The 5 best bed sheets we tested in 2021

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  • Good sheets help you sleep better. It’s important to buy a set that’s comfortable and long-lasting.
  • We tested 14 sheets and consulted three experts to find the best sheets for every need.
  • The L.L.Bean Percale Sheet Set is soft, breathable, and made from durable extra-long-staple cotton.

Even if you have the perfect mattress, it can be hard to fully enjoy your time in bed without a comfortable set of sheets.

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.

“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.

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. However, 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.

To test the best sheets, we washed and dried each set according to its respective instructions at least five times, looked at how each set fit on a 10-inch-thick mattress, and slept on each set to note texture, overall comfort, breathability, and coolness. Read more about how we tested in our methodology and consult our FAQs section for more on thread count, materials and fiber types, and fabric care, including input from a textiles scientist.

Here are the best sheets for your bed in 2021

The best sheets overall

best sheets 2021 L.L. Bean pima cotton sheets

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, who holds a doctorate in textile chemistry and is 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. They also had a great feel even after many washes and experienced no loose threads or shrinkage in the last three months.

The fitted sheet fit generally 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. 

The best cooling sheets for summer

best sheets 2021 what else we recommend

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 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 personally 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.

The best flannel sheets for winter

best sheets 2021 Pinzon flannel sheets

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.

The best hotel sheets

best sheets 2021 H by Frette hotel sheets

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, brand has 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, and 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. 

The best sheets on a budget

best sheets 2021 Threshold budget sheets

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, which is on the higher end of all the sets I tried. I noticed after some use, however, 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 you can 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. 

What else we tested

magiclinen slide

What else we recommend and why 

Brooklinen: 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.

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. 

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 indeed 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 $75? The Slumber Cotton set is definitely 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 $175, 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 are 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

best sheets 2021 testing methodology

Here’s how we tested the sheets over a period of five months. Knowing that this is a fairly short amount of time, 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

best sheets 2021 what we look forward to testing

BrooklinenBrooklinen’s sateen sheets usually get all the love, but we’re 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. 

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. 

ParachuteParachute’s name often comes up along with fellow direct-to-consumer darlings Brooklinen and Boll & Branch, all of which launched around the same time. We’re testing its sateen sheets and loving their smooth, soft feel so far. We need to sleep in them and wash them more to determine long-term durability. 

FAQs

Sheets FAQ best 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.

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 high or fluid drape, such as silk, is flowy and clings more to the object. A fabric with 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 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 has a tendency to snag more easily and also 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 slight soft and fuzzy texture, and it feels warm.

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 1-2 weeks, and 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 a 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 to us that wrinkles basically 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 removing 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. In our testing experience, however, 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

Check out our other great bedding guides

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3 safer ways to remove ear wax than using cotton swabs or Q-tips – according to doctors

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  • Many doctors recommend not sticking anything in your ears, especially Q-tips or metal tools.
  • Some recommend drops or irrigation systems for loosening hard wax.
  • Keep in mind that wax is a normal substance made for a reason by your body.

Ear wax is the natural safeguard for your ear canal, acting as protection against sand, bugs, and dirt getting in and damaging your canal or eardrum. But if ear wax builds up too much, it can impair your hearing – everything sounds muffled, and it can give you that feeling like you are underwater. Instead of reaching for a cotton swab or Q-tip, which experts say aren’t safe because they can puncture your eardrum and do other damage, try one of these products instead.

According to Omid Mehdizadeh, MD, otolaryngologist (ENT) and laryngologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, irrigation systems are “perfectly fine as long as there’s not too much pressure and as long as it’s comfortable.” He says to avoid using cold water in the ear, which can cause vertigo or dizziness. Irrigation systems are one of the tools ENTs would use in the office if a patient came in with excessive ear wax, and is a home remedy you can try without doing harm.

In addition, if people have an uncomfortable amount of ear wax clogging the ear, it can help to liquefy the wax with drops, which Dr. Mehdizadeh says are usually composed of peroxide, which fizzes in the ear. “It’s okay for one to two weeks max, but not on a regular basis because it can cause irritation.”

Here are the best ear wax removal tools

The best water irrigator

 Elephant Ear Washer Bottle System by Doctor Easy
This system comes with three disposable tips.

The Elephant Ear Washer Bottle System by Doctor Easy is a simple and straightforward solution that won’t damage ears. 

What we like: No ball syringe, simple mechanism, gentle

This irrigation system is ideal because it offers a simplistic mechanism involving a spray bottle with three disposable tips. It doesn’t have a lot of extra bells, whistles, and complicated parts that make ear wax removal intimidating. Some systems have the ball syringe to suck out the remaining fluid and wax, but this one doesn’t, which means it can be considered safer than other products that are supposed to be inserted into the ear. In fact, ball syringe options fall in the category of things Dr. Mehdizadeh thinks may be dangerous to insert in your ear.

The price is reasonable, and you can buy replacement tips if you plan on using it more than three times. One downside of this design is that it doesn’t come with instructions, but there are instructional videos on the purchase site that can help.

The best ear drops

Debrox Detox Earwax Removal Aid
These drops use a doctor-recommended active ingredient.

Detox Earwax Removal Aid is a non-irritating formula that can loosen tough wax.

What we like: Non-irritating formula, super easy to use, loosens wax

This popular and affordable alternative to a pricey doctor’s visit can help loosen the toughest ear wax. The active ingredient is the doctor-recommended carbamide peroxide, and users can expect a foaming, cracking, fizzing sound and feeling when they try it. This simply means it’s working well and should not be alarming. The formula claims to be non-irritating, and it’s one of the easiest-use processes for ear wax removal.

The best water irrigator for kids

Earwax MD for Kids, Ear Wax Removal Kit and Ear Cleaning Tool
This option made just for young kids has miniature tips that won’t damage small ears.

Earwax MD for Kids, Ear Wax Removal Kit and Ear Cleaning Tool is specifically designed for kids with a smaller bottle and tip.

What we like: Gentle, small parts for kids

Dr. Mehdizadeh says the only way parents should be trying to clean ear wax out of their kids’ ears without a medical professional is with an irrigation system such as this one. The small bottle and miniature tip make this a more manageable option for a young child, as opposed to the adult irrigators.

Parents can simply have a child lay down, with a towel handy, and slowly fill the ear canal one drop at a time, then set a 15-minute timer and wait. Afterward, you can use the bulb to rinse the ear or allow it to drain naturally. 

Should you remove ear wax?

Ear wax is an oil secreted by the ear canal, which Dr. Mehdizadeh explains as a collection of oil, skin, debris, and dirt. While it seems gross with its light yellow to dark brown color, he says it has a protective effect: it’s moisturizing and antibacterial and is protecting your eardrum and ear canal.

So, there’s no real reason to try to remove ear wax unless it’s impairing your hearing or causing discomfort. Still addicted to those cotton swabs? Be aware that they are “pushing the wax in deeper,” and that nothing should go into the ear to the point that you can’t see it or you risk painful injuries such as eardrum perforation. If the above products don’t work, or you are unsure how to use them correctly, consult your primary care physician or an ENT.

 

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We’ve tested over 10 women’s underwear brands to find the best ones – here are the 5 we recommend most

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Parade underwear review

  • You wear underwear every day, so it should be the most comfortable and durable clothing you own.
  • Luckily, brands Tommy John, Everlane, and Parade are getting it right.
  • We’ve rounded up the best underwear brands for women, plus our favorite styles to shop, below.

Underwear. You won’t give it a second thought if it’s fabulously comfortable, but if it’s anything less than that, it’s all you’ll be able to think about. But thankfully, there are plenty of options these days that are as comfortable as they are playful, and you really can’t ask for more when it comes to your undergarments.

But how do you know if your underwear is or isn’t working for you? One, if not the most important factor to consider is comfort. Does your underwear stay in place all day or does it continuously ride up? Does your underwear feel like your second skin or is it irritating? It’s also crucial to check out material. Underwear fabrics should not only be soft and cozy, but sound enough to withstand several washes. And if you have a more active lifestyle, you might want to find underwear that’s made of stretchy, breathable materials.

And if you purchase a pair of underwear that you realize doesn’t look or feel quite right, many online underwear companies have satisfaction guarantees. That typically means you can get a replacement, refund, or store credit. Hopefully, though, this list of brands and product recommendations can help guide you down a path that most suits you.

Here are the best places to buy underwear in 2021:

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Updated on 1/14/2021 by Katie Decker-Jacoby. Updated prices and links. Rewrote the introduction and summary bullets.

Tommy John

Tommy John

Tommy John has mastered the art of underwear with styles like its Second Skin Brief, Air Cheeky, and Air Thong.

Tommy John may have started off with men’s underwear, but its new feminine Second Skin and Air underwear collections prove that the company’s designers know a thing or two about what people want in a great pair of underwear. That means no scrunching, chafing, bunching, or riding up. And boy does Tommy John’s underwear deliver on its promise that there will be “no adjustment needed.”

The Insider Reviews team tested out both the Second Skin and Air underwear collections and loved every pair. From the sexy thong and cheeky styles to the practical and attractive briefs, Tommy John’s underwear is super comfortable.

The Air collection is fantastic for hotter weather or workouts because it’s made with improved ventilation, moisture-wicking, and deodorizing fabric. The Air underwear comes in briefs, cheeky, and thongs that are made from 77% Nylon mesh and 23% Spandex.

What to buy:

Everlane

Everlane_7

Everlane goes back to basics with supremely soft Supima cotton that’s ethically sourced and transparently priced.

If you don’t want to spend $20+ on one pair of underwear, you’re in luck, because our favorite basics brand Everlane has an underwear collection. The online company is known for its transparent pricing and ethically produced clothing, so you can feel good about the underwear you’re buying.

Everlane’s underwear collection features bikini, thong, hipster, and high-rise hipster styles that are all made with Supima cotton that’s grown in the United States and made into underwear at ethical factories. The cotton’s extra-long fibers are super soft on your skin and the material is breathable. 

We at Insider Reviews reviewed Everlane’s cotton underwear and recycled nylon underwear and we loved them. The cotton high-rise hipster was a group favorite with its full coverage and comfortable feel. I also personally loved the regular hipster style, which is both sexy and comfortable. Those of us who prefer thongs were also favorably impressed with Everlane’s take on that classic sexy style.

All of Everlane’s underwear is completely basic, or as the ad campaign says, “No frills. No bows. No bullsh*t.” It’s your everyday underwear. It’s made for you and puts your comfort above anything else.

If you’re looking for affordable, high-quality underwear that’s made ethically from the best material, Everlane’s Supima cotton underwear is for you. 

What to buy:

Aerie

Aerie

You only have to pay $25 for 6 pairs of underwear from Aerie, but just because it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic piece of underwear. 

Beyond the unbeatable price point, Aerie also makes truly comfortable and dependable underwear. Simple and unfussy, the majority of these undergarments are made of good ol’ cotton. But we’re not fazed by the lack of rayon, satin, and silk. 

To say that Aerie has a wide selection would be an understatement — No matter what kind of style or color or print you’re looking for, this brand has it.

If all this isn’t enough to convince you to give Aerie a try, perhaps the message that the company is trying to send will do the trick. The brand’s #AerieReal campaign may have first debuted in 2014, but it’s still appealing to people who aren’t buying feminine underwear from airbrushed supermodels. The company has long pushed for honest acceptance of people’s bodies, and when it makes underwear this wearable, it’s pretty easy to accept yourself. 

What to buy:

TomboyX

TomboyX 2  Photo Credit  Lyndsey Byrnes

TomboyX makes gender-inclusive underwear that ranges in style from thongs to 9-inch boxer briefs and comes in sizes XS to 4X.

TomboyX adapted masculine-style underwear like trunks and boxer briefs to suit women’s bodies, giving people who prefer wearing underwear styles that aren’t traditionally feminine a more tailored option.

If, for example, you prefer wearing men’s boxer briefs, but you’re sick of feeling that annoying bunching that comes from creating space for certain parts of male anatomy, TomboyX has boxer briefs for you. Whether you want boyshorts, 4.5-inch long shorts, 6-inch long shorts, or 9-inch long shorts, TomboyX has you covered. 

The company also makes more traditionally feminine styles like thongs, bikinis, and briefs. Sizes range from XS to 4X to suit many different body shapes and sizes, so there really ought to be something for everyone.

The underwear is made with Standard 100 by Oeko-Tex cotton that’s eco-friendly. You can also get MicroModal and athlete-friendly Active Drirelease fabric if you prefer.

A few members of the team have tried TomboyX’s underwear, and we all love it. Our reviewer Jen Gushue loves the cotton boyshorts

What to buy:

Parade

Parade underwear brand startup models

Bright, colorful, and extremely budget-friendly, Parade is perfect for those looking to stock up on comfortable underwear. 

Parade is known for stretchy, comfortable, can-barely-feel-them underwear — from cheeky-cut briefs to high-waisted thongs. The underwear comes in two materials; the Re:Play fabric is made of breathable, recycled yarn, while its Silky Mesh is stretchy, breathable cotton you can barely feel against your skin. There are also five different styles to choose from, so you can always get a comfortable pair of panties

The Insider Reviews team tested Parade’s underwear and found all of the styles they tried to be super comfortable. Reporter Mara Leighton relies on the Parade Thong as her go-to workout undergarment, because of the material’s silky feel and non-roll waistband. 

Parade also wins points for its commitment to fun colors and patterns. The brand is constantly rolling out new collections, from bright neons to kitschy mesh dots. The only drawback — Parade can sometimes have low stock in its popular styles, especially during the brand’s many sales. So snap up your favorites when they’re available.

What to buy:

Other shops to consider:

MeUndies

While we tend to favor the brands mentioned above after testing, we’d also recommend picks from these shops, too:

  • Hanky Panky: This brand is responsible for many cult-favorite lace styles — primarily thongs. While we love Hanky Panky underwear, they’re admittedly a little pricey for what you’re getting. If you’re a fan it’d be wise to stock up during annual sale events.
  • Spanx: We’re fans of the brand’s pants and bras, but we haven’t yet tested their underwear. However, the brand offers a good style variety, comfortable materials, and a decent XS-3X size range.
  • MeUndies: We think MeUndies makes some of the most comfortable underwear ever, and the brand has the best variety of patterns. 
  • True & Co: For those of us who don’t want our underwear to be just barely there, the hipster is the perfect underwear, and True & Co makes great hipsters.
  • Lively: Lively is another great underwear startup that makes affordable underwear at $10 a pair or 3 pairs for $25. We like the brand’s underwear as well as its bras and recommend both.

What we’re looking forward to testing:

Knix Underwear

We’re constantly on the hunt for our new favorite pair of underwear. Here is what we’re testing next:

  • Knix: Knix is known for its leakproof period underwear that rivals other, similar brands on the market. But it blends that functionality with fashion, and regularly releases beautiful collections of chic prints and colors. Plus, it’s ultra-inclusive advertising is a breath of fresh air. We’re looking forward to seeing how the period underwear stands up. 
  • Stripe & Stare: The brand is known for delicate, feminine “knickers” in kitschy patterns and colors. But don’t like the girlish prints fool you. Stripe & Stare is made from Tencel Mirco Modal, an eco-friendly fabric that is totally sustainable. The brand claims its the softest material we’ll ever wear — a challenge we’re ready to accept. 
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best French presses we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Also called a coffee press, coffee plunger, or cafetière, the French press is as basic and foolproof as coffee-making gets. Toss a roughly estimated amount of coarsely ground coffee into a basin, pour some fresh-off-the-boil water (our experts suggest around 200 degrees Fahrenheit), let it sit for four or five minutes, gently push the plunger down, and serve.

