Posts with «author_name|amber bouman» label

ICYMI: NVIDIA’s RTX 3050 is a great budget GPU

The new year is well underway, and we’ve already started testing out a wide variety of gadgets, devices and components. This week, Devindra Hardawar played with NVIDIA’s RTX 3050 and deemed it a great deal — if it stays at its original price. Steve Dent shot with the Sony's new A7 IV camera to test out its autofocus, video and image quality improvements, while Billy Steele spent time with both the Jabra Elite 4 Active earbuds and the Shure Aonic 40 over-ear headphones.

The RTX 3050 is the cheapest ray tracing GPU from NVIDIA

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Though the RTX 3050 is supposed to be an affordable way to hit 1080p/60fps while gaming, the $250 GPU may wind up costing considerably more due to demand and chip shortages. Devindra Hardawar says the graphics card, which is the lowest priced NVIDIA GPU to also feature ray tracing, is a fantastic component with 2,560 CUDA cores, 8GB of GDDR6 RAM and a boost speed of 1,777 MHz.

Devindra says the RTX 3050 tackled everything he threw at it during testing, averaging 140fps in Hitman 3’s Dubai benchmark. He was impressed at how well the card handled demanding games like Control, where it reached 65fps on average in 1080p (without ray tracing). It also stayed surprisingly quiet and cool at 60 degrees Celsius. While Devindra says it’s best suited to 1080p gaming, he also says it’s an absolute steal – if the price stays low.

Sony greatly improved the autofocus on the A7 IV mirrorless camera

Steve Dent/Engadget

With a higher resolution 33-megapixel sensor, improved video capabilities, and an updated autofocus, Steve Dent found a lot to like about the Sony A7 IV mirrorless camera. He even called the hybrid shooter a near-perfect package, and he particularly liked its sturdy grip, precise buttons and dials and the fully articulated rear touch display. Sony’s well-organized menu system also made it easy for him to navigate through the controls.

The main drawback on this camera is a rolling shutter issue: Steve says while shooting silently in electronic mode, the camera needs to be steady and the subject should be smooth, or artifacts like slanted lines will appear in the shots. However, he was quite impressed with the AI autofocus features, which made the A7 IV easy to use and the most reliable camera he’s tested. At $2,500 the A7 IV is more expensive at launch than previous models, but Steve says the improvements in image quality, video and color science make the A7 IV another winner in Sony’s camera lineup.

Jabra's Elite 4 Active earbuds combine compelling features and an affordable price

Billy Steele/Engadget

Jabra’s Elite 4 Active true wireless earbuds continue the company’s trend towards offering small earbuds with a wide array of hands-free features. With a IP57 water resistance, they’re also more useful during workouts, and Billy Steele says their small size makes them more comfortable to wear as well. The new model includes features often seen in pricer models like HearThrough, SideTone and Find My, most of which are adjustable in the companion mobile app.

Billy found the Elite 4 Active delivered good but not great sound quality – while they provided decent clarity and nice detail overall, they lacked a wider soundstage and depth. However, he said the call quality was slightly better than most earbuds thanks to the reduced background noise. Battery tests showed that the Elite 4 Active buds lasted a little over seven hours — enough to get through most of a work day — and the $120 price is competitive.

Shure’s Aonic 40 headphones have an impressive battery life

Billy Steele/Engadget

Billy Steele was pleased to see that Shure didn’t make too many compromises when it came to the Aonic 40 over-ear headphones. Made from aluminum alloy and glass-filled nylon, the cans are easy to fold flat for traveling and have physical buttons for on-board controls, but Billy says he found them a bit uncomfortable to wear for long periods of time. He was more impressed by the Shure app, which provides a robust equalizer, plenty of adjustable settings and the ability to make your own presets.

Billy says while the Aonic 40 offers a punchy bass and clarity across volume levels, the soundstage isn’t wide open and songs lack immersive depth often heard with other headphones. The noise cancellation and ambient sound modes were only decent, but the call quality was above average. The $249 headphones particularly excelled during battery testing where they lasted over 30 hours. Overall, Billy says the Aonic 40’s are a relatively affordable option, but lack polish on the finer details.

ICYMI: We listen to Yamaha’s latest headphones with 3D sound

As we get closer and closer to the end of the year, there are still plenty of interesting gadgets, instruments and devices to review. This week, we’ve got a new addition to the Halo series with Halo: Infinite, which Jessica Conditt says fits right in with the rest of the franchise. Terrence O’Brien played the Fender Acoustasonic Player Telecaster and reported that the hybrid instrument produces convincing acoustic sounds that echo the original guitar. James Trew used the Analogue Pocket and says it’s the best handheld retro experience available right now, period. And Billy Steele listened to Yahama’s YH-L700A, which he deemed a bit heavy-handed, albeit excellent for movie watching.

The Yamaha YH-L700A headphones have a unique aesthetic and a high price

Billy Steele/Engadget

Billy Steele likes the look of the Yamaha YH-L700A headphones: he says the combination of leather, fabric, matte black and silver accents makes for a refined look while the square fold-in ear cups make them easy to travel with. The noteworthy feature on these headphones is the 3D Sound Field feature, which consists of seven presets to enhance music and movies. There’s also a head-tracking feature which makes the sound appear to be coming from a stationary point.

Billy says this last feature added a cinematic element to movie watching, but he didn’t think it translated when listening to music. The seven presets of the 3D Sound Field likewise worked better for movies and television where they created a spacious sound. While testing the filters with music, Billy reports they felt heavy-handed and didn’t work well across genres. He says the active noise cancellation on these cans is sufficient if not impressive, and points out that the marquee features can be toggled on and off within the app. However, he was disappointed with the battery life – during testing, the headphones managed to last just under 11 hours, which is lackluster when most of the competition boasts closer to 30 hours of battery life. And at $500, they have a high price tag to boot.

The Analogue Pocket offers all the fun of ‘90s portable gaming

James Trew/Engadget

James Trew is a long-time vintage gaming fan and is quick to point out that while the Analogue Pocket is the best experience available right now, it’s also not for casual users. At $220, it lets you play most vintage portable titles from Game Boy, as well as Game Gear, while adapters for Neo Geo Pocket Color and Atari Lynx are on the way. It also has more modern touches, too, like a backlit display. And in addition to being a quality gaming device, the Analogue Pocket can also hook up to a TV and has built-in music making software.

