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.
Roland’s TR-808 drum machine has been one of the most iconic pieces of audio equipment since its release in the ‘80s. This year, the company trotted out the AIRA TR-8 to pay homage to that machine, and tossed in some of the TR-909’s chops, too. Using Analog Circuit Behavior (ACB) tech, the machine features a recreation of the original circuitry, with a 16-step sequencer for sorting beats. Of course, it offers MIDI capabilities and plays nice with the rest of the AIRA line -- if you’re looking for a more elaborate setup.
Key specs: TR-808/TR-909 sounds, 16-step sequencer, multiple onboard controls, scatter function, MIDI via USB.
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. Perhaps most importantly, they now both cost $399 (with the Xbox One currently discounted to $349). 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, recent improvements to the PS4’s firmware have made navigating the system even more user-friendly and intuitive than before. What it’s lacking, at least for now, is a killer lineup of games that you can’t play anywhere else. And 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.
The Xbox One had a very rough start thanks to some PR gaffes on Microsoft’s part, but Redmond has been diligently addressing them since last year’s launch. Whether it’s with monthly firmware updates or a $349 holiday bundle that includes a Kinect-less console and a game, we have no reservations recommending it. Perhaps most importantly, the Xbox One currently has the best selection of games that you can’t play anywhere else. The likes of Forza Horizon 2 and Sunset Overdrive are hard to ignore, and with Halo 5: Guardians on the horizon, we imagine at least a few PS4 owners will cross over and buy a One as well. 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.
Power, portability and long battery life: Take the latter two and throw them out, and you’ve got yourself a gaming laptop. While we’ve come to expect compromise when it comes to the world’s most powerful laptops, that doesn’t mean these thick, heavy and short-lived machines can’t also be exceptionally well-made -- and if you’re going for an oversized gaming laptop, the ASUS ROG G751 is one of the best. This machine features a distinctive offset screen hinge with brushed-metal accents, an excellent keyboard and all the power you could ask for: an Intel Core i7 CPU and NVIDIA’s new GTX 980M graphics processor with 4GB of video RAM. It’s still as big and heavy as laptops come, but ASUS’ superb build quality and attention to detail make up for the category’s usual trade-offs.
Key specs: Up to a 2.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4860HQ CPU, up to 32GB of RAM, up to 1TB HDD and 512GB SSD, up to 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M GPU, 17.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display
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.
It’s hard to believe, but until now, Google had never tried its hand at a phablet. As they say, though, there’s a first for everything. The Nexus 6 is the company’s first stab at a big-screen phone, and while not perfect, it’s still a solid choice. The Motorola-made device is the most premium Nexus phone yet, with a metal frame, sturdy polycarbonate back and a gorgeous Quad HD (2,560 x 1,440) display. It’s also reasonably priced for what it is -- most big-screen phones, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, cost even more if you buy ‘em unlocked. All things considered, then, it’s a good deal, but there are a couple things you should be aware of: Android 5.0 doesn’t have any special one-handed mode for larger phones like this. Also, the battery life is mediocre at best. Nonetheless, it’s one of our top picks, especially for folks who want a big-screen phone and also prefer the stock Android experience.
Key specs: 5.96-inch (2,560 x 1,440) AMOLED display, 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805, 13MP rear/2MP front cameras, 32GB/64GB non-expandable storage, Android 5.0.
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 (coming soon). Not only is it one of the smartest fitness trackers, then, but it’s also one of the few that 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).
Lenovo’s convertible Yoga laptop has long been one of our favorite Ultrabooks, so is it any surprise that the company’s latest iteration has made our shortlist? Like its predecessor, the Yoga 3 Pro has a gorgeous 3,200 x 1,800 screen, except this time, it’s 17 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter. All told, it weighs just 2.6 pounds -- unheard of for a 13-inch laptop, especially one with a complicated, 360-degree hinge. For those reasons, it earns its place in our laptop buyer’s guide, but keep in mind that it does come with a few trade-offs -- most of them related to that thin shape. Because the machine is as compact as it is, it couldn’t accommodate a bigger battery, which means the runtime here is a bit short compared to competing models. Also, the keyboard is flatter and shallower than on previous Yoga machines -- again, because there simply wasn’t room for cushier buttons.
Key specs: 1.2GHz dual-core Intel Core M-5Y71 CPU, up to 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 5300, 13.3-inch (3,200 x 1,800) display.
