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

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The best home security cameras of 2021

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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.

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The best iPad cases in 2021

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Logitech combo touch keyboard case ipad
The Logitech combo touch keyboard case is one of the best iPad cases you can buy.

  • An iPad case should bring protection, style, and new functionality to your tablet.
  • Our favorite cases are made by ESR, Logitech, and Zugu among others.
  • Remember to look for cases that are compatible with the iPad model you own.

Purchasing an iPad is an investment, and one of the best ways to protect that investment is by pairing your iPad with a case.

But choosing the right case isn’t always simple. There are tons of options available to suit any style and need, whether you’re looking for something sleek and minimal or military-grade protection.

The best cases are both stylish and protective without adding too much bulk to your bag. We’ve collected and tested over a dozen cases to find the best iPad case for every budget and situation.

Here are the best iPad cases of 2021:

Our methodology

We tested iPad cases on a variety of criteria to find our best picks. The quality and durability of the cases were judged based on the following factors: 

  • The build quality of the materials used in the case
  • How easy it is to put on and remove the case
  • How easy it is to clean the case
  • How well the case withstands jostling in a packed bag

To test durability, we placed each case in a bag filled with books, notebooks, and accessories. We then walked approximately five blocks with the bag, before removing the iPad and checking for scratches, dents, or marks on the case or the device itself. 

We also dropped each case approximately 4-feet from a bed onto a carpeted floor and inspected the case and iPad for damage. 

Additionally, we evaluated keyboard cases by the accuracy of the trackpad and comfort of the typing experience. 

Life can get messy – which is why we wanted to test how easy it is to clean the cases. To do this, we enlisted the help of our enthusiastic long-haired dog, Toby.  We used the cases to gently pet his fur, then attempted to remove any accumulation from the case following manufacturing guidelines.

The best overall iPad cases

iPad Pro 11 2021 Ascend Trifold Hard Case in black

ESR’s lineup of iPad cases offer a variety of styles, colors, and protection at affordable prices.

ESR offers something for everyone when it comes to iPad cases, whether it’s extra protection to go along with your Apple Smart Cover, full coverage, or a case with a built-in Apple Pencil holder. Few casemakers have this many options for price and protection. 

I’m a big fan of maximum protection, so the Sentry Magnetic Kickstand Case is one of my favorites. It features a 2-millimeter thick back cover, raised edges around the screen for maximum drop protection, and an adjustable magnetic kickstand with seven different viewing angles. 

The version for the 10.2-inch iPad costs $30.99, while the enhanced 12.9-inch iPad Pro models cost $69.99 – which makes this one of the most expensive cases in ESR’s lineup. The company also offers a Rugged Protection Bundle for the 11-inch iPad Pro for $93.77, which includes the Sentry case along with a reinforced tempered-glass screen protector.

While the Sentry cases only come in two colors, many of the lower-priced cases come in multiple colorways including blue, black, pink, and gray.  The majority of ESR’s cases are made with TPU – a type of polyurethane plastic which provides a thin layer of rubber-like protection. This is normally enough to protect against bumps, scratches, and scrapes, but probably wouldn’t do so well in a bigger drop.

The more rugged cases – like the Sentry– are made from polymer, which should do a better job at keeping your iPad safe from unfortunate mishaps.

ESR cases might not be the fanciest or the most protective on the market, but they are well-made and offer a great deal of value for those looking to find the perfect case for their new iPad. 

Worth a look:

Ascend Trifold Hard Case (small)Slim Rebound Case (small)Sentry Protective Case (small)
The best iPad cases from Apple

Apple Magic Keyboard case for iPad in black

Apple’s own cases emphasize style and function, but often fall short on protection. 

Apple products usually come at a premium, and that’s no different with its iPad cases. Apple’s cases are expensive, but also sleek and functional. The $49 Smart Cover is a thin piece of polyurethane that protects the device’s display and connects magnetically to the iPad. It comes in a variety of colors and can be folded into different positions to create a stand for reading, viewing, and drawing. The design is simple and effective, but leaves the back and sides of the iPad unprotected.

The $49 Smart Cover is a thin piece of polyurethane that protects the device’s display and connects magnetically to the iPad. It comes in a variety of colors and can be folded into different positions to create a stand for reading, viewing, and drawing. The design is simple and effective, but leaves the back and sides of the iPad  unprotected.

Those looking for all-around protection may want to consider the Smart Folio, which is similar in appearance to the Smart cover, but is made from a single piece of polyurethane that protects both the front and back of the iPad. The Smart Folio starts at $79, and is light, sleek, and perfect for those looking for an attractive case to protect against scrapes and bumps. 

Apple’s most impressive case is the $299  Magic Keyboard for the iPad Pro and iPad Air. This keyboard case and trackpad combination transform the iPad into a viable laptop replacement. The case utilizes a clever magnetic design to create a one-piece stand and keyboard that is both thin and highly functional. 

The only downside to the Magic Keyboard – aside from its high starting price – is that it lacks any protection on the sides of the iPad. (My last iPad suffered a crack in the screen when it fell inside the previous generation Magic Keyboard case). There are other worthy keyboard cases on the market that address this problem, but few are as well-made as the Magic Keyboard.

Worth a look:

Magic Keyboard for iPad Pro 11-inch and iPad Air (small)Smart Folio for iPad Air (4th Gen) (small)Smart Cover for iPad (8th Gen) (small)
The best iPad keyboard case

Logitech combo touch keyboard case ipad

The Logitech Combo Touch offers full tablet protection, backlit keys, a great typing experience, and is more affordable than Apple’s Magic Keyboard. 

The $199.99 Logitech Combo Touch lacks the clever design of Apple’s Magic Keyboard, but offers a similar experience while protecting the iPad itself. 

The Combo Touch features two parts – a protective back case and a removable keyboard and trackpad that connects via the smart connector while doubling  as a front cover. The back case folds out into a kickstand with plenty of viewing and writing angles. A magnet holds the kickstand shut when it’s not in use to maintain its flat back.

The addition of the kickstand means that the back of the case is thick and protective – if slightly bulky. The Combo Touch adds heft to the iPad, but it is a small price to pay for such a versatile case. 

Typing on the Combo Touch is effective and fun. The keys offer a good amount of travel and are perfect for those who don’t mind portable keyboards. I found the keyboard to be a perfect size for my small hands, but those with larger hands might find it a bit cramped. I wish the trackpad was slightly taller, but I found it perfectly usable at its current size.

The gestures on the trackpad worked well, and I had no problem zipping around my iPad without ever touching the display. The addition of backlighting on the keyboard made this case a great nighttime companion, as I could clearly see the keys as I typed in the dark. 

The type cover is easy to pull on and off, which helps to make the Logitech Combo Touch great for typing, reading, drawing, and viewing. It comes in either Oxford Gray or Sand. 

However, because the Combo Touch uses the Smart Connector on the iPad to power the keyboard, the case leaves one small portion of the tablet exposed. iPad users looking for a keyboard with maximum protection should consider the Zagg Pro Keys with touchpad instead.

Zagg’s keyboard still feels substantial, but the case feels much more rugged. The downsides, however, are that the keyboard has a battery that needs recharging, and the case is heavier. I also prefer the Combo Touch’s kickstand and more powerful magnet. The Zagg Pro Keys kickstand is attached to the keyboard, so you can’t remove it if you want to prop the iPad up for reading or watching movies.

Worth a look:

Combo Touch (small)Pro Keys Wireless Keyboard (small)
The best iPad case for protection

otterbox ipad case

OtterBox cases offer a huge amount of protection without adding too much bulk.

OtterBox is known for its protective cases, and the company’s iPad offerings don’t disappoint. OtterBox makes traditional folio cases like the Symmetry Series and the Symmetry Series 360, but it’s the Defender Series Pro that really stands out from the pack. 

The $89.95 Defender Series Pro offers the most over-the-top protection that I’ve ever seen in an iPad case. It features three layers of protection– an inner thin plastic covering over the front and back of the iPad, followed by a rubber slipcover, topped off by a hard plastic back that acts as a stand and display protector. 

This is not the easiest case to install and remove – in fact, I needed a video tutorial to figure out the processes. But my iPad seemed invincible once it was inside. Of course, it’s hard to guarantee that the Defender Series Pro will protect your iPad in every situation. But my iPad did survive a 4-foot drop from my bed to the floor without a scratch. 

My biggest concern with the Defender Series Pro lies in its hard plastic outer shell. The shell grips securely to the front iPad for protection, but also features a collapsible hinge in the center that acts as a stand for viewing and writing. 

This design is interesting, but ultimately feels clunky. There is no mechanism to clip the case into the stand; instead, the iPad rests awkwardly between the raised corners of the outer case and raised middle hinge – leaving the tablet less secure than I would want. 

The Defender Series Pro only comes in black and certainly isn’t the most fashionable case. But what it lacks in style, it makes up for in protection. 

Worth a look: 

iPad Pro (11-inch) (3rd gen) Defender Series Pro Case (small)iPad Air (4th gen) Symmetry Series 360 Case (small)iPad (8th and 7th gen) Symmetry Series Folio Case (small)
The best iPad case for watching video

Zugu iPad Pro case in black

Zugu cases feature great all-around protection and come with a magnetic kickstand that offers eight different viewing angles. 

Zugu doesn’t make a lot of different types of cases, but the ones they do make have some of the best viewing angles on the market. 

The Zugu Muse Case, which starts at $49.99, is made out of a thick layer of TPU plastic surrounded by a polycarbonate shell for enhanced drop protection. It features raised edges, a grooved folio sleep and wake cover, and a microfiber lining. There’s a collapsible kickstand on the back of the case that magnetically connects to the grooves on the cover, creating eight viewing angles for reading, watching, and typing. 

Other case manufactures have emulated Zugu’s design, but the strength of the magnetic holds makes this case stand out. No matter what surface I put it on, the Zugu case stays locked into the correct viewing angle. It performs equally as well on a lumpy bean bag chair as it does on a hard table. I can even lightly shake the iPad without detaching the kickstand – though a slightly harder shake breaks the spell and releases the front of the case. 

The Zugu is also incredibly durable. I’ve used it every day for three years and have yet to see any wear and tear. It has been dropped, jostled, shoved into packed bags, and covered in pet hair, but it still works as well now as it did when I got it. I’ve also streamed thousands of hours of content while using this case and have always found just the right angle for every viewing position. 

The only downside to the Zugu is that it adds some bulk to my iPad. Despite the fact that it comes in up to five different colors, it’s not the best-looking case you’ll find. 

Worth a look: 

iPad Pro 12.9 (5th Gen) Case (small)
What to consider when buying an iPad case

Compatibility

The most important aspect of buying an iPad case is making sure that it fits the specific iPad model that you own. It might be tempting to hang on to the old case for your previous iPad  when buying a newer model. Although many iPads share a similar design, their dimensions are often different. That’s why it’s important to buy a case for the specific model you own.

Apple currently sells five different iPad models:

If you’re not sure which model you own, open your iPad’s settings menu and tap “General.” Choose “About” and look at the field that says “Model Name.”

Features

The next question you’ll want to ask yourself is how you intend to use your case. Do you want a sleeve that’s as slim as possible just for keeping your iPad safe from scratches? Or do you often find yourself propping up your iPad while watching movies and cooking? If so, you’ll probably want an iPad case with an integrated kickstand. And then, of course, there are keyboard cases designed for those who take notes on their iPad. Think carefully about the scenarios in which you use your iPad the most before buying a case. 

Budget

Aside from buying the right case for the iPad model you own, budget is the most critical factor to consider. Basic cases can cost $15 or less, while more sophisticated cases like those with keyboards, kickstands, and extra durable designs can cost $70 or more. There are also plenty of in-between options in the $30-$50 range that offer standard protection. The best keyboard cases, however, will usually cost more than $100.

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The 5 best wetsuits of 2021 for surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Wetsuits protect you from cold water, allowing you to surf, swim, or dive longer than if you didn’t wear one.
  • Choosing a wetsuit depends on how you’ll use it as surfers have different needs than kayakers, for instance.
  • Our top pick, O’Neill’s Psycho Tech, features water-resistant neoprene, durable stitching, and a comfortable fit.

For anyone who doesn’t live in the tropics, wearing a wetsuit while surfing is a necessity. Paddling out to a break with water temperatures below 65 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit without a generous helping of rubber ranges from slightly uncomfortable to downright deadly. But wear the right wetsuit and you’ll quickly forget all about the hypothermia-inducing water temp (for the most part).

Surfing isn’t the only water sport one might wear a wetsuit for, however. Paddleboarders, kayakers, and divers, among others, also don neoprene getups to keep cold water from cutting their outings short – but not every wetsuit is a jack-of-all-trades type of suit. What one person might need for kayaking might be too cumbersome or ill-fitting for a surfer.

To help anyone shopping for a new suit, I’ve field-tested a number of wetsuits from top brands like O’Neill and Rip Curl, consulted with diving and surfing enthusiasts, and conducted plenty of research to come up with a list of the best currently available.

At the end of this guide, I’ve included answers to a few FAQs, including the differences in suit types and thickness, as well as some insight into the best way to care for your wetsuit and how to pick out a diving suit.

Here are the best wetsuits:

The best wetsuit overall

ONeill wetsuit

The O’Neill Psycho Tech is made with water-resistant neoprene to keep it from retaining water, and its top-notch stitching makes it almost watertight.

Pros: Warm, almost watertight stitching, lightweight, quick-drying

Cons: A little pricey

O’Neill’s Psycho Tech is the kind of cozy, stretchy, almost watertight suit that becomes oh-so-precious to cold-water surfers when winter storms roll through and leaky seams threaten to end surf sessions early.

If there’s one company I’d put all my good faith in keeping me from the wrath of hypothermia, it’s the late, lauded laureate and godfather of the modern wetsuit, Jack O’Neill.

O’Neill puts a lot of money into research and design, and while the US military doesn’t exactly endorse or use any single wetsuit, they’ve frequently sent personnel out in O’Neill suits. That alone may or may not speak volumes to you, but the US military is not known to be one to skimp on matters of national security.

This wetsuit is flexible, and I’ve found it to hold up in temperatures considerably lower than their rating. My old Psycho II model from 2009, which saw heavy service through 2010 and has seen service in most of the years since, is still, shockingly, in pretty good shape. The new Psychos are miles ahead, but there aren’t enough problems or even one single tear in my suit that warrant tossing mine out just yet.

Cleanline Surf, the Pacific Northwest’s coldwater surf aficionados, called the Psycho Tech “the pinnacle of wetsuit technology and performance.” The site goes on to taut it for being lightweight, warm, durable, and flexible — I don’t disagree.

Also, the TechnoButter neoprene rejects water so well that it stays light even when wet, and it dries much faster than most suits.

The best budget wetsuit for women

RipCurlDawn

Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits cost less than $200, feature an easy-to-use rear zip entry, and have both stitched and glued seams for added durability. 