Because of its FPGA “cores,” the Pocket can mimic vintage consoles at a hardware level – no more emulator quirks to suffer through. It’s also functional with original Game Boy accessories like the Game Boy Camera, printers or rumble packs. And it can connect to an authentic Game Boy for a multiplayer experience. James liked the 3.5-inch screen made with Gorilla Glass as well as the save states, but wished the shoulder buttons were better and said some of the display modes obscure on-screen messaging at times. Overall, the Analogue Pocket offers elevated retro gameplay with enough forthcoming additional features to ensure it will get better over time.

Halo: Infinite has fun new mechanics and tools


Jessica Conditt had high hopes for Halo: Infinite, the first open-world game in the franchise’s history. And she admits that playing the new storyline brought back warm, gleeful feelings and a sense of familiarity. However, she also thinks the game lacks surprise and intrigue – much of the innovation into vertical space has been done by other, more recent games, and the cramped map made for contained and linear gameplay.

That being said, Jessica reports she had a lot of fun playing with the newly available mechanics and tools, in particular the grapple hook. From climbing mountains to scaling buildings, the grapple hook provides new vertical space for players to explore. Jessica says that while she expected a lot more from the pioneer FPS title, she also thinks it’s at its best when it gives users a rich environment full of grappling, shielding and in-air headshots. From the maze-like levels, military stereotypes and sarcastic robots, Infinite plays like a classic Halo game.

The Hydrasynth Explorer offers an endless array of synth options

Terrence O'Brien/Engadget

Terrence O’Brien admits up front that the Hydrasynth Explorer offers a remarkable array of features and options in a portable, well-built device. For $600, you get a wavemorphing engine with an eight-note polyphone, three oscillators per voice, a ring modulator, a noise source and over 200 waveforms. There are also two filters which can be in series or parallel to determine how much of each oscillator goes to each filter. He says that the 88-page manual feels like it’s just skimming the surface of what the synth is capable of.

However, you don’t need to master the sound design tools to get started with the instrument – just dig into the 640 presets spread over five banks of 128 patches. During testing, Terrence found the Explorer easy to use thanks to the neatly labeled sections on the front panel. A few things missing on the versatile device are a proper sequencer, full-sized keys, and touch strips instead of pitch and mod wheels. There are also only three filter knobs instead of five. Despite that, Terrence still feels that the Explorer is well worth its price tag given its great sound, solid build and plethora of tools to explore.

Fender’s Acoustasonic Player Telecaster is an (almost) perfect couch guitar

Terrence O'Brien/Engadget

Terrence O’Brien also spent some time with the new Fender Acoustasonic Player Telecaster, which slashes $800 off the price of the previous model. For $1,200, you get a mahogany and spruce satin finish with a rosewood fretboard, two pickups and a three-way switch with six sound options. Instead of a rechargeable battery, the Player runs on a standard nine-volt cell. Terrence reports it eats through the batteries surprisingly quickly, but remains convenient.

When it came to how the instrument sounded, Terrence reports that while there are fewer acoustic simulations on this model, the two offerings (Rosewood Dreadnought and Mahogany Small Body) cover a lot of ground. He says that he prefers the electric sounds of the Telecaster to the more expensive Jazzmaster, as it resembles the original guitar more and plays better with pedals. Terrence says the two acoustic simulations offer depth and character, and that overall, the hybrid guitar is a perfect couch instrument.

Universal’s Audio Volt is an audio interface ideal for a home studio

Terrence O'Brien/Engadget

Terrence O’Brien deems Universal Audio’s first foray into the budget space a success. The company’s Volt series, five models that run from $139 to $369, are affordable audio interfaces that share a core 24-bit/192kHz audio converter and a preamp with a “Vintage” mode that aims to recreate that classic tube preamp sounds. Terrence tested the $189 Volt 2 and the $299 Volt 276, which are both two-input interfaces.

The differences between the two models are slight: the Volt 2 is simple and utilitarian, but works well with limited space, while the “76” version has a built-in compressor and will require extra desk space as most of the controls are on the top. Terrence says the compressor makes a big difference as it’s capable of softer edges to tame the harsher frequencies. He also felt the metering LEDs on the 276 were easier to see and the wooden sides were a nice touch. While the base models were excellent interfaces at reasonable prices, Terrence said the 176, 276 and 476 stood out from the pack thanks to their compressors, style and ergonomics.

ICYMI: We check out Android 12’s visual refresh

This week, in addition to covering all the Cyber Week deals we could find, we also reviewed some unique gadgets. Steve Dent and a licensed drone pilot toured the French countryside with the help of the DJI Mavic 3 drone, while Terrence O’Brien played with the Animoog Z app, a sequel ten years in the making. Also, Cherlynn Low played around with Android 12 to check out its new Material You design.

The Mavic 3 is the easiest DJI drone to fly

Steve Dent/Engadget

Steve Dent spent some time with the DJI Mavic 3 and a licensed drone pilot in the French countryside to see what the new device is capable of. He reports that not only is the Mavic 3 the easiest DJI drone to fly, but the large 4/3 sensor and dual camera system produce incredible footage – and the 46 minutes of range is double the time that the previous model could capture. He tested the standard model in the $3,000 Fly More combo package, which includes three batteries, a charging hub, one set of ND filters and a carrying bag. The Mavic 3 is also available in a Cine mode with a built-in 1TB SSD and Apple ProRes 422 HQ video support.

While the Mavic 3 was easier to maneuver thanks to its improved obstacle avoidance, it was also easy to fold the 899-gram drone into a more compact size for storage and travel. Steve says the camera and video specs are impressive: the primary camera was built in collaboration with Hasselblad and has a 24mm f/2.8-f/11 lens with a color profile for accurate hues. The video camera can shoot 5.1K at 50fps or 4K at 60fps; Steve says the larger sensor provides better low light performance, more detail and great dynamic range. However, there are some downsides – namely the price, but also that the additional features that DJI promised (like ActiveTrack5 and QuickShots) aren't available now but will be released in January. Overall, Steve says the Mavic 3 delivers, but is best for professions and prosumers.