It’s increasingly rare to find a small phone that’s easy to hold in one hand, but still performs like a big-screen flagship. Fortunately, we at least have the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, which has all the horsepower of the 5.2-inch Xperia Z3, just crammed into a more compact 4.6-inch device. Like its big brother, it features a well-built, waterproof shell, long battery life and a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor that delivers speedy performance. That said, it’s not perfect: Sony’s Android skin feels dated, and the 20.7-megapixel camera suffers in low light. Those flaws aside, though, this is still the best small Android phone you can buy right now.
Key specs: 4.6-inch (1,280 x 720) IPS LCD display, 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801, 20.7MP rear/2.2MP front cameras, 16GB expandable storage, Android 4.4.4.
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. Now if only Valve would make Steam’s Big Picture Mode as reliable as this dongle...
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
The Samsung Series 9, once our favorite Ultrabook, got a big makeover last year. And guess what? It’s still one of the best. As ever, the Book 9 is razor-thin, this time coming in at 0.54 inch thick. With this generation, though, Samsung took a big step up in display quality, upgrading from a 1,600 x 900 screen to a 3,200 x 1,800 panel. The audio quality is surprisingly robust too, and even in a field of long-lasting Ultrabooks, the Book 9 Plus still manages to deliver exceptional battery life (almost nine hours, in our tests). When we first reviewed this, the machine was only available in one configuration, but Samsung has since corrected that, adding a few more spec options. Even so, the $1,400 starting price still feels steep.
Key specs: Up to a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-5500U CPU, 4GB to 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of internal storage, up to Intel HD Graphics 5500, 13.3-inch (3,200 x 1,800) display
It took Acer a few tries, but the company has finally crafted the perfect Ultrabook. Almost, anyway. Like its predecessor, the S7 is impossibly lightweight, weighing just 2.87 pounds (mind you, that’s with a touchscreen). Despite being so thin and light, though, it still delivers decent battery life. Not best in class, but still a good showing considering there isn’t room inside for a big cell. Other delights include a striking Gorilla Glass lid and a vibrant display, now available in either 1080p or 2,560 x 1,440 resolution. Oh, and if you read our review of the previous-gen S7, you’ll be happy to know this one runs much more quietly. All told, we’re pretty much in love, save for an enormous power brick and oddly placed power button. Other than that, it’s well worth the high price tag.
Key specs: Up to a 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-5500U CPU, 8GB of RAM, up to 256GB of internal storage, up to Intel HD Graphics 5500, 13.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080 or 2,560 x 1,440) display
The MacBook Pro has met its match. If you always wanted something as thin and powerful as the MBP, but would prefer something with Windows, the XPS 15 is your best bet. At 4.44 pounds, it’s actually slightly lighter than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, and at 0.7 inch thick, it’s about as thin, to boot. And don’t worry, it can stand up to the Retina display, too: Though it starts with a 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, it can be configured with a sharper 3,200 x 1,800 screen. On the outside, it has the same aluminum and carbon fiber design that we loved on Dell’s other laptops, like the XPS 12 and 13. What’s great, too, is that even with the heaviest-duty specs -- a quad-core Core i7 processor and a 2GB GPU -- the machine still promises a long 11 hours of battery life. Not too shabby.
Key specs: Up to a 2.3GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4712HQ CPU, 8GB to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of internal storage with a 32GB SSD or a 512GB SSD, Intel HD Graphics 4600 or a 2GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M GPU, 15.6-inch (up to 3,840 x 2,160) 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 14- and 18-inch models as well). As the medium-sized option 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 2.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4980HQ CPU, 8GB to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of internal storage with a 512GB SSD, up to a 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M GPU, 17.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display
Let’s face it, Chromebooks aren’t for everyone: Some people will always want desktop apps, with no restrictions on what they can do offline. If you have simple needs, though, and don’t want to spend much on your next laptop, the 13-inch Samsung Chromebook 2 is the Chromebook we recommend. For $400, it brings a full HD screen -- something you won’t find on most other budget laptops, or even most mid-range models, for that matter. It also offers long battery life, a spacious keyboard, comfortable trackpad and a surprisingly premium design, complete with a faux-leather lid. In a field of Chromebooks that look like regurgitated netbooks, Samsung’s new addition actually feels like a proper laptop. For an even lower price, it’s available in an 11-inch edition too, but you’ll be giving up that crisp full 1080p screen.
