We've done the dirty work, testing and scrutinizing the best smartphones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches and fitness trackers to take the guesswork out of your next gadget purchase. But our work is never done. Every month, we'll update the Engadget Buyer's Guide with the latest and greatest gadgets for every budget and lifestyle.
We've done the dirty work, testing and scrutinizing the best smartphones, tablets, laptops, smartwatches and fitness trackers to take the guesswork out of your next gadget purchase. But our work is never done. Every month, we'll update the Engadget Buyer's Guide with the latest and greatest gadgets for every budget and lifestyle.
If you’re looking for something more akin to high fidelity when it comes to mobile or desktop listening, Mo-Fi may just be it. The over-ear headphones sport a race car-inspired design to enhance comfort, and the audio innards are tuned by a trusted pro audio outfit. There’s a built-in amp with three modes that allows you to select the option that suits a playlist perfectly. And when the rechargeable battery runs out, they’re still a solid option even in passive mode.
Key specs: 50mm driver, over-ear design, built-in headphone amplifier, auto power off, 12-hour battery life, 15Hz-20kHz frequency response.
Spend a ton of time at your desk? Enjoy the freedom of blasting your guilty pleasures without having to wear headphones? Allow us to offer a desktop option. The Audioengine A2+ powered speakers handle the audio from a USB jack, serving up high-quality tunes for that workspace. Wood cabinets house analog amplifiers and input options for connecting tech other than a laptop or desktop machine. When not in use, the A2+ has an idle mode that cuts down on the power consumption, too.
Key specs: 2.75-inch woofers, 0.75-inch tweeters, three input options (USB, 3.5mm and RCA), built-in analog amplifiers, idle mode, 60W peak power output, 65Hz-22kHz frequency response.
As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, Blue Microphones has built quite the reputation for audio wares, and the Nessie USB mic is another stellar option in its desktop line. The adaptive unit automatically tweaks recordings to avoid the usual issues with real-time adjustments to EQ, levels and more. Muting and headphone volume can both be wrangled right on the accessory, which packs a cardioid condenser, pop filter and internal shock mount to improve the recording process and hopefully cut down on the post-production edits.
Key specs: 14mm cardioid condenser capsule, adaptive processing, onboard controls, built-in pop filter, zero-latency headphone jack, 20Hz-20kHz frequency response.
Let's face it: For many people, the need for a dedicated MP3 player will have evaporated the minute they got a smartphone. But, not all of us have made that leap, and even then, there are situations when a chunky ol' phone just won't cut it. Take exercise, for example. You could be that guy/gal with the phone strapped to your arm, but no one really wants that. And getting a full day out of your phone's battery is hard enough already. Cowon has been in the media player game for years, and has used its know-how to create a product for exactly this market. The iAudio E3 is incredibly light and well-built. And 16GB of storage should be ample to see you through an ultramarathon (as will the battery). If you needed more convincing that this has the athlete in mind, know that there's even an onboard pedometer to help you log your activity.
Key specs: 16GB storage, MP3/WMA/OGG/FLAC/WAV support, touch-sensitive controls, 0.95-inch (96 x 64) OLED display, pedometer, 20Hz-20kHz frequency response.
Headphones for athletes usually involve hooks or wings. These can be good, but SMS Audio (50 Cent's answer to Beats) provides another solution -- wireless on-ear Sync. Being cable-free has obvious advantages, but what about the on-ear form? It won't be for everyone, but there's a dedicated slice of active people who love the isolation and comfort (no wiggling these back in place) on-ears can deliver. 50 Cent's contribution adds water-resistant materials on the ear pads and a striking design that goes with modern sportswear. Bluetooth connectivity lets you train with your smartwatch or phone, but you can connect with a regular cable too, for added versatility. No surprises that the sound is a little bass-heavy, but that just helps push you through the pain barrier (and drown out your frantic panting). Thanks to a built-in mic, these double as a hands-free option for your cell. But perhaps the best part of that is being able to stay busy, rather than take a call on the run.
Key specs: 40mm drivers, on-ear design, Bluetooth, 3.5mm wired option, IPX4 water resistant, rubberized coating, built-in mic.
If you prefer to keep your headphones locked in with hooks, or just want to get active without a bulky set of on-ears, BlueAnt's Pump HD makes a good case for your attention. More than just sweatproof, the Pump HDs are IP67 waterproof-rated (making them good for up to 30 minutes under a meter of water). BlueAnt cuts the cable with Bluetooth, and throws in support for aptX, which allows for higher-quality sound. Perhaps one of the best features isn't something you'll see on a spec sheet: the fit. Other hook-based in-ears might not slip off, but the buds can still work their way out of your ears. The Pump HDs lock to your ears like limpets. Add in the section that hangs behind your lug holes, and a strap that can be tightened behind your head, and the Pump HDs suddenly become the new gold standard for in-ear stability.
Key specs: 12.5mm drivers, in-ear design, Bluetooth with aptX support, IP67 waterproof rating.
So you've heard all about these music-streaming speakers and decided you want in -- but where to start? An excellent place would be the Sonos Play:1. It's the smallest member of the Sonos family, but it still packs a punch. It's loud enough to fill a bedroom or modest lounge, yet small enough not to dominate your décor. As for the streaming part? Sonos is a bit of a leader in this space, and that means you get possibly the best choice of compatible services. Whether you're into Spotify, Google Play Music, Deezer, Rdio... you get the picture; you can stream them directly with the Play:1. Even alternative services like Hype Machine and SoundCloud are on board (plus you can play your local music files too, of course). With a clean and simple app for iOS and Android, you can have that weekend playlist ready to go before you're even through the front door. The downside is once you've tried the Play:1, it won't be long before you're pricing up Sonos' bigger speakers for the rest of your pad.
Key specs: 3.5-inch mid-woofer, tweeter, two class-D amps, support for stereo pairs/5.1-channel system, 802.11b/g and Ethernet connectivity.
There are so many similarities between the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One that it’s incredibly hard to recommend one over the other. Both use Blu-ray for optical media and 500GB hard drives for storage, and both offer streaming via Twitch, along with a solid online infrastructure for multiplayer gaming. If you go for the PS4, you’re getting access to a huge selection of (mostly great) indie titles in addition to third-party games that look a little better on Sony’s console. There’s also the PlayStation Plus service that includes online multiplayer support and two free games per month in exchange for a nominal fee. In addition, improvements to the PS4’s firmware have made navigating the system even more user-friendly and intuitive than before. One downside: While the DualShock 4 controller is among the most comfortable we’ve used, it still has abysmally short battery life.
