This week we reviewed a huge variety of appliances—including a Frigidaire range that was among the best we’ve ever seen, and a surprisingly affordable stainless-steel fridge from Whirlpool. But it wasn’t all appliances. We also put Fujifilm’s beautiful new X-T1 mirrorless camera through its paces, tested Leica’s ridiculously expensive M240, and tried out some fashion-first headphones from Sennheiser.
In our spare time, we wrote a comprehensive guide to small-batch homebrewing and examined a $21,000 grill from Kalamazoo, Michigan. And though it wasn't exactly news to us, we confirmed that most people don’t know jack about wine.
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Like most Fujifilm cameras, the X-T1 (MSRP $1,299.95 body-only) exhibits tremendous attention to detail. With full weather sealing, a staggeringly high-resolution EVF, super-quick autofocus, and a brilliant control scheme, the X-T1 is a serious competitor in the mid-$1,000 price bracket.
It’s not the most technically impressive camera we’ve seen—the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Sony A7 have it beat there—but it's close. What really sets the X-T1 apart its exquisite design and gorgeous film simulation modes, which you can only get from Fuji. It's that overwhelming sense of charm and sophistication that allows it to compete with cameras boasting superior specs.
All your suspicions about wine snobs were correct—well, mostly. Recent studies show much of what influences your enjoyment of wine has to do with environmental factors—that is, your company, the price of the bottle, the country on the label, your mood, and so on. But while most of us are hardly oenophiles, we do have to give respect to the master sommeliers of the world. Those guys really do know their stuff.
Here’s a versatile option for budget TV buyers: the Panasonic TC-50AS530U (MSRP $899.99). This set comes in a range of sizes, includes numerous smart options (Netflix and Hulu are preinstalled), and produces a solid image. Shoppers can even find the 50-inch model online for less than $700. That said, the competition is fierce. Vizio’s 2014 E series, for example, boasts five more inches of screen for $170 less. The truth is, we quite liked the AS530U—but it's not exactly the leader in its segment.
There are a lot of smart home gadgets on the market—too many, really. Most of them serve a niche purpose and aren't compatible with other devices, and that kind of exclusionary competition only serves to slow down the entire market. Though it's far from the versatile, all-in-one solution most consumers are looking for, SmartThings seems to understand this quandary. The company sells a number of home automation sensors that allow you to remotely monitor and control your home through a single app—and they don’t charge a monthly fee for it.
A traditionalist manufacturer, Leica has long dragged its heels about introducing new tech to its classic "M" line of rangefinder cameras. The new Leica M, however, breathes some much-needed modernity into a thoroughly old-school design. The addition of live view, HD video, and focus peaking makes for a more versatile shooter, even though those features have been standard on cheaper cameras for years now.
While the M (Typ 240) is exceptionally well-built and outperforms all previous Leicas we’ve tested, its performance alone doesn't justify the nearly $7,000 price tag. You can simply get better image quality from cameras that cost half as much. But for lovers of classic cameras, the new M is the best Leica you can get at any price.
Homebrewing is not an easy hobby to pick up. There’s a huge barrier to entry in the form of basic equipment and ingredients—not to mention sheer know-how. That’s why most experts recommend that beginners should start with small-batch brew kits. To that end, we’ve put together a resource of our own. It lists some of the top small-batch kits on the market, as well as useful information to help novices get their hands in the homebrew game.
The Momentum On-Ears (MSRP $199.95) are, in many ways, Sennheiser's appeal to fashion-minded buyers—and fashionable they are. From the subdued color profile to the stitched brown leather, the design is all-around pleasing. Still, we were miffed by the speaker pads, which squeezed our ears and also got uncomfortably hot with prolonged use.
And while the overall sound profile is robust—with deep lows and a balanced high end—there was a noticeable drop in the upper midrange, right in that pocket reserved for jazzy brass leads and overtones on guitar and piano. Some buyers are sure to enjoy this intersection of hip sound and fashionable design, but these aren't our favorite cans.
Yes, this is an extremely high-end grill reserved for the wealthiest homeowners among us. Once you get past that mountain of coin, however, you’ll see that it’s pretty much the best grill ever made.
Kalamazoo’s hybrid fire grill lets you choose between natural gas, propane, wood, charcoal, or any combination of the above. It's made entirely from stainless-steel—including the quarter-inch-thick laser-cut grates—and it can hit a whopping 1000 degrees Fahrenheit. The company also makes pizza ovens, stainless-steel cabinetry, and refrigerators—all you need to outfit an elaborate, uber-expensive outdoor kitchen.
Frankly, the Frigidaire FGES3065PF (MSRP $1,799.00) is an exceptional range. It boasts some of the best cooking performance we’ve ever seen, an excellent feature set, and the distinction of outclassing pretty much ever other slide-in range on the market. The design is pleasingly modern, but not too modern; the glass cooktop is versatile, precise, and powerful; and the oven was nearly perfect.
Really, our complaints about the FGES3065PF were few and far between—so few that they don’t warrant mentioning in this brief summary. Maybe the price is a bit high? No, even that was reasonable. If you're in the market for a range, this is one you should consider.
Anyone who’s ever owned a laptop, smartphone, or tablet—aka: pretty much everyone—knows that batteries degrade over time. It's because of the strain that charge and discharge cycles place on the lithium-ion power cells almost all our devices use.
The BatteryBox features a new kind of technology that optimizes cycle activity. The upshot is that unlike other external batteries, the BatteryBox maintains at least 96 percent capacity after five years of use. It even includes a five-year warranty to back that claim up.
The Whirlpool WRS325FDAM (MSRP $1,399) is the perfect example of an appliance that doesn’t sacrifice too much quality in pursuit of a fair price. The WRS325FDAM, which can be found for less than a grand on sale, has plenty of storage room, solid energy efficiency, and a strong if simple design. Not surprisingly, it falls short of ideal in a few key areas, like temperature accuracy and feature set.
That said, it’s a solid, good-looking fridge for those on a budget—more than enough of a reason to give it our Editors’ Choice award.
Late last year, TellSpec shook the web by unveiling a seemingly magical food scanner. Think Star Trek tricorder, but instead of scanning you, it scans what you eat and tells you the ingredients and nutritional value. (Yes, we're nerds.)
While it has been plagued by a series of questionable PR moves that put its legitimacy into doubt, it now appears that the TellSpec is the real deal—at least in the sense that it's an actual product that exists. As to whether it will actually work... well, we put the question to the magnifying glass this week. Our conclusion? Read the article to find out.