But while French presses are straightforward devices, some function better than others, and you’ll want to keep a few things in mind when shopping for one.

First, consider the beaker’s material. Your main options are glass, plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel. Glass and ceramic are easier to break, but they’re more traditional looking, and won’t impart a faint metallic or plastic taste the way some claim stainless steel and plastic options do. (We, for the record, didn’t detect any of those flavors from either material during our tests.) Stainless steel is durable and retains heat the longest (especially when it’s double-walled and vacuum-sealed), but it’s the most expensive option. Plastic may be able to withstand falls better than glass, but it’ll scratch and eventually crack in the long term.

“When I choose a French press, it’s all down to how easy it is to clean and if the grinds will be properly filtered when I push down the filter,” said Coffee Project NY co-founder Sum Ngai.

We tested nine French presses using both of those metrics, making at least three pots of coffee with three different sizes of grounds in each press, then monitoring the fine particulate and sludge left behind before washing them (you can find a more detailed explanation of our testing methods here). We also noted how sturdy the presses felt, whether their handles were cool to the touch and if the plungers felt tightly-sealed.

Because most of the French presses we tried out were good – it’s hard to botch such a simple gadget – we highlighted the three that will suit most people based on material, ease of use, durability, price, availability of replacement parts, and, to some degree, aesthetics.

Here are the best French presses in 2021

The best French press overall

French Press Bodum Chambord

The Bodum Chambord is about as timeless as French presses get. It’s unfussy and operates smoothly, and replacement parts (screens, braces, etc.) are affordable and easily attainable. 

Pros: Affordable, simple to use, easy to find (also affordable) replacement parts

Cons: Won’t survive a fall from your kitchen counter, those who prefer finer grounds or use blade grinders might find fine particulate in their brew (look to the Espro 7), doesn’t retain heat well

There’s probably no French press more widely recommended than the Bodum Chambord (which, wouldn’t you know it, is by a Portuguese brand), and it’s what you’ll find on most countertops in both coffee shops and home kitchens. It’s also what our friends at Brooklyn Roasting Company exclusively use in their testing lab.

The Chambord‘s borosilicate glass is good at withstanding heat, but doesn’t do much in the way of retaining it (at least not compared to the double-walled, vacuum-sealed stainless steel of our investment pick, the Espro P7). Heat retention doesn’t matter that much in the world of French presses, though; if you’re not going to drink the coffee right away you should pour it into a carafe so it doesn’t sit in the grounds and become bitter. 

While some French presses we tested had plungers that left gaps around the edges, the Chambord‘s was tightly sealed. That being said, a small amount of fine particles did get through — to completely eliminate any speck of grit you’ll have to invest in a press with a micro-filter, like the Espro P7

Cleaning any French press thoroughly is not the easiest task, but we found that plunging soapy hot water through the strainer and checking for stray grounds did the trick, and the Chambord certainly wasn’t among the more difficult French presses to clean. Again, a French press with a micro-filter, which doesn’t have as many crevices in which to catch grounds, will be easier to wash. 

Speaking of grounds, the French press you choose may be informed by the way you prefer to grind your coffee. If you tend to use finer grounds, or if you use a grinder that doesn’t churn out uniform grounds (as is the case with most blade grinders) you might want to look to a press with a finer filter so that you don’t end up with as much fine particulate in your brew.

Can you spend more on a French press? Of course, but the uptick in quality will be fairly marginal. Can you spend less? Yes, but only a little — there is a slightly cheaper version Bodum makes called the Brazil, which is the Chambord with the steel trap swapped for plastic. We recommend the Brazil for budget-minded folks (and those who have a penchant for breaking things), and you can read more about it here

Otherwise, the Chambord is the right price point for most people, and replacement parts are affordable and easy to find. And, when you do drop and break it, picking up a new one (or a new beaker, at least) won’t cost too much, nor will a filter.

Like most other French presses, the Bodum Chambord comes with a one-year limited warranty.

Read our full review of the Bodum Chambord French press here.

The best budget French press

French Press Bodum Brazil

Bodum’s Brazil is, at its core, the very same French press as the Bodum Chambord, just pared down and a bit more durable with plastic in lieu of glass and steel.

Pros: Simple, operates smoothly, durable, easy to find replacement parts

Cons: Perhaps not as elegant as the Chambord, doesn’t retain heat well

While you won’t get the elegance of the Chambord in Bodum’s economy model — the Brazil’s plastic beaker is held in place with a black plastic frame, as opposed to borosilicate glass in gleaming steel — you will get the same exact coffee. That’s because both models contain identical filtering mechanisms. 

I personally have owned several Brazils and Chambords over the past decade, and I’ve found that they produce the same brew. Like with the Chambord, you’ll find a few stray grounds here and there, but that’s standard unless your French press has a micro-filter. 

Again, if you’re working with a blade grinder or a cheaper burr grinder that doesn’t churn out the most consistent grounds, a French press with a finer filter might be in order to keep any significant amount of particulate, and maybe even thick sludge, from working its way into your coffee. That is, unless you like it that way; if so, you’re not alone (see Turkish coffee or cowboy coffee).

Replacing the Brazil’s filter (18-ounce or 32-ounce) is the same as replacing the Chambord’s since they’re identical and won’t sting too much. The glass beaker is also easy to replace, although doing so may cost the same as or even more than buying a whole new press, depending on which size you’re after. 

The Brazil is a more affordable and more durable answer to the slightly more expensive (and alluring) Chambord with the same one-year limited warranty.

The best stainless steel French press

Espro P7

The Espro P7 is an investment piece, but retains heat exponentially better than glass or plastic French presses and comes with a micro-filter that prevents finer particulate from finding its way into your mug.

Pros: Virtually indestructible, fine mesh filter keeps fine particulate out of your coffee, affordable replacement parts, extremely easy to clean

Cons: Some say the dual micro-filters rob your brew of flavor (though we didn’t find that to be the case)

While all of our picks will get the job done and last about as long as you can manage not to drop them, there are a few reasons you might consider investing a bit more in a French press. The main one being, a press with a micro-filter will keep finer particles out of your coffee. 

The Espro P7’s excellent two-part micro-filter system — two very fine mesh baskets attached to the plunger — leaves you without the bit of sludge that invariably ends up at the bottom of most cups of French press coffee. The coffee made in the P7 was the cleanest out of all the presses we tried. 

Outside of buying a press with a micro-filter, the only other way to ensure your French press coffee remains sludge-free is to get a burr grinder that produces uniform grounds without too many fine particles. That’s not to say that a blade grinder won’t grind your beans (if only in a very basic way), but achieving even decent consistency with one is difficult.

A big interest in stainless-steel French presses is heat retention. While they do invariably keep your coffee hotter longer, it’s important to recognize that, as with tea, leaving your coffee steeping (even after pushing the plunger down) leads to a bitter flavor. Unless you’re going to drink your coffee within about 45 minutes, it’s best to decant it into a thermos or pitcher to keep warm and prevent it from over-steeping.

The P7 was the easiest French press to clean thoroughly since coffee grounds don’t get stuck in its extra-fine mesh. Just note that as with most stainless steel cookware and appliances, a scouring pad will scratch up the exterior so use a soft sponge.

This was also the most durable French press we tried due to the stainless steel construction. The brand’s warranty, called the “Friends for Life Guarantee,” only protects against manufacturing flaws. That being said, you’re unlikely to find any, and if something goes wrong with the filter, replacements aren’t terribly expensive (though they’re more than twice the price of Bodum’s). 

So long as you don’t misplace the Espro P7, or drive a car over it, it’s worth the investment, especially for those who are a) constantly breaking their glass French presses or b) looking to banish fine sediment from their coffee mug once and for all.

What we also recommend

French Press Stanley

Bodum Travel: This French press built into a mug is not the only one out there, but it’s the only one we’ve tested so far. It does its job well, but we’d like to compare it to other travel French presses before deciding whether to include it in our guide. 

Coffee Gator: Coffee Gator makes a highly competitive vacuum-sealed, double-walled, stainless steel press, but as with most designs, you’ll find a good deal of sediment at the bottom of your cup. We like the travel container that comes with this press and allows you to pack it for a day on the road or trail, but when looking for a true upgrade, we found a finer filter to be paramount. If all you’re after is something indestructible, look no further.

ColettiColetti’s Boulder Camping French Press is arguably the heaviest-duty French press we’ve tested. It has a large, welded-on handle, an ultra-tight silicone seal (which is great for keeping your coffee hot at camp), and keeps grounds out of your cup with the best of them. It’s not available yet, but we highly recommend it for people who are extra rough on things.

Frieling: Frieling’s French press is well-designed and appointed with high-grade steel. It also now offers a dual-filter setup, so in function, it’s highly competitive with the Espro P7. The only real difference is that it comes with a five-year warranty, compared to Espro’s “Friends for Life Guarantee.” Still, it’s by no means a bad option.

Stanley: If you’re looking for something for camping, boating, or RVing, there’s hardly a better choice than Stanley’s robust line of drinkware. This French press comes in multiple sizes and can just about withstand a tumble into the campfire like the original, if it weren’t for a few plastic modifications, including the handle.

What else we considered

French Press simpli press

Le Creuset: Le Creuset’s ceramic French presses certainly have aesthetic appeal, but in our experience, they’ve been too easily breakable, and oftentimes the filter either doesn’t quite fit in the first place or begins to warp over time, allowing too many grounds to end up in your coffee.

Simpli Press: This is an attractive device if you ask us, but the trap in the bottom, which is supposed to come up with the plunger for easy cleaning, doesn’t catch and gets stuck. Otherwise, the fine filter (akin to the Espro P7’s system) works well.

What we’re looking forward to testing

There are lots of travel French press mugs or mugs with French presses built-in, but we have only tested one from Bodum so far. For our next update, we’re looking forward to trying out the models below.

Bodum Travel Press ($29.99 on sale): Considering Bodum’s success in our testing of regular French presses and the brand’s long-standing status in the world of French press, we’d be remiss not to consider its travel option. With essentially the same components as the Chambord and Brazil, we imagine it will perform well, but with so many other designs within the travel press market, we can’t make any predictions, either.

Espro P1 ($39.95): Essentially our upgrade pick above built into a travel mug, the Espro P1 contains a microfilter that looks as easy to use as its less portable bigger sibling. At a competitive price with other travel French press options, this looks like a strong contender.

GSI Commuter Javapress ($20.73 on sale): Foregoing the plunging rod for a secondary inner mug, the GSI take on the travel French press looks both novel and convenient. We’re usually fans of their camping gear, and their Coffee Rocket earned a top spot in our guide to the best coffee-making gear for camping.

Stanley Classic Travel Mug French Press, 16 oz. ($35): A rugged and utilitarian design, Stanley’s vacuum-sealed double-walled stainless-steel travel mug is the basic design of Stanley’s original (and 100-year-old) model comes with a fine filter, and seems easy to clean.

Otterbox Elevation 20 French Press Lid ($29.99): This is an alternate lid for the brand’s existing thermoses, and it would be interesting to see how it works and if it’s compatible with the Espro P1, which is essentially our stainless steel pick built into a travel mug, and GSI, which foregoes the plunging rod for a secondary inner mug.

Our testing methodology

french press grounds

Before selecting French presses to test, we spoke to Sum Ngai of Coffee Project NY, Jordan Rosenaker of Atlas Coffee Club, and Jim Munson, CEO of Brooklyn Roasting Company to learn what their favorite presses were and what the most critical components of a French press are. 

Here are the criteria we looked for during each test: 

Ease of use: We checked to see if each French press’s plunger worked smoothly, and noted whether or not there were gaps between the presses’ filters and beakers. We also paid attention to the size and placement of the handle size; a poorly-designed handle could leave your knuckles grazing hot glass.

Ability to handle different sizes of coffee grounds: We filled each press three times with 54 grams of coarse grinds and water at 200° Fahrenheit. We used a Kruve sieve to measure the grinds to ensure accuracy and consistency: 1150 micrometers, 1220 micrometers, and 1280 micrometers. We gave each pot a quick stir and let it steep for four to five minutes (four minutes for finer grounds, five minutes for coarser grounds) before evaluating the coffee.

Amount of sludge left behind: While we kept an eye out for residual fine particulate and sludge after decanting each pot into a Kruve carafe, the amount found in each batch was almost identical, save for the finer (600-1000 micrometer) grounds, which left more fine particulate matter in all but our stainless steel pick, the ESPRO P7.

Effort to clean: We aggressively washed each strainer, although we found them all to be fairly sturdy. As mentioned earlier, the P7’s filter was the easiest to clean and coffee grounds didn’t get stuck in its ultra-fine mesh. 

How to make French press coffee

french press method testing

There’s some debate as to the “perfect” way to make French press coffee, and Brooklyn Roasting Company offered a ratio of 16 milliliters of water to 1 gram of coffee for those who want to be technical. That said, the brand’s CEO, Jim Munson, never measures out his grounds and prefers to use what he calls “the grandma method,” which Julia Childs herself taught him. It goes like this: 

  1. Fill a one-liter French press with about an inch of grounds (somewhere in the range of 1100-1200 micrometers, as we watched him).
  2. Fill the carafe with water just off a boil, letting it rest for 30 seconds to a minute before pouring.
  3. Pour the water over the grounds, give it a stir, cover it with the plunger, and let it steep about four minutes before gently plunging and serving.
  4. Pour right away, as it will get bitter if it steeps for too long. 

Here we should mention that your coffee grounds should be anywhere between the size of coarse sand and fine breadcrumbs (or 600 to 1300 micrometers), according to various experts and texts we consulted, including “The Craft and Science of Coffee.”

You can also check out this guide we put together on how to make French press coffee, but it all comes down to personal preference and can be as freeform an art or as exact a science as you’d like.

How to clean a French press

looking forward to Espro P1

Coffee pots of all types are breeding grounds for mold spores and bacteria, so it’s important to clean them regularly. However, French presses — typically consisting of a plate, a spiral, and a layer of mesh — can be tricky to clean, and coffee grounds get stuck inside them easily. Here’s the cleaning method we find the most effective:

  1. Fill the basin or carafe of your French press with hot, soapy water (regular dish soap works here).
  2. Plunge the plunger back and forth to create a froth. This will generally get out most of the grounds.
  3. You can go and pick out any stray grounds, but that might be a bit much for most people, and plunging the hot soapy water takes care of any mold or bacteria anyway.

Check out our other great coffee maker buying guides

Best espresso machine 2021 gaggia classic pro

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The best coffee grinders


The best milk frothers


The best tampers for your espresso machine

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best mesh Wi-Fi routers for improving your home network

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Mesh Wi-Fi networks, also known as mesh routers or mesh systems, are a hot trend in home Wi-Fi.
  • The best mesh networks deliver range and reliability beyond what a Wi-Fi router can match.
  • Mesh Wi-Fi networks are expensive, but they offer simple set up compared to routers and extenders.

Mesh Wi-Fi systems, which are also called mesh routers or mesh networks, promise superior range and reliability compared to Wi-Fi routers. They’re perfect for covering large homes and fixing persistent Wi-Fi dead spots.

They also appeal to owners who want a simple, app-based setup process. This makes a mesh system easier to configure than a network of Wi-Fi routers, access points, and extenders. Router brands know many people find networking confusing and are building mesh networks with simplicity in mind.

Unfortunately, mesh Wi-Fi systems are expensive. Most are sold at prices that are equal to, or above, the most extravagant Wi-Fi routers on store shelves. Prices are coming down, however, and basic mesh Wi-Fi systems are now available for prices that equal mid-range Wi-Fi routers. If this continues, mesh systems will likely replace Wi-Fi routers as the default choice for most homes.

