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The top tech deals in Best Buy's early Black Friday sale

Given all the talk of supply chain issues this year, it's no surprise that we're starting to see early Black Friday sales hit the internet before November 1. Best Buy announced last week that it's first early Black Friday event would begin today, and as promised, the company has discounted hundreds of gadgets from headphones to robot vacuums to electric scooters.

Best Buy is also has a "Black Friday Price Guarantee" on these deals, which means that you shouldn't see these gadgets go on sale for less at Best Buy before Black Friday proper comes around. And if they do, you can get the difference reimbursed to you if you're a My Best Buy or Best Buy Totaltech member (the former is free to sign up for, so it's worthwhile to make an account).

We sifted through this first round of early Black Friday deals and picked out the ones that are worth your money. Also, some of the sale prices are being matched on Amazon — we've made note of which those are below so you can decide where you want to shop.

Sony WH-1000XM4

Engadget

Our favorite pair of Sony headphones, the WH-1000XM4, are down to a record low of $248 right now. We gave these cans a score of 94 for their powerful ANC, immersive sound quality and multi-device connectivity.

Buy Sony WH-1000XM4 at Best Buy - $248Buy Sony WH-1000XM4 at Amazon - $248

Sony WF-1000XM3

Billy Steele/Engadget

The Sony WF-1000XM3 earbuds are down to $128, or more than $70 off their usual price. We gave these buds a score of 89 for their excellent sound quality, great battery life and comprehensive companion app.

Buy Sony WF-1000XM3 at Best Buy - $128Buy Sony WF-1000XM3 at Amazon - $128

iRobot Roomba i7+

Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

The high-end Roomba i7+ is down to $549, or $250 off its normal price. It earned a score of 87 from us for its solid cleaning performance, handy room mapping and automatic emptying into the included clean base.

Buy Roomba i7+ at Best Buy - $549

Google Nest Mini

Google

Google's second-generation Nest Mini smart speaker is half off, bringing it down to $25. This model has improved Google Assistant performance, better sound, and a charming minimalist design that should fit into any room.

Buy Nest Mini at Best Buy - $25

55-inch LG G1 Series OLED evo 4K smart TV

LG

This sale knocks $300 off the 55-inch LG G1 OLED smart TV, bringing it down to $1,700. This is one of LG's newest OLED sets, featuring brighter, punchier images, the α9 Gen4 AI Processor 4K, G-SYNC and FreeSync compatibility and support for Google Assistant and Alexa voice commands.

Buy 55-inch LG G1 evo OLED TV at Best Buy - $1,700

55-inch Samsung The Frame LED 4K smart TV

Samsung

The 55-inch The Frame smart TV from Samsung is $500 off, knocking it down to $1,000. This is best for those that don't want a black rectangle messing up the vibe of their living room. The Frame supports Art Mode, which lets you display artwork on the TV when you're not using it. It also supports Quantum Dot technology and 4K AI upscaling.

Buy 55-inch The Frame at Best Buy - $1,000

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go

Engadget

The Surface Laptop Go is $200 off right now, bringing it down to $700. This model has a 10th-generation Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 12.4-inch 1,536 x 1024 resolution touchscreen.

Buy Surface Laptop Go at Best Buy - $700

Microsoft Surface Laptop 4

Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The Surface Laptop 4 is down to $1,150, or $150 off its normal price. This is the latest model of the laptop that earned a score of 87 from us for its speedy performance, excellent battery life and great keyboard.

Buy Surface Laptop 4 at Best Buy - $1,150

Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3

David Imel for Engadget

The Galaxy Z Flip 3 foldable smartphone is on sale for $850, or $150 off its normal price. This is the best and most practical version of a Samsung foldable yet, and we gave it a score of 82 for its impressive screen, attractive build and water resistance design.

Buy Z Flip 3 at Best Buy - $850Buy Z Flip 3 at Amazon - $850

Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro

Billy Steele / Engadget

Samsung's Galaxy Buds Pro are down to $150 in this sale, which is close to a record low. We gave these buds a score of 85 for their comfortable fit, good sound quality and wireless charging capabilities.

Buy Galaxy Buds Pro at Best Buy - $150

SanDisk microSDXC card for Nintendo Switch (400GB)

SanDisk

Best Buy knocked a whopping $115 off this 400GB microSD card for the Nintendo Switch, bringing it down to $65. It supports read speeds up to 100MB/s and write speeds up to 90MB/s, and 400GB should be plenty for those just starting to build up their game library.

Buy SanDisk microSD card (400GB) at Best Buy - $65

Jabra Elite 75t

Billy Steele / Engadget

The Jabra Elite 75t earbuds are on sale for $80 right now. While these have been replaced by the newer 85ts, these are still great earbuds that earned a score of 87 from us for their solid audio quality, small and comfortable design and long battery life.

Buy Jabra Elite 75t at Best Buy - $80Buy Jabra Elite 75t at Amazon - $80

Blue Yeti USB mic

Blue

The Blue Yeti USB mic is down to $100 right now, while the more compact Nano is on sale for $80. The standard mic provides professional quality sound for streaming, podcasting and the like, and it includes onboard controls for headphone volume, mute, pattern selection and microphone gain. The Yeti Nano supports 24-bit sound, no-latency headphone output and takes up less space with its smaller design.

