Posts with «technology & electronics» label

AirPods Pro drop to $180, plus the rest of the week's best tech deals

This week was a good one for those holding out for discounts on Apple gadgets. Most AirPods models remain on sale at Amazon, so you can grab the second-gen earbuds for only $100 or the latest AirPods Pro for $180. The 2021 Apple TV 4K is also on sale for $160, or $20 off its normal price. Elsewhere, GOG.com's New Year sale has discounted hundreds of titles and you can still pick up a few Roomba robot vacuums for hundreds of dollars less than usual. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today.

AirPods Pro

Billy Steele / Engadget

The AirPods Pro are 28 percent off, bringing them down to $180. These updated buds have the MagSafe charging case and we liked them for their good sound quality, solid ANC and improved fit.

Buy AirPods Pro at Amazon - $180

AirPods (2nd gen)

Engadget

Apple's second-generation AirPods are down to $100, and that's only $10 more than they were on Black Friday. While the third-gen buds fix some issues that these have, the original AirPods remain a good option for those on a budget. We gave them a score of 84 for their improved wireless performance, decent sound quality and good battery life.

Buy AirPods (2nd gen) at Amazon - $100

AirPods Max

Engadget

A few colors of the high-end AirPods Max are $100 less than usual, bringing them down to $449. These cans earned a score of 84 for their excellent, balanced sound, strong ANC and good battery life.

Buy AirPods Max at Amazon - $449

Apple TV 4K

Engadget

The latest Apple TV 4K is on sale for $160, or $20 off its normal price. While the 2021 version isn't drastically different from the previous model, its new Siri remote is a big selling point. We gave it a score of 90 for its speedy performance, HomeKit integration and the easy of use that comes with the improved Siri remote.

Buy Apple TV 4K at Amazon - $160

iPad Air

Engadget

A few colors of Apple's iPad Air are on sale for $539, or $60 less than usual. We gave this tablet a score of 90 for its speedy performance, fast WiFi, updated design with USB-C and healthy battery life.

Buy iPad Air at Amazon - $539

GOG.com New Year sale

CD Projekt Red

GOG's New Year sale knocks up to 90 percent off popular titles, making it a good time to pick up a few that will help carry you through the winter months. Key among them are Cyberpunk 2077 for 50 percent off, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for 80 percent off, Control Ultimate Edition for only $12 and more.

Sho GOG.com New Year sale

iRobot Roomba j7+

The new Roomba j7+ is $250 off right now and down to $599 at both Amazon and Wellbots. The higher-end Roomba s9+ is also $250 and down to $850. The former just came out at the end of last year and has 10x the suction power of a standard Roomba plus advanced obstacle avoidance, which means it will avoid things like pet poop more easily than other models. The s9+, on the other hand, has 40x suction power and a more corner-friendly design. Both also support automatic emptying and come with clean bases, too.

Buy Roomba j7+ at Amazon - $599Buy Roomba j7+ at Wellbots - $599Buy Roomba s9+ at Amazon - $849Buy Roomba s9+ at Wellbots - $849

iRobot Roomba 694

The Roomba 694 is down to $179, or $95 off and a return to its record-low price. It earned a spot in our best budget robot vacuums guide thanks to its strong cleaning power, on-device button controls and handy companion mobile app.

Buy Roomba 694 at Amazon - $179

Fitbit Charge 5

Valentina Palladino / Engadget

Fitbit's Charge 5 is on sale for a record low of $120 right now. We gave the fitness tracker a score of 82 for its large, full-color display, built-in GPS, standard Fitbit Pay and long battery life. The Fitbit Sense smartwatch is also on sale for $100 less than usual, bringing the price down to $200.

Buy Charge 5 at Amazon - $120

Eero 6 WiFi packs

eero LLC

All Eero 6 WiFi packs are on sale right now, so you can one for as low as $90. The three-pack of routers is down to $244 while the three-pack with one router and two extenders has been discounted to $195. This system supports WiFi 6, up to 5,000 square feet of coverage and it has a built-in Zigbee smart home hub.

