The best home security cameras of 2021

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Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

Arlo Pro 3 camera

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best home security camera overall

Best home security camera Arlo Pro 3

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

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

Cons: Requires subscription for cloud storage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read our full Arlo Pro 3 review.

The best subscription-free home security camera

Best Subscription-free home security camera EufyCam 2C

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read our full EufyCam 2C review.

The best budget indoor security camera

Best budget indoor security Wyze Cam V2

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

Pros: Very affordable, local storage, lots of features

Cons: Narrow field of view, slow to connect

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read our full Wyze Cam V2 review.

The best security camera for smart homes

Best security camera for smart homes Nest Cam IQ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read our full Nest Cam IQ review.

The best outdoor security camera

Best outdoor security camera Arlo Floodlight

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

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

Cons: Requires subscription for cloud storage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What else we considered

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

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

Which home security cameras we’re testing next

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

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

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

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

How to choose a home security camera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best deals on home security cameras from this guide

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

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

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

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

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best iPad cases in 2021

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best iPad cases of 2021:

Our methodology

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best overall iPad cases

iPad Pro 11 2021 Ascend Trifold Hard Case in black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth a look:

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

Apple Magic Keyboard case for iPad in black

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth a look:

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

Logitech combo touch keyboard case ipad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth a look:

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

otterbox ipad case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth a look: 

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

Zugu iPad Pro case in black

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth a look: 

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

Compatibility

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

Apple currently sells five different iPad models:

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

Features

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

Budget

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

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The best sports streaming services in 2021 for watching live games without cable

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Watching football at home with friends.
Watch live sports at home with subscription streaming services.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Whether you want to watch the latest football games, soccer matches, or UFC fights, there’s a streaming service for your needs. That said, it’s important to keep in mind which sports and networks matter most to you when selecting an app.

Some platforms are great for watching specific events, while other options give members access to a wider range of channels with many different sports.

With various budgets in mind, we selected the best streaming services you can sign up for to watch live sports across a variety of devices.

Here are the best streaming services for sports:

Sling TV

Sling TV logo

Sling TV is one of the most affordable services with live sports networks, but it’s missing ABC and CBS.

Sling TV is a live TV streaming service with two main plans: Sling Blue and Sling Orange. The channel selection differs between them, though some networks are shared by both.

If you want to watch live sports on NBC or Fox networks, Sling Blue is your best option. Local channel availability can vary by location, so be sure to check Sling’s website first to see if these channels are offered in your market. Sling Blue also includes access to the NFL Network.

Meanwhile, Sling Orange ditches NBC, Fox, and NFL Network, but adds ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPN 3 instead. To get the best of both worlds, we recommend combining both plans for $50 a month.

If you want even more channels, Sling TV offers a Sports Extra add-on for an additional $11/month. Again, the channel selection differs depending on whether you have the Blue or Orange plan, but stations like NBA Network, NHL Network, and MLB Network are included with both options.

Even with the extra add-on fee, Sling ends up being one of the most affordable ways to stream cable channels with live sports. On the downside, it’s missing support for local CBS and ABC stations.

For more information about Sling TV, check out our full list of Sling channels and packages.

TV (small)
YouTube TV

YouTube TV logo

YouTube TV’s base plan includes sports channels that other services charge extra for.

YouTube TV‘s base plan starts at $65 a month and includes access to multiple channels that broadcast live sports, such as ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, and ESPN. In addition, YouTube TV is one of the only services that includes channels like MLB Network and NBA TV as part of its standard plan.

Subscribers who want even more channels should check out the Sports Plus add-on that costs $11/month. This bundle has a one-week free trial and includes access to NFL RedZone, Fox College Sports, Fox Soccer Plus, and more. For the best video quality, you can also add the 4K Plus add-on for $10/month. This option lets you stream select content on ESPN, Fox Sports, and NBC Sports in 4K.

Insider’s review of YouTube TV considered the platform’s live sports options to be the best part of the subscription. In addition, we found the process of recording live games to be very straightforward.

TV (small)
FuboTV

logo fubo contained
Fubo TV is sports streaming service that provides live coverage of NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, MLS and international soccer, plus sports-related news, television, and movies.

Fubo TV features a big selection of sports channels, but it doesn’t carry Turner networks like TNT and TBS.

FuboTV is another fantastic streaming service for watching live sports. The exact number of stations you get varies by location, but the Starter plan costs $65 a month for over 100 channels. This package includes access to ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, NFL Network, and more.

It even includes access to college sports channels like Big Ten Network and SEC without the need for an add-on. If you crave more networks, you can get even more channels with the Elite plan. For a total of $80 a month, this option adds over 40 channels to the lineup, including MLB Network, NBA TV, and ESPN U. 

For an extra $11 a month you can also add the Sports Plus package. Some of the channels are already included if you opt for the Elite plan, but the main attraction is NFL RedZone.

The Latino Quarterly plan is a good choice for Spanish-speaking sports fans. This plan costs $99 every three months and has access to live TV channels like beIN Sports, Fox Deportes, and ESPN Deportes.

Check out our full breakdown of FuboTV plans and a la carte packages.

TV (Starter Plan) (small)
Hulu + Live TV

Hulu logo

Hulu + Live TV has popular live sports in addition to Hulu’s entire on-demand library of movies and shows.

If you want a single subscription that includes access to live sports and a huge catalog of on-demand entertainment, Hulu + Live TV is your best choice. Live TV plans start at $65/month and include essential broadcast channels for watching sports, like ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox. With over 75 channels, including ESPN, NFL Network, and SEC Network, you can always find something exciting to stream on Hulu + Live TV.

Hulu + Live TV does not have as many add-on options as YouTube TV, but their Sports add-on includes NFL RedZone and only costs $10/month. Also, Spanish speakers can watch channels like ESPN Deportes and FOX Deportes for an additional $5/month with the Español add-on.

Though Hulu + Live TV offers many of the same sports channels as YouTube TV, there are a few exceptions. If you want to watch NBA TV, MLB Network, or MLB Game of the Week, then YouTube TV is a better choice.

Hulu + Live TV stands out from other sports streaming services by giving members access to thousands of hours of on-demand entertainment. Whether you’re planning a movie night or need a new series to binge-watch, the expansive Hulu catalog is a worthwhile supplement to the live TV channels.

For more information about plans, prices, and channels, check out our full breakdown of Hulu.

+ Live TV (small)
Paramount Plus

Paramount + logo

Paramount Plus is a budget-friendly streaming option for people who just want to watch CBS sports.

Members of Paramount Plus Premium get access to local CBS streaming so they can watch any games broadcast on that channel. In most markets, football fans can watch numerous regular and postseason NFL games, in addition to SEC games. 

Even though Paramount Plus does not include access to NBA basketball games, the 2021 NCAA March Madness tournament was aired on the streaming service. Future iterations of the college basketball tournament may be available on Paramount Plus as well.

Other notable sporting events that stream on Paramount Plus include the PGA Tour, PGA Championship, UEFA club matches, and National Women’s Soccer League matches.

Paramount Plus has two basic plans: the ad-supported Essential plan for $5 a month and the ad-free Premium plan for $10 a month. Only members who subscribe to the Premium plan get access to their local CBS station. That said, NFL games being broadcast in your market are also included with the cheaper Essential plan.

For more information, check out our full breakdown of Paramount Plus.

Essential Monthly Plan (ad-supported) (small)Premium Monthly Plan (ad-free) (small)
ESPN+

ESPN+ logo

ESPN+ is a perfect fit for fans of soccer, baseball, UFC, and sports documentaries.

ESPN+ does not offer access to the live ESPN channel, but members do get access to select live sports and exclusive events. Most notably, the service streams select NHL, MLB, and college football games. 

Fans of Major League Soccer should also consider ESPN+. Every out-of-market match is available to stream live on the service. 

ESPN+ is also the best way to watch UFC. Subscribers get access to every UFC Fight Night event, and members can pay $70 per event for exclusive access to UFC pay-per-view matches.

In addition to certain live sports, ESPN+ members get access to docuseries like “30 for 30,” original programming, and replays of classic football games. On the downside, the service does not feature any live NFL or NBA games.

While ESPN+ does not offer a free trial, the streaming service is included as part of the Disney Bundle. If you want more entertainment to watch, this bundle includes ESPN+, Disney Plus, and ad-supported Hulu for $14/month. 

For more information, check out our full breakdown of ESPN+.

Monthly Subscription Service (small)
Peacock Premium

Peacock Premium

Peacock Premium is an affordable way to watch Sunday Night Football and WWE events.