Key specs: Octa-core CPU, 8GB RAM, 500GB hard drive, Blu-ray, 802.11n, Gigabit Ethernet.
Thanks to a steady stream of firmware updates, the Xbox One has improved enormously since launch. What's more, it has a strong selection of games that you can’t play anywhere else. The console has a few surprising advantages over its most immediate competition, too, and those have to do with media use. It’s the only current console that can act as a DLNA server (allowing for media streamed from your household network), play audio CDs and use apps like Fox Now. It’s a total package that just keeps getting better.
Key specs: Octa-core CPU, 8GB RAM, 500GB hard drive, Blu-ray, 802.11n, Gigabit Ethernet.
Late-night gaming sessions can wreak havoc on your eyes if you aren’t careful, and that’s where Antec’s Bias Lighting comes in. This self-adhering LED strip sticks to the back of your display, is powered by your screen’s USB port and one kit is big enough to accommodate up to a 65-inch screen. Unlike other options, it turns on and off when your TV does -- automatically. The setup serves a few purposes, but most importantly, it ensures that your display isn’t the only source of light in a dark room. Thus, your eyes don’t have to work as hard to compensate when a flashbang or bolt of lightning streaks across your TV, and you can watch movies or play longer without discomfort. All this is to say that for around $25, it makes the thought of all-night Destiny strikes much more attractive.
Key specs: 55.1-inch LED strip, USB-powered, recommended for up to 60-inch HDTV
Sure, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One feature built-in options for livestreaming and editing video of your gaming exploits, but they’re pretty limited compared to what the Elgato Game Capture HD60 offers. It’s damn-near foolproof to set up (just plug it in and install the software) and it offers more options for game broadcasting and recording than you’ll likely ever need. We’re talking multiple bitrates at many different resolutions, a ton of sound adjustments and direct uploads to the likes of YouTube, too. Naturally, you’re cutting together clips with a mouse and keyboard -- not a game controller -- so that makes the process much simpler. If you’re taking streaming seriously, the Elgato Game Capture HD60 is the only way to go.
Key specs: Up to 1080p/60 video capture, supports PlayStation 4/Xbox One/Xbox 360, USB 2.0.
There are a plethora of cheaper gaming headsets out there, but we can say without a doubt that the Astro A50 wireless headset is the best you can buy. Admittedly, they don’t come cheap — for $100 more, you can buy a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One. But think about it this way: They’re an investment. The $300 A50s debuted for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2012 and have since gotten software updates to make them fully usable with the PS4 and Xbox One. They also sound incredible, convincingly reproducing a 7.1-channel surround mix and, just as importantly, are extremely easy to set up and operate. The built-in boom mic for chat smartly mutes when lifted out of the way, and sound-adjustment controls are deliberately spaced, taking little time to find without removing the headset itself. Not that you’d want to anyway: We experienced little to no discomfort after wearing these for six hours of use. Yes, the A50s are expensive, but they’re worth every penny.
Key specs: Over-ear design, 5.8GHz KleerNet wireless connectivity, Dolby Digital 7.1, 20Hz-20kHz frequency response.
How do you solve the inherent problem of the DualShock 4’s terrible battery life without resorting to clunky onboard battery packs? With an Energizer charging stand. Setup is simple and the unit looks a lot cooler sitting on an end table than a tangle of micro-USB cables does.
Key specs: LED charge indicator, supports two DualShock controllers simultaneously.
The Xbox One controller seemingly lasts forever on a pair of fresh AA batteries, but even those are bound to wear out. The Microsoft-flavored Energizer charging stand is pretty similar to the PS4 model, but includes two 1,200mAh rechargeable battery packs to keep the action going.
Key specs: LED charge indicator, supports two Xbox One controllers simultaneously, two 1,200mAh battery packs included.
If you can only buy one portable game console this year, buy a 3DS XL -- but if you can grab two? Give the PlayStation Vita some serious consideration. It's less portable, true, but it has a gorgeous 5-inch screen, two actual thumbsticks and a library filled with sleeper hits like Spelunky and Hotline Miami. Playing games from the original PlayStation fares extremely well here too. It’s also a killer companion device to the PlayStation 4 given its cross-save system that allows game progress made on the home console to carry over to titles on the handheld -- perfect for continuing an MLB: The Show career while you’re traveling. Let’s not forget the Vita’s coolest trick, Remote Play, which lets you stream games from your PS4 to the Vita, enabling play over WiFi when you aren’t in front of your TV. Compared to Nintendo’s handheld, it’s lacking in native games, but don’t hold that against it with all that the system’s capable of doing.
Key specs: Quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU, 802.11b/g/n, 3G, rear touchpad, 5-inch (960 x 544) front touchscreen.
Your collection of classic consoles may look great lined up in your entertainment center, but those suckers take up a lot of room. They also look pretty terrible on modern HDTVs. Hyperkin’s Retron 5 solves both of those problems: Not only does the Android-powered console support cartridges from several classic systems (including NES, SNES, Famicom, Sega Genesis, Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance), but it also outputs them all through HDMI -- giving you a crystal-clear picture on modern TVs. Want more? The Retron 5’s OS can import and export save data from cartridges, enable cheat codes, store instant save states and even take screenshots. The console’s only drawback: Its included wireless gamepad is complete garbage. Use one of your old console’s original controllers (it supports SNES, NES and Sega Genesis gamepads) and you’ll be fine.
Key specs: Supports several classic gaming systems, HDMI output, NTSC/PAL compatibility, accepts NES/SNES/Genesis controllers.
The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 may have live game-streaming capabilities built in, but PC gamers have to assemble their own setups. If you want your Twitch viewers to be able to see your live reactions, you’re going to want a good webcam. For gamers on a budget, Logitech’s C920 is a strong choice. The C920 looks unassuming, but it has a lot going for it, including 1080p recording, the ability to take 15-megapixel stills, a dual-mic setup for stereo audio recordings and Carl Zeiss optics with a 20-step autofocus. It’s not too expensive either: This little webcam can be had for less than $100, and is often on sale for much less.
Key specs: 1080p video recording, dual mics, 15-megapixel still images.
