From smartwatches to laptops, this is our favorite tech right now
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Even though gadgets have become ingrained in our daily lives, they still manage to let us down. Weak batteries, no signal, and poor user experiences can make your life more difficult than it needs to be. Not so with our favorite tech products, each of which has proven itself in our labs and in the real world. From the best smartwatches, smartbulbs, and connected thermostats to more traditional tech like the best laptops and headphones, our top tech products truly earned their spot in the Reviewed 100.
Sony’s WH-1000XM3 Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones aren't cheap, but they're worth every penny. Stand on a subway platform and the train can almost sneak up on you before you know it's there—they're that good.
Beyond that, the Sony WH-1000XM3s sound great, are super comfortable, and offer excellent battery life and wireless range. Whether you're an audio nerd or just someone who wants a little extra peace and quiet on your next flight, they're a fantastic choice. Again: not cheap. But they're some of the very best headphones wep've ever tested and they're bound to become the best thing in your bag.
One of the more comfortable gaming headsets on the market, the SteelSeries Arctis Pro uses a flexible suspension band to customize size, with super soft ear cups that stay comfortable for hours—even while wearing glasses. Sure, comfort alone isn't enough of a reason to buy such an expensive headset, but the Arctis Pro doesn’t stop there.
Both music and games sound fantastic using the Arctis Pro. I played both a quiet indie game—Atma—and loud, booming matches of Overwatch while using this headset and I was pleased with both. While playing Atma, the headset balanced the quiet soundtrack with in-game sound effects, like the crunching of grass beneath my character's feet. In Overwatch, I was able to clearly distinguish my allies' voices from in-game noise, which can sometimes be a struggle for me. That's largely thanks to the mixer that comes with the SteelSeries, which truly sets it apart from the rest of the gaming headset crowd.
Like Apple's AirPods, the Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro (also made by Apple) offer the same wireless chip that makes connecting them to any Apple device effortless. Even on non-Apple devices you'll enjoy excellent connectivity, great range, and very good battery life.
We're particularly fond of the Powerbeats Pro for their earhook design and waterproofing, which makes them ideal workout partners. They're not cheap, but they offer everything we look for in great workout earbuds, with sound quality that is much better than you might expect.
If you’ve ever bought an iPod or an iPhone and used the iconic white earbuds that were included, you pretty much know what to expect when it comes to look, feel, and fit of Apple's AirPods. What might surprise you, however, is just how much better the AirPods sound than their wired counterparts. The low-end is better represented (so bass-heavy tracks finally have a chance to shine on a pair of Apple headphones) and the stereo field sounds far more expansive than with Apple’s standard wired in-ears.
What we like most about the AirPods is how simple it is to manage them. Just pop open the dental floss-sized charging case and they automatically connect to your iPhone or MacBook (if you're running the latest update). When you’re done listening, slot them back into the case and they’ll magnetically slot into place and disconnect automatically—you don’t have to hold down any buttons. The pairing process is the standard Bluetooth headache on non-Apple devices, but you'll still benefit from great range and killer battery life.
Dell’s XPS 13 (9380) is easily the best laptop under $1,000 you can buy right now. Its screen is 13 inches on the diagonal, but it has razor-thin bezels, meaning the whole package is smaller than most other 13-inch laptops—making it super portable. Its trackpad and backlit keyboard are some of the best on the market, and its battery life is enough to get you through a full workday at just over 7 hours, according to our tests. It only comes with USB-C ports (so you’ll need adapters for your old USB-A peripherals and flash drives), and the included McAffee junkware is disappointing, but these tiny flaws are easy enough to overlook when everything else is so good.
With so many "premium" laptops getting thinner and more expensive (often at the expense of battery life, keyboard quality, or worse), it's awesome to see Dell refine a tried-and-true design without abandoning what made it great.
If you want to save some money and can get by with Chrome OS—which is actually very doable in this day and age—Asus’ Chromebook Flip is the best Chromebook you can buy right now. It costs well under a grand, but it has the build quality of Windows laptops twice that price. It's also a 2-in-1, meaning the 14-inch touch screen folds all the way back so you can use it as a tablet.
Asus is able to price it so well because Chromebooks just don’t need the same specs as their Windows counterparts. The Flip C434 only has an Intel Core m3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage—which is expandable through a microSD card slot—but it runs incredibly smoothly. If you tend to open a lot of tabs, it’s worth upgrading to the model with 8GB of RAM for a little extra, but no matter what this is an incredible laptop.
The best gaming laptops combine raw processing power and design into a package that does exactly what you need. The Dell Alienware M15 fits all those criteria beautifully. Our test unit rocks an Nvidia GTX 2070 graphics card, an 8th-gen Core i7 processoer and 16GB of RAM, but it's fully customizable and still comes in under five pounds.
The star of the show is the M15's 15.6-inch full HD display, with 144Hz refresh rate and an anti-glare screen. It's enjoyable for both long bouts of travel in your favorite RPG or for binge-watching streaming content. It also isn't much of a power hog, with the M15 getting roughly four hours of battery life, which is about 40% more than we typically see. With an as-tested price of right around $2,000, this is simply one of the best buys in the gaming world right now.
While Nest and Honeywell may be better known smart thermostat brands, the Emerson Sensi Touch won us over with a helpful app, near-universal compatibility with smart ecosystems, and the least stressful installation process of the bunch. It's compatible with Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomeKit, is simple to install if you have a "C" wire, and the app for controlling it is beautifully simple.