In contrast to streaming services like Sling TV and YouTube TV, Peacock does not offer any live networks that you’d get with cable. Instead, Peacock has its own selection of live sports. This service is a good fit for viewers who want to save money and only care about watching certain sporting events.

Peacock Premium members have access to live events like NFL Sunday Night Football and the Premier League. In addition, Peacock is also the streaming home to WWE. Members get access to all WWE PPV events as part of a Premium subscription.

Peacock Premium no longer offers a free trial, but members can save money by signing up for an annual plan. For a yearly subscription, Peacock Premium costs $50 and Peacock Premium Plus costs $100. This is 20% less than the monthly subscription rates.

If you want more information, we broke down everything you need to know about Peacock.

Premium (Monthly Plan) (small)
DAZN

DAZN logo

DAZN is a perfect fit for fans of boxing, but it doesn’t offer other sports.

If you want to watch the latest boxing fights, DAZN is a good choice. DAZN has exclusive, live fight nights and an archive of past events featuring fighters like Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Trying to pass the time between fight nights? The DAZN catalog has behind-the-scenes documentaries that follow boxers as they prepare for their next big matchup. DAZN also conveniently groups its on-demand content by fighter. Whether your favorite is Canelo Alvarez or Ryan Garcia, you can easily find the video you want to watch.

DAZN might expand their lineup of live sports in the future, but right now the service is uniquely focused on boxing fight nights and excels in that category.

Subscription (small)
Sports channel availability by service

Soccer fans watching TV together.

Live sports are broadcast across many different cable networks and it can be tricky to figure out which services carry the station you want to watch.

To make things easier, we rounded up some key sports channels, below, along with details on where you can stream them.

Channel Sling TV YouTube TV Hulu + Live TV Fubo TV
ABC X
CBS X
NBC
Fox
Fox Sports
NBC Sports
ESPN
TNT X
TBS X
NFL Network
NBA TV ✓* X ✓*
NHL Network ✓* X X ✓*
MLB Network ✓* X ✓*

*Channel requires an upgraded plan or add-on package.

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The 4 best OLED TVs in 2021 for vibrant, high-end picture quality

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

OLED TVs have become popular among home theater enthusiasts, and it’s easy to see why. Thanks to some key perks, OLED displays offer several benefits over traditional LCD TVs (including those branded as LED and QLED). Though they tend to be pricier, there’s no substitute for an OLED if you want the best home theater experience for movies, streaming, and gaming.

OLED stands for “organic light-emitting diode.” Instead of using a traditional LED backlight like those found on an LCD TV, OLED screens are self-illuminating. This means that each pixel on an OLED can emit its own light or turn off completely, enabling an infinite contrast ratio.

As a result, OLED TVs are capable of true black levels – something even the best LCDs have a hard time producing. Viewing angles are also better than typical LCD displays, making OLEDs a great fit for rooms where people need to sit off to the side of their TV. On the downside, OLEDs can’t get as bright as flagship LCD TVs, which makes OLED displays less ideal for living rooms that let in a lot of sunlight.

LG, Sony, and Vizio all sell OLED TVs in the US. While image quality does vary a bit between the displays, the TVs’ physical design, connectivity, and software are the most telling differences. With that in mind, we’ve tested and researched several OLED displays in order to select the best models for a variety of needs and budgets.

Here are the best OLED TVs you can buy:

  • Best OLED TV overall: LG CX
  • Best OLED TV for picture quality: Sony A80J
  • Best premium design OLED TV: LG GX
  • Best budget OLED TV: Vizio H1
The best OLED TV overall

LG 2020 OLED CX 4K TV

The LG CX OLED presents the best balance between picture performance, smart connectivity, design, and value of any OLED TV you can buy. 

Pros: Solid brightness for an OLED, HDMI 2.1 with next-gen gaming features, voice remote, lots of screen sizes

Cons: Processing and image accuracy aren’t as good as Sony OLEDs

When it comes to balancing image quality and smart features, the CX remains the best OLED TV you can buy. LG sells a 2021 successor to the CX, called the C1, but we think the CX presents a better value since it costs less and offers very similar performance. 

Like all OLED TVs, the CX provides pixel-level contrast with deep black levels and precise highlights. Peak brightness is also good for an OLED, with a max of around 700 to 800 nits. 

Thanks to the α9 Gen 3 Intelligent Processor, the CX is capable of advanced upscaling. This feature can make lower-quality video content, like Full HD (1080p), look cleaner and sharper. That said, Sony’s OLED offerings are still known for slightly better processing.

The panel offers very low input lag and includes compatibility with Variable Refresh Rate, Nvidia G-Sync, and 120Hz high frame rate. These features help make the CX one of the best gaming displays you can buy, and we think the 48-inch model is a great alternative to a traditional monitor.

The CX is powered by LG’s webOS and ThinQ platforms, enabling extensive streaming app support and voice control. The magic remote also features a unique pointer function which allows you to navigate through menus with a virtual cursor.

The best OLED TV for picture quality

Sony A80J OLED 4K TV on a TV stand.

Sony’s A80J is the best premium TV on the market for image accuracy, but it’s a little pricey.

Pros: High-end processing for industry-leading image accuracy, acoustic surface audio technology, HDMI 2.1

Cons: No VRR support yet (coming in future firmware), a little expensive

The Sony A80J OLED (2021) is the successor to last year’s A8H (2020). Though both models offer similar performance, the new A80J features a few key upgrades for about the same price.

Most notably, the 2021 model includes HDMI 2.1 ports, enabling advanced gaming features like 4K/120Hz for PS5 and Xbox Series X owners.  Sony also improved the display’s picture processing with new cognitive technology to cross-analyze picture elements simultaneously instead of individually. The resulting image is stunning in person.

This advanced processing gives the A80J an edge over LG and Vizio OLEDs when it comes to image accuracy. During annual TV competitions, Sony’s OLEDs consistently come the closest to matching the look of professional broadcast monitors and we expect the A80J to be no different. 

The A80J also features a unique audio system with acoustic surface technology. Instead of conventional speakers, the TV uses actuators behind the panel to create sound from the screen itself. This lets speech sound as if it’s coming from the mouths of characters on screen. 

Sony also offers a step-up A90J model, which adds a few extra perks here and there, including a brighter image in some picture modes. That said, image processing is the same and Sony says brightness capabilities are similar to the A80J when using the most accurate picture settings. Since the A90J is considerably more expensive, we think the A80J is a better overall pick.

The best premium design OLED TV

LG GX Gallery Series 4K OLED TV

With a display so thin it can hang flush on your wall like a piece of art, the LG GX is one of the prettiest OLED TVs to look at — whether it’s turned on or off.

Pros: Same great image performance as the LG CX, thin design lets you mount it flush to a wall

Cons: More expensive than most OLED models with standard designs

Beyond impressive picture performance, the GX boasts an exceptionally thin profile, enabling the display to be mounted like a piece of art hanging flush on your wall. At just 0.79 inches deep, the 65-inch GX Gallery TV offers an incredibly narrow design.

LG has also been able to keep all of the TV’s components within the panel. This means that GX TVs don’t need to use an external box or soundbar unit as a connection hub. Instead, you can simply hook up all your devices directly to the display. 

When it comes to actual image quality, the GX OLED TV offers very similar performance to the rest of the displays on our list. Since those TVs are among the best you can buy, that’s not a bad thing at all.

At the end of the day, you’re paying extra purely for style perks with this model, but if you plan to mount your TV on a wall, the GX can double as a genuine design piece for your living room.

That said, LG has a new 2021 version of the GX available, called the G1. The updated model has a new “OLED evo” panel which promises improved brightness. It’s more expensive than the 2020 model, however, so we still recommend the GX for most buyers. 

The best budget OLED TV

Vizio OLED lifestyle

Vizio’s 65-inch 4K OLED TV offers all the OLED picture quality benefits that home theater fans love for less than the competition.

Pros: Unbeatable image performance for the price, only OLED model in the US with HDR10+, HDMI 2.1 ports

Cons: Glitches, on-screen app selection is limited, no voice remote

In the US, OLED TV models have primarily been limited to high-end offerings from LG and Sony. Though these TVs have been undeniably gorgeous, they’ve also been expensive. Thanks to Vizio’s OLED, however, that high cost barrier is starting to disappear.

Just like Sony and LG’s OLEDs, Vizio’s model offers pixel-level contrast with true black levels. The display can’t get quite as bright as LG’s OLEDs, but it can get close with a max of around 700 nits. 