Google’s Material You design gives Android 12 a much-needed visual update


Cherlynn Low knows that the many versions of Android make a review of the core features a bit difficult, but the upgrades on the operating system’s most recent release make for a refreshing experience and provide more transparency over data and privacy. That’s largely thanks to the new Material You design that has decluttered the UI and enlarged buttons and sliders, among other things. Cherlynn particularly liked the Privacy Dashboard that informs users when their camera and mic are activated, along with which apps require them. Android 12 also has new indicators for when the camera or mic are actively being used.

Cherlynn did note some aspects that disappointed her, namely the default way to summon the Google Assistant, and the confusing charts and graphs in the battery and privacy dashboards. She was also excited to try the audio-coupled haptic feedback, but wasn’t able to find any apps that supported it. Overall, she said that the visual updates in Material You and increased privacy tools made the system feel drastically different — in a good way.

The Animoog Z app is a proper sequel that took ten years to make

Terrence O'Brien/Engadget

Terrence O’Brien was looking forward to testing out Animoog Z, the follow up to Moog’s original software instrument which used wavetable synthesis. This sequel to the app has largely the same core Anisotropic Synth Engine, consisting of dozens of waveforms that you can choose from, ranging from samples of analog saw waves to more digital sounds. However, the new release adds a third dimension to the X/Y axis of the original — a Z axis that notes can move along.

Terrence says this gives the new app a bit more depth and room to evolve. He found that certain presets took advantage of the additional modulation path to make more complex and unique sounds. There’s also a new effects section with a looper, delay, filter and an arpeggiator, plus MPE support. Additionally, Terrence says the redesigned look that the new app has makes it feel more modern and easier to navigate. After testing, he declared the Animoog Z a worthy successor to the groundbreaking original. A limited version is available as a free download, with the full featured version going for a flat $10.

The best deals on baby gadgets we found for Black Friday

Parenthood, while constantly entertaining, is also one of the most eye-ball meltingly frustrating experiences I’ve personally ever had. At the end of the day, I do not have patience for any additional extra hassles, be it an unresponsive device, lagging apps or diaper wipes that come out 15 at a time. There are some parenting gadgets that are actually worth your money because they can make life with new babies much more convenient, and some of our favorites are on sale for Black Friday. We’ve tried out nearly every product below so we can vouch for their advantages, functionality and what really counts as a good deal for the holiday shopping season. That way you can save all your patience for the toy cars, houses and high chairs you're going to have to build after Christmas. 

Nanit Pro baby monitor


Nanit earned a space in our best baby monitor guide because of the crisp, clear details provided by the 1080p birds-eye camera, day or night. The app provides detailed metrics about your child’s sleep habits, as well as video clips though some of that requires a subscription. And Nanit’s wearables — like the Breathing Wear or Smart sheets —measure additional data about your child like respiration rate and height, respectively. The Nanit Pro complete bundle, with the camera, wall mount, travel mount, Smart Sheet, Breathing Band and year of Nanit Insights, is 26 percent off, bringing it down to $280. The rest of Nanit’s products have been discounted as well, including smaller bundles and the wearable accessories.

Buy Nanit Pro bundle at Amazon - $280Shop Nanit Black Friday sales at Amazon

Eufy SpaceView Pro baby monitor


Eufy makes reliable, uncomplicated baby monitors that use a wireless FHSS transmission to show a live feed of your kid’s room. Its lack of WiFi makes its feed more secure, though it does require you to carry around an external device. Eufy’s Spaceview Pro pans and tilts to show an entire room and the 5-inch display will last up to twelve continuous hours. The single camera package is $30 off with a coupon, knocking it down to $140, and a bundle that includes the camera, monitor and a crib mount is also discounted thanks to a $40 coupon, bringing it down to $155.

Buy SpaceView Pro monitor at Amazon - $140Buy SpaceView S monitor bundle at Amazon - $155

Cubo AI baby monitor

Cubo AI

While we haven’t finished a formal review of the Cubo AI baby monitor, our initial testing went well: The cute bird-shaped camera can be mounted to a wall or crib and provides a detailed, clear 1080p view. The system uses AI to determine if your baby’s nose or mouth are covered and will send an alert; it can also be useful for older children where it can be set to alert you if they cross into prohibited areas. The feed runs to a companion app that works with Google Home or Alexa, provides two-way audio or enables the night light or lullaby features. Right now, the Cubo AI camera with the wall mount is $30 off with a coupon, making it $170.

Buy Cubo AI at Amazon - $170

Hatch Baby Rest

Amber Bouman/Engadget

Time and time again, I’ve recommended the Hatch Baby Rest because it’s a product I use every single day. The minimalist nightlight-slash-noise machine can display a variety of colors, and sounds, and is controllable from your smartphone or by using the physical buttons. Favorite combos can be saved and programmed, or you can select from presets. The Rest is helpful in sleep training kids, or keeping babies asleep, and can grow with kids by being used to signal awake times. The basic Rest is 40 percent off, so you can snag one for only $60.

Buy Hatch Baby Rest at Amazon - $60

Withings Thermo smart thermometer


Another product that quickly won me over during testing is Withings Thermo smart thermometer. I know, a $100 temporal thermometer seems like an unnecessary extravagance. But it’s small and discrete enough to carry on trips, easy and painless to use on squirmy kiddos and the app makes it easy to track the readings from multiple family members. It’s also currently down to $64, only a few dollars shy of its lowest price ever, which makes it even easier to recommend.

Buy Withings Thermo at Amazon - $64

4moms mamaRoo 4 baby swing


We put the mamaRoo 4 baby swing in our best baby gear guide thanks in part to its easy setup and the freedom it gives parents to entertain their kids without having them in their arms at all times. The swing mimics the things parents often do to soothe their kids with its five movement options, five speed settings and four built-in sounds. The best part? It's fully controllable via your smartphone, so you can easily change up the motion, speed or sound when your child gets bored and fussy. The mamaRoo 4 normally costs $250, but it's on sale for $200 for Black Friday.