Almost any decent gaming headset will do for in-game voice chat, but if you’re starting to get serious about recording game commentary or livestreaming your gameplay on Twitch, you’re going to want something better. Ask around, and you’ll find Blue Microphone’s Yeti is highly recommended among podcasters and streamers, and for good reason: The Yeti is an excellent recording tool. It features an onboard mute button; a pattern-selection dial for stereo, omnidirectional, bidirectional and cardioid recording; and a handy plug-and-play USB interface.
Key specs: Multiple pattern support, onboard controls, USB interface, 20Hz-20kHz frequency response.
If you haven’t heard of Basis, it’s about time you got up to speed. The startup quietly put out one of the best fitness trackers, only to get bought by Intel a year later. What’s always set the company’s fitness bands apart is that they can automatically tell when you’re asleep or beginning a workout. That means you never have to stop to put the band into a specific usage. In addition, the water-resistant watch also has an OLED screen, which you can use to not just view your stats, but also smartphone notifications. Not only is it one of the smartest fitness trackers, then, but it also does double-duty as a smartwatch. Unlike a proper smartwatch, though, the battery life is actually decent: up to four days on a charge, according to the company.
Key specs: Android and iOS compatible, Bluetooth 4.0, waterproof to 5 ATM/50 meters, 1.25-inch (168 x 144) OLED display.
GoPro has long been the go-to name in action cameras, and so it should come as no surprise that its new Hero4 camera has taken the place of the last-gen Hero3 in our buyer’s guide. Curiously, though, we’re not recommending the high-end “Black” edition this time, but rather, the mid-range “Silver” model. For us, it mostly comes down to the display: The Silver edition has a touchscreen, whereas, for some reason, the Black version doesn’t. That’s a big deal, considering GoPro’s in-camera menu system was never easy to use, so we’ll take the touchscreen over a non-touch one any day. Also, the addition of a touchscreen doesn’t seem to have a negative effect on battery life, so you needn’t worry about getting fewer shots in. If anything, you might still choose the higher-end Black edition because it can shoot 4K video at 30 frames per second, up from 15fps in the Silver model. Generally speaking, though, you’d be smarter to just get the Silver and save yourself $100.
Key specs: 4K/15, 2K/30, 1080p/60 recording options; 12-megapixel photos; microSD; WiFi; Android and iOS compatible (Windows Phone support coming soon).
Sure, you could use a current-generation Xbox One or PlayStation 4 gamepad for PC gaming, but who wants to deal with wires or Bluetooth dropping? The Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver simplifies all that with an easy solution for using Xbox 360 gamepads wirelessly: Plug it into USB, hit the pairing button on the dongle and then your gamepad and voila. Incredibly easy and incredibly convenient, the Xbox 360 Wireless Gaming Receiver turns your living room PC into a living room gaming PC in one fell swoop. Don’t wanna settle for a last-gen 360 controller? A wireless adapter for the Xbox One pad is about to go on sale too.
Key specs: USB 2.0, 2.4GHz radio, 30-foot range
If you’re going to buy a MacBook Air, now would be the time: Our favorite ultraportable recently got a spec refresh. Starting at $899, the Air comes with Intel’s latest Broadwell processors, promising a slight performance kick and long battery life. All told, Apple says the 11- and 13-inch models can squeeze out nine to 12 hours of runtime, respectively, though in our tests we got nearly 13 hours -- and that was with older processors, too. Aside from the solid battery life, we recommend the Air for its sleek design, comfortable keyboard, reliable trackpad and fast PCIe solid-state drives. The only thing you might lament is the relatively low screen resolution, which tops out at just 1,440 x 900 on the bigger model.
Key specs: 11-inch: Up to a 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 CPU, 4GB to 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 6000, 11.6-inch (1,366 x 768) display; 13-inch: Up to a 2.2GHz dual-core Core i7 CPU, 4GB to 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 6000, 13.3-inch (1,440 x 900) display
It’s not cheap, but if you have deep pockets, the new Razer Blade is the closest thing you’ll find to a no-compromise gaming laptop. At 4.47 pounds and 0.7 inch thick, it’s just about as compact as the 15-inch MacBook Pro, except inside it makes room for a quad-core Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M GPU with 3GB of dedicated video memory. Aside from the price ($2,200 and up), the one thing we don’t like about the new Blade is that it trades stellar battery life for a sharper 3,200 x 1,800 display. Not that we’re complaining about an improved screen, of course; it’s just a shame it comes at the expense of unplugged gameplay.
Key specs: 2.6GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4720HQ CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, 3GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M GPU, 14-inch (3,200 x 1,800 or 1,920 x 1,080) display
Long before it was swallowed up by Dell, Alienware was one of, if not the, biggest names in PC gaming. That means if you’re shopping for a new gaming laptop, you’d be smart to check out the Alienware 17 (there are 13-, 15- and 18-inch models as well). As one of the larger options in the company’s lineup, it offers all the screaming performance you’d expect from a 17-inch gaming rig, not to mention durable build quality, an attractive design and a best-in-class keyboard. If anything, we were a little disappointed by the relatively short battery life. Then again, this is a gaming laptop we’re talking about -- you weren’t really expecting epic runtime, were you?
Key specs: Up to a 2.7GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-6820HK CPU, 8GB to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of internal storage with a 1TB SSD, up to an 8GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M GPU, 17.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080 or 3,840 x 2,160) display
If you’re a gamer in the market for a tablet, there’s only one logical choice. No, not the Razer Edge; we’re talking about the latest NVIDIA Shield. The company took everything that was great about its awkward Android handheld and flattened it out into an 8-inch playmate designed specifically for PC gamers. Not only is it a solid tablet in its own right, but also NVIDIA’s Tegra K1 processor makes it the most powerful Android gaming device available today. Not into mobile games? That’s fine too: NVIDIA’s GameStream technology will pipe in high-performance PC games from any GTX-equipped computer, even over LTE. That said, it’s not perfect: The full gaming experience can’t be had without NVIDIA’s $60 controller, and the base model’s 16GB of storage doesn’t go far.
Key specs: Quad-core NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB/32GB of storage, 5-megapixel front and rear cameras, 8-inch (1,920 x 1,200) display
It may sound a bit clichéd, but Apple’s new iPad Air 2 really is the best tablet the company’s ever made. The design language the folks in Cupertino have applied has barely changed since last year, but no matter — this year’s Air is both noticeably thinner (18 percent) and notably faster (thanks to that A8X chip) than the version that came before it. That’s not to say Apple completely knocked it out of the park, though. Those performance gains and a slightly smaller battery mean your Air 2 probably won’t stay juiced up for quite as long as your old Air did, but hey -- it's one of the best all-around tablets money can buy.