Here are the best mesh Wi-Fi network systems you can buy:

The best mesh Wi-Fi network system overall

Best mesh wi fi netgear orbi

Netgear’s Orbi AX6000 is fast, reliable, and boasts massive range; it’s perfect for large homes and demanding users.

The Netgear Orbi AX6000 supports Wi-Fi 6 and has two 5GHz Wi-Fi bands to reduce network interference and improve reliability. This has led to great results in reviews, most of which place the Orbi AX6000 in the top tier of wireless performance. The Arris Surfboard Max AX6600 is the only competitor we recommend that can match its speed.

CNET’s review of the Orbi AX6000 found it delivered speeds of more than 500 megabytes per second, even at a range of 75 feet from the primary router. It spreads the speed reliably enough to cover large homes, and you can extend the range by 2,500 square feet if you purchase additional nodes. 

The Orbi AX6000 uses an app-based interface that most owners will find approachable. It’s Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatible, so some features can be controlled by voice command through a smart speaker or smartphone. 

However, the Netgear Orbi AX6000 is the most expensive mesh network we recommend. Fortunately, you get what you pay for. 

The best mesh Wi-Fi network system for performance

Best mesh wifi system arris surfboard max ax6600

The Arris Surfboard Max AX6600 has great performance and a better price than many of its competitors. 

Arris is among the less well-known brands in home networking, but its mesh network systems are strong contenders giving Netgear, Linksys, and Asus stiff competition.

The Arris Surfboard Max AX6600 is its mainstream tri-band Wi-Fi 6 mesh system, and its performance can match even Netgear’s Orbi AX6000. Reviews indicate the gap between the two seems small enough that they’re basically equals. However, the Arris is often sold for much less. This makes it an excellent value. 

While its performance is impressive, the system lacks configuration options. Arris uses an app-based setup, which works well but lacks the advanced options that some owners might expect. This includes advanced parental controls. 

The system lacks a wired backhaul, which allows an optional wired connection between nodes for maximum performance. Most homes don’t need this feature, but most competitors have it, and it can be useful in homes already wired for Ethernet. 

The Arris Surfboard Max AX6600 will work best in homes that don’t need advanced features but do want fast Wi-Fi speeds at a reasonable price. 

The best budget mesh Wi-Fi network system

best mesh wi fi TP Link Deco X60

The TP-Link Deco X60 AX3000 is as inexpensive as a dual-band, Wi-Fi 6 mesh Wi-Fi system gets.

The TP-Link Deco X60 AX3000 is affordable compared to most other mesh systems, costing less than some of TP’s pricey wireless routers.

This system’s Wi-Fi 6 performance is generally the lowest of any on this list and offers no significant advantage over the Nest Wifi, which doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6. TP-Link’s Deco X60 is the most affordable system on this list, though, so mediocre performance isn’t a surprise. It doesn’t offer a lot of ports, and there’s no USB.

One notable perk is the Deco X60’s configuration options. TP-Link’s app supports features like dynamic DNS and port forwarding, features that aren’t found on some more expensive systems. This is good news for owners who need an affordable mesh router that still plays nice with a home media or file server. You’ll have more control over how devices communicate on your network, which, in the case of home servers, is sometimes needed for them to function properly.

The TP-Link Deco X60 AX3000 is not an impressive mesh system, but it’s affordable and good enough for homes that aren’t demanding. Those looking for a basic but functional mesh network can pick this system up for less than many wireless routers. 

The best mesh Wi-Fi network system for smart homes

Best mesh wi fi nest wifi

One of the easiest mesh systems to set up and use, the Nest Wifi is a great choice, despite limited capabilities. 

Google’s Nest Wifi is among the least capable mesh Wi-Fi systems on this list. It doesn’t even support Wi-Fi 6. Why is it on this list? Ease of use is a key reason. 

Most mesh Wi-Fi systems are easy to set up and use, but Nest Wifi is on a different level. Setting up Nest Wifi is fast and easy. Once finished, you can easily control the network settings through a smartphone app that looks similar to other Google apps. 

Nest Wifi also has a unique feature. Each router or node doubles as a Google Assistant-compatible smart speaker. This is a bonus for buyers who don’t have smart speakers throughout their homes. You can play music, listen to podcasts, and interact with Google Assistant, just as you would on an Android smartphone.

Wired connectivity is extremely limited, even on the router. There are no Gigabit Ethernet ports on the nodes, and USB is also absent.  

Though it doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6 (the newest and fastest Wi-Fi standard), Nest Wifi delivers solid performance for its price. Most reviews find the Nest Wifi outperforms similarly inexpensive Wi-Fi 5 mesh systems and can come close to Wi-Fi 6 systems. This is not the performance pick, but it’s good enough for many homes.  

Google Nest Wifi is great for smaller homes and for shoppers who care more about ease of use and smart-home connectivity than maximum wireless speeds.

The best Wi-Fi 6 mesh network system for smart homes

best mesh wi fi amazon eero pro 6

The Amazon Eero Pro 6 has a built-in Zigbee radio, making it attractive for smart-home enthusiasts with lots of connected devices. 

Amazon’s Eero Pro 6 is the most expensive and feature-packed option from the brand, and it’s aimed at smart home enthusiasts. 

The Eero Pro 6 has a built-in Zigbee radio. Zigbee is a wireless standard designed specifically for smart-home devices. While not a mainstream name, Zigbee is popular in the world of smart home devices and is used by brands like Philips Hue, Yale, Honeywell, and Bosch, among many others. The Eero Pro 6 is also Alexa compatible, so you can control router functions through Alexa voice commands. 

All this sits on top of a solid, app-driven interface that makes setup and configuration easy. Although it shares the advanced configuration limitations of many mesh systems, the Eero Pro 6 rivals Google’s Nest Wifi for ease of use.

The system’s Wi-Fi 6 performance is fine but can’t compete with the fastest mesh networks available. The main reason you’d want to choose the Eero over the Nest Wifi is if you have a more spacious home, as it covers a larger range. 

Though the Eero Pro 6 works well and has good smart home support, it comes at a high price. A single Eero Pro 6 router is nearly as expensive as Google’s Nest Wifi two-pack, and pricing swiftly increases from there. Despite this, the overall feature set and performance offered by the Eero Pro 6 is not impressive compared to systems like the Asus ZenWifi XT8 AX6600 or Linksys Velop AX4200. 

Still, the Eero Pro 6 can make sense for those who are as interested in smart-home support as Wi-Fi performance. The included Zigbee radio provides broad compatibility that will fit well with many smart-home devices.

The best mesh Wi-Fi network system for large homes

Best mesh wi fi Linksys Velop AX4200

Thanks to a three-device bundle, the Linksys Velop AX4200 offers good coverage for spacious homes. 

The Linksys Velop AX4200 is another great tri-band, Wi-Fi 6 mesh Wi-Fi system. It provides strong coverage and good Wi-Fi performance that’s suitable for the largest homes.

Linksys cheats the competition by including three nodes in a bundle that matches the price of competitors that have just two units. Any of these can be the primary or child nodes. Because it has more nodes, the Linksys Velop AX4200 can more easily cover large spaces and handle pesky Wi-Fi dead spots. 

Each Velop node is massive and has an excellent array of wired connectivity, with a variety of ports. The size is a downside it shares with the Netgear Orbi system, and the Velop’s extra node means you’ll have even more hardware taking up shelf space. 

The Linksys Velop is easy to set up and configure, but it shares the configuration limitations of the Nest Wifi and Arris Surfboard Max AX6600. A mobile app is the only way to control your mesh network, and it doesn’t offer the advanced network options found on a typical wireless router.

Still, the Linksys Velop AX4200 is a great pick if you have a large home or persistent Wi-Fi issues in more than one area of your home. The Velop AX4200’s inclusion of an extra node at a reasonable price is a huge perk over the competition.  

Do you need a mesh Wi-Fi system?

Mesh Wi-Fi systems promise improved reliability, performance, and range, all of which sound attractive. 

The core difference between a mesh network and a traditional Wi-Fi network is the use of multiple nodes or satellites, which are the extra devices you place around your home, away from the main router. A proprietary solution controls communication between these extra devices. This lets all the nodes appear as one network and lets owners easily extend the network by purchasing more access points.

This is useful, though only if you need to have your network extended or have a troublesome Wi-Fi dead spot. A mesh network isn’t required to cover most homes under 2,000 square feet or larger homes that don’t have persistent dead spots.

Owners enjoyed the first mesh networks because they were easier to set up and use than routers, which have a bad reputation for confusing and disorganized interfaces. Router manufactures have caught on, however. Most wireless routers now offer fast setup and useful smartphone apps that are similar to those used with mesh networks.

Mesh networking products often make extravagant claims about their range or reliability. You can find products on Amazon that claim to cover homes of 5,000 square feet with three devices for just $150. Take these claims with a grain of salt. 

The fastest, most effective mesh networks have multiple bands and use large units with large antennas, adding to the cost. Shoppers who just want a reliable Wi-Fi network at a low price will be better served by a standard wireless router. Mesh Wi-Fi systems remain a premium option that’s more of a luxury than a necessity, though pricing on the most basic systems can now match a mid-range Wi-Fi router. 

When is a Wi-Fi router better?

Modern Wi-Fi routers still have a definitive edge in network control and customization. Most mesh routers use an app-based setup process. A few, like Netgear’s Orbi, include a web-based interface for advanced customization. Most don’t. 

That can be a problem if you need or want in-depth control for settings like the router firewall, port forwarding, and static IP addresses. Most homes don’t need these features, but they are useful for gamers and those who manage a home server.  

Can you mix mesh network devices?

Unlike Wi-Fi itself, which is a standard developed by an organization called the Wi-Fi Alliance, mesh Wi-Fi systems are not standardized. The specifics on how they work vary significantly between brands or even between products from the same brand. 

You can’t mix mesh network devices between brands. Many mesh Wi-Fi products are designed as a complete package and don’t work with different systems from the same company. In most cases, you can extend your mesh network only by purchasing more devices of the same model that you own. 

Router companies are working to fix this by expanding compatibility between products, with some success. Still, it’s best to assume you won’t be able to mix and match until brands prove that compatibility between their own devices won’t be phased out after a few years. 

Tri-band vs. dual-band

A Wi-Fi band is a specific frequency range of radio waves used by wireless networks. Today, Wi-Fi typically will use the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. Most routers are advertised as dual-band, which means they broadcast in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. 

You’ve likely noticed this already. Most Wi-Fi routers that exist today will create two different networks by default: one for the 2.4GHz band and one for the 5GHz band. In most cases, the 5GHz band has a “5G” added to the network name. This, by the way, has nothing to do with 5G networks used by mobile data networks, but the similarity in the names remains a source of confusion. 

A tri-band mesh network adds a third band that, in most cases, is another 5GHz band operating at a slightly different frequency from the first. This reduces interference between bands, providing both better performance and improved range. 

Dual-band is fine for a basic mesh network. The engineers designing routers are clever and can use various tricks to help routers and wireless access points communicate in a dual-band arrangement. Still, a tri-band mesh network is always technically superior to a dual-band mesh network. 

What else we considered

Asus ZenWiFi XT8 AX6600: There’s a lot to like about the Asus ZenWiFi, especially its price compared to the Netgear Orbi. However, we had difficulty finding it in stock.  

Netgear Nighthawk MK63: Netgear’s Nighthawk MK63 is an affordable, dual-band, Wi-Fi 6 system. It’s a good deal if you can find a bundle with three units. Otherwise, the two-unit system has a less impressive range that doesn’t measure up to some of the others on this list.  

What we’re looking forward to

The release of Wi-Fi 6 means router manufacturers are in the middle of updating their product lines, but most mesh Wi-Fi systems have updated to the new standard. 

The Wi-Fi Alliance introduced an evolution of the Wi-Fi 6 standard, Wi-Fi 6E, in 2020. Wi-Fi 6E adds a 6GHz wireless channel alongside the 5GHz and 2.4GHz channels already supported. 

At CES 2021, Netgear, Linksys, TP-Link, and Asus, and Arris showed mesh Wi-Fi systems that support Wi-Fi 6E. Upcoming options include the following:

You’ll have to wait until the second half of 2021 to buy any of these systems, and other brands will likely announce additional Wi-Fi 6E systems between now and the holiday shopping season.

Mesh Wi-Fi systems that support Wi-Fi 6E will likely have a performance edge over current models, but you don’t have to wait if you’re ready to buy. Today’s Wi-Fi 6 mesh systems are extremely quick and have excellent range. Wi-Fi 6E will be an evolution, not a revolution. 

 

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The 5 best skewers of 2021 for grilling, roasting, or garnishing cocktails

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Whether at the grill or around a firepit, a quality skewer makes cooking easier.
  • Bamboo is a good option for one-time use, while stainless steel is a reusable alternative.
  • We rounded up the best skewers for grilling, roasting marshmallows, making cocktails, and more.

A set of skewers is a valuable addition to any kitchen or grill set-up. Before purchasing, consider how you intend to use the skewers to help decide between materials and lengths. Most skewers are made of bamboo or stainless steel, but lengths can vary from four to more than fourteen inches. A longer skewer is better for an open fire, and shorter ones are great for use as cocktail garnishes, sandwich picks, and grilling small items. Whatever your needs may be, here are the best skewers for grilling, making s’mores, and more.

Here are the best skewers

Best multi-use

Norpro Stainless Steel 14-inch Skewers
The wide body of the skewer helps to keep food stationary while grilling.

The Norpro Stainless Steel Skewers are versatile tools, with the length to reach a campfire and the shape to lay flat on a grill.

What we like: Good for open fires and grilling, looped handle

The Norpro skewers are the best option for multiple uses because of their length and shape. The 14-inch skewers are longer than average for kabobs, but this makes them more comfortable for roasting marshmallows. Additionally, they are flat and made of stainless steel, which is the ideal combination for grilling. The small, looped handle at the end of the skewer is easy to grasp with tongs and makes hanging storage possible. 

Best for grilling

Blue Donuts Stainless Steel Kabob Skewers
Use the small loop at the end of the skewers to hang and store them.

The Blue Donuts Kabob Skewers are made for grill masters and constructed from dishwasher-safe stainless steel.

What we like: Top rack dishwasher safe, flat length, pointed end

These flat, 12-inch long skewers are great for making kabobs, sausages, and more on the grill. Since the entire skewer is stainless steel, you don’t have to worry about taking special care of the handle. There are 24 in a pack, so you will always have some at hand even when others are in the dishwasher. Though they’re meant for grilling, these skewers can be used for fondue and close-up marshmallow roasting.

Best for s’mores

SUMPRI Marshmallow Skewers
With six different colored handles, these skewers are great for groups.

Roasting the perfect golden marshmallow is easy with the dual-pronged SUMPRI Skewers that extend up to 34 inches.

What we like: Comfortable handles, adjustable length

You can get close to a small camping fire or stay comfortably distant from a bonfire with this set of six marshmallow roasting skewers. These skewers extend from 10 to 34 inches, including the handle, and allow users to adjust the reach whenever they want. The stainless steel dual prongs do need to be hand-washed, but the convenience of having reusable roasting sticks that won’t burn your hand is worth it. The included travel pouch makes this set great for vacations. 

Best for cocktails

Top Shelf Bar Supply Stainless Steel Cocktail Picks
These cocktail sticks are also great for hors d’oeuvres and as sandwich picks.

The Top Shelf Bar Supply Stainless Steel Cocktail Picks are classic and practical cocktail skewers that easily add flair to drinks while holding garnishes in place.