Pros: Easy in and out via a rear zip entry, stitched and glued seams, inexpensive (as far as wetsuits go)

Cons: Its 3/2 millimeter thickness won’t keep you warm very long in colder water temps

Rip Curl’s Dawn Patrol suits are extremely flexible, thoroughly stitched, taped, and glued, and very reasonably priced.

The suit has been a bestseller for several years and being blindstitched, glued, and taped for under $200 certainly hasn’t hurt its reputation. It also comes in both men’s and women’s designs, but, I must make a full disclosure: I’ve never owned one, though I’ve envied them from close and afar over the years. 

The best budget wetsuit for men

7seaslarge

VISSLA’s 7 Seas is economical but doesn’t cut any corners to deliver a functional wetsuit at a fair price.

Pros: Price tag, sleeve gaskets, stitching and gluing, 1-year warranty

Cons: Neoprene retains water and gets a little heavy

I tried VISSLA’s 7 Seas model in New York this late spring and was hot in the 3/2-millimeter full suit. That’s a good sign. I also caught up with an old friend on Montauk who’s in his third season with the same model, which is as much as most people ask of even a luxury suit. That was good enough for me.

It fit me exceptionally well, which is a shock because I’m six feet tall, generally, stay shy of 160 pounds, and almost no company designs standard suits sized for stick-figured string beans like me.

The seams are held together by double blind-stitching and taped three times over, which somewhere around five years ago was unthinkable for a suit under $200. Matter-of-factly, this suit is designed in much the same way one of my nicer suits from about 10 years ago was, only that one cost me about twice as much. The suit’s also backed by respective 1-year warranties for both the neoprene and the stitching.

Although the neoprene retains water and gets heavy, the suit is remarkably stretchy — maybe stretchier than Patagonia’s Yulex suits — and the wrist gaskets that are located a few inches above the cuff really kept water from getting up my sleeves and slowing my paddling. Further, taking water up the sleeves in fall or winter is shockingly chilling.

I also liked the fuzzy lining, which is akin to Patagonia’s, but, again, this suit is less than half the price (at the time of this publishing). While Patagonia’s suits are nice, and I love mine, I don’t see any need to step up unless you really feel like spending the extra money or you’re going to be surfing in exceptionally cold waters where you’ll probably want the best technology you can get.

The best non-neoprene wetsuit

Patagonia wetsuit

There are other non-neoprene suits emerging on the market, but my Patagonia suits have lasted through a lot, and it will take a lot for another suit to knock them off their throne.

Pros: Long-lasting (as long as if not longer than most neoprene suits), neoprene-free, almost petroleum-free, very warm, so you can often get away with a thinner suit

Cons: Not cheap, maybe a little stiffer than neoprene suits

Patagonia’s current crop of wetsuits comes via a biochemical company called Yulex. Yulex manufactures neoprene from the guayule plant, a hardy shrub native to the Southwestern United States that’s used to make rubber that’s both renewable and nearly chemical-free.

The latest Yulex-branded suit now has a new patterning intended for “improved fit and increased mobility.” Yulex’s brand of rubber often had a reputation among wetsuit users as being stiff compared with neoprene, which isn’t generally a good thing for water enthusiasts. However, the suits do feature a fuzzy synthetic liner that makes the inside of the suit feel silky smooth while also doing well to make me feel warmer in frigid water. 

The company now uses a water-based glue in all its suits, eliminating the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that were used for decades. The new suit also includes solution-dyed fabrics that reduce water consumption and CO2 emissions by 86% and 96%, respectively.

Of course, as goes with the Patagonia story, everything is Fair Trade Certified, and you’ll also get Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee, so if you’re not thrilled with your new suit, you can send it back.

What excites me most about this suit is that, although Patagonia hasn’t made the leap to zipperless suits, the corrosion-resistant zipper on this suit is now actually replaceable, so if it wears out before the wetsuit does, you can extend its life a little longer. This is great news because oftentimes the collar or zipper area is the first thing to wear out on a wetsuit.

Learn more about Patagonia and Yulex’s bio-rubber here.

The best wetsuit for paddlesports

Screen Shot 2018 08 07 at 5.16.06 PM

If you’re tired of hanging up your paddles for the winter, O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is just enough to keep you comfortable as water temperatures reach the 60s and maybe the 50s. 

Pros: Flexible, breathable, affordable

Cons: The chest rubber can be overly sticky

Because our bodies are mostly out of the water when paddling, we tend to work up a sweat beneath a neoprene wetsuit. While any combination of layers can do the trick, I’ve found that a farmer john-style (sleeveless) wetsuit with flatlock seams works best unless you’re dealing with temperatures below 50° F or so, at which point I’d opt for a dry suit. Stohlquist makes a good one for men and women.

Since you’re getting such a thorough upper body workout, I’d suggest avoiding sleeves, which apart from causing you to overheat also tend to constrict movement and cause chafing. O’Neill’s O’Riginal spring suit is 2 millimeters thick and comes with flatlock seams, and at less than $100 can’t really be beaten.

If it’s a little cooler, you might want one with full-length legs (the women’s model, the Bahia, comes in a 1.5mm), or a 3mm. O’Neill doesn’t make the sleeveless suit in a 3mm, but Aqua Lung does, for men and women. Anything above 3mm tends to get a little too hot for paddlesports, at least if you’re not getting in the water.

If you want to spend even a little more money — unless you’re surfing in one of these suits, keep in mind that quality might not be quite as paramount — Patagonia’s Long John (men’s) and Long Jane (women’s) are $169 and worth it. They’re made of the same non-neoprene Yulex rubber as Patagonia’s other suits, but flatlock-stitched so that they breathe a little better.

Wetsuit FAQs

What different kinds of wetsuits are there?

Apart from temperature, what you’ll be doing in or on the water is a major deciding factor for which wetsuit is best. If you’re swimming or surfing, a floaty, hydrodynamic closed-cell or single-piece suit is likely your best bet. These are either chest- or back-zipped and come with different sleeve and leg cuts.

But if you’re diving, a closed-cell wetsuit allows too much water flow between it and your skin. You’ll find yourself feeling stiff and cold, and stiff and cold are never what you want while diving for long periods of time. An open-cell wetsuit provides suction between the skin and suit that’s nearly watertight. While these types of suits are a pain to get in and out of, they keep you much warmer and allow for much greater flexibility underwater.

Editor’s note: If you use a little eco-friendly dish soap, getting into an open-cell wetsuit is much easier.

Open-cell suits usually don’t have zippers apart from the wrist and leg cuffs but closed cells come in a variety of different zipper configurations. Some manufacturers are starting to develop zipperless models, too, which could eliminate zippers altogether — at least on more expensive suits.


What are the differences in wetsuit zipper types?

Back-zip suit: Back-zip wetsuits are the original design, and almost always cheaper than chest-zip or zipper-less suits. They’re fine for swimming in temperate waters on relatively warm days, but I’ve found that having cool water seep down your back on a chillier day — or in the middle of winter, for that matter — can be miserable.

Chest-zip suit: Usually more expensive, chest-zip wetsuits tend to keep you warmer thanks to a smaller, well-protected zipper that sits on the front of the suit. This also makes them the most difficult to get in and out of, but, overall, we think they’re worth it. They tend to last longer, and some even allow for the neckpiece to be replaced, which is often the first thing to wear and tear on a wetsuit.

Zipperless: I haven’t yet tried out a zipperless wetsuit, though I’ve been hearing positive buzz about O’Neill’s Hyperfreak Comp zipless model. It would be more of a performance suit than most require, and it’s hard to say whether the lack of a zipper will, in turn, stretch the suit more or keep us warmer, but we will see how they fare over time and update this guide with our findings.


How thick should my wetsuit be?

Wetsuit thickness is measured in millimeters, and the core is most often thicker than the extremities to keep your body temperature up while allowing for more mobility in the arms and legs. This is why you’ll see two — or sometimes three — numbers, listing the core’s thickness first (e.g., 3/2, or 4/3/2).

Temperature rating corresponds with thickness, for the most part, but varies some from company to company and material to material, but here’s a basic rule of thumb:

  • Mid 60s to low 70s: 2 mm
  • Low 60s to high 60s: 3/2 mm
  • Low 50s to low 60s: 4/3 mm, or 4/3/2 mm
  • Low to high 40s: 5/4 mm, or 5/4/3 mm
  • High 30s to low 40s: 6/5 mm or 6/5/4 mm
  • Upper 30s and below: While a good 6/5- or 6/5/4-millimeter suit can do you well in the upper 30s, it’s tough to stand it any colder. There are 7/6- and 7/6/5-millimeter wetsuits, but they become impedingly stiff at that point. A good 6/5 or 6/5/4 with hood, boots, and gloves will take care of most of us through winter.

What sizes do wetsuits come in? 

Size charts vary from company to company, so make sure to have a look at the chart to be sure which one fits you best.

Unless you get a custom suit, none are likely to fit you perfectly but you should be able to get close enough.


What are wetsuits made out of?

Not all wetsuits are created equal, and while most are made of neoprene — and come from the same factory in Taiwan, despite different brand names — it’s the stitching and seams that make all the difference.

  • Overlock stitching: This is the most basic stitching, and it will let water flow through your suit like Victoria Falls. Okay, not really, but I save these cheap suits for spring and summer, or when it’s not exactly board-short temperature, but a constant flush is actually refreshing.
  • Flat stitching: This is probably a little fancier than the stitching they taught you in Home Economics class. By no means is it watertight, but it lies flatter and holds up better than basic overlock stitching.
  • Blindstitching: Blindstitched suits have even narrower stitching than flat-stitched ones, and the seams are usually glued, which does a pretty good job of preventing water seepage.
  • Sealed, taped, glued: This is a definitive step up, and usually what you’ll find with blindstitched suits. Once you get into blindstitching, you start to notice that very little water seeps through your suit, and you stay relatively dry inside. The best of these suits are also sealed and taped both inside and out, but the full combination is where suits start to get above the $500 price tag, which isn’t crucial for most. Still, if you plan to be surfing in sub 55-degree Fahrenheit temps, we highly recommend forking over the extra dough.

How to take care of your wetsuit

All outdoors equipment requires a little love to survive its life expectancy and, hopefully, beyond. Protect your wetsuit and it protects you — at least from the cold.

Here’s what every first-time wetsuit owner should know: 

Wash your suit every time you use it, or at least as frequently as you can stand to. Wetsuits take on everything you put into them, from your sweat, sunscreen, seawater, and yes, urine. While it may not damage your suit, it will surely smell bad.

And even though Helen Hunt does it, it’s not exactly a good idea to pee in your wetsuit, for obvious reasons. Regardless of whether or not you decide to relieve yourself in your suit, get a wetsuit shampoo, and follow its instructions well. Do NOT use any old soap for this, or you’ll be sorry.

Store your wetsuit in a dry, shaded area with plenty of ventilation. We all know what happens to wet things in confined spaces, but hanging your wetsuit to dry in the sun is surely the quickest way to end its life.

Hang your wetsuit loosely on a thick-framed clothes hanger, a proper wetsuit hanger, or fold it loosely. If you hang a wetsuit on a sharp wire hanger, it will stretch out. If you fold it too tightly, it’ll crease. I roll mine up when I travel to avoid creasing.

How to choose a diving wetsuit

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A simple, closed-cell suit like a surfing wetsuit works above the surface where you have heat from the sun and little pressure, but when you get below the surface, it can get stiff and cold. An open cell suit will keep you much warmer and more flexible, whether you’re freediving or using scuba tanks. 

I’ve never actually owned an open-cell diving suit — I use a surfing suit to dive, which I assure you is less than ideal — so I called on a lifeline: an old friend who spends his workdays and sometimes his nights underwater in the marrow-chilling depths of New Zealand’s Marlborough Sounds. If anyone has earned the authority to deem a wetsuit good or bad, we figure it might be a commercial diver, after all.

A commercial diver’s input

The array of both open cell and closed cell diving suits in the locker where he works is almost exclusively with Beuchat and Cressi wetsuits, and while many of the members of the dive team do wear closed cell suits to work, they don’t last as long — maybe that’s intended. Open cell suits are snug, and almost suction-cup your skin, which is extremely efficient for keeping you warm, but makes them very difficult to get on and off.

When we would go spearfishing together — I in my 5/4-millimeter closed-cell surfing wetsuit, he in his 7-millimeter open-cell diving suit — I’d be in and out of my suit in half the time it took him to roll his on and off. But, by the same token, he could still feel his hands and feet after an hour of diving. Meanwhile, my lips would be turning blue.

Bottom line: If you’re going to be in even moderately cold water, save yourself the agony of freezing and put up with the nuisance of stretching into a skin-tight open cell suit.

How to shop for a dive suit

If you’ve never worn or owned a diving wetsuit before, you’ll probably want to go to the local dive shop and have the pros sort you out, or at the very least fit you.

When picking out a diving suit, color, or rather pattern, is a consideration that goes beyond aesthetics. If an experience with wildlife is what you’re after (even if you’re not in search of dinner), then a camouflage suit is probably a good idea, simply because you won’t startle as many creatures as quickly as you would with a black suit, or one of any color, really.

Also, note that camouflage is relative: If you’re going to be in open water, you’ll want a rhapsody in blue, and if you’re going to be in kelp, coral, or rocks, you probably want to look for a more greenish-brown pattern.

A few drawbacks

The main downfall of many closed-cell suits is that they are made of or coated with a softer, more delicate rubber-like neoprene skin which, while it keeps you warmer and leaves you agiler in the pressured depths, is highly prone to tearing.

Also, always make sure your wetsuit is wet when you’re pulling it on, and follow instructions for care and maintenance like these, from Aqua Lung. Never leave any wetsuit in the sun but especially not a suit with skin material, which will melt and stick to itself, a tragedy not covered by any warranty far as I’m aware.

Aqua LungBeuchat, Cressi, and Mares are companies that have all been around since recreational diving has, more or less, and they all have similarly long legacies and popular standing with commercial and recreational divers alike.

Pros: Tighter-fitting, more watertight, keeps you warmer, less constricting

Cons: Can be more expensive, much more delicate, difficult to don and doff 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best Lightning cables for iPhone and iPad in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

A Lightning cable is essential for any iPhone owner. Apple includes one in the box when you buy a new iPhone, but there are plenty of Lightning cables from other companies that are more lengthy, durable, and colorful.

We’ve tested several Lightning cables to find the right one for every budget and need- from the most durable, to the longest, and everything in between.

All of our recommended Lightning cables are MFi certified by Apple. Cables without this certification might be less expensive than the ones on our list, but they can also be dangerous and ineffective. Some of our picks come in USB-C versions that can plug into Apple’s fast chargers and more recent laptops.

Here are the best Lightning cables of 2021

The best overall Lightning cable

The best overall Lightning cable  Paracable USB Paraflex Lightning Cable
Our best overall Lighting cable is the Paracable USB Paraflex

The Paracable Paraflex Lightning cable is strong, fairly priced, and comes in multiple colors and sizes, making it the best overall choice.