Vizio’s OLED has comprehensive HDR support and it’s the only model on our list with HDR10+ playback. It also supports HDMI 2.1. On the downside, the TV is missing a voice remote. You can still pair it with a separate Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa device, however.

Though image quality is nearly identical to more expensive OLEDs, the Vizio does lose some points when it comes to general stability. I encountered glitches and compatibility issues when reviewing the TV. Thankfully, most of these problems have been fixed through firmware updates, but it’s a shame the display’s software isn’t more reliable. 

Still, there’s no denying the incredible value this OLED offers. When it’s on sale it delivers unbeatable picture quality for the price. In fact, if it wasn’t for those glitches, Vizio’s OLED might even edge out the CX for the top spot on this list. As it stands, it’s not quite there, but it’s a fantastic option for budget-conscious buyers.

OLED vs. LCD

Samsung QN90A 4K TV in a living room.
Samsung’s QN90A uses an LCD panel.

When buying a new TV, shoppers have two main display technologies to choose from: LCD and OLED.

In the US, you can buy OLED TVs from brands like LG, Sony, and Vizio. Meanwhile, LCD TVs are sold by all major manufacturers, but some companies use different marketing terms for their LCD models, including LED, QLED, Neo QLED, NanoCell, and QNED.

LCD TVs are known for their high brightness, especially on flagship models. On the downside, LCDs use backlights which can lead to washed-out black levels, blooming, and uniformity issues. LCD TVs are also known for mediocre viewing angles, which cause colors and contrast to distort when you sit off to the side.

On the other hand, OLED TVs are celebrated for their infinite contrast ratios. Unlike LCD displays, OLED TVs don’t need a backlight. Instead, each pixel dims and brightens on its own so the TV can create true black levels in dark scenes. OLEDs also have wide viewing angles. On the downside, OLED TVs can’t get as bright as the best LCD TVs and they can be susceptible to burn-in in some instances.

Ultimately, LCDs are generally better for buyers who watch TV in bright rooms that let in a lot of light. OLEDs are better for home theater environments where you watch movies with the lights off. 

Both display types can provide impressive picture quality but, in most cases, we prefer OLED for the very best contrast. That said, mid-range and entry-level LCD models are cheaper than most OLEDs, so they can be a better option if you’re on a budget.

Should you worry about burn-in on an OLED TV?

Vizio OLED design

Like plasma TVs of yesteryear, OLED panels are susceptible to a problem known as burn-in. This means that if a static image is left on the screen for hours on end — the CNN or ESPN logo in the corner, for example — a faint, ghostly image can be left permanently stuck on the TV.

Though OLED owners should be aware of this risk, OLED TVs feature special measures to help prevent burn-in, including pixel-refreshers and pixel-shift modes. Websites like Rtings have conducted long-term tests with OLEDs, and while their results do prove that burn-in is possible, their tests show that buyers with regular viewing habits really shouldn’t worry about it. 

You’re more likely to notice temporary image retention, which is when a ghost image faintly lingers on the screen and then fades away over time. Though true burn-in is really only a risk in extreme situations, it is worth pointing out that LCD TV owners don’t have to worry about burn-in at all.

If you really only plan on watching content with the same static logos all day long, you’re better off with an LCD (also branded as LED or QLED). Buyers with regular viewing habits, however, shouldn’t be put off from buying an OLED TV because of burn-in.

The best deals on OLED TVs from this guide

If you want the best image quality and the darkest blacks you can only get from OLED TVs, we’ve rounded up the best deals we found on our top picks. Perfect for your family room, bedroom, or basement movie theater, you can score deals on displays from LG, Sony, and Vizio. These sets are terrific, but they often come with a sizable price tag. Luckily,  sales do pop up, with discounts that usually amount to at least $100 off.

Here are the best deals we’ve found on OLED TVs

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

Check out our other TV buying guides

Hisense H8G 4K TV lifestyle

The best cheap TVs


The best 4K TVs


 

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The 4 best Bluetooth speakers of 2021 for listening to music outside and around the house

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

A great listening experience for all your favorite music services shouldn’t be limited by pesky wires. While the days of carrying around a boom box on your shoulder are by and large over, you can still get quality wireless music in the form of a Bluetooth speaker.

Thanks to Bluetooth support, these speakers are able to play music from other Bluetooth-enabled sources, like a smartphone or laptop, without any cables. Whether you’re getting a speaker for use around the house or a day at the park, there’s almost certainly a Bluetooth speaker for you. But there are a number of things to consider before you buy, including size, battery, durability and, of course, sound quality.

With all of those factors in mind, we’ve selected the best Bluetooth speakers you can buy for a variety of needs. Since most people purchase Bluetooth speakers for their portability, all of our picks feature built-in batteries for listening on the go.

Here are the best Bluetooth speakers:

The best Bluetooth speaker overall

Sonos Move

The Sonos Move looks good, sounds great, and offers voice control with Alexa and Google Assistant.

Pros: Attractive design, integrates with other Sonos speakers, excellent audio quality, Alexa and Google Assistant with Wi-Fi

Cons: A little expensive, a bit heavy

With an excellent design, awesome sound quality, and support for two digital assistants, the Sonos Move is one of the most fully featured Bluetooth speakers you can buy.

The speaker offers a ton of bass, coupled with crisp clarity and detail in the high end. That makes it excellent for listening to music. The Move can even be calibrated using Trueplay tuning technology to suit different environments and locations.

The Move has a charging station where you can keep it docked in your home, but it’s also designed to be portable, so you can take it outside or move it around the house. It’s rated for around 11 hours of battery life, so it should easily get you through a day of listening.

Like other Sonos speakers, the Sonos Move is also smart. You can choose to use either Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, plus it integrates perfectly with Sonos’ other speakers, allowing for multi-room audio. 

But what about the downsides? The speaker is a little pricey, and you won’t get access to all of its smart features unless you’re connected to Wi-Fi. The Move is also bigger and heavier than most Bluetooth speakers which limits its portability a bit.

Buyers who want a similar speaker with a more compact design and cheaper price tag should consider the Move’s smaller sibling, the Sonos Roam. It doesn’t sound as good as the Move, but it’s a better fit for people who primarily plan to use their speaker for on-the-go listening.

The best Bluetooth speaker for portability

Bose

The Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II is easy-to-use, offers 17 hours of battery, and features a convenient handle for travel.

Pros: Good sound, versatile design for portable use outdoors and around the house, long battery life

Cons: A bit pricey, lacks Wi-Fi support

There are a number of things that make the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ II such an ideal portable option, from its great sound to its convenient design.

The design is reminiscent of smart speakers, so it’ll look right at home in any tech-savvy person’s house. On top of that, it offers extremely easy-to-use controls, with six buttons located on the top for things like volume and Bluetooth control. Bose also added a handle to make it easy to bring the speaker with you outside or around the house.

We tested the previous-generation model and were impressed by its great sound quality and how easy it is to move from room to room. It delivers ample volume and deep bass without distorting. 

This newer version is nearly identical to the one we tested, but features an upgrade from IPX4 water resistance to an IP55 rating. It also supports an extra hour of battery life for up to 17 hours of play time — the longest of any speaker on our guide. 

The SoundLink Revolve+ II even has some smart features, including Bluetooth pairing with voice prompts, the ability to take calls, and access to Siri or Google Assistant from your phone. That said, the speaker doesn’t have Wi-Fi so it doesn’t support a built-in digital assistant.

The best waterproof Bluetooth speaker

Ultimate Ears Boom 3

The UE Boom 3 features a water resistant design, making it great for use by the pool or at the beach.

Pros: Good sound quality, nice design, waterproof, can float

Cons: High frequencies aren’t as detailed as other speakers

Looking for something that you can take to the beach or use by the pool without fear of it breaking due to water damage? The UE Boom 3 is the way to go. 

The speaker may not sound as robust as the Sonos Move, but it still sounds good, especially considering how small it is. The UE Boom 3 offers decent bass response, along with a well-tuned mid-range, and a solid amount of clarity in the high frequencies. One of the best things about it is that it can also get super loud, which is great for use outside.

It’s relatively small and portable, and it’s available in a range of different colors. On the side, you get buttons for controlling volume, while on the top there are controls for things like Bluetooth pairing and power. 

The UE Boom 3 is built for use near water. The speaker is not only waterproof, but it’s also designed to float, so you won’t have to worry about losing it at the bottom of the pool. The Boom 3 is capable of being submerged in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes, so it shouldn’t break due to water damage.