Buy Eero 6 (1 router + 2 extenders ) at Amazon - $195

Xbox Elite Wireless Series 2 controller

Microsoft's Elite Wireless Series 2 controller for Xbox remains on sale for $140, or $40 less than usual. If you want to treat yourself (or someone else) to a fancy gaming accessory, this is a good option. It comes with six thumbsticks, four paddles, two D-pads, a charging dock, a carrying case and a USB-C cable, and its battery can last up to 40 hours on a single charge.

Buy Elite Wireless Series 2 controller at Amazon - $140Buy Elite Wireless Series 2 controller at Microsoft - $140

Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

The Galaxy Buds 2 are down to $100 right now, or $50 off their normal price. We gave them a score of 84 for their improve sound quality, adjustable ambient sound mode, comfortable design and support for wireless charging.

Buy Galaxy Buds 2 at Woot - $100

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Samsung's latest smartphone, the Galaxy S21 FE, is officially available and starting to ship and Amazon throws in a $100 gift card if you order the handset through the online retailer. We briefly tested the FE at CES 2022 and called it "last year's flagship without the frills," and it includes a 5-nanometer processor, a 120HZ display, a 32-megapixel front-facing camera, a larger battery and more.

Buy Galaxy S21 FE bundle at Amazon - $700

Samsung T7 Touch SSD

The Samsung T7 Touch SSD in 1TB is down to a record low of $140 right now. That's even better than the price it was during the holiday shopping season last year. We like the drive's compact design, fast speeds and built-in fingerprint reader for extra security.

Buy T7 Touch (1TB) at Amazon - $140

Libro.fm

Engadget readers can get a total of two free audiobooks when signing up for Libro.fm, the audiobook subscription service that supports local bookstores. Similarly to Audible, a Libro.fm membership costs $15 per month and gives you one audiobook credit per month, plus 30 percent off any audiobooks you buy á la carte.

Subscribe to Libro.fm - $15/month

New tech deals

Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro

Ultraloq's U-Bolt Pro smart lock with its WiFi bridge is $45 off when you use the code ENGADGET45 at checkout, bringing it down to $154. This model gives you six different ways to unlock your door including a fingerprint sensor, a personal numerical code, an e-key or using the companion mobile app. And with the included bridge, you can control the lock from anywhere, allowing you to remotely unlock or lock your door at any time or give digital keys to your loved ones.

Buy Ultraloq U-Bolt Pro bundle at Wellbots - $154

Master & Dynamic MW07 Plus

Through January 31, you can get 40 percent off Master & Dynamic's MW07 Plus earbuds when you use the code TAKE40 at checkout. This sale fixes one of our main gripes with these buds — their high price tag. We gave them a score of 86 for their great sound quality, reliable onboard controls and 10-hour battery life.

Buy MW07 Plus at M&D - $149

55-inch Hisense U7G Quantum Dot 4K smart TV

Hisense's 55-inch Quantum Dot 4K TV is 30 percent off and down to just under $600. It packs a lot of value into a relatively affordable TV — the set supports a 120Hz native refresh rate, Dolby Vision and Atmos, 1,000 nits of peak brightness and Game Mode Pro, the latter of which makes use of HDMI 2.1, low latency mode, variable refresh rates and more.

Buy 55-inch Hisense U7G 4K TV at Amazon - $600

Garmin wearables

A bunch of Garmin smartwatches are $50 at Wellbots when you use the code ENGADGET50 at checkout. Key among them are the Venu 2 for $350 and the Lily for $150. The former has a number of advanced features like a pulse ox sensor, Garmin Pay and a built-in GPS, while the latter is more affordable and stylish to boot.