Pros: Durable, multiple color options, strong warranty 

Cons: Moderately pricey

The Paracable Paraflex Lightning cable, which starts at $22,  is one of the best Lightning cables I’ve ever used. It’s durable, colorful, and features the thickest connector reinforcements I’ve seen. Ultimately, what sets this cable apart from the Anker PowerLine II, our previous top pick, is its strength, thin design, reasonable price, and variety of color and length options. 

This cable easily fits through my case easily and creates a secure connection with my phone. I can even hold my phone upside down and shake the cable without it falling out, though I don’t recommend trying this over a hard surface. It’s also light, portable, and comes with a Velcro strap for easy storage. 

Paracable uses a patented 32-bit paracord fabric to cover its lineup of cables. The fabric comes in four different color patterns and feels similar to other nylon-covered power cords. It’s soft, smooth, and easily bendable – though it does a better job of keeping its bent shape toward the end of the connectors than it does in the middle of the cable.  It also charges quickly, with the ability to transport up to two amps of power to your device. 

What’s particularly interesting about this cable is that the company claims it can withstand up to 35,000 bends. That’s almost three times as many bends as Anker claims the PowerLine II can endure. Although I haven’t tried bending the Paracable 35,000 times, I’ve been using it for months and haven’t encountered any issues. The company backs up its product with a two-year warranty, along with a 30-day, money-back guarantee.

The Paracable Paraflex Lightning cable isn’t the cheapest charging cord on this list, but offers a great combination of style, size, and durability – making it the best choice for most people.

The best budget Lightning cable

The best budget Lightning cable  The Anker PowerLine II
Our best budget Lightning cables is the Anker PowerLine II

The Anker PowerLine II with Lightning Connector‘s affordable price, sturdy build, and size and color options make it a great choice for those in need of a basic cable.

Pros: Inexpensive, multiple colors and lengths, reinforced connectors

Cons: Not as durable as some of the others on the this list

The $14.99 PowerLine II might not be as new as its sibling — the PowerLine III —  but it’s still a fantastic charging cable for everyday use. It’s durable, comes in multiple colors and lengths, and is affordably priced — making it a great pick for anyone in need of an everyday charging cord. 

Its synthetic rubber exterior is smooth to the touch, while the reinforced connectors are sturdy and robust. The white cable I’ve been testing looks and feels like a slightly thicker version of the Apple-made Lightning cable. But if white isn’t your color, you have the option to choose between black, blue, and red. There is also a USB-C version for those looking to take advantage of Apple’s fast charging feature. 

Anker claims that the PowerLine II can withstand up to 175 pounds and 12,000 bends, which is fewer than the Paracable Paraflex and Anker PowerLine III,  but significantly more than an unreinforced cable. In case there are ever any issues, the Anker backs the cable with a limited lifetime warranty.

The best long Lightning cable

The best long Lightning cable  The Native Union Night Cable
Our best long Lightning cable is the Native Union Night Cable

Charging from a distance is easy with the Native Union Night Lightning cable, as this durable 10-foot cord reaches just about anywhere.

Pros: 10-feet long, lots of color options, weighted so it doesn’t fall or get tangled 

Cons: Expensive

Native Union’s $39.99 Night Lightning cable certainly stands out. Not only is it colorful and incredibly long – 10 feet, to be exact – but it also features a golf ball-sized weight that anchors the cable in place. The interesting design, durability, and multiple color options help to make the Night cable our favorite extra-long power cord.  

The weight is surprisingly useful when charging from a high table. It keeps the cable contained as it drops to the floor so that it doesn’t get in the way. The nylon itself is incredibly soft, while the reinforced connectors are strong and durable. The cable’s wires are protected with DuPont Kevlar fiber, a TPE rubber sleeve, a tinned copper braid, and final grounding layer. 

Native Union backs their products with a limited lifetime warranty, so you don’t have to worry if something stops working. But so far, I’ve twisted, bent and shaped this cable for months without a single issue. 

The Native Union Night comes in five colors, including a pink-ish Rose and a light green Sage. There’s also a USB-C to Lightning version as well, but those cables are more limited in their color options.

The unique length and look of this cable make it a great choice for those who can appreciate a cord that is long, durable, and a little funky.

The best durable Lightning cable

The best durable Lighting cable  The Fuse Chicken Titan
The Fuse Chicken Titan is our pick as the best durable Lighting cable

The Fuse Chicken Titan is strong enough to survive a chainsaw.

Pros: Extremely durable, made from flexible high-strength steel, lifetime guarantee  

Cons: Expensive, doesn’t come in a USB-C to Lightning option

The $29.95 Fuse Chicken Titan just might be the toughest Lightning cable ever. Don’t believe me? The company ran over the Titan with a truck, struck it repeatedly with a hammer, and even took a chainsaw to the cable without breaking it

Of course, marketing doesn’t tell the whole story and I certainly have not attempted to recreate these tests. But I can at least say that the cord looks and feels absolutely indestructible. 

This thick cable is made with two layers of flexible steel, along with connectors that are  sealed directly over the electronics in one-piece housing — which ensures there is little room for cracks or breakage. The shiny metal cable feels sturdy and slick, and can maintain its shape for a long period of time even after being bent in a variety of ways.

There are some trade-offs for this much durability. It’s not the lightest or easiest cable to carry around, and it’s at least two or three times wider than other cables on the market. The wider neck of the cable also might not fit the cutout for the charging port on some iPhone cases, making it more difficult to charge on the go. I never encountered this problem, but my iPhone case has an especially generous bottom cutout compared to others. 

The Fuse Chicken Titan is a little over 3 feet long and comes with a limited lifetime warranty, and is only available in a USB-A to Lightning configuration. Fuse Chicken also makes a Titan Plus, which is 4.9 feet long and offers a Gold and Rose color option.

The best universal Lightning cable

Best universal Lightning cable  Anker 3 in 1 Charging Cable
The Anker 3-in-1 Charging Cable is our pick as the best universal charging cable

The Anker PowerLine II 3-in-1 Charging Cable gives you the option to charge devices with  USB-C, Lightning, or Micro USB connections.

Pros: Durable, multiple connectors

Cons: Only comes in one length, no USB-C to USB-C version

You probably have multiple devices that require different types of cables to charge. For example, my Kindle Oasis charges using a micro-USB connection, while my iPhone needs a Lightning cable, and my headphones require a USB-C connection. Why must I keep three different cords in my bag? 

Anker has made the $19.99 PowerLine II 3-in-1 Charging Cable to fix this problem. The smooth, synthetic rubber USB-A to micro-USB cord features two securely attached dongles that dangle from the micro-USB side of the cable. One of these dongles is a Lightning connector, while the other is USB-C. The dongles snap into place on top of the micro-USB connector to create an interchangeable charging cable. 

The cord is well designed and the seal between the dongle and the Micro USB connector is strong. The dongles connect and come off easily with a bit of force. Luckily, they are made out of the same quality rubber as the rest of the cord and can withstand the tugging and stretching.  

The only downside to the PowerLine II 3-in-1 is that there is only one length: 3 feet. This is fine when I am close to an outlet, but having a 6-foot option would be really helpful in other situations. Anker also lacks a USB-C to USB-C/Lightning/micro-USB option, which is frustrating for those who want to charge their phone quickly. 

The Anker PowerLine II 3-in-1 Charging Cable comes in black and white, and is a great alternative to carrying around multiple cables for different devices.

Our methodology

We judged each cable on a variety of criteria to help determine which cord was the best. These determinations were based on the subsequent factors:

  • Quality of the materials that make up the cords
  • The availability of multiple colors and sizes to accommodate different needs and preferences
  • The durability of the cables 
  • How easily they fit into the Lightning connector on the phone through a case

We also took price and Apple MFi certification into consideration when choosing our picks to ensure value and quality. 

To test durability, we twisted and bent the cables rigorously over the course of several months. We particularly focused on the area near the cable’s connector to check for evidence of wear. 

We measured connector fit by plugging the cables to our phones, dangled them three feet above a soft surface, and shook them until they dropped.

What else we considered

Other cables we considered  Anker PowerLine Play 180 Cable
Some of the other cables we considered include the Anker PowerLine Play 180 Cable

Native Union Belt Cable ($24.99): This 4-foot cable is shorter than the extra-long Night cable listed above and lacks its distinctive knot. Instead, it features a thick leather strap that wraps around the cord to keep everything secure. It starts at $24.99 and is missing the qualities that make the Native Union Night cable so unique.  

Anker PowerLine Play 180 Cable ($17.99): Playing games and watching videos in landscape mode while simultaneously charging your phone can be annoying. The protruding Lightning cable sticks out into your hand, making the phone hard to hold. Anker’s PowerLine Play 180 attempts to fix this problem by creating a Lightning connector that plugs in and immediately bends at a 180-degree angle so that the cable bends away from the palm of your hand and down the back of the phone instead. It works well and costs $17.99, but is only 3 feet long, which makes it too short to be practical. 

Fuse Chicken Shield ($34.95): This Lightning cable is 1 meter in length and is encased in stainless-steel chainmail links, which offer great overall protection. Ultimately, it didn’t seem quite as protective or as effortlessly bendable as some of Fuse Chicken’s other products, which is why — despite its fun and durable design — it didn’t make the cut.

Anker PowerLine III Flow ($26.99): This cable is smooth, soft to the touch, and offers a Lightning to USB-C connection for fast charging. It costs $26.99 and comes in multiple sizes and  fun colors — including Mint Green and Lavender Grey — but is not as durable as some of the others on our list. 

How to buy a Lightning cable

Anker Lightning Cable, Powerline II

Buying a Lightning cable seems simple, but there are a few important things to look out for.

  • Always look for cables that are MFi certified. Lightning cables that aren’t Apple-certified could result in damage to your device, damage to the cable, or inability to sync or charge your device, Apple says. Apple-approved cables will have a badge that says “Made for iPhone” or “Made for iPhone, iPad, iPod” on their packaging.
  • Make sure you’re buying the right cable for your device and power adapter. All iPhone models released since the iPhone 5 are compatible with Lightning cables. But iPads are a little trickier. The current generation iPad Mini and standard iPad both have Lightning ports. However, the newest fourth-generation iPad Air charges via USB-C instead of Lightning, while older iPad Air models use Lightning. Recent iPad Pro models released in 2018 or later use USB-C instead of Lightning. You should also double check whether your device’s power adapter uses a USB-C or USB-A connection so you buy the correct model. 
  • Look for Lightning cables that suit your specific needs. If you’re shopping for a Lightning cable other than the one that came with your iPhone, there’s probably a reason. Think about the frustrations you experience with your current cable before deciding on a new one. Is it too short? Has your dog tried to chew through it recently? The answer to these questions will tell you what type of Lightning cable you should be looking for. 

Check out our other iPhone accessory buying guides

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The best Bluetooth keyboards for everything from tablets to PC gaming

Collage of the best bluetooth keyboards, including Logitech Combo Touch and Logitech G915 TKL 4x3

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Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Wireless keyboards eliminate desk clutter. But Bluetooth keyboards take that one step further, freeing up a USB port and even leaving the desk behind to control your tablet, phone, or even your smart TV. The ideal Bluetooth keyboard balances that wire-free portability with comfortable keys and a smooth typing experience all without breaking the bank.

While Bluetooth keyboards leave cords off the desk and support mobile devices, the lack of a cord can introduce a delay. Users that need the most speed – such as gamers – will end up spending significantly more to find a Bluetooth keyboard that doesn’t have noticeable input lag.

“Wireless keyboards do tend to be more popular for business professionals due to their ease of use and clean aesthetic, while more intensive users might favor other features and a lower price tag,” said Tom Gilmore, Technology Education Coordinator at Free Geek. “…if latency is of concern (like with gaming) then we suggest avoiding Bluetooth keyboards and to stick with wired, unless you go for the high-end wireless options.”

Because Bluetooth keyboards can be used for anything from writing a novel on a laptop to searching Netflix on a smart TV, we’ve researched options in several different categories. These best Bluetooth keyboard picks are based on a mix of expert guidance, reputable reviews, and hands-on experience from Business Insider team members. We’re currently testing out each option to narrow down our list.

Our testing suggests that these are the best Bluetooth keyboards:

Best Bluetooth keyboard overall

Logitech MX Keys Advanced Wireless Keyboard on a white background

Who’s it for: The Logitech MX Keys is a full-sized Bluetooth keyboard that’s versatile enough for many different uses and platforms, including both Windows and Mac.

The Logitech MX Keys is a full-sized Bluetooth keyboard that’s large enough for desk use, but thin enough to do some off-desk typing, too. When Insider writer Matt Smith tested the Logitech MX Keys earlier this year, he said that the keyboard is comfortable to use even if you don’t spend the extra $20 for the wrist pad.

The MX Keys uses scissor switches and low-profile keycaps  with finger-sized imprints for comfortable typing. The scissor switch is also quiet and responsive. With the body built from one piece of metal, the $100 keyboard also has a much nicer feel than cheaper options. You can use the keyboard with Bluetooth or a dedicated Wireless USB dongle. Backlighting that senses your fingers helps stretch the battery life, which Logitech says can hit 10 days.

Logitech offers options designed for either Windows or Mac, but the keyboard also works with iOS and Android. The keyboard can remember three devices, so you can easily switch back and forth between your laptop, tablet, and smartphone. While the full-sized keyboard isn’t going to tuck into a backpack easily, the thin design means it will easily jump from room to room in your home

MX Keys Advanced Wireless Illuminated Keyboard (button)
Best Bluetooth keyboard for gaming

The Logitech G915 Wireless keyboard on a white background

Who’s it for? With a fast wireless connection, the Logitech G915 TKL is ideal for gamers who can’t always depend on Bluetooth that want wire-free speed.

Gamers tend to choose the reliability and speed of a keyboard with a wired physical cord connection — but some wireless keyboards are gaining the speed needed for gaming. If you don’t mind trading a cable cord for a higher price tag, I prefer the G915 over other mechanical keyboards for the office because of the quieter typing, low profile keys, and longer battery life. (I tested the tactile white version, other options will have a louder click.) Along with a Bluetooth connection, the keyboard packs in Logitech’s proprietary Lightspeed wireless, which the company says delivers a 1 millisecond response speed.

The G915 TKL is a mechanical keyboard, but it doesn’t look like one at first glance. That’s because the keyboard uses low-profile keys. The keyboard has a great feel to it that’s a cross between the thin keys of my Macbook and the thicker ones profile of a typical mechanical. It also houses a scroll wheel, dedicated media keys, and a few other macro keys.

With a 40 hour battery life rating, I used the Logitech G915 TKL for several workdays without recharging. I even went on vacation with the keyboard in sleep mode, and it still had power two weeks later. While 40 hours isn’t a long battery life compared to membrane keyboards, mechanical keyboards are power hungry and others have even shorter use times before recharging. A battery life indicator is visible right from the top of the keyboard.