Buy Blue Yeti mic at Best Buy - $100Buy Blue Yeti mic at Amazon - $100Buy Blue Yeti Nano mic at Best Buy - $80Buy Blue Yeti Nano mic at Amazon - $80

Philips Hue White & Color starter pack

Philips

This white and color Philips Hue starter pack is on sale for $140, which is $50 off its normal price. It's a good set to get for yourself or someone you know who's interested in setting up a smart home but don't know where to begin. It includes three bulbs that support multiple colors, a bridge to connect them all and a dimmer switch.

Buy Philips Hue starter pack at Best Buy - $140

Joby GorillaPod 3K kit

Joby

This Joby GorillaPod kit is half off, knocking the final price down to only $40. This flexible tripod stand is really handy for photographers and videographers, but it's also a great way for anyone to more easily take a selfie or a family photo. It can support smartphones and cameras up to 6.6 pounds and the legs can wrap around a bunch of objects, making it easier for you to get the perfect angle.

Buy GorillaPod 3K kit at Best Buy - $40

Dell G15 gaming laptop

Dell

Dell's already affordable G15 gaming laptop is $270 cheaper in this sale, bringing it down to $900. This model runs on an AMD Ryzen 7 processor, GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 15.6-inch FHD display.

Buy Dell G15 at Best Buy - $880

Samsung The Premiere 4K projector

Samsung

Best Buy knocked $1,000 off the Samsung Premiere 4K projector, bringing it down to $2,500. This ultra short throw projector supports 2,200 lumens of brightness, a 2.2 channel sound system along with Bixby, Alexa and Google Assistant voice controls.

Buy Samsung Premiere at Best Buy - $2,500

Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight bundle

Arlo

A four-pack of Arlo Pro Spotlight cameras is on sale for $400 right now, or $200 off its normal price. This pack doesn't just include the cameras either — you're getting four rechargeable batteries, a charging station, three anti-theft mounts and a security yard sign on top of that. We found these cameras to be relatively easy to set up and we like their reliable alerts and HomeKit support.

Buy Arlo Pro 4 Spotlight bundle at Best Buy - $400

Razer Huntsman Elite keyboard

Razer

Razer's Huntsman Elite mechanical keyboard is down to $130, which is $70 off its normal price. In addition to the company's optical switches and RGB lighting, this keyboard has multimedia controls and a multi-function dial that you can program how you'd like.

Buy Huntsman Elite at Best Buy - $130

Segway Ninebot ES2-N electric scooter

Segway

Best Buy slashed $250 off the Ninebot ES2-N electric scooter, bringing it down to $400. This foldable scooter uses 700W of power to reach a max speed of 15.5mph, and its non-pneumatic tires keep you stable even on rough terrain. It also has a built-in headlight for safer riding in the evening and an LED display that shows speed and battery level.

Buy Ninebot ES2-N at Best Buy - $400

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

The GameCube games we still love, 20 years later

2001 was quite a memorable time in gaming. Standout titles include Grand Theft Auto III, Metal Gear Solid 2 and Final Fantasy X. It was also the year Xbox made its debut, while the Sega Dreamcast bowed out. But while all that was going on Nintendo was still going strong, releasing the Game Boy Advance in March of that year and a new home system in September. The GameCube was quite a console, an adorable box with a great wireless controller and fun add-ons like the Game Boy Player

Unfortunately, the system was plagued by a thin library, especially compared to the PlayStation’s combined roster of PS1 and PS2 games. But what titles they were — it gave us Super Smash Bros. Melee, Super Monkey Ball and the original Animal Crossing. On the GameCube's 20th anniversary in Japan the Engadget staff looks back at their favorite titles from that era which, once again, doesn't include some of the obvious candidates. — Kris Naudus, Buyer's Guide Editor

Donkey Konga

I’ll be honest; I was late to the GameCube and the only reason I bought one was for Donkey Konga. I first played this rhythm title at a Toys ‘R’ Us and fell in love with those stupid bongos. A year before Guitar Hero this was the party game du jour, and I took my cube and controllers everywhere. I quickly unlocked every song, and became an absolute master at “Oye Como Va.” It was followed by a sequel and the bongos were even the default control scheme for Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, but nothing matched the sheer joy of playing that first installment and the sore palms that ensued. — KN

Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

Call it the anti-Resident Evil. Eternal Darkness puts you in the shoes of Alexandra Roivas, a young woman trying to solve the mystery of her grandfather's horrific death. Its century-spanning story covered a dozen characters, all connected to an ancient Lovecraftian god. While there's combat, it was more about psychological trauma than the survival horror of Resident Evil. Most notably, it had a sanity meter that would change the gameplay and environment and even throw simulated system errors to freak out players. Take that, Metal Gear Solid.

Like many GameCube titles, Eternal Darkness was clearly an attempt to attract an older audience. It was the first M-rated game published by Nintendo, and the company kept the trademark alive for a decade. But it was never re-released outside of the GameCube, and hope for a direct sequel was squashed when developer Silicon Knights filed for bankruptcy in 2014. There was an attempt at a spiritual successor, Shadow of the Eternals, that fell apart after failing to raise enough money via crowdfunding. It's almost fitting that a game about millennia-old evil may end up being lost to the sands of time. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

After the runaway success of Awakening and Three Houses, it’s hard to see what made Path of Radiance, Fire Emblem’s only GameCube release, so special back in 2005. Nearly two decades later its presentation looks stiff and dated, and the game is missing the relationship mechanics beloved by newcomers. But in Path of Radiance you’ll still find many of the elements that came to define later Fire Emblem games.

