Sony’s WF-1000XM4 are the best wireless noise-cancelling earbuds you can buy, but they’re pricey at $280

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The Sony WF-1000XM4 outside of their case on a glass table
The WF-1000XM4 are Sony’s latest true wireless earbuds.

  • Sony’s WF-1000XM4 wireless earbuds come highly recommended.
  • Their sound quality and noise cancellation are second to none, and they have long battery life.
  • At $280, they’re premium earbuds designed for listeners willing to pay extra for the best performance.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyWF-1000XM4 (small)

If their $280 price tag didn’t already suggest as much, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 are a high-end pair of wireless earbuds. Indeed, they’re even more expensive than Apple’s $250 AirPods Pro. At this price, the WF-1000XM4 are geared toward buyers who are willing to pay a premium for excellent sound quality and functionality.

In exchange for your wallet’s depletion, you get class-leading noise cancellation, water resistance, a wireless charging case, 24 hours of total battery life, good phone call quality in noisy places, comfortable ear tips, and phenomenal audio quality.

They aren’t perfect, though. In particular, they’re missing the Bluetooth Multipoint feature that lets you connect the buds to two devices at the same time, like a laptop and a phone. But, if you can afford them, the WF-1000XM4 are easily the best wireless earbuds in their price range.

Sony WF-1000XM4 specifications

Sony WF-1000XM4 Specs
Drivers 6mm
Connectivity Bluetooth 5.2
Codecs SBC, AAC, LDAC
Battery life Eight hours continuous music playback with ANC on; 12 hours with ANC off; 16 hours battery charge in wireless charging case
Charging USB-C, wireless
Water resistance IPX4
App Sony Headphones app for iOS and Android

Design and comfort

The WF-1000XM4 have a sleek and modern design available in black and Sony’s take on the color silver, which looks more like a beige. They’re not the most compact wireless earbuds we’ve tried, but they’re discreet enough that they don’t stick out of your ears.

The wireless charging case is fairly standard in size and function. It features a USB-C port on the back, and the wireless charging surface is located on the bottom.

You get three earbud tips in different sizes, including small, medium, and large. The WF-1000XM4’s eartips are made of a polyurethane foam rather than the usual soft silicone tips we typically see in earbuds. Sony says the foam helps isolate noise and “improves adhesion to the ear canal” by maximizing the surface contact area between the tip and your ear canal. I’m inclined to agree; due to their ear-plug style and foam tips, the WF-1000XM4 stay in my ears more securely than most earbuds I’ve tried.

The Sony WF-1000XM4 ear buds in the palm of someones hand
The earbuds feature a sleek design with foam tips.

Still, while the foam tips might be great for a secure fit, I wonder how long they’ll last after some wear and tear, as foam doesn’t seem as durable as silicone tips. That said, we haven’t faced any issues yet.

It’s also worth considering whether you prefer lighter fitting tips like those found on the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds or AirPods Pro. Those don’t fit as securely as the XM4’s ear-plug style, but they are more comfortable.

Something else to note – the Sony Headphones app measures whether the tip size you’re using makes a good seal in your ears, but I found that feature to be inaccurate. The app said the medium size tips created a good seal, but noise-cancelling performance was better with the larger size.

Sound quality

The Sony WF-1000XM4 are at the top of their class here, and their sound quality is unbeatable for wireless earbuds. Sound is clear, rich, and extraordinarily well balanced for all sorts of music out of the box. That’s to say they don’t have a flat studio sound – instead, they offer a pleasing balance of bass, mids, and highs that delivers for both softer and exciting music.

To be sure, the way sound actually sounds is subjective – some like more bass while others look for less, among other preferences. With that in mind, you may not actually like the way the WF-1000XM4 sound out of the box. If that’s the case, you can use the EQ settings in the Sony Headphones app to further shape the sound profile to your liking. This makes the WF-1000XM4 versatile for listeners with different tastes.

To test the WF-1000XM4, I listened to several tracks in a wide variety of genres, including classical, jazz, flamenco, reggae, rock/metal, and electronic.

Noise cancellation

I tested noise cancellation under a bridge where a major highway ran above me. The average decibel level with the highway’s traffic was around 75, and when cars drove by, the decibel level would jump to 88.

Noise cancellation is excellent on the WF-1000XM4, and they’re certainly among the top performing noise-cancelling earbuds we’ve tried. They easily handle lower frequency rumbles and do away with a surprising amount of higher frequency noise, too.

It’s a tough call between the WF-1000XM4 and the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, as both are comparable. Without a doubt, the WF-1000XM4 will make any commute or location quieter and significantly more comfortable. Plus, noise-cancelling technology in general lets you hear music better at lower volumes, which reduces the risk of hearing loss over time.

Battery life

A single Sony WF-1000XM4 earbud on a glass table
The WF-1000XM4 can get up to 24 hours of battery life with noise cancellation when combined with the included charging case.

Battery life is rated by Sony at eight hours on the buds themselves with ANC, which is class-leading. Combined with the 16 hours of charge in the case, you get 24 hours total. With noise cancellation off, Sony says you can get up to 12 hours with just the buds. And for phone calls, the company says you can get five and a half hours of talk time. A five-minute charge delivers an hour’s worth of listening time, the company claims.

We’re still figuring out the best way to test these claims, but so far, I have no reason to believe that Sony’s numbers are off.

Phone calls

Sony improved the tech for phone calls in the WF-1000XM4 with bone conduction and beamforming technology to better pick up your voice.

I tested phone calls under the same highway bridge where I tested noise cancellation. I called someone to see whether they could hear me comfortably among all the traffic noise. The person I called could easily hear me without noticing any ambient noise, but cars whooshing by were still audible to the callee. She was able to hear and understand me, but said that it could be problematic in a busy city, where cars are constantly driving past pedestrians.

The WF-1000XM4 also work great for video calls, which is worth noting since Apple’s AirPods Pro are notoriously bad for video calls.

App and other features

The Sony Headphones app is comprehensive, but it could do with a cleanup to make it easier to use. Odd language like “Suppresses headphone battery consumption” when you turn off noise-cancelling could be reworded to “Saves battery life” to make the feature easier to understand.

Otherwise, the WF-1000XM4 have ample features. I was dubious about “Speak to Chat” in my Sony WH-1000XM4 review, but I’ve grown to like the feature. It automatically turns on Ambient Sound mode to amplify ambient noise when the earbuds detect that you’re talking. It’s a great feature if you’re in the zone listening to music with noise-cancelling enabled, and someone is trying to get your attention. Just saying “what’s up” (or anything else) lets you hear what the person is saying. Once you’re done speaking, the earbuds return to whatever setting you had.

You’ll also find the equalizer in the app, which, while a little involved, is truly excellent. The WF-1000XM4 have a malleable sound and are eager to please. You also get options for giving priority to sound quality or a stable wireless connection, but I’ve never felt the need to enable the latter. You can also enable or disable Sony’s DSEE Extreme feature that upscales compressed music (most music you stream, unless it’s from high fidelity services like Tidal). More often than not, it’s hard to tell if it makes a difference. I usually leave these kinds of upscaling features off to prevent additional processing.

Sony boasted improved wind noise reduction with the WF-1000XM4, but this feature is in dire need of tweaking. It does seem to work, but it also seems to reduce or disable regular noise cancellation, which lets in ambient noise. You’re basically replacing one evil with another. Plus, you need to enable the wind reduction mode in the app, and there’s no way to enable it by tapping the touch sensors on the buds.