Buy mamaRoo 4 at Amazon - $200

Miku baby monitor


We haven’t reviewed the Miku yet, but it looks to offer many of the same advantages as the cameras we have spent hands-on time with: A birds-eye 1080p HD video stream of you child's crib that also measures respirations per minute, tracks sleep data, two-way audio, access from anywhere via the app and lullabies. The company is offering the camera with the wall mount for $300, which is $100 off.

Buy Miku baby monitor at Amazon - $300

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

ICYMI: It’s finally time to test SharePlay on iOS 15.1

This week we’ve got a wide range of reviews on everything from mobile operating systems to craft cutting machines. First, Mat Smith checked out the new SharePlay feature on iOS 15.1 and determined it has potential. Next, Billy Steele listened to the Bose QuietComfort 45 headphones and found them to be just as comfortable as their predecessors, and with improved noise cancellation, too. Nathan Ingraham put the HP Chromebook X2 to the test and found the lightweight laptop has a stellar screen that’s ideal for travel. Steve Dent turned the dial on ASUS’s ProArt Studiobook 16 OLED laptop, which he says has an exceptionally color accurate screen and thoughtful features for creatives. Finally, Terrence O’Brien made a few stickers and decals with the Cricut Explore 3.

iOS 15.1 rolls out the new SharePlay feature

Mat Smith/Engadget

Mat Smith calls iOS 15.1 a relatively minor update when compared to the more drastic changes brought by iOS 14. A good bulk of the additions here come from the release of SharePlay, which allows you to do things like stream TV shows with a friend over FaceTime. Mat said that the shows were lag free in testing, the fitness apps were motivating and the free games were more fun than he expected. However, SharePlay isn’t available for all apps — for instance, YouTube and Netflix are not supported right now.

Mat also tested spatial audio, which gives callers directional sound, but he was more impressed by the new voice isolation and wide modes. He also played around with Focus modes, which help you track and limit your screen time via profiles and the ability to “lock” yourself out of your phone for set periods of time. Mat points out that these features, in addition to the machine learning improvements with Visual Look-up and Live Text, show that Apple is rededicating itself towards sharing.

HP’s Chromebook X2 makes a great first impression

Nathan Ingraham/Engadget

Nathan Ingraham found the hardware on the HP Chromebook X2 to be well built, sturdy and simple in design. He called the bright 11-inch, 2,160 x 1,440 touchscreen a standout that made work feel less cramped thanks in part to its 3:2 aspect ratio. The keyboard was responsive with good travel, and he liked that the included stylus attached neatly and magnetically to the side. When it came to performance, he found the X2 to do well for watching videos, browsing the web and playing games.

However, he found the Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c mobile processor struggled when it came time to push the machine with intensive tasks. Though he was able to run his usual programs, it wasn’t the fastest experience and he said he avoided playing music from the device while running a lot of other apps because it would cause slowdowns. That being said, its stellar battery life, size and lightweight design make the Chromebook X2 a solid secondary or travel device.

The ASUS ProArt Studiobook 16 OLED is a laptop for creatives

Steve Dent/Engadget

Steve Dent says the ASUS ProArt Studiobook is clearly intended to woo artists and creatives with its fast performance, gorgeous 16-inch 4K OLED screen and the “ASUS dial” for video and photo editing. The screen is factory-calibrated to Pantone and Calman color accuracy, and has a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio with inky blacks that make it good for content creation and streaming entertainment. It also features an “IceCool Pro” thermal solution to boost airflow while keeping noise levels minimal. Steve found this to hold true during testing, except for very GPU/CPU intensive tasks, which did bump up the noise levels.

He was also particularly impressed with the dial, which he says feels nice with a textured grip and smooth rotation. The location is convenient and the dial can be used to adjust volume or display brightness as well as to access menu options from four Adobe apps. Steve was also pleased with the number of ports on the machine, including a USB-C with DisplayPort support and an SD Express card slot. In testing, the laptop performed well during both gaming and editing tasks, thanks in part to a RTX 3070 GPU and AMD Ryzen 9 CPU. On top of that, Steve found it had a solid battery life, too, which lead him to declare the Studiobook 16 the best Windows 10 laptop for content creation.

Bose makes minor but appreciated updates with the QuietComfort 45 headphones

Billy Steele/Engadget

Billy Steele isn’t disappointed that Bose didn’t update the design of the QuietComfort 45 headphones. In fact, he was pleased that the company kept so much of what made the previous model popular, from the light weight to the physical buttons and cushiony pads. He reports that the new headphones keep the sound quality that Bose is known for, with crisp highs, robust mids and deep bass. The QC45 sounded good across multiple genres and the updated noise cancelling removed more background sounds than the last model.

New to the QC45 is an ambient sound or aware mode, which allows you to hear what’s happening around you. Billy said it’s serviceable but not the best he’s experienced. While testing, he managed to get 22.5 hours worth of playback before he needed to recharge the headphones. However, he did find the multi-device connectivity a bit frustrating as it required him to reconnect after ending a call. Overall, he still feels that the newest QuietComfort cans offer a lot for folks who travel frequently and need a comfortable set of headphones with exceptional noise cancelling capabilities.

Cricut’s Explore 3 cutting machine is for devoted crafters

Terrence O'Brien/Engadget

Terrence O’Brien admits he’s not the core audience for a Circuit craft machine. Designed to cut hundreds of different types of materials, the Circuit line can make vinyl transfers for shirts, 3D cardboard masks, stickers, decals, iron-ons and more. However, his beginner crafting level didn’t stop him from thoroughly enjoying the Cricut Explore 3, which he said felt like magic to use. In testing, he created a Spiderman emblem for a Halloween costume, several laptop stickers and (most of) a 3D cardboard fox.

Terrence said he found the companion app easy to use: it also offers access to over 1,000 free images and 250 projects. Even more are available via the $10 a month Cricut Access membership and you can upload your own designs. He appreciated the detailed instructions for the predesigned projects, but points out that projects often required a lot of additional add-ons like a scoring stylus or foil transfer tool. Overall, Terrence says whether or not the $300 Explore 3 (or $400 Maker 3) is worth it to you is going to depend a lot on how often you’ll use it — and what other materials you already have on hand.