The low profile keys along with the Bluetooth and wireless technology make the G915 TKL a gaming keyboard that’s easier to transport and more responsive than most. The trade-off is that it’s pricier than many wired keyboards that are geared for gaming. Wired keyboards may still be more reliable.

G915 TKL Tenkeyless Lightspeed Wireless RGB (button)
Best mechanical Bluetooth keyboard

The Razer Pro Type keyboard on a white background

Who’s it for? The Razer Pro Type is a mechanical keyboard that’s designed to eliminate desktop cord clutter.

A mechanical keyboard designed for professionals rather than gaming, the Razer Pro Type is one of the few mechanical keyboards that offers built-in Bluetooth as well as 2.4GHz wireless. The wireless design eliminates desk clutter while the white and silver design feels more in tune with office aesthetics than the colorful backlighting of a gaming keyboard.  With white backlighting, the Razer Pro Type offers the cleaner look of a laptop keyboard but with all the feel of mechanical keys. While I preferred our top pick for Bluetooth gaming, the G915, for it’s low profile keys and longer battery life, the thicker keys of the Razer Pro Type feels more like a true mechanical keyboard.

The Razer Pro Type has a great, clicky feel — I’m using it as I write this article. The large keys are more tactile than most thin Bluetooth keyboard keys and produce a satisfying click with each press. The full-size keyboard still has the extra number pad, though the function row doubles as Windows media keys instead of dedicated macros.

While the Razer Pro Type looks and feels great, mechanical keyboards are power hungry. The keyboard’s battery life is only rated for 12 hours. The Logitech G915 TKL is a wireless and Bluetooth mechanical keyboard with up to 40 hours of use per charge, but it’s almost twice as much.  The G915 also has lower profile keys where the Pro Type  has the more traditional chunky keys of a mechanical keyboard. If you prefer the thicker keyboard or are on a more limited budget, the Pro Type is a safe choice. The Pro Type doesn’t come with a wrist pad, however, so that may add to the cost.

Pro Type Wireless Keyboard (button)
Best Bluetooth keyboard on a budget

Logitech K380

Who’s it for? Affordable and compact, the Logitech K380 is ideal for those who want a keyboard small enough to slip into a laptop bag without spending a fortune.

Getting a portable Bluetooth keyboard that works with multiple devices doesn’t have to be expensive. Retailing for about $40, the Logitech K380 is a compact keyboard that’s easy to bring along. Previously our pick for best Bluetooth keyboard overall, the keyboard also has a battery that will last for two years, though that’s in part because the keyboard doesn’t even offer backlighting.

The K380 can save up to three devices for easy pairing. The keyboard works with any operating system that supports external keyboards, allowing it to move from a laptop to a tablet and from a PC to an iPhone. Logitech says that the keyboard automatically remaps the keys when switching between operating systems.

The K380‘s thin profile and 60 percent design makes it easy to toss into a bag. The size may make the keyboard a little less comfortable for long stretches of typing, however. If portability isn’t important and you want something affordable to type on for eight hours a day, there may be better options.

K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard (button)
Best folding Bluetooth keyboard

The Arteck HB066 folding keyboard, folded in two different variations, on a white background

Who’s it for? The easy portability makes the Arteck folding keyboard ideal for on-the-go users that prioritize size.

Folding keyboards tend to have oddly shaped or sized keys in order to place the fold. That usually creates a lot of typos at first, however, which is why the folding keyboard that stands out most in my research is the Arteck HB066 Bluetooth Keyboard. The fold moves around the keys instead of moving the keys around the fold for an experience that’s closer to a traditional keyboard.

The Arteck HB066, also previously our pick for best Bluetooth keyboard overall, folds around two hinges. That makes it roughly the size of a smartphone when folded, yet it unfolds into a 60 percent size QWERTY keyboard. It’s also affordable, selling for under $30 on Amazon

Compatible with iOS, Android, Windows and Mac OS, the keyboard is ready for almost every device you own. While made from aluminum alloy, the HB066 lacks some of the extra buttons and features other folding keyboards have. But, the keyboard gets high marks for the unique fold that prevents oddly-sized keys. 

HB066 Bluetooth Keyboard (button)
Best Bluetooth keyboard for iPad

Logitech Combo Touch iPad case

Who’s it for? With a removable keyboard that never needs to recharge, the Logitech Combo Touch is a versatile iPad and iPad Pro keyboard.

The Logitech Combo Touch is, technically, not a Bluetooth keyboard. The iPad and iPad Pro keyboards instead use the smart connector on the iPad itself to both connect and draw power. That gives the Combo Touch almost all the benefits of a Bluetooth keyboard – but with none of the recharging. The low-profile keys are responsive and, while not as nice as my MacBook, still feel great. The Combo Touch is available in versions for the iPad, which I tested, as well as options for the iPad Pro and iPad Air.

The Combo Touch includes a case that can be used with or without the keyboard. The case protects the back and three sides of the iPad, which is one of the reasons I chose the Combo Touch over Apple’s own Magic Keyboard. The keyboard detaches magnetically. When the keyboard is detached, the iPad still has the kickstand and protective case. I love that you can quickly go from typing to reading by simply pulling the keyboard off.

The Logitech Combo Touch is my favorite iPad keyboard that I tested. However, if you want the most protection, the Combo touch still leaves a side exposed. The Zagg Pro Keys is a true Bluetooth keyboard that covers the back and all the sides, with a 6.6-foot drop rating. That extra protection covers the smart connector, however, so the Zagg Pro Keys requires recharging. I also prefered the Logitech’s kickstand design. That said, my iPad has been dropped accidentally with the Combo Touch on and it came away unscathed. If you want the best blend of protection and no-recharge convenience, the Logitech Combo Touch is a great choice.

Combo Touch (11-inch iPad Pro) (button)
What else we’re considering

We’re continuing to test a range of Bluetooth keyboards. Along with the keyboards above, we’re also testing the highly-reviewed keyboards below. We’ll update this post once we’ve finished full testing.

  • Logitech K830 Living Room Keyboard: This media keyboard has a touchpad built in so you can both navigate a smart TV and type without the tedious “typing” on a remote control. It has illuminated keys, which are helpful while you’re watching movies in the dark.
  • Logitech Ergo K860: This keyboard is both Bluetooth and ergonomic. The curved keyboard design is made to reduce stress on the wrists. This one could be a good option for cord-haters who have,or want to avoid wrist strain.
  • iClever BK08: This folding keyboard also builds in a touchpad, making it a keyboard and mouse in one. The keys are a little smaller as a result, though, which means the question mark and apostrophe need a Fn key pressed simultaneously, rather than just hitting one key. 
  • Zagg Pro Keys with trackpad: Similar to the Logitech Combo Touch, the Zagg Pro Keys with trackpad gives the iPad a Macbook-like treatment. If you want the most possible protection, the Zagg is the better option than the Logitech because all sides of the iPad are covered. It has a great feel and feels very durable. However, I prefered the Combo Touch because it doesn’t need to recharge. And, if you pull the keyboard off the Zagg, you also remove the kickstand. I prefer to have the kickstand still attached so I can read or watch movies without the keyboard. 
  • Zagg Pro Keys: The Zag Pro Keys is also available in a version without the touchpad. Selling for $100, this is a more affordable option that still offers protection. The keyboard feels great, but will need to be recharged. Removing the keyboard will also remove the kickstand, but not the protective case.
  • Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad: I used an earlier generation of the Apple Magic Keyboard for iPad. The keys feel great and the connection couldn’t be simpler. But, I cracked my last iPad screen when I dropped it in the Magic Keyboard. I prefer the way the Logitech Combo Touch and Zagg Pro Keys double as a protective case and a keyboard in one — and both are more affordable than the Magic Keyboard.

What to consider when choosing a Bluetooth keyboard

Bluetooth keyboards tend to have a wider variety of features than their corded counterparts. The connectivity means these keyboards aren’t just for desktops but can also control your smartphone, tablet, or even smart TV. What you plan to use the keyboard for will impact which one is the best for you.

Size: Do you want to take your Bluetooth keyboard anywhere or will the keyboard mainly stay on your desk or in your living room? Foldable keyboards and compact, 60 percent keyboards are made to easily tuck into a bag and go anywhere. But, they lack some keys and can be uncomfortable to type on long-term. If you don’t need the number pad, a tenkeyless or TKL keyboard is a happy medium, offering more comfort while still fitting into a backpack. TKLs also take up less space on a desk, letting you keep your mouse more easily within reach.

Type: Scissor switch keyboards are quieter, more affordable, and have a lower profile. Mechanical keyboards, on the other hand, can offer more tactile and auditory feedback that many regular typists love, plus they tend to have greater durability.

Ergonomics: The wrong type of keyboard can cause wrist strain with extended use. Dr. Kevin Weaver, a certified ergonomics expert by the Board of Certified Professional Ergonomists and the Oxford Institute and a Clinical Assistant Professor of physical therapy at New York University, suggests typists with larger hands choose a larger keyboard. A wrist pad, contoured keys, and softer scissor switches may also be more comfortable, he says.

Extra features: Many keyboards go beyond the typical QWERTY layout. Some offer media keys — particularly those for smart TVs — or other macros. Others have different shortcuts built in for gaming or more general tasks.

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The best charcoal grills for the perfect home BBQ

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A good charcoal grill offers steady heat retention, weather resistance, and years of use.
  • Our favorite charcoal grill is the tried and true Weber Original Kettle Grill.
  • It’s well-built, versatile, and offers just the right space to feed two to six people.

A charcoal grill is, at its core, a simple fire basin. The most basic requirement is that it can withstand the elements of any given climate or season as well as a 500-plus degree fire for hours on end.

Related Article Module: The 5 best gas grills in 2021

When it comes to charcoal grilling, kettle grills – sphere-shaped models with vents at the and bottom – tend to be the most user-friendly. Kettle grills come in a variety of materials, which can impact durability and cook quality. We spoke with chef Shola Olunloyo of Studio Kitchen, who told us that if you’re opting for a metal charcoal grill, look for stainless steel models, which often cost a little more.

“Cheaper models tend to be made of galvanized steel that’s painted with heat-resistant paint,” Olunloyo said. “They will work, but they don’t last more than a couple of seasons with normal use and exposure.” Olunloyo also said pricier ceramic grills are a better option for those with room in their budget because they “encapsulate heat very well, allow good airflow, and work almost like a tandoor.”

We also spoke with Steven Raichlen, the television host of “Barbecue University,” and author of dozens of barbecue grilling books, including his forthcoming “How to Grill Vegetables.” Raichlen backed up Olunloyo, adding that if you’re just getting your toes wet with barbecuing, a stainless steel kettle grill is a good starting point, but you can only expect about five years out of them; ceramic grills offer much more durability.

Here are the best charcoal grills of 2021

The best charcoal grill overall

best charcoal grill overall 2021 weber kettle

Weber’s Original Kettle Grill has a tried and true design that grills perfectly, lasts years, and doesn’t break the bank.

Pros: Easy to use, clean, outfit, and repair

Cons: Not the thickest steel, likely won’t last much more than five years

It’s hard not to love the design of the Weber Original Kettle 22-inch charcoal grill. It’s been around for decades with hardly any changes.

The simple, circular shape naturally gathers charcoal evenly in the basin and makes for even heat distribution. Top and bottom vents allow heat control for direct and indirect cooking (as well as ash catchment on the bottom), and the basin is deep enough to add a pan of water to keep meats from drying out when you’re cooking low and slow. 

It’s also a fairly weatherproof and highly mobile grill. The tripod leg design makes tilting and rolling a cinch (as does the handle), and because it’s such lightweight stainless steel, you can easily pick it up and place it in the bed of a pickup, or store it away for non-grilling season (if such a thing exists). 

We also love how effortless cleaning is; the three-blade ash sweeper and removable ash catcher make disposing of ash easy as can be.

Save for grills made with painted galvanized steel (which, again, aren’t built to last), you’re not going to find a cheaper grill.

The Weber Original Kettle grill comes in three sizes — 18, 22, and 26 inches in diameter. We like the 22-inch model because it allows you to roast a whole brisket or pork shoulder, but you may want to size up or down depending on your needs. It’s also our pick for those on a budget. Buy a cheaper grill as you like, but the difference of about $20 (give or take) isn’t worth the loss of several, if not more, years of the good use you’ll get out of a Weber.

The best upgrade charcoal grill

best charcoal grill 2021 kamado joe

The Kamado Joe Classic II is a ceramic-lined grill with a teardrop design that burns charcoal efficiently, doubles as a smoker, and retains heat best.

Pros: Excellent insulation and heat retention, fuel-efficient, doubles as smoker, grates set at different heights, sturdy wheel locks

Cons: Heavy, tricky to learn how much charcoal to use (easy to overheat)

As Olunloyo told us, if you have the money, a ceramic kamado grill — a design that originated about 3,000 years ago in Japan — is the best investment you can make in a charcoal grill.

We like Kamado Joe’s Classic II because it makes few, if any, concessions in quality, but is priced well. Shockingly, you could find yourself paying much more for a grill of similar if not equal construction.

Unlike some of its competitors, Kamado Joe’s Classic II comes with a robust frame, sturdy (if somewhat small) locking wheels, an adjustable grate, and is virtually weatherproof (still, buy a cover).

Unlike simpler, less-sealed grills (including the rest of our recommendations), this one will allow you to cook between 225 and 750 degrees Fahrenheit, and maintain a consistent heat while doing so thanks to the inner ceramic layer, which has an oven effect. This also makes it unbelievably efficient, and you’ll be amazed at how little charcoal you have to use to heat it (“Barbecue University” host Steven Raichlen recommends using about half of what you normally would in a stainless steel kettle grill). By the same token, that does make it a little tricky to learn how to use, but with a little practice you’ll get the hang of it.

This grill is good for just about anything you might use a charcoal grill for, save for smoking a whole hog, or feeding large parties (but that’s obvious of an 18-inch grill), and it excels at both low-and-slow and hot-and-fast cooking.

The only real downside to this grill is that there’s no ash-catching tray and you have to clean it out with your hands or a vacuum. Still, if you’re looking for the best-performing grill without spending several thousand dollars, you won’t find much competition for the Kamado Joe Classic II.

The best portable charcoal grill

best charcoal grill 2021 weber smokey joe

Weber’s Smokey Joe is everything we love about the brand’s Original Kettle grill, but is travel-sized and even more affordable.

Pros: Lightweight, same design as our top pick

Cons: Not entirely spill-proof, bulky for a portable grill

If you’re in the market for a portable charcoal grill, the first thing that you need to know is that they’re messy. They’re all liable to leak, spill, and trash the trunk of your car, so don’t set out without a storage bin or a large, heavy-duty sealed bag to contain grease, ash, and grit.

There are tons of portable grills out there, but the most basic and familiar is the miniature version of our top recommendation, Weber’s 14-inch Smokey Joe.