Buy Garmin Venu 2 at Wellbots - $350Buy Garmin Lily at Wellbots - $150

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

Jabra's Elite 7 earbuds now support multipoint Bluetooth connectivity

When Jabra debuted its latest flagship true wireless earbuds in August, both models were packed with premium features like adjustable active noise cancellation (ANC) and ambient sound alongside a customizable EQ and in-app fit test. Now the company has added another key feature to both the Elite 7 Pro and Elite 7 Active that may not be as flashy, but it will offer a lot more convenience. Via a firmware update, Jabra has equipped those models with multipoint Bluetooth connectivity. 

Multipoint allows you to connect to two devices at the same time over Bluetooth. This means you can be listening to music or watching a show on your laptop and the earbuds will automatically switch over to your phone when you receive a call. Other earbuds and headphones do this, including Apple's AirPods, but the handy connectivity isn't standard across the board. 

This update also gives Android users the ability to select Google Assistant as their virtual helper of choice in Jabra's Sound+ app. Before now, Alexa was the only option there, although the Elite 7 models would work just fine with your phone's built-in companion. The company says it also made improvements to the MyFit feature that helps you find the proper ear tip size for a good seal, in addition to updates to overall connectivity and performance. We've asked for specifics on the changes for all three of those items, but have yet to hear back. 

The Elite 7 Pro and Elite 7 Active carry most of the same features, like Jabra's smaller, redesigned earbud shape and eight-hour battery life. The key difference is the call quality on the Elite 7 Pro, thanks to what the company calls MultiSensor Voice. That setup uses a combination of traditional microphones with a voice pick up (VPU) unit to keep you sounding clear. On a windy day, for example, the VPU automatically activates bone conduction technology to monitor your voice via the vibrations of your jaw. The Elite 7 Active has a ShakeGrip coating to minimize slips during sweaty workouts that the Elite 7 Pro does not. Both the Active and the Pro are IP57 rated though, so either one is a capable gym and/or running partner. And the last difference is the price: the Elite 7 Pro is $200 while the Elite 7 Active is $180.

If you already own a pair of these, the firmware update is available now through the Sound+ app. 

Robot performs complex 'keyhole' intestinal surgery on pigs without human aid

A robot has successfully performed "keyhole" intestinal surgery on pigs without any aid from humans, according to a study from John Hopkins University (published in Science Robotics). What's more, the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) handled the tricky procedure "significantly better" than human doctors. The breakthrough marks a significant step towards automated surgery that could one day help "democratize" patient care, the researchers said. 

Laparoscopic or keyhole surgery requires surgeons to manipulate and stitch intestines and other organs through tiny incisions, a technique that requires high levels of skill and has little margin for error. The team chose to do "intestinal anastomosis" (joining two ends of an intestine), a particularly challenging keyhole procedure.  

Soft tissue surgery in general is hard for robots due to the unpredictability. To deal with that, the STAR robot was equipped with specialized suturing tools and state-of-the-art imaging systems that could deliver extremely accurate visualizations. 

John Hopkins

Specifically, it had a "structural light–based three-dimensional endoscope and machine learning–based tracking algorithm" to guide the robots. "We believe an advanced three-dimensional machine vision system is essential in making intelligent surgical robots smarter and safer," said John Hopkins professor Jin Kang. On top of that, STAR is the first robotic system that can "plan, adapt and execute a surgical plan in soft tissue with minimal human intervention," said first author Hamed Saeidi. Using all that technology, the STAR robot successfully performed the procedure in four animals

Laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive compared to regular surgery, which helps ensure better patient outcomes. However, because it takes so long to master, there's a relatively small pool of doctors able to do it.

"Robotic anastomosis is one way to ensure that surgical tasks that require high precision and repeatability can be performed with more accuracy and precision in every patient independent of surgeon skill," said senior author Axel Krieger from John Hopkins. "We hypothesize that this will result in a democratized surgical approach to patient care with more predictable and consistent patient outcomes."

