation (ANC) in increasingly smaller form factors. You can also get extra features that used to be reserved for premium models on mid-range devices. Of course, the popularity means that new earbuds are popping up all the time and the list of options is longer than ever. We’ve tested and reviewed dozens of buds at this point from the likes of Apple, Sony, Bose and many others, and we hope this guide of our top recommendations can help you find the best wireless earbuds for your needs.
What to look for
When it comes to shopping for earbuds, the first thing to consider is design or wear style. Do you prefer a semi-open fit like AirPods or do you want something that completely closes off your ears? If you’re shopping for earbuds with active noise cancellation, you’ll want the latter, but a case can be made for the former if you want to wear them all day or frequent places where you need to be tuned in to the ambient sounds. The overall shape of earbuds can determine whether you get a comfortable fit, so can the size and weight, so you’ll want to consider all that before deciding. And remember: audio companies aren’t perfect, so despite lots of research, the earbud shape they decided on may not fit you well. Don’t be afraid to return ill-fitting earbuds for something that’s more comfortable.
As wireless earbuds have become the norm, they’re now more reliable for basic things like consistent Bluetooth connectivity. Companies are still in a race to pack as much as they can into increasingly smaller designs. This typically means a longer list of features on the more premium sets of earbuds with basic functionality on the cheapest models. Carefully consider what you can’t live without when selecting your next earbuds, and make sure key items like automatic pausing and multipoint connectivity are on the spec sheet. You’ll also want to investigate the volume controls as you’ll often have to sacrifice access to something else to make that adjustment via on-board taps or swipes.
When it comes to battery life, the average set of earbuds lasts about five hours on a single charge. You can find sets that last longer, but this is likely enough to get you through a work day if you’re docking the buds during lunch or the occasional meeting. You’ll want to check on how many extra charges are available via the case and if it supports wireless charging.
Companies will also make lofty claims about call quality on wireless earbuds. Despite lots of promises, the reality is most earbuds still leave you sounding like you’re on speakerphone. There are some sets that deliver, but don’t get your hopes up unless reviews confirm the claims.
Sound can be subjective, so we recommend trying before you buy if at all possible. We understand this isn’t easy at a time when we’re doing most of our shopping online. But trying on a set of earbuds and listening to them for a few minutes can save you from an expensive case of buyer’s remorse. If a store doesn’t allow a quick demo, most retailers have return policies that will let you take earbuds back you don’t like. Of course, you have to be willing to temporarily part with funds in order to do this.
We also recommend paying attention to things like Spatial Audio, Dolby Atmos, 360 Reality Audio and other immersive formats. Not all earbuds support them, so you’ll want to make sure a perspective pair does if that sort of thing excites you.
How we test wireless earbuds
The primary way we test earbuds is to wear them as much as possible. We prefer to do this over a one- to two-week period, but sometimes embargoes don’t allow it. During this time, we listen to a mix of music and podcasts, while also using the earbuds to take both voice and video calls. Since battery life for earbuds is typically less than a full day, we drain the battery with looping music and the volume set at a comfortable level (usually around 75 percent).
To judge audio quality, we listen to a range of genres, noting any differences in the sound profile across the styles. We also test at both low and high volumes to check for consistency in the tuning. To assess call quality, we’ll record audio samples with the earbuds’ microphones as well as have third parties call us.
When it comes to features, we do a thorough review of companion apps, testing each feature as we work through the software. Any holdovers from previous models are double checked for improvements or regression. If the earbuds we’re testing are an updated version of a previous model, we’ll spend time getting reacquainted with the older buds. Ditto for the closest competition for each new set of earbuds that we review.
Best wireless earbuds overall: Sony WF-1000XM5
With the WF-1000XM5, Sony improves its already formidable mix of good sound, effective ANC and handy features. These earbuds are undoubtedly the company’s best and most comfortable design of its 1000X models so far, which was one of the few remaining riddles Sony needed to solve. Sony still manages to pack in more features than anyone else too, including trademark ones like adaptive sound and Speak-to-Chat. Add in upgraded drivers, new chips and significant improvements to sound quality and these are Sony’s best earbuds yet. But all of the advancements come at a cost: these are also Sony’s most expensive set of wireless earbuds in the 1000X lineup.