What we like: Dishwasher safe, classic design

Simple and elegant, these cocktail sticks are balanced with a sharp point to pierce garnishes and a rounded top to handle. The stainless steel sticks come in sets of 12 and are available in lengths of four and eight inches. They’re dishwasher safe, so you can spruce up at-home drinks with minimal extra work.

Best bamboo

Fu Store Bamboo Skewers 8-inch
Bamboo skewers are eco-friendly and disposable.

For a cheap and disposable option, Fu Store has bulk packages of bamboo skewers in a range of sizes.

What we like: Bulk purchasing, multiple size options

If you don’t plan to use your skewers frequently, disposable bamboo skewers are an easy and cheap option. The Fu Store Bamboo Skewers are made with multiple uses in mind, offering sticks in four lengths and packs of 100 or 200. The six and eight-inch skewers can be used as long cocktail sticks, and the 10 and 12-inch skewers are ideal for grilling.

When grilling, keep in mind that these skewers are round and don’t have handles. Kabobs will need to be positioned so there is part of the skewer to grab onto. As with all bamboo skewers, soak these in water for 30 minutes before using near heat.

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The best WiFi routers in 2021

  • TP-Link’s Archer AX50 is an affordable router, but its performance makes it a reliable pick for the best router.
  • Your router’s speed and reliability will affect the speed of every Wi-Fi device in your home.
  • Today’s best routers support the Wi-Fi 6 standard, which is now available at affordable prices.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

The humble router is an often-overlooked device that’s key to unlocking great performance from computers, smartphones, tablets, and other devices that rely on a fast Internet connection. Buying the best router you can afford will ensure your home network’s performance doesn’t become a bottleneck.

Wi-Fi 6, the latest wireless networking standard, helps affordable routers achieve speeds that used to be reserved for the most luxurious models. Mesh networking has improved Wi-Fi reliability in homes with spotty WiFi signals, as well, though it’s not necessary in every home.

2021 is a great year to buy a new router. The Wi-Fi 6 standard is now broadly supported by new devices, but it remains a fresh innovation. Today’s best Wi-Fi routers will be useful for at least five years.

Here are the best Wi-Fi routers:

The best router overall

TP Link Archer AX50

TP-Link’s Archer AX50 is the gold standard in the router market. Affordable yet fast, the Archer AX50 challenges not only its inexpensive competition but also premium routers. You can spend a lot more on a router without seeing a significant boost in everyday performance.

The secret to this router’s success is a simple but fast Wi-Fi 6 implementation. The AX50 can’t claim the highest maximum bandwidth or the most Wi-Fi bands, but it consistently performs well in many situations. 

It can handle real-world download and upload speeds of up to 800Gbps within one room from the router. Its performance will be slashed to half that a couple rooms over, but this remains more than adequate for most uses.  

The AX50‘s range isn’t great for homes larger than 2,000 square feet unless it can be placed directly in the center of the house or apartment. 

Still, this router is incredible value. It’s a great fit for a family of up to four people in a home or apartment smaller than 2,000 square feet.

The best mesh router

Nest Wi Fi 2 pack

The Google Nest Wifi is a mesh network system that combines multiple wireless access points into a single wireless network. This happens seamlessly without additional management. Mesh networks are great for homes with Wi-Fi dead spots that a single router can’t fix and are superior to Wi-Fi extenders.

Ease-of-use is Nest Wifi’s key feature. Both setup and router control are handled through an intuitive smartphone app. Those who own other Nest devices, or frequently use Google Assistant, will find it instantly familiar. 

It even supports Google Assistant. The access points serve double duty as Google Assistant smart speakers. This will be a killer feature for some buyers.

Nest Wifi is an entry-level mesh network with less impressive specifications than competitors. It doesn’t support Wi-Fi 6. It also offers just two Ethernet ports per access point, which can be a problem if you connect to multiple devices over Ethernet. 

These flaws are forgiven by the price. The two-device bundle, which contains the Nest Wifi router and one wireless access point, is less expensive than many standalone routers. This makes Nest Wifi a great fit if you’ve found that a single router can’t provide acceptable Wi-Fi performance to your entire home.

The best budget router

TP Link Archer A7

The TP-Link Archer A7 was once the best value in routers. It’s an older model with good performance and range for the price. It doesn’t offer Wi-Fi 6, however, and was replaced by the Archer AX21 in 2020.

Why is this router still relevant? Because it’s ridiculously affordable. The Archer A7 is barely more expensive than a family dinner at Applebee’s. That makes it an attractive option for those who live in a home or apartment under 1,000 square feet. 

As mentioned, this router does not support Wi-Fi 6. You can expect real-world performance between 350 megabytes per second and 50Mbps, depending on a device’s range from a router. That’s mediocre by modern standards, but it’s decent if your devices are close enough to the router to see the higher side of that range. This is all you need if your Internet service plan doesn’t include speeds above what the Archer A7 can provide.

Setup is easy, and the router’s range is good enough to cover most two-bedroom homes and apartments. The router itself is small but still offers the four Ethernet ports found on most routers, so it can handle several wired Ethernet devices.

The best router for value

TP Link Archer AX6000

TP-Link’s Archer AX6000 is among the most expensive routers available from the company, and its specifications receive an appropriate boost. The Archer AX6000’s maximum possible bandwidth is twice that of the AX50, and the AX6000 has a more robust antenna arrangement that can better handle multiple simultaneous devices. 

This router has great range for the price. Windows Central found it could reach devices up to 40 feet away over its 5GHz band, or over 50 feet away on the 2.4GHz band. Its range is perfect for apartments or homes as large as 3,000 square feet if the router can be located near the center of your home. 

There’s good news for wired Ethernet, too. The Archer AX6000 has eight Gigabit Ethernet ports. It also has a 2.5Gbps WAN port, an uncommon feature that can be useful if you have wired network devices, like network-attached storage, that support 2.5Gbps Ethernet. USB-A 3.0 and USB-C 3.0 ports round out the wired connectivity. 

The Archer AX6000 is a large router, measuring about 10 inches on a side and two and half inches thick. It has a square, industrial look that can stick out in a room. This could annoy buyers who can’t easily hide the router. 

Still, this router is perfect for those who want excellent range and performance without paying a premium.

The best premium router

Asus RT-88AX

The Asus RT-88AX is a nice upgrade for buyers who want excellent performance and enough range to handle larger homes, but don’t want to stretch their budget into the extreme realm of tri-band routers or premium mesh networks.

This router offers eight Gigabit Ethernet ports, double the ports found on most routers. Although this isn’t unheard of in a premium router, the Asus RT-88AX is among the least expensive routers with this feature. It also has a USB-A 3.1 port. This router is a great pick for those who have many wired devices.

The Asus RT-88AX is no slouch in wireless performance. It can come close to delivering on Wi-Fi 6’s promise of wireless speeds close to the performance of wired Gigabit Ethernet. This is only possible at close range, but PCMag found its bandwidth still exceeds 450 megabytes per second at a range of 30 feet.

Despite these features, the Asus RT-88AX has a conventional, sleek router look. This contrasts with alternatives that have a more industrial design. The RT-88AX is a good choice if you can’t hide your router and don’t want it to stand out in a room.

The best gaming router

ASUS Rapture showcase

Asus’ ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is a top-tier Wi-Fi 6 router. It’s a tri-band router, which means it has two 5GHz Wi-Fi bands and one 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band. You can choose to split the 5GHz band between devices, or reserve one of the bands for just a single device that you want to have maximum wireless performance and reliability. 

This router is marketed to gamers, but its capabilities are a good fit for large families and large homes. Tom’s Hardware found it offers nearly 100 feet of range, and its performance held up well as range from the router increased. The Asus GT-AX11000 is a good fit for homes larger than 3,000 square feet.

The Asus GT-AX11000 has a robust interface with many options designed to provide better control over how devices access the network. Power users and enthusiasts will like this interface.

Wired connectivity is a weakness. This router has just four Gigabit Ethernet ports alongside a single 2.5Gbps LAN port. It also has two USB-A 3.1 ports. Although enough for many homes, its mediocre wired connectivity is odd given the otherwise extreme feature set. 

This is also among the most expensive home routers sold today. Its performance, while exceptional, isn’t a great value compared to the TP-Link Archer AX6000. However, the Asus GT-AX11000 is a better fit for large homes packed with dozens of wireless devices.

The best mesh router for performance

Netgear Orbi Mesh Wifi

The Netgear Orbi Pro AX6000 is a fast and reliable mesh network system for large homes. Like the Nest Wifi, this system uses multiple wireless access points to deliver more reliable Wi-Fi connectivity and get around obstacles that might otherwise block Wi-Fi signals.

Netgear’s system is far more capable, however. It supports Wi-Fi 6 and has a significantly more robust antenna arrangement. This system even provides four Gigabit Ethernet ports per router or access point, so you can attach plenty of wired devices. 

The least expensive Orbi AX6000 WiFi Mesh System bundle includes one router and one access point, which should work for homes between 3,000 and 4,000 square feet. You can add more access points for even greater range. The four-pack system, which has one router and three access points, should work for homes of up to 8,000 square feet. 

Other Wi-Fi mesh networks can offer similar specifications, but reviewers currently lean towards the Orbi AX6000 as the best option. Forbes and Tom’s Hardware both named it the best Wi-Fi mesh router available.

Price is the only downside. This Netgear Orbi system is three times more expensive than Nest Wifi. Netgear does sell less expensive Orbi systems but, like Nest Wifi, they currently lack Wi-Fi 6 support,

The best value mesh router

ASUS ZenWiFi AX 6600

Asus’ ZenWiFi AX6600 is a great mid-range mesh network that is suitable for most homes. It’s among the most affordable mesh options to support the new Wi-Fi 6 standard. 

Wi-Fi 6 support leads to excellent performance. CNET and PCMag both named this router an editor’s choice thanks to its speed. The ZenWiFi AX6600 can deliver Wi-Fi speeds competitive with the more expensive Orbi AX6000 system in some scenarios. The Orbi pulls ahead at long range, but the ZenWiFi AX6000 is often neck-and-neck with the Orbi when connected to devices 30 feet away or closer.

That’s an acceptable compromise for homes and apartments that are smaller than 2,500 square feet. Asus’ ZenWiFi AX6600 system also provides smaller, more attractive satellites that will be easier to hide. The system’s router has three Gigabit Ethernet ports and a 2.5Gbps WAN port. 

While not the most powerful mesh system, Asus’ ZenWiFi AX6600 hits a sweet spot of price and performance. It’s a great alternative to similarly priced routers which, although packed with more capable hardware, are often more difficult to manage.

Why you should buy a Wi-Fi 6 router

Wi-Fi 6 is the latest wireless standard. It’s backward compatible with previous standards but also offers a huge leap in performance.

The maximum theoretical speed of Wi-Fi 6 is 9.6 gigabits per second (Gbps), up from 3.5 Gbps with Wi-Fi 5. While most consumer Internet service plans can’t hit these speeds, they’re still useful for devices on your local network, such as network attached storage. 

More importantly, the measured real-world performance of Wi-Fi 6 routers blows away their predecessors. A 20 to 50 percent improvement is common. Wi-Fi 6 routers also have better range and see less reduction in performance when handling many devices, traits that are useful in any home.

This comes with an important catch. Both the router and the device connecting to it, such as your smartphone or laptop, must support Wi-Fi 6 to boost performance. If not, the connection will fall back to the Wi-Fi 5 standard (or an even older standard, if you’re connecting an ancient device).

Still, Wi-Fi 6 is the way forward. Most new smartphones, computers, and smart home devices introduced in 2021 will support Wi-Fi 6. It will be the expected standard for new devices by 2022. 

A Wi-Fi 5 router or mesh network can work well, but only makes sense when pricing significantly beats alternatives with Wi-Fi 6 support. That’s why most routers and mesh networks on this list support Wi-Fi 6.

What is a mesh network, and should you buy one?

Mesh networking is the latest trend in wireless connectivity. Mesh networking devices, often sold in packages as mesh network routers, mesh access points, or mesh network systems, provide multiple wireless access points for your network. 

Each access point can communicate with its partners to balance network load, which ultimately provides a more reliable home network. The use of multiple access points can also help deliver Wi-Fi coverage to hard-to-reach wireless dead spots, like a basement or a room on the far side of a concrete or brick wall. 

This might sound complex, but simplicity is among mesh networking’s best features. Most companies that sell mesh networks provide attractive companion apps that are more approachable than a typical router’s user interface. 

Mesh networks will make standalone routers obsolete in the future. Pricing is all that holds them back. Even the most affordable examples are priced to compete with premium routers. This makes sense; you’re getting multiple access points instead of one router. Still, high pricing will turn off many buyers. 

While mesh networks are excellent, buyers should beware so-called mesh networking devices that are glorified Wi-Fi range extenders. They’re often sold as add-on devices instead of mesh network systems with multiple access points in a single package. The term “mesh network” doesn’t refer to any specific technical standard, so the marketing minds at router companies are slapping the term on anything that can extend a wireless network.

What we’re looking forward to testing

The release of Wi-Fi 6 means router manufacturers are in the middle of updating their product lines. Most manufacturers have updated their consumer routers to the new standard, but mesh network products and specialty routers are still in the middle of updates.

The Wi-Fi Alliance introduced a new standard, Wi-Fi 6E, in 2020. Wi-Fi 6E adds a 6GHz wireless channel to the options available, alongside the 5GHz and 2.4GHz already supported. This is helpful because congestion on existing bands is a constant issue. The 6GHz band should also provide better performance in ideal scenarios.

Netgear, Linksys, TP-Link, Asus, and Arris announced Wi-Fi 6E routers or mesh systems at CES 2021. The Wi-Fi 6E options announced include:

  • Arris Surfboard Max AX6600 mesh router
  • Asus ROG Rapture GT-AXE11000 router
  • Asus RT-AX68U router
  • Linksys Velop AXE8400 mesh router
  • Netgear Nighthawk RAXE500 router
  • TP-Link Archer A96 router
  • TP-Link Archer AX206 router
  • TP-Link Deco X96 mesh router
  • TP-Link Deco X76 Plus mesh router

Most of these options won’t be available until the second half of 2021. Though Wi-Fi 6E will improve performance in some situations, you shouldn’t hold off on purchasing a router because of this new standard.

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The best mattress for every type of sleeper, according to our rigorous testing

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Your mattress is the most important part of your sleep setup, so it goes without saying that finding the right one is critical to your sleep quality and comfort.

That’s why I tested two dozen mattresses for this guide, relied on the reviews of colleagues, and consulted with Michael Breus, Ph.D., a board-certified psychologist in clinical sleep disorders and also known as “The Sleep Doctor,” and Dr. Luis Javier Peña-Hernández, a lung and sleep health specialist at the Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Disorders Institute of South Florida.

I’ve been testing mattresses for more than four years to determine the best, and while that decision is ultimately subjective, our testing results are objective: you can read how we test mattresses here. Unless noted otherwise, each mattress I tested was a Queen because it’s the most popular size. Every one of our picks below performed well in our tests, has a long risk-free home trial, is easy to unbox and set up, and can be returned – although some brands will deduct certain fees.

For context, I’m a side and stomach sleeper and my wife is a back sleeper – between the two of us, we’ve got all the major sleeping styles covered. You can find more details of how we tested, models we tested that missed the cut, and how to shop for a mattress at the end of the guide.

Here are the best mattresses of 2021

Best mattresses by type:

Best mattresses by comfort:

Best mattresses by sleep style and body type:

Best mattresses by price:

Best foam

Best foam mattress 2021 Tempur Pedic Cloud

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

Pros: Great heat dissipation, outstanding motion isolation, 90-night trial, 10 inches thick with 3 layers of supportive and comforting Tempur foam that caters to all sleeping types

Cons: A shipping charge is deducted from your refund if you choose to return your bed, unimpressive edge support, no white-glove delivery

The Tempur-Pedic Cloud Mattress arrives in a box now like many other brands; you just open the box, remove the mattress, cut through the plastic, and unroll. Like many foam mattresses, it had an odor that dissipated after a few hours. 

