The 5 best bed sheets in 2021 for every sleeper

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bed dressed in green sheets as part of testing for the best sheets 2021
  • Good sheets are essential to good sleep, which is why you need a set that’s comfortable and durable.
  • The L.L.Bean Percale Sheet Set is our top pick for most people because they’re crisp and breathable.
  • It’s made from soft, durable, extra-long-staple cotton and is affordably priced for the quality.
  • Read more about how Insider Reviews tests home products.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

I’ve spent four years trying out more than three dozen sets of sheets, and I can tell you – even if you have the perfect mattress and pillow, bedtime is incomplete without soft and comfortable sheets. For this guide, I put 19 sets of sheets through rigorous testing to determine the top five for a variety of preferences and budgets. L.L.Bean’s Percale Sheet Set is the best option for most people.

I spoke to hospitality experts and a textiles scientist to learn more about thread count, materials and fiber types, and fabric care. The FAQs section contains more info on why thread count is less important than you think, why you should look for 100% long-staple cotton as a sheeting material, and how to prevent wrinkles in your fresh sheets.

The majority of our picks are made from cotton, which offers the best balance of comfort, durability, and affordability. But we’ve also included options like flannel and linen, which hold heat differently and may be more appropriate for specific seasons or those who tend to sleep cold or hot.

Here are the best sheets for your bed in 2021

Best sheets overall

blue l.l.bean pima cotton sheets and pillows the best sheets overall 2021

The L.L.Bean percale sheets feel amazing on your skin — simultaneously light, crisp, and soft — and prove that quality materials are more important than thread count.

Pros: High-quality construction, very soft and comfortable, fitted sheet is labeled, accessible price

Cons: Lack of prints and patterns, fitted sheet may be loose on thinner mattresses

Of all the percale cotton sheets I tested, L.L.Bean’s set stood out for its ultra-softness and comfort. It’s our overall best pick because it boasts a bit of everything that most shoppers are looking for: lightweight, breathable, and cool fabric; crisp yet soft feel; and strong construction that can reliably stand up to multiple washes. 

The sheets are made from pima cotton, which is a high-quality, extra-long-staple cotton. Karen Leonas, a professor of textile sciences at the Wilson College of Textiles, NC State University, told us extra-long-staple cotton is even stronger and more resistant to abrasion than long-staple cotton. That’s likely why the L.L.Bean sheets are extra soft and durable, even though the 280-thread count is on the lower end of the spectrum. Even after many washes, they also had a great feel and experienced no loose threads or shrinkage in the last three months.

The fitted sheet fit well and never slipped off, but there was a little excess (it fits up to 15-inch mattresses) on my IKEA Haugesund mattress. I loved that the long and short sides were labeled, a thoughtful touch that always sped up the annoying task of putting on my sheets. (When you’re constantly trying and washing different sheets, you notice and appreciate these things.) 

The sheets are available in a handful of light colors, and they have hemstitched detailing (decorative threading at the edges). If you prefer a simple look that fits into pretty much any room style, the L.L.Bean sheets won’t disappoint. If you like fun prints and patterns, try Brooklinen’s sheets. They came in a close second to L.L.Bean for comfort and durability and are also reasonably priced.  

There’s nothing gimmicky or “special” about these L.L.Bean sheets, and that’s what makes them so great. They’re simply well-made, extremely comfortable, and dependable — the best you could want out of something you’re sleeping on every night. 

Pima Cotton Percale Sheet Set (Queen) (button)
Best flannel sheets for winter

person laying in red pinzon flannel sheets while holding a mug testing for the best flannel sheets for winter 2021

It’s hard to imagine snuggling in anything but Pinzon‘s thick flannel sheets on a cold winter night. They’ll keep you warm and cozy without causing you to overheat.

Pros: Plush and cozy feel, heavyweight, breathable, affordable 

Cons: Lots of dryer lint, only available in solid colors, may be too warm for hot sleepers

Imagine you’re nestled in a cabin in the woods, far, far away from the people and bustle of regular life. There’s a fire crackling nearby, and you have a book in one hand and a mug of tea in the other. That’s what it feels like sleeping in these flannel sheets, even if the reality is that you’re laying your head to rest in a modern city high-rise. 

There’s no better fabric than flannel to bundle your body in during fall and winter (and even beyond, if you don’t sleep hot). Pinzon’s flannel is thick, soft, and cozy from the very first use and the comforting feeling only gets better over time. They’re velvety and a little fuzzy but were never itchy and uncomfortable. Though the sheets are very warm, they never felt stifling or unbreathable, despite the fact that I sometimes sleep warm. However, if you regularly sleep hot, the flannel sheets may be too stifling.

These sheets make it dangerously tempting to take midday naps curled up like a cat or to sleep in every day as if it were a Sunday free of commitments and appointments. I consistently felt like I slept better and deeper because of how warm and comfortable these sheets are. Fortunately, there’s been no shrinkage or pilling to get in the way of that comfort.

Still, there are a few small inconveniences. Out of the package, they have a slight chemical odor, so you’ll need to wash them before the first use. Also, be prepared to empty out a thick layer of fuzz from your dryer lint trap every time you wash them. If you have thicker or high-loft pillows, the pillowcases may be a tight fit. I used them on my Casper and Leesa pillows (both moderately-sized pillows), and the pillowcases were a bit difficult to pull on.

Cotton Flannel Bed Sheet Set (Queen) (button)
Best hotel sheets

overhead shot of folded frette cotton sheets the best luxury hotel sheets 2021

When you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars a night to sleep at a luxury hotel, H by Frette‘s smooth and luxurious sateen sheets will take you there instead.

Pros: Luxury hotel-approved, quality materials, washes well, the brand has a long manufacturing history

Cons: Only available in white

Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, and Kimpton hotels worldwide turn to this iconic name for their bedding needs. We’re talking about none other than Italian luxury brand Frette, once the official maker of linens for the Italian royal family. 

Sleeping in Frette’s soft and smooth sateen sheets, you’ll certainly feel like royalty. H by Frette is Frette’s consumer line of linens and whisks you away into the sumptuous hotel bed of your dreams. But rather than paying for just a single night in a high-end hotel, you’re dropping $300 for years of hotel luxury in your own room. 

The sheets are, of course, only available in white, and you can get them in sateen or percale, depending on your preference. The resulting bed looks simple, clean, and fresh. While housekeeping staff isn’t included with your purchase, you’ll probably feel motivated anyway to maintain the signature hotel style yourself because of how sleek and composed the all-white look is.

Frette uses 100% extra-long-staple cotton, so even though the set doesn’t have the extraordinarily high thread count (300) you might expect from hotel sheets, it feels very soft. Extra long-staple cotton is also very durable — important for hotels where housekeeping teams are washing each room’s sheets constantly and important for you as a consumer if you want to be sure your investment goes a long way. 

Sateen sheets can be too warm for me sometimes, but Frette’s felt perfect and cooler than other sateen sets I’ve tried. The sheets have a subtle gloss and a silky feel, and they remain comfortable after every wash. 

You’ll find less expensive and equally comfortable sheets in the rest of this guide, but if you specifically want the sheets used in and approved by hundreds of hotels, then you’ll be very happy with Frette’s. Whenever I rotate through my sheets, I look forward to this set because I know it’ll feel like a treat.

Pro tip: “When recreating this [hotel] experience at home, think about using high lofting pillows, quality sheets, and a plush duvet with a duvet cover for the ultimate luxury experience,” says Chan.

Sateen Classic Sheet Set (Queen) (button)
Best sheets on a budget

threshold target sheets next to nightstand testing for the best budget affordable sheets 2021

Threshold‘s sheets are popular among Target shoppers because they’re comfortable, thoughtfully designed, and, best of all, affordable.

Pros: Affordable, great fit 

Cons: May trap body oils more, smell terrible out of the package

It’s the price tag that’ll catch your eye first, then the great fit and soft feel that’ll sell you completely on these budget-friendly sheets from Target brand Threshold. Of all the sets I tested, Threshold’s fitted sheet was the easiest to put on and fit my mattress the best, despite being designed for mattresses up to 18-inch deep. The extra stretch in the corners of the sheet made a big difference and helped the sheet cling to my mattress without showing excess material on top. It also has a top and bottom label to speed up the fitting process. 

Once on, the sateen sheets are smooth and silky. They’re made from 100% cotton and have a 400-thread count on the higher end of all the sets I tried.

After some use, however, I noticed that they seem to trap body oils more readily and feel greasier than other sets, making them less pleasant to sleep on. I wondered if this was because Target uses a short-staple cotton, or if they applied some kind of treatment over the sheets to give them their “performance” qualities (wrinkle-resistant, bleach friendly), but the brand didn’t respond to my requests for additional clarification. The problem does seem to go away if I wash the sheets more often.

Either way, I had a comfortable experience overall; they just weren’t the best of all the sheets I tried. And though they’re touted as “performance sheets,” most notably as being wrinkle-free, they certainly wrinkle. The best way to get rid of the wrinkles, as with all cotton sheets, is to iron them. 

Be warned — the sheets have a strong sour and chemical smell when you first take them out of their packaging. The smell lingers even after the sheets are aired out for a couple of days, so you’ll definitely want to wash them first.

If you’re on a budget, a college student, or a frequent host looking to outfit a guest bed, these sheets are a smart decision. We’re continuing to test and wash them to look for any durability issues, but so far, we haven’t run into any. 

Performance Sheet Set (Queen) (button)
Best cooling sheets for summer

pink linen sheets and pillows from sijo home the best linen sheets 2021

The cool, airy, and beautiful linen sheets from Sijo will be your summer favorite, or if you regularly sleep hot, a durable yearlong standby.

Pros: Stays dry and cool, casually wrinkled style, flexible flat sheet option 

Cons: Doesn’t come in as many colors and sizes as competitors, may experience some shedding

Linen is a contentious textile. It wrinkles very easily, feels a bit rough, and is notoriously expensive. On the other hand, some prefer the casual, lived-in look, and it does get softer with time and use. Most importantly, because it’s made from hollow flax fibers, which absorb moisture and let air pass through, linen is breathable and stays dry even on the warmest, stuffiest nights. 

Sijo sheets are the best linen sheets I’ve tried because they strike the right balance of comfort, coolness, durability, and price. After a couple of months of testing, they knock out our former best pick, MagicLinen, because of how downright soft and comfortable they are, even while having the signature grainy texture of linen. And they get softer and better after multiple washes.

If your preconception of linen is that it’s too scratchy to enjoy, Sijo’s sheets will change your mind. They’re also airy and light, keeping me cool on California spring-nights-that-already-feel-like-summer (we recently had temps in the high 80s in late March). 

I loved the wrinkled look, especially combined with the soothing Blush color. I’m also a fan of Sky, a dusky blue. The color and overall construction have held up well so far, and the fabric continues to feel both substantial and lightweight. You should expect some shedding in the first few washes — it’s a natural part of the process but a little annoying to pick off your bed.

Unlike with MagicLinen, I didn’t have any sizing issues with Sijo’s sheets. All the sets have a 15-inch depth. You can also opt in or out of a flat sheet, which provides great flexibility and can bring the price of your purchase down.

Linen Sheet Set (Queen) (button)
What else we tested

green magiclinen sheets and pillows more sheets we tried in 2021

What else we recommend and why 

Brooklinen (sateen): As I mentioned earlier, it was a tight race between Brooklinen and L.L.Bean. We still highly recommend Brooklinen because the brand offers incredible value for long-lasting, comfortable, and beautiful sheets. But the set we tested (Brooklinen’s most popular) may be too warm for some people because of the sateen weave, which is why we ultimately picked L.L.Bean’s cooler percale. Read our full review of Brooklinen sheets here.

Brooklinen (linen): Brooklinen’s sateen sheets usually get all the love, but we were also interested in its other fabrics. Each set of its cozy made-in-Portugal linen sheets is individually garment-dyed, so you’ll feel like you have a unique piece of bedding. Our top pick is softer, but Brooklinen’s are still pretty comfortable and come at the best price. 

Boll & Branch: Boll & Branch uses cotton that’s both GOTS- and Fair Trade-certified, so if you live an organic lifestyle or are trying to incorporate more organic products into your cart, you’ll love these ethically and sustainably made sheets. The sheets are comfortable and durable but keep in mind that the manufacturing process and certifications do come at a cost. Read our full review of Boll & Branch sheets here.

MagicLinen: MagicLinen recently lost its spot as our top linen pick because it wasn’t as comfortable or affordable as Sijo. There are a few reasons you might still want to buy MagicLinen, though: it comes in a lot more colors and sizes, including twin and deep-depth. If you’re willing to pay a bit more to find a specific style and fit, MagicLinen’s a good place to shop durable and airy linen sheets. Read our full review of MagicLinen sheets here

Riley: Riley’s percale sheets are softer than other percale sheets, but not more so than L.L.Bean’s. They felt cool and held up to all our washes well. I also appreciated the fair price point and the flexibility of opting for the add-on flat sheet, instead of being stuck with one you don’t want. 

ParachuteParachute’s name often comes up along with fellow direct-to-consumer brands Brooklinen and Boll & Branch, all of which launched around the same time. We loved the smooth feel of its sateen sheets, which were softer than Brooklinen’s. The one downside is they come in limited colors, and many sizes are currently sold out. 

SnoweThe crisp percale sheets from Snowe have both the feel and sensibility of a light button-down shirt. They’re sophisticated and sleek, though not quite as soft as other percale options we’ve tried. I slept with them during the dead of summer, and they kept me cool and comfortable. 

CasperCasper’s newest bedding offering is the Hyperlite Sheet Set, made from Tencel lyocell, which comes from sustainably sourced wood. The material is indeed incredibly lightweight and soft, with a thin, gauzy construction — so thin that it’s a bit see-through. They’ve held up really well after many washes. 

Bed ThreadsThis is another brand we love for fairly priced linen sheets. Bed Threads offers extended sizing and an assortment of beautiful colors to spruce up your bedroom. (I sampled the lilac.)

What we do not recommend and why 

Crane & Canopy: We liked the comfortable feel and embroidery of these extra-long-staple, 400-thread count cotton sheets. Like L.L.Bean and Brooklinen, they’re made from high-quality cotton and have a mid-tier thread count — but they’re a lot more expensive. Since there are no other distinct features to set Crane & Canopy apart, we prefer L.L.Bean and Brooklinen for their better value.

Serena & Lily: The home brand has many pretty and composed sheet options, like this Classic Ring Sheet Set, which has a percale weave and a 310-thread count. The feel is crisp and cool, but it’s a bit pricey for what you get, and our other sheet picks offer better value. We also noticed after the first wash that there were already some loose threads on the pillowcases. 

Italic: Long-staple cotton percale sheets made by the same manufacturer of Frette, Four Seasons, and St. Regis sheets for $85? The Slumber Cotton set is enticing for this reason, and it’s comfortable to sleep in. However, Italic has a $100/year membership model, so buying this set only makes sense if you plan on purchasing other goods from the site. We recommend first browsing the rest of the online shop to see if you’re interested in the other home products, clothing, and accessories. Otherwise, you’ll be paying $185, which isn’t any more competitive than our picks above. 

Ettitude: Ettitude’s claim to fame is using bamboo lyocell for its sheets. They’re made from 100% organic bamboo with a water-efficient manufacturing process, and the result is uniquely soft, silky, and cool. However, we noticed they’re more delicate than other fabrics, and the sheets showed more pilling and abrasion after we washed them.

Bespoke PostA defining characteristic of percale is that it’s crisp and airy, like your favorite button-down shirt. The problem I experienced with Bespoke Post’s new percale sheets is that they’re too crisp and can rustle loudly if you move in your sleep (which is probably most of us). It also held onto and showed body oils easily, and you’d need to wash the set frequently. 

Our testing methodology

hand touching a printed bed sheet part of the testing methodology for best sheets 2021

Here’s how we tested the sheets over nine months. We’ll continue to follow these steps in the upcoming months and note any changes.

  1. Washed and dried each set according to its respective instructions at least five times. Usually, we washed the sheets in a cold cycle with gentle detergent and dried them on a low tumble cycle. 
  2. Put the fitted sheet on a 10-inch-thick mattress and noted slipping, sliding, post-wash shrinkage, and stretchiness of elastic. 
  3. Slept on each set for at least one week and noted texture, overall comfort, breathability, and coolness.

What we’re testing next

west elm linen sheets what we look forward to testing for the best sheets 2021

Lilysilk: One category we’d like to add to our guide in the future is “best silk sheets.” The luxurious Lilysilk sheets are made of mulberry silk and are OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified. We like that Lilysilk lets you customize what pieces are included in your sheet set. 

THX Silk: The THX Silk 19 momme silk sheet could have the same description as the Lilysilk sheets. They’re made from OEKO-TEX certified mulberry silk, but they “only” cost $410. We’re curious to see if these luxury sheets live up to their price.

West Elm: West Elm’s Fair Trade-certified linen sheets are popular among linen lovers. They come in around the same price as MagicLinen’s and are also available in many beautiful colors, so we’ll mainly be comparing their comfort and durability. 

Kassatex: These long-staple cotton, 300-thread count sateen sheets seem promising, especially considering a Queen set is only $100. We look forward to putting these inexpensive sheets through all our tests to see how they stand up over time and how they compare to our current picks. 

FAQs

an open dryer machine with sheets inside to answer FAQs about how to take care of your sheets 2021

Does thread count matter?

Yes, to a certain extent. However, don’t use it as your sole determining factor because its definition can be manipulated, and after a certain number, the difference in feel and durability is negligible. 

Thread count is the number of yarns per inch, horizontally and vertically. Leonas tells us that a ply yarn (two single yarns twisted together) has traditionally been considered one yarn, but in recent years, some brands have been using total ply yarn count as the thread count, resulting in an artificially high number. 

Remember that thread count only applies to cotton sheets and single yarn weaves. All of our best cotton sheets fall in the 300-500 range, and you likely won’t need anything beyond that.

“When finding sheets that will last and provide comfort and a relaxing night’s sleep, take a look at the material first and thread count second,” said Ave Bradley, senior vice president of design and creative director at Kimpton Hotels. Kimpton uses 200-300 thread count cotton sheets from Frette in its rooms. 

Though bedding brands are often quick to show off high thread counts, they’re less important than you might think. The type of fiber and weave also help determine the sheet’s texture, breathability, and durability. Percale and sateen, for example, are both made of cotton but have different weave structures, resulting in different feels.

What are the different types of sheets?

The quality and type of material do matter. Below, we define, compare, and contrast different materials, fabrics, and terms you’ll often run into while shopping for sheets. 

Drape: The fluidity or rigidity of a fabric. A fabric with a high or fluid drape, such as silk, is flowy and clings more to the object. A fabric with a low drape is stiffer and holds its shape more. 

Long-staple cotton: Cotton with longer-staple fibers that result in smoother and stronger yarn. This is compared to short-staple cotton, which has fiber ends that stick out and cause the sheets to be rougher and less abrasion-resistant. Brands will generally call out when they use long-staple cotton; otherwise, you can probably assume it’s short-staple. Leonas says the industry definition of long-staple cotton is a fiber length of 1.15-1.22 inches.

Egyptian cotton: Cotton grown in Egypt. It’s often assumed that Egyptian cotton is long-staple, but it could also be lower-quality, short-staple cotton that just happens to be from Egypt, so be careful of this labeling and look specifically for “long-staple cotton.” 

Pima cotton: Also known by its trademark name, Supima cotton. Extra long-staple cotton that is grown only in the US and has a fiber length of at least 1.5 inches. Extra long-staple cotton is even smoother, more flexible, and more resistant to pilling than long-staple cotton.

Percale: A type of cotton weave where one thread is woven with another thread into a tight, grid pattern. It has a matte, crisp feel. It’s airy and more breathable. 

Sateen: A type of cotton weave where three or four threads are woven over one thread into a looser grid pattern. It has a smooth, silky feel and a slight sheen to it. Compared to percale, it’s less breathable and may not be suitable for sleepers who run hot. According to Leonas, sateen tends to snag more easily and show dirt more readily due to its unique “float” weave. If you enjoy the feel and look of sateen, keep in mind that sheets made using this weave require a little more care and maintenance. 

Polyester: A type of synthetic fiber that may be blended with cotton or used to make microfiber. It’s less breathable and traps moisture more easily, and it may not be suitable for people with sensitive skin. 

Microfiber: A type of synthetic material made with very fine polyester fibers. It’s very soft and drapeable but doesn’t breathe well. 

Lyocell: Also known as Tencel. A type of fiber made from wood (often eucalyptus) pulp. It’s soft, silky, and breathable. 

Linen: A type of fiber made from flax plants. It’s slightly rigid, with a rougher texture, and it feels cool and breathable. It wrinkles easily. 

Flannel: A type of fabric made with thickly woven wool or cotton. It’s brushed to give it a slightly soft and fuzzy texture, and it feels warm.

What kind of sheets do hotels use?

Dennis Chan, director of retail product at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, said his team looks at the fabric drape (the way the fabric hangs), hand feel, and construction of weave when sourcing bedding for hotels worldwide. Four Seasons produces its own line of bedding in its Four Seasons at Home collection, featuring 350-thread count sateen weave cotton sheets

Top hotel brands like Four Seasons and Kimpton outfit their rooms in 100% long-staple cotton sheets because they’re soft, breathable, and durable, resulting in luxurious and memorable sleep experiences for their guests. Long-staple cotton has longer fibers, so it’s stronger and softer than shorter-staple cotton, which is why we also generally recommend 100% long-staple cotton in our best picks. 

What are the different sheet certifications?

You may notice that some of our best picks have a Standard 100 by Oeko Tex certification. This label means the final sheet product has been independently tested for more than 100 harmful chemical substances and is safe for human use. While it’s not the only certification out there, it’s widely used and known in the textiles industry.

Our experts say you should look for the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification for basic safety, but if you also care about manufacturing, look for STeP by Oeko Tex. It checks for environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and safe practices all along the production process.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is another certification used specifically for organic textiles. GOTS-certified sheets contain at least 95% certified organic fibers and meet environmental and social standards at every stage of processing and manufacturing.

What’s the best way to care for your sheets?

According to various bedding brands, you should wash your sheets every one to two weeks and have alternate sets to preserve their quality. We recommend following the specific care instructions that come with the sheet set you buy. Based on our experience, brands generally advise washing the sheets in a cold or warm cycle with gentle detergent, then drying in a low tumble cycle. Hot water can make colors bleed, cause shrinkage, and weaken fibers. Drying at high heat can also weaken fibers and cause pilling.

What’s the best way to prevent wrinkles?