And finally, there’s Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. It supposedly delivers surround sound, but it only works with an utterly limited number of apps, including Deezer, Artist Connection, nugs.net, and Tidal. This feature shouldn’t be a consideration when you’re thinking about buying the WF-1000XM4.

Outside of the app, the WF-1000XM4 have an IPX4 water-resistance rating, making them a suitable option if you want wireless earbuds for working out, or anticipate using them outdoors when there’s a chance of rain.

Drawbacks

Unfortunately, the WF-1000XM4 don’t offer Bluetooth Multipoint. This feature lets you connect to two devices simultaneously, and there were times during my testing when I wished it was included.

I found myself watching a video on my laptop with the WF-1000XM4 and getting a call on my phone, but I couldn’t use the earbuds for the call because they were only connected to my laptop. You can switch the connection to another device fairly easily, but not quickly enough for unexpected events like a phone call.

To be fair, most wireless earbuds don’t have this functionality, save for Apple’s AirPods that easily switch between other Apple devices, and Jabra’s Elite 75T and 85T wireless earbuds. If that kind of functionality is important to you in noise-cancelling headphones, your best bet will be one of those aforementioned earbuds, or full-size headphones, like Sony’s excellent WH-1000XM4 or the Bose 700.

Should you buy the Sony WF-1000XM4?

The Sony WF-1000XM4 in their case in the palm of a hand
Sony’s WF-1000XM4 are an excellent choice for buyers who want high-end wireless earbuds.

If sound quality and noise cancellation are important to you, and $280 is within your budget, you should absolutely buy the Sony WF-1000XM4.

What are your alternatives?

If you know you don’t like ear-plug style earbuds, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds are nearly identical in performance, and they have a lighter fit. Just note, they’re not water resistant.

Otherwise, for about $100 less than the Sony WF-1000XM4, the Jabra Elite 85T come highly recommended, and they include Bluetooth Multipoint tech for connecting to multiple devices, too.

The bottom line

Almost all wireless earbuds offer a more lightweight and compact experience compared to on-ear or over-ear headphones, but very, very few wireless earbuds are as good as the WF-1000XM4.

Pros: Excellent sound quality, impressive noise cancellation, long battery life, wireless charging case, comfortable fit, water resistance, versatile and malleable sound for personal preference

Cons: Can’t connect to more than one device at a time (Bluetooth Multipoint), pricey

WF-1000XM4 (button)

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I booked a crowd-free private jet-like experience for $99 on JSX – here’s why I can’t stop recommending it

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JSX Airlines
JSX promises no crowds, private terminals, and jets with business class legroom.

  • For my first post-pandemic flight, I chose the regional airline JSX to avoid airports and crowds.
  • JSX is a lot like flying private; it feels elite, posh, and is much easier than traditional flights.
  • JSX looks very expensive, but it’s not. The experience cost me just $99 to fly between LA and Vegas.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

I’m a travel writer and frequent traveler, but due to COVID, I didn’t board a plane for more than 500 days.

Now that I am fully vaccinated, and with case numbers steeply declining, I planned a quick trip to Las Vegas from my hometown of Los Angeles.

With travel safety as my top priority, I chose JSX over traditional carriers. JSX is a hop-on jet service that isn’t technically a private jet, but offers many of the perks of one. Simply put, it’s private flying for the public.

While it sound like it must be expensive, get ready to be surprised. I paid just $99 for my JSX flight that had me feeling like a celebrity, and maybe even looking like one, too.

What is JSX?

JSX airplane in Burbank
JSX airplanes park in private hangars where travelers wait.

JSX is a private regional airline that feels like a posh private flying experience, though it’s not because the public can purchase tickets.

But unlike major commercial airlines, JSX caps flights at just 30 people, and operates out of private terminals and hangars (technically known as “fixed-base operators,” or FBOs), which are adjacent to many major airports.

“JSX flights are classified as public air charters, which means they can depart from general aviation terminals and that comes with a number of key perks in the COVID-19 era,” explained Scott’s Cheap Flights Senior Member Operations Specialist Daniel Burnham, who will be including JSX fares in its new Elite deals platform launching later this month.

“Unlike a true private jet charter, JSX schedules flights in advance on a set route map. To fly, you’ll buy a seat ticket online like any other airline,” he said. “However, JSX flights have their own private hangars and waiting areas away from the main airport terminal, so you can show up right before your scheduled departure and breeze onto the plane without needing to go through a TSA checkpoint.”

Is JSX safe?

With JSX, you’ll bypass the traditional airport altogether by traveling through a private jet terminal. You also won’t encounter crowded and TSA lines, but you can still feel secure: JSX uses TSA Secure Flight, the same TSA-provided background check processes that major airlines use.

They also have extensive COVID safety measures in place, including requiring masks and new sterilization and contact-less protocols. More detailed information is available here.

Where does JSX fly?

JSX Airplane
You only have to arrive 20 minutes before your flight.

The regional airline flies between major cities and destinations in the west and Texas, including Burbank (Los Angeles); Concord (East Bay/Napa); Las Vegas; Oakland; Orange County; Phoenix; Dallas; and Houston; with seasonal flights to places like Mammoth. It also serves Destin, Florida. You may view more details on routes here.

While still regional, JSX saw a 55% increase in new leisure market customers from February 2020 to February 2021, according to a statistic provided by the brand’s internal analytics team. And that’s a pretty huge stat for the COVID era.

In fact, COVID perhaps only increased demand for this hybrid style of flying as people sought out safer travel experiences.

“JSX has been well-positioned to serve this shift in priorities, and their domestic-heavy route map in Texas and California hasn’t been heavily impacted by testing requirements or closed borders,” Burnham said.

JSX fares

When booking a ticket, passengers select between one of two fare types. The cheaper fares, dubbed “Hop On,” include two checked bags, but are nonrefundable and have change fees.

The more expensive fares, “All In,” are fully refundable and include three checked bags. Everyone can bring a carry-on bag, regardless of which fare you choose.

There is only one class on JSX flights.

How to book JSX

JSX Airplane
On my route, JSX flies either a 135 or 145 Embraer jet with 30 seats.

Although it sounds highly specialized, you can book JSX tickets as you normally would any commercial ticket through the airline’s website, or through its booking and mobile boarding app. You won’t find it on online travel agency websites or aggregators like Kayak or Expedia, however.

Is JSX expensive?

In most cases, JSX is very affordable. Entry-level $99 fares are common on routes with advance booking and off-peak dates, making for an overall excellent value.

For example, a recent search identified plenty of $99 options between Phoenix and Burbank, or $149 between Oakland and Orange County. These are comparable to many commercial airlines such as the no-frills Southwest. For instance, you might fly JSX for under $100 between Burbank and Las Vegas, compared with Southwest’s $129 Wanna Getaway fare on the same route.

Of course, like all flights, popular days and periods see higher fares. But JSX also serves snacks, cocktails, and nonalcoholic drinks for free in flight, with coffee and tea for free in the terminal. Pets also fly free and so do checked bags.

JSX also offers many exclusive partner offers for discounts and savings on hotels in their destinations and is also a partner with JetBlue. And if you do want to experience a true private flight, JSX is available to charter.

My JSX flight

JSX in Burbank
Free coffee and tea is available while you wait to board, as are bathrooms.

Because my dates were flexible and I was only looking for one night in Vegas, I booked tickets for my husband and me on the Sunday of a holiday weekend. Because it wasn’t a desirable travel day, the price was cheap and I only booked about five weeks ahead of the trip. I paid $99 per ticket for a total of $198 for my husband and me.