There are three foam layers: a soft and responsive comfort top layer, a firmer support layer, and finally, a supportive and durable base. The polyester-blend stretch cover is moisture-wicking and breathes well. 

I was struck by how the patented foam contoured to my body and offered impressive pressure relief. I was comfortable on my stomach and side, and my wife, who is a back sleeper, also enjoyed the feel. During testing, I was able to fall asleep within minutes of laying down

Unlike most all-foam mattresses, the Cloud didn’t overheat. When I got up at night, the heat dissipated making it cool enough to fall right back asleep when I got back in bed. The Cloud also passed my objective motion isolation tests, and when my rambunctious dog jumped onto the bed in the morning, I barely noticed.

The Cloud also supported my back well. I suffer from lower back pain that flares up when I sleep on an unsupportive mattress. While testing the mattress, I didn’t experience any back aggravation.

The biggest negative with is the Cloud’s poor edge support. I noticed significant sinking when I sat or laid on the edge of the bed. This isn’t a deal breaker; however, couples may want a King for more space without feeling uncomfortable on the edges. 

Read our full Tempur-Pedic Cloud Mattress review

Best hybrid/innerspring

Best hybrid innerspring mattress 2021 DreamCloud Premier

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

Pros: Impressive 365-night trial period, lifetime warranty, made with CertiPUR-US certified foams, good heat dissipation, great motion transfer, excellent edge support, easy to move with side handles

Cons: Lacks support for stomach sleepers

We chose to combine hybrid and innerspring mattresses for this update because the line between the two categories has blurred so much in recent years.

As with most hybrids, the DreamCloud Premier consists of a combination of individually-wrapped coils and foam. The bed’s top layer is high-loft memory foam covered by quilted cashmere. From top to bottom, the other layers are high-density gel memory foam, supportive foam, coils, and a porous foam base.

Despite its heft, the DreamCloud is easy to maneuver thanks to handles on the long sides of the bed. Removing the mattress from the box and setting it up only took about five minutes. While there was a new bed smell initially, the odor dissipated by bedtime.

When it comes to performance, the DreamCloud Premier scored well in every test. It particularly excelled in heat dissipation: within two minutes of getting out of bed, the surface temperature of the bed dropped by 14 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The edge support and motion isolation were both excellent, making this a smart option for couples. When sharing the bed with my wife, I didn’t notice her shifting position in the night. When lying on the edge of the bed, I still felt supported.

Though it’s billed as a “luxury firm,” I found the mattress to be soft and preferred sleeping on my side rather than my stomach. Still, I was comfortable enough on my stomach, I just didn’t feel as supported. My wife appreciated the cushy feel while sleeping on her back.

What’s particularly unique about DreamCloud is its 365-night trial period and lifetime warranty, which is among the most generous of the mattresses I’ve tested. 

Best adjustable airbed

Best adjustable air mattress 2021 Sleep Number 360 i8 Smart Bed

If you and your partner just can’t agree on a mattress firmness, the Sleep Number 360 i8 Smart Bed allows you to customize each side to your perfect firmness and the bed automatically makes adjustments based on your body’s position.

Pros: 20 firmness options make it ideal for all sleeping styles, good edge support, white glove delivery included with purchase, built-in sleep tracker, automatic air adjustments based on sleeping position

Cons: Hard to move, terrible motion isolation, may not be ideal for hot sleepers

Your mattress should last you for at least 10 years. In that time, a lot can happen to change your firmness preferences. For example, when I lost significant weight, I developed a preference for softer mattresses. Also, if you share a bed with someone, the odds are pretty small that you’ll find the same firmness comfortable. These scenarios demonstrate why an airbed with adjustable firmness is a good investment.

The Sleep Number 360 i8 Smart Bed is the best adjustable airbed I’ve tested. Two features set it apart. First, it has an automatic function that, when engaged, will adjust the firmness of the mattress as you shift positions in the night. Second, the mattress tracks your sleeping and offers custom recommendations in the app (available for iOS and Android).

While I found the adjustable air feature was a game-changer and significantly improved my sleep, the sleep tracking was nowhere near as accurate as my Garmin Forerunner 945 watch. However, even during the month I tested the mattress, Sleep Number made improvements to the app, and a representative for the company said a team is constantly making tweaks to make it more useful.

I appreciated that I didn’t have to lift a finger to unbox the mattress. Two Sleep Number delivery people set up the dual adjustable bed frames and King-size mattress in about 45 minutes and made sure the bed connected to my phone and worked correctly.

The separate firmness level settings for each side and good edge support make it a smart choice for couples. However, the mattress failed my motion transfer tests each time, and my wife remarked that the bed felt like a water bed with how noticeable the motion is. Another negative is how hard it is to move the mattress. It’s attached securely to the base so if you want to move it, you need to bring the base with you or figure out how to detach the mattress. Both methods require significantly more effort than your standard mattress.

Best latex

Best latex mattress 2021 Birch mattress by Helix

The Birch Mattress by Helix is made of sustainable, environmentally-friendly materials and offers firm and soft comfort options to accommodate a number of preferences.

Pros: Above-average firmness, soft topper available for an extra cost, very good motion isolation, made of natural materials, Greenguard Gold certified

Cons: Pillow top is slightly smaller than the mattress and doesn’t attach to it, not ideal for side sleepers without the pillow top, no white-glove delivery

From the cover to the latex and the wool, the Birch Mattress by Helix is made of eco-friendly materials. The mattress is Greenguard Gold-certified to be free of harsh chemicals, and it’s handmade in the US. The top layer is made of a fire-retardant layer of natural wool fibers with rayon, followed by an organic wool layer for temperature regulation and comfort. The middle layers are made of natural Talalay latex certified by several environmental organizations, including OEKO-Tex, and individually-wrapped coils for support and limited motion transfer. The base is organic wool batting for durability and stability, and the cover is made of GOTS-certified organic cotton.

When I went to unbox the Birch, I found these materials proved hefty. Though it didn’t come with special tools or instructions, it was a standard unboxing — remove the bed from the box and cut through the layers of plastic. Within five minutes, the mattress was resting on the bed frame. There was a slight initial odor, though it dissipated within hours. 

The Birch Mattress by Helix on its own is firm, but for an extra cost, you can add a plush organic mattress topper to make the bed softer. I tested the mattress with the topper since I prefer a softer feel and I was much more comfortable than laying on the base mattress alone, especially when sleeping on my side. Though, if you like a firmer feel, you might want to skip the topper. 

The Birch Mattress is an excellent solution for couples thanks to its outstanding edge support and motion isolation. I performed my motion transfer test on the bed four times, and it only failed once. When I sat on the side of the bed, I felt supported, and when I laid on the very edge, I didn’t feel like I was going to fall.

After testing the mattress, I gave it to my 6-foot-5 teenager. He deals with joint pain from constantly growing, and he said the bed helped soothe his pains. We both sleep hot, and the Birch did an adequate job of dissipating heat. However, on hotter nights, he reports the mattress is uncomfortably hot.

Best for hot sleepers

best mattress for hot sleepers 2021 purple premier hybrid

The Purple Premier Hybrid mattress not only has outstanding heat dissipation, but the patented Purple Grid offers pressure relief to all sleeping styles.

Pros: Excellent heat dissipation, great for all sleeping types, free white-glove delivery, outstanding pressure relief, bouncy

Cons: Poor motion isolation, heavy

To measure heat dissipation, I use a laser thermometer and consider how hot a mattress gets and how quickly it returns to its starting temperatures. 

The Purple Premier Hybrid is our top pick for a cooling mattress because, based on our temperature tests, it builds up the least amount of heat of any mattress we tried and quickly releases any remaining heat within two minutes of getting out of bed. In my tests, the Purple mattress returned to within three degrees of the ambient temperature in those two minutes. It was almost as if no one had been sleeping on it at all.

The Purple Hybrid Premier mattress is so heavy I needed help unboxing it. Once released from the packaging, we carried the mattress to the foundation. I strongly recommend taking advantage of Purple’s free white glove delivery of the Hybrid Premier.

What sets Purple beds apart from other brands is the “Purple Grid,” which is made up of hyper-elastic gel polymer “grid lines” with one-inch-square open spaces between. You can choose how thick you want your grid: two, three, or four inches. I chose the three-inch thickness option, sometimes called the Purple 3. 

Below the grid is a CertiPUR-US certified polyurethane foam layer, and below that is 7.5-inch pocketed springs. The cover is soft and breathable.

When you first lay down on the Purple, the feel of the grid is noticeable since it’s located right under the cover. It’s a unique feel that can take some getting used to. 

I preferred to sleep on my side when testing the Premier Hybrid, but I was also comfortable on my stomach. I like the responsiveness of the grid, which immediately relieves pressure where you need it to most. 

While the Premier Hybrid failed our objective motion isolation tests spectacularly, my subjective experience wasn’t so bad. On occasion, my dog was able to sneak onto the mattress without me noticing. Also, I noticed the so-so motion isolation was likely due to the exceptional bounce of the bed, which couples may appreciate.

Best for cold sleepers

best mattress for cold sleepers 2021 nectar lush

We found the all-foam construction of the Nectar Lush Mattress holds heat without causing overheating and has a firmness that will fit a variety of different positions, making it ideal for people who tend to sleep cold.

Pros: Long trial period and warranty, excellent edge support, made of CertiPUR-US certified foam, sleeps warmer than most mattresses, average firmness that will appeal to all sleeping styles

Cons: Poor motion isolation, not ideal for people who sleep hot

Most mattress brands put an emphasis on making products that keep you cool through the night, and Nectar is no different. The company markets the Lush Mattress as offering “dual action cooling.” However, in my experience, the Lush Mattress held onto body heat and facilitated a warmer sleep. While this may be a deal breaker for hot sleepers like myself, the Lush is an excellent choice if you have trouble staying warm at night.

The Nectar Lush setup experience varied slightly from the norm in that it came with a safety blade for cutting through the plastic. Out of the packaging, it had a strong new bed odor, but I kept the room well-ventilated, and it was fine by night time.

The Lush has three layers of CertiPUR-US certified foam: a top layer of gel-coated memory foam, a mid-layer higher density memory foam, and a stabilizing and supportive base foam. A poly-blend cover envelopes the layers.

When it comes to firmness, I felt the Nectar Lush Mattress was about average, which should appeal to a broad range of sleepers. While I was comfortable sleeping on my side and stomach, my preferred position during testing was a cross between the two.

If you share a bed with your partner or pets, you might want to consider a mattress with better motion isolation, since the Lush Mattress consistently failed our tests. However, it does have excellent edge support. I felt supported both when I sat and laid on the very edge.

Lastly, one major benefit is the long trial period and warranty. It’s among the best of any in our guide.

Best ultra-firm

best mattress 2021 airweave

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

Pros: Features a soft insert to transform the bed from incredibly firm to just firm, great heat dissipation, outstanding edge support, decent motion isolation, 100-night sleep trial, machine-washable cover

Cons: Some assembly required, hard to move around, not recommended for side sleepers

The Airweave Mattress is one of the most unique beds I’ve ever tested — it’s modular and it requires more assembly than most mattresses. The polyethylene core is broken into three blocks. You place these on the bottom half of the cover, seal up an inner cover, add the polyester soft layer, and zip on the top of the cover. With this level of assembly, white-glove delivery would be an attractive option. Unfortunately, Airweave does not currently offer this service.

I like that there’s a soft layer insert that you can easily remove if you’d prefer an ultra-firm mattress rather than just firm. Even with the soft layer, the mattress was firmer than I’d prefer and sleeping on my side was out of the question. I mainly slept on my stomach and a little on my back when testing this mattress, and I was surprisingly comfortable in these positions. I appreciated how cool the bed slept thanks to the breathable core.

In my experience, mattresses that are less than 10 inches thick are not supportive enough, but at 8 inches thick, the Airweave surprisingly offered plenty of support. With its short stature and light weight — the Queen only weighs 71.5 pounds — you might assume the mattress would be easy to move around, but it’s a beast. The blocks cause the mattress to flop, which adds to the difficulty.

The Airweave is a great solution for anyone who loves firm mattresses. The edge support is excellent on all sides and the bed performed well in my motion transfer tests. When I dropped the bowling ball, the soda can rarely fell over on the first impact, but the bed is incredibly bouncy and the can would sometimes fall over on the second bounce.

Best soft

Best soft mattress 2021 Casper Nova Hybrid

The Casper Nova Hybrid Mattress is ideal for side sleepers who are looking for a plush-comfort bed with great heat dissipation.

Pros: Made with eco-friendly materials, 100-night risk-free trial, good edge support, excellent heat dissipation, the plush comfort is ideal for side sleepers

Cons: Held on to its new bed smell, not the best for stomach or back sleepers, failed motion transfer tests

The Nova Hybrid is one of Casper’s newest and softest mattress, which is ideal for my side-sleeping body. When my muscles and joints were aching after exercising, the Nova Hybrid cradled my body and offered pressure relief in all the right areas. This is thanks to the supportive foam layers with ergonomic zones that are firmer around the lower back, waist, and hips, and softer under the shoulders to help align your spine.

The mattress is made of CertiPUR-US certified foam and the cover is partially composed of recycled bottles, making it an eco-friendly alternative. There are two layers of Casper’s proprietary “Airscape” foam which are meant to help with the airflow, and the topmost layer has small perforations for breathability.

I tend to overheat in bed, but when sleeping on the Nova Hybrid, I never felt hot, which is impressive since I tested the mattress in the summer. When I used the bathroom in the night, the spot where I was sleeping was cooler when I returned, which helped me get back to sleep faster. The base layer of the mattress features individually-wrapped coils surrounded by a firm border of foam. The border helps the bed’s edge support. 

With all of the layers of foam and springs, the Nova Hybrid is heavy and flops around as you move it. Fortunately, it comes with handles sewn into each corner to make it more manageable. 

The motion dampening properties, however, leave much to be desired. The Nova Hybrid failed my motion transfer tests, and when sharing the bed with my wife and dog, I could feel when either of them moved.

If you’re interested in the Nova, Wave, or Original specifically (you can check out our reviews here), and use our exclusive code ‘INSIDER’ for $200 off any size Nova or Wave, or $100 off any size Original.

Best for back pain

best mattress for back pain 2021 leesa hybrid

The Leesa Hybrid Mattress has great edge support and motion isolation. The mix of memory foam and pocket springs leads to an average firmness that makes it an outstanding solution for back pain sufferers of any sleeping style.

Pros: Average firmness that will appeal to a broad range of sleepers, edge support and motion isolation are ideal for couples, 100-night risk-free home trial, made of foam and pocket springs for support and breathability, 10-year warranty

Cons: Heavy, hard to move around

For about a year, the Leesa Hybrid was the main mattress I slept on when I wasn’t testing others. 

The bed features five layers: a cooling premium foam top layer, a contouring memory foam layer, and 14.5-gauge pocket springs that help with breathability sandwiched by two core foam support layers.

My wife and I appreciated that its average firmness suited our backs, stomachs, and sides, and I was especially impressed with its motion isolation — I rarely noticed when my wife got up in the night. The edge support is also great thanks to the innerspring coils that go all the way to the very edge of the bed. 

During the time I tested the Leesa Hybrid, I never woke up with back pain, though I have a history of pain back issues. When I wrenched my back trying to put a standing desk together, the mattress provided the pressure relief and comfort I needed to get restful sleep and facilitate the healing process. 