For all its great properties, cotton naturally wrinkles, and that’s thanks to its molecular structure. Leonas explained that wrinkles happen when hydrogen bonds form as your sheets bump around in the dryer. “The only way to get rid of those bonds is to flip some water on it or apply high heat. That’s why we use a lot of steam when we press things,” she says. 

If you want to get rid of wrinkles, the best way is to iron them before fitting them onto your bed or remove them from your dryer a little before the cycle ends and fitting them onto your bed while slightly damp.

Are alternative fibers any good? 

Alternative fibers like bamboo lyocell or microfiber are appealing because they’re often very comfortable and affordable. However, in our testing experience, their durability doesn’t match up to that of cotton or linen. They’re more prone to pilling, abrasion, and shrinkage. Plus, the production and care of these alternative fibers can be murky and bad for the environment. The shedding of microfiber, for example, is polluting the ocean

What kind of duvet cover do you pair with your sheets? 

It’s best to choose a duvet cover with the same fabrication as your sheet set — if you like how your sheets feel below you, you’ll like how the same type of fabric feels on top of you. Most of the brands we recommend in our guide also sell matching duvet covers. If you want to mix and match bedding pieces, we’ll soon be overhauling our guide to the best duvet covers

Check out our other great bedding guides

best weighted blanket bearaby napper
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best weighted blanket we tested in 2021

best weighted comforter 2021 brooklinen thumb

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

If you toss and turn at night or find your mind racing when trying to fall asleep, you might benefit from adding a weighted blanket to your bedding. Usually weighing somewhere between 15 and 25 pounds, weighted blankets provide gentle, constant pressure as you sleep, and recent studies have shown promising results in their ability to ease anxiety and reduce insomnia, though research remains limited.

I spoke with Rebecca Robbins, sleep researcher, author, and instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She said the reason why weighted blankets tend to work is quite primal. “It really hearkens back to the way we entered the world,” said Robbins. “You were in a womb, compressed on all sides by water and fluid, and so there was a sense of pressure. We try to emulate that with infants by swaddling them. We might look at weighted blankets as the adult version of swaddling or emulating those circumstances where we feel at ease.”

I tested 12 of the most popular weighted blankets on the market to determine the best ones you can buy. I evaluated them for how well I slept while using them, the quality of materials and construction, how easy they were to wash and care for, and how comfy they were.

The best weighted blankets in 2021

Best weighted comforter

best weighted blanket 2021 brooklinen weighted comforter

Brooklinen’s Weighted Comforter has a premium plush design that blends seamlessly with the rest of your bedding.

Pros: Looks just like a normal comforter, lots of plush fill, made of 400-thread-count cotton sateen, has duvet cover loops, accepts returns in any condition within one year of purchase

Cons: Dry clean only, duvet cover sold separately, difficult to adjust while using it

If you don’t want to sleep under a stack of blankets or compromise your bedroom’s look, you’ll want a weighted comforter, and Brooklinen makes the best one I tried. It looks and feels like a traditional plush comforter but with an extra 20 pounds of weight integrated with small glass beads. The blanket itself is made of 400-thread-count cotton sateen, so it’s soft enough to throw on your bed without a duvet cover.

That being said, we recommend adding one — corner loops make it easy to tie on — because the blanket is dry-clean only, which could run you anywhere from $20 to $50.

I found that the 20-pound comforter I tested weighed closer to 24 pounds, but the extra weight didn’t make too much of a difference once I laid it out on the bed. Sleeping under it was pretty dreamy (excuse the pun). I felt enveloped by the cushy fill but not too overwhelmed or overheated. It was somewhat difficult to adjust while lying under it due to the weight and size, but I found this typical for just about every comforter-sized weighted blanket I tested.

Though pricey, this comfortable weighted blanket is worth the investment, especially because it will entirely replace your comforter. If you find it’s not right for you, Brooklinen has an incredibly lenient return policy, accepting returns for any reason in any condition within 365 days of your purchase.

Best extra-heavy weighted blanket

best weighted blanket 2021 gravity blanket heavy

Gravity’s 35-pound weighted blanket evenly distributes weight across your king-size bed and is perfect for those who are looking for some extra heft.

Pros: Great for those who need a heavier blanket, weight is evenly distributed, no beanbag feel, the cover is machine washable, low profile blanket

Cons: Queen/king size only comes in 35 pounds, the cover should be washed before use, too heavy to adjust in the middle of the night, the inner blanket is hand-wash only, customers are responsible for return fees

When I first received the Gravity 35-pound blanket, I thought it would feel way too heavy, but I found it pretty manageable. It did tend to slide down the bed as I was sleeping, and I’d often wake up about a foot lower than usual because I was chasing the blanket around through the night. It was simply too heavy to pull up or adjust while laying under it, though someone stronger than me will likely not have this issue.

One issue with this blanket was that the included micro-plush duvet cover felt oddly greasy out of the package. It left a film on my hands as I tried to smooth it out over the bed. But the zip-on cover is removable and washable, and a run through the wash resolved the issue. I can’t imagine hauling such a heavy blanket into and out of a washing machine, so the removable cover is a huge plus. 

The Gravity blanket is low-profile without any excess fill, so it won’t add a lot of bulk to your bed. That said, it’s not as plush or cozy as the Brooklinen comforter, which does also come in a 35-pound version, though it’s much more expensive.

The brand also makes “single” size weighted blankets that measure 48-inches by 72-inches. I tested a 15-pound one with a cooling cover and found it performed well, but nothing made it stand out from the pack.

Best cooling weighted blanket

best weighted blanket 2021 cooling blanket blanquil chill

The BlanQuil Chill‘s unique cover disperses heat and stays cool to the touch as you fall asleep, but its slick fabric can cause it to slide off the bed.

Pros: Stays cool to the touch, no beanbag feel, glass beads don’t shift, 60-night sleep trial

Cons: Slides off the bed easily; internal blanket is spot-clean only; only one size, one color, and two weights available

I sleep hot, and the BlanQuil Chill is the weighted blanket I have the longest relationship with. It’s been on my bed for about a year and a half, and I’ve had two iterations of the design.

I lined up all the cooling blankets I tested for this guide and ran my hand across each one, and the BlanQuil felt noticeably cooler than all the others. Plus, it did the best job of dissipating heat and getting back to its cool baseline.

Since it’s slightly bigger than a twin bed, it’s not a blanket that’s intended to be shared. Glass beads add weight, but there’s no beanbag feeling, and I’ve never felt them shift in a way that causes the blanket to feel lumpy or uneven.

The zipper on the removable, washable cover of the first version of the design was weak, couldn’t handle the weight of the blanket, and broke just a couple of months into its use. But BlanQuil has since reinforced the zipper, and I’ve yet to have a problem with it. I even stress tested it by holding the weight of the blanket against the zipper, and it held strong.

Though it’s one of the best I’ve used, the cooling cover’s material has a bit of a sheen to it, which makes it slick so it slides off the bed easily — especially if you toss and turn at night. As soon as it gets off-center, the blanket’s weight will cause it to slide.

Best weighted throw blanket

best weighted blanket 2021 bearaby knitted throw blanket

The cocoon-like, knit-woven Bearaby Cotton Napper keeps you cozy yet cool as you lounge on the couch, it’s entirely machine washable, and it’s one of the heftiest blankets we tested.

Pros: Aesthetic design, has significant heft, made from organic cotton, washable and dryable, 30-day return policy if blanket remains unwashed, most versatile weighted blanket I tested

Cons: Doesn’t fit in compact washing machines, takes multiple cycles to dry, open weave may catch toes and fingers, heavier than advertised (though this may be a pro, depending on your preference)

The weight of the Bearaby Napper comes entirely from the dense organic cotton strands hand-knit into one of the most aesthetically minded weighted blankets I’ve ever seen.

This is a really heavy blanket — the blanket I tested, which was advertised as the 15-pound version, actually tipped the scales at 24 pounds. I contacted the company to verify that they sent me the right item, and they assured me they did. 

It’s not necessarily bad that they’re heavier than advertised, but it’s something to keep in mind when you order.

A blanket this heavy — and bulky — can be tough to shift around, and if it’s going to live on your couch, it will take up quite a bit of space. I’ve shifted it to my bed. It drapes nicely over my partner and me, but the open weave makes it prone to stretching if you need to pull it up in the night. It hasn’t become misshapen in any significant way, thankfully.

It’s not quite a cooling blanket — Bearaby does offer one called the Tree Napper that I haven’t tested — but it doesn’t trap heat thanks to the open weave. The holes are quite large, though, so if you are bothered by some toes or fingers poking through, you might want to look elsewhere.

The Napper is fully machine washable and can go in the dryer on a delicate setting. I wanted to see how the blanket washed and dried as part of my test, but it didn’t fit in my space-saving apartment-sized washing machine.

Best budget weighted blanket

best weighted blanket 2021 luna blanket budget affordable cheap

Weighted blankets are typically expensive, but the Luna Weighted Blanket is gentle on your wallet despite being constructed from Oeko-Tex-certified cotton and filled with natural glass beads.

Pros: Excellent quality at a low price; comes in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and weights; fully machine washable; Oeko-Tex Certified construction; true to weight

Cons: Thinner blanket than some others on our list

Weighted blankets tend to be very expensive, but Luna offers an excellent weighted blanket at an affordable price.

I tested the 15-pound queen-size blanket, and the glass beads inside were barely noticeable, producing no beanbag effect. Where many other cheap weighted blankets are loaded with chemicals, the Luna Weighted Blanket is Oeko-Tex Certified, meaning it contains no harmful materials.

The blanket is much thinner than some of the others I tested, but it stayed breathable and was light enough to easily adjust in the middle of the night. It wasn’t quite as cozy as some others, but it’s a great option to layer with your usual comforter or use during the warmer months.

As I’ve continued to test these blankets, the Luna has become a bit of a travel-sized weighted blanket for me. I wouldn’t recommend taking it on an airplane — it’s a bit bulky for that — but the Luna is thin enough to fold into a car trunk-friendly size. 

The blanket was a true 15 pounds according to my scale, but that weight was dispersed over a queen-size surface area, making it feel lighter. 

It’s also one of the easiest blankets to clean that I tested. The entire thing fits into my compact washer-dryer and was fully dry within one cycle — and it got softer after just one wash.

Best king-size weighted blanket

A dog lying on a bed covered by the HomeSmart weighted blanket

The HomeSmart Products King Size Weighted Blanket is large enough for couples, breathes well to keep you from overheating, and can go in the washer and dryer.

Pros: Breathable organic cotton shell, glass beads sewn into 5-by-5-inch pockets for even weight distribution, machine washable and dryable, the king size is large enough for couples, weight options up to 50 lbs.

Cons: The blanket started to leak beads after 18 months of use, hard to track down customer support

As a big guy, one of the problems I run into with weighted blankets is that they aren’t large enough to cover my whole body. Even queen-size blankets tend to be too small to reach my giant feet. This was not a problem with the HomeSmart Products King Size Weighted Blanket.

At 88 inches by 104 inches and with weight options up to 50 pounds, it’s the ideal blanket for couples who want to enjoy the comfort of a weighted blanket without sacrificing intimacy.

The HomeSmart blanket features micro glass beads sewn into the 400-thread count organic cotton shell with 5-by-5-inch pockets to keep the weight evenly distributed. The blanket is machine washable and dryable, which is a must for me since I don’t use duvet covers. I’ve washed the blanket several times over the last two-and-a-half years and have found it’s an effortless endeavor. If you want to add a duvet cover, the blanket has 10 loops for tying one on.

I tested the 15-pound and 25-pound comforters and enjoyed both, though the 25-pounder was almost too restrictive for me. I prefer the 15-pounder, and it’s what I sleep under when I’m not testing other models. Thanks to its breathability, it’s a great year-round blanket. Even in the summer, overheating has never been an issue.

The HomeSmart Weighted Blanket isn’t without its flaws. The 25-pound blanket started to leak beads after 18 months of use. This was likely due to one of our pets working a hole into it. I tried to reach customer service but couldn’t get a hold of anyone.

-James Brains, reporter

What else we tested

best weighted blanket 2021 what else we tested gravity helix brooklyn bedding
The Gravity Cooling, Helix, and Brooklyn Bedding weighted blankets were among the others we tested.

What we recommend and why 

Baloo Cool Cotton Weighted Blanket: The Baloo weighted blanket struck a great balance between comfort and cost. Its construction and quality felt similar enough to the Luna that we’d rather recommend the one that’s even more affordable.

Gravity Cooling Blanket: The blanket itself is well-built and high-quality, but the cooling cover did little to actually cool me off as I slept. It just felt like any other weighted blanket and didn’t do much to distinguish itself from the other blankets I tried.

Brooklyn Bedding Dual Therapy Weighted Blanket: This blanket is dual-sided — with a silky cooling side and a minky textured side. The silky side stayed cool to the touch, and the bumps on the minky side provided a nice sensory option. It didn’t feel beanbaggy, and the weight was evenly distributed. But it was only available in one size, two weights, and one dark gray color that severely limited how many home decor scenarios it would work within.

What we don’t recommend and why

Yaasa Weighted Blanket: This is a knit-style blanket similar to the Bearaby Napper, but Yaasa’s weave was much tighter and allowed for less airflow. The material also felt spongier and less cozy than the Napper’s. The Yaasa blanket was also dry clean only.

Helix Weighted Blanket: This blanket is dual-sided with a white sherpa fleece side and a gray minky fleece side. I found the sherpa side especially cozy, and so did my cat. But it had one of the worst beanbag effects of any of the blankets I tried, and there is only one size and color option available, though it did come in three weights. If this blanket suits your style, it’s a decent buy for an affordable price.

YnM Weighted Blanket: This is an Amazon bestseller in weighted blankets, so we wanted to put it to the test. It’s a perfectly serviceable budget blanket, but the glass beads created a sort of beanbag effect that the Luna did not. Plus, the Luna is even cheaper and made of Oeko-Tex certified cotton, which isn’t found with the YnM.

Our testing methodology

There are several factors I took into consideration while assessing weighted blankets. Aside from the general coziness and comfort provided by each blanket, I also assessed things like quality of material, value, weight options, and aesthetics. For example, a blanket that came in more color and weight options beat out a blanket of equal quality that came in fewer options. I also considered return policies, sleep trials, and how easy these blankets were to clean.

The following are three tests I ran each blanket through to assess general user experience:

Sleep test: I slept with each weighted blanket on my bed for at least three consecutive nights. I noted how well I slept overall and how the blanket regulated my sleep temperature. I also paid attention to how well the blanket stayed in place as I slept and how easy it was to adjust while lying under it. Part of this test also included making the bed every day (hauling a weighted blanket is harder than it looks).

Wash test: I washed every weighted blanket or cover that was machine washable at least once to ensure they held up well in the wash and didn’t shrink, shed, or otherwise show signs of wear. I noted if the added weight made them more difficult to haul into and out of the washing machine. I also discovered that one of the machine-washable blankets was so bulky it didn’t fit into my washing machine. For those blankets that weren’t machine-washable, I noted the care instructions and factored that into the cons of the blanket as I assessed them.

Weight test: I wanted to ensure each blanket was actually the advertised weight. To get an accurate reading, I weighed myself and then weighed myself again while holding each blanket, noting any discrepancies in the advertised weight versus the actual weight.

What we’re testing next

Bearaby Sleeper: This is the only weighted blanket I’ve discovered designed specifically for couples. While there’s little data available to determine the best weight for a couple to share, Bearaby has eliminated some of that guesswork by weighting the two halves of the blanket differently, allowing you to choose the right weight for each person. This is especially useful if you and your partner are drastically different sizes and would benefit from different blanket weights. The two halves can unzip from each other and become two distinct blankets. Right now, they are sold out, but Bearaby has assured us that they’ll be restocking soon, and we hope to test it once they do.

Luxome Luxury Weighted Blanket: The Luxome weighted blanket comes with a reversible cover with a plush minky fabric on one side and a cooling bamboo fabric on the other. This allows you to customize your blanket with the seasons. I’m curious to see if this versatility makes a difference in how the blanket affects my body temperature. It’s also a nice mid-range option in terms of price, and I’m hoping to add more affordable options to this guide.

Slumber Cloud Weighted Blanket: In my ongoing quest to find a cooling weighted blanket that stays put throughout the night, I’m looking forward to testing the Slumber Cloud. It’s made using thermoregulation technology developed by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their spacesuits. The Outlast technology uses small beads that absorb body heat when you get too hot and release it back to you when you get too cold. I’m fascinated by this concept, and I’m excited to see if it works.

Weighted blanket FAQs

What weight should a weighted blanket be?

It’s recommended that you select a blanket that’s roughly 10% of your body weight. But Robbins adds that there are no clinically established guideposts for choosing a blanket weight. “It’s hard for the one size fits all approach because we’re all just so unique and have different physiologies,” she says.

This is especially true when blankets come in different sizes. A 15-pound throw blanket is going to feel much heavier than a 15-pound comforter since a larger blanket distributes its weight over a larger surface area. Robbins suggests trying out weighted blankets before purchasing them. If you can’t test weighted blankets in a store, look for brands that offer sleep trials or have buyer-friendly return policies like many of our top picks.

What if I’m sharing the weighted blanket with a partner?

If you’re sharing a weighted blanket with a partner, you’ll likely want something a bit heavier, mostly because larger blankets feel lighter than smaller ones. A blog from Layla Sleep advises purchasing a blanket that’s roughly 7.5% of the couple’s combined weight.

I reached out to the brand to determine how they established this number, and a representative responded, “Most suggestions in terms of weight are based on anecdotal evidence. We also factor in the customer satisfaction data that we have when making suggestions, but ultimately the weight that’s right for any one person will depend heavily on personal preference.”

It’s important to note that this parameter hasn’t been established in any clinical trial or scientific study, so take it with a grain of salt. As long as you’re comfortable and can move freely under the blanket, you should choose the weight that works best for you.

What size weighted blanket should I get?

If you’re sharing a blanket with a partner with a similar body weight, you’ll want a weighted blanket that covers your entire bed. Many brands, including almost all of our top picks, offer blankets in multiple sizes to fit standard twin, full, queen, and king beds.

Some weighted blankets in these sizes are a bit smaller than typical comforters so the weighted blanket doesn’t hang off the side of your bed too much. Excess fabric hanging off the side can pull the weighted blanket off-center as you shift around in the night.

If you and your partner are very different weights, consider opting for two smaller separate blankets in a throw or twin size. This way, you can each get the weight that’s most comfortable for you. Plus, you’ll have the added benefit of not having to worry about blanket theft in the middle of the night.

How do I choose a weighted blanket?

In addition to weight and size considerations (see above), you’ll also want to consider how easy the blanket is to clean and what type of fill it uses. A duvet cover will be easier to wash than a weighted blanket, but with a cover, you have to deal with the hassle of removing it and putting it back on. Even with ties to keep it in place, the blanket may still bunch up inside the cover.

Weighted blankets rely on glass beads, plastic pellets, or, less commonly, steel shot beads. What you prefer is a matter of personal preference. Comforters with plastic pellets tend to be cheaper, but it’s a less eco-friendly material.

How often should I wash my weighted blanket?

Brian Sansoni, Senior Vice President at The American Cleaning Institute, recommends you treat your weighted blanket like any comforter, washing it once or twice a year, provided it’s covered by a duvet cover that you’re washing monthly. If it doesn’t have a removable cover, the entire blanket should be washed roughly once a month.

Are weighted blankets good for anxiety?

In theory, the answer is yes. However, there are no randomized clinical trials that can speak to the efficacy of weighted blankets in the treatment of anxiety. This is because it would be obvious once participants curl up under one of the blankets that they’re either in the control group or the weighted blanket group. 

The theory is that weighted blankets help reduce some anxiety symptoms, like quickened breathing or heart rate, by putting your autonomic nervous system at ease. 

Anecdotally, my wife and I have both been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. We’ve found lounging with a weighted blanket helps us unwind.

The bottom line is weighted blankets may help with anxiety, but there isn’t any hard science to back it up.

 

Check out our other sleep and bedding guides

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The 5 Best Thermometers in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Every household should have an accurate digital thermometer and know how and when to use it.
  • The CDC recommends checking your temperature before heading to work, school, or other public places.
  • Our top pick, iProven’s DMT-511, reads accurately in 1 second and can be used in-ear or on forehead.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Benjamin Hoffman, MD, professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health and Science University.

Having an accurate thermometer on hand can help tell you how severely the body is in distress – whether it’s confirming that you or your baby is ill enough to need a doctor or the hospital, or if your systems are safe after being exposed to dangerous weather.

A fever also one of the key symptoms of COVID-19, and many businesses, school, gyms, and other public places as you to confirm you don’t have one before entering. (It’s worth noting that influenza usually produces higher fevers than common colds, and not everyone with COVID19 even spikes a fever.)

Luckily, getting a quick temperature reading is remarkably easy and safe these days. But the biggest variable among thermometers you can buy is really just: Is it accurate? That’s why I tested 10 leading thermometers, in addition to speaking with many experts and parents on which type of home thermometer is best and other FAQs on therometers and fevers.

Here are the best thermometers to check for a fever:

How we tested thermometers

Thermometers on table

I reached out to a number of pediatricians for their expert opinion on thermometers and read journal articles, “Consumer Reports,” customer reviews, and even spoke with 20 parents about their temperature-taking experiences.

I narrowed it down to the top 10 thermometers and tested each myself nine times over the course of three days on myself and my two kids, as well as a handful of times on my sister and two of my nieces, one of whom is an infant. I also handed off two of the infrared thermometers to Cindy Mrotek, owner of A.C.E Behavior Solutions, an essential business screening adults and children with special health care needs upon entry, for testing over the course of one week.

I looked at each product’s speed, size of display, mute options, memory recall, batteries, warranty options, and storage containers. I also looked hard look at:

  • Accuracy, precision, and readability of thermometer instructions: You have to use a thermometer correctly for an accurate reading, so I evaluated the information on each product’s box and inside its user manual from a health literacy perspective, including how helpful and easy to read the instructions were. Models varied, with some having a quick guide with pictures (great), information in Spanish (big bonus), or a QR code for video instructions, while others had print so tiny you need a magnifying glass to read it.  
  • Cost and availability: Since thermometers are an essential part of an at-home health kit, they need to be affordable. Some on our list are the price of two cups of coffee, while others are upwards of $30, but we also layout how you can save money on a thermometer by using your health savings account or flex spending account

Best thermometer overall

iProven thermo

The iProven Forehead and Ear Thermometer DMT-511 is highly impressive with an accurate instant read in just one second, versatile use, and comprehensive instructions on quality packaging. 

Pros: User friendly, easy to read, nice storage pouch, precise, can be used either contactless or in-ear

Cons: Cap to change methods difficult to snap on, no probe covers 

The iProven DMT-511 infrared therometer is two-in-one, as it allows you to switch from reading via an in-ear probe or a forehead setting, the latter of which is safer for infants under 3 months old.