They exist in a sort of prototypical form since this was the first game in the series to make the jump to 3D. We take a lot of it for granted now, but back then series developer Intelligent Systems had to figure out the mechanics for the first time. And it did, making for a game that’s still fun to play to this day. It has one of the best stories in the series, with an English script that captures a lot of the nuances of the Japanese original.

It’s that story that made me fall in love with Path of Radiance when I first played it more than 15 years ago. Even when the game was at its most punishing, I wanted to see what would happen to Ike and his band of mercenaries. Path of Radiance was my first Fire Emblem game, but it’s the one I keep coming back to because of just how much I enjoyed my first playthrough as a teen. — Igor Bonifacic, Contributing Editor

F-Zero GX

The original F-Zero for the Super NES is one of those games I wore out as a teenager. While the futuristic space racer only had 15 courses, they were beautiful and challenging, and even when I did well, I always felt like I could do a little better. A decade later, F-Zero GX hit the GameCube and showed just how far racing had come.

The basic concept is the same: high-speed futuristic hovercraft battling it out in wild, creative courses where one mistake can lead to disaster. The GameCube’s horsepower meant the courses were longer, more complicated and visually stunning. The sense of speed was probably the biggest change, though: even now, 20 years later, this game feels incredibly fast. That speed makes it positively unforgiving, and I never progressed that far through the game’s many challenges. Driver AI was also significantly improved. In the first game, you mostly only had to worry about the three main rivals. But in GX, it’s easy to end up in 15th or 20th place in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful.

Despite that, I still remember the game fondly, in large part because it’s the last real entry in the F-Zero franchise. I didn’t play the Nintendo 64 entry in the series, so the jump from the SNES to the GameCube was pretty mind-blowing at the time. It’s a shame that Nintendo has let the series languish since then, because I’d love an updated version of GX for the Switch. — Nate Ingraham, Deputy Managing Editor

Mario Kart: Double Dash

I have fond memories of Mario Kart: Double Dash for a not-unique reason. In the early 2000s, my friends and I had frequent co-op video game nights, and Double Dash was a mainstay in our lineup. Mario Kart games have always been amazing in local multiplayer, and Double Dash was no exception. After Mario Kart 64, it was disappointing that all four players couldn’t compete directly against each other, but we quickly got used to the game’s unusual mechanic that let one player drive and another throw weapons. Having two teams of two players was an interesting wrinkle to the gameplay, and it makes Double Dash one of the more unusual games in the series.

As with most GameCube games, it looks wonderful. Mario Kart 64, like a lot of N64 games, hasn’t aged as well visually, but Double Dash is still gorgeous, and Nintendo took a major step forward in terms of creativity and variety in the game’s levels. There are more hidden routes and ways to approach each level than ever before, and the scope of boards like Wario Colosseum and the game’s take on the ubiquitous Rainbow Road were unmatched at the time. It’s no coincidence that almost every course in this game has appeared in subsequent versions of Mario Kart — so even if you never played Double Dash, you’ve likely come across some of its iconic tracks. — NI

Metroid Prime

In the 80s and 90s, the Metroid franchise was defined by three classic titles: the original Metroid for the NES, Metroid II: Return of Samus on the Game Boy, and Super Metroid on the Super NES. They cemented Metroid gameplay as a side-scrolling action / exploration game, with a non-linear set of levels. Players would come across areas that you couldn’t fully explore before beating bosses and finding items in other parts of the game.

Metroid Prime, however, completely turned the series around, putting it in 3D for the first time. While the style resembled a first-person shooter, the gameplay still put exploration at the forefront, rather than fast-paced gun fights. That said, the game is plenty challenging, even punishing at times in its difficulty: its massive bosses and twisting tunnels full of enemies were unforgiving.

But for me, the most memorable part of Metroid Prime is the incredible atmosphere of Tallon IV, and the wonder of finding new sections of the deserted planet to explore. Prime also did a great job at expanding the story and lore of the Metroid series, with loads of scannable items that explain what happened to the ruined world. The sequels to Metroid Prime are great, but this first game is arguably the best in the series and a huge part of why we’re all so excited about someday getting our hands on Metroid Prime 4. NI

Odama

It’s such a strange concept that it sounds like some developer’s fever dream — a combination pinball strategy game with voice control. But Odama was quite real, and it was glorious. Like any tactical wargame, you controlled an army of men (though via voice commands) who needed to overtake the enemy gate at the top side of the display. Complicating things was a giant ball that destroyed all in its path, but fortunately, you could exert some control over it with a pair of flippers at the bottom of the screen. There was a lot going on and it was utterly bonkers, but if you managed to beat Odama you were rewarded with the best ending theme to a video game ever. — KN

Pokémon Colosseum

Though the Pokémon series is, at its heart, a role-playing game series from Japan, it’s not very typical of the JRPG genre we’ve become accustomed to through franchises like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. But way back in 2003 second-party developer Genus Sonority tried its hand as a more “traditional” story-based RPG, placing the player in the shoes of a reformed criminal trying to rescue Pokémon from his former organization. Pokémon Colosseum took place in the cyberpunk-flavored Orre region, as opposed to the more pastoral settings of the handheld RPGs. The “snagging” mechanic for collecting Pokémon was interesting, and the storyline had more of an edge to it. It was followed by a sequel in 2005, Pokémon XD, but I’d love to see this spinoff series continued on the Switch. — KN

Resident Evil 4

It's easy to forget that Resident Evil 4 was initially a GameCube exclusive. It's been re-released on practically every platform, including the Oculus Quest 2 later this year. But it all started on Nintendo's purple box, a platform not known for having many action titles. The game's staying power makes sense though. It's the first Resident Evil game rendered completely in 3D, and it featured a slick over-the-shoulder camera that made shooting infected baddies feel genuinely kinetic.