The best cheap Bluetooth speaker

Anker bluetooth speaker

The Anker Soundcore Flare Mini may be super-affordable, but it still looks and sounds solid for the price.

Pros: Inexpensive, water-resistant, solid battery life

Cons: Sound quality is only decent

Looking for an inexpensive speaker that still looks and sounds pretty good? The Anker Soundcore Flare Mini is the way to go. This speaker may carry a budget price, but it still sounds decent and won’t break the bank.

The Soundcore Flare is designed to look a lot better than other speakers in its price range. It features a cylindrical design with a fabric covering around the side and controls on the top. Those controls include power, volume, and Bluetooth pairing. There are even LED lights on the bottom, and you can control those lights through five different lighting modes.

The design of the speaker plays into how it sounds too. The speaker can deliver 360-degree audio, so no matter where you are around it, you’ll be to hear your music. It definitely won’t sound as powerful as some of the more expensive speakers on our list, but it can still get pretty loud and offers a decent amount of bass.

You’ll get around 12 hours of battery life out of the speaker, which isn’t bad at all, and it’s water-resistant with an IPX7 rating. 

Considering the price range, perhaps the only real downside to the speaker is that it can’t match more expensive offerings in the audio department.

What else we considered

JBL Flip 4

Here are other speakers we considered for our guide, and why they didn’t make our top picks.

Other Bluetooth speakers we recommend:

JBL Flip 4: The JBL Flip 4 speaker was previously one of our picks, and it’s still a fantastic Bluetooth speaker for the money. With that said, the less expensive Soundcore Flare Mini includes similar features for a more affordable price, making that model a better overall budget pick. If you’re willing to spend more, however, the JBL Flip 4 features a bit more power and better sound quality.

What you should look for in a Bluetooth speaker

bose portable home speaker lifestyle

When shopping for a Bluetooth speaker, there are some key factors you should keep in mind. For instance, a compact model might not be a good fit for someone who wants the best audio quality, while a heavy speaker won’t be ideal for someone who wants to take their audio on the go.

Below, we’ve broken down some main features and design elements you should consider when selecting the best Bluetooth speaker for your needs.

  • Size matters: Generally speaking, larger speakers will be louder, so they tend to be a better fit for parties and gatherings. Larger speakers also tend to have more refined audio quality with better clarity and bass. Of course, size also affects portability. If you’re looking for something you can slip in your bag and carry around easily, then a smaller speaker will be a better choice.
  • Battery life: You’ll obviously want longer battery life if you’re looking for a speaker that can last all day, but sometimes a speaker with shorter battery life will do the job — especially if you plan on being able to charge it often or even while in use. Though all of our picks include batteries, some Bluetooth speakers on the market only work with an outlet. If you just plan to use your speaker in one room, this isn’t a problem, but if you want portability, a speaker with a battery is a must.
  • Durability and water resistance: Durability is another important factor if you plan on carrying your speaker around a lot. Not only will your speaker last longer if it’s more durable, but it might be a little more versatile, too. For example, you probably won’t want to take a non-waterproof speaker to the pool or the beach.
  • Sound quality: A single Bluetooth speaker is never going to offer the same quality as a true stereo speaker pair, but high-end Bluetooth speakers from brands like Sonos and Bose offer impressive performance. Again, larger models tend to have better sound, so if audio quality is a priority, you’ll likely want to avoid ultra-compact speakers. 

Check out our other speaker buying guides

Sonos Beam

The best speakers


The best smart speakers


The best soundbars


The best Alexa speakers


The best home theater systems

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best iPhones for every budget in 2021 – and which ones not to buy

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The iPhone 12 has the right combination of features and affordability for most people.
  • The iPhone 12 Pro is worth it if you want the best camera possible on a compact phone.
  • But don’t forget about the iPhone 11, which is still a great deal at its new lower price.
  • Apple is hosting an event on September 14 to release a new iPhone, so we’d wait until then before buying a new iPhone.

With seven iPhone models available through Apple, from the new iPhone 12 to the more than two-year-old iPhone XR, there are plenty of options out there for Apple fans. Luckily, the new features in iOS 15 – such as the ability to fine-tune notifications, spatial audio in FaceTime, and live text recognition among many others – will be available on all of the phones in this list.

Like most purchasing decisions, which model is right for you largely depends on your needs when it comes to pricing, size options, and features. Those who care a lot about aesthetics should note that Apple recently announced a purple version of the iPhone 12 , adding to its already colorful lineup.

In addition to helping you choose the right iPhone model, we’ll also tell you which models you should stay away from.

While you’re checking out which iPhone to buy, keep in mind that Apple is expected to reveal the new “iPhone 13” series during an event on September 14. All the iPhones that are currently available are easy recommendations, but we’re expecting a shake-up for pricing and which models will be available after September 14. Check out the iPhone 13 rumors here.

Here’s a quick look at our top recommendations:

  • For most people, we highly recommend the iPhone 12, which costs a relatively reasonable $799 but still includes the most important new tech on any phone: the latest processor.
  • The 2020 iPhone SE is the cheapest iPhone you can buy at $400, and it’s also one of the smallest.
  • Apple still sells the iPhone 11, and it’s a tempting purchase with its new price tag. It now costs $599, and for that price you’re not missing out on much.
  • The iPhone XR from 2018 costs $499, making it another budget-friendly option for those who want a much bigger screen, longer battery life, and Face ID.

Why should you listen to us? We’ve personally reviewed every iPhone since the iPhone 6 in a professional capacity as tech writers and editors. We also have a team of seasoned tech reporters who have owned or used iPhones since the first model was introduced. Below, find some general iPhone buying tips from those years of experience.

Here are the best iPhones

The best iPhone overall

Apple iPhone 12

The iPhone 12 has the best balance of performance, features, and design for the price, and it’s the model most people should go for. 

Pros: New design looks elegant and makes the iPhone 12 easier to hold; Better low-light camera and night mode on all lenses; OLED display on the standard model looks sharp and crisp; 5G will keep the iPhone 12 relevant for years to come

Cons: Widely deployed 5G networks aren’t much faster than LTE today; No fingerprint sensor; No always-on display; Night mode selfies aren’t very sharp

The iPhone 12 is the best iPhone for the vast majority of people with its $799 price tag. It poses the best value in relation to specs, features, and design compared to the Pro models.

It also comes in a variety of colors, including the newly announced purple, which is available for preorder on April 23 and launches on April 30. The iPhone 12 otherwise comes in black, blue, green, white, and (Product) Red models.

Fans of the iPhone will notice that the new model costs $100 more than the $699 iPhone 11 did at launch. We consider $700 to be a better price (obviously), but the iPhone 12 includes extra features that the iPhone 11 lacks. These include 5G support, a ceramic shield coating for increased durability, an OLED display with better contrast, and support for Apple’s new MagSafe connection system for chargers and accessories.

Running on Apple’s latest A14 Bionic chip, the iPhone 12 has the hardware  most people need for daily and extended usage for $300 less than the top-of-the-line iPhone 12 Pro, and for $400 less than the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The iPhone 12 has a range of features in common with the Pro models, including a dual camera system with an ultrawide lens, a metal frame, and IP68 water resistance.

There are few compromises by going with the iPhone 12 over the Pro models. What you don’t get with the standard iPhone 12 is the third telephoto zoom lens, the new ProRAW photo mode for advanced photo controls, or the LiDAR scanner for better portrait shots.

Apple’s $799 cost is a good price for the iPhone 12, and you can make it more affordable by finding the iPhone 12 for a deal.

The best small iPhone

iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 screen
The iPhone 12 Mini (left) and iPhone 12 (right)

The iPhone 12 Mini is exactly what it sounds like — a smaller version of the standard iPhone 12, and it’s for iPhone users who like more compact designs and smaller screens.

Pros: Compact design makes it easy to use with one hand; Excellent camera; Elegant revamped design compared to last year’s iPhones; Sharp and vibrant OLED display; 5G support will keep the iPhone 12 Mini relevant in the future

Cons: Smaller size means you compromise on battery life; No fingerprint sensor; No always-on display; Nationwide 5G networks aren’t much faster than today’s 4G LTE.

The iPhone 12 Mini is a smaller and more affordable version of the iPhone 12 and is available in all of the same colors, including the newly announced purple.

The only difference is that the iPhone 12 Mini has 5.4-inch display compared to the iPhone 12’s 6.1-inch screen. 