It was highly accurate in my tests, reading within 0.5-1.0 degrees again and again for forehead readings and within 0.5-0.8 degrees for ear mode. It also displays the temperature within one second.

There are separate buttons for “head” and “ear,” and to change from one to the other, you need to snap on or off the top cap of the thermometer, which I found a little difficult but still doable.

To get an accurate ear temperature,  you have to insert and place the probe top correctly, so be sure to read the instructions thoroughly. It took me a couple of tries to feel confident taking my own temperature this way.

I liked that it has a fever alarm and color temperature indication to take the guesswork out of interpreting the readings. The manual also includes a very comprehensive comparison table on how to interpret measurements based on age and method. The thermometer can also store up to 20 past readings for easy comparison. 

The devices comes with two AA batteries, a soft pouch for storage (great for travel and diaper bags), and cleaning instructions. It also comes with a two-year limited warranty and the option of an extended year warranty for free.

Best budget thermometer

Vicks thermometer

The Vicks Comfort Flex Thermometer was the most affordable of the thermometers tested, easy to use, and has a large digital screen with color-coded readings to indicate fever.

Pros: Affordable, multiuse, precise, large digital display, comes with probe covers

Cons: Very loud beep, must turn off and on between readings, colored fever alerts misleading, coin cell battery is more annoying to replace 

The Vicks Comfort Flex Thermometer is easy to use right out the box: There’s only one button and you have the option to use the device orally, rectally, or under the arm. Its runs on an included coin cell button battery.

I found the large digital display to be the easiest to read of all the thermometers I tested. It also beeps the loudest of the group, which is especially helpful for seniors with visual and hearing impairments, but also could be a nuisance for some considering the beeping lasts a full eight seconds.

The LCD screen uses a color temperature indication alongside displaying the actual number, which is generally helpful but fever isn’t the same for everyone so this could be alarmist if you run hot.

The precision and repeatability of the thermometer was quite good in my tests and only varied by about 0.5 degrees. Although the box says the Vicks Comfort Flex Thermometer takes 10-12 seconds to read your temperature, I found it was actually much quicker with a response time of 5 to 6 seconds orally and 6 to 7 seconds rectally. 

It is a little annoying that you have to turn it off and back on to take a second reading, and it is  only able to recall the last reading you took. But I did like that this model comes with 100 disposable probe covers and a protective holder, along with a one-year limited warranty and instructions in English and Spanish.

Best infrared non-contact thermometer

iHealth

The iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer PT3 reads in just one second and makes it easy to accurately take anyone’s temperature while being socially distant. 

Pros: Fast reading, precise, no beeping, helpful content in user manual  

Cons: Vibration may be missed, prone to user error, doesn’t work well for kids that won’t sit still

Prior to testing the iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer PT3 myself, I’d already seen it in action for pre-screening at both my dentist’s office and my daughter’s daycare. It seemed like a good product that offered quick readings.

When I tested it myself, I found that first impression held up. Instead of a beeping alarm, the device vibrates once it has a reading, which also lights up the LED display. This is nice if you don’t want a loud noise, and upon testing, I found the precision and repeatability varied only by 0.5 degrees. 

I also had Cindy Mrotek, whose business A.C.E Behavior Solutions screens people upon entry, try it out and she said the iHealth was a faster read compared to other infrared thermometers. However, she added it was a bit difficult to use on kids that can’t sit still. I myself found the device woudn’t read if it was too far away from the skin.

The iHealth comes with a user manual in English and Spanish, a quick guide with pictures, two AAA batteries, and cleaning instructions. It also has a one-year limited warranty. 

Best thermometer for daily testing

Kinsa thermo

If you’re tech-savvy and looking for a great smart thermometer, the Kinsa Quick Care Smart Thermometer can be used three ways and even allows you to contribute to public health research. 

Pros: Diverse way to read temps, can support multiple family members and keep temperature records separate, has great app features, contributes to public health research  

Cons: Needs app to work, does not include probe covers,

Every morning, I have to self-certify that my kids are free of COVID-19 symptoms before sending them off to school. A smart thermometer like the Kinsa — which stores all the readings for each individual family member on my phone and helps me monitor their baseline temperature — makes that daily routine much easier to manage.

The Kinsa Quick Care Smart Thermometer connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth and uses an app, which I found easy to set up. I then created profiles for each member of my family, which includes inputting their birthdays to help the app’s algorithm provide appropriate care instructions person to person. You can also add notes, symptoms, and track medication doses within the app.

After each reading, the thermometer displays not only the temperature but a happy, neutral, or sad-face emoji corresponding with fever status.

You can check the temperature orally, under the armpit, or rectally (they also make a separate model specific for in-ear use). Although the box says the response time is 8 seconds, I found it to read a temperature between 2 to 3 seconds when used orally. The precision varies between 0.8 and 0.5 degrees.

Kinsa sits in a really unique space for both thermometers and smart equipment contributing to public health: As Hilary Brueck, Insider’s Senior Health and Science reporter, has laid out, the smart thermometer has helped forecast outbreaks of both the coronavirus and the flu, including detecting fever spikes weeks before hospitals and clinics start to see an influx of patients. 

It’s an added bonus that using this stellar, versatile, and accurate thermometer can help contribute to predicting COVID hotspots.

Best thermometer for kids

Exergen

The Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer with Smart Glow was the most accurate and consistent out of all the thermometers I tested and has over 80 peer-reviewed clinical studies to back up its use on children. 

Pros: Most precise tested, suitable for all ages older than three months

Cons: Unintuitive, dim display, plastic cap to protect the sensor easy to lose 

Next to rectal thermometers, temporal artery thermometers are the most reliable way to get an accurate reading on children and babies over 3 months of age. (Use a rectal thermometer on infants under 3 months.) 

With the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer, a gentle stroke across a child’s forehead captures the naturally emitted heat waves coming from the skin over the temporal artery to give a reading in 2 to 3 seconds. It can store up to eight readings. 

When tested repeatedly, the Exergen thermometer delivered the most consistent and precise results of any model tested on myself and my kids — within 0.3 degrees.

However, unlike other models with backlight displays, the Exergen has a relatively small LCD display screen with a dim readout. It may be hard to see if you are in a dark room. 

However, unlike others, this thermometer wasn’t as intuitive to use, despite having instructions printed directly on the back of the device, I wasn’t sure if I was correctly stroking the top of the unit across the forehead. But the instruction manual had a QR code which led to videos demonstrating how to use it, which was helpful. 

The model comes with a 9V battery already installed, cleaning instructions, and a five-year limited product warranty.

Read our guide to the best thermometers for babies and children for additional options.

What else we considered

What else we considered thermometer

What we recommend

Braun Thermoscan 7 Ear Thermometer ($38): This is a fantastic in-ear thermometer with much peer-reviewed research to back it up, and not only do we recommend it but many parents I spoke with already own it. The downsides are it takes 10 seconds to read a temp, and it’s the most expensive option I tested — especially when you factor in the disposable lens filters that need replacing for accuracy and hygiene.

Dr. Talbot’s Infrared Forehead Thermometer, Non-Contact ($19.89): This device has comparable precision and speed to the iHealth and is designed for contactless reading of infants over 3 months, including adults. I liked this device and it was easy to operate, but it’s more expensive than the iHealth and was difficult to change the settings using only the trigger. 

Kinsa Smart Ear Thermometer ($39.99): The Kinsa is super sleek and easy to use on yourself, which can be tricky for the ear. I also found the app to be tremendous in terms of content with very helpful instructions. Even though the readings only took a second, the precision tended to vary by 1.5 degrees.

What we don’t recommend

CVS Health Flexible Tip Digital Thermometer ($18.49): This unit was disqualified because did not function at all. 

Vicks SpeedRead Digital Thermometer with Fever InSight ($9.72): Despite being called “SpeedRead,” this device took 8 seconds to deliver a reading — slower than its cousin, the Vicks Comfort Flex, our best budget thermometer. Plus, I found the SpeedRead to have a metallic taste. 

What we’re looking forward to trying

Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer Original ($42.99): We were unable to test this due to an inventory shortage at the time we were evaluating thermometers for this guide.

Which type of at-home thermometer is best?

Your basic digital thermometer options to choose from are: 

  • Single-use stick thermometer (marketed for rectal only) 
  • Multiuse stick thermometer (rectum, mouth, or armpit)  
  • Tympanic thermometer (ear) 
  • Temporal artery thermometer (forehead)
  • Tympanic and temporal thermometer (ear and forehead) 
  • Infrared non-contact thermometer (forehead)  

Though there’s plenty of apprehension about no-contact thermometers, a column in Ask a Pediatrician by Dr. Elizabeth Murray, an official spokesperson for the AAP, addresses those concerns directly. Murray says that “the claims about their danger are false … It is the infrared energy coming from the person that is being gathered by the thermometer, not infrared light being projected to the person.”

All thermometers sold in the United States must meet federal standards and are already calibrated for home use at the time of purchase.

 

FAQs

Which type of thermometer is the most accurate?

Dr. John Vann, a pediatrician in Omaha, told Insider that only a rectal temperature offers a true outpatient reading. “Everything else is an estimate,” he said.

“Luckily, the exact number is not usually as important as how the patient looks,” he adds. Which is to say, there are other indicators of how severe someone’s illness or condition is other than an optimally-accurate temperature reading. There are also reliable methods for checking your temperature even if you don’t have access to a thermometer.

No matter if you opt for an infrared thermometer or a strictly ear-based model, it’s important to know fever isn’t the same for everyone and that it varies by age, gender, and time of day, among other variables. Using a thermometer at various times of the day when you’re feeling well gives you an idea of what’s normal for you, or your baseline temperature. 

Which is the best thermometer for home use?

Among at-home thermometers, medical research hasn’t determined an exact correlation between oral, rectal, ear, armpit, and forehead temperature measurements. But Kaiser Permanente notes that an ear (tympanic) temperature is 0.5 to 1 degree higher than an oral temperature and a forehead (temporal) scanner is usually 0.5 to 1 degree lower than an oral temperature. 

What is the best thermometer to use for COVID?

The best thermometer for COVID is really just one that is accurate and reliable. That means any of the thermometers on our list are great for checking for COVID symptoms. That being said, if you’re using the thermometer on more than one person, it’s best to use a contactless reader to not cross-contaminate. In that case, we highly recommend the iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer PT3 or the Exergen Temporal Artery Thermometer with Smart Glow, both of which proved to be accurate and reliable in my tests.

Can I use my HSA/FSA funds to buy a thermometer?

If you have an HSA or an FSA account, know that over-the-counter digital thermometers are eligible for reimbursement without a prescription. 

Here’s how it works: 

  • If you pay with cash or credit card in a store or online, you can request a reimbursement from your HSA/FSA account. Different plans have different requirements on what’s needed for reimbursement but usually, a copy of your thermometer receipt will be enough.
  • There are HSA and FSA-specific retailers, like the HSA Store and the FSA Store that make shopping for items that qualify for reimbursement really simple. According to both websites, when shoppers use an HSA or FSA card to pay, they typically don’t have to submit receipts; purchases on these websites automatically substantiate. It is worth noting, however, that the thermometer options available on these websites are limited and cost more than other retailers. 

What counts as a fever?

Many Americans think anything over 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is a problem, but what constitutes a fever is actually different person to person.

Rik Heller, a biomedical engineer and thermographic expert, tells Insider, “Age, gender, and even time of day impact normal body temperatures.” 

Some children’s temperatures especially run higher than others, points out Dr. Jesse Hackell, a practicing pediatrician with New York-based Pomona Pediatrics. Any reading of 100.4 F or higher in a baby younger than 3 months is reason to call the pediatrician. “Another reason to call is if the fever persists for more than 24 hours in children younger than two and more than three days in a child 2 years of age or older,” he said.

Meanwhile, older adults tend to have lower baseline temperatures than younger adults; sometimes fevers in the elderly are completely absent.

To figure out what’s a fever for you, you want to find your baseline temperature (i.e., what’s normal for you) by checking your temperature at various times of the day when you are feeling well. 

At the end of the day, how you or your child is acting and feeling is the best indicator of a fever over the number on a thermometer, multiple of our doctors say.

Our expert sources

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best winter boots for men in 2021

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Feet wearing Timberland Premium 6-inch Waterproof Boots on wet pavement
  • When winter hits, be prepared with the best boots for inclement weather.
  • Whether you’re interested in stylish or utilitarian boots, here are 15 great choices.
  • All these boots are insulated and waterproof or water-resistant.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Winter is on the way and when the temperature drops, you better have something on your feet that will keep your toes from freezing. Whether you’re looking for a boot that’s super stylish or a utilitarian boot for shoveling snow, we’ve put together a guide to 15 of the best choices available.

At the very least, a winter boot should be waterproof and have insulation, whether from materials like PrimaLoft or Thinsulate, which are both lightweight and made of synthetic fibers, or wool, which some people prefer since it isn’t man-made.

Besides waterproofing and insulation, a third major consideration is how a boot will handle icy conditions. Look for a boot with good traction. Many of the selections below use outsoles from Vibram, a storied Italian company famed for its rubber lug soles.

The last consideration is use. We’ve included winter boots that work for the office or social events but can still handle foul weather, all the way to boots built for winter hiking through snow and across ice. And many that fall in between these two extremes. You’re probably not going to want to wear a handmade pair of Italian boots to shovel snow or sport high rubber boots at the office, but we’re sure you’ll find exactly what you need in this roundup.

Here are the best winter boots for men in 2021:

L.L.Bean 10-inch Shearling-Lined Bean Boots

L.L.Bean 10-inch Shearling-Lined Bean Boots

L.L.Bean’s 10-inch Shearling-Lined Bean Boots feature waterproof leather on the outside to handle snow and sleet while soft shearling lining and PrimaLoft insulation keep your feet warm. 

L.L.Bean has been crafting winter boots for more than 100 years — it was the first product when the brand launched in 1912 — and today it still makes the Bean Boot in Maine. This 10-inch shearling-lined duck-style boot incorporates waterproof leather uppers that are triple-stitched, with a steel shank and a rubber chain-tread bottom to keep you stable. Inside, a natural shearling lining and PrimaLoft insulation keep your feet warm down to 25°F for light outdoor activity and -20°F for moderate activity.

10-inch Shearling-Lined Bean Boots (button)
Merrell Men’s Thermo Glacier Mid Waterproof Boot

Men's Thermo Glacier Mid Waterproof Boot

Merrell’s Thermo Glacier Mid Waterproof Boots are the perfect winter hikers, especially if your toes tend towards being cold. These boots are also lightweight, waterproof, and great in icy conditions. 

If you’re looking for some winter hikers, Merrell has been making exceptional hiking boots for 40 years, and the Thermo Glacier Mid Waterproof Boot is one of its bestsellers. According to shoppers, these boots are light, extra warm, comfortable, durable, completely waterproof, and have great traction in icy conditions. They feature Vibram outsoles, a bellows tongue to prevent moisture and debris from getting in, are lined in fleece, have PrimaLoft Aerogel insulation over the toes, and a heat-reflecting insole that traps body heat around the foot.

Men’s Thermo Snowdrift Zip Mid Shell (button)
Sorel 1964 Pac T Boot

Sorel 1964 Pat T Boot

Sorel’s 1964 Pac T boots have everything you’d want in a winter boot, plus eco-friendly materials like leather from a sustainable tannery and recycled felt. 

Sorel’s 1964 Pac T Boot has everything you want in a winter boot, plus it’s made using eco-friendly materials. The Pac T features waterproof leather from a sustainable tannery and vulcanized rubber upper that’s seam-sealed to keep moisture out. It’s insulated with a removable washable recycled felt inner boot, is lined in micro-fleece, and has a Sherpa pile snow cuff for extra warmth. Finally, it has a molded EVA footbed and a thick rubber outsole to keep your feet happy and steady when you’re tromping around in the snow. 

1964 Pac T boots (button)
Nisolo All-Weather Andres Boot

Nisolo All-Weather Andres Boot

Beauty and brawn meet in the Nisolo All-Weather Andres Boot that works as well in the office as it does outdoors.

Nisolo’s All-Weather Andres Boot combines elegance and toughness for a boot that works as well in the office as it does on a winter hike through the woods. These beauties are Nisolo’s version of a traditional trench boot and are handcrafted in Peru using sustainably produced water-resistant leather for the uppers in a factory that pays its workers a living wage. The gusseted tongue keeps out moisture and the shock-absorbing studded rubber outsoles will keep you surefooted when it’s slippery out. 

All-Weather Andres Boot (button)
Timberland Premium 6-inch Waterproof Boots

timberland men's boot

The Timberland Waterproof Boots are iconic for a reason: They have unmistakable style and what it takes to keep you comfortable when the temperature drops. 

The Timberland Waterproof Boots are iconic not just for their unmistakable style but because they can actually stand up to the elements. They have sustainably produced waterproof leather uppers that are seam-sealed to prevent moisture from seeping in, 400 grams of PrimaLoft ECO insulation inside to keep out the chill, and thick rubber lugged outsoles to keep you from slipping on the icy pavement. There’s a good amount of padding on the collar around the ankle and a leather-lined footbed for comfort. Then there are the unique colorways available, but the basic black is also a real standout. 

Men’s Premium 6-inch Waterproof Boots (button)
Danner Hood Winter Light Boot

Danner Hood WInter Light Boot

Danner’s Hood Winter Light Boot has a full-grain leather upper, a waterproof Gore-Tex liner, Thinsulate insulation, and Vibram outsole, all in one stunning package. 

The American heritage brand Danner began making boots for Oregon loggers back in 1932 and, as you’d expect, its footwear is built for the outdoors and harsh weather. It is also stunningly handsome. The Hood Winter Light Boot is a style Danner recently brought back just in time for colder weather. It’s got a full-grain leather upper, a breathable waterproof Gore-Tex liner to keep out the rain and snow, 200 grams of Thinsulate to keep out the cold, and a Vibram Kletterlift outsole with tons of traction. And, it’s made in the U.S. 

Hood Winter Light Boot (button)
Muck Boots Men’s Arctic Outpost Pull-On

Muck Boots Men's Arctic Outpost Pull-On

The Original Muck Boot Company is famous for its rain boots but its winter boots are also superb. The Arctic Outpost Pull-On has a full-grain leather and thick neoprene upper and is lined in fleece for those cold winter days. 

You may know the Original Muck Boot Company for its rain boots, but the brand also makes wonderful winter boots. The Arctic Outpost Pull-on has a full-grain leather and thick waterproof neoprene upper that protects you from the snow, a soft fleece lining to protect you from the cold, and a Vibram Arctic Grip Outsole to protect you from falling down. And the pull-on style means they’re easy to get in and out of. 

Men’s Arctic Outpost Pull-On (button)
Kamik Men’s Hunter Cold-Weather Boot

Kamik Men’s Hunter Cold-Weather Boot

The Kamik Hunter Cold-Weather Boot is made in Canada, rated for -40°F, and is a great value at under $60. 

Kamik is a family-owned Canadian company with a history going back to the turn of the 20th century. The Hunter Cold-Weather Boot is made of waterproof synthetic rubber and includes a removable thermal liner. It hits about mid-calf so it’s high enough to keep deep snow out, and has a nylon collar to further prevent snow from getting in. It’s rated to -40°F, manufactured in Canada, and will cost you less than $60. 

Men’s Hunter Cold-Weather Boot (button)
Irish Setter Canyons Pull-On Boot

Irish Setter Canyons Pull-On Boot

Irish Setter Canyons Pull-On Boots are your cold-weather friends that are insulated, waterproof, sturdy, and easy to get on and off. 

The Irish Setter Canyons Pull-On Boot is a Chelsea-style boot made for winter weather. It features full-grain waterproof leather uppers, 200 grams of PrimaLoft insulation, and even has an exclusive ScentBan process that kills odor-causing bacteria to keep your boots smelling fresh. The Vibram outsole will keep you surefooted no matter the terrain.

Canyons Pull-On Boot (button)
The North Face Chilkat IV

The North Face Chilkat IV

The North Face Chilkat IV boots are attractive enough for city wear but serious enough for a winter trek in the woods.

The North Face Chilkat IV is a serious winter boot that features waterproof leather and molded rubber uppers, ample insulation that’s also eco-friendly, and temperature-sensitive rubber lugs for increased traction in icy conditions. Then there’s the EVA midsole and molded footbed for a comfortable ride. And above and beyond all that, they’re attractive enough for tromping through city streets and are also snowshoe compatible for weekends in the country. 

Men’s Chilkat IV Boots (button)
Keen Slater II Waterproof Boots

Keen Slater II Waterproof Boots

The Keen Slater II Waterproof Boots are stylish, yes, but more than that. They’re also waterproof, insulated, have a wool collar, and use environmentally friendly leather. 

Keen is better known for shoes you wear in the summer, but its winter boots are also impressive. The Slater II Waterproof Boots are, as their name indicates, waterproof. They’re also insulated, supportive, use environmentally friendly leather for the uppers, have warm wool at the ankle, and look quite stylish when paired with your favorite jeans and a thick winter sweater. 

KEEN Slater II Waterproof Boot – Men’s (button)
Wolverine Yak Insulated Boot

Wolverine Yak Insulated boot

The Wolverine Yak Insulated Boot is like a duck boot on steroids.

Wolverine is known for its hard wearing work boots and its winter boots are no exception. The Yak Insulated Boot is like a duck boot on steroids — waterproof, breathable, nicely insulated and cushioned in all the right places. The uppers have full-grain waterproof leather, there are 200 grams of Thinsulate Ultra insulation on the inside, and they have thick rubber outsoles for gripping the winter ground. 

Men’s Yak Insulated Boot (button)
Fracap M120 Alto Brill Boots

Fracap M120 Alto Brill Boots

The Fracap M120 Alto Brill Boots are works of art you can wear on your feet in the winter. 

If you’re looking to splurge on winter boots, you couldn’t do any better than the Fracap M120 Alto Brill Boots. Sure, they’re alluring because of their full-grain Italian calf leather uppers, fur collars, and hand-milled outsoles. But they’re also handmade in Italy by a small family-run business that’s been around since 1908 and will ship your boots internationally for free. These are works of art that double as winter boots. 

M120 Alto Brill Boots (button)
Blundstone Thermal Boot

Irish Setter Canyons Pull-On Boot

The Blundstone Thermal Boots are just like your favorite Blunnies, except that they’re built for winter with added insulation and shearling footbeds. 