Resident Evil 4's gameplay would go on to influence not just the entire series, but most action games moving forward. It was also a great example of the GameCube's unheralded horsepower, which could deliver smoother and crisper graphics than the PlayStation 2. Even today, the original GameCube RE4 still looks fantastic, with high-quality character models and environments teeming with detail. In comparison, the PS2 version look like a muddy mess. — DH

Skies of Arcadia Legends

It may not be fair to call Skies of Arcadia Legends a GameCube game, since it's just a port of a classic Dreamcast title. But I'm giving it a shout because it's still one of the best RPGs I've ever played, and perhaps reminiscing about it will finally spur on a digital re-release. The GameCube port fixes some of the frame rate and stability issues from the Dreamcast, and adds new characters to boot, making it the definitive version of the game.

Set in a world of floating continents, Skies of Arcadia Legends focuses on sky pirates who embark on a world-saving journey, naturally. You can explore a 3D world map with your airship, which gets into large-scale turn-based battles with other vessels and giant enemies. Much like Chrono Trigger, you can tell that Skies of Arcadia comes from a dream team of developers. In this case, the staff previously worked on Phantasy Star, Panzer Dragoon and Sakura Wars.

While Sega originally planned to bring Skies of Arcadia to the PlayStation 2, it ended up focusing on the GameCube port instead. Perhaps Nintendo has a stake in that port and we just don't know. Still, it'd be nice to play such a well-crafted game once again. I can't be the only person who still regularly listens to its epic soundtrack. — DH

Omaze is giving away four-day passes to San Diego Comic-Con 2022

Those who religiously attend their local comic conventions now have the chance to go the biggest one of them all thanks to a new Omaze giveaway. The company's latest sweepstakes gives you the chance to win 4-day badges to San Diego Comic-Con 2022, with access to a special preview night. In addition to the badges, you're also getting reserved seating in Hall H for the entire convention, a personal concierge, a private tour of the Comic-Con Museum, dinner in Balboa Park and tickets to the "Night at the Comic-Con Museum" special event. The winner will also have travel to the convention and lodgings covered.

Enter to win at Omaze

The 2022 Comic-Con will mark the return of the in-person event in San Diego as the 2021 convention was postponed. Instead, the organization held the online Comic-Con Home from July 23-25 this year, and its hoping to have a smaller, supplemental "Comic-Con Special Edition" event in November, if conditions allow. You have until December 8 to enter this giveaway and the winner will be announced before the end of 2021.

Like other Omaze giveaways, you don't have to spend money to enter — and anyone can use the code AFF20 at checkout to get 20 bonus entries. But if you do buy entries, you'll increase your chances of winning. All funds raised in sweepstakes like this go to charity, and this one in particular benefits the San Diego Comic Convention, which is a nonprofit public benefit corporation devoted to increasing public awareness and appreciation for comics and similar art forms.

If you're unfamiliar with Omaze, it's a site that raises money for charities through giveaways and experiences. You can read more about how the allocation of funds works by reading the "Fundraising Transparency" section at the bottom of the giveaway page.

Pricing and availability is subject to change. No donation or payment necessary to enter or win this sweepstakes.See official rules on Omaze.

The best educational toys for kids

It’s tempting to get your kid every shiny new toy they ask for. But some toys are better than others when it comes to actually stimulating your child’s brain while also keeping them entertained. The parents on the Engadget staff know this well, and we’ve tried out a bunch of educational toys with our kids, with various results. These are some of the ones that have had staying power with our children — and even we adults have to admit we found them pretty fun, too.

Smart Lab: Smart Circuits

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

When it comes to introducing kids to electronics there are a ton of options, but I personally like the Smart Circuits kit. It can take a kid from simple blinking lights to complex motion-controlled games. The snap-together baseboard can lie flat on a table like a regular breadboard, but it can also be folded into a cube or the pieces can be attached at a 90-degree angle. This gives kids an extra element to play with when they graduate to designing their own circuits.

The kit itself only has a few pieces, but they’re quite flexible. And they’re all housed in large colorful plastic that should be easy for a kid to handle. There’s the usual electronics kid fare, like LEDs, a speaker, a potentiometer and two buttons. But there’s also a tilt switch, a light sensor and a microprocessor capable of handling some relatively robust tasks. The kit comes with instructions for 50 projects, but with the parts available a creative child could build quite a few more.