Because our return flight fell on Memorial Day – an extremely popular travel day – a JSX ticket would have been much higher, well over $400. So I booked us on a traditional carrier for the return. However, it would still be far cheaper than flying an actual private plane.

Arrival and check-in

JSX terminal in Burbank
The JSX terminal in Burbank with a Curbstand valet station out front.

We only needed to arrive at the airport hanger about 20 minutes before our flight due to the simple check-in process.

We took a Lyft and didn’t need parking, but valet parking was available for $28 per day. For comparison, LAX central terminal self-parking costs $30 per day.

From there, we walked right in and showed our IDs for check-in at a small counter with no one else waiting in line. The capped flight number and lack of TSA checkpoints mean there are never long waits.

With JSX, passengers may bring one personal item onboard that fits under the seat in front of you; there are no overhead bins. With our fare category (the popular “Hop On” fare), we were permitted to check two bags weighing 50 pounds each for free. We rolled our bags over to the staff person, got our boarding passes, and pre-boarding was done.

JSX aircraft at terminal
Our JSX aircraft waits to be boarded in the Burbank terminal.

The JSX hangar has just a check-in counter, a station for free coffee or tea, and a bathroom. It’s a simple but delightful experience for aviation enthusiasts as you’ll be right next to the planes. The hanger is also wide open with full ventilation, which is an added safety bonus during COVID.

There are no eateries, shops, or other concessions like you’ll find in airports, so be sure to bring what you will need for the flight.

Boarding

Boarding the JSX
Boarding our JSX flight in Burbank.

We boarded the plane about 15 minutes before the scheduled takeoff. The small group of passengers walked a few dozen yards across the tarmac to the waiting plane, entering by way of an outdoor flight of stairs.

In-flight

JSX interior cabin
The JSX cabin interior was nicely streamlined.

On this route, JSX flies either a 135 or 145 Embraer jet with 30 seats and the plane was about two-thirds full. The configuration is two-seats-by-one, which means no middle seats and there are no overhead bins.

JSX seats
The configurations on a JSX plane are two and one, so no middle seats

My 6-foot-1-inch husband remarked on the substantial legroom, with the seat pitch a minimum of 36 inches.

There wasn’t much time in the air, but the flight was pleasant and comfortable. The cabin decor was greyscale and elegant and not heavily branded. Power outlets were available at seats.

Try tables and leg room on JSX
Tray tables are available and legroom is spacious.

Our flight attendant came around offering drinks, both alcoholic and non. Next, she made the rounds with elevated packaged snacks such as cheese straws and dried snap peas.

I used the bathroom once in flight and it was similar to those on any commercial flight.

Arrival

Deplaning in Las Vegas from JSX
Deplaning in Las Vegas was a cinch,

We deplaned via an outdoor staircase and picked up our bags outside the aircraft without any delay before entering the private aircraft terminal. There is no luggage carousel as you’d find with a commercial flight.

Passing through, we headed outside to a quiet parking lot to await a Lyft to our hotel.

JSX terminal in Las Vegas
The JSX terminal in Las Vegas was similar to the one we waited inside in Burbank.

The bottom line

Flying JSX was a seamless, comfortable, and exciting experience, and one that looked extremely posh to my social media followers.

From arrival to check-in, and the in-flight experience, JSX feels exclusive and private. The aircraft even looks like a private jet and feels like one too since there are no crowds or security lines, a max of 30 passengers, plus free checked baggage, snacks, and drinks.

While the service routes are limited, if my destination is on the JSX map and the price is right, I’ll fly JSX 100% of the time compared with commercial flights. The perks are numerous, it’s a great flying experience at a great value, and I enthusiastically recommend it.

Book a flight on JSX

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The newest Nook tablet isn’t as sharp or fast as Amazon’s Fire HD 10, but it’s the best for people who want the biggest selection of books and apps

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Barnes & Noble and Lenovo's Nook Tablet leaning against a brick wall
Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook Tablet is a 10-inch tablet that is best for reading and watching movies.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyNook 10-inch HD Tablet Designed with Lenovo (small)

Barnes & Noble was late to enter the e-reader market, coming two years after Amazon released its first Kindle. But with its newest Nook tablet, the bookseller is making up for lost time.

Barnes & Noble partnered with PC maker Lenovo to release an inexpensive 10-inch Android tablet with a focus on the reading experience. Without question, this Nook is a solid alternative to Amazon’s tablets, especially the Fire HD 10.

Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook tablet offers a sturdy aluminum construction and full integration with the Barnes & Noble reading apps for an affordable price of $129.99. But the Nook’s biggest selling point is that – unlike the Amazon Fire tablets – it runs on the full Android 10 operating system with access to the Google Play Store.

The screen on the Nook isn’t as sharp as the Fire HD 10, nor is the tablet particularly powerful. But it’s a great tablet for anyone on a budget interested in streaming video or reading books across multiple apps.

Specs

Nook 10-inch HD Tablet Designed with Lenovo Specs
Display 10.1-inch,1280 x 800, 149 pixels-per-inch
Processor MediaTek Helio P22T Tab
Cameras 8-megapixel rear, 5-megapixel front
Memory and storage 2GB RAM, 32GB of storage expandable up to 256GB
Battery Estimated up to 11 hours
Ports USB-C, microSD slot, headphone jack, smart connector

Design and display

The back of Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook Tablet
The Barnes & Noble and Lenovo Nook Tablet has a smooth aluminum casing.

The new Nook is basically just the Lenovo Tab M10 HD stuffed with Nook applications. By looking at the box, you might not know that you were getting a Nook at all. That’s because it displays the Lenovo Tab M10 HD’s image without a single mention of Barnes & Noble or the Nook. It’s clear that this is an Android tablet first, and a Nook second.

The tablet has thin side bezels with slightly thicker borders at the top and bottom of its smooth aluminum casing. There’s a smart connector on the left, though Barnes & Noble currently doesn’t sell any accessories that take advantage of it.

The tablet’s 10.1-inch display only has a resolution of 1280 x 800. This is the one area in which the Amazon Fire HD 10 has a clear advantage over the Nook. The Kindle Fire HD 10 features a full 1080p display at 224 pixels-per-inch, while the Nook is stuck at 149 pixels-per-inch. Even the $90 Kindle Fire HD 8 – at 189 pixels-per-inch – offers more in this regard than the Nook.

Words on the Nook are certainly legible, and the low resolution doesn’t affect the reading or viewing experience too much. But it’s definitely noticeable – especially for people who are coming from iPhones, iPads, and other devices with sharper screens. Like many tablets, the new Nook has a blue light filter, which is especially useful on a tablet like this that’s designed for reading.

The Nook is noticeably lighter than the Fire HD 10 – coming in at 14.8 ounces versus the 16.4 ounces of the Fire – which means it won’t weigh down your bag.

Nook Features and reading experience

Reading a page from a book on Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook Tablet
You can also download the Kindle app from the Google Play Store on the new Nook tablet in addition to using the Nook app for reading.

Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s tablet is mostly an Android tablet, but it does have some Nook-specific features. The home screen features two prominent widgets that display your Nook user profile along with what you are currently reading, along with a separate widget showcasing your recent book purchases.

There are also three black-and-white icons pinned to the bottom of the home screen: Library, Bookstore, and Current Read. The Library app houses your Nook books collection, the bookstore sends you to Barnes & Noble’s online bookstore, and Current Read launches the book you’re currently reading. You can easily rearrange or disable these apps, but can’t delete them.

Despite the low screen resolution, reading on the Nook is pleasant. The tablet is great to hold, and the Google Play store offers just about any reading app you might need – including the Kindle. That’s right, you can read your Kindle books on the Nook. All you have to do is download the app and sign in.