However, this is based on my personal experience. If you suffer from back pain, you should always consult your doctor before purchasing a new mattress.

I also encourage you to have someone else set up this bed if you have back pain. I tempted fate and tackled the task on my own. I tested a King mattress for this guide and it weighed 142 pounds. I set up the bed on my own, but I relied on white glove mattress removal once I was done with it. 

Readers can score 20% off the Hybrid with our exclusive code “INSIDER” at checkout — you can read the full details here.

Read our full Leesa Hybrid Mattress review

Best for heavy people

best mattress 2021 birch

The Birch Mattress by Helix is made of sustainable, environmentally-friendly materials and is firm enough to provide the support most heavier people need.

Pros: Above-average firmness, soft topper available for an extra cost, very good motion isolation, made of natural materials, Greenguard Gold certified

Cons: Pillow top is slightly smaller than the mattress and doesn’t attach to it, not ideal for side sleepers without the pillow top, no white-glove delivery

Though firmness preferences can vary wildly regardless of your body type, heavier individuals tend to prefer mattresses that are a little bit firmer. This is because firmness provides support, makes it easier for you to adjust your position, and keeps you from sinking in too much. For this reason, we recommend the Birch Mattress by Helix for heavy people who have struggled to find a supportive, comfortable mattress.

The Birch Mattress is made up of a combination of organic wool, organic cotton, OEKO-Tex certified Talalay latex, and individually-wrapped coils. These materials help aid with pressure relief and tend to be more durable.

I weighed about 250 pounds when I tested the Birch by Helix. And, I much preferred sleeping on the mattress with the optional plush organic mattress topper, which made it more comfortable for my side sleeping. Without the topper, I was more comfortable on my stomach. If you’re a side sleeper, you may want to try the mattress with the topper. If you don’t like it, the topper is easy to remove and can be returned within 100 days of purchase for a full refund.

The biggest negative heavier individuals will want to watch out for with the Birch is its average heat dissipation. If you tend to overheat at night, you might want to consider something cooler, like the Tempur-Pedic PRObreeze Hybrid, or supplement the mattress with a good cooling product.

Best for petite people

best mattress for petite people 2021 casper nova hybrid

The Casper Nova Hybrid Mattress is ideal for petite sleepers who are looking for a plush-comfort bed with great heat dissipation.

Pros: Made with eco-friendly materials, 100-night risk-free trial, good edge support, excellent heat dissipation, the plush comfort is ideal for side sleepers

Cons: Held on to its new bed smell, not the best for stomach or back sleepers, failed motion transfer tests

As with heavier individuals, petite sleepers have mattress preferences that are all over the board. But, in general, smaller and lighter people will benefit from beds that are softer. Since petite folks don’t have enough weight to sink into a mattress, they’re more likely to perceive firm mattresses as rigid and uncomfortable. So, in order to keep your spine properly aligned, you need something soft, yet supportive that will cradle your body. We think the Casper Nova Hybrid Mattress, which is also our pick for best soft mattress, fits the bill.

Made of a combination of CertiPUR-US certified foam and individually-wrapped coils, the Nova Hybrid is the softest mattress made by Casper, one of the top names in the bed-in-a-box industry. 

The Nova Hybrid is the best soft mattress I’ve tested. Since losing significant weight, my firmness preference has shifted from average to softer than average. And, I found this bed was ideal for my side sleeping. I was particularly impressed with the pressure relief and the outstanding heat dissipation.

Best for side sleepers

Best mattress for side sleepers 2021 Casper Nova Hybrid

The Casper Nova Hybrid Mattress is also ideal for side sleepers who are looking for a plush-comfort bed with great heat dissipation.

As with heavier individuals, petite sleepers have mattress preferences that are all over the board. But, in general, smaller and lighter people will benefit from beds that are softer. Since petite folks don’t have enough weight to sink into a mattress, they’re more likely to perceive firm mattresses as rigid and uncomfortable. So, in order to keep your spine properly aligned, you need something soft, yet supportive that will cradle your body. We think the Casper Nova Hybrid Mattress, which is also our pick for best soft mattress, fits the bill.

Made of a combination of CertiPUR-US certified foam and individually-wrapped coils, the Nova Hybrid is the softest mattress made by Casper, one of the top names in the bed-in-a-box industry. 

The Nova Hybrid is the best soft mattress I’ve tested. Since losing significant weight, my firmness preference has shifted from average to softer than average. And, I found this bed was ideal for my side sleeping. I was particularly impressed with the pressure relief and the outstanding heat dissipation. 

Best for back sleepers

Best mattress for back sleepers 2021 Tempur Pedic ProBreeze

The medium firmness and cradling comfort of the Tempur-Pedic PRObreeze Mattress make it ideal for back sleepers, especially if you tend to overheat at night.

Pros: Medium firmness that suits an array of sleeping styles, excellent motion transfer dampening, sleeps cool, 10-year warranty, white-glove delivery

Cons: Heavy, subpar edge support, expensive, shipping deducted from refund if you choose to return the mattress during the trial period

Back sleepers benefit from medium-firm mattresses, though this can vary based on body type and personal preferences. It also helps if there is zoned support with extra cushioning around the hips and shoulders. Based on these factors and our subjective testing, the Tempur-Pedic PRObreeze Mattress is the best option for back sleepers.

The Tempur-Pedic PRObreeze Hybrid Mattress is designed for cool sleeping, but it also provides outstanding cradling comfort. There’s an outer cover that you can unzip and toss in the wash for easy cleaning, and three layers of foam that are geared toward absorbing excessive heat and improving breathability. At the base, the mattress has 1,000+ spring coils surrounded by a supportive foam border that provide support, durability, and breathability. 

The PRObreeze is the mattress that my wife and I sleep on when I’m not testing other alternatives. As a hot sleeper, I’ve found it does an excellent job of keeping me from overheating. 

Between my wife and I, we exhibit just about every sleeping style and we both find this slightly-firm mattress works well for our bodies. I also don’t feel when my wife or dog are moving around during the night — the motion dampening abilities are outstanding. However, the edge support could use some work. When sitting or lying on the edge, it sinks significantly.

The mattress is heavy and hard to move around. Fortunately, Tempur-Pedic includes white-glove delivery with the purchase of the PRObreeze. Professionals showed up at my house and set up the new mattress in under an hour. My lower back appreciated the break from heavy lifting.

Read our full Tempur-Pedic PRObreeze Hybrid review

Best for stomach sleepers

best mattress for stomach sleepers 2021 awara

With its plush Euro top and supportive feel, the Awara Organic Luxury Hybrid Mattress supplies the ideal balance of comfort and support for stomach sleepers to get a good night’s sleep.

Pros: 365-night risk-free trial, lifetime warranty, great for stomach sleepers, good heat dissipation, made of eco-friendly materials, all four sides have two handles

Cons: Not ideal for side sleepers, heavy, sinks significantly when sitting on the side

Stomach sleepers generally prefer the firmest mattresses, though this will vary based on personal preference and body type. A firmer mattress supports stomach sleepers by keeping your spine aligned, protecting you from back pain. 

The Awara Organic Luxury Hybrid Mattress gives you a slightly firm, comfortable support along with one of the longest trial periods and warranties in the industry.

The firm feel is balanced by a plush Euro top made of organic wool. Next is a layer of Rainforest Alliance-certified Dunlop latex, and the support core contains individually wrapped coils.

For easy movability, the cotton blend mattress cover has two handles sewn into all four sides. This feature is a must since the Awara is one of the heaviest mattresses in our guide. Despite the heft, I set it up without help in about five minutes. The mattress had a strong initial odor that dissipated within a few hours.

As a combination side and stomach sleeper, I much preferred stomach sleeping on the Awara. During the testing period, I didn’t have any trouble falling asleep, and each morning I awoke feeling refreshed. I also didn’t experience any soreness, which is a common issue for stomach sleepers.

Both the edge support and motion isolation were middle of the road. When sitting on the edge of the bed, I didn’t feel like I sunk much, but when I was laying on the edge, I felt uncomfortable, like I might fall off. The Awara also failed the objective motion transfer tests each time, but the mattress is quite bouncy, which some people may like.

Best budget

best budget mattress Zinus

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

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

Cons: Took a week to expand to full size, poor edge support

The Zinus Cooling Gel Memory Foam Mattress features one of my favorite materials to sleep on: gel memory foam. I’ve found this material does an outstanding job of keeping my hot-sleeping body cool through the night, and the Zinus mattress was no exception.

The memory foam sinks in to comfort the contours of your body while still providing a firmer-than-average support. Because of this, I felt better sleeping on my stomach during testing, rather than my side. Back sleepers may also like the firmness of this model.

The mattress passed my motion transfer tests with flying colors. When I was sleeping on it, my wife and dog were able to sneak into bed without jostling or waking me.

The mattress comes in four thickness options — 8, 10, 12, and 14 inches. I tested the 14-inch Queen. In general, I’ve found that mattresses that are 10 inches or thinner aren’t as supportive, so you should consider the thicker styles.

At under $500, you would expect compromises, and there are a few, but they are easy to look past if you want to save a few dollars. First, the edge support is awful. It’s hard to lie on the edges and not fall off. The mattress also took a week to expand to its full size. Out of the box, it was about half its full thickness. The directions suggest it will only take 72 hours to expand, but that was not my experience. It also had an initial odor, but that went away quickly.

At 70 pounds, the mattress is easy to move around, especially since it is firmer and doesn’t flop around.

Best luxury

Best luxury mattress 2021 Tempur Pedic ProBreeze

When price is no object, the Tempur-Pedic PRObreeze Hybrid is your best bet with its contouring, supportive, and cooling combination of foam and springs delivered and set up in your bedroom.

Pros: Medium firmness that suits an array of sleeping styles, excellent motion transfer dampening, sleeps cool, 10-year warranty, white-glove delivery

Cons: Heavy, subpar edge support, expensive, shipping deducted from refund if you choose to return the mattress during the trial period

If you want to spend top dollar on a mattress that you’ll spend a third of your life on for the next 10+ years, then the Tempur-Pedic PRObreeze Hybrid is your best bet. The patented Tempur material has similar body contouring to memory foam but with added support and pressure relief without the sinking feeling, which is why it’s also our top pick for back sleepers. 

The PRObreeze mattress is different from other Tempur-Pedic mattresses in that it is designed with a focus on cooling. Tempur-Pedic also offers a similar mattress in the series, called the LUXEbreeze, that offers an even cooler sleep at an even heftier price tag (currently $4,999) though I haven’t personally tested it yet.

The PRObreeze is my main mattress when I’m not testing other models. I appreciate the luxury feel and how it cradles my body while keeping me from overheating. And, I don’t notice when my dog jumps in the bed thanks to the impressive motion isolation. 

If you’re really looking to splurge, I recommend pairing the PRObreeze with the Tempur-Ergo Smart Base, which features a sleep tracker to monitor your sleep and makes recommendations for improved rest.

Read our full Tempur-Pedic PRObreeze Hybrid with Ergo Smart Base review

Best mid-priced

Best mid priced mattress 2021 dreamcloud premier

For being in the middle of the pack price-wise, the DreamCloud Premier Hybrid Mattress offers an impressive array of features, including excellent support, a firmness that will appeal to most sleepers, and a long trial period and warranty.

Pros: Impressive 365-night trial period, lifetime warranty, made with CertiPUR-US certified foams, good heat dissipation, great motion transfer, excellent edge support, easy to move with side handles

Cons: Could maybe be more supportive for stomach sleepers

The DreamCloud Premier Hybrid Mattress won our best hybrid/innerspring category, but we also think it’s the best mid-priced mattress you can buy, coming in at $1,599 for a Queen. While this is a bit more than what we’d typically consider mid-priced, DreamCloud’s year long trial period and lifetime warranty justify the bump in price for us.

Along with the Birch Mattress by Helix, the DreamCloud Premier Hybrid Mattress was one of the only beds we tested to do well in every category we look at. The unboxing process was seamless. Though the mattress is on the heavier side, it’s easy to move since it has handles sewn into the left and right sides and doesn’t flop around.

The DreamCloud had the biggest raw temperature drop in our heat dissipation tests. The motion isolation and edge support are great for couples sharing a bed, even if they have different sleeping styles, since the mattress’ average firmness will appeal to most sleepers. And, the Premier Hybrid is made of high-quality materials, including CertiPUR-US certified foams.

Lastly but importantly, if you don’t like the mattress in your first year of ownership, you can return it for a full refund. If you keep it, the bed is covered for life.

What else we tested

best mattress 2021 what else we tested

We’ve tested dozens of mattresses over the years, and there are none that we outright don’t recommend. Every mattress we’ve tested could potentially be a good fit for the right individual. However, here are a few that missed the cut for our guide but are worth considering.

What else we recommend and why

Saatva Classic ($1,499): The Saatva Classic was the “best spring mattress” in a previous version of our guide, but we decided to combine that category with “best hybrid.” The DreamCloud Premier Hybrid beat it out for that pick. I have not tested Saatva Classic, but my colleague Kylie Joyner did and had a positive experience. She liked the great edge support, free in-home delivery and mattress removal, 180-night trial period (though there’s a $99 return fee), and firmness options. Read our full review.

Nectar Memory Foam ($1,198): There’s a lot to like about Nectar’s flagship mattress. It just wasn’t the best in any specific category. I like that you can try it risk-free with a 365-night trial, and if you keep it, it’s backed by a lifetime warranty. I found it was softer than average, which was comfortable for my side sleeping. It also has great heat dissipation, excellent motion isolation, and average edge support. However, I would be hesitant to recommend it for back and stomach sleepers because it’s so soft.

Bear Pro ($1,295): Despite feeling a little softer than average, I was comfortable on my stomach and side while sleeping on the Bear Pro, and I think its all-foam construction will appeal to all sleeping types. The copper-infused foam, gel-infused foam, and breathable Celliant cover all give the bed impressive heat dissipation. The main negatives are it offers poor edge support and it’s a bit pricey for an all-foam mattress. Read our full review

Brooklyn Bedding Sedona Hybrid ($2,899): The Sedona Hybrid is a luxury mattress made of CertiPUR-US certified foams and up to 1,000 coils. You can test it out for 120 nights risk-free. I liked how hassle-free the unboxing was and how the mattress has handles for easy movability. The average firmness should appeal to a broad audience, but I just could not get comfortable no matter what position I was in. And, while the heat dissipation and edge support are average, the mattress failed my motion transfer tests every time.

Casper Original ($1,095): The Casper Original was our previous pick for the best all-foam mattress, and we still recommend it. We like the Casper Original because it works well for a wide array of sleeping styles, is made of eco-friendly materials, has excellent heat dissipation, and exhibits great motion dampening. However, it does not have good edge support. Read our full review.

Plank by Brooklyn Bedding ($999.20): The Plank was our previous pick for the best ultra-firm mattress. I didn’t test this personally, but based on our writer’s review, we think the Airweave Mattress is a better option because of its unique design and heat dissipation. We still think the Plank is a great bed with its two levels of firmness, exceptional edge support, and impressive motion isolation. Read our full review.

Saatva Latex Hybrid Mattress ($1,799): The mattress has medium-firm support that works for all types of sleepers, and the organic latex is breathable and sleeps cool. Our reporter said that the mattress has great motion isolation so she doesn’t feel much movement, but that the edge support is poor. Despite this, we’d still recommend the bed but suggest upgrading to a Queen for solo sleepers and a King for couples so no one falls off the side. 

Saatva Solaire Adjustable Mattress ($2,595): The Saatva Solaire has a built-in air pump controlled by a corded controller that allows you to pick from 50 firmness options for your ideal comfort level. I found it worked great, but the motion isolation left a lot to be desired. Plus, you can’t find the mattress in showrooms to test it out before buying. Fortunately, there’s a 120-night home trial period. Read our full review.