My one critique is that the jumper wires can be tough to insert and might require a bit of patience — something we know not every eight-year-old has an abundance of.  Terrence O’Brien, Managing Editor

Buy Smart Circuits at Amazon - $50

Playskool Shape Sorter

Playskool

A shape sorter is an awesome toy for younger kids because it encourages hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills, problem-solving and even vocabulary (by identifying the names of shapes and colors). My kids have a few of them, but the one I like most is this Playskool model and here’s why. The lid latches, which means they can’t just dump the shapes out easily; they have to learn how to work the mechanics of the lid as well. Also, the multi-colored shapes have tactile patterns on them that match the area of the box they’re supposed to fit into, and that gives me another teaching opportunity. The whole thing is durable, too — my son likes to chew on the shapes and my daughter likes to stand on the box, but despite that abuse, there’s not so much as a dent or a scratch on it. And because it’s only $9, it makes a great gift if you’re buying for someone else’s kiddo. — Amber Bouman, Associate Editor, Parenting

Buy Shape Sorter at Amazon - $10

Yoto Player

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The Yoto Player is the perfect toy for a young child who wants to play their own tunes and stories, but who isn’t ready for an iPad or smart speaker of their own. Yoto’s cute design and blocky, pixel-like display looks distinctly retro. It’s detailed enough for kids to make out images, but it’s insufficient for video, which should actually be good news for parents worried about too much screen time. Yoto calls the player a “carefully connected” speaker: You bring it online during the initial setup, but from there kids can access safe songs and other content through physical cards. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor

Buy Yoto Player starter pack at Amazon - $110

Amazon Fire 7 Kids Pro

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

While Amazon’s Fire tablets may not always be the best option for adults, the company’s kid-friendly models are a safe bet. Thanks to the included case, the Fire Kids Pro lineup is built to withstand frequent tumbles. The company offers adequate parental controls so you can keep tabs on content and includes one year of Amazon Kids+ for free. The Kids+ service offers access to over 20,000 apps, games, books, videos, songs and audiobooks from National Geographic, LEGO and more. You also get access to a digital store where you can install additional apps as you see fit. — Billy Steele, Senior News Editor

Buy Fire Kids Pro at Amazon - $100

Kiwi Crates subscription

Kiwi Crate

I am, admittedly, a sucker for a good subscription box. But Kiwi Crate is the only one that doesn’t feel like an indulgence. Each month my three-year-old gets a collection of simple DIY toys, crafts and games built around a theme. For instance, a recent box was all about bioluminescent animals. Inside was a plush lightning bug that we had to stuff ourselves and shape using hair ties; a mushroom that had us painting a Slurpee lid and then dotting it with glow-in-the-dark stickers; and a dancing, glowing jellyfish as well as several window clings of sea creates for him to create scenes with.

Past kits have covered farm life, dinosaurs and simple machines like ramps. The stuff inside the box is usually pretty simple (think: cardboard, felt and wood). It’s definitely not built to last, but my kid has gotten plenty of use out of each piece.

The best part is the crates will grow with him. As he gets older the projects will get more complex (and the price will go up). Later boxes include everything from screen-printing tools, to trebuchet kits and even robots. — T.O.

Buy Kiwi Crates starting at $16 a month

Lego Duplo My First Number Train

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Sorry, folks, but this isn’t an electronic gizmo-toy that you can plug in, connect to the internet and treat it as somehow educational. As something of a traditionalist, I’ve always preferred solid toys that offer kids some license to imagine what’s going on, and this offers that in spades. Duplo’s My First Number Train is a train, with the coaches made from double-height number blocks running from 0 - 9. The aim is for your rugrats to place each block in chronological order and get familiar (almost subconsciously) with the concept of a number line.

Then, as they get a little older, you can do any number of things with the set, including (as we did) tie a ribbon around the chimney and fashion it as a pull-along train. Both my son and daughter (we bought one for each) love racing through the hallway with their pull-along trains. And, now that my daughter is in school, the train’s number blocks come in handy to help with the basics of her maths homework. Plus, it never hurts to have a surplus of double-height Duplo bricks for all of the (completely inaccurate) Frozen castles you’ll be building on Saturday mornings. — Daniel Cooper, Senior Editor

Buy My First Number Train at LEGO - $20

Kano PC

Kano

The Kano PC may look at first like a cheap Surface knock-off, but based on our testing, it’s also a perfect introduction to the computer world for young children. It’s partially DIY — the base unit is a Windows 10 tablet with a pre-installed CPU, memory and storage, but kids will have to plug in a colorful battery and speaker module to get it going. Kano encourages youngsters to take a close look at all of the PC’s clearly labeled hardware with the bundled magnifying glass. And once they get going, it’s still a decently capable Windows 10 PC, with a Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM and a 1080p webcam. Heck, it even comes with a keyboard cover, something Microsoft still hasn’t bundled with the Surface tablets. — D.H.

Buy Kano PC at Best Buy - $200

Playtime Engineering: Blipblox

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The Blipblox may look like a simple noise-maker for kids, but this gadget is much more than just a toy. While the device is loaded with 300 melodies and a synchronized light show, it also packs a capable digital synthesizer engine. There’s an oscillator with the usual assortment of synth parameters along with an amp envelope, two LFOs, modulation envelope and a low-pass filter. The Blipblox also has a MIDI input for use with a keyboard or other accessories in addition to a ¼-inch output. Lastly, it runs on three AA batteries or plugged in via a USB cable. Blipblox can teach kids about music through a basic approach to instruments and synthesis, but its features are advanced enough to offer noise-making magic for parents, too. — B.S.

Buy Blipbox at Amazon - $189

Montessori Busy Board

Will Lipman Photography / deMoca

My kids are currently fascinated with snaps, zippers and closures, which is fun because it means it’s easy to amuse them, but awkward, too, because they often decide to undo the closures on the shirt I’m wearing. A busy board capitalizes on this curiosity by offering several different clasps, snaps, zippers, buttons and openings for little ones to work their fingers on. It intrigues children by activating their senses and helps them develop their fine-motor skills and problem solving by using real-world obstacles. It also adheres to the Montessori philosophy of simple, wooden toys that help children explore the world around them through play. The deMoca busy board is one of my favorites because it has bright, eye-catching colors, and 10 sensory activities including a zipper, a buckle, a latch and Velcro. It’s easy to bring along on trips, and deMoca also makes a “Quiet Book” — a soft-cover, fabric version that’s washable. — A.B.