Both the Nook and Kindle apps offer similar reading experiences – so much so that it’s sometimes easy to forget which app you are using. They both feature tons of adjustable font sizes, styles and margins. The Kindle app allows for a few more customization options than the Nook, such as two additional font choices and more background colors.

But both apps can estimate the amount of the time left in a chapter or the entire book and display page numbers where supported.

Which app you use really depends on where you purchase most of your books. Amazon and Barnes & Noble both offer expansive ebook collections, with new releases heading to both platforms.

What sets this Nook apart from its Amazon counterpart is that it’s an excellent platform-agnostic e-reader. As an e-book enthusiast with a robust collection across multiple platforms, the ability to download multiple e-reading apps on the Google Play Store is an absolute gamechanger. I can read all of my books on this Nook, no matter where they come from, at a fraction of the cost of an iPad or more robust Android tablet.

Unlike Nook’s tablet, Amazon’s Fire tablets are firmly locked into the Amazon ecosystem. For example, it’s not possible to download the Nook app onto a Fire device from the Amazon App Store.

The selection of library apps and other e-reader apps is also severely limited on Amazon’s tablet. Apps like the library app Libby, comic reader Marvel Unlimited, browsers like Google Chrome, and popular games like “Plants vs. Zombies” are all missing from Amazon’s tablets.

For those who find Amazon’s options too restrictive, the Nook is a breath of fresh air. The tablet might not be powerful enough to run all of my favorite apps and games, but at least it offers the chance to try them.

Performance and battery life

The game “Plants vs. Zombies” on Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook Tablet
Plants vs. Zombies and other light games play well on Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook Tablet, but graphic-intensive games falter.

This Nook runs on a MediaTek Helio P22T Tab processor and has 2GB of memory, meaning it’s not particularly fast or powerful. That’s not surprising at this price point.

It succeeds at streaming movies, loading books, and turning pages, but don’t ask it to do much more. Even the smallest actions can cause stuttering. For example, there is sometimes a slight delay when opening apps like Chrome or surfacing the on-screen keyboard.

Games are tricky for the Nook. Older, less graphic-intensive games, such as “Plants vs. Zombies,” play without so much as a hiccup, but newer 3-D games stutter and crash.The Geekbench 5 benchmarking app that’s meant to evaluate the processor’s performance quit halfway through its assessment of the Nook multiple times.

But watching movies and TV on the Nook is seamless. The two speakers on the tablet punch way above their weight, providing sound that is loud enough to fill a small room at only a quarter volume. Plus, the Google Play Store has just about every streaming service you might want.

Barnes & Noble claims that the Nook gets up to 11 hours of battery life based on reading, watching videos, and web browsing. I’ve been pleasantly surprised so far. It generally lasts me three days on a charge after spending two hours per day reading and another two hours watching TV.

The cameras on the Nook perform less admirably than the battery. The tablet has a 8-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera. The latter of which can – in theory – be used for face authentication, but usually fails to recognize me.

Should you buy it?

The Google Play Store on Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook Tablet
The fact that the Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook Tablet has full access to the Google Play store makes this tablet a compelling buy.

Barnes & Noble’s latest tablet built with Lenovo is a good choice for those seeking an affordable tablet designed mainly for reading and watching videos. Access to the Google Play store means that most reading and streaming apps work well on this tablet. But the Nook is slow and lacks a full 1080p screen.

What are your alternatives?

The Amazon Kindle app on Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook Tablet
The Amazon Fire HD 10 and the 10.2-inch iPad are alternatives to Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook Tablet

There is little incentive to opt for the Nook if you are thoroughly immersed in the Kindle ecosystem and never plan to read a book outside of it. The Amazon Fire HD 10 offers a much sharper screen and other benefits for only $20 more.

You could also opt for the $179.99 Amazon Fire HD 10 Plus – which is almost identical to the Fire HD 10 except for the addition of wireless charging and an extra gigabyte of RAM. Both tablets feature integration with Alexa – including the ability to control smart-home devices, set alarms, and ask for news or recipes. The major trade-off is that you lose access to the Google Play Store.

A pricier choice is the 10.2-inch iPad. It offers a jam-packed app store, Apple’s fast and powerful A12 Bionic processor, multitasking capabilities, and support for the Apple Pencil and other accessories. We even called it the best overall iPad. But priced at $329, the iPad is almost three times more expensive than the Nook.

The bottom line

Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook Tablet display
Barnes & Noble and Lenovo’s Nook Tablet offers lots of value for a low-cost tablet.

The $129.99 Nook 10-inch HD Tablet Designed with Lenovo is a great alternative to Amazon for those seeking an inexpensive tablet for reading books and watching videos. The processor is sluggish and the screen resolution is less than ideal. But the sturdy design and access to the Google Play store make this a perfect pickup for those who need more than Amazon will give them.

Pros: Good battery life, sturdy design, access to the Google Play store, loud speakers

Cons: Slow processor, lacks a full HD screen

Nook 10-inch HD Tablet Designed with Lenovo (button)

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This super lightweight carry-on is perfect for flights with strict weight limits, but it’ll set you back $550

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Best carry-on luggage - blue rimowa essential lite carry-on suitcase side by side shut and open
  • A lightweight carry-on is a must for flights with strict weight limits.
  • Rimowa is a premium luggage brand perhaps best known for its aluminium carry-ons.
  • But at just under five pounds, the Rimowa Essential Lite is one of the brand’s best luggage options.

Table of Contents: Masthead StickyEssential Lite Cabin Suitcase (small)

Premium luggage brand Rimowa is probably best known for its eye-catching aluminum suitcases that you may have seen celebrities from Julianne Moore to the Kardashians sporting. However, it’s Rimowa’s polycarbonate Essential Lite carry-on that’s a true standout.

Ultra-lightweight, durable, and available in glossy, eye-catching colors, the suitcase features plenty of packing space while making it much easier to meet strict airline weight limits.

After testing this bag out for several months, it will likely become my go-to carry-on for many international trips or trips with interconnecting flights on small planes.

Here’s why I was so impressed with the Rimowa Essential Lite suitcase.

Design and specs

True to its name, the Rimowa Essential Lite is ultra-lightweight. It will fit in just about any standard overhead bin, including smaller jumper planes and international flights. It also has enough space that packing for four to five days is a breeze.

Made of a thin but durable polycarbonate, the Rimowa Essential Lite doesn’t sacrifice quality or durability to achieve its light weight. The carry-on features ball-bearing mounted spinner wheels with cushioned axles that ensure the suitcase is easy to maneuver and incredibly quiet. It also boasts KK metal zippers, an adjustable telescopic handle, and a TSA-approved lock. The suitcase is scratch- and scuff-resistant.

With a shiny finish and elegant vertical lines, the carry-on is more subtle than Rimowa’s famed aluminum suitcases. It also doesn’t come with any extras or premium features, and some might be surprised that details are plastic rather than leather given that it’s from a luxury travel brand. However, all that is to be expected from a carry-on that’s main goal is to be as light as possible.

In addition to the carry-on size, the Rimowa Lite collection also includes a medium and large checked size, as well as a kids carry-on. The suitcase also comes with a five-year manufacturer warranty, once registered online.

Rimowas essential lite carry-on side-by-side back of suitcase and top zipper detail

What it’s like to use

When the Rimowa Essential Lite was first delivered to my apartment, I actually assumed a vase I had ordered around the same time had come in an inexplicably large box because it never dawned on me that a suitcase could be that light. Suffice it to say I was immediately impressed.