That smaller size also means the iPhone 12 Mini‘s battery life is noticeably shorter than the iPhone 12’s. After a full day’s worth of use (9.5 hours), the iPhone 12 Mini’s battery was down to 23% during my testing. The larger iPhone 12, by comparison, had 34% of its battery left after about 15 hours of use. 

Still, it’s the best choice for iPhone owners that have been holding onto their older device because they’re reluctant to upgrade to today’s large-screened devices.

Apart from screen size and battery life, everything is the same, including the A14 Bionic chip, a dual camera system with an ultrawide lens, a Super Retina XDR OLED display, ceramic shield screen glass, 5G support, wireless charging and MagSafe support, a metal frame, and IP68 water resistance.

However, it remains unclear how big the audience for a smaller-sized iPhone actually is, considering data from Counterpoint Research suggests demand for the iPhone 12 Mini has been weak.

The best premium iPhone

iPhone 12 Pro Blue

The iPhone 12 Pro is for the discerning iPhone user who wants almost the absolute best from Apple — and can afford it, too.

Pros: Excellent camera especially in low-light; Elegant new design that’s easier to hold; LiDAR enables portrait mode photos even in the dark; 5G will keep the iPhone 12 Pro relevant for years to come

Cons: Zoom isn’t as crisp as Samsung’s; Widely-deployed 5G networks aren’t much faster than 4G LTE; No fingerprint sensor; No always-on display

The iPhone 12 Pro buyer could either be the kind who buys a new iPhone every year through Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Program, or the type of person who waits a considerable long time — think four years or more — before upgrading. More generally, the iPhone 12 Pro buyer is the kind who wants the most camera tech that Apple has to offer in a relatively standard 6.1-inch screen size.

With the iPhone 12 Pro, you’re getting everything from the standard iPhone 12, including the A14 Bionic chip, a Super Retina XDR OLED display, ceramic shield screen glass, 5G support, wireless charging and MagSafe support, a metal frame, and IP68 water resistance. 

That extra $300 gets you a steel frame instead of aluminum (which, by the way, doesn’t mean it’s tougher, according to Unbox Therapy). But more importantly, the iPhone 12 Pro also comes with a  triple camera system that includes the standard lens, ultrawide lens, and exclusive to the Pro models, a telephoto lens that goes up to 4x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom. Extra camera features also include LiDAR for better portrait mode photos, even in the dark, as well as Apple’s RAW camera controls.

If you’re looking for the absolute best photo tech that Apple has to offer and a larger screen, you’ll want to check out the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Be mindful of the iPhone 12 Pro‘s $999 price tag, which you can reduce if you find the iPhone 12 Pro for a deal, trade-in your old iPhone with Apple, sell your old iPhone yourself, or sign up for the iPhone Upgrade Program. 

The best big premium iPhone

Apple iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max
The iPhone 12 Pro (front) and iPhone 12 Pro Max (back)

The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the choice for those who want a long-lasting battery, gigantic screen, and sophisticated camera.

Pros: Long battery life; Bigger screen without increasing the size of the phone by that much; Excellent camera; Elegant design

Cons: Screen isn’t quite as vibrant as Samsung’s; Samsung offers a better zoom lens; Missing useful features found on Android like a fingerprint sensor and reverse wireless charging

The biggest benefits you’ll get from going with the $1,099 iPhone 12 Pro Max are its gigantic 6.7-inch screen and longer battery life.

It  has a slightly better zoom lens than the iPhone 12 Pro, but it’s really the enormous screen and long-lasting battery that make this phone stand out in Apple’s lineup.

Otherwise, the iPhone 12 Pro Max shares many of the same qualities as the iPhone 12 Pro and standard iPhone 12. These include Apple’s A14 Bionic chip, Super Retina XDR OLED screen, ceramic shield screen, 5G support, MagSafe accessory support, a triple-lens camera system with wide, ultra-wide, and telephoto lenses like the iPhone 12 Pro, and IP68 water resistance. 

Other than its significantly larger size, the main difference between the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are in its camera. The Pro Max has a 2.5x optical zoom, a 5x optical zoom range, and a 12x digital zoom, compared to the iPhone 12 Pro’s 2x optical zoom, 4x optical zoom range, and 10x digital zoom.

You can definitely notice the difference, but it’s not a change that’s drastic enough to factor into your buying decision.  The iPhone 12 Pro Max also benefits from a technology called sensor shift, which further stabilizes the camera to reduce blur.

The iPhone 12 Pro Max’s battery life was impressive during my testing, and you’ll certainly be able to get a full day or more out of it. After about a full day’s worth of use (15 hours), I still had the iPhone 12 Pro Max still had 38% of its battery left, while the regular 12 Pro had 13% left after 16 hours of use. 

The iPhone 12 Pro‘s $1,099 price is high, but you can reduce if you find the iPhone 12 Pro for a deal.

The best budget iPhone

iphone se 2

The new iPhone SE (2020) is undeniably the best value for an iPhone, as it runs on the same powerful chip as the iPhone 11 series, but you’re only getting a single-lens camera.

Pros: Excellent price, excellent performance, budget access to Apple’s ecosystem

Cons: Battery life could be better, outdated design, single camera system

There’s no doubt about it — if you want an iPhone for under $500, the $399.00 iPhone SE is the way to go. It handily takes over the reins from the $599.00 iPhone XR as the best budget iPhone due to the powerful A13 Bionic mobile chip, which also spins the wheels in the iPhone 11 series.

The iPhone SE has an LCD, 4.7-inch, Retina HD screen. That’s to say it’s not the best in Apple’s arsenal, but it’s similar to the excellent screen on the iPhone XR. Its design is almost identical to the iPhone 8, a classic iPhone form factor. It comes in black, white, and red color options. 

You get a 12-megapixel single-lens camera with portrait mode, depth control (adjusting background blur after taking a photo), portrait lighting, Smart HDR, and a decent gamut of high-end camera features, especially for an iPhone that costs $399.00. 

Unfortunately, you don’t get a zoomed lens or an ultra-wide lens, and that’s arguably one of the biggest compromises with the iPhone SE. Compared to Apple’s larger and pricier iPhones, the iPhone SE also has shorter battery life.

The best big budget iPhone

iPhone XR

The $499 iPhone XR is the best cheapest big-screened iPhone you can get if you can find a good deal for it.

Pros: Big screen, modern iPhone design, fun colors, good cameras, FaceID, wireless charging

Cons: Runs on two-year-old chip, expensive for older specs and features, hard to use one-handed, glass is fragile, no headphone jack or adapter in box

The $499 iPhone XR isn’t that much cheaper than the $599 iPhone 11, and you might as well get the latter if you’re going to spend over $500. 

The iPhone XR runs on 2018’s A12 Bionic mobile, the same chip in the iPhone XS series. That  means it offers great performance, but it’s still over two years old. Apple also still supports the XR in its recently announced iOS 15 update, which will bring a bunch of new features to the iPhone when it launches later this year. 

Among other upgrades, spending an extra $100 on the iPhone 11 will get you the faster A13 Bionic chip and an ultra-wide angle camera compared to the single-lens camera on the iPhone XR.

If you don’t mind its smaller size, get the $399 iPhone SE and save that $100 you were going to spend on the XR for a pair of AirPods. Spending $100 less on the iPhone SE will also get you the faster chip from the iPhone 11 series, although you’ll be sacrificing Face ID and a larger screen.

The best premium iPhone overall for less

apple smart phone iphone 11 pro

For its new $599 price, the iPhone 11 makes a very tempting argument for a place in your hands and pockets, even over the iPhone 12. 

Pros: Excellent price for an iPhone, fast new processor, great 6.1-inch screen, long battery life, dual-camera setup on the back, wireless charging

Cons: It’s missing the OLED screen and the telephoto camera lens of the iPhone 11 Pro lineup

If the iPhone 12 is our first recommendation for most iPhone users, the iPhone 11 would be our second choice for its new cheaper $599 price, dual-camera set up, speedy processor, and crisp LCD screen.

The $599 price of the iPhone 11 makes it the best iPhone for those looking who want something premium but don’t want to spend too much. The iPhone 11 has all the specs most people need for $200 less than the iPhone 12.

You’re missing out on a few features by choosing the iPhone 11, but nothing that really alters the core iPhone experience. 

Here’s what you don’t get, and why it might not really matter:

  • 5G support. It’s nice to have on the iPhone 12, but it’s not worth buying a phone exclusively  for 5G at the moment. Fast 5G networks aren’t widely deployed and current widespread 5G networks aren’t much better than 4G LTE. Apple’s fancy “ceramic shield” screen glass. The new ceramic shield glass seems very strong, but you’d do fine with the glass on the iPhone 11. 
  • An OLED screen. Apple has some of the best LCD screens in the business, and many people can hardly tell the difference with an OLED screen.