Google Play Store's new 'Offers' tab highlights deals on apps, movies and more

Google has launched an Offers tab for the Play Store featuring deals on apps, games, movies, books and other purchases, Android Police has reported. It appears at the bottom of the Play screen, along with Games, Apps, Movies & TV and Books, separate from the existing "Offers and notifications" section. 

"[Offers is] a new tab in the Google Play Store app to help you discover deals in games and apps across travel, shopping, media & entertainment, fitness, and more," Google said in a blog post. When you tap on the tab, it displays multiple carousels with offers on movie rentals, apps, games and more. It includes sales on in-game items, in-app purchases and offers app trials, Android Police noted. 

Google used to have a separate Android app called "Offers," that let you find deals in your current location, but that was way back in 2011 with Android 2.1 "Eclair" when Google Play was called Android Market. Its current "Offers & notifications" section on Play is sparse and not that easy to find, while the new tab is front and center and covers a wide range of products. The Offers tab is already rolling out to the US, India and Indonesia and will arrive in other markets later this year. 

iOS 15.4 beta supports Face ID while wearing a mask

Just a few days after rolling out iOS 15.3, Apple has released the latest iOS developer beta. Among the new features is one that'll come in very handy for unlocking your iPhone while you're out and about in the current climate. The company is testing a way for folks to use Face ID while they're wearing a mask — without needing an Apple Watch.

"Face ID is most accurate when it’s set up for full-face recognition only," Apple explains when users set up the feature. "To use Face ID while wearing a mask, iPhone can recognize the unique features around the eye to authenticate.”

The update comes almost a year after Apple started allowing users to unlock their iPhone via Face ID while masking up. Until now, people have used an unlocked Apple Watch as a key.

Apple's looking to get rid of that requirement in the latest beta, which will surely come as music to the ears of people who are fed up with punching in their iPhone passcode at the grocery store or the gym. Avoiding using your passcode in public is a boon for privacy too.

You'll need to switch on the option manually. Under the Face ID & Passcode section of the settings, select the "Use Face ID with a mask option" to get started. The feature will still work for those who are wearing glasses, but you'll need to remove your sunglasses.

Other features in the beta include the option to add notes to iCloud Keychain passwords and the ability to copy text from objects using the camera while in the Notes and Reminders apps. Also new is support for adaptive triggers on the PS5 DualSense controller, EU Digital COVID Certificate-compatible vaccination records in Wallet, an Apple Card widget and, perhaps most importantly for many, dozens more emoji.

As for the iPadOS 15.4, there's brightness control for the keyboard and (as part of the macOS Monterey 12.3 beta) something many Mac and iPad users have been waiting for: Universal Control. That feature allows people to control multiple Macs and iPads with a single mouse and keyboard. In December, Apple delayed the feature until the spring. It's not yet clear when Apple plans to release the final versions of the latest software more broadly.

‘TikTok, Boom’ tries and fails to do the most

Near the end of TikTok, Boom, content creator and beatboxer Spencer X chokes up. “TikTok has really changed my entire life,” he says while fighting back tears. He’s one of a few influencers profiled in the 90-minute documentary, which premiered at Sundance 2022 this weekend. It also features activist Feroza Aziz, best known for her viral video that slipped criticism of China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims into what initially appeared to be a makeup tutorial. Other subjects include reproductive rights activist Deja Foxx and Douyin content creator Jason Zhang, whose experiences with the app are all fascinating and moving.

Directed by Shalini Kantayya, TikTok, Boom is meant to “[dissect] one of the most influential platforms of the contemporary social media landscape." The film’s description on the Sundance festival portal says it “examines the algorithmic, sociopolitical, economic and cultural influences and impact of the history-making app.” Unfortunately, if you were hoping to learn anything new about why the For You algorithm is so creepily intuitive, why its parent company ByteDance collects so much data or what exactly are the app's ties to the Chinese government, you'll be disappointed.