Runner up: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 3
If sound quality is your primary concern, the Momentum True Wireless 3 is your best bet for excellent sound and an overall top notch listening experience. You won’t get the truckload of features that Sony offers, but Sennheiser does the basics well at a lower price than the previous Momentum earbuds. A new Adaptive Noise Cancellation setup continuously monitors ambient sounds to suppress them in real time. Inside, the company’s True Response transducer is paired with 7mm dynamic drivers for top-notch audio.
Best earbuds for noise cancellation: Bose QuietComfort Ultra
Since the company introduced the first model, Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds have consistently been the best option in terms of noise-canceling ability. It’s not surprising that its most-recent version, the QC Ultra Earbuds, only improved in ANC performance. However, the bigger story here is that Bose finally has the audio chops to compete with the best earbuds thanks to its new Immersive Audio tech. The feature brings spatial audio to all by not requiring specially-made content to use it. Rather than employ music and movies where the sound is coming from all directions, QC Ultra Earbuds put you in the middle of the acoustic “sweet spot” by relying heavily on virtualization. A dedicated gesture for volume controls, better-than-advertised battery life and customization settings round out the spec sheet.
Best budget wireless earbuds: Anker Soundcore Space A40
The Anker Soundcore Space A40 offer the kind of features you’d expect from wireless earbuds that cost twice as much: ANC, multi-device pairing, wireless charging, IPX4 water resistance, a transparency mode, eight to ten hours of battery life and LDAC support. When we tested them, we found their warm sound to be pleasing right out of the box, but Anker’s companion app makes it easy to customize the EQ curve if needed. And while their ANC isn’t quite as strong as our top picks, it’s still effective for a noisy office or long flight. For $80 or so, this is a superb value. – Jeff Dunn, Senior Commerce Writer
Best wireless earbuds for iOS: Apple AirPods Pro
Apple’s second-generation AirPods Pro are a huge improvement over the previous models. These buds have improved sound quality and active noise cancellation, while maintaining all of the conveniences that make AirPods the best earbud option for iPhone, iOS and Mac. When we reviewed them, we found the most impressive feature to be transparency mode, which is more natural sounding than any other earbuds by a mile. You can leave these in during a conversation and it’s like you’re not even wearing them. Of course, fast pairing, hands-free Siri, spatial audio, good battery life, and now, a USB-C charging case that can also power up wirelessly will also come in handy.
Best wireless earbuds for Android: Google Pixel Buds Pro
Google has hit its stride when it comes to true wireless earbuds. Every new model the company introduces is an improvement after its first attempt failed to impress. With the Pixel Buds Pro, Google offers deep, punchy bass, solid ANC performance, reliable touch controls and wireless charging, all in an IPX4-rated package. Plus, there are added convenience features for Android and Pixel devices including Google Translate Conversation Mode.
Best wireless earbuds for working out: Beats Fit Pro
Most of the best AirPods features in a set of workout earbuds? That’s the Beats Fit Pro. Thanks to Apple’s H1 chip, these buds offer one-touch quick pairing, hands-free Siri and Find My tools. They’ll also allow you to use Audio Sharing with an Apple device and another set of AirPods or Beats wireless headphones for tandem listening or viewing. Balanced and punchy bass will keep the energy up during workouts while good noise cancellation, an IPX4 rating and comfy silicone ear tips make these a solid option outside of the gym too. And there’s plenty of support for Android devices, so these aren’t just a good buy for iOS users either.
Honorable mention: Sony LinkBuds S
One of the biggest surprises this year wasn’t Sony’s unique open-wear LinkBuds, it was the more mainstream follow-up. With the LinkBuds S, the company debuted a more “traditional” design akin to its premium WF-1000XM4, only this model is much smaller and lighter which leads to a much more comfy fit. These tiny wireless earbuds muster some punch when it comes to sound quality too and support for high-res listening (LDAC and DSEE Extreme) are both onboard. Capable ANC lends a hand with environmental noise and transparency mode can keep you tuned in when needed. What’s more, handy Speak-to-Chat is here and Adaptive Sound Control can automatically change settings based on activity or location. That’s a lot of premium features at a mid-range price.
Is sound quality better on headphones or earbuds?
Comparing sound quality on earbuds and headphones is a bit like comparing apples and oranges. There are a lot of variables to consider and the differences in components make a direct comparison difficult. Personally, I prefer the audio quality from over-ear headphones, but I can tell you the sound from earbuds like Sennheiser’s Momentum True Wireless 3 is also outstanding.
