This week our reviews cross several categories: first up, Andrew Tarantola drove the VW ID.4 EV around the Bay Area to see how Volkswagen fared with a compact SUV. Meanwhile, Nicole Lee found a lot to like about Mila’s smart air purifier, which has several themed filters and modes that can be customized. Billy Steele listened to Bose’s new Sport Open Earbuds, which are designed to sit just outside the ear to allow for better awareness of one’s surroundings. And in a quest for better home security, Devindra Hardawar installed Arlo’s Video Doorbell and Pro 3 cameras around his home to check out what the system could do. Nicole also considered several smart lights and clocks to see which deserves a spot on your nightstand, and I tested four smart white noise makers designed to be used in a nursery.
Volkswagen’s ID.4 EV is a stylish people mover
After driving the VW ID.4 EV, Andrew Tarantola concluded that it’s a solid first attempt at a practical electric car from the German automaker. The specs for the ID.4 are similar to competing gas models like the Honda CRV: a 77.0-kWh lithium-ion battery pack puts out 201 HP and 229 pound-feet of torque. This means the EV crossover took a bit of time to get up to 60 mph — seven and a half seconds — which felt lackadaisical to Andrew. The vehicle also weighs a heft 4,600-plus pounds, which is stout for an EV.
The ID.4 has an EPA estimated range of 250 miles, which Andrew says makes it feel more geared towards urban errands and commutes close to charging stations. Andrew felt a bit of range anxiety while test driving the ID.4 and seeing how quickly the power gauge shrank, but the ID.4 supports fast-charging protocols which should help drivers juice back up swiftly. Despite the sparse interior, the strange gear shift and the complicated infotainment controls, Andrew liked the design of the car and said the cabin was roomy and comfortable. He was surprised, however, by the lack of one-pedal driving and had some difficulty with the lane-keeping feature, but still said the ID.4 EV was worthy of consideration.
Bose’s Sport Open Earbuds are ideal for workouts — but that’s it
The $199 Sport Open Earbuds are similar to other true wireless products that Bose offers; the hard plastic buds are designed to hook over the ear and sit just outside the ear canal. But these new buds use 16mm drivers and acoustic ports to channel music directly to your ears. This is supposed to increase comfort and to allow the user to hear their surroundings better. They’re also water resistant, and they have simple controls and a good, 8-hour battery life. However, as Billy Steele found while testing the buds, compromises remain.
Most notably, the sound quality was just ok. While music had decent clarity, a lack of bassy thump sucked the energy out of many songs. Billy said he found them better for podcasts than many genres of music. Audio calls came through clearly, but the person on the other end could hear themselves along with plenty of background noise. And while the open design meant that Billy could hear everything around him, it also meant that those in his household could hear what he was listening to even at low volumes. On top of that, there’s also no customization available in the app. These drawbacks left Billy wondering if the open design was worth the trade-offs.
The Mila air purifier is smart but expensive
While smart air purifiers have been on the market for a few years, Nicole Lee points out that the technology for those products is often centered around a few features. Not so with the Mila air purifier, which offers more customization than most — though it comes at a cost. The $360 Mila impressed her with its app features as well as its performance and design, however at 12 inches wide by 15.5 inches tall, it has a fairly large footprint.
Nicole liked the variety of filters available for the Mila (seven in total), which are designed for different uses like pet owners and parents. She tried both the Critter Cuddler, which worked well to eliminate litter box odors, and the Basic Breather, which worked well for larger living areas. She was also pleased by how easy the set up was, and the amount of detail available on the app for both indoor and outdoor air quality indexes. She also found the various settings like Sleep Mode and White Noise Mode helpful. However, the whole system will cost you — Mila filters are proprietary and $59 a pop, and the Mila itself is $100 more than competing devices.
Arlo’s Video Doorbell and Pro 3 cameras make for a well-rounded home security package
When Devindra Hardawar was looking for a smart doorbell, he opted to try Arlo’s Video Doorbell because it doesn’t have the same privacy concerns as Amazon’s Ring cameras. Though he liked the sleek device and it’s features well enough to add on a few of the company’s Pro 3 cameras, he hit a few snags in getting the appropriate amount of power for the doorbell during setup. But once the Video Doorbell was properly installed, Devindra found a lot to like about the 1080p video with HDR, the smartphone alerts and the extra coverage that additional cameras provided.
The Pro 3 cameras were much easier to set up and position, and the combination of Arlo’s doorbell and wire-free cameras helped deter package thieves while also catching footage of visiting wildlife. Devindra subscribed to Arlo’s $10-per-month Smart Premier plan, which includes 2K video uploads, 30 days of backups and an ability to specify zones for motion alerts. The app made it easy for him to view a library of alerts and the camera's HomeKit support allowed him to connect to Apple hardware and Siri. Though he experienced a few hiccups with delays on the live feed and unnecessary motion alerts, he’s still planning on expanding the setup with more cameras.