The best small premium iPhone for less

iphone 11 pro

The iPhone 11 Pro is still a superb iPhone as long as you can get a good deal on it

Pros: Speedy processor, sharp OLED screen, great size for single-handed use, triple camera system; great battery life, wireless charging, Face ID

Cons: No headphone jack, no longer sold by Apple and not always found with a deal

Apple doesn’t sell the iPhone 11 Pro anymore, but you can still find it on Amazon and through most carriers or tech stores. But we’d only recommend purchasing it if you can find a great deal on it. 

If you’re seeing the iPhone 11 Pro for its launch retail price of $999, that’s a bad deal, and you’re much better off getting the iPhone 12 Pro for the same price. 

We’re seeing a few deals for the iPhone 11 Pro, but not that many. Woot is offering the iPhone 11 Pro in new condition starting at $769.99 for Amazon Prime members. That’s not the cheapest we’ve seen, but it’s also a decent deal considering discounts on the iPhone 11 Pro are getting more difficult to come by. 

The best big premium iPhone for less

iPhone 11 Pro Max

The iPhone 11 Pro Max with a deal is the one to buy if you want a big screen and great battery life without spending over $1,000.

Pros: Big screen, OLED looks crisp, fast A13 Bionic processor, three-camera setup, better battery life than smaller iPhones

Cons: No headphone jack, no longer sold by Apple and not always found with a deal

The same goes for the iPhone 11 Pro Max — it’s only worth buying if you can find a good deal on it. If the deal isn’t great and knocks only $100 or less off the iPhone 11 Pro Max‘s original $1,099 price, you might as well get the new $1,099 iPhone 12 Pro Max. 

If a good deal can be found, the iPhone 11 Pro Max is for the iPhone user who likes big screens and wants a triple camera system that includes the standard camera, ultrawide, and zoom lens. 

If you value OLED screens, the iPhone 11 Pro Max will also deliver. Otherwise, you’re getting the same performance as you would with the iPhone 11 Pro, and the $599 iPhone 11.

The iPhone XS is still a decent purchase, but only at a really good discount.

iPhone XS and XS Max
The iPhone XS (L) and XS Max

The iPhone XS still offers decent performance and a great screen, but it’s aging quickly.

Pros: OLED screen looks crisp, dual camera, modern features like Face ID 

Cons: No headphone jack, no longer sold by Apple and not always found with a deal

The iPhone XS isn’t necessarily an unwise purchase, but it’s only worth buying if you can get it at an excellent discount. It offers a large OLED screen, a dual-camera setup with wide and telephoto lenses, and Face ID. 

It runs on the A12 Bionic processor that Apple launched in 2018, which is the same chip powering the newest entry-level iPad. That means it should offer smooth performance for now. But since that chip is already two generations old, it might not be the best investment if you’re looking for a long-term phone to keep for multiple years.

As such, we only recommend purchasing it if you’re able to find it at a very low price, ideally for the same cost or lower than the iPhone XR. Otherwise, you’re probably better off considering the iPhone 11 or iPhone SE.

Don’t bother with the iPhone X/8 series anymore

iPhone 8 and iphone 8 plus

With the iPhone SE and iPhone XR offering good value, there’s little justification for buying the iPhone X or iPhone 8. You should also avoid buying any iPhone model older than these because the tech inside will soon be obsolete. 

If you’re looking to pay a lot less for a good iPhone, your best bets are going to be the iPhone SE and the iPhone XR rather than some of the older models like the iPhone X and iPhone 8. 

Chances are you’ll be overspending on those iPhones, even if you can find a deal that looks tempting. Plus, you may not even find these in new condition anymore.

As for even older iPhones like the iPhone 7, iPhone 6S, and iPhone 6 generations, there’s a good reason Apple doesn’t sell them anymore.  These phones are now several years old and have aging tech inside, which will likely result in slow performance. 

The processor and RAM are from three-to-four years ago, and are therefore likely unequipped to handle new software and apps. Your battery life is also likely to take a hit because the phone will be working harder to accomplish even simple tasks like connecting to your cell network.

Some of these phones ( iPhone 6S and higher) can still get the latest software update of iOS 15, but there’s a chance it could be the last software update some of these phones may ever get. That means you’ll have an old — and therefore much less secure — version of iOS.

The best inexpensive Android alternatives

pixe 4a vs iphone se 1

Instead of getting an older iPhone, consider a cheaper Android phone.

Our top picks for affordable Android phones are the $350 Google Pixel 4a and $450 Pixel 5a 5G. They have high-quality cameras that are capable of capturing impressive images rivaling those of the new iPhone 12 — especially in low-light conditions. 

They run a simple and easy-to-navigate version of Android and get regular software updates. Check out our full review of the Pixel 4a here, and our full review of the Pixel 5a 5G here.

Other great choices include the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G, OnePlus 7T and Motorola G Power. 

  • Samsung’s $500 Galaxy A52 5G has the look and feel of a premium Galaxy phone for significantly less. It comes with a vivid 6.5-inch Super AMOLED screen with a high refresh rate, 5G support, a quad-lens camera system and a 32-megapixel selfie camera, and long battery life. The Galaxy A52 5G doesn’t have the fastest processor, but it still brings a lot of value for a $500 phone.
  • The $349 OnePlus 7T was the best premium high-end smartphone running on the latest and most powerful specs in 2019. At its current price, it’s an incredible deal if you’re looking for something with a more premium design and faster performance than the Pixel 3a series. The major caveat is that it’s only fully compatible with T-Mobile’s network.
  • The Motorola G Power costs $250 and offers a lot of value for the price, with a large 6.4-inch screen and  massive 5,000mAh battery that can easily give you more than two-days’ worth of use. Check out the Moto G Power review here.

Buying advice for current iPhone owners

iPhone X iPhone 8

Here’s who should (and shouldn’t) upgrade, and which iPhone we recommend for you:

  • If you have an iPhone 11, 11 Pro, or 11 Pro Max: There’s no reason to upgrade unless you specifically like to have the latest and greatest that Apple has to offer. If so, consider whether you can afford it after buying your iPhone 11 within the last year. If you have Apple’s iPhone upgrade plan, go ahead. By the way, 5G isn’t a good reason to upgrade yet, so don’t let that be the sole reason to upgrade. 
  • If you have an iPhone XS, XS Max, or XR: Performance is likely still fine for most people’s needs. If battery life is an issue, you could get your battery replaced for less than the cost of a new iPhone. If you’re a conservative spender, you’re not missing out on anything that will dramatically improve the core experience of using an iPhone. If you’re looking for better photography, the iPhone 12 would be a worthy upgrade. 
  • If you have an iPhone X, 8, or 8 Plus: If you’re conservative with your spending, you could hang on to your iPhone for another year without much issue. If battery life is a concern, you can replace it for less than the cost of a new iPhone. That said, an upgrade to the iPhone 12 is completely reasonable if you’ve noticed that performance is slower than your liking. iPhone 8 owners will also benefit from a big jump in camera quality,, the newer designs with better screen-to-body ratios for bigger screens in similarly sized phones, and Face ID.
  • If you have an iPhone 7 or 7 Plus, or older: It’s time. These phones are likely stuttering and won’t last much longer. You’ll get a massive upgrade in every aspect by going with the iPhone 12 series.

How should you buy your new iPhone?

  • Tech enthusiast? Join the Apple iPhone Upgrade Program. You’ll basically rent your phone with monthly payments, and you can upgrade to a new one after 12 payments. If you do that, you end up paying half price for the phone and you get a new one every year without hemming and hawing over the cost. T-Mobile has a similar offer, in which you can upgrade as soon as you’ve paid off half of the phone’s entire balance.
  • Tech-savvy traveler? Buy your iPhone unlocked so you can pop in local SIM cards when you travel abroad. To do this, buy from Apple, preferably through the iPhone Upgrade Program. Alternatively, you can buy from T-Mobile or Sprint because they have free international service in 100+ countries.
  • Budget hunter?Budget hunter? Check out all the carrier promotions and maybe wait a few months to buy your new iPhone. The cheapest new iPhone is the iPhone 12 Mini for $699. You can also get the iPhone 11 for $599, or the iPhone SE for $399. You could also jump ahead to our Android alternatives section in this buying guide for more cheaper smartphone options.

Is now a good time to buy?