Which wireless earbuds have the longest battery life?
With new models coming out all the time, tracking the hours of battery life for each this can be difficult to keep tabs on. The longest-lasting earbuds we’ve reviewed are Audio-Technica’s ATH-CKS5TW. The company states they last 15 hours, but the app was still showing 40 percent at that mark during our tests. The only downside is these earbuds debuted in 2019 and both technology and features have improved since. In terms of current models, Master & Dynamic’s MW08 offers 12 hours of use on a charge with ANC off (10 with ANC on) and JBL has multiple options with 10-hour batteries.
What wireless earbuds are waterproof?
There are plenty of options these days when it comes to increased water resistance. To determine the level of protection, you’ll want to look for an IP (ingress protection) rating. The first number indicates intrusion protection from things like dust. The second number is the level of moisture protection and you’ll want to make sure that figure is 7 or higher. At this water-resistance rating, earbuds can withstand full immersion for up to 30 minutes in depths up to one meter (3.28 feet). If either of the IP numbers is an X, that means it doesn’t have any special protection. For example, a pair of wireless earbuds that are IPX7 wouldn’t be built to avoid dust intrusion, but they would be ok if you dropped them in shallow water.
Which earbuds stay in ears the best?
A secure fit can vary wildly from person to person. All of our ears are different, so audio companies are designing their products to fit the most people they can with a single shape. This is why AirPods will easily fall out for some but stay put for others. Design touches like wing tips or fins typically come on fitness models and those elements can help keep things in place. You’ll likely just have to try earbuds on, and if they don’t fit well return them.
What wireless earbuds work with PS5?
PlayStation 5 doesn’t support Bluetooth audio without an adapter or dongle. Even Sony’s own gaming headsets come with a transmitter that connects to the console. There are universal options that allow you to use any headphones, headset or earbuds with a PS5. Once you have one, plug it into a USB port on the console and pair your earbuds with it.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-wireless-earbuds-120058222.html?src=rss
For a few years now, gaming laptops have been some of the most intriguing PCs around. They’ve gotten thinner and lighter, naturally — but they’ve also become vastly more powerful and efficient, making them suitable for both work and play. They’ve adopted some bold innovations, like rotating hinges and near desktop-like customizability. Gaming laptops are where PC makers can get adventurous.
If you’re a professional in the market for a beefy new computer, and you like to play a few rounds of Apex Legends on occasion, it may make more sense to go for a gaming notebook instead of an Apple MacBook Pro workstation or the like. You’ll still get plenty of power for video encoding and 3D rendering, plus you may end up paying less. We’ll help you figure out which is the best gaming laptop for you, from budget options like the Dell G15 to premium notebooks like the Razer Blade 15 and everything in between.
What to look for in a gaming laptop
Your laptop buying journey starts and ends with the amount of money you’re willing to spend. No surprise there. The good news: There are plenty of options for gamers of every budget. In particular, we’re seeing some great entry-level PC gaming choices under $1,000, like Dell’s G15 lineup. A cheap gaming laptop in this price range will definitely feel a bit flimsier than pricier models, and they’ll likely skimp on RAM, storage and overall power. But most cheaper laptops should be able to handle the majority of video games running at 1080p at 60 frames per second, which is the bare minimum you’d want from any system.
Things get interesting when you start looking at the best gaming laptops in the mid-range space, with prices at $1,000 and higher. At that point, you’ll start finding PCs like the ASUS Zephyrus ROG G14, one of our favorite gaming notebooks. In general, you can look forward to far better build quality than budget laptops (metal cases!), improved graphics power and enough RAM and storage space to handle the most demanding games. These are the gaming machines we’d recommend for most people, as they’ll keep you gaming and working for years before you need to worry about an upgrade.
If you’re willing to spend around $1,800 or more, you can start considering more premium options like Razer’s Blade. Expect impeccably polished cases, the fastest hardware on the market, and ridiculously thin designs. The sky’s the limit here: Alienware’s uber customizable Area 51m is an enormous beast that can cost up to $4,700. Few people need a machine that high-end, but if you’re a gamer with extra cash to burn, it may be worth taking a close look at some of these pricier systems.