The Blundstone Thermal Boot is just like your favorite Blundstone Chelsea — premium waterproof leather uppers, patented comfort system for all-day wear, and durable TPU outsoles to keep you surefooted — plus these Blunnies are winterized. They have plush, removable shearling footbeds and Thinsulate insulation to keep your feet warm when the temperature drops. 

Blundstone Thermal Boot – Men’s (button)
Columbia Hyper-Boreal Omni-Heat Tall Boot

Columbia Hyper-Boreal Omni-Heat Tall Boot

The sleek design of the Columbia Hyper-Boreal Omni-Heat Tall Boot hides a ton of functional elements to keep your feet warm and comfortable. 

Street style meets winter functionality in the Columbia Hyper-Boreal Omni-Heat Tall Boot. The boot holds a surprising amount of functional elements in its sleek design that are all there to help keep your feet warm and comfortable. The Hyper-Boreal Omni-Heat Tall Boot includes 200 grams of insulation plus the company’s patented heat reflection system that helps retain heat while allowing moisture to dissipate. Then there’s the lightweight midsole with plenty of cushioning for all-day comfort. 

Hyper-Boreal Omni-Heat Tall (button)

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The 3 best food processors we tested in 2021

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Group photo of all of the food processor models we tested on a table
  • A good food processor can slice, shred, ground, chop, emulsify, knead, and mix food effortlessly.
  • We put seven food processors through seven distinct prep tasks to find the best ones on the market.
  • The Breville Sous Chef 16 Pro is our top pick with its powerful motor and useful accessories.
  • Find out more about how Insider Reviews tests and reviews kitchen products.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Are you working on a soup that requires loads of chopped vegetables? Want to turn steak into ground beef but don’t have a meat grinder? Are you tired of shredding cheese by hand?

Home cooks can perform these tasks in a matter of seconds with a food processor. When you have one of these marvelous appliances, you can easily make mayonnaise and pesto that far surpasses what you’d get at the store, and it costs less too.

A food processor consists of a base housing the motor and controls, a bowl for ingredients, a spinning blade, and a lid with a feed tube for adding ingredients. These appliances come with accessories, usually at least a shredding and slicing disc. And, they have safety measures that keep your hand away from the spinning blade.

To test food processors, I sliced 7 pounds of potatoes, grated a pound of parmesan, made seven batches of basil pesto, ground 10 pounds of beef, shredded 4 pounds of mozzarella cheese, emulsified eight batches of mayonnaise, mixed and kneaded seven batches of pizza dough, and chopped 7 pounds of onion, a pound of celery, and 2 pounds of carrots in seven food processors.

I also consulted with Nicki Sizemore, author of The Food Processor Family Cookbook.

I have tested kitchen appliances for four years and have developed several objective tests to determine which models are best for specific needs.

In addition to our top picks, we list other models we recommend, what we look forward to testing, and common FAQs at the end of the guide.

Here are the best food processors:

The best food processor overall

The Breville Sous Chef 16 Pro Food Processor with accessories

In addition to coming with lots of useful extras, the Breville Sous Chef 16 Pro Food Processor has a powerful motor that makes quick work of most tasks and a large feed tube, so you don’t always have to precut ingredients.

Pros: Easy to use, quiet operation, dishwasher-safe, long warranty, great blade placement, quick-start pulse, large feed tube, many useful accessories that fit in storage case, outstanding job of emulsifying mayo and grinding beef, powerful motor

Cons: Didn’t do well mixing dough, pulse comes to a slow stop, shredding discs are hard to clean

The large-capacity Breville Sous Chef 16 Pro Food Processor (model BFP800XL) was the most expensive unit we tested, and it was clearly the best. What strikes you first is its size. It’s big, yet it’s short enough to fit on a counter under standard cabinets. The heavy base stays put while in use. 

The Breville Sous Chef comes with a separate storage case to organize the many attachments. My favorite attachment is the variable slicing disc that has 24 width settings. I also like the 2.5-cup mini bowl and blade that is perfect for smaller jobs.

The Breville BFP800XL is simple to use since there are just five buttons: power, start, pulse, and up and down time adjustments. The easy-to-read LCD screen counts the time up or down. There’s only one processing speed that starts immediately when you press the pulse button. 

The only food test the Breville Sous Chef didn’t do well in was mixing and kneading dough. Using the dough attachment, I kneaded pizza dough for a minute, scraping down the sides halfway through. After that time, there was still unmixed flour along the sides. Though, the dough was still usable.

The processor’s emulsifying attachment made the best mayonnaise. It was also one of the best at grinding beef. The Sous Chef did a good job of chopping mirepoix, but it left a few large chunks of carrot and celery. Though it worked quickly, uniformity was an issue when shredding mozzarella. 

Only the Cuisinart did a better job with pesto. And, thanks to the large feed tube, slicing potatoes was fast and easy. The only confusing part was that the large pusher needed to be inserted into the tube for the processor to run. Once I figured that out, it was effortless.

The Breville was one of the quietest processors at about 67 decibels, which is quieter than a shower. Its S-blade came the closest to the sides and bottom of the bowl, allowing it to reach contents easily

All of the elements of the Sous Chef aside from the base are top-rack dishwasher-safe. However, Breville recommends washing the components by hand to extend their life. For the most part, handwashing was easy. The only problem was cheese tended to wedge into crevices on the shredding discs.

Best budget food processor

Hamilton Beach food processor on a white background

For under $60, the Hamilton Beach Food Processor is simple to use and clean and features a helpful tool for scraping the sides of the bowl without stopping.

Pros: Easy to clean and use, grinds beef well, comes with a useful bowl scraper, easy to store, quick-starting pulse

Cons: Loud operation, failed at making mayonnaise, poor job of shredding cheese

The Hamilton Beach Food Processor (model 70730) was the cheapest model we tested, and while its performance was noticeably inferior to our other picks, it performed admirably for a sub-$60 processor. 

One feature that stuck out was a scraper that sits in the bowl and operates using a lever on the lid. It lets you scrape down the sides without stopping the unit. None of the other models we tested had this.

Operating the Hamilton Beach processor is simple. There’s a dial on the base with four settings: off, pulse, speed one, and speed two. The base has suction cups on its feet, but they weren’t enough to keep the lightweight unit in place during operation. 

The Hamilton Beach 70730 did a great job grinding beef, but it struggled shredding mozzarella, producing a mix of shreds and chunks. It also failed to emulsify the mayonnaise. The appliance did an okay job of processing pesto, potatoes, dough, and the carrot, onion, and celery mix. 

This processor was the loudest we tested at 98.5 decibels. That’s almost as loud as a chainsaw. On the plus side, the pulse starts at high speed the moment you turn the knob, though it comes to a slow stop. And, the chopping blade comes close to the sides of the bowl, though there’s a wide gap between the blade and the bottom of the bowl.

All of the components except for the base are dishwasher-safe. I found cleaning the unit was effortless whether I tossed it in the dishwasher or tackled the job by hand. And, all of the components can be stored in the bowl.

Best blender food processor combo

Vitamix food processor attachment installed and ready to run on an Ascent series base

If you own an Ascent or Venturist series Vitamix blender or are thinking of buying one, the Vitamix 12-Cup Food Processor Attachment is your best bet with its exceptional performance and ease of use.

Pros: Easy to clean and use, large feed tube, comes with disc storage case, 3-year warranty, outstanding job slicing potatoes, passed other food processing tests, great blade placement

Cons: Loud operation, pulse starts and stops slowly, may not fit under above-counter cabinets, only compatible with five Vitamix blender bases

Okay, so the Vitamix 12-Cup Food Processor Attachment isn’t technically a “blender food processor combo.” However, it works with Ascent and Venturist motor bases (sold separately) so you can upgrade an already-great Vitamix blender to be an outstanding food processor. I tested the attachment with the base for the A3500

Setting up the attachment was effortless. You just set the bowl on the base and use the controls like you would for blending. For safety, the base detects if the lid and large feed tube are in place before it will run. 

The two reversible shredding/slicing discs store easily in the included storage case. However, storage isn’t completely effortless. With the base I used, the attachment has a height of 20 inches, which is higher than the standard under-cabinet space of 18 inches. 

The Vitamix attachment was the only processor that didn’t do poorly in any of the processing tests. It was the best at slicing potatoes producing consistent slices in a split second. And, thanks to its large feed tube, the potatoes required minimal pre-cutting. 

The attachment’s weakest performance was shredding cheese. The results were not very uniform, and I had to stop and free up chunks that jammed the disc. Yet, with the pesto, ground beef, mirepoix, dough, and mayo, it produced consistent, quality results.

One factor that likely helped with performance was the excellent placement of the S-blade. The blades come within 1.5 millimeters of the sides and 3 millimeters of the bottom of the bowl. And, I didn’t find any unprocessed food debris in the bowl during the testing period.  

The Vitamix 12-Cup Food Processor Attachment was loud at 86.9 decibels, which is similar to a noisy restaurant. Also, when pressing the pulse button, the processor took a beat to ramp up to high speed and slowly twirled to a stop when the button was released.

Clean-up was a snap since all of the components are dishwasher-safe. Even when I washed them by hand, the debris came off easily.

What else we tested

Group photo of all of the food processor models we tested against a white background

We tested seven food processors for this guide. These are the ones that missed the cut.

What else we recommend and why:

Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor, Model DFP-14BCNY ($249.95): If we had a category for the second-best overall food processor, the Cuisinart would be the easy pick. The Breville is the only unit that performed better. The Cuisinart was the best with dough and shredding mozzarella. It was quieter than a normal conversation at 58.8 decibels, and the pulse started and stopped faster than the other units. The Cuisinart just wasn’t as easy to use or as clean as the Breville. The lid has a counterintuitive fit with the feed tube at the back of the machine, the shredding discs trapped debris, and the accessories don’t store easily with the unit. If these negatives don’t bother you, consider saving $150 and going with the Cuisinart over the Breville.

What we don’t recommend and why:

Magiccos 7 in 1 Food Processor ($99.99): The Magiccos food processor was easy to clean by hand and in the dishwasher, and it was one of the best at shredding mozzarella. But, those are the only two positives. It comes with a bunch of attachments, including a juicer, but no way to store them easily. It was one of the worst at making dough, chopping mirepoix, and slicing potatoes. The pulse wasn’t responsive, and the blades didn’t come very close to the sides or bottom of the bowl.

Ninja Professional Plus Food Processor, Model BN601 ($89.99): Ninja blenders and processors have a unique four-blade system that’s supposed to make quick work of ingredients. It did a good job of grinding beef and chopping mirepoix vegetables. However, it’s hard to clean the sharp blades by hand without coming into contact with them. They’re dishwasher safe, but machine washing will dull the blades faster. The unit also had a tiny feed tube, poor blade reach, and didn’t do well pureeing pesto, shredding cheese, or slicing potatoes.

Ninja Foodi Power Blender & Processor System, Model SS351 ($179.99): This is just a blender masquerading as a food processor. There’s no slicing blade or shredding disc. It wasn’t good at chopping, leaving lots of large chunks untouched. And, as with other Ninjas, you’re going to have a hard time cleaning the blades by hand without cutting yourself. 

Our testing methodology

Two food processors being tested by chopping the same vegetables

Here are the main attributes we look for and how we test them:

Ease of use: When testing the food processors, I focused on what made setting up and using each unit complicated or straightforward. I looked for specific characteristics: a heavy base, whether the base stayed put or slid around, if it was easy to see the contents, and if the base, bowl, and attachments could be stored together effortlessly.

Food processing: I processed the following foods and noted how uniform the results were on a scale of 1 (virtually no uniformity) to 5 (perfectly uniform):

  • Pesto (including grating parmesan)
  • Ground beef from chuck steak
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese (using the shredding disc)
  • Onions, carrots, and celery chopped together (as for a mirepoix)
  • Yukon gold potatoes (using a slicing disc)
  • Pizza dough (using a dough blade when supplied)
  • Mayonnaise (using an emulsifying disc when included)

Here are the test results for our top picks:

Food Item

Breville Sous Chef

Hamilton Beach

Vitamix Attachment

Pesto

4

3.5

4

Ground beef

5

5

4.5

Shredded cheese

3.5

2.5

3.5

Chopped vegetables

4

3.5

4

Sliced potatoes

4.5

4.5

5

Pizza dough

3.5

4.5

4.5

Mayonnaise

5

1

4.5

Noise: I held a sound meter 2 feet from the food processor as it ran at high speed. All but two of the units registered over 85 decibels. The Cuisinart and Breville units were the only two that didn’t drown out my speakers as I listened to an audiobook.

Pulse speed: Some tasks require a pulse function that starts and stops quickly to achieve uniform results. I pressed the pulse and observed whether the blade immediately hit top speeds or if it ramped up. I also looked at how quickly it slowed down. The Cuisinart did the best at starting and stopping, while the Vitamix attachment was the worst.

Blade position: The blades need to be able to reach as much of the bowl’s interior as possible, so you don’t end up with big, unprocessed pieces. Using pennies, I measured how close the blades got to the sides and bottom of the bowl. A penny is approximately 1.5 millimeters thick. Armed with this information and five cents, I measured the positioning of the blades.

Cleaning: One of the main reasons people shy away from food processors is that they don’t want to clean them afterward. I washed all of the food processors in the dishwasher (top rack only) and by hand and assessed how easy the process was. 

What we look forward to testing

Product image of the Magimix by Robot-Coupe 14-Cup Food Processor with accessories

We’re always testing new food processors and retesting our top picks to determine the best ones. Here’s what we’re looking forward to testing for potential inclusion in this guide:

KitchenAid 3.5 Cup Food Chopper ($54.99): We didn’t test any mini food processors for this guide. This small, affordable unit would be a good candidate for a “best small food processor” category, especially since KitchenAid makes a few of our favorite kitchen appliances in other categories, including its stand mixer

Magimix by Robot-Coupe 14-Cup Food Processor ($399.95): Magimix was one of the first food processors. It comes with several attractive features, including medium and small bowls for smaller tasks, two grating discs, two slicing discs, and a 950W motor. We’re curious to see if this unit’s performance lives up to its hefty price.

Breville 12-Cup Sous Chef Plus Food Processor ($329.95): This is a smaller, more affordable version of our top pick. It’s missing the emulsifying disc, but it has the 2.5-cup mini bowl and variable slice disc that we like. Since a 16-cup bowl is more than most home chefs need, we want to see if this is a good alternative to our top pick.

FAQs

An ice cube tray filled with pesto

What’s the difference between a food processor and a blender?

Nicki Sizemore, the author of The Food Processor Family Cookbook, said the main difference between blenders and food processors is the circulation of the blade. “The nice thing about food processors is you’ve got a wider workspace, and things circulate around the blade easier,” she said. With a blender, you need to add liquid to get the food to circulate around the blade. When you don’t need liquid, you’re free to chop, dice, and otherwise pulverize solid ingredients.

Sizemore also noted that it’s easier to scrape out all of the food in a food processor’s bowl. “When you make something like hummus in a blender, the food gets stuck under the blade,” she said. “Whereas you can pull out the food processor blade and scrape it off and get into the corners of the bowl.”


 What should you look for when shopping for a food processor?

Sizemore recommends simpler food processors. Look for a sturdy work bowl and a nice large sharp blade. “The S-blade is really the only blade you need to be concerned with as well as the slicing disc and shredding disc attachments,” she said. She warns against being wooed by extra attachments since they’re unlikely to work better than the basic components, you’re unlikely to use them, and they can add to kitchen clutter.

Sizemore suggested choosing a unit with a heavy base so it stays put while it operates. But, since it’s so heavy, you’ll want to devote counter space to it. So, measure the cabinet and shelf clearance where you’re likely to keep your appliance and make sure the dimensions of the model you’re interested in will fit. You’ll also want to choose a finish that matches your decor. 

You might also consider a mini food processor. Sizemore has one for small tasks, such as making salad dressings and chopping nuts. Our top pick, the Breville Sous Chef, features a mini bowl that fits into the full-size bowl so you can do tiny jobs.

Check out our other small appliance guides

Several blenders prepared to make smoothies with leafy greens
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The 5 best bed-in-a-box mattresses for every type of sleeper

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A great bed-in-a-box offers comfort and support based on your body type and sleeping preferences.
  • The DreamCloud Premier Hybrid is our top pick, with a 365-day risk-free trial and lifetime warranty.
  • It performed well in all of our tests, offering great edge support, motion isolation, and cooling.
Image of a couple sleeping on a DreamCloud Hybrid Mattress, our pick for best bed-in-a-box in 2021

As of 2019, bed-in-a-box companies accounted for 12% of all mattress sales. That share likely increased during the pandemic as most brick-and-mortar stores were closed to in-person shopping.

Buying a bed online continues to be an attractive option. You can skip the high-pressure sales of the mattress showroom, and virtually all of the online retailers offer long risk-free trial periods so you can try your bed-in-a-box in your home with no commitment. Since the only way to tell if a mattress is right for you is to sleep on it, a long trial period is the most important factor to consider when shopping for a bed-in-a-box.

I tested dozens of mattresses to help you pick the best bed in a box for your needs. While a bed’s suitability is based on individual preferences, I developed many objective tests to determine which models are best for an array of sleeping styles and body types. Each bed I tested in this guide was queen size, the most popular size. The price listed for each mattress is for the queen.

I’d also like to note that I mainly sleep on my back but will occasionally sleep on my back and stomach as well. My wife is mainly a back sleeper. We cover all of the major sleeping styles between us. In addition to our top picks, we list other models we recommend, our testing methodology, what we look forward to testing, and common FAQs at the end of the guide.

Here are the best beds-in-a-box of 2021

Best bed-in-a-box overall

the DreamCloud Premier mattress on a wood bed frame in a decorated room as part of testing for the best mattress in 2021

The DreamCloud Premier Hybrid Mattress performed well in all the tests we put it through, which makes it ideal for most sleeping types, couples, and people who tend to overheat at night.

Pros: Side handles help you move it, great motion isolation, made with CertiPUR-US certified foams, 365-night trial period, excellent edge support, good heat dissipation, lifetime warranty

Cons: Stomach sleepers may find this doesn’t offer the support they need

The DreamCloud Premier Hybrid Mattress is the top pick in our main guide to the best mattresses. Since it comes in a box, it’s only natural that it’s our top bed in a box, too. We also consider it to be the best hybrid/innerspring and mid-priced bed. 

As a bed-in-a-box, it has several benefits. Setup took about five minutes, and though it had an initial odor, it dissipated by bedtime. It’s heavy, but you can move it around easily thanks to the sewn-in handles. If you decide the Dreamcloud Premier Hybrid isn’t right for you during the first year of ownership, you can return it for a full refund. If you keep it, it’s backed by a lifetime warranty.

The Premier Hybrid is made of high-quality materials, including foams certified by CertiPUR-US to be free of common harmful chemicals. It sports an average firmness that will appeal to most sleeping styles and body types. Plus, it was one of two mattresses to perform well in all of our tests. 

It passed our bowling ball test, and when my dog or son jumped on the bed, I barely felt it. This means the bed has outstanding motion isolation. I had the same positive experience with the edge support. I felt supported while lying close to the edge, suggesting the bed is ideal for couples who share a bed.

Lastly, in our heat-dissipation tests, the DreamCloud Premier Hybrid Mattress did an impressive job of cooling down. It showed the biggest temperature drop, falling 14 degrees within two minutes of me getting up from it.

Maria Del Russo, a senior editor for Insider Reviews, has slept on the DreamCloud Premier for two months. After the break-in period, she found the mattress incredibly comfortable. She usually sleeps sweaty, but this mattress “keeps me cool as a cucumber,” she said.

Best budget bed-in-a-box

Image of best bed in a box from zinus

Back and stomach sleepers looking for a budget-friendly bed should strongly consider the Zinus Cooling Gel Memory Foam Mattress.

Pros: Ideal for back and stomach sleepers, excellent motion isolation, 10-year warranty, affordable, four thickness options, made of cooling gel memory foam, 100-night trial

Cons: Poor edge support, took a week to fully expand

Zinus is one of the top names in affordable boxed beds. The Cooling Gel Memory Foam Mattress is our budget pick because the gel-infused memory foam did a great job of keeping my hot-sleeping body cool. 

The Zinus mattress comes in four thicknesses: 8, 10, 12, and 14 inches. I tested the 14-inch-thick option and strongly recommend picking one of the thicker models since I’ve found in my testing that mattresses less than 10 inches thick generally aren’t supportive enough.

Unboxing the Zinus Cooling Gel Memory Foam Mattress was a fast, simple process, especially since it’s on the lighter side at 70 pounds. However, out of the packaging, the bed was only about half the thickness it was supposed to be. The instructions said it should expand within 72 hours, but it was closer to a week. On the plus side, the initial odor dissipated quickly.

The bed is firmer than average, and it slowly cradled the contours of my body as I lay down. I was most comfortable on my stomach, but I think the firmness will also appeal to back sleepers.

In our objective tests, the Zinus mattress shined in the motion isolation test, and I remained undisturbed when my wife or dog moved around on it in the night. Yet, the edge support left a lot to be desired. When I lay on the edge of the bed, I felt like falling off. For its price, though, the many positives outweigh the few negatives.

Best foam bed-in-a-box

image of best bed in a box from Tempur-Pedic

The Tempur-Pedic Cloud Mattress features contouring foam that cradles sleepers of all body types and sleeping styles while offering outstanding pressure relief and heat dissipation.

Pros: Caters to all sleep styles, features 10 inches and three layers of comfortable and supportive Tempur foam, great motion isolation, 90-night trial, outstanding heat dissipation

Cons: No white-glove delivery, there’s a charge for shipping deducted from your refund if you return your mattress, poor edge support

Tempur-Pedic is best known for its traditional mattresses that you pick out in a brick-and-mortar showroom and have delivered fully expanded to your home. The Cloud Mattress represents the brand’s entrance into the bed-in-a-box space, and we think it did a terrific job.

What sets Tempur-Pedic apart is the proprietary CertiPUR-US certified memory foam featured in all of its mattresses. The Tempur material contours to your body to offer an impressive balance of support, pressure relief, and comfort. The Cloud has three foam layers: a durable and supportive base, a firm middle support layer, and a top layer of responsive and soft foam. The cover is made of a polyester blend for breathability and moisture wicking.

The Cloud arrives at your door in a reusable, 15-inch-diameter-by-43-inch-long canvas bag. The handles on the bag, along with the weight of the mattress — it only weighs 58 pounds — made it easy to carry up to my third-floor testing room and to unpackage it. By bedtime, the mattress had expanded to full size, and the initial odor had dissipated.

This was one of the most comfortable mattresses I’ve ever tested, whether I slept on my side or stomach. I fell asleep within a few minutes of lying down each night. My back-sleeping wife also enjoyed the feel. Plus, the excellent heat dissipation kept me cool. 