Buy busy board at Amazon - $60

Omaze is giving away two seats on a Virgin Galactic spaceflight

On the heels of Virgin Galactic completing its first fully crewed spaceflight, Omaze launched a sweepstakes that offers the chance for anyone to win a spot on one of its first trips to space. Through September 1, you can enter to win two seats on one of Virgin Galactic's first commercial spaceflights, which are estimated to take place in early 2022. The prize also includes a tour of Spaceport America in New Mexico with Richard Branson, plus paid lodgings. While the giveaway doesn't guarantee you'll share a rocket with Elon Musk, it remains a unique opportunity to be one of the first people to go on a tourist's trip to space.

Enter to win at Omaze

As with most Omaze giveaways, there's no cost to enter. But you will increase your chances of winning if you pay for extra entries (you can get 50 entries for $5). Funds donated in Omaze sweepstakes go to charity, and in this case they benefit Space for Humanity, an organization that hopes to make space more accessible for all and hosts the Citizen Astronaut Program, which gives leaders from various walks of life the opportunity to apply to go to space.

If you're unfamiliar with Omaze, it's a site that raises money for charities through giveaways and experiences. You can read more about how the allocation of funds works by reading the "Funding Transparency" section at the bottom of the giveaway page.

Pricing and availability is subject to change. No donation or payment necessary to enter or win this sweepstakes.See official rules on Omaze.

Omaze's latest sweepstakes offers the chance to win $20,000 towards a gaming PC

If you missed Omaze's last PC giveaway, you have another opportunity to enter a new one now. The company is holding a sweepstakes through September 18 in which you can enter to win $20,000 towards a gaming PC — or any PC you want, really.

Enter to win at Omaze

As with most Omaze sweepstakes, this one is free to enter but you can choose to buy additional entries and those proceeds will go to charity. Funds from this giveaway go to Schools on Wheels, which provides free tutoring and mentoring services to children experiencing homelessness across Southern California. You can also use the code RADNESS150 at checkout to get 150 bonus entries through July 2.

If you're unfamiliar with Omaze, it's a site that raises money for charities through giveaways and experiences. Although you don't have to spend money to enter giveaways like this, you'll increase your chances of winning if you spend a few bucks on extra entries. You can read more about how the allocation of funds works by reading the "Fundraising Transparency" section at the bottom of the giveaway page.

Pricing and availability is subject to change. No donation or payment necessary to enter or win this sweepstakes.See official rules on Omaze.

The Morning After: The worst way to watch 'Tenet'

Welcome to Friday morning. As some email subscribers may have noticed, the daily newsletter has been on hiatus for several weeks as we contended with a persistent technical issue. We’ve now figured out a fix, so we’re back to our regularly scheduled newsletter.

Today, it includes a smartphone with a ‘microscope’ camera, Tenet on a Game Boy Advance, an explanation of exactly what NFTs are and how to digitally organize your Mac, as our Spring Cleaning series goes beyond simply cleaning your keyboard. That’s where my spring cleaning typically ends.

We’d like to apologize for the newsletter blackout and thank all the readers who got in touch to ask where TMA went. Thanks for your patience and if you have any more feedback, you can get in touch with us at themorningafter(at)engadget.com.

And if you’re reading this on the site, click the subscribe button above!

— Mat Smith

A YouTuber crammed 'Tenet' on to Game Boy Advance cartridges out of spite

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Bob Wulff, YouTube

Proving old devices never really die, some enterprising crafters keep squeezing functionality out of yesteryear’s gadgets. That includes a horrifically compressed version of Tenet for Game Boy Advance, and a wildly unnecessary Twitter client for the Handspring Visor.Continue reading.

The NFT craze: How to spend millions on something both priceless and worthless

The cryptocurrency offshoot presents a jumble of contradictions.

NBA

Non-Fungible Tokens, or NFTs, are the cryptocurrency off-shoot that has, all of a sudden, burst into the mainstream. They’re essentially a way of tying a certificate of authenticity to a digital file, among other things, like a contract, video clip or even a still image. The possibilities for NFTs are still to be explored, but they’re booming right now like Bitcoin did through much of 2020. Yesterday, a digital artwork by Beeple and associated NFT sold at auction for nearly $70 million. For what essentially amounted to a copy of a still image someone could have printed at home for free and a signed receipt.

If you’re wondering what exactly all of this means, and what’s going on, then Dan Cooper has written a lengthy explainer to get you up to speed on what this is, even if you still have trouble understanding why someone would spend so much money on it. Continue reading.

Oppo's Find X3 Pro has a 30x 'microscope' camera

And both its wide and ultra-wide cameras have the same sensor.

Engadget

Oppo’s new flagship phone, the Find X3 Pro is entirely focused on photography — the giant sensor array on the back kind of gives that away. The headline feature has to be its "microscope" camera. The 3-megapixel f/3.0 microscopic camera delivers 30x magnification natively and can handle 1080p video recording. As you have to get close — the focal distance is between only 1mm and 3mm — this camera even has a small ring light to illuminate your subject.