In general, the documentary tries to cover too much. It jumped from Aziz finding a community of Afghan-Americans on the app, to X defying his parent’s expectations to make a career out of beatboxing, to sexism, racism, child predators, body image issues, TikTok’s creation and ByteDance’s history, all within the first 40 minutes. There’s discussion of the impact on creators’ mental health, Facebook’s interest in buying TikTok, the reinforcement of social disparities, China’s control and censorship, Trump’s rallies in Tulsa, the subsequent ban of the app and more. In the second half, there’s even a random dramatic reenactment of “a statement made by a former ByteDance employee” during the COVID-19 outbreak.

If TikTok, Boom was trying to catalog every time TikTok made the news, it did an admirable job. But in its effort to recap history, the film fails to deliver any insight. I could have easily Googled “TikTok timeline” and gotten all the same information without having to sit in front of my TV for 90 minutes. Had the documentary narrowed its focus, I suspect I would have learned more.

But in its effort to recap history, the film fails to deliver any insight.

I also have a small, but important gripe. The film needs more careful editors. It features B-roll and expert interviews correctly pronouncing and spelling the app Douyin that predated TikTok. Mere seconds later, the narrator and an onscreen graphic both mispronounce and misspell Douyin as “Duoyin.” Another spelling error: a list of so-called “Sensored words” in a graphic as opposed to “censored.”

Maybe I’m nit-picking, but mistakes like this affect the credibility of any documentary, which should be a well-researched piece of video journalism.

That leads me to my biggest problem with TikTok, Boom: It makes some dangerous assumptions. At one point in the film, an animated rendering insinuates that TikTok scans a user’s face while they’re watching videos and determines if they’re smiling or not. The film posits that this information is then fed into the algorithm that lets ByteDance recommend more content on your For You page.

There is no evidence that TikTok does this. In fact, unless Apple and Google’s privacy indicators (which show when your phone’s cameras are being used) are malfunctioning, people would know if an app was watching them. It’s more likely that the TikTok, Boom team misinterpreted terms in the app’s privacy policy that states it’s collecting “faceprints and voiceprints.”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

That’s not to say ByteDance is completely in the clear here; it’s never explicitly explained why it’s gathering that data. Other parts of its privacy policy are even more alarming, like the fact that ByteDance collects information about users’ "keystroke patterns or rhythms." In 2020, the company had to publicly admit wrongdoing and agree to stop accessing users’ clipboard data every few keystrokes. Back then, it claimed this was part of an anti-spam feature. Now, the latest versions of iOS and Android will alert you if an app has accessed or pasted content from your clipboard, so you can be aware of unnecessary data collection.

Look, I get it. The For You algorithm can be so uncanny that people scramble to find nefarious reasons for its effectiveness. It’s just like when we all wondered if Instagram and Facebook were listening to our conversations to serve us eerily timely ads. But it’s one thing for individuals to wonder if your phone is spying on you and a whole other problem if a documentary recklessly claims it’s happening. The filmmakers don’t seem to realize the responsibility it has to its viewers.

In fact, had TikTok, Boom just focused on breaking down the For You algorithm or studying exactly what data the app is collecting (and in that context its ties to China), the film might have unearthed something illuminating. Instead, it ends up being a mostly redundant recap with a catchy title.

Shure Aonic 40 review: Decent ANC headphones with impressive battery life

Mid-range headphones are typically an exercise in compromise. In order to reduce prices, companies usually omit a few premium features or opt for cheaper materials. Sometimes there are sacrifices to sound quality or active noise cancellation (ANC) performance. Enter Shure’s Aonic 40: a more affordable wireless model in the company’s noise-canceling lineup and an alternative to the pricier Aonic 50.

At $249, the Aonic 40 is at the top end of what I’d consider mid-range. Thankfully, Shure didn’t cut too many corners when it comes to the feature set. There’s a degree of customization and plenty of tools to worth with. However, the Aonic 40 fails to make an impression in key areas, and needs a bit more polish if it’s going to stand out from the crowd.