In addition to passing my bowling ball motion-transfer tests, the Tempur-Cloud dampened the motion so much that I didn’t notice when my rambunctious rat terrier jumped on board. Yet, the bed has poor edge support. When I lay or sat on the edge of the bed, there was significant sinkage. 

Read our full Tempur-Pedic Cloud Mattress review.

Best ultra-firm bed-in-a-box

Image of best bed in a box from airweave

The Airweave Mattress has a breathable and non-toxic polyethylene core that offers ultra-firm support to all parts of the bed, even the very edges.

Pros: Machine-washable cover, decent motion isolation, great heat dissipation, 100-night sleep trial, excellent edge support, comes with soft insert that transforms mattress from ultra-firm to just firm

Cons: Not recommended for side sleepers, hard to move around, some assembly required

Most beds in a box come vacuum-sealed, and the setup process involves nothing more than removing the packaging. However, the Airweave Mattress bucks that trend. It comes fully expanded in two boxes.

The bed consists of three polyethylene blocks that you zip up in a machine-washable cover. You can choose to add the included soft polyester insert to give the mattress a firm  — rather than ultra-firm — feel.

The setup process took about 20 minutes, which is about 15 minutes more than most beds in a box, but the Airweave was ready to sleep on right away: There was no waiting for it to expand or for the odor to dissipate. 

When assembled, the mattress is hard to move. It only weighs 71.5 pounds, but the foam blocks flop around as you lift it. However, if you disassemble the mattress, it’s much easier and you can fit it in tight spaces for storage or transport.

I prefer a softer-than-average mattress, so the Airweave was not for me. Even with the soft insert added, it was firmer than I would have liked. Yet, I was surprisingly comfortable on both my stomach and back. Plus, the breathable core with its open structure kept it cool through the night. 

I’ve found that mattresses that are less than 10 inches thick usually aren’t supportive enough. But the eight-inch-thick Airweave is the exception. The firm construction provided plenty of support. The firmness also continued to the very edges of the bed, which gave it excellent edge support. I didn’t feel like I would fall off when sleeping on the periphery, and I didn’t sink down when sitting on the edge.

The motion transfer is good. In my bowling ball tests, the can would only fall over sometimes. Yet, it’s so bouncy that subsequent bounces of the ball would cause the can to tumble over. The firmness and bounce suggest this would be a good mattress for sex.

Best soft bed-in-a-box

Image of best bed in box from casper

Casper’s Nova Hybrid Mattress is a great option for people looking for a soft and plush yet supportive mattress.

Pros: Plush comfort perfect for side sleepers, good edge support, made with eco-friendly materials, outstanding heat dissipation, 100-night risk-free trial

Cons: Failed motion transfer tests, held onto its new bed odor, may not be supportive enough for back or stomach sleepers

In addition to being the best soft mattress, we awarded the Casper Nova Hybrid Mattress the title of best mattress for side sleepers in our main mattress guide. (Also, check out our guide to the best mattresses for side sleepers.) Plus, because of its soft feel, it’s the ideal solution for petite sleepers, who might not be able to sink into firmer mattresses, and older individuals, who may lack the natural cushioning they once had and need a little extra soothing comfort.

After testing all of the top mattresses from Casper, one of the leading names in the bed-in-a-box industry, I found the Nova Hybrid was the most comfortable and best at cooling. 

The Nova Hybrid is appealing because of the high-quality materials used in its construction. The CertiPUR-US certified foams feature ergonomic zones that are softer under the shoulders and firmer around the lower back, hips, and waist. The pocket coils add durability and support. Lastly, thanks to a firm foam border, the mattress performed well in our edge-support tests. 

Unboxing the Casper Nova Hybrid was a quick process, taking less than five minutes. The mattress flops around, which makes it harder to move, but the handles built into each corner on the bottom helped. Unfortunately, it had a strong new bed smell that took several days to dissipate.

The bed also has noticeable motion transfer. It failed our bowling ball test, and as my wife shifted positions in the night, I could feel her movements.

Casper recently introduced a new version of this bed, the Nova Hybrid Snow, which costs $500 more and is supposed to offer a cooler sleep. I just wrapped up my testing of it, and I still prefer the Nova Hybrid. I found the new model doesn’t have as good of edge support, and any heat dissipation improvements were minimal.

What else we tested

Image of pile of casper mattress

Over the last few years, we’ve tested dozens of boxed beds. Each has the potential to meet the needs of the right person, so there aren’t any we don’t recommend. Yet some models missed the cut for inclusion in our guide:

What else we recommend and why

Under $1,100

Nest Bedding Flip Double-Sided Hybrid Mattress: This is a good, cheap alternative if our top budget pick isn’t available or you’re a side sleeper. You can flip it to cater to your firmness needs. One side is firmer than average and the other is medium firmness, which I preferred for side sleeping. The bed is made of CertiPUR-US foam, is easy to transport, and has great edge support. The poor motion dampening was the main downfall.

Casper Original Mattress: We recommend the Casper Original to sleepers of all types because it has an average firmness, great motion isolation, outstanding heat dissipation, and is made of eco-friendly materials. Yet, its edge support falls short. Read our full Casper Original review.

Under $2,000

Bear Pro Mattress: I was comfortable on both my side and stomach while testing the Bear Pro. The slightly softer than average, all-foam construction works well for back sleepers too. The mattress features outstanding cooling properties thanks to the breathable Celliant cover, gel-infused foam, and copper-infused foam. The biggest negative is the poor edge support. Read our full Bear Pro review.

Birch Mattress by Helix: The Birch earned accolades in our main mattress guide as our best latex mattress. It’s also one of the most eco-friendly options, receiving certifications from several environmental organizations. The bed’s firmness will appeal most to stomach and back sleepers, but I tested it with the optional plush organic mattress topper, which made it perfect for my side sleeping.

Awara Organic Luxury Hybrid Mattress: Like our top pick, the Awara mattress comes with a 365-night risk-free sleep trial and lifetime warranty. It offers a supportive, slightly firm feel that is balanced by the plush Euro top. I also appreciated that it’s made of eco-friendly materials and offers good heat dissipation. In our main mattress guide, it’s the best mattress for stomach sleepers. It would also work well for back sleepers, but it’s too firm for most side sleepers.

Leesa Hybrid Mattress: I slept on the Leesa Hybrid mattress for about a year before my testing schedule made it impossible. It was my favorite, with its average firmness and outstanding heat dissipation. It also offers great edge support and motion isolation, which makes it ideal for couples. In our main mattress guide, we recommend it as the best mattress for back pain due to its combination of support and comfort. Read our full Leesa Hybrid review.

Over $2,000

Purple Hybrid Premier Mattress: Purple mattresses feature the patented Purple Grid, which is a series of small, open squares made of a hyper-elastic polymer gel. This mattress also features CertiPUR-US certified foams and pocket coils, giving it an average firmness. The heat dissipation was outstanding. We think it’s the best mattress for hot sleepers. The Purple Hybrid Premier comes in 3- and 4-inch-thick grids. We tested both, and they performed similarly. The Purple 4 was slightly softer, so we’d recommend it for side sleepers.

Visit our guide to the best mattresses for all of the mattresses we’ve tested.

Our testing methodology

Image of bowling ball on mattress

I tested each of the beds-in-a-box found in this guide. I slept on all of the mattresses for a minimum of 14 days and put them through a battery of objective tests. Comfort, trial period, and setup are the most important factors to consider when buying a bed-in-a-box.

Here are some of the test results for the main attributes we tested:

Attribute

DreamCloud Premier Hybrid

Zinus Cooling Gel Memory Foam

Tempur-Cloud

Airweave

Casper Nova Hybrid

Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest)

5

7

6

10 (9 with insert)

4

Motion Isolation (1 awful to 10 best)

7

8

7

7

3

Edge Support (1 awful to 10 best)

8

3

3

10

6

Heat Dissipation (1 traps heat to 10 stays cool)

6

8

9

7

8

Trial Period

365 days

100 nights

90 nights

100 nights

100 nights

Warranty

Lifetime

10 years

10 years

10 years

10 years

Here are the main attributes we look for and how we test them:

Comfort: I evaluate the firmness of each mattress by comparing it to my experiences with dozens of other models over the years. My subjective experience also plays into my evaluations of how supportive and comfortable the beds are. I also note which sleeping positions my body gravitates towards. Heat dissipation is also important to comfort. I measure this using an infrared thermometer, taking measurements before, right after, and two minutes after lying on the bed for at least an hour.

Trial and warranty: I look at if there’s white-glove delivery and how much it costs, if the bed is available to test in showrooms, and the fine print of the home trial and warranty. We closely examine the return policy because this is what sets beds-in-a-box apart: You want a mattress that you can try out for months risk free before committing to it.

Setup: If you don’t get white-glove delivery, you want the setup to be as effortless as possible. I timed how long it took me to unbox the mattresses. I noted any strange or confusing steps. Most took less than five minutes. I also took a good whiff to see if there was a “new bed smell,” and I checked again before going to bed (at least 10 hours later) to see if the odor dissipated. 

Motion isolation: You don’t want your partner’s tossing and turning to wake you up in the night, so it’s important to find a bed-in-a-box with good motion isolation. In addition to tracking my subjective experience, I perform an objective test where I drop a 15-pound bowling ball onto the mattress from a height of four feet so that it lands 12 inches from a 12-ounce can of soda pop. If the can stays upright, the bed has good motion isolation. If it doesn’t, the motion isolation is poor.

Edge support: This is a somewhat subjective test. I lie on the very edge of the bed and slowly roll until I literally fall. I note how much I’m able to roll before I fall. I also sit on the side of the bed and put my shoes and socks on and observe how much the mattress sinks. Lastly, when sleeping on the bed, I pay attention to how I feel close to the edges. Does it feel like I’m going to fall off? I’m developing an objective edge support test, which I plan to roll out once I have more data.

Portability: We don’t weigh portability heavily, but it’s useful to know how easy a mattress is to move around if you frequently redecorate or relocate, regularly rotate your bed to increase its longevity, or need to reposition it to put on fitted sheets. I move each mattress around several times during testing and note if it flops around, has handles, or is hard to move in general.

What we’re testing next

Image of mattress cooling test

We regularly test new mattresses and evaluate our top picks for long-term durability. Here are the mattresses we currently have lined up to test:

Helix Midnight Mattress: Helix markets the Midnight, a hybrid bed, as an excellent solution for side sleepers. As someone who mainly sleeps on his side, I’m excited to see if it lives up to the hype. 

Bear Hybrid Mattress: I’ve tested the Bear Pro and Original and liked them both. This is supposed to be softer than the other two, which could make for stiff competition with the Casper Nova Hybrid for the best soft bed-in-a-box.

Helix Midnight Luxe Mattress: The Midnight Luxe is an upgrade of the Midnight. It has a breathable Tencel cover, a quilted pillow top, and zoned lumbar support coils for pressure relief. The firmness is supposed to be similar to the Midnight, so I’m excited to see how it caters to my side-sleeping ways.

Big Fig Mattress: I love that the Big Fig is specifically designed for full-figured individuals. It can hold up to 1,100 pounds, and a foundation is included with your purchase. I’m curious to see how the firm construction feels and if it dissipates heat well.

Casper Wave Hybrid Snow Mattress: This is Casper’s most expensive bed-in-a-box. It’s supposed to be a cooler version of the Wave Hybrid, which I liked the least when I tested all of Casper’s mattresses. One of the negatives of the Wave Hybrid was that it slept hot. I’m curious to see if this new version provides the cooling it claims to.

FAQs

Image of stacked mattresses

What’s the difference between a bed-in-a-box and a traditional mattress?

The differences between the two types of mattresses keep getting hazier every day.

When online mattresses were first introduced, they were mainly made of foam. The biggest benefit was the at-home trial period, where you could sleep on the mattress for several nights before deciding whether or not you wanted to keep it.

However, these days, online retailers offer a range of mattress types, including hybrid or innerspring mattresses. Some brick-and-mortar stores now offer trial periods. Retailers on both sides are trying to neutralize the benefits of the other.

For instance, many bed-in-a-box brands now let you test out their mattresses in showrooms across the country. You can go to a physical store, try out a mattress for 15 minutes or so, and then buy the bed online. 

“You get overall cost savings because you aren’t paying the additional fees that come with the in-store shopping experiences, such as shipping, delivery, and setup,” saud Russell Jelinek, the senior director of engineering, quality, and compliance at Casper.

If you’re concerned about a salesperson trying to pressure you into buying a mattress, going online and skipping the in-person experience is the way to go. 


What happens to mattresses that are returned?

This varies by manufacturer. Once you sleep on a mattress, the manufacturer can’t resell it. They may coordinate with a local organization to recycle your mattress or donate it to those in need. If you’re concerned about the environmental impact your returned mattress might have, we encourage you to ask the manufacturer about what they do with returned mattresses in your area. 


How do you unbox a bed-in-a-box?

First off, we recommend you unbox your mattress within a day or two of its arrival. The beds are not designed to stay in the box for long periods, and prolonged time spent in the vacuum seal (a month or more) could impact the structural integrity of the mattress. Jelinek said Casper mattresses can stay in the box for at least six months without experiencing structural damage. However, this is from the manufacture date, which could be months before you received your mattress.

We recommend unboxing the mattress in the room where you will sleep on it. Some companies provide you with an envelope slitter to safely cut the packaging without cutting the mattress. If you don’t have an envelope slitter, use extreme caution when removing the packaging and cut parallel to the mattress, not towards it. Also, have another person help you with the process since most mattresses weigh around 100 pounds. I’ve injured my back trying to do it on my own. 

Cut open one end of the box and tip it onto your foundation or bed frame. Lift the unopened end of the box and shake the sealed mattress onto the foundation. Take a second to look for any instructions or materials that may have come in the box. This is when you might find an envelope slitter.

You can use the slitter or other cutting implement to cut through the first layer of plastic, but I’ve found it’s easier to just unroll the plastic with a yanking motion. Once this plastic is removed, unfold the mattress onto your foundation. You may need to flip it so the top is facing up. If you can find the seam in the second plastic layer, you can pull at it, and the plastic should be easy to remove. I rarely find the right place to pull at the plastic and instead end up using my cutting implement to cut the plastic along the length and width.

Then I push all of the plastic that’s on top to the far end of the mattress. Lastly, I use a yanking motion while trying to keep the mattress in place so I can remove the plastic from the bottom of the mattress, kind of like a magician might pull the tablecloth off a table. This should be the final step.

Jelinek says you can then sleep on the mattress right away. “However, we recommend giving it some time to acclimate to the room temperature,” he said. He also warned that some mattresses may take longer to expand to their full size. I’ve found it rarely takes more than a few hours for a mattress to fully expand.

For answers to general mattress questions, check out our guide to the best mattresses.


Check out more mattress guides

Image of hand pressing down mattress
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The 10 best places to buy blinds and shades in 2021

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

A collage of different shades and blinds - best blinds shades
  • Window blinds help add privacy, ensure restful sleep, and put the finishing touches on home decor.
  • We found top places to buy blinds, whether you need a custom option or a cheap fix you install yourself.
  • Some of our favorite places to shop for shades and blinds are The Shade Store and Bed Bath & Beyond.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Blinds and shades play an often overlooked but important factor in home decor. Swapping white roller shades for wooden blinds or Roman shades with an attractive fabric print can give your space a whole new look.

Window blinds also play a key role in adding privacy to your home, help to reduce glare while you watch TV or work on your computer, and ensure a good night’s sleep with no light leakage.

Style, material, and size are largely a matter of personal preference and will be determined by your individual home needs. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up top places to shop for blinds and shades, whether you want inexpensive blinds you can install yourself or a premium shade in a custom fabric installed by the pros.

Here are the best places to buy blinds and shades in 2021

The Shade Store

Best places to buy blinds_The Shade Store

With over 1,300 material choices and the ability to fit non-traditional spaces, The Shade Store is a pricey but worthy option for those who want something truly custom.

The Shade Store is undoubtedly pricier, but it also has more custom options, and the customer service is unrivaled. My current apartment has oversized windows of non-standard sizes, ledges that make blinds hard to fit, and the windows open both from the top and the side, adding extra hurdles. Several other places I spoke to had a hard time finding us the right option for our unique situation, but The Shade Store made it a breeze. 

You can get a consultation and as many samples as you want for free. With a vast library of over 1,300 materials to choose from, unlimited samples come in handy. Whether you want to choose a 2% light-filtering option or a unique flowy drape, The Shade Store has it all and then some. For example, if you like Roman shades, you can choose from flat, cascade, Aventura, relaxed, tulip, or pleated styles. Each of those has numerous materials and color options.

If you have a store nearby, you can do an in-person consultation and get free measurements or look at samples in the store. You can also do a video chat. Where other places couldn’t send anyone to measure or install blinds for weeks or months, The Shade Store sent someone to our home within a few days.

Not only were they incredibly quick and responsive throughout the entire process, but after, the rep we worked with also sent us a handwritten thank you note and even planted a tree in our honor. Plus, the blinds are high-quality and were installed perfectly, all of which made the higher price point sting a little less.

Popular options:

Custom Roller Shades (small)Relaxed Roman Shades (small)Custom Metal Blinds (small)
Lowe’s

Best places to buy blinds_Lowes

Lowe’s has a huge selection of in-stock blinds that are easy to browse online, plus the option for a custom fit. 

Similar to The Home Depot, Lowe’s is another great value option with a wide range of blinds choices. You can choose from in-stock blinds in various sizes or opt for a custom option if you have a window or door that’s not a standard size. Lowe’s offers a wide variety of styles and materials, as well as numerous choices for how much light you want coming in, from blackout to light filtering.

You can also go a more DIY route or pay extra for someone to do an at-home installation. Lowe’s also price matches, and shipping is free.

Numerous filter features make the online shopping experience easy, and you can sort by style, width, length, finish, light control, material, price, and more. Lowe’s works with independent installers for those who want someone to do in-home measurements and installations.

Popular options:

Outback Pebble Light Filtering Cordless OutdoorRoller Shade (small)Trim+Go Greystone Light Filtering Cordless Roman Shade (small)Cordless White Aluminum Light Filtering Full-view Standard Mini Blinds (small)
Bed Bath & Beyond

Best places to buy blinds Bed Bath and Beyond (ST. CHARLES 2-in Cordless Faux Wood Blinds)

You can shop in person or online for blinds and shades from Bed Bath & Beyond, where there are thousands of sizes available to fit windows of all shapes. 

Bed Bath & Beyond has a solid selection of blinds and shades to choose from. Whether you’re looking for cordless or roman shades, the retailer has a variety of brands offering different materials, sizes, and colors. 

While Bed Bath & Beyond doesn’t have customizable shades, many brands have a huge range of sizes, including shades with 333 options. All shades will have to be put together on your own since the company does not offer installation. 

In addition to the vast library of shade choices, if you’re a member of the Beyond+ rewards program, you can get 20% off every purchase.

Cordless Faux Wood Blind in Dark Oak (small)Cordless Open Solar Roller Shade (small)Light Filtering Cordless Paper Window Shade (small)
Blinds.com

Best places to buy blinds_Blinds.com

Though you can’t shop in person at Blinds.com, you’ll have a huge array of blinds and shades to choose from, plus you can return or exchange any item for free within 30 days — even if it’s because you measured wrong.

As you may have guessed from the name, Blinds.com solely deals in all things blinds. You’ll be spoiled for choice, from wood or faux wood shutters to cellular or roller shades to vertical or mini blinds.

Prices are incredibly reasonable, and shipping is free. Keep in mind the retailer only offers samples for some of its products currently, so you can’t necessarily see all of the options you like before making a final decision. 

However, it does offer free virtual design consults and will replace or let you return any item within 30 days for free. If you made a mistake when measuring, the company will fix it for you and recut and send new blinds at the correct size for free, as long as there isn’t a pricing difference between the old and new sizes. 

If you don’t feel comfortable measuring yourself, Blinds.com does work with The Home Depot, which can send an employee to measure and install for you. Strangely, the starting installation cost at The Home Depot is cheaper, so you may want to get a custom measuring and install quote from both to ensure you get the best price.

Popular options:

2-Inch Light-Filtering Fabric Blinds (small)Completely Cordless Mini Blinds (small)Light-Filtering Cellular Shade (small)
The Home Depot

Best places to buy blinds_home depot

The Home Depot has a vast selection of shades and blinds and can custom cut them right in the store.

From cordless and automatic to cellular and vertical, The Home Depot is a tried-and-true when it comes to blinds. And compared to many other options, it’s fairly affordable and a good value. If you’re a DIYer who wants to save even more, it has how-to guides online that can walk you through choosing the right blinds, measuring, and even installing them yourself.

However, if you’re not quite comfortable with doing it all yourself, you can also pay extra to have someone come to your home, measure, cut, and then come back and install your blinds of choice. I’ve even done a video consult with a representative in the past who was very helpful for looking at my space, walking me through The Home Depot‘s catalog, and making suggestions on the best type of blinds for my home. 

While you can easily get your blinds cut for you in person at The Home Depot, be aware that the quality of that job can vary wildly based on when you happen to be there and who is doing the job. Not all employees seem to be as trained or skilled as others on the cutting machine.

While I know plenty of people who have had blinds cut in-store with no issue, Insider Reviews executive editor Sally Kaplan had an issue and needed her blinds recut several times because they weren’t quite right.

Popular options:

White Cordless Room Darkening 2 in. Faux Wood Blind (small)Crown White Room Darkening Vertical Blind (small)2 in. Faux Wood Blinds (small)
West Elm

Best places to buy blinds_West Elm

For an elegant and simple solution for standard-sized windows, West Elm has neutral options that will match just about any decor. 

You won’t get as many options and won’t be able to customize at West Elm in the same way you can at other places, but if you just need a simple and chic option that’s ready to go, West Elm does the trick. There’s no true custom option, though you can choose from numerous widths and lengths, and most options come in a few neutral color choices and one or two materials. 

West Elm also doesn’t have the same network or employees specifically designated to measure or install blinds, so this is also a better option for those who feel more comfortable doing it themselves. That said, West Elm does offer free design services, which can include helping you pick out the best shades or blinds for your home.

If you really want someone else to install them for you, West Elm can set it up via its partners at Porch, a separate moving, repair, and home improvement company.

Popular options:

Crossweave Cordless Roman Shades with Blackout Lining (small)Custom Size Solar Basketweave Cordless Roller Shades (small)Custom Size Light-Filtering Cordless Cellular Shades (small)
Pottery Barn

Best places to buy blinds_Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn has a solid collection of high-quality blinds and shades that can be lightly customized by length and width.