Key specs: Triple-core A8X processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB to 128GB of non-expandable storage, 8MP/1.2MP rear and front cameras, 9.7-inch (2,048 x 1,536) display
Until recently, many of the best budget laptops were actually Chromebooks: well-made, inexpensive machines that used the Chrome browser as an OS. That clearly didn’t sit well with Microsoft, which once dominated the market for cheap PCs. As such, we’ve started to see a handful of so-called Chromebook killers: small, netbook-like laptops that manage to do Chrome one better by running regular Windows programs. The first, and perhaps best, example of this is the HP Stream 11, a $200 PC with a cute and lightweight design, comfortable keyboard and a full terabyte of OneDrive cloud storage. As a bonus, it also comes with a $25 Windows Store gift card, so you can start downloading apps and games right away. All told, it’s a great deal, though we’d advise you to manage your expectations: It might be the same size as a Chromebook, not to mention the same price, but it isn’t quite as fast, especially when it comes to boot-ups.
Key specs: 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Celeron N3050 CPU, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics, 11.6-inch (1,366 x 768) display.
There’s a reason the XPS 13 was a finalist for our Best of CES Award earlier this year: Not only was it one of the nicest laptops we saw at the show, but it’s also one of the finest PCs we’re likely to see for months to come. Thanks to a nearly bezel-less screen, the redesigned XPS is able to cram a 13.3-inch display into the body of an 11-inch machine. The result is a 2.6-pound laptop that's more than a third of a pound lighter than the MacBook Air, with a smaller footprint to boot. In addition to being compact with a gorgeous screen, it also brings a stylish carbon fiber design, comfortable keyboard, fast performance and surprisingly good audio quality. Our main complaint is that a touchscreen adds $500 to the starting price, but even then, it’s on par with other flagship Ultrabooks -- and in some ways, it’s a better choice.
Key specs: Up to a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-6500U CPU, up to 4GB to 16GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 520, 13.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080 or 3,200 x 1,800) display.
Dell’s latest Android tablet won our 2015 Best of CES Award in the mobile category, and for good reason. Several good reasons, actually. Not only is the Venue 8 7000 super thin, at 6mm thick, but it also brings a stunning 2,560 x 1,600 OLED display. What’s more, it’s the first tablet to use Intel’s depth-sensing RealSense 3D camera setup, which allows you to adjust the focus after you’ve taken a shot, as well as apply effects to only select parts of the image. Finally, that energy-efficient OLED screen makes for some impressively long battery life -- more than 12 hours of video playback in our tests. In short, then, if you’re going to buy an Android tablet, we’d probably suggest this one, especially at this price.
Key specs: Quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 2-megapixel front and 8-megapixel rear cameras, 8.4-inch (2,560 x 1,600) display
Here’s what you have to remember about Amazon: Not only does it make its own tablets, but it also sells models from other brands. So, after reading loads of unhappy user reviews from folks who bought cheap, no-name tablets, the e-commerce giant decided it could do better. The HD 6 is the company’s attempt to blow all those other flimsy budget tabs out of the water. For as little as $99, you get a durable device offering long battery life, useful parental-control features and a crisp 1,280 x 800 screen -- as sharp as anything you’ll otherwise find at this price. In absolute terms, it’s not perfect -- it’s heavy for a 6-inch device, and the build quality is fairly low-end -- but for such a low price, the value here is unbeatable.
Key specs: Key specs: Unnamed quad-core 1.5GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 8GB or 16GB of storage, 2-megapixel rear/VGA front cameras, 6-inch (1,280 x 800) display
There was plenty to like about the original Moto E: It ran a nearly stock version of Android; the screen confounded expectations; and its $130 asking price was almost unheard of. Thankfully, this year’s sequel sports enough niceties and extras to warrant a $20 price hike. There’s LTE, for one, which not even the pricier, US-spec Moto G has on board, to say nothing of 8GB of internal storage and a battery that lasts all day. Throw in Motorola’s usual curved, easy-to-hold design and you’ve got yourself one of the year’s best cheap phones -- just don’t expect to be blown away by the sluggish Snapdragon 410 thrumming along inside. There’s also a $120 model available, although you’d have to settle for 3G speeds and a slower processor in that case.
Key specs: 4.5-inch (960 x 540) LCD display, 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410, 5MP rear/0.3MP front cameras, 8GB expandable storage, Android 5.0.2
The refreshed 13-inch MacBook Pro brings faster performance and longer battery life, along with the same stunning screen and comfortable keyboard. This time around, though, Apple also traded in its already-best-in-class trackpad for a new, pressure-sensitive one. While it's almost as comfortable to use as its predecessor, we're not convinced these new touchpad tricks were worth making the switch. That said, the 13-inch Retina MBP remains one of the few laptops of this size that offers such long battery life and this kind of graphics clout.
Key specs: Up to a 3.1GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of internal storage, Intel Iris Graphics 6100, 13.3-inch (2,560 x 1,600) display
The idea of a $1,299 laptop that only runs Chrome OS sounds slightly less silly than it once did. The Pixel, Google’s high-end Chromebook, is back -- this time with much-improved battery life and a lower price of $999. Most importantly, though, the web may finally be catching up to Google’s grand ambitions. Not only has Chrome OS itself matured since the first Chromebooks debuted back in 2011, but also more and more services are now available in the browser, including Skype, Spotify and even Photoshop, for some users. If you’re certain you can work entirely in Chrome, you’ll be rewarded with a comfortable keyboard and trackpad, epic runtime and a high-res screen that manages to match Apple’s Retina display.
Key specs: Up to a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 CPU, up to 16GB of RAM, up to 64GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 5500, 12.85-inch (2,560 x 1,700) display
The x360, HP’s newest flagship laptop, might have the Hewlett-Packard name on the hinge, but it was actually designed with the help of Microsoft. The two companies worked together for about 18 months to develop this 13-inch convertible, and the result is a well-crafted machine with strong performance, long battery life and one very clean OS install. Other delights include the comfortable keyboard, bright screen, oh, and the reasonable price. At $900 to start, it’s a little easier on the wallet than many of the other high-end notebooks in this guide. If we have one complaint, it’s that we found the touchpad a little flaky, but hopefully that’s something HP can fix with a simple software update. Even as is, though, the x360 is well-rounded enough to rank as one of our favorite laptops.