Smart thermostats are some of our favorite connected devices, with the ability to instantly save you money by giving you more control over the comfort of your home. The Emerson Sensi Touch is an affordable, relatively simple way to add that and we think just about everyone should own one.
There's a lot to love about our top smart lock, the Schlage Encode. For starters, thanks to the app’s interactive step-by-step guide, installation and troubleshooting are a breeze. Everything is simple to use, jam-packed with useful features, and lock/unlock times are extremely quick.
Not only is the Encode able to store and remember up to 100 permanent, temporary, or recurring passcodes, but it’s compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, Ring, Amazon Key, and, of course, Schlage Home. Unlike most other smart locks, the Schlage Encode has WiFi built into the lock itself. That means that, even without a hub, Encode can connect to the internet, voice assistants, and your phone when you’re away from home.
The option to set up recurring passcodes is pretty ingenious and helpful for those who have regular housekeepers, babysitters, or other household employees, and only want them having access every third Thursday or whatever. It's clever features like this that continue to keep Schlage atop our rankings.
Across the board, the Philips Hue smart bulbs light topped all of our smart bulb tests thanks to an easy setup, a robust suite of features, and an intuitive app. Additional support for smart assistants like Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri add tremendous benefit to an already impressive portfolio. Once you throw in the additional rainbow of possible light colors, these are without a doubt the best smart bulbs you can buy.
The only downside is that unlike some other smart bulbs, the Hue bulbs do require a hub in order to work. Additional hardware isn’t usually a strong point, but it’s a small price to pay for the sheer performance and reliability the Hue bulbs offer—especially if you opt for this Starter Kit that comes packaged with everything you need to get started.
If you want the very best smart switch, then you need to get Leviton's Decora Smart WiFi Switch. Its setup was a breeze and it was easy to get it connected to both Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant. The companion My Leviton app wasn't the most intuitive of the bunch, but it works reliably across Android and iOS.
Aside from the app, the switch scored perfect marks for its remote control capabilities as well as its responsiveness to app and voice commands (as most of the switches did). And since it works over WiFi, it doesn't require any extra hubs or hardware to get started, making your startup cost minimal. Lastly, it also supports three-way switches, meaning you can have multiple smart switches control the same light—something its competitors can't do.
There’s no single killer feature that makes the Apple Watch, our pick for best smartwatch. It’s the fact that it does almost everything better than every other smartwatch we’ve come across. It can be used as a simple way to keep up with your notifications, as an all-out productivity tool, or as a fitness companion tracking your workouts and heartrate with its various monitors and connectivity.
Setting up the Apple Watch to work with your iPhone is almost effortless. Using this watch, with its responsive OLED touchscreen display and rotating Digital Crown (Apple’s marketing mumbo jumbo for the knob on the side of the watch) is just as easy. You can use your finger to navigate apps and menus, scroll through text with the Digital Crown or ask Siri to do some hands-free heavy lifting for you.
If you're on the hunt for the best smartwatch, we don't think the competition comes close. There are some excellent Android watches, but nothing matches the features, design, build quality, and value of the Apple Watch. The only thing to be aware of? You should make sure to get the Series 5 (or the discontinued Series 4, if you can find it), which is a far better product than the first few Apple Watch models.
Even though it’s been around for a few years, the standard Amazon Echo is still a great option for anyone looking to bring an Alexa-enabled smart speaker into their homes. The 2nd gen model has great sound quality, thanks to Dolby audio, a 2.5-inch woofer, and a 0.6-inch tweeter. And it has an auxiliary input and Bluetooth if you want to connect it to a larger speaker. The Echo also uses far-field voice recognition so Alexa can hear you even if you're in the next room.
On the surface, the Echo (either the current 2nd Gen or the upcoming 3rd Gen) is little more than a stubby speaker with some fancy microphones. But while it lacks the camera or display of some of Amazon's more advanced Echo devices, the standard Echo is the perfect gateway into the world of connected devices. It makes your life better in small ways, every day, and for that it's a terrific value.
The Kindle Paperwhite has pretty much owned the e-reader game since it debuted. It offers the best combination of features, performance, price, and readability (thanks to its built-in backlight) of any Kindle. The latest model (released in 2018) ups the ante with a slightly trimmer design that now offers water-resistance, making the Paperwhite the kind of device you'll absolutely want with you wherever you go.
It works in the dark. It works on a bright, sunny day at the beach. It's perfect by the pool, or on the subway, or on a plane ride, or on your lunch break at work. The battery life is unbelievable, and you can leave it untouched in your bag for months and pick it up at a moment's notice without missing a beat. It's very nearly the perfect gadget, and it absolutely belongs on the Reviewed 100 as one of our favorite things.
Your average pair of earbuds can get dangerously loud if you play them at maximum volume. In our lab tests, we found even basic earbuds and a smartphone could combine for over 100dB(a) of volume—loud enough to damage your hearing. It's a big problem for kids, especially, who have more to lose if their hearing declines early.
Volume-limited headphones help reduce this damage, and the PuroQuiet noise-cancelling headphones are the best kids' headphones we tested. They are stylish, durable, are sized to work with kids up through teenagers, and they keep noise to reasonably safe levels. You'll still want to consult with your pediatrician and take frequent breaks, but the PuroQuiets are the best companion for kids who use headphones a lot.
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