Similar to West Elm, Pottery Barn (which is owned by the same parent company) doesn’t have quite as many options as a place like Blinds.com or The Shade Store. Still, it has a good array of high-quality and ready-to-go blinds that can be lightly customized by choosing from up to 30 width options and three lengths depending on the exact item.

While you won’t find anything too out of the box, it does have a good selection of wooden, linen, and classic roller shades that come in an array of neutral colors to suit most decor styles. 

These shades are best for someone who feels more comfortable going the DIY route since Pottery Barn doesn’t have designated assistance to help you measure and install your blinds. However, you can also have Pottery Barn set up an installation through its partnership with Porch for an additional fee. You could also set up your own installation with a local professional or via apps like Handy.

Popular options:

Riviera Striped Linen/Cotton Cordless Roman Blackout Shade (small)Custom Cordless Natural Shade (small)Custom Natural Cordless Roller Shade (small)
Amazon

Best places to buy blinds_Amazon

This retail giant has no shortage of blind and shade options at a wide range of price points if you’re willing to sort through the huge number of sellers.

From laptops to workout pants, Amazon sells it all — and that includes blinds and shades. Of course, the downside to buying on Amazon is that you’ll need to be extra cautious when it comes to choosing a seller since you won’t be able to see or verify quality ahead of time. I recommend thoroughly reading up on recent reviews before making any commitments. Additionally, you won’t get any help from Amazon with measuring or installing.

However, if you’re comfortable with those factors, there are some good deals to be found on the retail giant. Different sellers also allow for different amounts of customization to ensure a good fit. Some are even Prime-eligible, coming with fast and free shipping to add to the value.

Popular options:

Cordless 1-Inch Vinyl Mini Blinds (small)Roman Shades (small)Cordless Tuscan Bamboo Roman Shades (small)
Ikea

Best places to buy blinds_IKEA

If you’re comfortable going the DIY route, Ikea has easy-to-install and low-cost options that will fit standard window sizes.

Ikea offers some of the simplest and most affordable blinds options out there. That said, there’s no real option to customize here. But you will have a few choices in pre-cut sizes that should fit traditional window sizes.

Your only options are roller, Roman, cellular, or pleated, and you won’t be able to customize the material at all. Many also have only a couple of color options, mainly in classic whites, blacks, and greys. 

However, if you just need a quick solution for a standard window without much fuss, then Ikea may be your best bet. Liz Kneuven, Insider’s personal finance reporter, has an entire apartment of Ikea blinds and attests to their ease of use and overall quality. “They look so sleek and modern and were super simple to install,” she says. 

You can browse in-store or order online, but like all things Ikea, this is a DIY route, so you’ll need to be comfortable measuring and installing yourself.

Popular options:

SCHOTTIS Pleated Shade (small)SKOGSKLÖVER Roller Blind (small)TRIPPEVALS Blackout Cellular Blind (small)
JCPenney

Best places to buy blinds_JCPenny

Though it may not be the first store that comes to mind for blinds, don’t overlook JCPenney and its wide array of colors, styles, prices, and materials for shades that are just right.

Though JCPenney may be better known for clothes and accessories than home goods, it also has a surprisingly vast selection of shades and blinds, including wood, cellular, vertical, Roman, and roller options. You can quickly sort online by color, style, price, material, light filtration, and even installation type to narrow down your search. 

While JCPenney used to offer in-home custom window treatments, that option was recently closed, so be aware you’ll need to do installing and measuring on your own. You can have the blinds shipped right to your door or opt for same-day, in-store pickup if available at a store in your area.

Also, be aware that if you opt for a custom size to your exact specifications, those orders can only be canceled within 24 hours of the initial transaction to receive a refund — so make sure you’ve measured twice before ordering.

Popular options:

Top-Down Bottom-Up Cordless Honeycomb Shade (small)Essentials Custom Vertical Blinds (small)Border Cordless Light-Filtering Roman Shade (small)
What to consider when buying shades and blinds

Use: A main consideration when choosing blinds or shades should be which room they’re for and what their primary function. For example, you may want to spring for pricier blackout shades in the bedroom, while a light-filtering option that still blocks glare may do the trick for your home office. 

Style and material: Material and overall style will largely be dictated by budget, personal preference, and use. A wood shutter versus a linen blind will give your room a completely different look. Additionally, consider how much privacy you want and whether you still want some light to filter through for a less closed-in feel, as this will help guide your choice on things like opacity percentage, whether you need them to be UV blocking, etc.

Size: The size of your windows will play a huge role in the style blinds you choose and where you’re able to shop. If you have standard-sized windows that are easy to fit, you’ll likely be able to go for a more wallet-friendly option by simply choosing from a few width and length options. However, if you have unusual windows, you may need to pay more for a truly custom fit. Similarly, you may want to think about splitting up huge windows into two shades if you don’t want to spring for pricey automatic options since having just one roller large shade can be heavy and hard to pull up and down. 

Budget: The range of prices on blinds varies wildly, even at the same store. Have a clear budget range in mind when going into the shopping process if possible so you can start with options that best fall within your limits. If you’re completely unsure where to start, it’s highly worth it to sign up for a virtual consultation with a store to get a basic idea of what your space will require and a general price point range. Custom sizing, materials, finishes, as well as automatic options will all cost significantly more. 

If you’re comfortable measuring and installing the blinds yourself, you can save big on installation costs.

See more great home buying guides

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The 5 best kitchen knives we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Putting your knife set together piecemeal is the best way to go, and a quality chef’s knife is absolutely essential.
  • The Wusthof Classic Ikon 8″ Chef’s Knife is our favorite, but we also like Victorinox, Shun, and more.

There may be no more important tool in your kitchen than your chef’s knife. It is the one-stop-shop for all of your slicing, chopping, dicing, and trimming needs. Sure, there are other kitchen knives well worth their steel, but we can’t stress this enough: if you’re going to put your money into any one knife, or if you’re considering buying a knife set, think about a single, high-quality chef’s knife to start.

While we do offer a guide to the best knife sets – and recommend some budget-friendly options like the Victorinox Fibrox Pro set (a staple in many commercial kitchens) – you can end up with a lot of filler pieces if you go the pre-packaged route. Everyone we’ve spoken with on the matter, from famed butcher Pat LaFrieda to late gourmand and chef Anthony Bourdain, has been quick to the point: most knife sets are a waste of money. And having knocked around enough commercial bars and kitchens myself, I can’t agree more. Rarely do you see a chef, sous chef, or line cook, fiddling with anything but a chef’s knife.

For this guide, we focused on chef’s knives for the reasons above, but we also ran through dozens of paring, boning, utility, and bread knives to recommend one of each of those as well.

Here are the best kitchen knives of 2021

The best chef’s knife overall

Our favorite chef’s knife, Wüsthof’s Classic Ikon Chef’s Knife on a kitchen countertop

Hefty but balanced, The traditional German design of Wüsthof’s Classic Ikon 8″ Chef’s Knife suits most hands and stands up to just about every kitchen task.

Pros: Great for chopping and dicing, agreeable handle for most, rust- and chip-resistant

Cons: Requires regular sharpening

The Wüsthof Classic Ikon Chef’s Knife is the most traditional western knife there is: It’s big, it’s heavy, and it’s made with relatively soft, rust-, and chip-resistant stainless steel. 

As far as quality knives go, this is the knife we’ve found to handle the most difficult tasks while also still offering agility and precision.

Before we go further, we should mention one caveat: Ahead of investing in a chef’s knife, know that of all the kitchen knives you might purchase, it is the most personal choice you’re going to have to make.

No matter which knife you choose, your chef’s knife is the one you’ll rely upon most. It offers the most surface area for larger chopping and slicing jobs, and it also handles the most force for hardier root vegetables, meat, and poultry. Different designs might favor chopping and dicing over slicing (and vice-versa), but we like the only slightly rounded belly of the Wüsthof Classic Ikon, which strikes a happy medium for the two tasks.

We also like the modified handle of the Ikon series knives in general, which isn’t quite German, but not quite Japanese, either. It seems to be a hybrid of the two and fits most hands comfortably (we placed our top pick in several different palms).

All in all, this is a great knife for the average household in which kitchen knives aren’t generally taken care of, and no matter who gets a hold of this thing or what they do with or to it, you’ll be able to bring it back up to snuff. That and the fact that it’s a relatively thin and agile blade as far as German knives go make it the best all-around pick based on our testing.

The best budget chef’s knife

The Victorinox Fibrox Chef’s Knife on a kitchen counter.

Popular in busy commercial kitchens and homes alike, Victorinox’s Fibrox has a highly ergonomic handle and stands up to rough use like few others.

Pros: Maneuverable, comfortable handle, decent edge retention

Cons: Not razor-sharp straight out of the factory, takes some work to sharpen, not perfectly balanced 

Victorinox’s entire Fibrox line is a favorite in commercial kitchens because its knives are among the few that can pass through numerous line cooks’ hands and accidental trips through the dishwasher unscathed. The Fibrox Chef’s Knife is budget-friendly, but it’s also perfect for short-term rentals, first apartments, and more generally, people who don’t necessarily want to spend time taking care of their kitchen tools. 

My kitchen sees a lot of “chefs,” and for that reason, I have my knives squirreled away separately from the communal kitchen knives, which are entirely from Victorinox. This way, I don’t have to worry about someone slicing a lemon and leaving an expensive knife on the counter, not only wet but coated in citric acid, or trying to pry open a lid via a Japanese blade, which is horrific to think about. 

And even though the Fibrox Chef’s Knife has withstood the abuse mentioned above (and more), there’s neither a single stain nor chip on it. Sure, it’s a bit scratched (coarse sponges are terrible for stainless steel, but more on care below), but all I do is give it a sharpening every couple of months, which with diligence gets it sharper than it was from the factory, and it performs impressively.

We also find it to be a little on the safer side thanks to the ultra-grippy Fibrox handle, which is easy to hold even when wet or greasy.

Read more about the Fibrox line in our guide to the best knife sets (even though we generally don’t recommend sets, this one is an exception).

The best paring knife

Victorinox’s Classic 3.25” paring knife on a kitchen countertop.

A paring knife is a simple tool for lighter tasks, and Victorinox’s 3.25″ Straight Paring Knife offers everything you need of it and nothing you don’t.

Pros: Resilient, relatively rust-proof, dishwasher-safe

Cons: Very lightweight, requires regular sharpening

You really, really don’t need to spend a fortune on a paring knife. We think Victorinox’s 3.25″ Straight Paring Knife does the job about as well as anything because it’s not the blade you’re going to rely on for heavier-duty tasks.  

Hulling strawberries, slicing a small bit of garlic, and peeling and seeding fruit is about all you’re going to use it for, and while they’re not the most demanding tasks, this knife handles them every bit as well as you’d hope anything would. Sure, you can spend a lot more and get a weightier paring knife, but it’s far from necessary.

And while, again, it’s about as cheap as any kitchen knife gets, it’s also much more resilient than pricier picks. Years ago, one of our testers admitted to running it through the dishwasher regularly, and has found only one small speck of rust since. 

The only other issue that arises with this knife is that you’ll have to sharpen it as regularly as our budget pick for a chef’s knife. Depending upon how often you put it to work, that could range from every month to every few months. 

Otherwise, keep this knife clean and dry like any other and it will work and last like any other.

The best bread knife

Victorinox’s Fibrox Bread Knife on a granite countertop.

A long, thin blade with shallow serrations makes the surprisingly affordable Victorinox Fibrox 10″ Bread Knife a precise tool for slicing bread and more.

Pros: Nicely weighted (for a budget-friendly knife), great grip

Cons: Not as heavy as top-of-the-line bread knives, not as sharp out of the factory

It’s debatable whether you want to spend much on a bread knife depending on how often you’ll be using it, but Victorinox’s Fibrox Bread Knife is a quality tool at a reasonable price. It withstands the same amount of rough use as the rest of our recommendations from that line, but thanks to the larger handle and longer blade it carries a little more weight than the more budget-friendly options we considered. 

In our tests, which involved slicing less-than-forgiving, homemade, no-knead bread, it fared as well as everything we tried until we reached the $200 range, which is an absurd price for a bread knife for most people. That pretty much settled it. 

We also can’t lend enough praise to the Fibrox handles in general, which everyone seems to appreciate, and apart from their ergonomic qualities, instill a sense of security with their non-slip grips.

Because this blade is not only thin but also only shallowly serrated, you won’t have as much trouble sharpening it on your own as you would with, say, a deep-scalloped one that doesn’t take to a simple pull-through sharpener as well. It also turns out that this knife isn’t bad for slicing softer fruits and carving meat and poultry.

If you’re looking for something a little more on the affordable side, our previous pick (which we retested against this one) is the Mercer Culinary Millennia Wavy Edge 10-inch Wide Bread Knife. It has a slightly thicker blade and a deeper serration, so it’s not going to be as precise, but it’s got a similar handle and costs half the price.

The best utility knife

Shun’s VG-Max 6” utility knife on a granite countertop.

With VG Max steel wrapped in layered Damascus steel, Shun’s Classic 6″ Utility Knife is sharper and retains a better edge than most German-style knives, and is perfect for trimming and more precise cuts.

Pros: Extremely sharp, great edge retention, rust-resistant, very well-balanced

Cons: Slightly brittle and easier to chip than German steel, small, D-shaped handle favors right-handers

A utility knife needs to be extra sharp for more precise cuts and trimming without tearing foods, and Shun’s Classic 6″ Utility Knife uses VG-Max Damascus steel, effectively offering the best of both worlds between Japanese-style and German-style blades.

Damascus steel is made by forging and hammering carbon-rich steel (in this case, VG-Max) at a low temperature, cranking up the heat, and then cooling it abruptly. The material is known for its flexibility and corrosion resistance, not to mention its signature swirly “damask” pattern that tends to woo one and all. While its beauty is something to behold, the important takeaway is that you get a knife that holds a stronger edge than carbon steel but flexes better than stainless steel. 

While we veered away from Japanese steel for our chef’s knife top pick, and didn’t recommend a Damascus or VG Max steel option because of the cost, a smaller utility knife from Shun makes that type of pricier steel more affordable.

Apart from being remarkably more rust-resistant than other Japanese and Japanese-style knives we tried, this knife isn’t so brittle that we’ve had trouble with chipping or dinging. Still, you’ll want to keep it away from harder foods and surfaces, and especially bones. Where this knife shines is with smaller, in-between tasks where a chef’s knife is overkill and a paring knife is painfully laborious. Think slicing tomatoes or dicing shallots. It’s not a necessary knife for everyone, but behind those two knives and a bread knife, it’s the next most important one for most kitchens. On that note, it did offer enough flexibility for me to not necessarily fillet, but skin and trim boneless meat. 

Shun’s knives are made with a material known as Pakka wood, which is really a wood-and-plastic composite that looks an awful lot like walnut. Purists might cringe, but it gives the look without bringing along the worry of the handle splitting.

If you’re really averse to owning a Japanese knife for one reason or another (either the handle or the extra care required), look to the utility knife version of our top-recommended chef’s knife, the 6″ Wüsthof Ikon.

What else we tested

A pile of chef’s, paring, bread, and utility knives on a granite countertop.

Shun: Probably the most popular Japanese knife in the US, Shun offers relatively affordable VG- and Damascus-steel knives. Apart from recommending the brand’s utility knife, one of my personal favorite knives is the 8″ Chef’s knife.

Korin: Another mid-range Japanese knife similar to Shun, Korin is a favorite of Pat LaFrieda and Andrew Zimmern, and is competitive with Mac.

J.A. Henckels: One of the veritable classics in German knives, J.A. Henckels’ knives were a little thicker in the blade than our other picks, but you really can’t go wrong here.

Dexter-Russell: Similar to Victorinox’s Fibrox series, Dexter-Russell offers a line of similarly iconic white-handled knives at a great price point, and which you’ll find in commercial kitchens all over. We just found that the handles on the Fibrox knives are much grippier.

Mac: This company makes an outstanding chef’s knife, especially for the price. The only reason we couldn’t recommend this as an overall pick was its delicacy. At the hands of most people, this knife isn’t going to stay in great shape for long. If you care for your knives, on the other hand, we can’t recommend it enough.

Made In: These, like many other DTC-brand knives, are made with X50CrMoV15 steel and are a great deal for the price. Like the others, they didn’t exactly wow us, but we found nothing really wrong with them, either. The rounded handle seems to work well with many hands.

Material: These knives are made with “high-carbon” steel, but we wouldn’t call it high-quality. They have a hybrid handle that should suit most hands, and they’re easy enough to sharpen and perfectly serviceable knives.

Misen: More X50CrMoV15 steel and a great deal for the price. These are extremely popular for a reason, and we like them plenty, too.

Our Place: Another DTC brand making X50CrMoV15 steel blades, Our Place’s knives are more than satisfactory. We liked the hybrid handle, but not as much as others. If the handle looks like it’ll suit you, these are nicely designed and balanced knives.

Steelport Knife Co.: This is a much fancier, carbon-steel option for someone who wants to invest in a gorgeous and impossibly sharp blade. We love it, but we also recognize that it requires care. 

Our methodology

A pile of knives sit next to sliced paper as part of testing for the best kitchen knife set in 2021

We finely sliced tomatoes and onions with chef’s knives, minced garlic and shallots with utility and paring knives, hulled strawberries with paring knives, and sliced hard-crusted no-knead bread with serrated slicing knives. We then dulled each blade by rapping them repeatedly on a glass cutting board (word to the wise, never use one of these) and returned to each knife’s respective task to note any dulling or chipping.

We also made sure to put each knife into as many different hands as possible, ranging from professional cooks to hobbyists.

Lastly, we consulted a series of chefs, butchers, and metallurgists, including Chef Shola Olunloyo of Studio Kitchen, Pat LaFrieda, and Michael J Tarkanian, a professor of metallurgy at MIT.

A word on Japanese knives

We took Japanese knives out of the running for our top chef’s knife pick. While they’re a personal favorite, they’re notoriously difficult to maintain, and therefore not suited for most kitchens. Simply put, if you’re starting to invest in your kitchen knives, we don’t want to recommend a fine knife that will easily be misused.

“High-carbon stainless steel” is a bit of a buzzword in reaction to the popularity of Japanese-style knives, which can attain notoriously sharper edges than their German-style counterparts. The delicacy of Japanese knives has to do with the hardness of the standard high-carbon stainless steel, which allows for a finer and sharper but proportionally brittler edge.

Still, if you’re the type of person who takes particularly good care of your tools (and aren’t sharing a kitchen with someone who won’t), you may prefer a Japanese knife. But know that they require meticulous cleaning and drying, as well as careful storage, or they’ll end up with rusted and/or chipped blades.

Other considerations:

Edge retention: Our knife-testing process involved slicing fresh tomatoes and taking note of the ease with which each chef’s knife handled the task. After we had sufficient data, we took each chef’s knife to a glass cutting board and ran it over the surface 200 times. Some knives held their edge, others not so much. We looked at the edges after running the knives and noted if there were any visible changes. 

We then returned to the tomatoes, cutting a few more and seeing how much resistance we felt compared with the performance of the knives straight out of the packaging. Knives that held their edges passed on to further rounds of consideration.

Alloy, and the HRC (hardness rating): We consulted several experts in the field, but the most informative source we encountered was Michael J Tarkanian, a professor of metallurgy at MIT. With his help, we were able to cut through the marketing and the scientific terminology behind different alloys and what allows a knife to retain an edge.

We looked for a hardness rating of around 60 HRC, which offers great edge retention while still allowing for an edge of around 15 degrees (though up to 20 degrees, which is duller than 15, was still considered sufficient).

Ergonomics: For a knife to work well, you have to be able to hold it comfortably in your hand. We asked several people to pick up knives and decide which ones were the easiest to grip; across the board, they went for the ones with heavier, rounded, almost bulbous handles.

Balance: The weight of the handle and the blade is also somewhat critical. Pricier knives almost always offer better balance because that extra cost goes into using denser and often more desirable materials, like layered Damascus steel. 

A well-balanced knife with a good blade will cut through vegetables with minimal pressure, like our top pick from Wusthof. A not-so-well-balanced knife will take a little force to get started.

What we look forward to testing

Mac’s Mighty 80 chef’s knife on a kitchen counter

We’re looking forward to testing Santoku knives and more Japanese chef’s knives for our next update. While they’re superior in certain ways, they don’t stand up to the rough handling that they’ll endure at the hands of the average home cook, so we’ll have separate picks coming soon. Until then, we’re big fans of Shun, Global, Korin, and MAC. Just know that while you might not have to sharpen them as much as softer-steeled German blades, they’re slightly more prone to rust (due to higher carbon levels) and chipping (due to their increased hardness).

We’re also going to recommend a boning knife for those who need to trim and debone meat but in the meantime, Victorinox’s Fibrox Pro is an affordable option, and the Wüsthof Classic Ikon is a pricier step up which we like so far.

FAQs

A pile of knives on a granite countertop.

How to choose a knife

The most important thing about a knife, and especially a chef’s knife, is how it fits in your hand. So long as you spend at least $50 on a chef’s knife, it’s going to be sharp (and sharpenable) enough to get most any job done. Decide what kind of handle you want first. German-style knives are generally more molded to the palm with a pronounced butt end, while Japanese-style knives are almost uniformly cylindrical and smaller. Both designs work for everyone; it just depends on the feel you prefer and, to some degree, how you hold the knife.

The type of steel you choose should be based on the kind of care you’re (realistically) going to give your knife. If you don’t envision yourself sharpening and perfectly drying and storing your knife after every use, German stainless steel (e.g., 440, 420) is going to be much more forgiving, though softer and quicker to dull.

If you are a tool fanatic and know that you’ll take good care of your knives and are also confident that they won’t find their way into the wrong hands, carbon steel is a great pick because it’s incredibly sharp. Just know that it’s likely to rust and chip more easily.

In between, you have VG-10 and VG-Max (proprietary to Shun, but about the same as VG-10), which have added alloys (tungsten, vanadium) that make them a little more stain-resistant and less brittle. They’re great for those who want a Japanese-style knife without having to care so devoutly for it.

Then there’s Damascus steel, which is made by forging and hammering carbon-rich steel at a low temperature, cranking up the heat, and then cooling it abruptly. Damascus steel is known for its flexibility and corrosion resistance, and we recommend it, but be wary of too-good-to-be-true deals. A lot of manufacturers will etch the mesmerizing swirls into a blade without performing the time-consuming and expensive hammering process.


Why (or why not) buy a knife set

In general, things that come in sets tend to involve compromised quality, and often contain filler pieces. In the case of knife sets, you’re probably going to receive a bunch of knives and other gadgets (including a large woodblock) that you may never use. 