Key specs: Up to a 2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-6500U CPU, up to 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 520, 13.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080 or 2,560 x 1,440) display
By swapping plastic for metal, the Galaxy S6 reversed an alarming trend in Samsung’s flagship phone designs. This sturdy smartphone packs a gorgeous screen, not to mention some in-house silicon that easily keeps up with (and sometimes outpaces) the competition. Still, in buying Samsung’s best-built phone in ages, you’ll have to say goodbye to niceties like waterproofing, an expandable memory slot and a removable battery. We can’t say we miss those features too much, but their absence might make the S6 tough to swallow if you’re coming from the Galaxy S5. If you’re willing to pay even more solely for style, there’s also the mostly identical Galaxy S6 Edge. Those sweeping lines look downright gorgeous -- just don’t expect the features that actually use that wraparound screen to blow your mind.
Key specs: 5.1-inch (2,560 x 1,440) Super AMOLED display, octa-core Exynos 7420, 16MP rear/5MP front cameras, 32GB/64GB/128GB non-expandable storage, Android 5.0.2
The new MacBook isn’t for everyone: Its battery life isn’t as long as the MacBook Air’s; the performance isn’t quite as strong; and there’s only one port on the whole device -- just a tiny USB Type-C socket that requires an adapter to work with most common accessories. Even so, the new MacBook is for somebody. At two pounds, it’s the lightest laptop Apple has ever made -- so much so that it makes the Air feel like a brick. And if you want a Mac with a sharp Retina display, this is by far your smallest and lightest option, with the next step up being the three-and-a-half-pound 13-inch MacBook Pro. Basically, then, if portability and screen quality matter most, and you can deal with good (not great) battery life, this could be the machine for you. And if it isn’t now, it might one day be: Much like the original Air, the new MacBook is a flawed laptop that’s likely to improve with time, and eventually become the standard.
Key specs: Up to a 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M CPU, 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 5300, 12-inch (2,304 x 1,440) display
It took Microsoft three tries, but its newest Surface is finally what we always wanted it to be: a tablet hybrid that’s equally useful as a laptop replacement. In addition to sporting a thinner and lighter design, it now runs full Windows instead of the watered-down RT. That means it can run traditional desktop programs, making it as much a budget laptop alternative as an iPad competitor. As an added perk, it steps up to a 1080p display with support for pressure-sensitive pen input, the likes of which you’d be hard-pressed to find on another $500 PC. Just keep in mind that the keyboard dock is still sold separately for a steep $130, although the Surface 3 will technically work with older-gen keyboard covers, if you happen to have one lying around. Also, as with other budget PCs, you’re going to have to temper your expectations as far as performance goes: The Surface 3 starts with just 2GB of RAM, and even with 4GB, it isn’t that fast.
Key specs: 1.6GHz quad-core Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor, 2GB or 4GB of RAM, 64GB to 128GB of storage, 8-megapixel rear/3.5-megapixel front cameras, 10.8-inch (1,920 x 1,280) display
Like most Apple products, the Watch will probably get better after a few generations, but even now, it’s still the best smartwatch you can buy. In particular, we’re fans of its well-crafted design, choice of display sizes and wide range of customization options. (A $17,000 gold edition, anyone?) It also has a fantastic built-in fitness-tracking app, making it an intriguing choice for iPhone users who were otherwise considering a standard fitness band. Additionally, it boasts a wide selection of third-party apps, although be warned that some of these can make the Watch feel sluggish, and they’re not equally useful either. Given that, then, the Watch feels more like a wearable status symbol than anything else, or maybe an expensive fitness tracker. That doesn’t need to be a dealbreaker -- just accept that you’re mainly buying this for its stylish good looks and a few convenient (but unessential) features.
Key specs: S1 processor, iOS, Bluetooth 4.0, 1.32-inch or 1.5-inch display
Earbuds that cost more than $20 can be a tough sell for the casual listener. If you’re looking for significantly better audio, Sennheiser’s Momentum model will do the trick. For the money, you’ll get a big boost in sound quality with a decent amount of bass (for in-ears, anyway) and clarity that cheaper earbuds simply don’t offer. The Momentum in-ear headphones also have in-line controls and a microphone to handle calls.
Key specs: In-ear design, in-line controls/microphone, angled earbud design, 15Hz-22kHz frequency response
Samsung might not be the first name you think of when you shop for headphones, but we were pleasantly surprised by the company’s Level On wired headset last year. As it turns out, too, the newer wireless version is just as good. Easy-to-access buttons and touch controls make switching tracks, pausing and volume changes a breeze. The audio is quite good too, and the lightweight on-ears are comfy enough to wear for hours at a time.
Key specs: 40mm driver, on-ear design, active noise cancellation, touch controls, Bluetooth 3.0, 3.5mm wired option
Consider yourself an audiophile? If so, and you’re willing to shell out the requisite funds, Apogee’s Groove USB accessory will boost the sound quality coming out of your headphones. This dual digital-to-analog converter/headphone amp features the company’s “Quad Sum” DAC technology that puts four converters on each channel for increased range and minimal distortion. The add-on also packs in Constant Current Drive that modifies the frequency response of your headphones to further enhance the tunes you’re listening to.
Key specs: DAC/headphone amp combo, USB connection, Constant Current Drive, up to 24-bit/192kHz audio
Moog’s Werkstatt-01 started out as a workshop device at Moogfest 2014, but people loved it so much that the company released kits for anyone to buy. The instrument is a patchable analog synthesizer that allows you to explore the circuitry of synths from the comforts of home. It also packs some of the iconic sounds we know and love from the company, and at a price that’s a bit more accessible than a Sub Phatty.
Key specs: DIY assembly, single oscillator with voltage control, signature Moog Ladder Filter, patch bay
The Charge HR is the ultimate refinement of Fitbit’s iconic health trackers. It does all the usual activity and sleep tracking, but it also packs in a heart rate monitor to make more sense of your workouts. Additionally, it’s a lot more comfortable than Fitbit’s previous bands (read: hopefully no skin rashes this time). The Charge HR doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but if you’re looking for a dedicated activity tracker, this is the best overall option.