It handles about five (crowded) burgers on the grate, so it’s plenty for a normal carload of people, which we find is just right.

If you’re looking for something highly portable for camping, there are plenty of fancy options out there, and if you want to spend a few hundred dollars on something extra compact, we really like Snow Peak‘s. If you’re looking for a fire pit and charcoal grill in one, check out Picnic Time’s X-Grill, which folds and comes with a pouch to contain the mess — I tend to keep this one in my car, and while it’s not the best for cooking, it manages just fine.

Still, if you’re looking for something basic and affordable, the Weber Smokey Joe is as convenient and easy to use as our top pick, and it’s going to last every bit as long.

The best extra large charcoal grill

best charcoal grill 2021 masterbuilt

Masterbuilt‘s charcoal grills are ruggedly built to accommodate the largest jobs, but cost a fraction of the price of the upscale grills on the market.

Pros: Solid steel and cast-iron materials; easily loads from front; adjustable rack height; large, sturdy casters

Cons: Heavy, relatively lengthy setup process, doesn’t seal perfectly, 1-year limited warranty

If you’re looking for a big charcoal grill, barrel-style smokers are the most common. Because these grills (which are traditionally made using 55-gallon steel drums) are favored for use as smokers, they depend on a quality gasket system that doesn’t allow smoke or heat to exit anywhere but the chimney(s). 

That’s why, after scouring retail store floors as well as the decks and patios of neighbors and friends, we settled in on Masterbuilt’s 36″ Charcoal Grill. We haven’t found anything quite as heavy-duty for anywhere near the price, though we did find plenty of similarly-priced grills made using lesser materials. 

For most people, this is a great and affordable option (the brand also offers a 30-inch model at $200). Its outer parts are made with robust stainless steel and cast iron, and the cast-iron grates (while a pain to clean) are hardy.

There are two side-arm tables, which offer a lot of resting and work space that comes in handy when working with a grill so large. Speaking of which, you can easily fit over 20 burgers on here, or a couple of racks of ribs, or up to about eight chickens, and when you’re not cooking for a full party, simply start a fire on one side and you have a massive multi-zone cooking station that’ll allow you to do anything from sear, to cook low and slow, and even smoke. 

Lastly, it’s great for wood-smoking, too, thanks to the front-loading door that lets you slide entire split logs into it.

What else we considered

best charcoal grill 2021 what else

Big Green EggThe Big Green Egg and the Kamado Joe are almost identical and stack up neck and neck, with the exception just a few considerations. The Kamado Joe comes with everything you need, while the Big Green Egg is merely the egg itself, meaning you’ll need to buy the stand and the side tables, so it gets a bit more expensive (and also more complex to set up). The Kamado Joe  also has sturdier (if smaller) casters (wheels). In terms of cooking, the Kamado Joe is designed with adjustable grates for cooking at different levels, and also has a counterbalanced lid so that it’s both easier to lift and it doesn’t slam shut on you while your hands are full.

Broil King Keg 5000: A kamado-style grill but made with double-walled stainless steel instead of a ceramic liner, this should function like a Kamado Joe or Big Green Egg, but might not last as long. It probably won’t do you wrong, but you may want to save up and invest in a ceramic model down the line. 

Char-Griller Acorn Kamado Kooker: A more affordable take on the kamado (made without a ceramic liner), this grill outperforms our top pick in heat retention, but at more than twice the cost. It’s a fine grill and we wholeheartedly recommend it, but we think the Weber is the better pick for most people and most budgets.

Char-Griller Double-Play: A two-in-one gas-and-charcoal grill, this is a fine option, but it’s not built as well as we’d like, as we noted a few flimsier parts including the wheels, the hardware, and the grate, and the lid doesn’t seal terribly well. You’d do better buying your gas and charcoal grills as separate items.

IG Charcoal Grill: We’re a big fan of this grill, especially considering the price. If you want to cook over a large, open, adjustable bed of coals, this stainless steel grill can take a beating. We’ve left it out in the elements (and a stone’s throw from the Chesapeake Bay) for two years and counting without so much as a spot of rust. Still, we wouldn’t recommend it for most people as it’s oversized and doesn’t come with a cover, so you have no way of trapping heat. Read our full review of the IG Charcoal grill here.

Kudu: If you want a heavy-gauge steel grill that’s going to last ages and make you feel like you’re homesteading across the great divide, look no further. We love this grill, and highly recommend it. It also makes for an excellent campfire. But when it comes to cooking, it’s probably a little too involved for most people. That said, if you want to sit beside a grill and enjoy the heat and atmosphere (this thing also excels with wood fires), it’s a wonderful option. Steven Raichlen is a big proponent, too.

Nexgrill 29-inch Barrel Charcoal Grill/Smoker: if you’re on a tight budget or you just want a charcoal grill (and smoker) in a pinch, this is the best you’re going to do, and you will make do. Our hesitation is that this is one of those grills that you could outfit with gaskets to function very well, but the quality of the parts means it’s not destined to survive past a couple of years with moderate use.

Our testing methodology

best charcoal grill 2021 methodology

During our most recent round of testing, we retested our top pick alongside two other contenders to determine which ones were the most convenient to use, offered the best surface area (and use of said surface area), and considered ease of cleaning as well.

In order to select the grills we tested, we walked through The Home Depot and Lowe’s to consider options, disregarding grills made with inferior parts or use questionable construction materials, and also taking price ranges into account.

We also spoke with several experts in the field about what to look for in a charcoal grill, from chef Shola Olunloyo of Studio Kitchen, to veteran author and TV host Steven Raichlen, and famed New York City butcher Pat LaFrieda.

Here’s what we looked for in our top picks:

Ease of use: While a reasonable surface area is a given, we looked for grills with sturdy stainless steel or cast-iron grates, good (open) spacing to allow heat to pass through, and a raised edge to prevent food from rolling or falling off the surface. We also considered the ease of cleaning, and made sure there was a reasonable way of disposing of ashes. Surprisingly, we learned that many charcoal grills don’t offer ash catching systems.

Material quality: Grills have to live outside, generally, and while you should purchase and use a cover, a grill is going to have to stand up to some abuse with normal use. We looked for quality stainless steel or ceramic, and seeing that those grills tend to get expensive, we also looked for thinner steel with enamel coating (rather than easily chippable and not-so-rust-proof paint). We also took caster and wheel quality into consideration.

Performance: Of course, performance was a factor we considered as well, but because charcoal grilling depends so largely on the material of the grill, as well as the type, amount, and placement of fuel you use, we chose to focus on the experience of using the grill and the quality of the materials and the design itself. We didn’t encounter any grills that cooked poorly, but if we did, they would’ve been immediately disqualified.

Warranty: While there’s not much a warranty will cover if you misuse (or neglect) your grill, it’s good to know when a brand stands behind its products. Because of its prolific presence and its 10-year warranty (on the bowl and lid) to many other brands’ one-year warranty, Weber was an easy pick in this department. And while Masterbuilt sadly only offers a year, it’s in line with contenders of similar size and price (though we’d still love to see a better warranty offered by the brand).

What we look forward to testing

Best charcoal grill 2021 what we’re testing next

Masterbuilt Gravity Series: These are pellet-grill style charcoal grills, that self-feed charcoal from a hopper into the grill box. We are enamored with this idea as you can’t always go around the corner to the hardware store or bodega to get pellets, but charcoal is almost always widely available. We’ve also heard pretty good things, but we’ll wait to try first hand.

Napoleon 22″ Pro Charcoal Kettle Grill: About twice the price of our top pick, but roughly the same design, we’re looking to see if there’s anything that makes it worth the price jump.

Everything you need to know about charcoal grills

How charcoal grills work

A charcoal grill is a metal/ceramic container that can hold burning charcoal in the bottom. You place the food you want to cook on a metal grate in the center of the container, above the charcoal. Closing the metal container’s lid when cooking holds in the heat. The direct heat from the charcoal sears the bottom of the food, while the indirect heat circulating throughout the grill cooks the food. Leave the lid off the grill if you only want to use direct heat.

When it comes to techniques for lighting charcoal and for understanding how charcoal works, charcoal manufacturer Kingsford is a great resource. Charcoal is the ideal fuel for grilling because it burns hot for searing, but it also burns for a long time, creating plenty of indirect heat for slow cooking. You can add wood for smoky flavors with charcoal grilling, too.

Charcoal grills differ from propane or gas grills in that charcoal doesn’t produce a continuous flame. Charcoal leaves a gray ash after the flame consumes it, while a propane grill leaves no ash.

Key differences in charcoal grills

Here are some of the biggest differences to consider when shopping for the best charcoal grills:

  • Grilling versus smoking: Some charcoal grills can double as smokers, meaning they cook meat very slowly, using more indirect heat than direct heat. You’ll need a charcoal grill with an especially large interior to smoke meat.
  • Large versus small: A large charcoal grill will offer a big cooking surface, making it good for someone who wants to cook for several people at once. If you want more of a portable grill to take to tailgates or camping, though, you’ll have to sacrifice the cooking surface for portability.
  • Using indirect grilling: If you are looking to cook meat slowly without searing, but you don’t have the time for smoking, indirect grilling is the technique to use. You’ll place the lit charcoal on one side of the charcoal grill and the meat on the opposite side. You need a large charcoal grill to make use of this method, though.
  • Controlling cooking temperatures: Achieving precise temperatures with a charcoal grill is difficult. However, if you want a bit more control over the temperature inside the charcoal grill, the unit should have air vents on both the top and bottom. Additionally, you should be able to adjust the height of the grate over the charcoal.
  • Headroom: If you plan to cook poultry or beef roasts — any food with some height to it — make sure the charcoal grill is tall enough to accommodate the food with the lid attached.

How to build a charcoal grill

Charcoal grills can be as elementary as you want them, so yes, you can absolutely build a charcoal grill if you have some time and patience. Pitmasters have cut barbecues out of 55-gallon steel drums for generations, and while that’s a little more involved, it’s not unfeasible.

One of the easiest methods, as told to us by Olunloyo, is a three-walled structure with a fourth side exposed, using cinder blocks and cement, making sure to start on a safe surface:

  • The size and shape is entirely up to you, but stack the cinder blocks in a U-shape as high as you’d like, but not so high that the heat from your fire below won’t reach the grate you’ll place on top.
  • Once you’ve decided on your dimensions, you can cut or order a grate from any industrial metal metal supplier that sells fencing or square grates, and ask for 3/16″ or ¼” stainless steel (either a grate or a flat top, as you like) to be cut to size. This will be the costliest portion of the build, but also the most crucial.
  • Once you have the grate or flat top, be sure to hone the rough edges for safety, and then place it on the cinder-block structure and wipe or spray it with any cooking oil (Olunloyo recommends olive oil spray), saturate it, and get it plenty hot before cooking.

Check out our other great grilling gear guides

best charcoal for grilling
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The 5 best garden hose nozzles in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

So you’ve finally found a garden hose that’s durable, easy to use, and doesn’t kink. Next, you’ll need a garden hose nozzle. It makes watering tasks more convenient and efficient, plus you’ll save water.

“It’s absolutely necessary to attach an adjustable nozzle to your garden hose,” said John Jors, a Florida Master Gardener and volunteer groundskeeper at the 35-acre Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. “Otherwise, you may find yourself running back and forth to turn your water spigot off and on as needed.”

There are a few different nozzle styles to consider, including pistol grip, fire-hose, and watering wand. If you plan on using your hose for a wide variety of tasks, Jors recommends a pistol grip nozzle with multiple spray options and adjustable water pressure.

But if you have trouble holding down a pistol grip for long periods of time, fire hose-style and watering wands are good alternatives. Learn which nozzle style and spray option you should use.

We tested garden hose nozzles of different styles on the same hose (our pick for the best hose overall, the Dramm ColorStorm Garden Hose). For each hose nozzle, we tracked ease of use, comfort, water pressure, spray distance, and durability. Read more about our methodology.

Here are the best garden hose nozzles in 2021

The best garden hose nozzle overall

red gardenite 10 pattern garden hose nozzle laying on the grass the best garden hose nozzles 2021

The Gardenite 10-Pattern Garden Hose Nozzle is the most versatile, reliable, and comfortable nozzle you can attach to your hose. All the spray patterns are consistent and using it won’t tire out your hand. 

Pros: Many spray patterns, easy to switch among patterns, strong metal and rubber construction

Cons: The multiple settings may be superfluous if you only use your hose for a few tasks, jet setting doesn’t offer strongest pressure

With this Gardenite hose nozzle, you won’t have to worry about whether you’ll have the appropriate spray pattern for the task in front of you. The 10 patterns include “cone,” “shower,” “mist,” and “jet,” plus less common ones like “flat” and “vertical.” Whether you’re washing your dog, watering delicate plants, or hosing down dirt, you’ll be properly equipped. 

It’s easy to twist the nozzle to the spray pattern you need, and the nozzle clicks clearly to let you know you’re ready to use your selected pattern. When you hold down the trigger, the water doesn’t shoot out aggressively — an issue I discovered with other nozzles. The nozzle also never leaked in all my tests. 

The flow control knob at the back of the nozzle lets you adjust the pressure of each of the 10 patterns, allowing for even more adjustability. 

Despite all these ways to diversify your watering experience, the jet option was a little disappointing and wasn’t as strong as our high-pressure nozzle pick below. Overall, the all-in-one design and quality construction of this nozzle still earn it our top position, but consider whether you’d rather have the versatility or a more specialized nozzle. 

This nozzle has a pistol grip, with a front trigger that is made from metal and has indents for your fingers. The handle is cushioned rubber. These features combined make the grip as comfortable as it can get. 

The best garden hose nozzle on a budget

hand holding the melnor 5 pattern watering nozzle the best cheap affordable garden hose nozzles 2021

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, the Melnor 5-Pattern Watering Nozzle is a solid alternative that still offers five spray options. Just be warned it’s not as durable as our other picks.

Pros: Affordable, easy to use, versatile 

Cons: Can leak a little, not rugged, doesn’t offer long spray distance 

A good, solid garden hose is an investment, and after spending that money, you might not want to splurge on an additional accessory. Luckily, this Melnor hose nozzle is very affordable, while still offering features you need and decent comfort. 

This nozzle keeps it simple with five spray options that should suit most activities: shower, full, stream, flat, and mist. All the settings worked well and had strong, consistent pressure, though the spray distance fell short compared to the other nozzles. The mist option was especially effective.

The nozzle attached securely to my hose, but there were some small leaking issues. The droplets were tiny and didn’t significantly affect my watering experience but it’s worth noting since this was the only nozzle I tested that leaked at all. 

It’s decently comfortable to hold — the rubber grip features indents for your fingers, but the back trigger section is made from plastic which is less comfortable than an all-rubber grip. There is a trigger lock to help prevent grip fatigue, so you don’t need to squeeze down the whole time you’re watering. 