A lot of newer (and older) DTC brands recognize that consumers are growing wiser and learning that sets are generally a ripoff. As a result, there are lots of two- to five-piece sets on the market. If you’re looking in the budget range, we’re all for them, and we’ve pretty much tried them all. The steel is almost always the same quality, so choose based on the handle style you like.

Otherwise, though, sets don’t make a lot of sense for most people. Invest in a chef’s knife, first and foremost, with which, by the way, you can tackle all of your kitchen tasks, minus maybe slicing bread. Next, a paring knife is probably the most sensible purchase, but since it’s not doing a lot of the heavy work, we say go cheap. That said, feel free to spend what you’d like; there is something to be said for a weightier, sharper blade in the case of every knife.

A slicing and/or bread knife may or may not be important to you depending upon whether or not you consume much bread or slice much meat. You can find one that does the job for as little as $20, or, again, the sky’s the limit. For most people, we like the $40-$60 range.

Beyond the above, you’re getting into specific tasks most people don’t really take on at home. Fillet knives, boning knives, santoku knives, and shears are all further considerations. Even if you want all of those knives, you’re still likely better off purchasing them piecemeal. It’ll be more affordable, and you’ll also be able to budget so that you can put your money where it counts.

Glossary

A diagram of a chef’s knife pointing out each feature.

Heal: The corner of the blade where the edge meets the bolster.

Edge: The sharpened, business side of the blade.

Tang: The part of the blade that runs to or through the handle. “Full-tang” is a common term, which means the blade steel is a single piece of steel that runs through the handle.

Rivets: The pins holding the handle together (more common in German handles).

Bolster: Above the heel, a spacer where the blade meets the handle, and an area to grab or choke up on when performing finer tasks.

Tip: The pointy, or front end of the knife opposite the handle.

High-carbon steel: Steel with at least 0.55% carbon content.

Stainless steel: An alloy of iron, chromium, and sometimes other metals. This is a very general term, but it’s the basic steel with which German knives are made.

VG10, VG-Max: A high-carbon steel blended with tungsten and vanadium, and sometimes other metals to lend flexibility and rust resistance.

Damascus Steel: A two-plus-millennia-old process, Damascus steel is made by forging and hammering carbon-rich steel at a low temperature, cranking up the heat, and then cooling it abruptly, repeatedly (generally dozens of times). Damascus steel is known for its flexibility and corrosion resistance while still retaining a superior edge, which is why it is traditionally (and famously) used for samurai swords.

Check out more related guides

9 knife sets lined up on a granite countertop
Too many knives.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best home security cameras of 2021

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best home security cameras are easy to use and offer stable streaming.
  • The Arlo Pro 3 is the best home security camera. It has high quality video and useful features.
  • We’ll help you pick the best security camera for your home.

Arlo Pro 3 camera

Smart home security cameras let you check in to your home, kids, pets, or anything else from anywhere in the world, as long as you have an internet or data connection on your phone.

At the very least, the best security cameras offer reliable alerts and a minimum of false alarms. They should also give you plenty of time to review any events, in case you’re not looking at your phone when something triggers an alert. Many smart home security cameras store up to 24 hours of footage in the cloud, and offer longer cloud storage with a subscription.

Over the last few years, the “smarts” in smart home security cameras have also improved dramatically. They can differentiate between people, pets, and general motion and send you the relevant alerts, which you can customize so you don’t get alerts you don’t want.

Many cameras can fit in well with other smart-home devices, so you’ll want to think about whether you want your device to work with HomeKit or the Google Home ecosystem, for example.

Unfortunately, a lot of home security cameras have had privacy issues. Cameras with two-factor authentication can alleviate some concerns, but consider placement and the ability to schedule times when the cameras are off, as well.

Here are our top picks for the best home security cameras:

The best home security camera overall

Best home security camera Arlo Pro 3

The Arlo Pro 3 produced the highest quality video footage of any camera we tested, and the smart alert system is excellent. 

Pros: Easy installation, excellent quality video day or night, smart motion detection, great alert system

Cons: Requires subscription for cloud storage

While there are caveats with this top pick, the Arlo Pro 3 delivers the best video of any I tested. It’s easy to set up, comes with an accessible mobile app, and boasts a truly versatile set of features. These wireless cameras are IP65-rated and have batteries inside capable of going months between charges, so they’re suitable for indoors or outdoors use. The smart notifications offer alerts that are actually useful on your phone. 

If top-quality video footage is your priority, this camera’s 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution is sure to impress. The Arlo Pro 3 has a 160-degree field of view. HDR support smooths out sharp contrasts in lighting and prevents areas from showing up as overly bright. You can double tap to zoom in 2x or pinch to zoom in further. There’s a spotlight for when night falls, but I got better results with the infrared, which also provides color video. 

The Arlo Pro 3 has a configurable smart notification system that’s very good at categorizing videos, distinguishing between people, animals, vehicles, and other motion quite accurately. This allows you to set up alerts only for the events you’re interested in, and to quickly filter your video clips. A feature I particularly appreciated was the highlight thumbnail of each video, which pops up as a smartphone or smartwatch notification. Even on my wrist, I found this was clear enough that I could recognize the person in the video immediately. 

There’s a deep range of customization for motion detection, so you can finetune the sensitivity for different locations, reducing false positives. 

Each Arlo Pro 3 camera also has a microphone with noise cancellation and a speaker offering crystal clear two-way audio, so you can easily carry on a conversation. You can set audio alerts, if you want alarms or other noises to trigger recordings. There’s also a siren option that hits 100 decibels to scare away intruders. 

The Arlo Pro 3 was consistently swift in connecting to the video feed compared to other cameras I tested. It was also slightly quicker to send video alerts. Smart-home support is another selling point here. The Arlo Pro 3 works with Google Assistant Amazon Alexa, so you can pull up a live feed on your smart TV or smart display.

What gives me pause in recommending the Arlo Pro 3 for everyone is the price, and the fact that you need an Arlo Smart subscription for cloud storage and to unlock the best features, like smart detection and activity zones. 

The two-camera kit, which comes with the required Smart Hub base station, costs $499.99, though it does go on sale for as low as $366.91. Sadly, there’s no way to view video through the mobile app without a subscription, which starts at $2.99 per month per camera or $9.99 per month for up to five cameras, which gets you 30 days of rolling footage.

Read our full Arlo Pro 3 review.

The best subscription-free home security camera

Best Subscription-free home security camera EufyCam 2C

Boasting good quality video, the EufyCam 2C can be used without a subscription indoors or out.

Pros: No subscription needed, local storage, affordable, high-quality video, smart motion detection

Cons: No theft protection, no two-factor authentication in the US, occasional delays connecting

While Eufy’s early security cameras had issues, Anker’s smart-home brand has hit its stride with the EufyCam 2C system. Impressively, this home security camera matches many more expensive options on features but is far cheaper. It also boasts onboard local storage and full access to all features, which means there’s no need to pay more for a subscription. 

Like our top pick, the EufyCam 2C cameras are suitable for indoors or outdoors use, with an IP67 rating. They can go up to six months between charges, offer good quality footage, and come with an accessible mobile app that has enough features to satisfy most people.

Video footage from the EufyCam 2C is good quality and maxes out at a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. This camera has a 135-degree field of view. In daylight, footage is sharp and colorful, but there’s no HDR, so camera placement is important. Night vision employs infrared to offer black-and-white footage, but there is also a built-in spotlight for enclosed areas, such as porches.

You can tweak the sensitivity of the camera’s motion sensing via the mobile app, which is very easy to use. You can also define activity zones and choose to have daytime alerts triggered only when humans are detected, all of which helps to cut down on false positives. There’s also support for scheduling, some automation based on other sensors, and geofencing, though the latter is still in beta.

The EufyCam 2C has a microphone and speaker for easy two-way conversations. There’s a built-in siren you can trigger to scare people off. There’s no provision for audio triggers; only motion will start video recordings.

I found some lag when connecting to the live feed and alerts can sometimes take a few seconds to come through on your phone. The cameras connect to the HomeBase station, which plugs directly into your router with an ethernet cable. The HomeBase has 16GB of eMMC storage (which is a bit slower than SSD storage), so you can record somewhere around three months of video clips. This footage can be accessed via the mobile app from anywhere. 

You can also get 30 days of rolling cloud storage for $2.99 per camera per month, but the beauty of the EufyCam 2C system is that you don’t need a subscription. All the top features are accessible without it, and the local storage will be enough for most people. 

Smart-home integration is limited. The EufyCam 2C works with Apple’s HomeKit and Amazon Alexa, though it took some fiddling to get my live feed up on an Echo Show. I couldn’t get Google Assistant working with it at all, and there’s no IFTTT support. Unfortunately, Eufy only offers two-factor authentication in Canada and Germany at the time of writing, though it has promised to deliver it in the US and elsewhere soon.

Despite some of the weaknesses here, the EufyCam 2C is a compelling prospect, especially when you consider that it costs just $219.99 for a two-camera system with the required HomeBase included. With no need for a subscription, the EufyCam 2C is excellent value for the money. 

Read our full EufyCam 2C review.

The best budget indoor security camera

Best budget indoor security Wyze Cam V2

A cute design, 1080p video support, local storage, and all the basic features you could want at an unbeatably low price makes the Wyze Cam V2 our top budget pick.

Pros: Very affordable, local storage, lots of features

Cons: Narrow field of view, slow to connect

You don’t need to spend very much to get a good home security camera, but it’s still impressive how much the Wyze Cam V2 offers for $20. This is an indoor-only camera offering 1080p footage, two-way audio, motion and sound triggers, custom zone detection, and infrared night vision. It also supports MicroSD cards for local storage and comes with 14 days of cloud storage.

Setup is as easy as plugging into an outlet and connecting the camera via the Wyze app. It has a cute, boxy design with a flexible folding frame and a magnetic base that enables you to position it facing wherever you want. There’s no hub, so it connects directly to your Wi-Fi router and only works with 2.4GHz networks.

Video quality is quite good. You get full-color video at up to 1920 x 1080 pixels and 15 frames per second. The 110-degree field of view is relatively narrow, so you’ll want to be careful about placement. There’s also no HDR, so it will be hard to see detail in brightly lit areas.  The infrared night vision offers black-and-white footage.

You can configure the camera via the Wyze app, which is easy to use. The Wyze Cam V2 supports motion and sound detection to trigger recordings and you can tweak the sensitivity for both. You can also set a specific detection zone, which is useful for reducing false positives. The Wyze Cam can also detect smoke and CO alarms. There’s support for scheduling and you can choose to filter notifications, so only videos of people alert you, for example. 

I did get a few false positives with the Wyze Cam V2. Spookily, it recorded several videos in the middle of the night with the person-detected flag, but I couldn’t see any motion in the recordings. 

There is a microphone and speaker, so the Wyze Cam supports two-way conversation, though the sound quality is not great. There was a lot of random echo, and there doesn’t seem to be any noise cancellation. 

It takes a few seconds to connect to the Wyze Cam, and it was the slowest of the cameras on our list to alert me to new recordings — though only by a  couple of extra seconds. You get 14 days of cloud storage for video recordings for free with the camera, and you can insert a MicroSD card with up to 32GB of capacity for local storage. 

Wyze has added Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT support, which makes the Wyze Cam V2 easy to integrate with your smart-home system. 

There are inevitably some compromises here, but the quality of the footage and the features on offer are nothing short of incredible for the price. If you’re on a very tight budget, the Wyze Cam V2 is your best bet. It provides all the features you’re likely to want without the need for a subscription. Buy direct from Wyze, and it costs just $19.99. 

Read our full Wyze Cam V2 review.

The best security camera for smart homes

Best security camera for smart homes Nest Cam IQ

For advanced features like facial recognition, there’s no better camera than the Google Nest IQ, which comes in outdoor or indoor versions.

Pros: High-quality video day or night, motion tracking, facial recognition, Google Assistant built-in

Cons: Very expensive, no local storage, the best features require a subscription

The Google Nest Cam IQ boasts an attractive, minimal design that carries through to the accessible companion app. It offers all the basic features that you’d expect to find in a good home security camera, but also adds facial recognition, motion tracking, and onboard Google Assistant. This is the smartest security camera around, but it comes at a high price and many of the best features require a subscription. 

Setup is very easy through the companion app, and the cameras connect directly to your Wi-Fi router and support 2.4GHz or 5GHz networks. The camera must be plugged into an outlet, which can make installation of the outdoor version tricky. The outdoor camera has an IP66 rating, so rain is not an issue. 

The Nest Cam IQ supports video at up to 1920 x 1080 pixels and 30 frames per second. It offers a 130-degree field of view. There’s support for HDR, which helps balance out mixed lighting and boost overall clarity. Google equipped the Nest Cam IQ with a 4K image sensor, which enables it to digitally zoom in on people’s faces. There’s also infrared for night-time video in black and white.

You can use your Nest Cam IQ with the Nest app or through Google’s Home app. Both are straightforward and reliable. Motion or sound can trigger recordings, and you can configure what kind of notifications you want to receive. You can set multiple activity zones, so it ignores certain areas. You can also set up schedules or have the camera turn on or off automatically when you leave or return home. 

What sets the Nest Cam IQ apart is the face recognition. Over time the camera will learn to recognize faces you tag. This allows you to filter clips by person and see when a stranger triggers an alert. If you’re concerned about privacy, you don’t have to use this feature. 

The Nest Cam IQ also offers two-way audio with built-in noise cancellation for clear, real-time conversation. The audio is high quality, but there’s no siren option with this camera.

There’s no local storage option, and you only get three hours of video history for free. To get 30 days of video history, you’ll need a Nest Aware subscription at $5 per month. The Nest Aware Plus plan is $10 per month and gives you 10 days of 24/7 video recording and 60 days of event history. 

You also need a Nest Aware subscription to get intelligent alerts, familiar face detection, activity zones, and the ability to create and share video clips. It’s hard to recommend the Nest Cam IQ without all these features, so you should factor this cost in.

The Nest Cam IQ also has Google Assistant built-in, but there is limited support for Amazon Alexa. Unfortunately, IFTTT is no longer supported, but some of the same options for setting up routines are coming soon via Google Assistant.

If you want a Nest Cam IQ Indoor camera then you’ll need to pay $299; the outdoor camera costs $399. It may be expensive, but there’s no smarter home security camera out there right now. 

Read our full Nest Cam IQ review.

The best outdoor security camera

Best outdoor security camera Arlo Floodlight

Boasting all the same features as our top pick, the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight Camera adds powerful lighting, which illuminates everything and works as a deterrent for unwelcome visitors.

Pros: Easy installation, excellent quality video, large floodlight, smart motion detection

Cons: Requires subscription for cloud storage

Our top pick, the Arlo Pro 3, can also be used as an outdoor camera, but it lacks a powerful light. The Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight offers all the same features, but you also get a floodlight capable of fully illuminating your property.

The large floodlight is capable of putting out 2,000 lumens without wiring and 3,000 lumens if you connect a charging cable. It also has a larger battery inside than the regular Arlo Pro 3. It’s UV and weather resistant, and, since it’s wireless, you can install it anywhere. Arlo suggests you’ll get up to six months of battery life from a full charge. 

This camera boasts a 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution, a 160-degree field of view, and HDR support for more balanced images. It has an excellent companion app, smart alerts, adjustable sensitivity, and activity zones. There’s also good-quality, two-way audio and a built-in siren that goes up to 100 decibels. 

As one of the few security cameras that offers full-color video footage in 2K day or night, the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight is an excellent choice for the outside of your home. You can set up motion detection, so the light and recordings are triggered automatically. It can also measure ambient light and determine how much light is required in each situation, which helps to preserve battery life. 

The video quality is top notch, with alerts that clearly highlight the subject, making it easy to recognize familiar faces. The floodlight is bright enough to illuminate a backyard and will work just like any motion light to scare off most intruders. However, you can expect the floodlight to drain the battery. Also, the floodlight may not be dark-sky friendly and might contribute to light pollution. 

While the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight can connect to the same Smart Hub base station as the regular Arlo Pro 3 cameras, it can also connect directly to your Wi-Fi router on a 2.4GHz network. Support for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and IFTTT makes smart-home integration easy. 

You get a three-month trial of Arlo Smart with the Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight, but after that you’ll need to pay $2.99 per month. Arlo Smart gives you 30 days of rolling cloud storage for 2K video recordings and access to the smart features, like advanced object detection, package detection, activity zones, and intelligent alerts. 

The Arlo Pro 3 Floodlight camera costs $249.99. You’ll need to factor in the Arlo Smart subscription and think about installation if you want to connect power for maximum brightness. You can also buy an optional solar panel accessory from Arlo for $79.99. 

What else we considered

We tested out a few other home security cameras that may be good options for you, particularly if you already use cameras from any of these manufacturers. If you’re looking for a smart doorbell, the Nest Hello is our top pick. Check out our guide to the best smart doorbells for more.

  • Swann Tracker Security Camera ($79.99): Boasting a wide 180-degree viewing angle, auto-tracking capability, two-way audio, and free video recording to the included 32GB microSD card, this is a smart indoor camera at a reasonable price. In our review, however, we found the app was unstable, it was frequently slow to connect, and the wide angle causes some distortion in the picture.
  • Amazon Blink Mini ($19.99): This affordable home security camera has plenty to recommend it. Easy setup, a straightforward app, and good-quality video make it compelling for the price, but the cloud storage subscription fee makes it far less of a bargain. You can read more about it in our Amazon Blink Mini review.
  • Ring Spotlight Camera ($199): While this is a good outdoor option if you want something with a spotlight, the quality is capped at 1080p, and it’s not the best-looking device to have stuck on your home. You can get this camera in wired or wireless models, but it requires a subscription if you want cloud video recordings.
  • Logitech Circle 2 ($179.99): This camera used to top our list, but with a new Circle View camera in the works, this older model is being phased out. It comes in wired or wireless options, is easy to set up, and offers up to 1080p video. It also boasts two-way audio, a wide 180-degree field of view, and an affordable price. Read our full Logitech Circle 2 review to learn more.
  • Eufy Indoor Cam 2K Pan and Tilt ($35.99): There’s a lot to like with this Eufy model. It offers sharp video, pan and tilt to follow subjects, local or cloud storage, and smart features. With excellent video quality, an 8x zoom, and the ability to rotate a full 360 degrees, the camera shouldn’t miss much of what’s happening in your home. Read our full Eufy Indoor Cam 2K Pan and Tilt review for more information.

Which home security cameras we’re testing next

We’re in the process of reviewing new and updated models of the current selection in this list, including the Arlo Pro 4, the new Google Nest Cam, and new models from Wyze

The Arlo Pro 4 has much of the same features and video resolution as the Arlo Pro 3, except it can connect directly to your WiFi network rather than connecting to a bulky base station that takes up space. At $200 for a single camera, or $380 for a two-camera kit, the Arlo Pro 4 also costs the same or a little less than the Arlo Pro 3.

The new Google Nest Cam is a massive upgrade over the aged original Nest Cam. The new model is a hybrid indoor-outdoor model that’s battery powered, and it mounts to surfaces with a magnetic base that’s more adjustable than the original’s base. 

The new Wyze Cam V3 comes with several upgrades over the V2 in this guide, like outdoor weather proofing, wider field-of-view, and smoother video. The Wyze Cam V3 is a little more expensive at $35, so it’ll be interesting to see if it’s worth the extra money.

How to choose a home security camera

What areas are you looking to cover? The best camera for you depends on where you want coverage. Are you looking to watch over a porch, backyard, hallway, kitchen, or several locations? Work out how many cameras you need and scope out potential locations to place your new cameras. There may be areas, like bedrooms, where you want to avoid cameras.

Do you want a wired or wireless camera? Wired cameras never run out of power, but they can be trickier to install, especially outside or in awkward indoor spots, because they require an outlet. Wireless cameras come with rechargeable batteries inside that can offer up to a year of battery life between charges, depending on how often they’re triggered and what settings you choose.

What video quality do you need? The main two things to consider are resolution and field of view. Most security cameras now offer at least full-HD quality video at 1080p, and we recommend this is the minimum you look at. While you can get higher resolution video, all the way up to 4K if you want it, you need to consider available internet bandwidth and storage space. The field of view describes the angle that the camera can cover, which ranges from around 110 degrees all the way up to 180 degrees. Some cameras also support HDR, which can boost overall quality significantly and be enormously helpful in reducing overexposed areas when lighting is mixed. 

What about connectivity? Every home security camera requires a Wi-Fi connection. Many systems come with their own hub that plugs directly into your Wi-Fi router via an ethernet cable. The hub will also need a power outlet. Some cameras support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequencies, while others are limited to 2.4GHz. In general, 2.4GHz has better range but offers slower speeds than 5GHz. Bear in mind that the higher the quality of the video being recorded, the more bandwidth you will need to send that video to your local or cloud storage. While 4K quality might be tempting, you’ll need a fast internet connection to handle it. 

Do you need a subscription? There are some home security camera systems that allow you to record video locally and review videos through your mobile app from anywhere, but most require you to sign up for a monthly subscription if you want cloud storage. You’ll want to at least be able to access any recordings for several hours after they occur, in case you miss alerts as they happen. Many of the best features in the top home security cameras are also only available to subscribers.

What detection features do you need? Motion triggers video recordings, but you’ll likely want some sort of recognition or smart alert system. False positives can be a real pain with home security cameras, so you may want the ability to define activity zones. Many cameras can also distinguish between general motion, people, and animals. Some systems offer extras like package detection and facial recognition. You should also consider audio capability if you want loud sounds or alarms to trigger your cameras. 

What about the risk of someone accessing your camera? If you’re concerned about people hacking into your camera, then look out for two-factor authentication (2FA). Without 2FA, anyone with your username and password can log into your camera. It’s worth noting that you have to activate 2FA in your account with some cameras.

Are you concerned about privacy? It can be a little uncomfortable to live with security cameras in your home. You’ll want to be able to shut them off at certain times. Some cameras even come with physical shutters, so you know they’re not watching you. Facial recognition might be convenient, but you may not want companies analyzing and storing pictures of your children, for example. 

The best deals on home security cameras from this guide

You can’t watch your home 24/7, and that’s where a home security camera comes in. Buying a full set and subscription service can get pricey though, so it’s nice to buy with a discount. Deals on our picks aren’t uncommon; you can often find bundle discounts from retailers like Best Buy and Amazon. If you’re looking for all-time lows, though, the best time to shop is Black Friday or Cyber Monday, when we see drops like $200 off the Arlo Pro 3. 

To help protect your home (and your wallet), check out our top deals for security cameras below.

Here are the best deals we found on our home security camera picks.