The polycarbonate material has some give at the top when pressed and doesn’t feel as thick as other hard-sided bags I own. However, this suitcase is plenty sturdy. In fact, its glossy coating keeps it from scratching or marking up as easily as similar matte-finished suitcases. Over the passed six months, I’ve used it on road trips, flights, and even to move when it got tossed around in the back of a moving van and it still looks pristine.

The wheels are easy to maneuver on every surface I’ve tested from hardwood to carpet, and they’re also whisper quiet. While the carry-on is fairly bare-bones and doesn’t come with any extras like a charger or laundry bag, it does come with a chic leather luggage tag.

Of course, the most important part of any carry-on is packability. I like that both sides of the suitcase’s interior have a mesh zipper. I find that this makes it easier to keep my belongings secured and organized than the typical one-sided buckle, one-sided zip system most hard-sided carry-ons use. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to find that the suitcase holds more than I was first expecting. However, I do wish it had a divider with a separate pocket for items like socks and underwear.

Due to the pandemic, I’ve only used this bag on two flights so far, but lifting into the overhead bin was a breeze, even when it was stuffed full.

Rimowa Essential Lite carry-on packed

What makes the Rimowa Essential Lite standout

The standout feature of the Essential Lite is its weight. While your typical carry-on generally clocks in somewhere around seven pounds, the Essential light is under five pounds. When you’re taking flights with strict weight limits, that is a major perk. Not only can you pack more since you’re not sacrificing extra weight to your bag, but it can also save you from having to pay hefty baggage fees.

The Essential Lite especially stands out among Rimowa’s other offerings. The brand is largely known for its shiny, eye-catching aluminum suitcases, but many of Rimowa’s other suitcases are extremely heavy.

In fact, the Essential Lite is almost half the weight of Rimowa’s classic Original Cabin aluminium carry-on, and still over two pounds lighter than the standard Essential carry-on, the brand’s other polycarbonate offering. Shockingly, the Lite is also able to hold more than either of those two suitcases, making the Essential Lite one of Rimowa’s best offerings – especially when you take into account that it’s also significantly cheaper (the Original Cabin and Essential come in at $1,080 and $650 respectively).

The cons

Despite being significantly cheaper than many of Rimowa’s other suitcases, the Essential Lite carry-on is still an expensive suitcase. It also doesn’t come with many high-end features or extras that one might expect for the steep price. There’s no perks like a battery pocket, laundry bag, or garment bag included, and many of the details are plastic as opposed to leather.

However, all of that is also largely how it’s able to achieve being one of the lightest hard-sided carry-ons available.

Bottom line: Is the Rimowa Essential Lite worth it?

There’s no getting around the fact that the Rimowa Essential Lite is an expensive carry-on, even though it’s cheaper than many of Rimowa’s other luggage options. However, it’s a highly durable bag, especially given how lightweight it is. There are few suitcases on the market that come in under five pounds and are able to hold as much as the Essential Lite. If you frequently take flights on airlines with low or strict weight limits, this bag is absolutely worth it, especially when you consider the potential baggage fees savings.

Pros: Super lightweight, durable, chic

Cons: Expensive, doesn’t come with many extras

Essential Lite Cabin Suitcase (button)

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CauseBox is changing its name to Alltrue, but it still offers the same eco-conscious products we love

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  • Alltrue, which was previously Causebox, is a subscription box service that’s delivered seasonally.
  • Each box has products from socially conscious brands, including homeware, jewelry, and more.
  • Alltrue offers both annual memberships for $49.95 or a quarterly subscription for $54.95.

CauseBox

Annual Subscription (small)Quarterly Subscription (small)

Subscription services like BirchBox and Stitch Fix have gained a lot of attention over the last few years, spurring more and more brands to take the subscription route in order to provide unique experiences for their customers.

Alltrue is one such company capitalizing on the trend of sending clothing, beauty products, and home decor via subscription – but what sets it apart is that all the products inside its boxes are sourced from socially, economically, and environmentally conscious brands. The product team at Alltrue, which until a recent rebrand was called Causebox, works with the founders of companies doing social good and asks them about why they give back, who they are directly impacting, and where their products are made. An open line of communication between Alltrue and its partners ensures that the companies are following through with their missions and goals.

Co-founders Matt Richardson and Brett McCollum made giving back their ultimate vision for the company – and to complete that vision, Alltrue volunteers with and donates to different charities to help them with their growth and impact. Past charities have included Speak Your Silence, which helps those affected by sexual abuse and assault to move forward. Others, like Trees for the Future, work to end hunger and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa through agricultural practices.

How does Alltrue work and what does it cost?

The bright, charming packages are created and sent on a seasonal schedule – spring, summer, fall, and winter. Like most subscription services, the boxes come in a convenient package and arrive at your door on a scheduled basis. I received a spring box and had a really lovely experience with it – from the moment I got my box to the time I spent actually using the products inside.

Alltrue offers customers two subscription options: the quarterly subscription ($54.95 per box), and the annual subscription ($49.95 per box, a total of $199.8 per year). After choosing your preferred method, you’ll create an account online and begin your customization process.

Each seasonal box offers six to eight new products – each one from a socially conscious brand, and some even created exclusively for Alltrue customers. If you sign up for the annual subscription service, you can customize your product options based on pattern, color, or product type. The best part about the box is that it includes a little notebook in each package so you can read a story behind every product included.

Your Alltrue will ship within the first couple weeks of the seasonal months and it typically takes two to eight days to arrive. If you chose the custom Alltrue, you’ll be able to tailor your delivery preferences.

CauseBox

What’s inside an Alltrue box?

The actual box is cute and colorful, but the reason Alltrue is so special is because of the items housed inside. Each box comes with six to eight products that are all cruelty-free, sustainably sourced, and intended to serve, support, and empower disadvantaged communities. They all include some combination of jewelry, skincare/beauty products, accessories, home decor, wellness products, and even artwork.

My box contained items from every one of these categories – my favorite items were the Megan Portfolio Clutch from Glass Ladder Co. (valued at $120), and the Cosmedix Glow Bamboo Brightening Mask (valued at $54). I was also able to choose certain items like the Cleobella Silky Scarf and the Marina de Buchi Luxe Charm Bracelet, along with a few others (a perk of signing up for the annual membership).

Is Alltrue worth the cost?

The $50 price tag per Alltrue isn’t a hefty cost when you consider the value of the contents inside. Each box has an estimated value of over $200 – according to the website, my products added up to $341.90.

There are definitely a couple of items that I won’t use all too often, so in my opinion, the value of the box isn’t as high as estimated. But, the option to personalize my box made me enjoy the products inside even more.

The bottom line

The convenience, overall cost, and quality of the products make the Alltrue a good investment, particularly if you’re signing up as a way to treat yourself. I feel better about using the office items, accessories, home products, and skincare simply because they are all eco-friendly and sustainably sourced.

Annual Subscription (small)Quarterly Subscription (small)

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This is the best espresso machine you can buy for under $500 – I’ve used mine for 3 years without a hitch

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  • You don’t have to spend four figures to produce quality espresso in your own kitchen.
  • Gaggia’s new Classic Pro is our overall pick for the best espresso machine.
  • It’s an excellent choice if you want to learn how to use and dial an espresso machine, without any training wheels.
  • See more: The best espresso machines

The $449 Classic Pro Espresso Machine from Gaggia is an update of the brand’s original consumer-priced espresso machine without many changes, but that’s only because they weren’t necessary.