Key specs: Android/iOS/Windows Phone compatible, heart rate monitor, Bluetooth 4.0, caller ID, sweat/rain/splash-proof, OLED display
Huawei’s Android Wear-based Watch is somehow the classiest we’ve seen, but the LG Watch Urbane might do in a pinch and it’s actually available now. You can pick up either a silver or brassy gold body, which houses those trademark round screens (now made even more useful thanks to some low-power watch faces). The Urbane benefits greatly from the latest Android Wear update, too, so you’ll be able to doodle emoji to fire off and leave your phone at home… as long as your Watch has a familiar WiFi network to jump on. Alas, its chassis will be just too wide for some wrists, and the chunky aesthetic won’t appeal to everyone.
Key specs: 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, Android Wear, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, IP67 water-resistance, 1.3-inch (320 x 320) P-OLED display
Topping an already-excellent smartphone is no easy feat, but LG did just that with the G4. It might not win any design awards (especially if you don’t spring for a leather-backed model), but it still brings a lovely screen, a top-tier camera, a microSD card slot and a removable battery. Meanwhile, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chip inside provides plenty of horsepower, even if it isn’t quite as crazy-powerful as the 810 chip that wound up in LG’s more experimental Flex series. All told, you should buy this if you’re itching for a mostly clean Android experience that makes performance a top priority.
Key specs: 5.5-inch (2,560 x 1,440) IPS display, 1.8GHz hexa-core Snapdragon 808, 16MP rear/8MP front cameras, 32GB expandable storage, Android 5.1
The problem with a lot of Bluetooth bone-conducting headphones is they’re often a little on the quiet side, even when there’s no background noise. Damson’s crowdfunded Headbones are impressively loud (though your ears are still open to the world), and the sound quality is solid to boot. What sets Headbones apart from similar products is how versatile they are. You can convert the splash-proof headset into regular in-ear headphones via some (included) buds, and there’s a 3.5mm input for players that don’t have Bluetooth. There’s also an aux output if you want to make wired speakers (and, if you want, wired headphones) Bluetooth-enabled, too.
Key specs: Bone-conduction driver, Bluetooth (aptX), 3.5mm wired option, IPX5 water resistant, 8-hour bone-conduction battery life (20-plus hours headphone mode), built-in mic, 50Hz-20kHz frequency response.
After releasing the resilient and bass-heavy Megaboom, Ultimate Ears circled back to update the smallest in its trio of Boom Bluetooth speakers. The newly dubbed UE Roll has all the fresh features of its big brother, including 360-degree sound, an IPX7 waterproof rating, Bluetooth Smart remote on/off (when using a compatible device) and Double Up for expanding sound to another Roll or Boom. Its unique saucer shape makes it especially portable and the marine-grade bungee cord gives you a variety of creative mounting options. This $100 speaker delivers a respectable output for its size and comes in an assortment of colors and patterns, making it an easy recommendation for budget boombox shoppers. If you’re willing to part with a bit more cash for a bigger sound, the $300 UE Megaboom is still a top pick.
Key specs: One 2-inch driver, two ¾-inch tweeters, 360-degree sound, 9-hour battery life, waterproof (IPX7), remote on/off with Bluetooth Smart, 108Hz-20kHz frequency response.
Did you hear about Twitch? It’s this video-streaming service that’s all the rage with the younglings. Unlike Microsoft’s Kinect, the PlayStation Camera isn’t really much use for navigation or media control, but it does offer gamers a super-simple way to add their faces to Twitch streams, and lets you log in to your PS4 using your face. If you plan on doing a lot of streaming, this is a must-have.
Key specs: WXGA (1,280 x 800) camera, voice controls, four-channel microphone array
The Xbox One’s Kinect may not be as desirable as Microsoft once hoped it would be, but it still has its uses. You can log into the console, navigate the interface, speak commands and video chat over Skype. If you’re an avid streamer or YouTuber, it also acts as a smart webcam for adding your face to your Twitch channel, and lets you record clips with just your voice.
Key specs: 1080p wide-angle camera, gesture/voice controls, multi-microphone array
Chromebooks come a dime a dozen, but even with so many to choose from, the ASUS Chromebook Flip still manages to make an impression. For starters, it’s smaller than most, with a 10-inch screen and sub-two-pound design, and it’s also one of the few to feature a 360-degree rotating touchscreen. The build quality is also shockingly good for the money, and the battery life is extra long too: about 10.5 hours in our tests. Even with a slightly smaller-than-usual keyboard, it’s still a great deal at the suggested $249. That said, you might want to shell out for the $279 model so that you can get four gigs of RAM instead of two.
Key specs: 1.8GHz quad-core Rockchip 3288-C CPU, 2GB to 4GB of RAM, up to 32GB of internal storage, 10.1-inch (1,280 x 800) display
For under $75, you can put a synthesizer in your pocket. And for around $180, you could expand that to include all three of Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operators. The compact devices include the PO-12 "Rhythm" drum machine, the PO-14 "Sub" bass synth and the PO-16 "Factory" melody unit. Each one touts a 16-step sequencer, 16 sounds and 16 additional effects, with a significantly lower asking price than what you’d pay for a comparable Roland or Korg instrument.
Key specs: 16-step sequencer, AAA battery powered, built-in library of sounds and effects
If money is no object and you’re searching for the perfect gaming laptop, look no further. This behemoth has the lot: top-of-the-range processors and graphics options, a giant 18.4-inch (non-reflective) display, 4.1-channel sound and a full SteelSeries mechanical keyboard. Of course, those specs come with their drawbacks. The GT80 Titan is almost two inches thick, and measures 18 inches across and 13 inches deep. And although its battery will last a couple of hours browsing, don’t expect it to get anywhere near that figure while you’re playing The Witcher 3.
Key specs: Up to a 2.9GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-5950HQ CPU, up to 24GB of RAM, 1TB HDD with 256GB SSD RAID, up to 16GB dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX980M GPUs (8GB each), 18.4-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display
Another year, another Note, right? Well, maybe not so much. While earlier Note models felt chintzy and gimmicky, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 finally pairs some smart new S Pen features with the first-rate, glass-and-metal construction of the Galaxy S6. The best part: pulling out the S Pen and jotting things down on the screen, no app launching required. It’s also a serious powerhouse of a phone, but be prepared to deal with Samsung’s extensively customized software and a hefty price tag.