Hardware

Billy Steele/Engadget

Like the Aonic 50 that came before it, the Aonic 40 is mostly black, except for some silver accents where the headband connects to the earcups. There’s also a white version that keeps the silver components but adds tan padding to the earcups and the underside of the headband. Like many other wireless headphones, the folding design of the Aonic 40 allows them to be a compact travel companion. The earcups rotate and fold in towards the headband, so even though the case will take up some space in your bag, it’s at least relatively flat.

The Aonic 40 appears to be an entirely plastic design, but that’s not actually the case. The silver areas are made of aluminum alloy, but they have a flat finish that makes them look less like metal. Shure says the black areas are glass-filled nylon, despite the appearance of plastic. Other headphone companies have pulled this trick, including Bose with its popular QuietComfort line. Shure explains that this material makes the Aonic 40 more durable, but it certainly doesn’t add a premium aesthetic. What’s more, after a couple weeks of what I’d consider light use (barely moving them away from my desk), I’m already seeing light scratches.

Shure did make one design change from the Aonic 50 that allows us to tell the older model apart from its newer sibling. Where the 50 had a visible rotating arm with an elbow, the portion of the 40 that spins is hidden up near the headband. The arms themselves on the Aonic 40 are also curved, twisted to connect the headband to the earcups by running alongside the edge of the earcup.

Billy Steele/Engadget

In terms of comfort, these headphones are just average. I have a big head and the fit is tight. Not oppressively so, but after several minutes I can feel the rings of the earcups pressing into my head. It doesn’t become overbearing, but it’s not exactly enjoyable either. Headphones need to form a tight seal for effective ANC performance. They also need to be comfortable when you wear them for long periods of time.

Like the Aonic 50, Shure went with physical buttons for the on-board controls rather than touch-friendly panels. As such, the Aonic 40 offers a full suite of functionality right on the headphones themselves. The lone button on the left side is for power and Bluetooth pairing. Unlike a lot of the competition, Shure gives you the option to get a battery level check without glancing at its app by double tapping the power button. On the right, there’s a traditional multi-button array with volume controls flanking a centered multi-use key.

The middle button handles play/pause (single press), skipping tracks forward (double press), returning to the previous song (triple press) and summoning a virtual assistant (press and hold). A separate, fourth button on the right earcup toggles between ANC and Environment Mode (ambient sound). Each time you press it, the headphones return to your previous setting for both of those options, which is selected in Shure’s app. You can also bypass them both with a long press on the noise control button.

Software

Billy Steele/Engadget

The Shure Play app is one of the better pieces of headphone companion software I’ve used. There’s a lot available here, and it’s all easy to find. Right up top you get a battery percentage and access to noise control (ANC, Environment Mode and None), along with noise canceling presets and a slider for ambient sound level. While you can’t dial in the ANC precisely, Shure does offer Light, Normal and Max settings. It’s adjustable, albeit not fully customizable. Directly underneath is a guide for button controls, options to tweak prompts/tones, the ability to configure USB connectivity for listening or “conferencing,” battery saver settings and an optional busy light when you’re on a call. That last feature flashes a red light so anyone you’ve notified about it beforehand knows not to disturb you.

The software also houses a more robust equalizer than most headphone apps. Per usual, there’s a smattering of presets, but Shure goes beyond the typical three to five with seven options (Bass Boost, Bass Cut, Treble Boost, Treble Cut, De-ess and Loudness). The company gives you the ability to make your own presets as well, saving them in the list after you build them with the manual EQ tools. You can start from scratch or from one of Shure’s presets, adjusting frequency, gain and bandwidth in addition to moving and plotting points on a sonic curve. For my purposes, Loudness was the best overall setting as it increased clarity for listening at lower volumes. It also made the stock tuning sound better at all times.