We’ve been using this machine for almost three years with minimal maintenance and without a hitch. If you’re really looking to learn how to make quality espresso at home, pair this with a good burr grinder and you are on your way to mastering how to dial in a shot and get the most out of your fresh grounds.

This is the machine for those who really care about the craft of making espresso.

Gaggia is a classic name in home espresso, and there’s a reason why the Italian brand has stood the test of time: these machines make great coffee.

The latest Classic Pro has the same brew head and portafilter as the previous version – which Gaggia also places in commercial espresso makers – along with the three-way solenoid valve that purges any residual steam or water after you stop the machine. That keeps pressure and temperature consistent and helps keep your coffee from getting burnt by any stored steam or water in the chamber. Modifications are slight but appreciated: a frame that allows you to see how much water is left in the reservoir, a small silicone grip on the purge valve and the frother, and a simple on/off switch and light setup.

Along with an updated boiler that’s better secured inside the machine so that it stays steady and a little quieter, this all adds up to one hardy espresso maker that offers you a good bit of control over how your shot turns out. You won’t be able to regulate temperature or pressure in the way you can with a $5,000 machine like the La Marzocco Linea Mini, but this is your transition from an automatic to a manual transmission; it’s time for some real, unfettered fun.

Below, I’ll walk you through every aspect of the Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine.

The design of the Gaggia Classic Pro

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Simple, understated, and (mostly) steel, this is how any home espresso machine should look on your counter.

This machine looks like it belongs on your grandfather’s kitchen countertop, and he may well have a Gaggia; the brand has been making professional-quality espresso machines for the home since they introduced the Gaggia Baby in 1977.

Wrapped in brushed stainless steel, the Classic Pro has a timeless look. It’s not much larger than a pod machine and costs only a tad more. But it doesn’t come with a built-in burr grinder, which, when bought separately, can be pricey and equally cumbersome. In fact, if you plan on buying any espresso machine of this size, take the amount of counter space you’ve set aside and double it to accommodate a grinder.

The one thing I don’t like about the design is that the wrapped stainless steel frame has some sharp, exposed edges, and if you’re ever bleary-eyed and having trouble fitting your portafilter into the brew head early (or late) in the day, you might slip and lose a small chunk of your knuckle. Still, you’ll learn to dodge them as I have.

The specs

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There’s not too much to this machine, but that’s part of why we like it. Fewer parts mean fewer pieces to break and or lose.

This machine is almost foolproof. There are only three two-way switches and a dial to turn the frother on and off. 

The Classic Pro has a respectable 1450 watts of power and 15 bars of pressure (equivalent to the Breville Barista Pro, our favorite two-in-one espresso machine in our full guide), and a three-way solenoid valve that prevents pressure from building up in the group head, making things a lot cleaner. Without the latter, taking the portafilter out too soon can result in a scalding spray of soppy espresso grounds. You can tell that the solenoid is working when, after finishing pulling a shot (that is, turning off the middle switch), you see a little water running from the purge valve to the left of the group head.

The steam wand is not particularly special, but that’s a good thing. Switch off the group head valve, switch on the steam valve, wait for the light to turn on, blow out any excess water in the chamber (preferably over the drain reservoir in the machine), and you’re ready to go. Turning the valve one way engages it and increases the pressure, and going in reverse eases and shuts it off. We’ve found that the more complicated a frother, the less likely we are to use it, and while there are all sorts of fancy ones out there, good pressure from a powerful machine is all you really need.

There’s also a warming plate on top (more or less standard), a full-sized 58mm portafilter with pressurized and non-pressurized baskets (the latter for pre-ground espresso or pods), and a stainless steel drip tray with an easy-to-remove reservoir for collecting overflow and spillage.

Essentially you’ve got everything you need and nothing you don’t.

The set-up and brewing processes

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A bit of dialing goes a long way, but with a little patience, you’ll eventually arrive at a rich, frothy goodness no pod machine could ever replicate.

The Gaggia Classic Pro comes more or less set up for you. Make sure to clean out the water reservoir with soap before inserting it into place in the base of the machine.

Before you begin prepping your shot, turn the power switch on. This gets the machine ready, but if you put the portafilter in during this stage, it’ll warm that up, too. Espresso can turn sour when it’s made cold, and if the scalding water from the boiler hits a cold portafilter, it can do funky things to your brew.

Next, you want to insert the portafilter basket that corresponds with the type of coffee you’ll use (pre-ground and/or ESE pod, or freshly ground). Just make sure you use the little plastic riser piece if you’re going to use one of the pressurized baskets.

Once your portafilter is ready to go, grind your coffee (if you’re grinding your own) and load up the basket. Remember, grind size and tamping are two key components. A good rule of thumb is to get your grounds somewhere between the texture of flour and table salt, but what works with one roast may not work with the next, so be prepared for some experimentation. Give it a good bit of tamping pressure, but, more importantly, distribute your grounds evenly throughout the basket.

Between about 25 and 35 seconds of brew time should do the trick, but while 35 seconds might nearly incinerate one type of coffee, it could be just right for another. Play around with dialing in your machine. This should be part of the fun, after all.

Lock your portafilter into the brew head and, if the light beneath the brew switch is on, that means the machine is primed and ready. Flip it, and delight in the caramel-colored tonic that runs in two perfectly even streams into your demitasse. If the stream is but a slow drip, your grind size (for that particular bean, remember) is either too fine, or you’ve tamped it with too much force. (Pro tip: use a small measuring cup or a demitasse with measurements on it to learn how much of an extraction you like.) You want a steady, even-colored trickle.

And, again, remember to have some fun and play around. Talk to any good barista and you’ll be appalled at how much coffee they dump out just to get their machines and beans right in the morning. Two-time UK Cup Tasting Champion (also 8th in the World Cup Tasting Championship in 2013) barista master Jason Gonzalez once told me that he often spends up to half an hour dialing shots every morning at his Burlington, VT espresso shop Onyx Tonics.

The frothing process

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Yes, and there’s an extremely high-powered frother that’s remarkably easy to clean.

My favorite thing about the Gaggia Classic Pro, especially compared with similar machines, is that the steaming wand is manually adjustable (using the knob, right of center in the image above). This feature is especially handy for frothing various sorts of milk, which all have their own consistencies and boiling points.

Plus, it’s quiet. On some machines, like the Breville Barista Express, the steam is either on or off, and “on” produces a high-pitched screech. 

 

Potential cons

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There’s a lot to be said for having a high-powered frother at the ready, both for your morning cup, and dazzling guests after dinner.

For one, you don’t want to have the brew and steam switches on at the same time, which is just part of the responsibility of owning a professional-grade espresso machine. You’ll get used to it, and the budding barista within you will be all the better for it.

The only limitation of the steam wand, which is still my favorite out of any frother-equipped machine I’ve tested, is that it’s not gimballed, like on the Breville Barista Express. You’re confined to working with specific angles, and purging it of excess water requires either awkwardly placing a glass underneath or twisting it around so that it spills into the drip reservoir. All in all, not a big deal.

The only true issue I have with the Gaggia Classic Pro, and the original line before it, is that the stainless steel housing has unfinished corners, leaving hazardously jagged edges. I’ve been using the new Pro for a few months now, and twice I’ve missed locking in the portafilter and jammed my thumb right into one of those corners, taking a nice little bite of my knuckle. Be a little more careful than I am (not difficult) and you’ll be fine. 

Lastly, the latest version of this machine comes with an undersized plastic tamp, which feels a little cheap on the brand’s behalf given they have previously included a nice stainless steel one. Do yourself a favor and spring for a proper 58mm tamper that fits this portafilter and makes tamping even, and easier.