Key specs: Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5800 (2.0GHz quad-core A15/1.3GHz quad-core A7), 4GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, “integrated” graphics, 13.3-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display.
The Pebble Steel brings all the same features as the popular original, but with a sleek, new metal design. Pebble's active developer community means the watch has apps to control everything from your GoPro to your lightbulbs and your calendar. Plus, the energy-efficient e-paper display means you won't feel tethered to a power outlet. If the $249 price seems a little steep, the original plastic Pebble is still a good buy, at $150.
Key specs: 80Mhz ARM Cortex-M3, Pebble OS (Android and iOS compatible), Bluetooth 4.0, waterproof to 5 ATM/50 meters (with metal band), 1.26-inch (168 x 144) e-paper display
Microsoft claims that the Surface Pro 3 is good enough to replace both your laptop and your tablet. And you know what? In many cases, it's right. We're not the biggest fans of the keyboard (a pricey $130 option), but there's no denying the flexibility here -- the Pro 3 is the only tablet in our guide that's powerful enough to create professional-grade media, not just consume it. It's certainly our pick for a pen-toting tablet, since you can begin scribbling notes simply by clicking a button on the stylus. The Pro 3 also directly addresses some of the ergonomic gripes we had with its ancestor; it's thinner and lighter despite having a larger display. It's still more expensive than mobile OS tablets, but you'll likely get what you pay for.
Key specs: Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, 64GB to 512GB of storage, 5-megapixel front and rear cameras, 12-inch (2,160 x 1,440) display
You might be wondering why we’re featuring the iPad mini 2, last year’s model, instead of the new iPad mini 3. As it turns out, though, newer doesn’t necessarily equal better. The new mini has the same display, design and specs as last year’s iPad mini with Retina display; really, the only difference is that the new edition has a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. That’s a nice trick, but given the $100 price difference, we still think you’re better off getting the last-gen model.
Key specs: Dual-core A7 processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB to 128GB of storage, 1.2-megapixel front and 5-megapixel rear cameras, 7.9-inch (2,048 x 1,536) display
Hold on, you may say -- what happened to Dell's Venue 8 Pro? We still think that's a good device, but Acer's Iconia W4 is now our 8-inch Windows tablet of choice. It lasts much longer on a charge than its Dell counterpart, offers a smarter control layout and supports HDMI video out that the Venue lacks. You won't even pay much more to get these features, since it's easy to find Acer's tablet selling for a modest $250. While you won't get the Venue's pen support or the Lenovo ThinkPad 8's high-res screen, the Iconia is well-rounded compared to its peers.
Key specs: 1.33GHz quad-core Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB to 64GB of storage, 2-megapixel front and 5-megapixel rear cameras, 8-inch (1,280 x 800) display
Samsung only just released its well-received Galaxy Tab Pro series at the start of 2014, so it was surprising to see the company ship another high-end tablet line, the Galaxy Tab S, just a few months later. However, a quick hands-on with the newer models will tell you why. Whether you're getting an 8.4-inch or 10.5-inch edition, the Tab S has one of the best-looking screens you'll see on any tablet -- it's extremely bright and vivid (even when outdoors), yet produces deep blacks that you'll notice in dimmer lighting. It also has some of the best battery life we've seen from any slate, and the thinner, lighter body is that much easier to hold when reading that long book. You will take a bit of a performance hit versus the Tab Pros, but this should definitely be on your short list if you're a frequent movie watcher. Our pick is the 8.4-inch model, since it offers all the Tab S features in a smaller, cheaper package; if you do a lot of multitasking or just want a big display, however, the 10.5-inch variant is also a fine choice.
Key specs: 1.9GHz Exynos 5 Octa processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 2.1-megapixel front and 8-megapixel rear cameras, 8.4-inch (2,560 x 1,600) display
ASUS had a sleeper hit last year with the MeMO Pad HD 7. It wasn't the most powerful tablet by any means, but it delivered better performance and software than devices costing twice as much. For that reason, we're recommending the new MeMO Pad 7 -- it builds on that successful formula with a more powerful Atom processor, refined software and a better front camera. There's no big revolution here, but it's a reliable choice among sub-$200 slates.