ICYMI: The Beats Fit Pro are an intriguing AirPods Pro alternative

Engadget’s product reviews this week run the gamut from earbuds to e-readers. Billy Steele checked out the Beats Fit Pro and liked them for their improved fit and deeper sound. Next, a few items of note for photography enthusiasts: Steve Dent reviewed the Panasonic GH5 II to see the difference an all-new processor can make, while Mat Smith used the Sony Xperia 1 III and reported that the oblong smartphone has a slew of intriguing camera features to offer. Finally, Nathan Ingraham reviewed the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition, which left him suitably impressed.

The Beats Fit Pro are packed with Apple tech

Billy Steele/Engadget

Billy Steele likes the more traditional fit of the new Beat Fits Pro earbuds. These are the newest true wireless buds in the company’s lineup and they have a slight design update with flexible wingtips, which bend to fit more ear shapes. Billy says this element helped keep the buds in place and he hardly noticed them in his ears. In addition to the hardware refresh, the earbuds also feature active noise-cancellation (ANC), adaptive EQ and spatial audio, plus other features integrated with iOS that make them an attractive option for iPhone users.

The $200 Beat Fits Pro also have an IPX4 rating, and their wingtips make them more secure during workouts. The upgrades the company made to the sound profile were immediately noticeable according to Billy, who reported a punchier bass with more depth, more room for vocals and other elements and more low-end tone. The buds have the same H1 chip found in the AirPods Pro, allowing them to access features like one-touch pairing and hands-free Siri. But the Beats Fit Pro weren’t without issue: Billy experienced a lot of accidental button presses and they don’t support wireless charging. But they still offer a good blend of features, sound and performance, making them a solid alternative to the AirPods Pro.

The Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition is better than ever

Nathan Ingraham/Engadget

Nathan Ingraham knows that an e-reader isn’t a gadget that most people upgrade often. However, a larger 6.8-inch screen, smaller bezels, 17 LED backlights, USB-C charging and 32GB of storage make for quite an update, and because of all that, Nathan calls the Kindle Paperwhite Signature Edition the best e-reader he’s ever used. Those extra LEDs emit an adjustable warm light that should reduce eye strain at night, and Nathan says this was his favorite new feature on the device. He also said the hardware changes to the bezels and screen helped to make this feel like a more premium device.

The latest Kindle can also automatically adjust the backlight to reduce nighttime eye strain, plus it has wireless charging and won’t display ads on the lock screen. Like previous versions, the Signature Edition is waterproof, can play audiobooks using Bluetooth and has a battery life that lasts weeks. But it comes in at $190, which is $50 more than the standard Kindle Paperwhite. Nathan says that for most people, the extra storage isn’t worth the extra money — unless you plan on downloading a lot of Audible titles on your e-reader.

The Panasonic GH5 II runs on an all-new processor

Steve Dent/Engadget

Steve Dent found a lot to like about the Panasonic GH5 II. The refreshed design still has the same 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, as well as the same 3.68 million dot resolution and .76x magnification. The body hardware is nearly identical with an excellent grip, logical control positions and a smaller but brighter rear display. However, the new version of the camera has a faster processor and double the refresh rate at 120Hz. The chip helps improve the AI autofocus, which can now double the face- and eye-tracking speeds as well as pick up focus on a face tilted away from the camera.

Steve also liked the menus better on the GH5 II, which are color coded and tabbed to help you find what you’re looking for. Panasonic also kept the info panel, which shows important settings at a glance. Another upgrade comes in the image stabilization system, which now delivers up to 6.5 EV of shake protection. Thanks to this, Steve said the GH5 II does a better job than competitors at smoothing out walking or running. But there’s still no external RAW video, and low-light shooting remains a weak point.

It's all about the cameras on the Sony Xperia 1 III

Mat Smith/Engadget

Sony’s Xperia 1 III closely resembles last year's smartphone with an unusual 21:9 screen ratio and an elongated design. Mat Smith says the addition of a matte finish helps to make it feel like a premium handset. The updated 4K 120Hz screen also helps make everything look quite crisp, and it runs smoothly thanks to a Snapdragon 888 chipset, 12GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. Though Mat says the phone's 6.5-inch OLED screen is gorgeous, the Xperia can’t dynamically change refresh rates to maximize battery life — and that results in barely a full day of use, even with a 4,500mAh battery, if you keep the panel at 120Hz. He was pleased with the sound from the front-facing stereo speakers, which continues support for audio formats like 360 Reality Audio, Hi-Resolution audio and Dolby Atmos. And — shocker — the Xperia 1 III still includes a 3.5mm audio jack.

But the phone’s camera shines, courtesy of the three 12-megapixel shooters with varying focal lengths. The Xperia 1 III can track moving subjects and catch crisp shots in busy scenes because it’s capable of capturing 20 frames per second and has dual-phase-detection-autofocus pixels. Mat says it’s a more technical approach and it has a learning curve, but it makes the smartphone an intriguing prospect for photography enthusiasts.

ICYMI: Apple’s new MacBook Pros have (nearly) everything you’d want

This week, we tested out new flagship smartphones, high-powered laptops and much-improved earbuds. Devindra Hardawar reviewed the latest 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros and reports back that they provide almost everything one could want out of a powerful laptop. Billy Steele spent time listening to the third-generation AirPods and concluded they sound much better than the previous version. And Cherlynn Low used Google’s Pixel 6 and 6 Pro and found that the camera-heavy handsets have a lot more to offer, including a great starting price.

The new MacBook Pros have a ton of power (and ports)

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Devindra Hardawar says the 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros are precisely what media professionals have been waiting for: speedy M1 Pro and Max processors, a comfortable keyboard, serious battery life and great speakers. They also feature most of the crucial ports MacBooks have been missing for years, including (finally!) an SD card reader, though the laptops are thicker and heavier as a result. And of course, all that comes with a high starting price of $1,999.

Devindra was particularly impressed by the Liquid Retina XDR displays, which come close to 4K resolutions, and have mini-LED backlighting to produce up to 1,600 nits of brightness. He was also pleased to find support for 120Hz refresh rates, and by the benchmark testing in which both MacBook Pros blew away competing Windows PCs. However, while the laptops were able to speedily convert a 4K video clip to 1080p, Devindra doesn't think they'd make the best gaming machines — trying to load Borderlands 3 produced an unplayable mess. Overall though, he says these computers have practically everything one, especially a creative professional, would want in a powerful notebook — as long as you can stomach the price tag.