The bottom line

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Look, it takes a while to get this right. Maybe start with cheap coffee so you don’t tear through a whole bag of precious coffee when you’re still learning. But most importantly: Have fun.

The Gaggia Classic Pro is a temperamental machine in comparison with something like the Breville Barista Express, but if you want to learn how to use a real espresso machine, and you either already have a good burr grinder or don’t want an all-in-one maker, this is a compact but powerful machine that will serve you well.

Pros: Powerful, commercial-grade, compact, not terribly expensive

Cons: Misuse can cost you (i.e., it’s not foolproof) but the new Pro model is slightly more user-friendly than the original, sharp edges on corners can cut your hands, no longer comes with 58mm stainless steel tamper

 

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ClassPass now offers a free month-long trial to new members – here’s how it works

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classpass cyber monday deal free trial
ClassPass offers a free14-day trial that covers up to 9 classes.

  • ClassPass now offers a free 30-day trial to try as many as 5 different classes.
  • You can book in-studio classes, live workouts, and beauty and spa treatments.
  • It’ll remind you two days before your trial ends in case you don’t want to subscribe for $15+/mo.

If you love to mix up your workouts with Pilates, spin, boxing, HIIT, yoga, reformer classes and more, ClassPass is definitely worth considering. The class-booking platform lets you try thousands of workouts from coveted boutique studios in-person to live streams from tried-and-true trainers and brands, all for a monthly subscription.

More appealing than its wide range of offerings is that ClassPass recently increased its free trial from 14 days to 30 days, during which you can now take up to five classes. If you’re in it just for the freebies, or can’t decide if you want to commit or not, ClassPass allows any new signee to cancel their membership whenever they please throughout the trial – and it’ll remind you two days before your trial ends. If you don’t cancel, you will be automatically enrolled in the $49 monthly membership upon the end of the trial (though if you want to sign up, you can choose a membership as cheap as $15 per month).

What is ClassPass?

ClassPass is a relatively inexpensive subscription that lets you drop into boutique fitness classes in your area or log on for live workouts, without having to belong to those specific clubs. You pay a monthly ClassPass fee to get credits and you use those credits to sign up for classes that pique your interest. Think boxing and yoga classes, cycling sessions, weight training routines, martial arts, and pilates, among so many others. ClassPass consistently gives you a wide variety of exercises and classes to choose from each week.

And since a budget-friendly option often means second-rate equipment or gym space, it’s nice to know ClassPass typically features popular studios, including a majority of the fitness classes you’ve heard of from word-of-mouth or have been meaning to try.

How does the ClassPass free trial work?

The ClassPass free 30-day trial allows you to take up to five classes (depending on your location; some may offer more or fewer) over the course of the one month, and you can cancel your membership any time. If you don’t cancel before the month trial ends, however, ClassPass auto-enrolls you in its mid-range monthly membership at $49/mo for eight classes.

What does a ClassPass membership entail?

  1. After your free trial, you pay a monthly membership fee that’s based on how many classes you want to take each month. The lowest tier membership starts at $15 for 2 classes or $29 for 4 classes, and goes up to $79 for 14 classes or $159 for 30 classes per month.
    classpass_pricing
  2. A membership grants you access to use the ClassPass app or site to book yourself a spot in one of the thousands of participating fitness classes in your area or online, as well as top salons and spas. Every class or spa service requires a different credit value and you’re also able to book either in advance or as soon as a few minutes before it begins via the app.
  3. ClassPass allows you to add credits anytime you like if you run empty during the month. If you don’t use your monthly allotment, up to 10 credits roll over each month.

Why do people like ClassPass?

The perks are plentiful. You could pay as much as 50% less every month for specialized fitness classes (a single class can cost $30 à la carte) and have access to a wider variety and convenience in your options. It’s also nice that if you don’t use all your credits on workouts, you can put them toward a spa or salon appointment.

ClassPass also provides class recommendations and reviews to let you see what’s good before you book a new class. You can even stream workouts from home if you’d rather not make the trip into a studio.

Plus, the versatility means working out can be more fun, which can help you build the habit. If you’re getting bored of rowing, you can switch it up with tai chi. And if you’re traveling, you can switch your account location and use ClassPass wherever you are (given you’re in one of the participating cities).

You also don’t have to buy class packs or commit to any membership that penalizes you for deciding in February you’re not going to be “really into” fitness in 2021. ClassPass is flexible and so, too, is the 14-day trial.

What are the potential cons of using ClassPass?

The risks you run, depending on the city, are popular classes booking up quickly, falling in love with a high-credit class, needing to buy more credits because you exercised too much (is this really a bad thing, though?), or paying for a month and never using the credits.

One option to consider if you end the month with plenty of unused credits is to use them on considerably higher credit spa treatments ClassPass offers. Otherwise, up to 10 credits roll over each month.

You can go to most studios an unlimited number of times per month (or per “cycle”), though it’s possible more credits will be charged if you go often, in which case you’ll see a message explaining the change. ClassPass also allows members to submit a recommendation for gyms not offered – there’s no guarantee they’ll add it, but it’s worth a shot.

The bottom line

Overall, ClassPass is ideal for relatively inexpensive access to a diverse range of top fitness classes with credits that can also be used on salons and spas. With a free month-long membership available for you to give it a go for yourself, you don’t have much to lose. Sign up for your free trial of ClassPass here.

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MOOCs are ‘massive open online courses,’ made popular by platforms like edX and Coursera. Here’s how they work – and why they’re one of the best ways to learn online

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edX vs. Coursera 4x3
  • Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are popular forms of online education.
  • E-learning platforms like edX, Coursera, and FutureLearn offer thousands of MOOCs.
  • Below, learn what MOOCs are, how much they cost, and why they can be great resources.

If you’re interested in online learning, you’ve probably heard the term MOOC – Massive Open Online Course – before. But you might have questions about what they are, what exactly “open” means, how much they cost, or how they generally differ from other forms of e-learning, like apps or online degrees. Here’s everything you need to know:

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What are MOOCs?

MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Course. In order for an online course to be considered a MOOC, it needs to be:

Massive, or able to be taken by large numbers of people at once (whether it’s 100 or 100,000 students)

Open, or generally accessible to the public – meaning it’s either free, relatively affordable, or has open enrollment

Online, or taken digitally (with optional opportunities to connect with students in forums)

Course, or providing clear learning opportunities, such as learning from an instructor or earning a certificate of completion

A MOOC can be a self-paced edX course you browse completely for free, or a LinkedIn class you can take with a paid subscription.

How do MOOC courses work?

MOOCs vary in how they work. Some, like on popular platforms edX and Coursera, can simply let you enroll for free to access course materials such as video lectures, readings, and quizzes.

Others, like Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, or Udemy, typically require a paid subscription or one-time fee to be able to access unlimited courses.

And then there are MOOCs such as Open Yale Courses and MIT Open Courseware that provide free course materials but aren’t necessarily structured with assignments and are a little more fluid than edX or Coursera MOOCs.

What are the benefits of MOOCs?

MOOCs offer access to thousands of courses and educational opportunities for free or at a relatively low cost. Top schools like Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, and more offer online courses in subjects from computer science to psychology, and companies like Google, Amazon, and IBM offer professional certificate programs that cost a lot less than traditional master’s degrees.

MOOCs can also be a great way to test out if you like a subject or course before committing to a paid subscription or degree. Codecademy, for example, offers free beginner programming classes with optional paid projects, and Coursera can let you audit courses for free before pursuing a MasterTrack program.

How much do MOOCs cost?