Made from a combination of metal, plastic, and rubber, the nozzle is lightweight, but you can’t bang it around the ground too much. In our durability tests, the metal pin that acts as a trigger lock fell out. While we know you won’t purposely drop your nozzle onto concrete repeatedly, it’s also good to keep in mind that this nozzle isn’t going to last for years. But if you need a temporary solution, or don’t use your garden hose often, it’s a quick and cheap buy with most of the features you need. 

The best watering wand

hand holding up the melnor relaxgrip watering wand the best garden hose watering wand 2021

Avid gardeners will want the Melnor RelaxGrip Watering Wand, which offers a gentle shower of water, is long enough to reach tall hanging plants, and uses a comfortable thumb control rather than a pistol grip. 

Pros: Long, less tiring to grip, ideal for delicate flowers and plants in hanging pots 

Cons: Singular purpose, may have leakage problems after long-term use 

If you have trouble holding down a pistol grip, you’ll love the easy thumb control of this nozzle. You simply slide the control up and down whenever you need to adjust the water flow. This smart design reduces the strain on your wrists and fingers, allowing you to water your garden for longer. The textured rubber grip is also comfortable with ergonomic indents for your fingers. 

The thumb control acts as a sliding scale in that there isn’t a distinct click for each different flow setting. Instead, you might have to play around with the control at first to learn where the flow intensity changes and how far you should slide the control. Over time, you’ll have a better natural sense of how to control the water.  

This watering wand has a long stick design (this version is 33 inches long from nozzle tip to end, while the short version is 15 inches long) that lets you reach tall branches with no struggle. The water travels smoothly all the way through, and the water flow is consistent. 

It attached securely and didn’t leak, but after seeing some customer reports of leakage issues, we’ll keep an eye out for that in our long-term testing. Given the wand is made up of many distinct parts, it’s possible it may leak if any of the parts break. In our durability tests, however, the wand emerged unscathed and nothing broke.

Since this nozzle only offers a concentrated shower pattern, it’s best for gardeners who intend to use it frequently for their plants and flowers. It will not help you in the way of washing a deck or covering a large amount of ground.

The best high-pressure garden hose nozzle

brass twinkle star adjustable twist hose nozzle the best high pressure garden hose nozzles 2021

This simple and compact brass nozzle from Twinkle Star shoots out strong jets of water over long distances, making it perfect for chores that require some water pressure. 

Pros: Made from sturdy solid brass, small, good jet and wide spray options 

Cons: No two-way shutoff, less control over water flow 

For grimy trash cans, a car in need of a good wash, or your deck that has so many layers of dirt it’s starting to change colors, it’s handy to have a high-pressure nozzle to do all the hard rinsing work for you. 

The Twinkle Star is a long and slim nozzle that has powerful and efficient jet and wide spray settings. To use, you twist the nozzle in one direction to find the pattern you need. Though there aren’t specific settings that you can “click” into, the nozzle twists smoothly and the spray patterns transition well into each other. The one-way shutoff means you have to twist it off the same way you twist it on, which isn’t a huge dealbreaker, but it’s a little convenient. The nozzle attached securely to my hose and never leaked. 

Its spray distance was long, on par with the Gardenite nozzle‘s. The high pressure and long spray distance are a great combo for attacking dirty surfaces from afar.

We also loved the solid brass construction. It’s resistant to rust and all-around durable, plus it looks sleek. 

This product actually comes with two nozzles, a long one and a much smaller one. We wouldn’t recommend the small tip nozzle, as it wasn’t adjustable and couldn’t shut off the flow of water. It offered medium pressure and a very narrow spray, so we’re not sure what the use of this extra nozzle is. Stick with the long nozzle, and you’ll be set. 

The best fireman-style garden hose nozzle

hand holding the bon aire hose nozzle spraying out water the best fireman style garden hose nozzles 2021

A fire-hose-style nozzle like the Bon-Aire Hose Nozzle is perfect if you want versatile spray options without straining your hand. 

Pros: Very comfortable to hold, strong rubber and metal construction, two-way shutoff 

Cons: Less control over water flow 

Rather than hold down a trigger, you only need to twist the barrel of the Bon-Air nozzle to start and stop the flow of water. Like a few of the nozzles above, it doesn’t have distinct spray settings, so you just gradually turn the nozzle to find the different options. Conveniently, the nozzle has two-way shutoff, meaning you don’t have to turn it back all the way to the beginning in order to stop the water flow. 

I enjoyed using this nozzle a lot because it was comfortable to hold and all the water flow options were consistent in pressure. The jet and wide spray settings were especially strong. 

Compared to the Twinkle Star nozzle, the Bon-Aire is bulkier but also likely more durable. Since most of it is encased in rubber, the metal middle section rarely touches the ground. If you drop it on the ground from a tall height, it simply bounces around. 

Our gardening expert John Jors reminds us, “Although [a fire hose-style nozzle] is very durable, the spray options are limited and you won’t have the flow control you have with the pistol grip.” 

This was certainly my experience with the Bon-Aire nozzle. It’s available for around the same price as our best overall pick, so choosing this nozzle is ultimately a matter of personal preference and comfort. It’s ergonomic and durable, but you will have the deal with the lack of distinct spray settings. 

What else we tested

hand holding the gilmour metal pistol nozzle one garden hose nozzle we tried in 2021 but do not recommend

What we don’t recommend and why

Gilmour Metal Pistol Nozzle: This simple nozzle is cheap but also really rugged. It’s metal all around and intuitive to use — just squeeze the trigger and the water flow will change depending on how hard you squeeze. My main critique is that it’s not comfortable to hold at all and has no cushioning for your fingers, so you’ll have to wear your own gloves. The nozzle is small, brittle, and stiff, and you’ll have to use the hold-open clip to spray continuously. 

What we’re testing next

person holding the dramm one touch rain wand in front of bushes a hose nozzle that we're testing next in 2021

Dramm One-Touch Rain Wand: Another promising watering wand has a similar thumb control valve to our current best wandering wand and looks to be durable and consistent. 

Gilmour Swivel Connect 1-Pattern Nozzle: Gilmour’s innovative “swivel connect” design means that you can turn the nozzle in any direction without turning the hose itself, reducing annoying kinks and bends as you handle your hose. Though it doesn’t have multiple spray options, there is a comfortable thumb control valve. 

Methodology

hand holding a red hose nozzle in front of fruit bushes to demonstrate our testing methodology for the best garden hose nozzles 2021

We put all the hose nozzles through these same five tests: 

  1. Ease of use: We noted how easy or difficult it was to attach to the hose, how many spray options it had, and whether it leaked. 
  2. Comfort: We noted if the grip was ergonomic. If the nozzle had a pistol grip design, we timed how long we could press the grip down before it got too tiring to press. 
  3. Spray distance: On concrete, we measured how far the nozzle sprayed water when holding the hose at a regular position (a foot away from the body).
  4. Water pressure: We measured the pressure of water coming out of the nozzle with a water pressure gauge. If there was more than one spray setting, we measured the low, medium, and high settings. 
  5. Durability: We dropped each nozzle on concrete from 10 feet high 10 times and noted scuffing, scratches, abrasion, and any broken or bent parts. We also left the nozzles outside for two consecutive weeks through various weather conditions, including sun and rain, noting any rust and other signs of wear and tear.

Garden hose nozzles FAQs

four different types of garden hose nozzles lying side by side on the ground to answer FAQs about which nozzle you should buy

Why do you need a garden hose nozzle?  

  1. It saves water. Water will not come out of your hose unless you open the nozzle, meaning you don’t need to run back and forth to the spigot. This is especially helpful if you’re using a long hose. 
  2. A garden hose nozzle helps distribute water in a more controlled manner than a garden hose alone. The regular flow of a garden hose alone isn’t always the best for tasks like watering delicate flowers or washing a car. The different spray options of a nozzle let you customize the flow to your specific task. 

What are the different types of garden hose nozzles? How do you use them?

Pistol grip nozzle: Features a trigger that controls the amount or flow of water. Hold down the trigger (which may be in front of or behind the handle) to release water. The harder you press, the more water comes out. 

Dial nozzle: Features a rotating dial of distinct spray patterns. It’s often combined with a pistol grip so you only need to hold down the trigger to activate the flow of water, while the dial setting controls the specific flow.

Watering wand or rain wand: A long nozzle that helps extend water flow to hard-to-reach areas. It’s usually controlled with a comfortable sliding thumb control. 

Firehose (or fireman)-style nozzle: A large dial-style nozzle that does not have a pistol grip. The spray patterns are not distinct and must be gradually adjusted. 

What nozzle and spray type do you use for…

  • Watering flowers or a vegetable garden: Use a flat spray or shower delicate plants with a rain wand because it’s the most gentle spray type. Make sure to water at soil level at the base of the plants. It’s best to water them in the morning, before it gets too sunny and hot, so that less water will evaporate.  
  • Watering trees and shrubs: Drip lines are ideal, and if you’re using a hose, you actually shouldn’t use a nozzle. Simply place the hose on the ground near the tree and let water slowly and steadily dribble out. Rotate the hose around the tree (in a ring shape) periodically. 
  • Washing a car: Use a jet spray with any of the nozzles above except the rain wand. If you’re just doing a light rinse, a setting like a full shower could also work. 
  • Power-washing a deck: Use a jet spray with any of the nozzles above except the rain wand. 

Check out our other backyard and gardening guides

Purple garden hose on the sidewalk
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The 6 best webcams of 2021 for work or fun

A man presenting in a meeting at his home using the Razer Kiyo Pro that is attached to his monitor

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A great webcam remains among the most wanted home office tech in 2021.
  • Logitech’s C920 HD Pro is still the best webcam. It delivers effective video quality and clear audio at an affordable price.
  • Can’t find a webcam to buy? Here’s how to turn your camera into a webcam.

A webcam is a critical piece of home-office equipment. It’s the best way to connect with co-workers while working remotely. It’s also a must-have for streamers and content creators.

Although a basic laptop webcam can do the job, the result is often fuzzy and dim, making it hard for those on the other side of a video conference to see and connect with you. A USB webcam will provide a leap in quality. Most models available today pack 1080p resolution, double the 720p resolution that most laptop webcams stick to. Your image will be sharper and clearer for whomever you’re talking to.

Logitech dominates this market. It was alone in building new, high-quality webcams over the last decade, so many have turned to the company as remote work surged. Microsoft sells several webcams, but most are older models that often can’t compete with newer Logitech gear. Meanwhile, Razer’s alternatives target streaming rather than work conferencing.

Here are the best webcams you can buy

Our testing methodology

We judged all our recommended webcams, and most of the alternatives, with side-by-side comparisons of video recorded by each webcam. These records were unlabeled and judged back-to-back to reach an unbiased conclusion. 

Our opinion of video quality was most heavily influenced by clarity. We look for a crisp, clean image that is not only sharp but also free from distracting artifacts. We also look for good performance in low-light conditions and rooms with unbalanced lighting. 

Color performance was also key to our observations. We think a warm, vibrant image can deliver a more inviting and personable look. The best webcams are capable of this, while less impressive options can appear cool, stark, and clinical. 

Audio quality was also key to our comparisons. While video quality is important, many owners use a webcam’s built-in microphone even more often than the camera itself. A webcam’s microphone must deliver clear, crisp audio that makes the user’s voice easy to understand while also rejecting unwanted background noise. As with video quality, audio quality was judged through back-to-back comparisons of unlabeled audio samples. 

Last, but not least, we considered the webcam’s software suite (if one was available). We give this far less weight than video or audio quality, but it can be important on more expensive cameras that include advanced customization options.

The best webcam overall

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920

Logitech’s C920 HD Pro is a proven 1080p webcam with quality video and audio at a reasonable price.

Pros: Great video quality, good audio quality, handles background noise well, durable, attractive build quality

Cons: Mount could use more adjustment, limited field-of-view

Logitech’s C920 HD Pro is a proven, affordable webcam. It debuted in January 2012, making it almost a decade old. The webcam’s 1080p resolution and dual-microphone audio were advanced at the time and remain competitive today.

The C920 looks good in a variety of conditions. The camera’s well-tuned autofocus and white balance handle poor lighting well, providing natural, enjoyable video in situations that leave competing webcams confused. 

Audio is no different. The C920‘s dual microphones are not the absolute best available, but they handle background noise as well as any webcam we tested. That’s important if your home office isn’t silent (and most aren’t). 

This webcam has a 78-degree field of view, which is perfect for most people. It centers the shot on your face and keeps the background largely out of view. It can feel tight if you need to have multiple people in the shot, however, or if you want background details to be visible. 

The Logitech C920 HD Pro spawned a family of spin-offs. The C930e has a wider field of view for multi-person meetings. The C922x is a budget streaming camera that adds the option to stream or record at 720p and 60 frames per second. The C920s adds a privacy shutter. 

These alternatives are excellent and, depending on availability and discounts, could be a better value than the C920. Still, the classic C920 HD Pro is our go-to recommendation. It’s a simple, reliable pick.

The best webcam for video quality

A closeup of the Logitech Brio Ultra HD on a computer with a person playing Fortnite

Logitech’s Brio boosts resolution to 4K and has versatile software features that make it great in any situation.

Pros: Best-in-class image quality, excellent audio, versatile recording options, supports Windows Hello

Cons: Expensive

Logitech’s Brio Ultra HD Pro is an outstanding webcam that will help you look your best. Video quality is this camera’s highlight with a 4K resolution that leads to a sharp, crisp image. The Brio has Logitech’s most advanced auto light correction, known as “RightLight 3,” and it’s incredible. This webcam captures usable imagery in low-light conditions that would reduce competitors’ video to a grainy, muddy mess. Although now four years old, the Brio still outperforms newer 4K webcams like Dell’s Ultrasharp Webcam. 

Audio is great, as well. The Brio handles background noise as well as Logitech’s C920 HD Pro, but sounds more vibrant and balanced. It’s as good as you’ll find from any webcam.

The camera’s software provides three field-of-view options (90, 78, and 65 degrees) and up to 5x digital zoom. You can use a wide field of view for a more professional look or narrow it when you don’t feel like cleaning your home office. 

The Brio also supports Windows Hello facial recognition which, once you use it, becomes a must-have. This feature can log you in to Windows 10 the moment you sit down and face the camera. It’s as quick and intuitive as Apple’s FaceID.  

A versatile mount keeps the Brio balanced on most monitors. Those who need an extremely stable shot can remove the default mount and attach the webcam to a tripod.

The best budget webcam

A closeup of the Logi C270HD attached to a computer

Cheap and cheerful, the Logitech C270 HD provides pleasant video and good audio quality in an affordable webcam.

Pros: Good image quality, crisp audio, small size, affordable

Cons: Only 720p resolution, mount lacks versatility

Logitech’s C270 HD delivers the basics at a low price. It’s among the least expensive webcams you can buy from a reputable brand, and though it won’t wow you with its image quality, it’s a step up from a typical laptop webcam.

The C270 is limited to 720p resolution, so it lacks the sharp, rich look of a more expensive 1080p webcam like the Logitech C920 HD Pro. However, the camera obviously benefits from Logitech’s long history in the webcam market.  