The third-gen Airpods have a better fit and more features

Billy Steele/Engadget

Apple’s latest AirPods have been almost completely redesigned from the previous version; the buds themselves have a new look, courtesy of the contoured shape which reduces weight and features a tapered silhouette and an angle to increase comfort. Billy Steele says the company’s efforts to build better AirPods have paid off: the new buds are more comfortable and and have much better audio quality, with bigger and more immersive sound that remained open and airy. That’s thanks to a custom driver paired with a high-dynamic-range amplifier, as well as the new H1 chip and the inward facing mic. Billy says these changes made the AirPods something he actively wanted to listen to music with.

The new AirPods also have an IPX4 rating so they’ll survive sweaty workouts or small splashes. They can also detect skin which, combined with the built-in accelerometer, makes for more accurate pausing and extends battery life. The new chip means you can listen to tracks in Dolby Atmos on Apple Music, and the spatial audio is available with dynamic head tracking to change the position of the audio when you turn your head. However, the latest AirPods still lack active noise cancellation and Transparency mode as these features are still reserved for the pricier AirPods Pro. While Billy acknowledges that these earbuds aren’t for everyone, he says they continue to offer Apple users features that are well integrated with iPhone, iPad and Mac.

Google’s Pixel 6 and 6 Pro are excellent phones with great prices 

David Imel for Engadget

Cherlynn Low says the newest Google phones — the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro — are the most intriguing phones that the company has made in years. Featuring the first Google mobile processor, Tensor, the two handsets also have improved camera hardware, lovely OLED screens, speedy refresh rates (120Hz for the 6 Pro, 90Hz for the 6), and decent speakers. Cherlynn says the best feature is the surprisingly low starting price — only $599 — which makes some of the drawbacks more forgivable.

One of the issues she had with the phones was the laggy under-screen fingerprint sensor, which requires the display to be on before it unlocked — a process that she says doesn’t need to have two steps. She was more impressed by the new voice keyboard, which did an excellent job of transcribing speech, and the additional camera features. The sensors are sharper and bigger with larger pixels, producing bright, clean photos — and special camera features, like Magic Eraser and Face Unblur, give users a lot of control over their photos. The Pixel 6 and 6 Pro excelled in our battery tests, too, lasting 20.5 hours and 17 hours, respectively. Overall, Cherlynn calls the handsets a superb return to form, showing off Google’s strengths in the software and photography departments.

ICYMI: Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 still needs some work

This week, we’ve got a handful of reviews across several categories. Devindra Hardawar reviewed AMD’s Radeon RX 6600 and determined that its lackluster performance and features made the GPU hard to praise, particularly when chip shortages have forced skyrocketing prices. Nicole Lee carried the Facebook Portal Go around her house and found its features don’t entirely outweigh the flaws. I tracked my twin’s daily habits with the Talli one-touch tracker and liked it more than I thought I would, plus Cherlynn Low found that she wasn’t totally sold on Microsoft’s latest Surface Duo 2 folding smartphone.

Microsoft’s Surface Duo 2 is still struggling

David Imel for Engadget

Cherlynn Low admits right away that the Surface Duo 2 is a frustrating device, despite upgrades to the cameras, software and performance. At $1,500, it remains a pricey and niche foldable phone. The newest version offers a combined 8.3-inch screen and it runs Android 11. Cherlynn says the hardware is attractive with an impressively thin profile and a sleek silhouette. The unique 1,892 x 1,344 resolution produced some odd aspect ratios, but overall, apps expanded to cover the whole screen when the automatic-span setting was enabled.

While Cherlynn liked the 90Hz refresh rate, the lovely AMOLED panels and the video quality, she was disappointed that the Duo 2 didn’t have any functionality when closed since, unlike competing smartphones, it doesn’t have an external screen. She also experienced occasional software issues: the system periodically required repeated taps to register, and the UI was finicky with swipe-based navigation. But she was most let down by the camera, which disables the rear shooters depending on the position of the phone. In the end, she could only recommend the device to those who really need a dual-screen phone and have $1,500 to spare.

AMD’s Radeon RX 6600 shouldn’t be your first pick

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

In his review of the Radeon RX 6600, Devindra Hardawar wonders who this GPU is for. Although the card has speedy 1080p load performance, its ray tracing was lackluster at best, its upscaling abilities are limited and it has fewer features than competing cards from NVIDIA. This makes it difficult to recommend, particularly because there’s no way to estimate how much the card will cost due to the global chip shortage and ballooning prices.

During testing, Devindra found the RX 6600 to be a capable gaming card. It reached 120FPS in Destiny 2 with maxed out graphics, but stumbled when he pushed the game to 1440p. Similarly, during the Hitman 3 benchmark, the GPU reached a respectable 138fps in 1080p, but again faltered once Devindra pushed it to 1440p. He says the RX 6600 could be an upgrade for some because of its Smart Access Memory, which allows your CPU to directly address your video card's RAM. Otherwise, he says the GPU can only compete if the market stabilizes and the price drops below $300.

The Portal Go brings Facebook video chat all over your house

Nicole Lee/Engadget

Nicole Lee approves of the design updates made to Facebook’s Portal Go, which now features a grey fabric enclosure and rounded corners. The improvements make the Go easy to prop up on a lap or hold while you walk around the house. Part tablet and part smart display, the Go touts smart camera tracking via the 12-megapixel wide-angle lens that uses AI-powered technology to automatically pan and zoom to keep you in frame. This makes it easier to get several people in the picture on a call, and it works in third-party apps as well.

Nicole says she was impressed by the video capabilities of the 10.1-inch display, which has the same 1,280 x 800 resolution as previous Portal devices. She was particularly pleased by the adaptive lighting features like Night Mode, which reduces the amount of blue light in the evening. It also provides decent audio thanks to its two full-range speakers and subwoofer, so it can double as a portable speaker in a pinch. Nicole also managed to squeeze a little over six hours out of the battery — more than the company’s claims of five. Despite this, she says the Go is your best choice only if Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp are your primary video call services.