Key specs: Quad-core 1.33GHz Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 2-megapixel front and 5-megapixel rear cameras, 7-inch (1,280 x 800) 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
The Moto 360 is our favorite Android Wear device, and has so far held that title even as new models have come out. That’s because the price is relatively fair compared to competing devices, and a recent software update left it with much better battery life than when it first came out. In the end, the 360 also wins on account of its striking design, marked by a circular display and a soft leather band, all of which add up to one memorable device. To the extent that a smartwatch has to look like an actual watch, the 360 remains one of the best available, especially in the Android family.
Key specs: TI OMAP 3 processor, Android Wear, Bluetooth 4.0, 1.56-inch (320 x 290) display
The One M8 for Windows’ name really says it all — instead of crafting an entirely new chassis for a top-tier Windows Phone, HTC decided to just stick with what worked. In this case, we’re talking about the sleek, smooth, curvaceous frame of the original HTC One M8 paired with Windows Phone 8.1. It’s by far one of the handsomest Windows portables out there, but be warned: You’re either going to love or hate that Duo Camera around back.
Key specs: 5-inch (1,920 x 1,080) IPS LCD display, 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801, 4MP rear/5MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB expandable storage, Windows Phone 8.1
The Acer C720 isn’t perfect, but at $199, it remains the best-value Chromebook, even in an increasingly crowded field of competitors. With a lower price than rival machines, it offers basically the same specs (an Intel Celeron processor, 2GB of RAM and a 1,366 x 768 display), along with a decent keyboard and seven or so hours of battery life. For an extra $100, you can get it with a touchscreen, though Chrome OS wasn’t exactly designed to be used with the fingers. Additionally, there’s a $350 model with a Core i3 processor. It’s the most powerful Chromebook we’ve seen yet, and it’s definitely cheaper than any Windows notebook with that caliber CPU. But considering the difference in performance is fairly modest, you might just be better off with the $199 Celeron-based version.
Key specs: Up to a 1.4GHz dual-core Intel Celeron 2955U, 2GB to 4GB of RAM, 16GB/32GB of internal storage, 11.6-inch (1,366 x 768) display
Though it had a thoughtful design, the original Moto X never really caught on, thanks to some slower specs. That’s why when it came time to craft a sequel, the onetime Google subsidiary tricked the thing out with the same intelligent features (always-on voice commands, a screen that responds to your gestures) and some top-shelf components. The end result? A comfortable, customizable flagship device that runs a nearly clean version of Android. There are, as always, some caveats: Despite a bigger, better sensor, the X’s camera is still average at best, and we can’t help but wish the battery life was longer. Even so, the Moto X has earned its spot as our new favorite Android phone.
Key specs: 5.2-inch (1,920 x 1,080) AMOLED display, 2.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801, 13MP rear/2MP front cameras, 16GB/32GB non-expandable storage, Android 4.4
Months of leaks meant we knew what the iPhone 6 would look like way in advance, and now it’s finally here. Your eyes will be instantly drawn to its slimmer, rounder physique, not to mention that 4.7-inch Retina HD display sitting front and center, but its internals are no slouch either. There’s that new 64-bit A8 processor running the show and an improved 8-megapixel camera, along with a new 128GB model if you feel the need to store every movie you’ve ever seen. In addition to all that, Apple’s really hoping you fall in love with its new mobile payments service (made possible by a built-in NFC chip) so that it can continue its plans to take over the world one pocket at a time.
Key specs: 4.7-inch (1,334 x 750) Retina HD display, A8 chip with M8 motion coprocessor, 8MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 16GB/64GB/128GB non-expandable storage, iOS 8
Oh, what’s that? The bog-standard iPhone 6 doesn’t have enough pizzazz for you? In that case, you should consider the iPhone 6 Plus -- it features a bigger 5.5-inch, 1080p screen to push the thing well into phablet territory, along with optical image stabilization for the 8-megapixel camera around the back. Other than that, we’re looking at the spitting image of the iPhone 6; just make sure you’ve got enough room in your pockets (and on your credit card) for it. If you’re having a hard time imagining what this might feel like in your hands, just stack two checkbooks on top of each other -- that should give you an idea.