Now that Apple has announced an event for September 14, it isn’t the best time to buy an iPhone. Apple usually announces a new iPhone during its annual September events, and that’s exactly what we’re expecting from the upcoming event. 

We’re not saying that you should wait to buy the new so-called iPhone 13. Rather, it’s best to wait and see what the upcoming iPhone will feature and what kind of upgrades Apple has made over the current iPhone 12. If the iPhone 13 upgrades don’t tempt you as much, the current iPhone 12 will likely still be available for a lower price, just like the iPhone 11 was when the iPhone 12 was launched. 

Indeed, even if you don’t care about having the newest iPhone, you can usually find better deals on the current generation iPhone once the updated version launches.

Here are some key things to know before you decide which iPhone to buy:

  • Processor and RAM: The processor and memory (RAM) are the two most important parts of any phone. They determine how smoothly it runs and works through intense tasks like gaming or multitasking. The newer your iPhone, the better the processing power and RAM. That’s why we recommend you buy the most recent iPhone models and we don’t recommend any iPhones from more than three years ago.
  • Storage space: Storage is also incredibly important because the amount of storage you have determines how many photos, songs, videos, and apps you can have downloaded on your phone. Apple’s recent iPhones come with at least 64GB at the base level, which should be plenty of space for most users that take a moderate amount of photos and videos. The newest phones start at 64GB, which is a respectable amount of space.
  • Screen size: iPhones have come in several screen sizes over the years: 4.7 inches (iPhone 8/2020 iPhone SE), 5.5 inches (iPhone 8 Plus), 5.8 inches (iPhone 11 Pro and XS), 6.1 inches (iPhone 11 and XR), and 6.2 inches (iPhone 11 Pro Max and XS Max). Phones with small screen sizes have smaller physical bodies, which are easier to hold. Phones in Apple’s “Max” and “Plus” line are the largest,, although Max devices have a much bigger screen compared to phones like the iPhone 8 Plus thanks to their bezel-less design.
  • Battery life: Most iPhones — and smartphones in general — don’t have great battery life. In general, the smaller the iPhone, the worse the battery life. So if you don’t mind having a larger-sized phone that comes at a higher price, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the iPhone to get if battery life is your top priority. However, Apple’s medium-sized phones like the iPhone 12, 12 Pro, and iPhone 11 still offer battery life that’s typically capable of getting you through a full day without searching for a charger.  
  • Ports (or lack thereof): All iPhones have a Lightning port for charging, but all iPhones since the iPhone 7 lack the 3.5mm headphone jack. That means you can’t plug in your wired headphones or other accessories unless you buy the adapter or use the Lightning earbuds that once came with your new iPhone (Apple recently stopped including earbuds and power adapters in its packaging). We recommend you get a nice pair of wireless headphones.
  • Software: Apple provides updates to its iPhones for about four years or more after their release, so theoretically, you can have your iPhone up to date for years before you should buy a new one. Always update your software to get important security patches and new features. You may experience slowdown on older devices, but iPhones typically hold up well.
  • Price: Consider your purchase an investment. Your smartphone is more than a communication device — it’s your camera, your computer, your photo album, your music player, and your gaming console, too. A good smartphone can last you for years, but a cheap one with poor specs will be outdated more quickly, and you’ll end up spending more in the long run. That $1,000 price tag on the iPhone 12 Pro looks less scary when you consider that it could last you for four to five years.
  • How to buy: You can get an iPhone from your carrier by paying full price or paying in monthly installments. You can also buy one at stores like Target and Best Buy or directly from Apple. We recommend you buy it from Apple unlocked so you can switch carriers any time you choose. The Apple iPhone Upgrade Program lets you get a new iPhone every year so long as you’ve made 12 monthly payments on your current phone. It’s basically like renting your smartphone so you can upgrade all the time. Some carriers, like T-Mobile, offer a similar program.
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The 5 best soundbars of 2021 for clear and crisp TV audio

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

A soundbar is the perfect solution for anyone who wants a space-saving and budget-friendly way to upgrade their TV audio experience. Even the best TVs on the market tend to have lackluster sound. After all, TVs are focused on picture quality, so built-in speakers are usually more of an afterthought than a priority.

A good soundbar can provide better audio with cleaner highs, richer mids, and deeper low frequencies. Soundbar models are available at all price points, including solid entry-level options with simple stereo playback and more expensive models with surround sound capabilities.

Some flagship soundbar systems include support for advanced home theater formats like Dolby Atmos, enabling sound effects that come from all directions – even above your head. Voice control and wireless music streaming are also supported on select models.

Whether you just want a simple upgrade from your TV’s wimpy speakers or you want a full home theater experience, we’ve selected the best soundbar options for a variety of needs.

Here are the best soundbars of 2021

The best soundbar overall

Yamaha YAS-209 Soundbar

Yamaha’s YAS-209 delivers great sound and Amazon Alexa for a reasonable price.

Pros: Easy setup, Alexa support, room-filling sound, diverse connection options, sleek appearance, smartphone app makes fine-tuning a breeze

Cons: No onboard display, doesn’t support Dolby Vision passthrough

The YAS-209 soundbar offers the perfect blend of audio quality, features, ease of use, design, and price. This is the type of space-saving audio option that most people think of when shopping for a soundbar, and it makes for a great upgrade to most built-in TV speakers.

Despite being a modest two-piece kit, the YAS-209’s most impressive feat is its ability to fill a room with great audio. Though still a 2.1-channel design, the hardware pairs with audio-processing smarts like DTS Virtual:X for a simulated surround sound effect. It’s not as convincing as having actual rear speakers, but Yamaha’s processing does a solid job of creating an immersive experience.

The YAS-209’s specs include HDMI ARC, a technology that allows compatible TVs to control volume adjustments of connected devices, as well as an extra HDMI-in port that supports 4K HDR passthrough (but not Dolby Vision). A Toslink optical audio port is also featured for TVs without HDMI, and you can also wirelessly stream music from a mobile device via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.

The YAS-209 even includes integrated support for Amazon Alexa thanks to built-in microphones, enabling digital assistant features and hands-free control for functions like volume.

The best budget soundbar

A group of people watching TV in a furnished living room using the V-Series V21d-J8 soundbar

With a simple design and solid audio performance, Vizio’s V-Series soundbar is a great pick for budget buyers.

Pros: Affordable, easy to set up, ample sound for basic needs, Bluetooth, HDMI ARC port

Cons: Doesn’t support Wi-Fi, bass not as powerful as soundbar models with a separate subwoofer

Vizio got its start as a budget brand, so it’s no surprise the company still excels at affordable soundbars. This includes its entry-level V-Series V21d-J8, which serves as the successor to our previous pick in this category, the SB362An-F6

Like its predecessor, the V21d-J8 is a convenient 2.1-channel bar with built-in woofers, meaning you’ll get two main channels for pure stereo sound and a little extra bass without the need for a separate subwoofer unit.

Standing out from the typical boxy design we see on most soundbars, this Vizio model has angled sides that slope down to create a hexagonal profile. Buttons for various controls rest on the side of the bar, including volume, source, Bluetooth audio, and the all-important power button.

Vizio employs audio technology from DTS and Dolby to enhance playback, including DTS Virtual:X. This feature can create a virtual soundfield from the device’s 2.1-channels, resulting in simulated surround and height effects. Processing like this is never as convincing as a genuine multi-speaker system, but it can provide an enhanced soundstage, especially for the price.

As a welcomed upgrade over the previous model, the V-Series now includes an HDMI ARC port for easy connection to modern smart TVs. You also get an optical audio port if your TV doesn’t have an HDMI connection, and you can hook other sources up directly with a 3.5mm auxiliary port.

For wireless playback, the soundbar also supports Bluetooth, making it easy to stream music from your smartphone. An included remote handles all your needs for adjusting volume, accessing basic equalizer options, and toggling various modes.

The best smart soundbar

Sonos Beam

With the Sonos Beam, your living room becomes the center of a blissful smart home.

Pros: Offers solid sound, your choice between Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, blends seamlessly into the Sonos family, AirPlay 2 support, compact build

Cons: Lacks Bluetooth audio streaming, no DTS support

The Sonos Beam is a bit different from other options on this list. While positioned as a home theater device, it can’t quite match the audio performance of bigger soundbars. It still sounds solid, but it’s really the Beam’s smart features and multi-room audio capabilities that make it so appealing.

