This week at Engadget, our editors were busy testing some unusual and unique devices. We tried out Lenovo’s first foldable tablet, the ThinkPad X1 Fold, and determined it was best left to early adopters. We clacked away at Corsair’s K60 Low Profile and determined that it was good for more than just gamers. We got a good look at Anova’s Precision oven — a combination convection-steam oven — that helped Nicole Lee cook the food of her dreams. In audio, we checked out Grado’s first true wireless earbuds, the GT220s, which have a thoughtful design and good sound quality. We also reviewed the Orba from Artiphon, a portable synthesizer, looper and MDE MIDI controller packed into a small, circular-shaped device.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold is remarkable but ultimately isn’t ready for the mainstream
Lenovo has often shown a willingness to experiment with new technologies. The ThinkPad X1 Fold is a 13.3-inch foldable tablet PC that runs Windows and can act as a mini laptop with the addition of a keyboard. It can be used in a number of orientations (except for tent mode), but at 2.2 pounds and 24mm thick when folded, it’s hefty to operate with one hand. Cherlynn Low said that while the Fold is a well-made, serviceable device, it’s nowhere near ready for mainstream adoption.
It also doesn’t help that, at $2,600, the Fold is expensive -- and both the $230 companion keyboard and $100 pen come separately. Cherlynn liked the leather cover, the comfortable keyboard and the bright and colorful 2K OLED screen. But there were snags on the software side: Microsoft struggles to adapt Windows for touchscreen-only operation and the app store still lacks options. Cherlynn also experienced some hiccups when switching between modes. While a remarkable achievement, she said the X1 Fold is best left to early adopters.
Corsair’s K60 RGB Pro Low Profile is a solid gaming keyboard
Gaming keyboards can be popular with non-gamers for their sturdy construction and mechanical keys, though they’re usually louder and larger than others. Corsair’s K60 RGB Pro Low Profile challenges that: it’s a smaller, compact mechanical keyboard that eschews extras like media buttons, macro keys or a volume dial. Shorter than the standard K60, the Low Profile keyboard uses Cherry MX Speed keys which feel softer and more muted than the ones found on other Corsair decks.
Customization can be done using Corsair’s iQUE software, which has plenty of built-in presets that let you mute or change the colors beneath the keys, among other things. The keys are more pleasant to listen to and type on, making the Low Profile a better option for those who are working in close quarters. In testing, Kris Naudus found the keys to have a firm bounce and a short actuation point, the latter of which unfortunately made it easy to accidentally hit the spacebar. Nevertheless, she says the K60 line is an ideal meld of professional quality with gaming features.
Anova’s Precision Oven is a combination convection-steam oven with few flaws
Anova’s Precision Oven was announced in 2017 but only just became available for purchase this year. A combination convection-steam oven with temperature and humidity controls, the Precision Oven can cook in either dry or wet heat, which means it can bake, sous vide (without the bag), air fry and more. Nicole Lee said the Precision Oven allowed her to make the kind of food she’d only dreamed of, from juicy chicken to chewy bagels.
One thing to note about the Precision Oven is that it’s big: the appliance measures 22.4 x 17.7 x 14.1 inches, and because of that, it took up a lot of real estate on Nicole’s kitchen counter. However, she did say the roomy interior enabled her to fit a 7.25-quart dutch oven inside. The Precision Oven also has a big price tag at $600 — however, similar ovens that are usually only found in designer kitchens or restaurants can cost several thousand dollars. Nicole admits that there are other drawbacks, too: the Precision Oven has a bit of a learning curve and isn’t very easy to clean. Despite that, she felt that serious cooks should strongly consider adding the device to their homes.
The Grado GT220s are basic buds with stellar sound
Billy Steele had high expectations for the GT220 earbuds based on Grado’s previous offerings. He liked the lightweight, comfortable feel and the immersive, airy sound of the open-backed GW100 headphones. The GT220’s stay true to Grado’s high standards of audio performance, and as with the GW100s, the company opted to keep these earbuds’ design simple and understated. The first true wireless buds from the Grado, they are some of the best sounding earbuds Billy has tested. The onboard controls are easy to learn and the battery life exceeded Grado’s estimation of six hours (Billy got eight).
However, there are some trade-offs. The earbuds lack active noise-cancellation and there’s no companion app, which means no customization. But Billy found the sound quality so outstanding that he didn’t feel much tweaking would be necessary. He was even able to discover new aspects of old favorite tracks thanks to the buds’ amazing sound. They provided remarkable clarity with a depth and range that kept music from sounding overly compressed. Billy said those who value simplicity should be pleased with the GT220s.
Artiphon’s Orba is a unique instrument for audio tinkerers
Atriphon’s Orba is a tiny synthesizer, looper and MDE MIDI controller that is, according to Terrence O’Brien, shaped like a petrified orange half. The unusual musical device is played by tapping the touch pads on top, or by shaking, twisting, tilting or slapping it. It’s designed to be easy to learn so the musically curious can give it a go without issue. At just $99, the Orba is a versatile instrument with a low barrier to entry that can also be expanded by connecting it to a DAW or softsynth.
Terrence said the Orba had an excellent build quality, including a powerful speaker, and is more portable than Teenage Engineering’s Pocket Operator or the Push. However, the sound selection on the Orba is a little more limited and the app is missing some features (song mode is still under construction and there are some connectivity issues). In testing, Terrence found it responsive and satisfying to hold, making it a good option for casual music creators.