Key specs: 5.7-inch (2,560 x 1,440) Super AMOLED display, octa-core Exynos 7420, 16MP rear/5MP front cameras, 32GB/64GB non-expandable storage, Android 5.1.1
Remember the days when buying a top-tier smartphone meant signing your life away or paying a frankly stupid amount of money? You should -- they weren’t that long ago. Then phones like the OnePlus 2 started showing up, with their incredibly powerful spec sheets, great build quality and reasonable prices. Now everyone’s trying to get in on the fun, but the OnePlus 2 still stands out as an immensely speedy option with some smart hardware tricks and a mostly clean version of Android. In fact, it’d be a total geek home run were it not for the lack of expandable memory and the inclusion of a few software bugs in early-run units.
Key specs: 5.5-inch (1,920 x 1,080) LCD display, octa-core Snapdragon 810, 13MP rear/5MP front cameras, 16GB/64GB non-expandable storage, Android 5.1
There really hasn’t been a better year for smartphone shopping on a budget, which makes the 2015 Moto G’s continued ownership of the “Best Cheap Phone” crown quite a feat. It certainly isn’t as powerful as the OnePlus Two or ZTE’s Axon, but its near-stock build of Android Lollipop and surprisingly snappy performance make its very low price tag awfully hard to resist. US LTE support is icing on an already delicious cake, but don’t expect any miracles from its camera when the day starts to grow dim.
Key specs: 5-inch (1,280 x 720) IPS LCD display, 1.4 GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410, 13MP rear/5MP front cameras, 8GB/16GB expandable storage, Android 5.1.1
Even without the raw power of the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, the Wii U is a compelling console. The main draw is a growing library of exclusive titles, many of which make use of the Wii U’s second-display GamePad. You'll find Nintendo's familiar characters in games like Super Mario 3D World, Super Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 8, but there's a lot more on offer here. The ridiculously fun multiplayer shooter /Splatoon/ has won over many, and Bayonetta 2 remains one of the best action games of this generation. Add a growing swell of indie support, access to older Nintendo games through Virtual Console and the cheap cost of entry -- the 32GB Wii U is $300 with a bundled game -- and you've got yourself a solid alternative to Microsoft’s and Sony's best. With Nintendo's next-generation console set for a reveal in 2016, and the continued lack of third-party big hitters from the likes of EA, Activision and Ubisoft, the Wii U perhaps makes more sense as a second console than as your sole gaming machine.
Key specs: 1.24GHz triple-core PowerPC CPU, 2GB RAM, 32GB storage (expandable via USB), 802.11n, Ethernet via USB adapter
Nintendo's Amiibo are collectable figurines with a tiny NFC chip inside. When combined with select Wii U and 3DS titles, Amiibo can unlock new features and characters inside games. They're the cutest form of a far broader category of "toys to life" video game accessories. While Amiibo plug into a number of games, the rest of the crowd requires specific software to use, with new figurines unlocking additional levels or characters. You might want to take a look at Disney's Infinity, Activision's Skylanders or Warner Bros.' Lego Dimensions, all of which follow the same basic idea. None of those titles, however, have captured our hearts quite like Amiibo.
Key specs: Hidden NFC chip, compatibility across multiple games, limited read/write capability
Nintendo's 3DS family has for a long time offered the best handheld consoles on the market. For $200, the New 3DS XL offers access to a truly huge library of excellent games for all ages, and also includes some upgrades over older machines. Inside is double the RAM, a faster processor that improves performance, better 3D thanks to face tracking, and a new "c-stick" that allows you to control the camera in some games. There are also a couple of exclusive games that make use of the beefier processor, and NFC for interacting with the company's immensely popular Amiibo figurines. If you've already got a 3DS, it may be a tough sell -- especially for those not interested in third-person titles that benefit from the added c-stick. If you're looking to dip your feet into the world of dedicated handhelds, though, there's no better place to start.
Key specs: Custom ARM-based CPU, 802.11b/g, 4GB storage (microSDHC), 4.88-inch (800 x 240) 3D upper screen, 4.18-inch (320 x 240) lower touchscreen
The Nexus 6P, Google’s second attempt at a phablet-sized phone, is much more comfortable to use than last year’s Nexus 6. As ever, too, it offers top-tier specs but manages to still be reasonably priced for what it is. For the money, you get fast performance, long battery life and a fingerprint sensor that works very, very well. It’s also one of the first phones to ship with Android Marshmallow, which itself won a high score from us. That said, the 6P isn’t perfect: The design is lacking in charm, the power button is overly sensitive and the camera isn’t much of an improvement over last year’s model. Even so, it’s among the best Android phones you can buy right now.
Key specs: 5.7-inch (2,560 x 1,440) display, 2GHz Snapdragon 810, 12.3MP rear/8MP front cameras, 16GB/64GB/128GB non-expandable storage, Android 6.0
Last year Google came out with just one Nexus phone, and it was a little too big for some hands. So we were pleased this year when the company released not one, but two handsets this year, including the more modestly sized Nexus 5X. Not only is the 5.2-inch phone more comfortable to use, but it’s a great bargain in its own right, offering a lovely display, snappy performance and an excellent fingerprint sensor, all for a reasonable price of $379. If we could change anything, we’d give this phone longer battery life and a microSD slot for expandable storage. Those drawbacks aside, it remains a fantastic deal.
Key specs: 5.2-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display, 1.8GHz Snapdragon 808, 12.3MP rear/5MP front cameras, 16GB/64GB/128GB non-expandable storage, Android 6.0
After years of rumors and speculation, Microsoft finally built its own laptop. And considering this was the company’s first attempt at such a product, it actually got most things right. The 13.5-inch Surface Book has a distinctive, well-built design, a gorgeous, detachable screen, comfortable keyboard and best-in-class battery life in regular notebook mode. Additionally, it’s offered with some spec options you simply won’t find on other thin-and-lights, including up 16GB of RAM, 1TB of solid-state storage and discrete NVIDIA graphics. Even as is, it represents a strong debut from Microsoft, but we do still see room for improvement in the inevitable sequel: Here’s to a follow-up with a slightly lighter build and longer battery life in tablet-only mode.