The results make for a unique camera phone. It’s an Oppo device, so there’s also lightning-fast charging with the bundled 65W SuperVOOC charger and speedier wireless charging with compatible docks, which can fully charge your phone in 80 minutes. Given past form, chances are the Find X3 Pro won't head to the US, but the company has announced it'll be available in the UK on April 14th, starting at £1,099, which is around $1,250. Continue reading.

GM unveils plans for lithium-metal batteries that could boost EV range

It aims to have a high-capacity pre-production battery by 2023.

GM is elaborating on its next-generation Ultium batteries, which sound like something from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but are not. The company plans to use lithium-metal (Li-metal) technology to boost performance and energy density. Li-metal batteries replace carbon anodes with lithium metal, allowing for lighter and more powerful cells. The challenge with the technology is increased resistance and "dendrite" filaments that tend to form on the anodes, making batteries short-circuit and heat up. “With this next-generation Ultium chemistry, we believe we’re on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation improvement in energy density and cost," said GM President Mark Reuss, adding that there was also “still room for improvement”. Continue reading.

How to clean and organize your Mac

Taking care of your computer doesn’t need to be complicated.

Engadget

Once you’ve dusted the cookie crumbs from your MacBook keyboard, it’s time for a digital clean. Associate Editor Igor Bonifacic reveals his fastidious Mac cleaning techniques, encompassing hard-drive organization, keeping your desktop clean going forward and even how to purloin the best organization features from Windows 10 for your Mac. Continue reading.

Netflix 'test' pushes password sharers to get their own account

Do you remember whose account you’re streaming on?

Getty

For years, Netflix has looked the other way on people sharing passwords to their streaming accounts with folks that may not quite meet the definition of a “member of the household.” As its streaming audience has grown into the hundreds of millions, allowing easy access has been more important than triple-checking credentials.

But those days may be coming to an end. The company confirmed a test it’s running that prompts suspected freeloaders to get their own accounts and then asks to verify their access with a code sent to the registered account holder’s phone number or email address. Now that Netflix has hiked its prices for several years in a row, and growth in some countries is slowing, it looks like this is a way to find a few more paying customers. Continue reading.

20 Bethesda games will be available on Xbox Game Pass tomorrow

Nearly every addition is coming to play on Xbox, PC and mobile.

Now the deal is done, Microsoft-owned game publisher Bethesda has announced 20 of its games are xton Xbox Game Pass, starting today. In all, Microsoft is adding 12 new titles, including Fallout 4, Morrowind and The Evil Within, for people to check out. They'll join eight other Bethesda games, like Dishonored 2, Fallout 76 and Doom Eternal, that were already available through the service, making a total of 20 titles. Check the full list of titles here

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The Morning After: This electric pickup will take on Tesla in 2023

We're still staring at Canoo's unusual electric pick-up that looks set to take on Tesla's Cybertruck. We're also thinking on why Apple's iPhone 12 Mini has struggled. But today we're starting with some sad news. The former Philips engineer who invented the first compact cassette tape, Lou Ottens, has passed away at the age of 94. Cassette tapes had a major impact on music culture, offering listeners the ability to easily create their own albums and playlists, recording from different sources, like other tapes and live radio. Like a lot of people in my generation, I owned a dual-cassette boombox in my childhood, just please don’t ask me about my musictastes.

Cassette tapes were subsequently usurped by compact discs (which Ottens also helped develop) and then digital music and streaming services. Having said that, tapes persist. In 2016, sales of cassettes increased by 74 percent.

— Mat Smith

Canoo plans to launch this oddly shaped electric truck in 2023

The company will build several electric vehicles on one platform.

This design certainly takes a different approach to Tesla's edgy Cybertruck and is even going to stand out as electric pickups from Rivian, Ford and others start to hit the streets. The specs promise more than 200 miles of range on a charge, with up to 600 HP and 550 lb-ft of torque in a dual-motor configuration and a payload capacity of up to 1,800 pounds.

At 76 inches, it's one inch taller than Tesla's Cybertruck but notably shorter than GMC's 81.1-inch tall Hummer EV. It's also short in length compared to those competitors at just 184 inches, but a pull-out bed extension brings the total length to 213 inches.
Continue reading.

iPhone 12 mini 'production cut' hints demand was lower than hoped

Reports suggest Apple is slashing production by at least 70 percent.

Apple is slashing production of the iPhone 12 mini through the first six months of the year, according to Nikkei. The company will reportedly produce at least 70 percent fewer units than it planned and backs previous suggestions that the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 mini isn't selling as well as other models. There are certainly drawbacks to the mini, like its battery life, but there are also few phones as small and as high-specced as the mini iPhone 12 — it might just be a niche proposition.
Continue reading.

ASUS ROG’s latest gaming phone focuses on audio

Yeah, the company skipped number 4.

It's only been a little over seven months since ASUS launched its ROG Phone 3 gaming smartphone, but the company is already releasing a follow-up model, the ROG Phone 5 (skipping 4 due to tetraphobia). There are some minor cosmetic changes, but also better heat dissipation, weight distribution and audio performance. Those audio improvements seem to be the focus: Better component choices mean there’s more space inside the ROG Phone 5 for the front-facing speakers.
Continue reading.

'Shredder's Revenge' is a throwback brawler for Ninja Turtles fans

It looks like a spiritual successor to ‘Turtles in Time.’

TMNT

If cassettes weren’t nostalgic enough, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge is sure to delight anyone who remembers ‘90s arcade scrolling beat-em-ups. The new game, developed by Dotemu (Streets of Rage 4) and Tribute Games (Mercenary Kings), is a four-player brawler that looks like a natural successor to Turtles in Time. No quarters needed.
Continue reading.