Read more about how the Insider Reviews team evaluates deals and why you should trust us.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best cordless vacuum cleaners of 2021 – and Dyson didn’t make the cut

Five cordless vacuums that were tested to find the best cordless vacuum, standing on a wooden floor

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Cordless vacuums are convenient, but they shouldn’t sacrifice cleaning power or comfort.
  • The Shark Vertex DuoClean Cordless Vacuum picks up all kinds of particles on a variety of surfaces.
  • It reaches low and deep under furniture and has a cleaning path light. It’s also reasonably priced.

Compared to a clunky corded vacuum, a sleek cordless stick vacuum is a lot more convenient. Cordless vacuums tend to be lighter and more compact, and they don’t have a long cord to trail behind you or trip you up. While the downside is that they have a limited battery life, we still love cordless vacuums for making the dreaded task of cleaning a bit easier – maybe even enjoyable.

As with any other type of vacuum, the cleaning ability and suction power of a cordless vacuum are top considerations. The best cordless vac for most people should handle all kinds of small particles on a variety of surfaces, from smooth hardwood to thick carpet. Some cordless vacs are better suited to pick up pet hair or excel on hardwood floors, so it’s also important to think about where and when you’d use your vacuum the most, and shop accordingly.

Josh Mutlow, the Design Manager at Dyson, said, “The motor, cleaner head, cyclone, and filtration are the main key technologies that achieve the essential jobs of a vacuum cleaner.”

“Some [other] basic things to consider when you begin your search are the vacuum’s dimensions, weight, canister size, and how long the cordless vacuum can run between charges,” said Chris Doscher, a rep for the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.

Learn more about the differences between corded and cordless vacuums, additional features to consider, and vacuum FAQs.

For our first major rewrite of this guide, we tested seven cordless vacuum models and landed on the top five. We’re planning to test many more down the line. Here’s how we tested the contenders on cleaning ability, ease of use, and battery life.

Here are the best cordless vacuum cleaners in 2021

The best cordless vacuum overall

image of a hand holding the shark vertex cordless vacuum, our pick for the best cordless vacuum overall in 2021

The Shark Vertex DuoClean Cordless Vacuum is a strong performer all around, picking up particles of most sizes on a variety of surfaces in a smooth and efficient fashion. We also love the light that illuminates your cleaning path and the flexible hose that lets you reach under low spaces better than any other cordless vac.

Pros: Versatile, strong suction, cleaning path light, great for under-furniture cleaning, comes with attachments 

Cons: Loud and high-pitched noise, thick grip that may be uncomfortable for small hands, weaker on high-pile carpet and rug  

This Shark vacuum isn’t perfect and we can’t guarantee it’ll pick up every size particle you throw its way, but it gets pretty close and has the best overall cleaning performance of all our contenders. 

On hardwood and tile, it picked up every last bit of flour, cat litter, ground coffee, and dog hair with no problem, and it was the best at sucking up whole Cheerios (most of the other vacuums just pushed these large crumbs around). On a high-pile rug, it had a little difficulty moving back and forth smoothly, so you should only get this vacuum if you have low-pile rugs and carpeting, or if you’re okay with buying a second vacuum for your carpet. 

It has a thick grip and somewhat heavy dust bin, making it a bit uncomfortable to use for long cleaning sessions. However, several other features make up for the slight discomfort. There are distinct settings for hardwood and carpet located near the grip and they’re easy to slide between. There’s also a power boost trigger that you can hold down whenever you need some extra suction power. 

Rolling the cleaning head around hardwood and tile feels very smooth and soft, instead of clunky and abrasive. The cleaning head also has two useful features: a light that shows you exactly what you’re cleaning and highlights small particles you might’ve otherwise missed, and a green alert button that turns red when a blockage occurs, so you can address the problem right away. 

My favorite part of using the vacuum is how low and flat it can get. In other cordless vacuums, the stick can’t be moved or repositioned, meaning you still have to bend down to reach under furniture. The Shark has a great design where you click a button in the middle of the stick and it bends into a flexible hose “elbow,” allowing the entire bottom half of the stick to lay flat and get under beds, couches, chairs, and other tricky spots. Instead of bending my knees or waist, I could just drop my arm and continue cleaning with little disruption.

The best cordless vacuum on a budget

image of the hoover onepwr cordless vacuum our pick for the best budget value cordless vacuum in 2021 in front of a pile of coffee grounds

This affordable Hoover vacuum impressed us with its quiet but strong cleaning power. It feels light and easy to maneuver since the dust bin is located at the base of the vacuum, though this design also prevents you from cleaning under low spaces.

Pros: Quiet, cleans well on all surfaces, less tiring to use because dust bin is located at base of vacuum, large dust bin 

Cons: Doesn’t come with attachments, dust bin location means you can’t get under low spots, a little heavy 

You won’t compromise cleaning ability and price in this budget-friendly vacuum. Though it may not come with bells and whistles like a storage dock and extra attachments and batteries, it picks up most small and fine particles effectively on carpet, hardwood, and tile. Faced with Cheerios, its performance is disappointing and it merely pushes the cereal around, so you’ll be better off sweeping up with a broom. But for all other materials, the vacuum does an easy and thorough job. 

The vacuum is on the heavier side compared to others, but it doesn’t feel like it because the dust bin is located near the cleaner head, rather than the handle. This makes vacuuming feel more comfortable and less tiring. It’s also really quiet and smooth as it cleans, and you can barely tell it’s picking small particles up (rest assured, it is). 

The dust bin placement does have its drawbacks. It obstructs access to low spaces under furniture, so you’ll need to figure out another way to clean under your bed and couches. In addition, the power and various mode buttons are located on top of the dust bin, so you need to bend down any time you want to turn your vacuum on and off or change modes. 

Still, I loved this vacuum for its consistent and reliable cleaning ability, reasonable battery life (that’s actually longer than the Shark’s), and quiet motor. If you don’t want to spend more than $200 or you only need a basic vacuum, this vacuum will meet your needs and exceed your expectations. Along with our other Hoover pick in this guide, it’s part of Hoover’s ONEPWR collection, which was a 2020 Product of the Year winner

The best cordless vacuum for pet owners

image of the tineco vacuum our pick for the best cordless vacuum for pet hair in 2021 in front of clumps of dog hair on a rug

Owners of constantly shedding pets will benefit from the lightweight yet powerful Tineco Pure One X, which picks up fine pet hairs from floors with its standard cleaning head, but also comes with attachments to get hair off of furniture, car seats, and delicate decor.

Pros: Really light, quiet, regular cleaning head and attachments all work well with fine pet hairs 

Cons: Small dust bin, feels a little cheap, weaker on high-pile carpet and rug  

For the pet hair portion of the test, I spread clumps as well as individual hairs of my friend’s Pekingese dog over various surfaces. All the vacuums I tested actually did a thorough job of picking up these long, fine hairs, but the Tineco stood out for its super lightweight and useful attachments. 

As any pet owner knows, you spend a lot of time picking up after your constantly shedding pets, which is why we recommend a vacuum that’s comfortable to carry around and comes with specialized tools for those especially stubborn bits of hair.

The Tineco has the smallest cleaning head and dustbin of our best picks, so you might need to empty it out a few times if you’re cleaning a large house. However, the light weight and easy maneuverability more than make up for it. While you must press down the trigger every time to start the vacuum, there’s a locking mechanism you can use if you don’t want to hold a trigger the whole time. 

I knew exactly when I picked up dirt, hair, and other particles because there’s a ring that lights up red when the vacuum is sucking up something and turns blue once the cleaning path is clear again. This vacuum also has a cleaning head light to illuminate your path. It’s generally pretty quiet, but I noticed the wheels squeaked a little from time to time. 

The attachments also make cleaning pet hair from every surface other than your floor more manageable. The mini power brush is strong and goes deep into fabric upholstery and mattresses to pick up particles and hair you didn’t even know were there, while the dusting tool lets you pick up errant hair sitting on shelves and blinds. The crevice tool fits into the cracks and crevices of your car, so you can take your pet on car trips without dreading the clean up afterward. It was when I was wriggling around my car seats that I really appreciated the light and compact design of the Tineco. The combo of convenience and suction power made the process so much faster, easier, and more comfortable. 

This vacuum is technically a “smart” one — it pairs with an app to provide cleaning performance information and maintenance reports, but I personally didn’t find it useful and the vacuum itself is enough reason to justify the purchase.

The best cordless vacuum for hardwood floors

image of a hand holding the lg cordzero mop vacuum our pick for the best cordless vacuum for hardwood floors in 2021

The LG Cordzero A9 is a vacuum that can turn into a mop, letting you clean your hardwood floors gently but thoroughly with just one appliance. It shines when cleaning super tiny particles like flour.

Pros: Fairly light, adjustable stick, easy-to-use mop feature, comes with extra battery 

Cons: Struggles with large particles like Cheerios, disposal method could be more sanitary  

This LG cordless vacuum is a sleek and beautiful model that gives you an all-in-one cleaning solution. In addition to the vacuum itself, you get tons of extra accessories like a wall mount, extra battery, and the unique Power Mop nozzle. 

It was one of the best performers in our flour test and picked up every last bit of flour on hardwood and tile, even in the cracks. It also did really well on high-pile rug, sucking flour out of the tall, loose loops. The only challenge might be with large particles like Cheerios; you’ll have better luck picking those up with a manual sweep. 

For a truly thorough clean of your hardwood floors, the Power Mop nozzle is very useful. The process involves wetting and attaching the soft mop pads (the pack comes with four total), filling the water tank in the nozzle, and choosing the setting for more or less water. Then, when you start the vacuum, it starts to slowly spin the mop pads instead of activating suction. They’re gentle and won’t damage your floors. The attachment also has a built-in light so you can see what you’re mopping. 

The vacuum is on the lighter side of all those we tested, and it has a comfortable grip. There’s no trigger, just an on/off button. The stick and cleaning head pivot smoothly, and you can extend or shorten the stick depending on your height and how far you need to reach the vacuum. 

While I liked all the cleaning capabilities of the vacuum, the dust bin disposal design could be more sanitary. After clicking open the bottom of the bin, there’s a lever that you push down to release the bin’s contents. The problem is that the contents sometimes don’t come out quickly, and you have to shake the bin quite a bit or reach inside. Other times, they spill out immediately. Either way, it’s not a pleasant experience and we recommend wearing gloves when dealing with the dust bin after your cleaning session.

The best cordless vacuum for carpet

image of the hoover bagged cordless vacuum our pick for the best cordless vacuum for carpet in 2021

The Hoover HEPA+ vacuum has all the advantages of a trusty bagged vacuum cleaner: large cleaning head, large dust bag capacity, and powerful suction that easily takes on high-pile carpet and rug.

Pros: Powerful, can cover a lot of area, bagged design is more sanitary

Cons: Heavy, can’t reach under low spaces

The Hoover HEPA+ bears the most resemblance to a traditional corded vacuum. The only difference is the cord-free convenience. It’s an all-around powerful performer and cleaned everything from finely ground coffee to grainy cat litter almost perfectly, every single time. And whereas I could tell some of the vacuums struggled on high-pile rug, the Hoover HEPA+ rolled over the rug smoothly and got deep between the rug fibers. 

The large cleaner head and bag make the vacuum heavy and unable to clean under low spaces. Plus, it’s loud. But since the bag is so big, it’ll take a long time before you have to replace it, and you can just throw it away directly without interacting with all the dust and other bits. Hoover also throws in an extra bag for you. 

The vacuum’s power switch and two mode buttons (carpet and hardwood) are located at the large and ergonomic handle. The vacuum will also stop running if you bring it back to the upright standing position. Like a few of our other top picks, the cleaning head has a built-in light to show your cleaning path. 

Unfortunately, this vacuum doesn’t come with attachments, so you’ll need to supplement it with a handheld vacuum for your other needs. As a main vacuum for a large house with lots of ground to cover, it’s a reliable choice.

What else we tested

image of hand holding the dyson v11 outsize torque a cordless vacuum we do not recommend in 2021

What else we recommend and why

Dyson V11 Torque Drive ($359.99, currently out of stock): This Dyson model is powerful, reasonably priced, and has a long battery life (around 60 minutes on Eco mode). As a newer Dyson vac, it has a special LCD screen that lets you know exactly how much battery you have left on each mode (Eco, Normal, Boost). Because you must hold down a trigger to start the vacuum, it can be tiring on your hands. 

Dyson V11 Animal ($599.99): Based on testing from my colleague James, the V11 Animal is another great choice for picking up pet hair. It costs a lot more than the Tineco, it’s less comfortable to hold, and the battery life is short, but it does do a thorough job at sucking up all kinds of pet hair on a variety of surfaces. 

What we don’t recommend and why 

Dyson V11 Outsize ($799.99): For most households, this large and heavy vacuum is probably overkill. Though it has a great battery life (around 72 minutes on Eco mode), it’s uncomfortable to hold and use for that long. In our testing, the cleaning ability and suction power did not outperform the other contenders. It was also difficult to move back and forth on a high-pile rug.

Our testing methodology

various materials like cat litter flour cheerios cereal and ground coffee scattered on the ground to test the best cordless vacuums 2021

1. Vacuuming ability: I tested each of the vacuums against five materials (flour, ground coffee, cat litter, whole Cheerios, and dog hair) on three different surfaces (carpet/rug, hardwood, and tile). I scattered half a cup of each material on each surface — resulting in 15 tests for each vacuum — and rated each vacuum on its ability to suck up the material powerfully, cleanly, and thoroughly. If the vacuum came with attachments, I also tested the attachments on appropriate surfaces (e.g. crevice tool on furniture cushions and car seats) and rated their effectiveness. 

An example of one of the test results:

Cat litter test Carpet Hardwood Tile
Shark Anti-Allergen Cordless Vacuum 3/5: Powerful and thorough, but could only push forward. Got stuck when I tried to move backwards 5/5; Sucked up all particles completely and quickly, cat litter did not fall back out of cleaning head 5/5; Sucked up all particles completely and quickly, cat litter did not fall back out of cleaning head

2. Battery life: I used each vacuum until its battery died and compared the actual battery life to the advertised battery life. 

3. Comfort and ease of use: I noted the ergonomics of each vacuum: how tiring it is to hold, how easy it is to maneuver, and the effort required to activate the power button. I also noted whether it could fit under low spaces and any additional helpful features like a headlight to illuminate your cleaning path. 

4. Disposal method: I evaluated the cleanliness and ease of emptying the dustbin after a cleaning session. How is the bin opened? Do I have to reach inside and touch dirt and dust that didn’t empty out completely? 

5. Storage: I noted how the vacuum breaks down into multiple parts and whether it comes with a wall mount or docking station. 

6. Warranty and customer service: I registered each vacuum, noted warranty terms, and spoke to customer service reps to evaluate the ease of registration and quality of service.

What we’re testing next

image of dog and hand holding the roborock h6 a cordless vacuum we'll be testing next in 2021

Eufy HomeVac S11 Go: We love Eufy’s robot vacuums and we’re interested in seeing how its cordless vacs compare. It has a lightweight body, powerful suction, and 40-minute run time, and it’s reasonably priced for everything you get (a wall mount and attachments are also included). 

Roborock H6: This vacuum is efficient, quiet, and easily maneuverable, though some reviewers say it doesn’t do well on tile so we’re looking to test that directly. It has a five-stage HEPA filter purification system and a 90-minute advertised battery life.

What to consider when buying a cordless vacuum

image of three cordless vacuum dust bins side by side while testing the best cordless vacuums in 2021
The dust bin is often located at the top of a cordless vacuum, a design that lets your vac reach under low spaces but can also become tiring to hold. To power your vacuum, you may need to hold down a trigger or simply press an on/off button.

Cordless vacuum vs corded vacuum: how do they compare?

  Cordless vacuum Corded vacuum
Power source Rechargeable battery Electrical outlet
Weight Lighter; 3-8 pounds on average Heavier; 8-15 pounds on average
Size More slim and compact; width of 10 inches on average Larger; width of 14 inches on average
Noise Usually more quiet Louder
Price Usually more expensive; $200-$300 on average More affordable; $75-$150 on average

Features to look for in a cordless vacuum 

Weight/distribution of weight: A cordless vacuum will feel heavier or lighter, and less comfortable or more comfortable, depending on where the bulk of the weight is. To allow for better flexibility and access, brands often place the dust bin near the top and handle of the vacuum. This can make it tiring to use a cordless vacuum over a long period of time. If the bin is placed at the bottom, near the cleaning head, the weight will be less of a burden, but that placement may get in the way of your cleaning. 

Size: Keep the size of your living space in mind as you shop for a cordless vac. If you live by yourself in a studio, for example, you can look for vacs with smaller cleaning heads and dust bins. Also pay attention to the length of the vacuum and whether it will be comfortable for your height. Some vacuums have adjustable sticks. 

Battery: Read product info carefully to see whether the advertised battery life refers to that of one battery or multiple batteries. Generally, we’ve found that advertised battery life is longer than actual battery life. Follow manufacturer directions on how to care for and dispose of batteries. 

Docking/storage: Cordless vacuums are typically composed of two to three parts that you put together yourself (not including separate attachments). This design also makes it easy to store your vacuum in a compact space. Some vacuums may come with a wall dock or mount, so you can hang your vacuum on the wall. 

Inclusion of other cleaning tools: Consider whether you might need additional attachments, such as a crevice tool or dusting brush. These may come with your vacuum, or can be available for separate purchase. 

Warranty: Look for a one year warranty (at minimum) on both parts and labor of your entire vacuum. Beyond that, the manufacturer may offer additional warranties on specific parts like the motor. Once you receive your vacuum, register it online to speed up the warranty process later. 

If you’re comfortable shopping for a vacuum in the store, “there’s no substitute for trying it out and seeing for yourself how it operates. Ask the retailer if you can turn on the vacuum and try it out before you make a choice,” said Doscher. 

The best time to buy a cordless vacuum

Cordless vacuums tend to be more expensive than corded ones. The good news is that most brands discount their cordless vacuums around Amazon Prime Day and Black Friday/Cyber Weekend. We typically see discounts of $50 to $200 off Dyson, Hoover, and Shark cordless vacuums. If you’re able to wait, your patience will pay off in big savings.

Cordless vacuum FAQs

image of hand holding a dirty filter from a cordless vacuum in 2021
Here’s your sign to check and clean your vacuum filter.

Are cordless vacuums worth it?

In a word, yes. Cordless vacuums offer flexibility and ease of use that you just can’t get from a corded vacuum. Modern cordless vacuums can be every bit as powerful as corded models, and allow you to effortlessly move from room to room without worrying about cords or outlets. They’re also usually slimmer and quieter than corded models.

How often should you clean and change your vacuum filter? 

The guidance varies model by model and there are different kinds of filters (cartridge, disk, foam, cloth), so you should check your product manual. Generally, you should wash and dry it when you notice a smell or if you observe a decline in vacuum performance. Some vacuums will also alert you when you need to change the filter. A clean filter is important for effective cleaning; a dirty filter restricts airflow and decreases suction power. 

Which cordless vacuums are allergy- or asthma-friendly? 

Look for cordless vacuums with HEPA filters, which are recommended for allergy and asthma sufferers. Without a HEPA filter, these small particles are likely to be released back into the air after being sucked up. All the vacuums we recommend are equipped with HEPA filters. 

What does a HEPA filter do? 

A true HEPA filter traps and removes at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, dirt, mold, bacteria, and other airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns. According to the EPA, 0.3 microns is the most penetrating particle size, so this specification refers to the worst case. If the particle is larger or smaller than 0.3 microns, it will be trapped with even higher efficiency. 

Why is my vacuum’s battery life decreasing?

If your vacuum’s rechargeable battery is made from nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) or nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH), then it can experience “memory effect.” Memory effect happens if you charge the battery when there’s still some power left. Your battery starts holding less charge over time because it “remembers” how full it was the last time you charged it and won’t charge past that point the next time. Even though the original power of the battery is the same, the maximum battery voltage has decreased. To prevent memory effect, you should drain your nickel-based battery completely before charging it. Lithium-ion batteries do not experience this effect. 

What’s the difference between amps, watts, and volts? Which one matters most for cordless vacuums? 

Amps, watts, and volts are related to each other. Amperage is the electrical current (or volume of electrons), wattage is the rate of power flow (or how much power the motor is using), and voltage is speed at which electrons pass a specific point within a closed circuit (or the amount of power needed to support an electrical current). Watts = volts x amps. 

A high wattage means the vacuum will use a lot of energy, and thus more battery. Since the type of motor can also affect vacuum power, high wattage doesn’t automatically equate to a powerful vacuum. Instead, you should focus on suction. “The motor is at the heart of driving the performance of a vacuum cleaner. The motor takes electrical power from the power source and converts it into mechanical power, or suction. So, the more powerful your motor is, the more air you’re able to pull through the machine,” said Mutlow.  

We’ve decided to leave quantitative specs like wattage and voltage out of our reviews because they’re not useful as standalone numbers. Instead, we focused on suction and evaluated that based on how well the vacuums sucked up different kinds of particles.

Glossary

image of cordless vacuum attachments and brushroll side by side in 2021

HEPA: Stands for high efficiency particulate air. A HEPA filter traps and removes at least 99.97% of dust, pollen, dirt, mold, bacteria, and other airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns and can be found in air purifiers and vacuums. 

Whole machine filtration: The entire machine is sealed to prevent unfiltered particles from escaping. All air passes through the filter before it is expelled. 

Dustbin: Where all the dust, dirt, and hair are stored as you vacuum. The dustbin should be emptied out into the trash after you’re done cleaning. 

Brush roll: A cylinder with bristles located in the cleaning head that rotates and helps release dirt from carpets and rugs. The bristles of a brush roll may leave scratches on hardwood and tile, so you should turn off the brush roll if possible. Replace your brush roll when the bristles wear out (like on your toothbrush). 

Crevice tool: A long, flat attachment with an angled tip. It’s good for getting into tight corners including baseboards and stairs and between couch cushions. 

Dust brush tool: A small attachment with soft bristles. It’s good for blinds, windowsills, and delicate objects. 

Upholstery tool: A wide, flat attachment that allows for strong suction. It’s good for furniture with fabric upholstery like mattresses, chairs, and couches. 

Lithium ion battery: A type of rechargeable battery that uses lithium ions and can store high amounts of energy and deliver higher voltage than nickel-based batteries. It doesn’t display memory effect, but it is less stable than nickel-based batteries and has a tendency to overheat. 

Nickel battery: A type of rechargeable battery that comes in either nickel-cadmium (Ni-Ca) or nickel-metal-hydride (Ni-MH) form. It can store high amounts of energy, is more difficult to damage than Li-ion batteries, and suffers from memory effect.

Check out our other guides to great vacuum cleaners

image of irobot roomba 690 robot vacuum on a hardwood floor

For cleaning the rest of your floors, check out these guides

Man cleaning house mopping mop chores housework
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