Sound quality

Billy Steele/Engadget

With that preset enabled, the Aonic 40 is capable of blasting punchy bass that drones or thumps when a song demands it. There’s also more detail with this preset, as the clarity increases no matter the volume level. Overall, the soundstage isn’t as wide open and songs don’t have the immersive depth that pricer sets offer – especially on heavier music styles. The chaotic metal of Underoath’s Voyeurist and Gojira’s Fortitude are subdued and sound slightly flat unless you’re at full volume. On the other hand, with the delicate acoustic strums on Punch Brothers’ bluegrass masterpiece Hell on Church Street, these headphones really shine. Layered instruments properly convey the airyness of being in the room where five aficionados are absolutely shredding. Similarly, the Aonic 40 highlights the finer details of Navy Blue’s J Dilla-esque hip-hop album Songs of Sage: Post Panic! without sounding overly compressed..

When it comes to noise cancellation, the Aonic 40 does a decent job of blocking out background noise. It’s not on the level of Bose or Sony, but for $250 headphones it gets the job done. The three settings offer options for different scenarios, but I mostly kept it locked on Max. As for Environment Mode, the ambient sound function lets in outside noise just fine. It’s serviceable, but it’s nowhere near as natural sounding as the AirPods Max. Honestly, no other company comes close to what Apple offers in that regard.

Battery life

Shure promises up to 25 hours of battery life with ANC turned on. I was pleasantly surprised when the headphones hit the 30-hour mark and the app was still showing 19 percent in the tank. This battery test was done over the course of a few days, so the headphones were powered off multiple times while I was trying to drain them completely. Around 30 hours is about the best you can expect from noise-canceling headphones, including Sony’s best-in-class WH-1000XM4. What the Aonic 40 doesn’t have that much of the competition does is automatic pausing. As I mentioned, you can set the headphones to automatically power off at certain intervals if they’re sitting idle, but if you take them off and step away in a hurry, the music continues. However, if you find yourself in a pinch due to this, a 15-minute quick-charge feature will give you five hours of use.

Call quality is another area where the Aonic 40 holds its own – so long as you’re in a quiet place. The headphones won’t make it sound like you’re on speakerphone like a lot of earbuds or headphones tend to do. To me, it’s pretty close to what you get when you hold the phone up to your face. If you enter a noisy plac,e though, things change quickly. The Aonic 40 picks up environmental rumbles too well, like the roar of a white noise machine. On the flip side, the ambient sound mode allows you to hear your own voice while you’re on a call, keeping you from becoming too shouty because you can’t monitor your volume.

The competition

At $249, I consider the Aonic 40 to be at the top end of mid-range headphones. They’re not super affordable, but they’re also not as pricey as Shure’s own flagship model or more premium options from the likes of Apple, Bose, Master & Dynamic or Sony. The Razer Opus is a more apt competitor, debuting at $200 in the spring of 2020. Great THX-certified audio, solid ANC performance and a comfy fit left an impression during my review. Plus, Razer is currently selling them for $140, which makes them even more compelling.

If you can live without active noise cancellation, I really like Audio-Technica’s M50x series. The most recent model, the ATH-M50xBT2, arrived with updates like multi-point Bluetooth pairing, Alexa built in and wider audio codec support – all while keeping the trademark design. And at $199, these will also save you some money over the Aonic 40.

That being said, the WH-1000XM4 remains the gold standard for noise-canceling headphones. Sony’s mix of audio quality, ANC performance and nifty features like Speak-to-Chat remains the best you can get, although the likes of Bose and others are catching up. Still, they’re $100 more than the Aonic 40 at full price, but we’ve seen them on sale for $248. If you can catch them at the same price as Shure’s latest model, commit to the 1000XM4.