It delivers natural, warm, enjoyable video. It can look grainy when viewed full screen, but the difference between the C270 and a more expensive 1080p webcam is not always noticeable in real-world video conferencing.  

Unlike many budget competitors, the C270 has a narrow 60-degree field of view. This is for the best. A narrow field of view keeps video focused on your face and the background out of the shot. It does lead to a less professional look, but that’s only an issue if you’re frequently the sole presenter in video calls. 

The C270 HD has clear, crisp audio that’s easy for others to understand, and it’s much better at removing background noise than competing budget webcams. This is an important reason to buy the C270 HD over the competition.  

We do wish the C270 HD had a better mount. This is a small, light webcam that’s easy to bump or jostle out of position. It also lacks the option to mount the camera to a tripod.

The best premium webcam

The Dell Ultrasharp Webcam attached to the top of a computer with the screen displaying a video meeting

The Dell Ultrasharp Webcam combines great video quality with AI auto-focus and Windows Hello support.

Pros: 4K resolution and great video quality, durable, sturdy construction, Windows Hello support, AI Auto-focus

Cons: Video quality can’t beat Logitech’s Brio, no microphone

Dell’s Ultrasharp Webcam packs great video quality with a long list of advanced features that can make your PC more convenient. 

The Dell Ultrasharp Webcam doesn’t look as sharp and detailed as Logitech’s Brio, but it’s close, and the difference is often hard to notice. The Ultrasharp Webcam handles poor lighting well and provides a warm, saturated look. The Dell’s video quality was the second-best of any webcam we tested.   

Windows Hello is supported, but Dell takes it a step further with a feature called ExpressSign-In. This lets the camera automatically detect your presence, start the computer from sleep, and log you in through Windows Hello. It can lock the computer when you step away, too. 

The webcam supports AI auto-framing, a feature that uses face detection to automatically keep your face centered in the frame. If you prefer a manual approach, however, Dell’s software lets you choose from a 65, 78, or 90-degree field of view. 

One major feature is missing from the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam: a microphone. Dell claims it removed this feature because it expects shoppers looking at a premium webcam will already have a high-quality external microphone. 

This camera is unusually sturdy. The case is made of metal and magnetically attaches to the two included mounts. One mount can perch the webcam on your monitor while the other can attach to a tripod. The camera also includes a magnetic privacy shutter. Dell is confident in the Ultrasharp Webcam’s durability and backs the camera with a three-year warranty.

The best webcam for streaming

A man presenting in a meeting at his home using the Razer Kiyo Pro that is attached to his monitor

The Razer Kiyo Pro performs well in low light and can record or stream at up to 60 frames per second.

Pros: Hefty and versatile mount, extensive camera control options, can record or stream at 60 frames per second

Cons: 4K is not supported, autofocus can be indecisive

The Razer Kiyo Pro is an excellent webcam for streamers and content creators. It’s bulky and attached to a hefty, versatile mount that’s compatible with a tripod. The Kiyo Pro looks and feels more “Pro” than its competition. It also has an excellent built-in microphone.

The Kiyo Pro lacks the distracting artifacts and compressed colors that plague many webcams. It copes with low-light situations well, with minimal noise and an exceptional ability to balance uneven lighting. It can record at up to 1080p resolution at up to 60 frames per second, which is ideal for streamers who want the framerate of their webcam footage to match that of their stream. 

Sadly, 4K resolution is not supported. That’s a disappointment given the Kiyo Pro‘s price. However, most video conferencing and streaming platforms don’t support 4K, so this may not be a serious problem for you.

The Kiyo Pro has a wide-angle lens that supports three field-of-view options: 103, 90, and 80 degrees. This makes the camera more flexible, as you can use a wide field of view to highlight your background or crop in tighter to keep attention on your face. Overall, the field of view skews wider, which can be a disadvantage if you want to keep your background out of the shot.

Razer’s Synapse software offers extensive image quality customization. You can adjust brightness, color, sharpness, and focus, among other options. Synapse was the most versatile and attractive webcam software we tested, though its long list of options can be overwhelming to new users.

What should you look for when buying a webcam?

Field of view

This is the observable area a camera can display, described in degrees. A higher number translates to a wider field of view and a broader, more expansive perspective. A narrow field of view is often best because it highlights your face and obscures the background, but a wide field of view is helpful when a webcam needs to show multiple people at once. 

Most webcams have a field of view between 60 and 90 degrees. We think a field of view between 70 and 80 degrees is best for most people, but a webcam with an adjustable field of view is even better.  

Resolution 

A webcam’s resolution describes the number of pixels it can capture. Nearly all webcams use the same shorthand descriptions as the TV industry: 720p, 1080p, and 4K. 

A higher resolution can lead to a sharper, more detailed image, but don’t give this specification too much weight. Most video conferencing software maxes out at 1080p and, in practice, often displays a resolution below that, so other aspects of image quality make more impact.

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

High Dynamic Range captures a wider range of color and lighting when compared to older, “standard” SDR video. Many new webcams, like the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam and Razer Kiyo Pro, claim that HDR can improve performance in extreme lighting. We’re rather skeptical of that claim. While using HDR did seem to impact performance, the improvement was rarely significant. 

Windows Hello compatibility

Windows Hello is Microsoft’s biometric login feature, which includes facial recognition. You can use a webcam that supports Windows Hello to log in simply by sitting in front of the camera. Though not essential, it’s a useful feature that eliminates the hassle of typing in a password or PIN. 

AI Auto-Focus

Several new webcams, including the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam and Anker Powerconf C300, use AI face recognition to automatically detect your face and keep it centered in the frame. In practice, this works as an alternative to setting a manual field of view. AI auto-focus can automatically crop a wide field of view to keep you centered. This feature is handy if your background is cluttered or distracting.

Tripod mounting

All the webcams recommended here include a built-in mounting system that balances the webcam on top of your monitor. Many webcams can also attach to a tripod’s mounting screw. Look for this feature if you want more flexibility in how you position the webcam.

Can you use a smartphone instead of a webcam?

A smartphone can deliver great video quality and good audio quality, though it varies significantly between phones. You’ll need a tripod with a smartphone mount to hold the phone.

It’s also not as simple as connecting your smartphone to your computer with a cable. You need an app that can stream video from your smartphone to your computer. Popular options include iVCam, DroidCam, and EpocCam. These apps can provide excellent video and audio quality. 

Most apps offer a free version, but this often comes with major limitations or restrictions, so you’ll likely want to pay for the full version. Pricing varies significantly between apps. Some charge a one-time fee, while others bill annually. 

Compatibility limitations can be annoying, especially if you own a Mac or a Chromebook. EpocCam is compatible with Windows and macOS computers, but it’s not available on Android. IVCam and DroidCam are available for Android and iPhone but only work with Windows PCs.

Can you use a digital camera instead of a webcam?

A digital camera can deliver excellent video quality that far exceeds any webcam. Audio quality can be spotty, though, as the microphone on a camera isn’t designed to reject or muffle background noise. Most digital cameras are large and must be mounted to a tripod.

Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony all have software tools that make select cameras compatible with Windows PCs and, in some cases, Macs. These tools don’t support every camera made by each manufacturer, so refer to the software’s documentation to see if your camera is supported.

Alternatively, you may use a digital camera with HDMI-out as a webcam by connecting it to a video capture device. Very few computers have this built-in, however, so you’ll likely need to purchase a video capture device to enable this on your PC.

What else we considered

We tested numerous webcams at a variety of price points. Logitech’s C920 HD Pro shut out many of these webcams with its reliable, attractive image quality and modest pricing, but most of the alternatives we tested offer at least acceptable video quality and could be worth buying when sold at a discount.

  • Anker Powerconf C300 ($129.99): The Anker Powerconf C300 is a great 1080p webcam with solid image quality and support for AI auto-focus. It also offers good audio quality, making it a solid choice for most situations. The Powerconf C300 is spoiled by its pricing, which is awkwardly wedged between the Logitech C920 HD Pro and Logitech Brio.
  • Aukey PC-LM1E ($59.99): This is among the most affordable 1080p webcams available, dropping as low as $21.80 on sale. Its video quality is acceptable, but the built-in microphone picks up so much background noise that it’s borderline unusable. It’s a good value pick if you always use a headset, however.
  • Logitech C925-e ($99.99): The Logitech C925-e is a slightly tweaked model of the C920 HD Pro with a more modern look. It’s often more expensive than the C920 HD Pro, however, and offers no improvement in image quality. If you find it on sale, however, it’s a great pick.
  • Logitech C922x Pro Stream ($99.99): The C922x Pro Stream is an entry-level streaming webcam that competes with the Kiyo Pro. It can handle 1080p at 30 frames per second or 720p at 60 frames per second. It’s a good webcam, but we prefer the Razer Kiyo Pro or, if you’re on a budget, the Kiyo.
  • Logitech C930e ($129.99): The C930e is a C920 HD Pro with an expanded field-of-view. Logitech pitches this camera as an ideal choice for conference rooms, but the C920 makes more sense for individual use.
  • Logitech C920S Pro HD ($69.99): The webcam is a C920 HD Pro with a privacy shutter. Its official MSRP is less than the C920 HD Pro but it’s often more expensive at retailers. Still, pick this one up if you find a deal.
  • Logitech Streamcam ($169.99): The Logitech Streamcam targets streamers and content creators with 1080p video at 60 frames per second. It can also record in a vertical aspect ratio, which is unusual for a webcam. Its video quality falls short of the Razer Kiyo Pro, however.
  • Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 ($39.95): We last tried this camera back in 2012. It’s an ancient 720p webcam that doesn’t stack up with modern options. Buy the Logitech C270 HD instead.
  • Microsoft LifeCam Studio ($99.95): This camera was released in 2010, making it the oldest included on this list. You can still buy it today, often on sale with pricing similar to the Logitech C920 HD pro. The C920 is superior, so buy it instead.
  • Microsoft Modern Webcam ($69.99): Microsoft’s Modern Webcam is a new challenger to the Logitech C920 HD Pro. It can record at 1080p at 30 frames per second and offers support for HDR, but it doesn’t have the dual microphone found in Logitech’s option. The camera is compact and includes a tripod mount.
  • Razer Kiyo ($99.99): Razer’s more affordable Kiyo streaming camera can handle 1080p at 30 frames per second or 720p at 60 frames per second. It’s not a bad webcam but it’s leagues behind the Kiyo Pro in video quality, and the Logitech C920 HD Pro is better for video conferencing.

What we look forward to testing

The demand for webcams in 2020 has encouraged several companies to re-enter the market with new offerings. We can only confirm two models so far, but our sources hint that several additional options from major brands will hit store shelves in 2021.

  • Elgato Facecam ($199.99): The Elgato Facecam targets streamers and content creators. Its specifications and construction mirror the Razer Kiyo Pro. Both capture 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second and include a Sony Starvis image sensor tuned for low light performance (the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam also uses this sensor). It does not include a microphone.
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The 7 best foot massagers for chronic pain and everyday aches

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Foot massagers can help ease pain and swelling for folks on their feet all day or with a chronic condition.
  • We spoke to three experts, including podiatrists, on which devices are safe and most effective.
  • Our top choice, the RENPHO, provides a luxe, deep Shiatsu massage that works the entire foot.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Kenneth Jung, MD, orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles.

Whether you work a job that keeps you on your feet like restaurant service, retail, or medical care; you’re a runner or other athlete whose feet take a regular beating; or you have plantar fasciitis or swelling issues, your feet deserve a spa day – and, ideally, every day.

If achy or painful feet are a common problem for you, buying an at-home foot massager can actually help provide relief from the comfort of your couch. In fact, most of us would benefit from a little foot care: Simply walking on hard, flat surfaces while running errands and commuting can limit the foot’s range of motion over time, California-based physical therapist, Chad Walding, DPT, told Insider.

Stimulating the muscles and tissues in your feet releases tension, which in turn helps relieve pain and improves your foot’s freedom of movement and balance.

To narrow in on the best foot massager, we spoke with a physical therapist, a podiatrist, and a massage therapist about what to look for in a safe and effective device. If you’re not sure what exactly you’re in the market for, check out our FAQs for some additional guidance from our expert sources.

Here are the best foot massagers:

The best foot massager overall

Oval shaped RENPHO Foot Massager Machine with two foot holes and a remote

With customizable patterns of kneading, compression, and heat therapy, the RENPHO Foot Massager Machine is a full-service Shiatsu device and feels like a home spa for your feet.

Pros: Kneads and compresses, customizable settings, washable fabric cover for hygiene, optional heat therapy to help relax muscles and tendons 

Cons: A little noisy, might be too intense (or not intense enough) for some users

The best foot massager on the market for value, the RENPHO Foot Massager Machine offers a little bit of everything: kneading, compression, and heat therapy, and the intensity level of each can be customized to suit your piggies’ needs.

There’s no remote to keep track of, and the on-device control panel is wide and spaced out so you can either reach down and make a selection or easily press with your toes. With a removable, washable fabric lining cupping your feet, it’s easy to keep clean and sanitary. 

Many people report the RENPHO feels more like a human touch and less mechanical than comparable products. Because it envelops your entire foot, it also offers more attention to heels and ankles — important for tight tendons. 

There are three different settings each for kneading and air compression intensity, creating a very personalized experience. There’s also a warming setting to help loosen tight muscles and keep your feet cozy.

Folks with plantar fasciitis report feeling less tension after use in the reviews, especially when used a few days in a row. But if your feet are simply tired, it’s a great choice for relaxation and pampering after a long day, too. 

It does take a while for the warmth to kick in (up to 10 minutes), but this is a safety feature to prevent a fire. It’s made to accommodate up to a men’s size 12 foot. Those with small feet will obviously find the device a bit roomier, but you can experiment with different foot placements.

The best budget foot massager

NekTeck Foot Massager black machine with spinning bumps

At just $60, the NekTeck offers a heat function with a deep, thorough kneading massage for stiff feet.

Pros: Deep kneading, gentle heat therapy, can be used to massage other parts of the body

Cons: No air compression, one mode and intensity, may have difficulty reaching high arches, only massages bottom of feet

If you’re looking for a Shiatsu-style massage machine but don’t want to spend too much money, the NekTeck Foot Massager offers heat therapy and an intense kneading massage for about half the price of the RENPHO and similar machines.  

Instead of fully encasing your feet, this machine cradles from the bottom. With a smooth surface, it’s easy to move your feet around as needed to target the spots that ache, but it requires more finagling to knead out, say, achy arches. The machine’s height can also be adjusted for your ergonomic comfort, and, like the RENPHO, it can be easily turned on and off with your toes. 

Since it’s essentially a flat panel, the NekTeck fits a range of foot sizes and is actually a pretty versatile device, in that it can be used on virtually any part of the body — try placing it under sore calves or thighs for some relief. 