Amerisleep AS5 Hybrid ($1539.30): Amerisleep offers five mattresses, AS1 through AS5, each with a specific benefit. I’ve tested the AS3, the company’s best selling bed, but I much prefer its softer, luxury mattress, the AS5. Due to its soft feel, it’s an outstanding solution for anyone who prefers softer beds. Since it sleeps hot, people who get too cold at night may also prefer this mattress. Also, it doesn’t have very good edge support and failed my motion isolation tests, so it’s better suited for people who sleep alone. Overall, though, I like how it cradled my body.

Allswell Supreme Hybrid ($985): This is one of the best mattresses you will find under $1,000. It features a combination of copper and graphite gel-infused memory foam and pocket coils, which give it a medium firmness that will appeal to many different types of sleepers. The edge support is great but it sleeps hot and is quite heavy. Also, it’s only available online and not in showrooms.

Intellibed Matrix Grand ($6,999): The Intellibed Matrix Grand is the height of luxury and features seven layers of high-quality materials, including two gel layers that flex to provide localized pressure relief and to help align the spine. However, at 196 pounds, it’s the heaviest mattress I’ve tested, and at 17 inches thick, it’s hard to find fitted sheets that are deep enough to stay on the mattress. I didn’t find it particularly comfortable no matter what position I was in, the motion isolation is poor, and the return policy has questionable stipulations.

Testing methodology

Best mattress 2021 testing methodology

I personally tested all of the mattresses in our guide. In addition to sleeping on each mattress for at least two weeks, there are many objective tests I put each model through. The most important factors I consider are comfort, edge support, and motion isolation.

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

Comfort: This is a fairly subjective characteristic that is based on the firmness of a mattress, how hot it sleeps, and how supportive it feels. My measurement of firmness is based on testing dozens of mattresses and developing a feel for soft, average, and firm mattresses. I also consider heat dissipation, which I gauge using a laser thermometer to measure the temperature before I lay in the bed for at least one hour, immediately after I get up, and two minutes after I get up. 

Motion isolation: If you’ve ever spent the night with someone who moves around a lot in their sleep, you know how important motion isolation is. Without it, your sleeping partner’s movements will jostle you awake throughout the night. To test motion isolation, I place a 12-ounce can of soda pop in the middle of the mattress. Then I drop a 15-pound bowling ball from four feet above the mattress so it lands 12 inches from the can. If the can falls over time and time again, the motion isolation is not very good. If the can stays upright, the bed does an excellent job of dampening motion transfer.

Edge support: To test edge support, I lay on the very edge of the bed and slowly roll off — literally. If I feel like I can roll a fair amount before actually falling, then the bed has good edge support. If I fall easily, then the edge support is not very good. I also sit on the side to put on my socks and shoes to assess how much the edge sinks. I am currently developing an objective measurement that I’ll “roll” out in future guides as I collect more data.

Portability: Unless you’re constantly relocating or redecorating, it’s unlikely you’ll need to move your mattress often so this category doesn’t weigh heavily in our assessment. Still, it’s nice if you can easily rotate your mattress, a task that’s important for your bed’s longevity. And depending on how your bed is positioned, you may need to move the mattress to put on fitted sheets. I move each mattress several times to see how heavy it feels and if it flops around making it harder to move.

Trial and warranty: I look at the details of the warranty and home trial period, whether the mattress is available in showrooms, and whether there’s white-glove delivery. The only way to know if a mattress is right for you is to sleep on it for several nights, so we looked for loopholes in the fine print of the return policy and let you know about them.

Setup: I timed how long it took me to unbox and set up each mattress on my own. Also, I noted any peculiarities to the process. My nose tracks any new bed odor initially and when I go to bed, usually 10+ hours later. Lastly, I look at whether white-glove service is offered and how much it costs.

What we’re testing next

Best mattress what we look forward to testing

We’re constantly testing new mattresses and re-testing our top picks to determine the best ones. Here’s what we’re currently testing:

Nest Bedding Flip Double-Sided Hybrid ($699): This affordable bed is unique in that you can flip it. One side has a medium firmness and the other is firmer. 

Olaf by Mellow ($446.80): This is another budget option as we bulk up our coverage in that category. It features four layers of CertiPUR-US certified foam, including gel-infused memory foam for heat dissipation.

The Botanical Bliss by PlushBeds ($3,499): Made of organic latex, wool, and cotton, this mattress is available in three thicknesses and two firmness options. 

Idle Latex Hybrid ($1,330): This mattress has individually-wrapped spring coils sandwiched between several foam layers so you can supposedly flip it over and sleep on both sides.  

Haven Boutique Mattress ($945): Thicker than most mattresses at 14 inches, we’re curious to test if that has any effect on comfort and support.

Purple Premier Hybrid 4 ($2,999): This is the only Purple mattress I haven’t tested, and I’m hoping to test it in the near future for a side-by-side comparison of the line. It is similar to the Premier Hybrid 3, only the Purple Grid is four inches thick instead of three.

How to shop for a mattress

Best mattress 2021 how to shop

Buying a mattress no longer requires heading to a showroom and having a salesperson lurk over you as you lay on a mattress for 10 minutes to decide if it will suit you for the next decade. In fact, we put together a handy guide of what to expect if you’re shopping for a mattress online at nine popular brands.

To help you shop for a mattress, we spoke with Dr. Luis Javier Peña-Hernández, a lung and sleep health specialist at PCSI.

Consider your medical conditions

Peña-Hernández first suggests considering your medical history. “The right mattress is the most comfortable one for each person. However, consumers should consider their medical history, like respiratory diseases, allergies, scoliosis, or sleep apnea when purchasing a mattress; so they can make an informed decision regarding what type of materials are in their mattress or what features might prove to be healthier for them,” Peña-Hernández said. “Patients with COPD may benefit from mattresses that are designed for adjustable beds because elevating the head of the bed can sometimes facilitate easier breathing.” 

Know your sleep position

After talking to your doctor, assess your sleeping style and preferred firmness level.

“The most common mattress problem that people report is the lack of comfortability which can result in fatigue or excessive sleepiness,” Peña-Hernández said. “It’s hard to keep up with the day-to-day when you’re not well-rested, and ultimately, it can affect your quality of life. Chronic fatigue can even have implications for your immunity and your health. A good mattress meets the criteria for the specific person’s needs and promotes a healthy, well-rested, rest.”

Though every person’s preferences are different, there are some patterns that certain body types and sleeping styles seem to prefer, according to Peña-Hernández.

Side sleepers: “Vast research exists to support side sleepers benefit from medium-firm mattresses to support pressure point relief,” said Peña-Hernández. “Side sleepers can experience shoulder and lower back pain if the mattress is too unsupportive.”

Back sleepers: Peña-Hernández recommends medium firmness for back sleepers. “Back sleepers should strive to maintain the natural S-curvature of the spine so the best mattress for back sleepers provides spinal support. A medium-firm mattress will help achieve this by redistributing weight and promoting healthy alignment but still contours to the body to provide cushioning where it is needed.”

Stomach sleepers: Firmer mattresses tend to benefit stomach sleepers as well as heavier folks.

Consider body size and preferences

In addition to the above, you should also consider bodyweight and heat dissipation.

“Individuals concerned about their weight and weight-related complications should speak to their medical provider when considering a mattress, said Peña-Hernández. “Overweight individuals should consider a thicker mattress of at least 12 inches thick or more. Thinner mattresses won’t provide you with the support you need. Coil mattresses also provide a more durable construction.”

Softer mattresses are generally better for petite individuals since lighter individuals (under 130 pounds) don’t sink into beds as far. Breus also notes that as people get older, they would benefit from a softer bed to address pain issues. “As we age, our skin gets thinner, which means less cushion.”

Firm mattresses aren’t necessarily more supportive. Instead, support is based on how well the bed cradles your body and allows your spine to relax. Since different parts of your body push down more on a mattress, such as the hips and shoulders, mattresses that offer zoned support in these areas tend to be more comfortable to a broader range of individuals. These beds also tend to cost more as the construction is more specialized.

If you overheat at night, you’ll want a mattress and even bedding that does an outstanding job of dissipating heat. “Hot sleepers should consider sheets and materials made of natural fibers for their breathability,” said Peña-Hernández. “Bamboo, cotton, linen, and hemp are good options as well as cooling sheets, especially sheets designed to wick moisture.”

FAQs

Best mattress 2021 FAQs

What kind of mattress should you buy?

There are a handful of popular mattress types to choose from.

  • Memory foam: When most people think of a bed-in-a-box, they think of memory foam mattresses. These are mattresses with multiple layers of foam that support and contour your body. However, due to the construction, all-foam mattresses also tend to trap heat.
  • Latex foam: This is usually preferred by people looking for an eco-friendly foam that’s cooler and more responsive than traditional memory foam.
  • Hybrid: These beds combine one of the above foams with spring coils. The coils tend to help with motion transfer and edge support making them a great option for couples. The coils also help with airflow for a cooler sleep.
  • Spring: Also called innerspring or coil mattresses, these are your more traditional beds. Due to the responsive coils, they offer good support, edge support, cooling, and durability. However, they are generally more expensive and mostly found in showrooms and not online.
  • Pillow-top: Pillow-tops are usually associated with innerspring mattresses but can be found on any of the above options. This is the smart solution for those who like a soft, cushy feel.

Adjustable or air beds: These beds use an air pump to adjust the firmness of your mattress to suit your needs. They are among the most expensive options but may be an ideal long-term solution since your firmness needs change with time. Couples with drastically different firmness needs would also benefit from an adjustable air bed.


What size bed should you buy?

There are six standard bed sizes. In order from smallest to largest (and usually the least to most expensive), they are:

  • Twin: If you are a smaller individual who sleeps alone, a Twin (38 inches wide by 75 inches long) will serve you well.
  • Twin XL: This is the same width (38 inches) as the Twin but 5 inches longer, which makes it better for tall people who sleep alone.
  • Full: With the same length (75 inches) as the Twin but 16 inches wider, the Full is designed for larger folks or anyone who just wants a bit more space
  • Queen: The Queen is 80 inches long by 60 inches wide, and is meant for couples who are smaller.
  • King: The King is 16 inches wider than the Queen and better for larger couples. I recommend it if you are choosing a mattress with subpar edge support and you’re concerned about feeling uncomfortable near the edges.
  • California King: The Cal King is four inches longer but four inches narrower than the King, so it’s a smart alternative for taller couples.

For context, my wife and I are both slightly taller and heavier than average, and we share a bed with a dog and a full-body pillow. Queen mattresses are simply too small and uncomfortable for us, though it’s the size we test as it’s the most popular. We’ve found a King is more ideal for our needs.


What’s the best way to clean a mattress?

Based on expert interviews, my colleague L. Daniela Alvarez put together an excellent guide on how to clean a mattress. The experts in her article recommend deep cleaning your mattress with baking soda and a vacuum every three to six months. However, stains should be treated as quickly as possible using a disinfectant wipe. Or, for harder stains, you may need to use a mixture of dishwashing liquid and hydrogen peroxide. 

Some mattresses have removable covers. Check with the manufacturer before removing the cover and attempting to clean it. Some brands may state that their covers are machine washable. If that is the case with your mattress, we recommend that option only as a last resort, and make sure you follow the cleaning instructions carefully.

Lastly, when purchasing a new mattress, you should protect your investment by also buying a mattress protector. We regularly update our guide to the best mattress protectors and encourage you to check out our latest recommendations.


When is the best time to buy a mattress?

Though mattress makers have sales throughout the year, you can usually find the best deals during holiday weekends, like Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, and Black Friday/Cyber Monday.  

Also, manufacturers tend to start marking down their mattress prices in March as they prepare to launch a new line in June. In March, you’ll usually find the widest selection with the smallest discounts. But, as you get into May, the discounts increase while the inventory becomes sparse. We keep a running list of all mattress deals and sales that is updated monthly, and features many Insider-exclusive discounts.


What’s the best mattress for back pain?

For years, the common wisdom was that a firm mattress is best for back pain. However, a 2008 study published in Applied Ergonomics found that firmness had no effect on back pain and stiffness. Instead, they found the newness and price of the mattress had more of a bearing. 

When shopping for a mattress, it’s important that you find a supportive mattress that’s right for your body types and sleeping style. You want your spine to stay aligned while sleeping. This generally means a firmer mattress for individuals who sleep on their back or stomach, or for heavier people. A mattress with average firmness or softer is better for back pain sufferers who sleep on their side, are petite, or are older.

Support is also important, and based on my experience testing dozens of mattresses, the cheaper, sub-$1,000 mattresses skimp in this area. I recommend looking for a mattress with zoned support. These offer more pressure relief around the hips, lower back, and shoulders.

Lastly, take full advantage of the home trials offered by all of the companies in our guide. After all, the only way to know if a mattress is right for your back is to sleep on it.

Glossary

Best mattress 2021 glossary

There are plenty of terms tossed around in the mattress industry. But, what do they even mean? Here are a few common terms defined:

Edge support: This refers to how well a mattress maintains its integrity to its sides without sagging or sinking. So, a mattress with good edge support will feel just as supportive on the edges as it does in the center of the mattress. On the other hand, if you feel like you’re going to fall off the bed when you lay near the edge, that’s a sure sign of poor edge support.

Euro top: This is a type of pillow top that is sewn into the mattress cover to provide a plush, yet supportive feel. It’s commonly found on hybrid and innerspring mattresses and made of fiberfill, wool, or foam.

Innersprings: Also referred to as coils or just springs, these are corkscrew-shaped pieces of metal, usually steel, that make up the core of many of today’s mattresses, including hybrid and innerspring styles. Many modern mattresses use “pocket coils,” which are wrapped coils that help limit noise and motion transfer.

Motion isolation/motion transfer: These terms are two sides of the same coin. Motion isolation describes how well a mattress dampens the feel of movement. For example, a mattress with good motion isolation keeps you from being jostled as your partner shifts positions in the night. When a mattress has good motion isolation, it will have minimal motion transfer. A bed with excessive motion transfer has bad motion isolation, meaning you can feel your partner’s every move.

Check out our other mattress guides

best mattress 2021 check out more guides

Read more about Insider Reviews’ top mattress reviews

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The 6 best media streaming sticks and devices in 2021

  • A streaming device can transform your TV into a smart display with access to popular services.
  • Our top pick is the Roku Ultra thanks to its large library of apps, 4K support, and smooth navigation.

The world is changing. Gone are the days when a cable subscription was required to watch all the latest TV series. These days, you can find plenty of quality shows on streaming platforms. Of course, the best way to watch these services is on a TV, and there are plenty of devices out there to help you stream your favorites on the display of your choice. Before buying a specific player, however, you’ll want to consider a few things.

First, it’s important to ensure that the streaming device you pick includes support for the apps you use the most. The most popular services, like Netflix and Disney Plus, are supported on virtually all streaming players, but some services are missing from certain devices.

Next up, you’ll want to keep in mind the specs of your TV. Not all streaming sticks and boxes are able to handle 4K resolution or HDR playback, so if you have a 4K TV, you’ll want to get one that can stream 4K videos; the reverse is also true, as a non-4K TV won’t be able to take advantage of 4K playback.

Last but not least, it might be worth considering the ecosystem you’re most plugged into. For example, Android users might be able to get more use from an Android TV or Google TV device, while those using an iPhone or Mac might prefer the Apple TV.

Through research and testing we’ve picked the best streaming sticks and boxes you can buy to turn your dumb TV into a smart one.