Key specs: Up to a 2.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-6600U CPU, 8GB or 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 520 or a 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GPU, 13.5-inch (3,200 x 2,000) display
With each generation of the Surface Pro, Microsoft comes closer to realizing its promise of a tablet that can replace your laptop. This year’s model works well in both tablet and notebook mode, with a more comfortable keyboard and even lighter design. Our main lingering gripes are that the keyboard is still sold separately for $130, and that the battery life hasn’t improved much since last year, while some other thin-and-light laptops can last hours longer on a charge. As it is, the Surface Pro 4 is a solid product, but if Microsoft could indeed extend the battery life -- and maybe throw in the keyboard gratis -- it’d have a home run on its hands.
Key specs: Up to a sixth-gen dual-core Intel Core i7 CPU, 2GB or 4GB to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of built-in storage, 8-megapixel rear/5-megapixel front cameras, 12.3-inch (2,736 x 1,824) display
The Elite controller is the best Xbox gamepad Microsoft has ever made, but it doesn't come cheap. For $150, it brings tons of customization options, along with useful bumper buttons and a rubbery finish throughout that makes the controller easy to grip. The downsides? Well, the price for one, and also the fact that it’s heavier than other Xbox controllers, which could take some getting used to. Also, our reviewer found that the levers and faceted d-pad didn’t feel secure enough. At a $90 premium over the standard Xbox One controller, it’s best-suited for early adopters and serious gamers; everyone else should wait for a price cut or a bundle deal.
Key specs: Two AA batteries (included), ships with a 9-inch USB cable, requires Windows 7 or higher
It used to be that the only Chromebook we really loved was the Pixel, a premium machine with an impractical price of $999. With Dell’s Chromebook 13, though, we’ve finally found a Chrome OS laptop that we highly recommend that’s still within reach. Starting at $429, it brings fast performance, long battery life, a sharp screen, a comfortable, backlit keyboard and a well-built design modeled after Dell’s high-end XPS series. If you believe you can get by with just Chrome OS -- and this is getting increasingly easier -- the Chromebook 13 is worth the slightly higher price over its competitors.
Key specs: Up to a 2.3GHz dual-core Intel Core i5-5300U CPU, 2GB to 8GB of RAM, up to 32GB of internal storage, 13.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display
Google’s new Chromecast Audio aims to do for speakers what the original Chromecast did for TVs: make them smart, for very little money. Just plug it into the headphone jack on your speakers and you can begin streaming tunes through all your favorite music services, including Spotify, Pandora and, of course, Google Play Music. All told, there’s little to complain about here, though we would caution you that the regular Chromecast does more for the same price. Because of that, it might be a better pick for some people, especially if your television has some decent speakers built in. If that’s the case, why not stream both music and video to your TV?
Key specs: Includes a stereo 3.5 mm analog audio cable, requires a speaker system with either aux/line, RCA, or optical input, works with Android, iOS, Windows and OS X
The iPhone 6s takes the place of the the iPhone 6, which until now was a mainstay in our smartphone buyer’s guide. But make no mistake, though the two phones have basically the same design, the new model brings a good deal of under-the-hood upgrades. Chief among them: a faster fingerprint reader, pressure-sensitive 3D Touch display, snappier performance and improved cameras that can shoot in 4K and take moving “Live Photos.” The iPhone is still the handset to beat -- now if only Apple would increase the base storage from 16GB to 32GB.
Key specs: 4.7-inch (1,334 x 750) Retina HD display, A9 chip with M9 motion coprocessor, 12MP rear/5MP front cameras, 16GB/64GB/128GB non-expandable storage, iOS 9
The 5.5-inch iPhone 6s Plus brings the same improvements as the smaller 6s, including a faster fingerprint reader, pressure-sensitive 3D Touch display, snappier performance and improved cameras that can shoot in 4K and take moving “Live Photos.” Though it earned a high score from us of 91, however, it also has the same set of tradeoffs as last year’s Plus -- namely, that you trade longer battery life and optical image stabilization for a phone that’s harder to use with one hand.
Key specs: 5.5-inch (1,920 x 1,080) Retina HD display, A9 chip with M9 motion coprocessor, 12MP rear/5MP front cameras, 16GB/64GB/128GB non-expandable storage, iOS 9
The last-gen iPad mini 3 was a decent tablet, but it was lower-specced than the bigger iPad Air 2, giving users a good reason to go for the larger model instead. Thankfully, though, the iPad mini 4 feels like a closer match, with the same 8-megapixel rear camera on the Air 2 and a faster processor -- the first such upgrade in two years. All the while, it’s slightly thinner and lighter than the last version, with roughly the same battery life. If we could make some changes, we’d bring back the rotation lock switch (now missing) and bump up the base storage from 16GB to 32GB. For now, though, the mini remains one of our favorite tablets, especially for people who would rather have a more portable design.
Key specs: A8 chip with M8 coprocessor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB to 128GB of non-expandable storage, 8MP/1.2MP rear and front cameras, 7.9-inch (2,048 x 1,536) display
Ever since the first Moto X came out in 2013, it’s been one of our favorite smartphones. The third-gen model, the Moto X Pure, is no exception. Like its predecessors, it has a durable, highly customizable design and a mostly clean Android build that adds just a few useful software features. Unlike some competing handsets, too, it has a microSD slot for expandable storage and it works on every US carrier. If anything, the Pure suffers from mediocre battery life, and though the camera is greatly improved, it’s still not best in class.
Key specs: 5.7-inch (2,560 x 1,440) display, Snapdragon 808, 21MP rear/5MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB/64GB expandable storage, Android 5.1.1
Though it looks like its predecessor, the second-gen Moto 360 smartwatch actually ushers in a bunch of improvements, including a higher-res display, bigger battery and more thoughtful design with lots of customization options. Additionally, it’s offered in two sizes now, including a smaller 42mm model that should be flattering for people with smaller wrists. All of this adds up to a significant upgrade, though it’s more expensive than last year’s model, and Android Wear could use some more polish.
Key specs: 1.2GHz Snapdragon 400 processor, Android Wear, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, IP67 water-resistance, 1.37-inch (360 x 325) or 1.56-inch (360 x 330) display
As ever, Sonos’ latest flagship wireless speaker offers excellent audio quality, is easy to set up and supports a long list of streaming services. This time, though, it’s easy to tune the acoustics to match your space. Just keep in mind that it’s even pricier than the previous-gen model, and though the speaker itself is of a high quality, the accompanying software could use some work. In particular, we wish it were easier to search for music from the app.
Key specs: Three mid-woofers, three tweeters, six class-D amps, support for stereo pairs/5.1-channel system, 802.11b/g and Ethernet connectivity