The kneading massage only has one mode and intensity, but sensitive users can wrap their feet in socks or a towel to soften the sensation. Like the RENPHO, the device may take 10 minutes to fully heat up. 

The one major downside to this device is that it only makes contact with the soles of your feet. If your ankles are a particularly painful spot, the NekTeck may not be able to help you much. 

The best foot massager for chronic pain

Two feet rolling over the wooden Theraflow Dual Foot Massager

The wooden Theraflow Dual Foot Massager is great for rolling out sore feet while you work or watch TV.

Pros: Affordable, convenient, effective, doesn’t require charging or battery

Cons: Doesn’t penetrate as deeply as some other devices

This simple wooden device is a great tool for working out tight, painful spots due to conditions such as plantar fasciitis, or overworked muscles, tendons, or tissue.

Devices like the Theraflow Dual Foot Massager work by applying pressure to the trigger points where pain and tension are held with its pointy nubs, according to Dr. Walding. 

While you might think electric and expensive machines would be better, many people actually report this simple version provides more relief to their aching feet thanks to its pinpointing of trigger points and ability to manually control the pressure. It’s also lightweight and small, so you can move it around the house easily and massage your feet under your WFH desk

Note that those seeking a very intense, deep massage might need something spikier and/or electric-powered. It definitely doesn’t offer the total, at-home spa experience that Shiatsu-style machines do with their humanlike kneading, but if you’re just hoping to manage chronic aches and pains, the Theraflow will likely do the trick. 

The best foot massager for swelling

The black FIT KING Leg and Feet Air Massager against a white background with a control panel

Edema sufferers may find relief from this comfy compression massager, the FIT KING Leg and Feet Air Massager.

Pros: Offers lymphatic drainage, helps blood circulation, comfortable 

Cons: Does not reach deep tissue

Compression has long been used as a key treatment for everything from sports-related inflammation to total-body swelling from activities like extended standing or air travel. Sometimes, that simply looks like wrapping the limb in an ace bandage. 

But air compression devices “can help squeeze the swelling back up to the heart or lymphatic system, which then helps relieve the symptoms associated with edema, or swelling,” Ashley Lee, DPM, a board-certified podiatrist in Illinois, told Insider. 

 Of all the foot and leg compression devices online, the FIT KING takes the title for fan favorite — as demonstrated by its nearly 10,000 positive reviews. It is essentially an inflating sleeve that wraps around your foot and calf and is secured with Velcro. It then inflates with air and provides comfortable compression.

Beret Loncar, a NYC-based massage therapist whose practice specializes in massage for medical problems, says a device like the FIT KING can minimize muscle contraction and potentially help move lymphatic fluid through the body, thereby reducing swelling by rhythmically applying small amounts of pressure. This kind of gentle pressure has been demonstrated to help with pain and swelling symptoms caused by fibromyalgia.

That being said, if your swelling is related to a medical condition, diagnosed or not, you should consult with a doctor before buying this or any other medical device. Compression isn’t right for all swelling.

The FIT KING comes with a remote control to adjust between two modes — sequence mode, in which pressure moves up and down the foot and leg, and circulation mode, wherein the pressure is applied everywhere at the same time — and three levels of intensity. It automatically shuts off after 20 minutes.

It’s important to note that compression boots are an entirely different kind of device than, for instance, a Shiatsu machine, so don’t expect a similar experience. These work primarily at the surface of the skin, rather than targeting deep muscle spots like the other products on this list. If swelling isn’t your primary concern, or you want more intense massage options, these boots aren’t for you.

The best foot massager to take on-the-go

Recoup Cryosphere rollers with three parts including a silver ball, blue doughnut shaped holder and bowl shaped piece

Recoup Cryosphere is a manual roller that stays cold for up to six hours to help relieve pain.

Pros: Keeps cold, versatile, rolls smoothly, doesn’t require batteries or charging

Cons: Price, no spikes or nubs

Loncar suggests using a device that ices your muscles and massages them at the same time, and she, as well as thousands of positive reviews, stand behind the Recoup Cryosphere. Icing helps to increase blood flow and decrease inflammation, Kenneth Jung, MD, orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles pointed out during medical review.

You can detach the metal ball and throw it in the freezer for a couple of hours, then put it back into its plastic casing for a comfortable handhold. The ball will stay cold for up to six hours and how you use it is up to you — you can sit in a chair while rolling it under your foot or hold it in your hand to really target tight spots.

Being manual, it obviously doesn’t require charging or battery changes. And because it stays cold for so long, it’ll still provide cool relief even after sitting in your gym bag for a while. At $50, it’s not cheap for a non-electronic device, but users swear that its large size, temperature retainment, and ease of use make it genuinely superior to knock-offs. 

While the Cryosphere works great as a foot massager, the device is actually designed for full-body use. If you’re an athlete, work an active job, or otherwise deal with muscle soreness in other parts of your body, this versatile roller provides even more bang for your buck.

The best total-body foot massager

Hypervolt massager

The Hyperice Hypervolt is a powerful massage gun that can provide relief for not just sore feet, but also sore muscles anywhere on the body, making it a great investment for active people.

Pros: Powerful, long battery life, versatile use, comes with five head attachments. TSA-approved for travel

Cons: Expensive

If it’s not just your feet but also other muscles that are regularly sore, like for athletes or folks with physical jobs, a versatile, total-body massager may be the smartest investment. Podiatrist Ashley Lee, DPM, and physical therapist Chad Walding, DPT, both recommend a massage gun for relieving sore muscles and agree the device can be used on the bottom of your feet as well.

Walding prefers the top-of-the-line Theragun, but Lee backs the Hyperice Hypervolt, which I’ve been using for two years and also love. For $350, it has the power of expensive massage guns without the nearly double price of a Theragun. 

Hyperice’s Hypervolt provides a deep, percussive massage with three speeds reaching a max of 3200 percussions per minute, which is as powerful as most people will need to feel relief.

It’s quiet for a massage gun, and has a ridiculously long battery life — Lee says she can go months without charging hers. It comes with five head attachments and, in my extensive testing of the device, the bullet and fork are ideal for a bottom-of-the-foot massage. My partner is a chef and therefore on his feet all day and night, and he regularly uses our Hypervolt to soothe his sore feet.

As a recreational athlete, I’ve found the Hypervolt has paid for itself in soreness relief, everywhere from my feet after long training days to my glutes and quads. Lee recommends using massage guns like the Hypervolt before an intense activity to loosen and warm up muscles, which can help you feel less sore, as well as after to minimize stiffness. 

One note: Lee advises not to use massage guns on bony areas to avoid pain, so skip the top of your foot and stick to the bottom and sides. –Ariana DiValentino and Rachael Schultz, Insider Reviews health and fitness editor

The best basic foot massager

Red and white TriggerPoint MBX Massage Ball

The TriggerPoint MBX Massage Ball provides firm pressure to roll out sore arches or your plantar fascia tendon, for a great price.

Pros: Affordable

Cons: Not super versatile on foot pain

This manual massage ball is another of Dr. Walding’s top choices. The lacrosse-style ball really gets in there — it’s meant to mimic the pressure of a massage therapist’s elbow. If you suffer from sore arches or pain with your plantar fascia tendon, put this ball under your foot and let your bodyweight work with the targeted pressure to provide relief. For some, this is really the heart of what they need a foot massager for, and the $20 price tag is a true gift.

However, the ball is a bit of a one-trick pony when it comes to foot pain — if your feet are also sore at the Achilles tendon, ankle, or top of your foot, it’s hard to nail targeted relief with this device. 

That being said, this massage ball is intended to be used anywhere on your body to provide trigger point relief, so you can place it between your shoulder blade and a wall to roll out tight spots in your back, or between your calf and the floor to roll out tight muscles that may be contributing to foot pain. –Ariana DiValentino and Rachael Schultz, Insider Reviews health and fitness editor

How we chose which foot massagers were best

I spoke with a physical therapist (DPT), podiatrist (DPM), and a licensed massage therapist about their general advice on buying foot massage devices, which types work best for various issues, and what customers should look for and avoid. I also read through editorial reviews and customer reviews to compare similar products and determine which devices are most loved by users.

We evaluated items based on:

  • Ease and comfort of use
  • Value for price
  • Usefulness in treating specific symptoms (pain, swelling, poor circulation, etc.)

What to consider when buying a foot massager

First and foremost, if you have a medical condition that causes your foot pain or limits your circulation, talk to your doctor before using any device on this list.

If you’ve been given the green light, your best bet is to look for a massage device that’s able to treat your specific issues, like plantar fasciitis, circulation problems, general aches, or swelling due to a job that keeps you on your feet all day. 

Loncar advises those with poor circulation in their feet, due to diabetes or other causes, to look for machines that vibrate or for water massagers. Both of these will help stimulate blood flow and sensitivity. She does warn, however, that those with limited sensation in the skin should steer clear of anything that applies deep pressure or kneading in order to avoid unintentionally hurting themselves.

“The concern for diabetics is sometimes they lose sensation in the limbs, or have neuropathy,” Loncar said. “If you cannot tell how deep or strong the pressure is then you risk injury to the skin and foot. It is better to stick to gentle massages that pose the limited risk of being too aggressive.”

If this is you, Loncar advises erring on the side of caution by skipping anything percussive or kneading, including targeted massage guns and Shiatsu-style machines. Dr. Jung adds that neuropathic patients must also be careful with cold or heat because their protective sensations are weakened, so they could get thermal injuries or burns.

If your primary symptom is pain, Loncar suggests trying something with a cold element, like devices that incorporate ice packs. If you’re an athlete or otherwise very active, you probably already know that icing your feet after a long day can provide some relief. A combo cooling-massage device rolls both treatments into one.

If swelling is your biggest concern, she suggests devices that utilize compression. These focus on the lymphatic system and work to push fluid back toward the heart and out of your feet and ankles. Dr. Jung adds that sequential compression works to mimic your natural muscle contractions, which helps mobilize fluid that’s accumulated in the soft tissues.

If you’re having recurring pain, talk to your doctor about it. They can help identify what might be causing it, and what kind of massage treatment is best for you.

Additionally, Dr. Walding recommends looking for foot massagers with a rounded surface, as these provide the best support for muscles and tendons.

What else we considered

  • Theragun series ($299 – $599): If you’re willing and able to shell out a few hundred dollars (or more), the Theragun line of products is versatile, offering a percussive massage to any part of your body that needs it, feet included. These massage guns can get seriously intense, and are a favorite of professionals, including Dr. Walding. 
  • Theraband Foot Roller ($13.50): Dr. Lee recommends this foot roller for multitasking — if you don’t have time to sit down and roll your feet out on lacrosse balls, this roller is great for stretching tendons while sitting in front of your computer. Try freezing it for extra pain relief.
  • Med Massager Foot Massager ($299): Designed as a therapeutic device, the Med Massager offers oscillating movement at a whopping 11 different speeds. Massage therapist Loncar likes this for people with circulation issues, such as those with diabetes, because of its stimulating vibrations.
  • HoMedics Shower Bliss Foot Spa ($66): According to Loncar, water massagers can provide gentle circulatory stimulation for those who need it. This model was Loncar’s top pick, and we like it because it combines the soothing action of bubbles, jets, and massaging nodes that work the soles of your feet.

FAQs

Do foot massagers work?

Foot massagers are useful for relieving pain from a variety of causes by relaxing muscle and tendon tension and loosening the fascia (the soft tissue that surrounds muscle) and the plantar fascia (a large ligament in the arch of the foot), according to Dr. Lee.

They also help restore mobility lost thanks to walking on flat surfaces like pavement in cushioned shoes, says physical therapist Chad Walding, DPT. This everyday activity “ultimately puts our feet and ankles in a cast that further leads us to lose a range of motion, leaving us to get weak in certain areas.”

“When everything [that we walk on] is nice and even, we lose that general functionality,” he explained, referring to the foot’s full range of motion. “Having a foot massager will help break up restrictions within the foot (such as tight ligaments).” 

For that reason, foot massagers can be particularly helpful to those with balance problems or frequent falls by improving the foot’s range of motion and general dexterity. 

Even if you’re not experiencing specific foot problems, Dr. Walding says massage can be good for “general body hygiene” to counteract the effects of everyday walking.


How often should I use a foot massager?

It’s safe to use a foot massager daily, confirms Dr. Jung. However, you should take care to not use it too intensely, too often. You should never use them to the point where they cause muscle or ligament soreness or pain, and if you feel any tenderness in your soft tissue, give it time to recover and lessen your intensity and time next time.


How do I clean a foot massager?

How to clean a foot massager depends largely on the device. Most ideal is if the foot massager has a removable lining like our top overall pick, the RENPHO, which has a detachable cloth cover you can throw into the washing machine.

If it doesn’t have a removable lining, most plastic or wood machines, like our top budget pick and chronic pain pick, can be wiped down with an anti-bacterial wipe, or, for cloth machines, a damp rag and soapy water. 


Which is better: manual or electric?

Manual devices, like rollers and massage balls, can help release tension in the tissue surrounding the muscles. The very common myofascial pain, caused by repetitive activities or lack of activity at all, usually centers on a trigger point — a “knot” that you can feel under the surface. A manual roller or ball can help knead that out.

If you’re looking for more intense treatment for overall tension relief, electronic devices are the way to go, Lee says. Some also provide some air compression, which can help mitigate swelling.

If your primary reason for wanting a foot massager is just for some pleasant self-pampering, an electric massager is probably ideal since it does all the work for you. Most of the mechanized devices you’ll come across offer a Shiatsu-style massage, meaning it uses nodes to simulate the feeling of human hands pressing and kneading that you’d experience in the traditional Japanese practice of Shiatsu, which translates to “finger pressure.”


Are foot massagers safe?

If your foot pain is accompanied by severe swelling, you might want to hold off on anything with strong pressure or kneading. Those with edema or an acute injury may not benefit from deep and forceful massage; instead, it might just cause discomfort in sensitive areas. 

“In general, if a part of your foot is super inflamed, then you are not ready for a massage yet,” says Walding. 

Lee also advises avoiding massaging any painful areas, particularly “bony prominences,” or places where the bone is close to the skin’s surface. 

If your foot pain is related to any specific diagnoses, always check with your doctor prior to any treatment. And of course, any recurring, unexplained pain should be brought to your practitioner’s attention to rule out underlying causes.

Expert sources

We tracked down what foot massagers doctors recommend, along with physical therapists and massage therapists. To do this, we spoke with:

  • Chad Walding, DPT, physical therapist and co-founder of Glendale, CA-based wellness brand NativePath
  • Ashley Lee, DPM, a podiatrist with double board certifications in foot surgery and ankle and rearfoot reconstructive surgery. She practices at Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists in Hinsdale, Illinois. 
  • Beret Loncar, a licensed massage therapist and the owner of New York City clinic Body Mechanics Orthopedic Massage Therapy, which specializes in massage therapy for medical problems. She is also a RRCA certified running coach, certified yoga therapist, and personal trainer.
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