Note: All of the below products require access to the internet over Wi-Fi or Ethernet in order to stream content.

Here are the best streaming boxes and sticks:

The best streaming box overall

Roku Ultra 2020 angle

The Roku Ultra streams in 4K and HDR, has voice search, and comes with a remote control that has programmable shortcut buttons.

Pros: 4K HDR streaming, Dolby Vision and Bluetooth, voice remote, lots of apps, improved Wi-Fi connection, Ethernet, USB port

Cons: Doesn’t support HDR10+, a bit pricey

The Roku Ultra has virtually everything a buyer could want out of streaming box. It supports 4K video at 60 frames per second and HDR playback. If you have a 4K TV, this model will help you get the most out of your display.

The Roku OS features a huge library of streaming channels with access to all of the major services, including Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, Peacock, Amazon Prime, Apple TV Plus, Paramount Plus, and HBO Max. Just connect the box to your TV via the HDMI port, and install all your favorite streaming services to get started.

As mentioned, the Roku Ultra supports HDR, which means that it’ll show richer colors and better contrast when playing back HDR-enabled videos on a compatible TV. The lastest Roku Ultra model also adds support for the advanced Dolby Vision format, which should improve HDR quality even more on Dolby Vision displays. 

Of course, to take advantage of 4K content, you’ll need a decent internet connection. The device can connect to your internet through Ethernet or over Wi-Fi, so choose the method that’s fastest and most convenient.

The Ultra also comes with a voice remote so you can adjust the volume and search for content with your voice. If you’re watching at night, you can plug in a set of headphones to the remote to not disturb others — a pair of earbuds are included. 

Bluetooth support is included as well for streaming music to the player, and the Roku Ultra even supports AirPlay 2 and HomeKit for easy connectivity to Apple devices. 

The Roku Ultra is the most versatile and reliable media player in this price range, and we like that it’s the most universal of the products. There are cheaper alternatives with less advanced features, but we think this model is the best choice for most people with a 4K TV.  

The best budget streaming box

Roku Express

The Roku Express is one of the most affordable streaming boxes you can buy, and it offers a great interface with basic HD playback.

Pros: Cheap, compact design, easy-to-use, built-in OS

Cons: No 4K or HDR, no voice remote

For buyers who want a simple and inexpensive streaming solution, the Roku Express is the perfect fit. This model is about as basic as they come, but for the money, you’re still getting a capable HD streaming box with a built-in user interface and remote.

Perhaps the best thing about the Roku Express is how easy it is to use. The new compact design makes it one of the smallest standalone streaming boxes there is, and the package comes complete with an HDMI cable for simple setup. The interface is well-designed and extremely easy to navigate with access to all the major services you could want.

Of course, there are downsides to the Roku Express. Unlike the Roku Ultra, which is our overall favorite, this model lacks a voice remote, and it’s missing a USB port for playing external video files or Bluetooth for music streaming from a smartphone. The Roku Express also does not offer 4K streaming or HDR, so we recommend this model for people who have a TV that doesn’t include those features.

For buyers who do need 4K on a budget, though, there’s a very similar Roku model, the Roku Premiere, that might be a better fit for you. The Roku Premiere is a lot like the Roku Express, but it adds support for 4K, HDR, and AirPlay for a bit more money.

That said, the Premiere is sometimes on sale for the same price as the Express. When the Premiere is discounted, it’s actually the better value of the two. If there are no deals, however, and all you need is basic HD streaming, there’s little reason to pay extra for a model more powerful than the Roku Express.

The best high-end streaming box

4k_screen_and_appletv

The Apple TV 4K is an ideal streaming player for enthusiasts who want easy integration with the rest of Apple’s products.

Pros: Well-designed interface, 4K and HDR with Dolby Vision support, can serve as a HomeKit hub

Cons: A little pricey

If you’re looking for a device to better integrate with your iTunes account, iPhone, and other Apple devices, then you’ll want to look into getting an Apple TV. The Apple TV 4K boasts a number of great features, and as the name suggests, this version streams in 4K and HDR, which is great for those of you who have 4K TVs and want the best home theater playback.

As you would expect from an Apple product, it’s well-designed and will look right at home amongst your other entertainment devices. On the back, you’ll get a power input, HDMI port, and an Ethernet port. That way, you can have a more stable internet connection for streaming 4K video.

One of the best things about the Apple TV 4K is Apple’s tvOS operating system, which is super easy to use, especially with the included Siri Remote. As mentioned, it can stream in 4K and has HDR support for improved contrast and colors. Like the Roku Ultra, the Apple TV 4K also offers Dolby Vision for better HDR performance on select services and TVs. 

And with Siri, you can use your voice to search for content. Plus, you can access music, podcasts, games, and hundreds of apps, or cast or mirror content from an iOS or macOS device using AirPlay wireless technology. In addition, the Apple TV 4K can even serve as a HomeKit hub for Apple’s smart home ecosystem.

The Siri Remote connects to the Apple TV via Bluetooth, so no line of sight is required. While the remote is elegant and the touch-capability makes navigation easier, it’s so slim that it can be easy to lose or slip out of your hand. An alternative is to use the Apple TV Remote app on an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, which handles the same functions but makes things like typing much simpler.

On the downside, the Apple TV is notably more expensive than some other streaming options from Roku and Amazon. Most people who aren’t invested in the Apple ecosystem will be more than happy with the less expensive Roku Ultra instead.

We don’t think you can go wrong with either — the deciding factor comes down to budget and the ecosystem — but the money spent on an Apple TV is well worth it.

The best streaming device for Google users

Chromecast with Google TV Lifestyle

Unlike older models, the new Chromecast with Google TV can play apps right from the device, rather than having to rely on casting from a separate smartphone.

Pros: 4K HDR with Dolby Vision and HDR10+, Google Assistant voice remote, built-in interface and casting capabilities

Cons: Some apps are currently missing 4K HDR playback, minor glitches, no Apple TV app

Google’s newest Chromecast model offers a sizable step forward in performance and usability over older versions. Though our previous pick in this category, the Chromecast Ultra, needed a separate phone, tablet, or computer to stream apps from, the Chromecast with Google TV actually features its own built-in interface with an extensive library of services. 

You can still cast apps from a mobile device if you’d like, but the on-screen selection makes it much more convenient to find your favorite shows and movies right on your TV screen. This makes the Chromecast a more worthy competitor to similar compact streaming players, like the Fire TV Stick 4K.

Powered by the new Google TV platform, the Chromecast offers access to a huge collection of apps,. In fact, the only major app currently missing is Apple TV. 4K HDR, Dolby Vision, HDR10+, and Dolby Atmos playback are supported for select services as well.

On the downside, a few key movie apps, like Vudu, FandangoNow, and Movies Anywhere, are currently limited to HD and SDR. This is especially disappointing since these apps do offer 4K HDR playback on other streaming devices, like the Roku Ultra. It’s possible that these apps will receive updates for 4K in the future. 

From a design perspective, the new Chromecast features a similar puck-shaped form factor as older models, complete with a dongle connection that hangs from your TV’s HDMI port. Unlike older models, however, the latest version now includes a handy voice remote with integrated Google Assistant support. 

We encountered a few isolated glitches while testing the new Chromecast, but the device offers impressive value, especially for buyers already invested in Google’s ecosystem.    

The best Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K streams video in 4K straight to your TV.

Pros: 4K streaming, Alexa voice control, affordable, compact, support for HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision

Cons: Missing a few notable apps like Vudu, FandangoNow, Google Play, and Peacock

Amazon’s Fire TV Stick 4K comes with 4K and HDR playback capabilities, including support for the more advanced HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats. Like other streaming stick, this slim dongle plugs right into the HDMI port on the back of your TV. It also comes with an Alexa voice remote for easy access to play, pause, stop, volume up/down, and more.

Fire TV 4K works with Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Prime Video, YouTube, Hulu, and many other video streaming apps. Since it’s part of Amazon’s ecosystem, Fire TV is also compatible with Alexa voice controls on other Amazon products, like an Echo Dot. You can tell Alexa to play “Game of Thrones” without lifting a finger.

The streaming stick has a fast processor and 802.11ac Wi-Fi to ensure smooth streaming on your TV. So long as your Wi-Fi is good, you shouldn’t have a problem.

It’s also very affordable for a 4K streaming stick and includes extensive HDR format support for its price. In fact, it’s one of the only players on the market with HDR10+ capabilities, which will improve color and contrast on Prime Video when watching HDR videos through an HDR10+ TV. 

If you’re buying the device for features like Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, however, you might be disappointed by Prime Video’s surprisingly limited support for those formats. A few key apps are also currently missing, including Peacock, Vudu, Google Play, and FandangoNow. If that’s a deal-breaker, you’ll have to grab a Roku, Apple TV, or Android TV player instead.

The best streaming player for gamers

Nvidia Shield TV

The Nvidia Shield TV doesn’t just run Google’s Android TV, it also supports 4K streaming and can even pair with a controller for gaming.

Pros: 4K support, Dolby Vision capabilities, support for a separate gaming controller, Android TV operating system, powerful processor

Cons: Expensive

If you’re more plugged into the Android ecosystem, you might want something that comes preloaded with Google’s Android TV. If so, there are few better devices than the Nvidia Shield TV. Though pricier than other players, the latest model is the ultimate streaming device for buyers who want beefy specs. 

Like our top pick, this media streamer supports 4K HDR with Dolby Vision for even better performance on Dolby Vision TVs. Google Assistant voice control is integrated as well.

The Shield TV is also the best streaming box for gamers. In addition to the included standard remote control, you can add a separate gaming controller for playing games from the Google Play Store or through GeForce Now cloud gaming. 

When it comes to raw specs, the Shield TV incorporates 2GB of RAM and 8GB of storage. The device is powered by the NVIDIA Tegra X1+, which is one of the most powerful processors used in any streaming device. This extra muscle even allows the device to take advantage of advanced upscaling technology, which can make HD videos look better on 4K TVs. 

Unlike most streaming players, the Shield TV features a unique cylindrical design which takes the form of a compact tube that is meant to be placed behind a display. This style won’t be for everyone, but it makes it easy to hide the device out of sight.

For buyers who want even more power, there’s also a Shield TV Pro model to consider. This more expensive version features a more traditional rectangular shape and upgraded specs with 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, and two USB 3.0 ports.

The standard Shield TV, however, is still plenty powerful, and is a better overall value for people who want an Android TV streaming player that’s capable of gaming.

Check out our other related buying guides

LG C9 OLED TV

The best streaming services you can sign up for online

After you cut the cord and purchase a streaming player, you’ll have to decide which services you’d like to subscribe to. Popular platforms include Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Sling TV, Hulu TV, HBO Max, and more. Each service offers its own selection of content and features can vary between them. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the best streaming services to help you choose which is best for your needs.


The best music streaming services you can subscribe to

Movies and shows aren’t the only things you can stream online via a media player. Music services are also very popular, offering on-demand access to all your favorite tracks. Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Amazon Music Unlimited, and YouTube Music are all great options for different needs. With that in mind, we’ve detailed which music services are right for different buyers.


The best cheap TVs

TV performance and smart connectivity can differ a lot between models, especially when you’re shopping on a budget. After testing and researching several TVs, we’ve picked the best affordable models you can buy.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best Pilates bars of 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A Pilates bar challenges and tones the body in dynamic ways, and especially helps strengthen the core. 
  • Our top choice is the Gaiam Restore Pilates Bar for its quality and functionality.
  • We’ve also included options for beginners, those on the go, and more.
  • Read more: The best yoga mats

Pilates was first developed in the 1920s as a low-impact form of exercise specifically designed to strengthen the core, as well as other muscles in the body, and promote postural alignment. As a Pilates instructor, it’s my job to challenge clients in each and every session. Adding equipment to the workout is one way to ramp up the intensity and add new and creative movements. Pilates bars are great tools that can further target the core and work the body in dynamic ways. Lightweight, portable, and with bands for added resistance, the bars will add a strengthening element to your Pilates workout that can help better define your muscles.

Here are the best Pilates bars

Best overall

gaiam pilates bar
Disassembles for easy storage.

The Gaiam Restore Pilates Bar is a high-quality piece of equipment to practice reformer-style movements. 

What we like: Quality, ease of set up, digital workouts included 

This polished and robust Pilates bar has been thoughtfully designed to help you build a strong core, while also increasing flexibility and improving balance. It features two, 30-inch Power Cords and attached foot straps, plus downloadable exercise workouts that guide you through essential Pilates bar movements with proper technique and form. The intensity can be increased simply by rolling the bands around the bar to generate greater resistance. Weighing just two pounds, this lightweight bar is designed for you to flow between reformer-style exercises with grace and ease.

Best on a budget

BQYPOWER pilates bar kit
The eight-character tensioner helps tone the body from all angles.

The BQYPOWER Pilates Bar Kit is an affordable option that doesn’t sacrifice quality.

What we like: Price, multi-use, straps hold their stretch 

For those on a budget, the BQYPOWER Pilates Bar Kit delivers on all fronts without neglecting quality. The strong steel bar is protected with sweat-absorbing foam pads for comfort as you maintain optimum postural alignment, and the straps are made with TPR (thermoplastic rubber) elastic tubes which help them keep their stretch, even after continued use. As a bonus, the kit includes an eight-character tensioner, useful for both strengthening and stretching purposes.

Best for beginners

Viajero Pilates Bar Kit
Easy to increase or decrease resistance.

The Viajero bar is flexible in resistance and comes with a guided e-book for beginners to learn proper technique. 

What we like: Durable, portable, exercise guide included

For beginners, the Viajero bar is an effective addition for your workouts. You can adjust the resistance by simply rolling the tubes around the bar, which is useful for alternating between strength exercises. The bar splits into three sections for easy transport and has two attachable natural latex resistance bands (up to 50 lbs) that can stretch six to 10 times in length without losing resilience. The bar also comes with a handy workout e-book and video to teach you proper form and movement patterns.

Best for strength training

cretee pilates bar
Build muscle with just one piece of equipment.

Adjustable between 60-180 pounds, the Cretee Pilates Bar is best for those who want to build strength.

What we like: Multi-functional, height adaptable, up to 180 pounds of resistance

The Cretee Pilates Bar comes with six bands, varying in resistance from 60 to 180 pounds, with the strap length adjustable depending on your height and the exercise. The bands are made from durable natural latex and can withstand daily exercise sessions without losing elasticity. As a multi-functional bar, the resistance can be reduced for Pilates and more stabilizing-focussed workouts, or increased to challenge the muscles in a strength-training session. 

Best portable

NoviFit Pilates Bar
This band comes with a cooling towel and a storage bag.

The NoviFit Pilates Bar is the best portable option for those working out on the go.

What we like: Adjustable, comes with a carry bag and training guide

The anti-slip NoviFit Pilates Bar has adjustable bands to change both height and resistance, making it suitable for all heights and fitness levels. It also features widening, non-slip foot belts and thick resistance bands for lasting durability. The bar folds up to a compact 19 inches and comes with a cooling towel and waterproof storage bag for workouts on the go. As a bonus, the included workout guide offers a selection of exercises for the entire body. 

Best for added value

CHAMPYA pilates bar
A guided app is included.

With additional straps and a follow-along workout app, the CHAMPYA Pilates Bar offers nice extras.

What we like: Adjustable, sturdy nylon handles, fitness app included

The bar is made from durable materials, including a three-part stick made from sturdy steel, a thick foam exterior, and tough nylon handles to withstand up to 40 pounds of resistance. The adjustable knobs allow you to change the height as desired, and there are two additional foot straps that can be connected for workout variation. Included is access to the Champya App, with a follow-along guide teaching you how to properly stretch, strengthen, and sculpt. 

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