Sony, Nokia and Ericsson bow out of in-person attendance at MWC 2021

What will the show look like when it kicks off on June 28th?

The GSMA is sticking to plans for an in-person Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this June — just without a few marquee names. A handful of companies, including Oracle, smartphone maker Sony and networking firms Nokia and Ericsson, have all confirmed they will not attend the show.

There are also strict travel restrictions for would-be attendees. The website for the US Embassy in Spain and Andorra says that entry into the country is not allowed unless they meet “very specific requirements or have already obtained special permission from the Government of Spain.”
Continue reading.

Nikon's full-frame Z9 with 8K video will arrive later this year

It promises "the best still and video performance in Nikon history."

Nikon

Nikon has announced it's developing the Z9, a flagship full-frame mirrorless Z mount model with "the best still and video performance in Nikon history." The new model will ship in 2021 with 8K video and other advanced features. Expect the very best from Nikon and a price tag to match. There's no word yet on pricing, but Nikon has promised more information in the months to come.
Continue reading.

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The Morning After: Sonos' new $169 speaker is its smallest ever

If you want a portable speaker, Sonos is looking for anyone that doesn’t already own one. At $169, the Roam is more expensive than many Bluetooth-only portable speakers, but it’s also Sonos’ cheapest speaker ever.

Unlike the Move (Sonos’ previous moveable, if not all that portable, speaker), the Roam has a smaller, narrower design and weighs just about one pound. The battery should give 10 hours of playback, and it automatically goes into a low-power sleep mode when it’s not in use. There’s also dust and water protection, and you’ll be able to pair two speakers for portable stereo sound. You can even connect the new speaker to existing Sonos devices around your home, rounding out your sound system.

Sonos

The company is tacitly aware that the portable Bluetooth-speaker market is an incredibly crowded one — so the Sonos features will be important if it wants to convince a lot of us to upgrade from our existing beach-trip speaker. The Roam’s versatility pitch, however, is a compelling one. Let’s see how it sounds.

Pre-orders for the Roam are open now, and the speaker will be available on April 20th.

— Mat Smith

Chrome OS is getting a big redesign for its 10th birthday

New features include a Phone Hub and Nearby Share.

Google

Google’s very own operating system, Chrome OS, is getting a bunch of features and some new styling to celebrate a decade in existence. It’s a good time to strike: Chromebooks have never been so popular. Phone Hub might be the most useful update. It’s a little dashboard that accesses your phone's controls so you can see its status for things like battery life and data connectivity. You can ring your Android device when you've misplaced it, and also remote-enable tethering with one click. We unravel all the new features right here. Continue reading.

Bose Sport Open Earbuds review

Great for workouts, but not much else.

Bose

Bose is well-regarded for its great-sounding headphones. The company’s latest buds have an “open” design that sits outside your ear. Not only does this increase comfort but it also means you can hear what’s going on at all times — a key safety feature for runners. Bose decided allowing you to be hyper-aware of everything around you was paramount, and according to News Editor Billy Steele, who reviewed the Bose Sport Open Earbuds, that means accepting sacrifices to sound quality. Continue reading.

How to use Apple Shortcuts to clean out your iPhone or iPad

A handy crash course.

Engadget

If you’re an iPhone or an iPad user, Apple’s Shortcuts helps with your digital spring cleaning. With Shortcuts, you can quickly perform a specific task or a more complex sequence of tasks with a single tap or voice command. Mobile Editor Chris Velazco walks you through a Shortcut for clearing out your excess Notes and outlines everything you need to make your own Shortcut routines. Continue reading.

Samsung's 980 NVMe SSD boasts high performance with a tradeoff

Cheaper, but…

Samsung has finally introduced a 980 SSD that isn't part of the high-priced Pro line, and it's mostly good news for performance-minded PC users — with a caveat. Hitting read speeds up to 3,500MB/s and faster writes (up to 3,000MB/s versus 2,500MB/s) than the 970 Evo it replaces, Samsung says it also offers 36 percent lower power consumption, 54 percent greater power efficiency and improved cooling, which should prevent overheating. However, Samsung is also ditching built-in DRAM on the plain 980, joining the ranks of lower-cost SSDs. It's promising speeds "identical" to faster DRAM-equipped drives in part by using Host Memory Buffer technology to directly access system RAM, but it's clear this is a tradeoff to keep prices down.

Those prices are low, thankfully. The 980 will start at $50 for a 250GB model, $70 for 500GB and $130 for 1TB. Continue reading.

Nothing's wireless earbud design was inspired by a smoking pipe

This is Nothing's Concept 1.

Nothing

We still only know a few things about Nothing, a new hardware startup by the co-founder of OnePlus, Carl Pei. One thing we know is its first product will be wireless earbuds, which we assume informs what we're looking at above. The see-through casing on what appears to be a concept wireless earbud is a nod towards making tech devices less obtrusive. The shape is apparently inspired "a grandmother’s tobacco pipe", which is at least different from the chopped off q-tip look that epitomized the most popular wireless earbuds so far. Nothing’s first products launch this summer. Continue reading.

Samsung will hold its next Unpacked event on March 17th

The company promises to share something "awesome."

Two months ago Samsung held an Unpacked event to announce the Galaxy S21, but the company is already sending out invites for another event it plans to hold on March 17th at 10 AM ET. Continue reading.

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