Wrap-up

Shure’s Aonic 40 is a more affordable option in the company’s noise-canceling lineup, offering a host of features and doing some of them well. Impressive battery life, serviceable ANC and a degree of customization are offset by inconsistent audio performance and an overall lack of polish when it comes to finer details like fit and convenience. For those reasons, the Aonic 40 tends to blend into the crowd rather than stand apart.

The 2020 iPad Air is on sale for $539 right now

If you missed the sale earlier this month, you have another chance to get $60 off Apple's 2020 iPad Air. At the time of writing this, the green, silver and blue models are down to $539, which is 10 percent off and one of the best prices we've seen in months. We considered this to be the best iPad for most people when it first came out and it remains a great option for those that want a powerful, versatile tablet that won't break the bank.

Buy iPad Air at Amazon - $539

Yes, there are newer iPads available now — even the base 10.2-inch iPad Air received an update last year — but the Air still sits in the middle of Apple's lineup. It runs on the A14 Bionic chipset with a six-core CPU and a four-core GPU, and these discounted models have WiFi 6 support, 64GB of storage and a 10.9-inch Liquid Retina Display with True Tone. The updated, flat-edged design has a USB-C port for charging and a power button with a built-in fingerprint reader for extra security. The iPad Air also supports the second-generation Apple Pencil, so artists and those who prefer to take hand-written notes could use it as their main digital notebook.

While we suggest considering the M1 iPad Pros if you want a true laptop replacement, the iPad Air can act as one, too. It has speedy performance, a 12.5-hour battery life and it can connect to Apple's Smart Keyboard Folio and the Magic Keyboard, so you have a number of ways to turn it into a 2-in-1 machine. There are plenty of perks to the M1 iPad Pros when it comes to productivity, but you'll pay at least $200 more for one of those. So despite the fact that it is almost two years old, the iPad Air remains a good option if you want a tablet that can keep up with you on your busiest days.

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

Apple will reportedly allow iPhones to accept contactless payments

Small businesses might soon be able to accept payments using their iPhones without the need for extra hardware. According to Bloomberg, Apple could start rolling out the feature through a software update in the next few months, perhaps with the final version of iOS 15.4 that's coming out this spring. Apple has reportedly been working on the service since 2020, when it purchased a Canadian startup called Mobeewave known for developing a technology that turns a phone into a payment portal.

Mobeewave's technology only needs an app and the phone's NFC to work, unlike services like Square that require the use of an external hardware. The user simply has to type in the amount they want to charge, and their customer only needs to tap their credit card onto the back of the device. Apple declined Bloomberg's invitation to comment, so it's unclear if that's how its built-in iPhone feature will work, as well. 

In addition, Bloomberg's sources couldn't say whether the feature will be rolled out as part of Apple Pay. The team developing the feature, however, has reportedly been working with the tech giant's payments division since Apple purchased Mobeewave. Whether Apple is launching the service with an existing payment network is also unknown at this point. 

Before its acquisition, Mobeewave teamed up with Samsung to turn its phones into contactless payment terminals. They piloted the feature in Canada and even gave the company's point-of-sale service, dubbed Samsung POS, a wide release in the country. 

Apple rolls out iOS 15.3 and macOS 12.2 to fix a major Safari exploit

It's a big day for security updates in Apple-land. The company has rolled out software fixes for just about all of its platforms, including iOS 15.3 and macOS 12.2, 9to5Mac reports. Notably, they fix the Safari vulnerability that could potentially leak your browser history, as well as your Google account information. WatchOS 8.4 and tvOS 15.2, meanwhile, add some performance improvements. And even though the company isn't paying as much attention to its smart speakers these days, it launched HomePod 15.3, which adds Siri support for up to six users speaking English in India, or Italian in Italy. (That's a feature Apple started offering in the US back in 2019.)

While we normally wouldn't stress minor software updates much, iOS and macOS users should deal with that Safari vulnerability as soon as they can. Sure, there aren't any major threats taking advantage of that now, but who knows what malware could pop up in the next month or two.