Talli’s one-touch tracker makes it easy to log kids habits

Talli Baby

Although I like the app I use to track my twins' daily habits, I was curious about Talli’s dedicated hardware. A sleek box with eight buttons , the Talli is intended to help busy parents track their kids' stats with a single button press. I have to admit: I found it a lot more useful than I thought I would. Being able to push a button to log a medication or a bottle without having to open my phone, launch an app and enter in details was a welcome relief.

The Talli tracker also pairs with an app that records and graphs your child’s daily activities. The app is standalone, meaning you don't have to buy the physical tracker to use it, and there's no subscription required in order to access features or data. If you get the device, it runs on AA batteries and can be left freestanding or be wall mounted. I’ll admit I had a challenging time trying to find the exact right location for the Talli. Grabbing it often resulted in an accidental button press, but that didn’t diminish its usefulness. It can also work alongside an Alexa skill enabling parents to log events by saying “Alexa, tell Talli Baby that Sam had a bottle.” At $99, it’s a bit pricey for a single-function device, but if you’re looking to establish a routine of recording your baby’s habits, it can make things more convenient.

The Talli Baby tracker is a one-touch system for logging kids activities

Never in my life did I think it would be important for me to know when someone else had pooped, but then I became a mom and here we are. The amount of stuff that mom’s need to keep track of is, in a word, immense. Since I brought my twins home from the hospital, I’ve used an app to note every bottle, diaper change, nap, medication, bath time and more. That’s worked well so far, but now that my kids are older, I’ve had a harder time immediately logging their events. That’s partially because our routines were interrupted with a recent move and partially because they really want to play with my phone every time they see it. Regardless, I’m trying to get us all back into an established pattern of meals and nap times so I’ve been wanting to re-establish my habit of logging all their details.

Talli sells a $99 physical gadget for this purpose: a single-touch tracking device that lets busy, sleep-deprived parents push a button to log activities like bottle feeds and bedtimes. The Talli Baby one-touch tracker includes seven pre-assigned buttons and a miscellaneous eighth, and it pairs with an app to provide you the best of both worlds. A single-function device to track kids’ care may not sound like a big deal, but if you’ve ever tried to operate a touchscreen with diaper cream all over your hands, you may be able to see the utility here.


Amber Bouman/Engadget

The Talli is a white and faux-woodgrain box with rounded edges, roughly the size of a small but stuffed wallet. It has two rows of four activity buttons with icons to indicate which action the button is assigned to: bottle feeding, solid food, wet diaper, dirty diaper, sleeping, nursing, pumping or “miscellaneous,” which can be customized within the app. Events that happen at the same time — say, a wet and dirty diaper — require simultaneous button presses. There’s also a small WiFi button on the lower right that’s used during setup, and the company says that WiFi is only used when the device is transmitting an event. The rear contains slots to wall-mount the Talli using the included hardware.

Setting up the Talli is fairly uncomplicated and follows the same steps as many other app-connected devices: download the app, create an account, add a device, connect to a WiFi network and you’re done. When I first set up the device, it kept flashing an error message, which the included start-up pamphlet instructed me was a WiFi connection issue likely due to an incorrect network name or password.

Only I hadn’t gotten to that step yet, I was only trying to sync the device. I contacted Talli support and tried again and was able to connect and set up the device without any further issue. It’s worked normally since then so I’m not certain what the issue was, but it did make me realize that adding a hardware device to my tracking process meant there would be another potential point of failure. Since Talli pairs with an app that can be used independently to track what you’re doing with your kids, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if the hardware wasn’t working. However, it would detract from the main advantage of the system: the convenience of pressing a button on the tracker and continuing with your day.

Amber Bouman/Engadget

Taking out my smartphone, opening an app and typing in an entry isn’t exactly heavy lifting, but doing that while two toddlers wind themselves between my legs, grab at my phone, whine, harass the cat, throw everything out of the kitchen drawers and try to climb over child gates is another story. Being able to press a button and be done was an unexpected relief: My kid’s data was logged, so I knew when they were last changed and I could always flesh out the entries with more detail in the app later (though I’ll admit that rarely happened). It was extremely easy to use the Talli instead of my previous app, and it was oddly satisfying, too — not unlike crossing something off a to-do list.

Because Talli runs on four AA batteries, it has a portable design allowing it to be moved anywhere or handed off to any caretakers or babysitters. It can also be mounted on a wall, which has advantages and disadvantages depending on how you’ll use it. I kept my Talli untethered because my changing table area doesn’t have the best WiFi coverage, so I kept it on a nearby shelf where I could touch the buttons on my way in and out of the room.


Frankly, I would have preferred to mount the thing; when grabbing for the device, I would often accidentally hit a button and register an incorrect event, which I would then have to remember to delete later. But I also often had to move the Talli out of sight, because my son is particularly enamored with pushing buttons and things that light up, so the Talli was like forbidden candy to him. It was hard to find the perfect location where the device was connected to my WiFi network, easily accessible to me and didn’t draw his attention.

Each Talli device gets assigned to one child, that is to say you’ll need one Talli per child. But you can assign multiple devices to the same child if you end up getting more than one for different areas of your home. And Talli works with Alexa, so you can have the assistant log events for you if you say “Alexa tell Talli Baby that Sam had a dirty diaper.” You can also request that Alexa read you the most recent activity reports. I don’t currently have an Alexa-enabled device, so I wasn’t able to test this out yet. The company says Google Home compatibility is coming soon, too.


Much like the device itself, the Talli app is simply designed and straightforward to use. The home screen contains the same icons as the device; when a button is active — it turns green for a pumping session or a nap time, for example. Near each button is a date and time stamp for the last logged event and tapping on the icon brings up an entry page to edit and add details. I sometimes had to tap commands a few times — say, to pause or start a sleep timer — but this otherwise worked fine.


The rest of the app is organized into a Daily List, which is exactly what it sounds like: a list of your child’s daily events. There’s also a Details view which provides an hour-by-hour graph of events and can be toggled to show any of your child’s metrics over a time period. My favorites were the Averages view, which shows totals for each event, and the More tab, which has selections for account sharing, reminders and children’s profiles. I’m trying to switch the twins over to all solid foods and being able to track what they’ve eaten, how much and when has helped me establish routines and menus. And because it was easy to press a button on the way in or out of the room, Talli made it possible for me to log how often my son woke in the middle of the night and how long before he went back to sleep.