CPU and GPU
The answer to this question used to be relatively simple: Just get an Intel chip with an NVIDIA GPU. But over the last few years AMD has stepped up its game with its Ryzen notebook processors, which are better suited for juggling multiple tasks at once (like streaming to Twitch while blasting fools in Fortnite). Intel responded with its impressive 12th and 13th-gen chips, but it’s nice to have decent Ryzen AMD alternatives available, especially since they’re often cheaper than comparable Intel models.
When it comes to video cards, though, AMD is still catching up. Its Radeon RX 6000M GPU has been a fantastic performer in notebooks like ASUS’s ROG Strix G15, but it lags behind NVIDIA when it comes to newer features like ray tracing. (We’re still waiting to test AMD’s new Radeon 7000 series mobile graphics.) At the very least, a Radeon-powered notebook can approach the general gaming performance of the NVIDIA RTX 3070 and 3080 GPUs.
If you want to future-proof your purchase, or you’re just eager to see how much better ray tracing can make your games look, you’re probably better off with an NVIDIA video card. They’re in far more systems, and it’s clear that they have better optimized ray tracing technology. NVIDIA GeForce RTX GPUs also feature the company’s DLSS technology, which uses AI to upscale games to higher resolutions. That’ll let you play a game like Destiny 2 in 4K with faster frame rates. That’s useful if you’re trying to take advantage of a high refresh rate monitor.
You’ll still find plenty of laptops with NVIDIA’s older RTX 30-series GPUs these days, and they’ll still give you tremendous performance. But to be safe, it’s probably worth opting for the newer RTX 40-series systems, since they support the newer DLSS 3 technology and offer a wealth of performance upgrades. (If you’re looking out for the best deals, you can probably find some killer RTX 3070 laptops out there.) The entry-level RTX 4050 is a solid start, but we’d suggest going for a 4060 or 4070 if you’re aiming to maximize your framerates on faster screens. The RTX 4080 and RTX 4090 are both incredibly powerful, but they typically make systems far too expensive for most users.
It’s worth noting that NVIDIA’s mobile graphics cards aren’t directly comparable to its more powerful desktop hardware. PC makers can also tweak voltages to make gaming performance better in a thinner case. Basically, these laptops may not be desktop replacements — don’t be surprised if you see notebooks that perform very differently, even if they’re all equipped with the same GPU.
Screen and refresh rate
Screen size is a good place to start when judging gaming notebooks. In general, 15-inch laptops will be the best balance of immersion and portability, while larger 17-inch models are heftier, but naturally give you more screen real estate. There are some 13-inch gaming notebooks, like the Razer Blade Stealth, but paradoxically you’ll often end up paying more for those than slightly larger 15-inch options. We’re also seeing plenty of 14-inch options, like the Zephyrus G14 and Blade 14, which are generally beefier than 13-inch laptops while still being relatively portable.
But these days, there is plenty to consider beyond screen size. For one: refresh rates. Most monitors refresh their screens vertically 60 times per second, or at 60Hz. That’s a standard in use since black and white NTSC TVs. But over the past few years, displays have evolved considerably. Now, 120Hz 1080p screens are the bare minimum you’d want in any gaming notebook — and there are faster 144Hz, 240Hz and even 360Hz panels. All of this is in the service of one thing: making everything on your display look as smooth as possible.
For games, higher refresh rates also help eliminate screen tearing and other artifacts that could get in the way of your frag fest. And for everything else, it just leads to a better viewing experience. Even scrolling a web page on a 120Hz or faster monitor is starkly different from a 60Hz screen. Instead of seeing a jittery wall of text and pictures, everything moves seamlessly, as if you’re unwinding a glossy paper magazine. Going beyond 120Hz makes gameplay look even more responsive, which to some players gives them a slight advantage.
Not to make things more complicated, but you should also keep an eye out for NVIDIA’s G-SYNC and AMD’s FreeSync. They’re both adaptive sync technologies that can match your screen’s refresh rate with the framerate of your game. That also helps to reduce screen tearing and make gameplay smoother. Consider them nice bonuses on top of a high refresh rate monitor; they’re not necessary, but they can still offer a slight visual improvement.
One more thing: Most of these suggestions are related to LCD screens, not OLEDs. While OLED makes a phenomenal choice for TVs, it’s a bit more complicated when it comes to gaming laptops. They’re mostly limited to 60Hz, though some models offer 90Hz. Still, you won’t see the smoothness of a 120Hz or 144Hz screen. OLEDs also typically come as 4K or 3.5K panels – you’ll need a ton of GPU power to run games natively at that resolution. They look incredible, with the best black levels and contrast on the market, but we think most gamers would be better off with an LCD.