MOOCs vary in cost, and affordability is relative. Platforms like edX, Coursera, and FutureLearn offer many of their MOOCs for free, with optional paid certificates or subscriptions for unlimited access.

Others, like Skillshare, LinkedIn Learning, and MasterClass, typically charge monthly or annual fees for access to all their courses.

And platforms like Udemy or CreativeLive let you buy individual MOOCs for a one-time fee.

What are some popular MOOC platforms?

Skillshare:
Offers unlimited MOOCs under its subscription plan, in topics from career development to writing and drawing. You can read more about Skillshare here.

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I tried this free online Harvard course on how to be persuasive, and every writer should take it

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Harvard data science courses 4x3

Settling into pandemic lockdown over a year ago, I looked up online classes to help pass the time. Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking, a Harvard-led online edX course, seemed like a free, entertaining way to sharpen my writing skills.

What I didn’t expect was for it to fundamentally change how I structure arguments, communicate with people I fervently disagree with, and even consume the news.

Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking (small)

Using a combination of pre-taped live Harvard lecture videos, quizzes, hands-on annotation exercises, and short US history lessons, this course walks you through the art of rhetoric, contextualizing why well-crafted arguments can drive huge political change. On a smaller scale, these skills can help you calmly defend your point at the dinner table or advocate for a cause you believe in.

The course is completely free to audit for about a month – otherwise, it costs $169 to add a verified certificate of completion to your LinkedIn profile and get unlimited access to the class.

5 things I loved about the course:

It clearly breaks down different tools you can use to build a persuasive argument.

The course begins by providing thorough definitions and examples of rhetorical devices used in famous speeches and works of literature. You learn the main differences between logical, ethical, and emotional arguments before diving into tools that can make your arguments flow better, pick up momentum, or add emphasis on key points.

harvard edx rhetoric course

You also get quizzed on what you just learned, which helps you practice actually identifying these devices at work (on top of just getting quick, digestible examples of effective rhetoric).

harvard edx rhetoric course

It’s a great way to boost your appreciation for writing as an art form – and realize the lasting power of a well-stated point.

It helps you write a short opinion piece along the way.

The one big assignment of the course is identifying a topic you feel strongly about and channeling it into an op-ed. (This assignment is completely optional if you’re taking the free version and worth 45% of your grade if you’re doing the paid-certificate route.)

harvard edx rhetoric course

For one, it’s a great exercise in sitting down and pinpointing an issue you care about – perhaps one you didn’t even realize mattered to you that much. Mine was advocating for job applications to stop requiring cover letters, which take a long time, are often left unread, and can demoralize already burned out job seekers, all the while not necessarily being the most effective way to evaluate a great candidate.

As you continue learning, you can update your piece with new information and rhetorical devices to make it stronger.

It gives you hands-on practice in dissecting some of the most impactful political speeches in history.

harvard edx rhetoric course
A Harvard instructor’s comments on MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

One of the coolest parts of the course is getting to annotate famous orations, from former presidents like JFK and Ronald Reagan to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. You can highlight parts of the speech to write which rhetorical device you think is being used and what it accomplishes in doing. You can also see notes from your peers as well as the instructor.

harvard edx rhetoric course

Additionally, you can watch recorded classroom lectures led by James Engell, a professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard. The videos further break down the impact of various parts of the speeches as well as their broader historical contexts.

It directly reveals the dangers of emotionally charged, slippery slope arguments.

A theme the course keeps stressing is that “rhetoric has inspired people to do great things, and terrible things” – that logical fallacies, ad hominem attacks, straw man arguments, and leading questions can be used to manipulate audiences in malicious ways.

harvard edx rhetoric course

One direct example is Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist screed, which preyed on fear and baseless accusations. The danger being that, if one was already prone to agreeing with McCarthy and couldn’t identify the holes in his argument, they could easily be swayed to side with him – which is what happened during the Red Scare.

harvard edx rhetoric course

But, you learn that just as rhetoric can be used to do “terrible things,” it can also help reverse those dangerous effects. The course tells the story of Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican senator who made an impassioned stance in favor of free speech and freedom to one’s own political views. The move predictably earned her the nickname “Moscow Maggie” from McCarthy – but ultimately helped undo some of the damage of McCarthyism.

It normalizes good-faith disagreement.

According to the course’s introduction, it “offers a space in which to engage in civil discourse” and “encourage[s] you to be passionate about your opinions, while at the same time respecting those whose beliefs may differ from yours.”

harvard edx rhetoric course

As someone who can’t resist the pernicious siren call of my Twitter feed every morning, I feel constantly disheartened by the way I see users defend issues – whether I personally agree with them or not. I’ve seen name-calling and sweeping generalizations rapidly snowball into targeted harassment across the political spectrum – and remember times years ago when I would participate in pile-ons, too. This style of “argument” isn’t limited to social media platforms – it’s bled into and dominates everything from cable news to interpersonal relationships.

Which is why this felt like a groundbreaking course to me: It’s not suggesting that you duck out of tough conversations à la bothsidesism. Instead, it equips you with the tools to build your case – while also honestly questioning dubious or biased spots in your own thinking. Doing so helps you strengthen your own talking points, identify fallacies in others, and diplomatically draw people to your point of view. In a time of unprecedented polarization, thoughtful, well-researched arguments couldn’t be more radical.

Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasive Writing and Public Speaking (button)

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This free UPenn course explains how COVID-19 vaccines work, and it’s led by a scientist who helped create them

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edX logo on a laptop screen with virus shapes and syringes on a blue background
  • edX just launched a free online UPenn course about COVID-19 vaccines.
  • The course explains the science behind coronaviruses and how the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines work.
  • It’s led by Dr. Drew Weissman, the director of vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania.

As Americans continue to get vaccinated, it’s normal to have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, from their effectiveness to how they actually work.

Now, you can find out: Partnered with the University of Pennsylvania, edX just launched a free online course that explains the science behind the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. It’s taught by six UPenn faculty members across different fields including medicine and microbiology – and led by Dr. Drew Weissman, one of the pioneers of the mRNA vaccine technology.

The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Use of mRNA Vaccines (small)

Despite the complicated subject matter, the class aims to be accessible to everyone. “We try to teach from the beginning,” said Weissman. The course begins with a broad focus on pandemics and viruses before zooming in on coronaviruses and how they’re transmitted. It then covers the science behind how the vaccines work (including safety and side effects) and even addresses how the mRNA-LNP vaccine technology may combat other diseases or epidemics in the future.

Dr. Drew Weissman Covid 19 edx class
Dr. Drew Weissman, Director of Vaccine Research, Infectious Diseases Division and Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

Even though this online course isn’t live (meaning you won’t be able to directly interact with the instructors), it’s more collaborative than meets the eye. For Weissman, much of the course material was developed based on what he gets asked all the time.

“I spend most evenings and weekends talking to lay audiences, giving them the science and discussing what their concerns are,” said Weissman, who said he even dedicated an entire class to just addressing the questions that people have approached him with. “So I hope this broadens the discussion.”

COVID-19 vaccine edx class

When asked what he hopes students will get out of this course, Weissman says the biggest thing he and his team want is for “people to talk and discuss what they see…and then look at the class, evaluate [it] with other people.” It can be a great course to send to friends and family who might have lingering questions about Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or are just curious to learn more about how they were developed.

After a pandemic marked by long periods of isolation, there’s finally a course that explains the science behind what we’ve collectively been through. And by being designed to start dialogues with the people in our lives, it fosters one of the things many of us craved the most this past year: connection.

The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Use of mRNA Vaccines (small)

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