However, the app frequently (albeit briefly) flashed a “Refreshing your data” screen when I navigated around the options. I had to wait an extra beat or two for the data to refresh when I did almost anything in the app: changed screens, edited data, deleted an event and the like. I’m hoping this is due to my satellite internet connection, because it was one of my biggest pain points with the Talli system. I will say I appreciated that there was no subscription component: Talli offers all its information and your data without any additional fees, whether you purchase the tracker or simply use the free app.


The Talli device offers something that isn’t otherwise available: a hardware device dedicated to tracking everything you do with your child on a daily basis. It’s nicely designed, easy to use and has an app that charts and graphs the data for you. I liked using it a lot more than I expected to, given that tracking all my kids’ various activities through an app had become a bit of a chore. But using the Talli tracker wasn’t a chore — and having a physical device (even more, a single button) that I could tap and walk away from did indeed help me stay more consistent with tracking habits.

I only wish that I had found a better location for the device in my kids’ room — and I wish that the app didn’t lag so much — but otherwise I was pleasantly surprised at how well the Talli Tracker fit into my lifestyle. I can see it being particularly useful for those who have family or multiple caretakers tending to children or for people who prefer physical logging methods like calendars or notebooks. But it’s also a $99 gadget — and when a free app just requires more work but will ultimately do the job, it makes the Talli a bit of a luxury.

ICYMI: The Apple Watch Series 7 makes the most of its bigger screen

This week, we’ve got our regular gadget reviews plus our thoughts on a forthcoming video game. Cherlynn Low strapped on the Apple Watch Series 7 to see how it compares to the previous version and to find out how much of a difference the larger screen makes. Igor Bonifacic tested the 2021 Motorola Edge smartphone and found it offers a lot of high-end features — including a 144Hz display — at a budget-friendly price. Terrence O’Brien played with the effects and inputs on the Roland SP-404MKII and reported that it makes chopping samples more fun. Finally, Jess Conditt sat in the virtual driver’s seat to play Forza Horizon 5, a game she declares a perfect getaway in a time of travel restrictions.

The Apple Watch Series 7 is bigger and better

Cherlynn Low / Engadget

Cherlynn Low acknowledges that the main difference between the Apple Watch Series 7 and the previous model is the larger screen, but she’s adamant that even this small change makes a big impact. The Series 7’s display is 20 percent larger than that of the Series 6, and has significantly smaller bezels. It’s also the first Apple Watch to be IP6X certified for dust resistance, making it more durable. Cherlynn said the larger display made things easier to read and navigate, and the extra screen space made it easier to enter in the right keys and see more of messages.

Apple also debuted some additional watch faces and a full QWERTY keyboard on the Series 7. Cherlynn says the new faces are designed to display more information at once. The full QWERTY keyboard provided more flexibility, but since she only got roughly a 60-percent accuracy rate when tapping on the display, Cherlynn said she still preferred using dictation. Apple still doesn’t offer advanced sleep tracking, though this model will log your respiration rate while you sleep and report back the next morning. If sleep tracking isn’t your main reason for wanting a smartwatch, Cherlynn says the Series 7 will be a satisfying purchase.

The 2021 Motorola Edge is easier to recommend than its predecessor

Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Of the various upgrades to the 2021 Motorola Edge, Igor Bonifacic thinks the 6.8-inch LCD 144Hz screen is the stand-out feature. The flat edges made it easier to hold and the improved refresh rate makes the Edge feel smooth and responsive. The screen is vibrant, bright and has support for HDR10, plus Igor says the 19.5:9 aspect ratio works well for scrolling through vertical apps. He also liked the move to a capacitive fingerprint scanner on the side-mounted power button because it made unlocking the phone while wearing a mask significantly easier.

However, there are some tradeoffs for the $550 smartphone, notably the LCD screen, which lacks the power efficiency and deep blacks that OLED can offer. The 144Hz display also produced some slight glitching. In addition, the device’s single speaker produced tinny sound, and he found the ultra-wide camera mediocre. But he did like the battery life, which lasted a whopping two days, and the extended 2-year software support. If you don’t mind a few compromises, Igor says the 2021 Edge is well worth checking out.

Roland’s SP-404MKII sampler is a pleasure to use

Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

Though the new SP-404MKII sampler physically resembles previous versions, Terrence O’Brien says the new OLED screen and 16-pad layout are huge upgrades. The new display can show the actual waveform as it’s being edited, which makes recording and editing samples easier and more fun. And the 16-pad set up is not only more standard, but it also offers users more samples and patterns to make beats. Terrence also preferred the refreshed color scheme of grey and black with muted orange and white accents.

The SP-404MKII has a few more minor upgrades: it’s the first sampler in the line to feature velocity sensitive pads and it has MIDI out as well as MIDI IN connectors. This means the 404 can get hooked up to a PC via USB-C, or be used with external gear. Terrence played around with both the input effects, courtesy of the ¼-inch audio input and headphone jacks, as well as the bus effects and found that chopping samples on the machine is actually enjoyable instead of a chore. The SP-404MKII is also fairly portable: Terrence says it can fit in a bag easily enough and it can be powered with six AA batteries. And it's affordable at $500, which makes it a reasonable purchase even for those who are just looking to dabble in sampling.

Forza Horizon 5 is an enjoyable escape

Playground Games

Since she couldn’t get behind the wheel of a real-life 2021 Ford Bronco, Jess Conditt did the next best thing: she drove it around the race tracks and lush environments of Forza Horizon 5. Though she only had access to a preview build, she reports back that Horizon 5 is a mellower version of the motorsport game, spread across a fictionalized Mexico and featuring tricked out vehicles including a 2020 Corvette Stingray Coupe and a 1989 Porsche 911 Desert Flyer.

Regardless of which vehicle you choose, Jess says they’re all magical to (virtually) drive. They get window cracks and door dents but are largely indestructible and always land tires-down. She also appreciated the layers of customization within the game, from accessories to creating characters to upgrading vehicles with designs. On the Xbox Series S, the game ran smoothly and looked lovely at 1080p/60fps. Jess says even without ray-tracing, Horizon 5’s distinct biomes, weather and environments were all a treat to view, making it a perfect virtual escape.