Other things to remember when buying a gaming laptop:
Get at least 16GB of RAM. And if you’re planning to do a ton of multitasking while streaming, 32GB is worth considering.
Storage is still a huge concern. These days, I’d recommend aiming for a 1TB M.2 SSD, which should be enough space to juggle a few large titles like Destiny 2. (If you can afford the jump to a 2TB SSD though, just do it.) Some laptops also have room for standard SATA hard drives, which are far cheaper than M.2’s and can hold more data.
Get your hands on a system before you buy it. I’d recommend snagging the best gaming laptop for you from a retailer with a simple return policy, like Amazon or Best Buy. If you don’t like it, you can always ship it back easily.
Best gaming laptop overall: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14
If you can’t tell by now, we really like the Zephyrus G14. It’s shockingly compact, at just 3.5 pounds, and features AMD’s new Ryzen chips paired together with its Radeon 6000M graphics (we’d recommend the Ryzen 9 model with an RX 6700M for $1,400). While its 14-inch screen is a bit smaller than our other recommendations, it looks great and features a fast 144Hz refresh rate. We also like its retro-future design (some configurations have tiny LEDs on its rear panel for extra flair) that still manages to incorporate plenty of ports. While the G14 has jumped in price since it debuted, it’s still one of the best gaming notebooks around, especially since ASUS has finally added a built-in webcam.
Best budget gaming laptop: Dell G15
We’ve been fans of Dell’s G5 line ever since it first appeared a few years ago and it remains the best budget gaming laptop out there. Now dubbed the G15, it starts at under $1,000 and, while not the most powerful gaming laptop, it features all of the latest hardware, like Intel’s 13th-generation CPUs and NVIDIA’s RTX 40-series cards. (You can also find AMD Ryzen chips in some models.) This budget-friendly gaming laptop is a bit heavy, weighing over five pounds, but it’s a solid notebook otherwise. And you can even bring it into mid-range gaming territory if you spec up to the RTX 4060.
Best premium gaming laptop: Razer Blade 15
Razer continues to do a stellar job of delivering bleeding-edge hardware in a sleek package that would make Mac users jealous. The Blade 15 has just about everything you’d want for great gaming, including NVIDIA’s RTX 4080, Intel’s 13th-gen CPUs and speedy quad-HD screens. Our recommendation? Consider the model with a Quad HD 165Hz screen and an RTX 4060 GPU for $2,500. You can easily save some cash by going for a cheaper notebook, but they won’t feel nearly as polished as the Blade.
Another good option: Acer Predator Triton 500 SE
While we’ve seen some wilder concepts from Acer, like its 360-degree hinge-equipped Triton 900, the Triton 500 is a more affordable bread and butter option. This year, it’s bumped up to a 16-inch display, giving you more of an immersive gaming experience. It’s relatively thin, weighs just over five pounds, and it can be equipped with Intel’s 11th-gen CPUs and NVIDIA’s RTX 30-series GPUs. Acer’s build quality is as sturdy as ever, and it has most of the standard features you’d need in a gaming notebook.
Best 18-inch gaming laptop: Alienware m18
Alienware’s m18 is its biggest gaming laptop ever, and it packs in just about everything we’d want including a really big screen. It can be equipped with Intel and AMD’s fastest CPUs, as well as NVIDIA’s fastest GPUs (including the 4090). Its base configuration with an RTX 4060 is also surprisingly affordable for an 18-inch laptop, starting at $2,100. We’ve always liked Alienware’s m-series gaming laptops, but this year they’re more refined, with better cooling and a slightly sleeker design. You can also opt for CherryMX mechanical keys, which deliver a desktop-like gaming and typing experience.
Best gaming laptop with a dual screen: ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 16
You know if you actually need a dual-screen laptop: Maybe a single 17-inch screen isn’t enough, or you want a mobile setup that’s closer to a multi-monitor desktop. If that’s the case, the Zephyrus Duo 16 is the best laptop for you. It’s powerful, and its extra 14-inch screen can easily let you multitask while
gaming dutifully working. It also has all of the latest hardware you’d want, like AMD’s new Ryzen chips and NVIDIA’s RTX 4000 GPUs. Sure, it’s nowhere near portable, but a true multitasker won’t mind.
This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-gaming-laptops-172033838.html?src=rss
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