Key specs: 5.5-inch (1,920 x 1,080) Retina HD display, A8 chip with M8 motion coprocessor, 8MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 16GB/64GB/128GB non-expandable storage, iOS 8
Samsung’s been working on pocket-busting phones for what seems like ages now, and it’s really started to hit its stride lately. Case in point? Look no further than the Galaxy Note 4, which ably combines a 5.7-inch Super AMOLED screen with a beefy Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chipset for an abundance of horsepower. We also loved its 16-megapixel camera too, but for us, it’s still all about that battery -- even with its higher-resolution (Quad HD) screen, the Note 4 managed to hang in there with juice to spare for over a full working day. Just remember that its speakers still leave quite a bit to be desired, and you may need to invest in some roomier pants to ensure a comfy fit.
Key specs: 5.7-inch (2,560 x 1,440) Super AMOLED display, quad-core Snapdragon 805/Exynos 5433, 16MP rear/3.7MP front cameras, 32GB expandable storage, Android 4.4.4
Last year’s Moto G nearly threw us for a loop -- we didn’t expect to get a phone so good for so little. The new 2014 model isn’t quite the game changer its older brother is, but it still packs enough horsepower (and niceties) to make it the best budget smartphone you can buy. You’ll be zipping through a nearly stock build of Android 4.4.4 on the G’s 5-inch, 720p screen, and mobile photographers will be glad to know Motorola made some serious steps forward in the imaging department. Just don’t expect to cruise the web at high speed all the time -- there isn’t an LTE version of the 2014 G yet, so you’ll have to ferret out an older variant to get the full use out of your data plan.
Key specs: 5-inch (1,280 x 720) IPS LCD display, 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 400, 8MP rear/2MP front cameras, 8GB expandable storage, Android 4.4.4
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: 2.16GHz dual-core Intel Celeron N2840 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 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7-5500U CPU, up to 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 5500, 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
Though Sony’s Z3 Tablet Compact didn’t earn a high score from us, that wasn’t because we didn’t like the product; it’s because we weren’t happy about the price. For $500 -- the list MSRP when we published our review -- you could find a similarly sized Android tablet with a sharper screen and better camera, and probably pay less money for it, too. Assuming Sony can come through with a price cut, though (and we bet it will), you’ll enjoy a thin and light, waterproof design with fast performance, long battery life, a vibrant screen and strong audio quality.
Key specs: Quad-core 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB to 32GB of storage, 2.2-megapixel front and 8.1-megapixel rear cameras, 8-inch (1,920 x 1,200) 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
HTC’s new flagship, the One M9, looks an awful lot like the one that came before it. Don’t let the shell fool you, though: The M9 combines a great pair of BoomSound speakers and a crisp 5-inch (1080p) screen with a top-tier Snapdragon 810 chip to deliver great performance. The company’s figured out the finer points of Android skinning, too, with this year’s Sense 7 being the cleanest and most thoughtful UI HTC has ever designed. Alas, you’ll find a 20-megapixel camera around the back instead of the excellent UltraPixel shooter on last year’s model -- and the shots it takes leave quite a bit to be desired.
Key specs: 5-inch (1,920 x 1,080) IPS LCD display, octa-core Snapdragon 810, 20MP rear/4MP front cameras, 32GB expandable storage, Android 5.0.2
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 2.4GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 CPU, up to 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of internal storage, Intel HD Graphics 5500, 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
While most companies are positioning their smartwatches as high-end wristwear, Pebble is taking a completely different tack. Its new Time watch looks practically toylike, and its interface is more cute than revolutionary. The color e-paper display isn’t as sharp as on other smartwatches, but it also allows for far superior battery life. It’s an ideal choice if you’re looking for a fun, relatively inexpensive smartwatch that can run plenty of apps and display notifications.
Key specs: Cortex-M4, Android and iOS compatible, Bluetooth 4.0, water-resistant to 30 meters, 1.25-inch (168 x 144) color e-paper display
Garmin’s been making running watches and fitness trackers for years now, but the Vivoactive is its first legitimate smartwatch. It’s got a touchscreen and app store all its own, combined with Garmin’s standard built-in GPS and fitness-tracking features. It’ll probably never see the amount of app support as the Apple Watch, but it may be the better choice if you’re serious about tracking your workouts (or want to go for a swim with your smartwatch).
Key specs: Android and iOS compatible, Bluetooth Smart, GPS, waterproof to 5 ATM/50 meters, 1.38-inch (205 x 148) 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.