The Beam can work with other Sonos products to facilitate a fully wireless multi-room audio setup. It syncs with other Sonos devices using a Bluetooth LE connection before letting Wi-Fi take over the data transmission duties. This means you can’t stream tunes via Bluetooth, but you can access many of your favorite services through the Sonos app to play music over a Wi-Fi connection.

The Sonos Beam’s other claim to fame is built-in support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. With five far-field microphones in play, you can choose which assistant you’d like to use to issue hands-free voice commands, manage music playback, control your smart home, and more. There’s also native AirPlay 2 support for Apple users, and the Beam even includes an Ethernet port for those times when Wi-Fi just isn’t cooperating.

Despite its lack of deep audio processing technologies (it supports standard PCM stereo and basic Dolby Digital sources), the Sonos Beam etches out a nice spot in its niche for those who want a simple all-in-one soundbar solution with wireless music playback, HDMI, and voice assistant capabilities. 

The best soundbar with Dolby Atmos

Vizio Elevate soundbar lifestyle

Vizio’s Elevate soundbar offers a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos experience with performance that rivals many full-fledged home theater systems.

Pros: Full 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos support, DTS:X capabilities, unique rotating speakers, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

Cons: No voice assistant built-in, separate satellites and larger subwoofer take up more space than typical soundbar systems

When it comes to Atmos-capable soundbar systems, few options are as immersive as Vizio’s Elevate soundbar. It’s pricier than standard soundbar packages, but it’s still one of the most affordable ways to enjoy a full 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos experience.

Dolby Atmos, if you aren’t aware, is an audio format that allows soundbars to produce height effects, adding an extra layer of immersion to movies. For instance, when rain falls from the sky or a helicopter flies overhead, you can actually hear the sound coming from above.

The Elevate offers left, center, and right channels in the soundbar itself, along with two upward firing channels that bounce sound off your ceiling to create overhead effects. Two separate rear speakers with their own upward firing drivers are also included, along with an 8-inch wireless subwoofer.

The front height speakers also feature a unique rotating mechanism that allows them to automatically tilt up or forward depending on what you’re listening to. When they’re up you can hear overhead effects. When they’re down, they help to create a wider front soundstage. 

Unlike older Vizio soundbars, the Elevate even includes support for DTS:X. Like Atmos, DTS:X provides height effects on certain Blu-ray discs. DTS:X titles are less common than Dolby Atmos, but it’s still a nice option to have.

The Elevate‘s relatively large size and separate rear speakers make it less space-saving than most soundbar options, but the system provides audio performance that’s nearly on par with many genuine home theater packages.

The best media player soundbar

Roku Streambar front

The Roku Streambar is a compact soundbar and streaming video player in one convenient device.

Pros: Affordable, solid stereo playback, compact design, 4K HDR video streaming, includes a voice remote

Cons: Audio performance isn’t as good as bigger soundbars, doesn’t include a separate subwoofer, no Dolby Vision support

If you happen to be in the market for a soundbar and a new streaming media player, then the Roku Streambar could be the convenient all-in-one device you’re looking for. Not only is the Streambar smaller than any other soundbar on our list, but it also includes integrated support for streaming all your favorite video apps.

When it comes to audio performance, the 2.0-channel soundbar features four 1.9-inch full range drivers for basic stereo playback. There are no fancy virtualization options for simulated surround sound, and there’s no included subwoofer for extra bass — but the Streambar sounds surprisingly engaging for a device its size.

To be clear, you won’t get the range or separation you’d get on a bigger soundbar model, but the Streambar still offers a nice upgrade over most built-in TV speakers. Its compact design also makes it an ideal fit for apartments, dorms, and bedrooms.

As a media player, the Streambar provides access to Roku’s extensive library of channels, including popular services like Netflix, Disney Plus, Prime Video, Hulu, and more. You also get support for up to 4K playback with high dynamic range using the standard HDR10 format.  

Roku’s handy voice remote is included as well, enabling you to easily search for content. Though digital assistant functionality isn’t built-in, the bar is compatible with separate Alexa and Google Assistant devices.

There are other soundbars on the market with built-in video playback, but the Streambar‘s compact size, affordable price tag, and reliable Roku interface make it our favorite of the bunch.

What you should look for in a soundbar

Yamaha YAS 209 soundbar lifestyle

When choosing a soundbar, there are several key factors you should pay close attention to.

Speaker channels

In particular, it’s important to note how many audio playback channels a soundbar supports. Channels essentially refer to audio separation, letting you know how many directions sound can from with your device.

Channel specifications are listed as a string of up to three numbers separated by decimal points. The first number represents how many standard ear-level channels are included (left, right, center, surrounds). The second number indicates if the device includes a dedicated low-frequency channel or separate subwoofer for extra bass. The final number indicates how many height channels are included for Dolby Atmos support.

A few common channel configurations found on soundbars include:

  • 2.0-channel: This kind of soundbar includes two channels for basic left and right stereo audio separation.
  • 2.1-channel: Like the above but includes a built-in low-frequency channel or a separate subwoofer unit for dedicated bass. 
  • 3.1-channel: In addition to left, right, and low-frequency channels, a 3.1-channel soundbar also features a center channel for dialogue when watching movies.
  • 5.1-channel: Soundbars with more than three channels step things up through the addition of surround sound. These extra channels can be simulated via special acoustic and virtualization techniques, or they can be physically added through separate satellite speakers meant to be placed behind or to the side of your listening position.
  • 5.1.2-channel and above: Soundbars that have a third channel designation include support for Dolby Atmos and/or DTS:X audio. This means they feature special virtualization or upfiring speaker drivers designed to simulate the effect of sound coming from above. The final number in the sequence specifies how many overhead channels are included.  

Buyers who just want a simple upgrade from their TV’s integrated audio will likely be satisfied with a compact 2.0 or 2.1 soundbar system. If you’re looking for a more complete home theater experience, however, you’ll want to opt for a 3.1 system or above.

Wired connections

Beyond channel support, connectivity is another key factor you should look at when buying a soundbar. Most include standard wired audio ports for connecting to a TV or other media device. The most common connections are Toslink optical and HDMI ARC.

Many soundbars also feature video passthrough capabilities via one or more additional HDMI ports. This allows you to connect a separate media device, like a Blu-ray player, to the soundbar via its HDMI in. The HDMI out connection from your soundbar to your TV then allows the media device’s video to appear on your display.

Wireless connectivity

In addition to wired ports, most soundbars also now support wireless connectivity, including Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. These features enable easy music streaming from a mobile device or music service like Spotify, Tidal, or Apple Music.

Some wireless soundbar models also support multi-room audio playback, enabling them to pair with other audio products throughout your home. Popular multi-room connectivity formats include Yamaha MusicCast, Apple AirPlay 2, DTS Play-Fi, Sonos, and more. In order to pair your soundbar with another multi-room audio product, both devices will need to include support for the same multi-room format.  

Smart features

Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant functionality are becoming more common as well, giving select soundbars integrated hands-free voice control and digital assistant support. This is an especially nice feature to have for buyers who don’t already own a smart speaker.

A few soundbar models even include integrated video streaming capabilities. Though a dedicated streaming stick or box will still offer the best performance, a media player soundbar can be a convenient purchase for people who don’t have a smart TV.

The best deals on soundbars from this guide

Vizio Elevate Dolby Atmos soundbar

Soundbars go on sale every week, but some discounts are better than others. Though we tend to see the best prices during events like Black FridayCyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day, many retailers offer worthwhile deals throughout the year.

Below, we’ve rounded up the best deals currently available on some of our top soundbar recommendations, so you’ll be sure you’re getting a great value.

YAS-209 Soundbar (small, Preferred: Amazon)Elevate 5.1.4 Soundbar (small, Preferred: Amazon)Streambar 2020 (small, Preferred: Amazon)

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

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The 7 best cheap headphones in 2021 – all under $50

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Audiophiles will happily spend a ton of money on high-end headphones, but most people don’t want to drop several hundred dollars on a pair. Even audio enthusiasts will admit that inexpensive headphones have come a long way in recent years.

In the budget-friendly range, you shouldn’t get into the weeds with technical specifications like frequency response – these are more of a concern with high-end gear. At lower price points, your primary considerations should be durability and sound quality: Your headphones should be well-built enough to withstand regular use and should offer good sound for casual listening.

With these criteria in mind, we’ve selected the best affordable headphones you can get right now. Our top picks include a variety of styles, like over-ear, on-ear, wireless, wireless earbuds, and gaming headphones.

Here are the best cheap headphones you can buy:

The best cheap headphones overall

headphones bluetooth

Bluetooth headphones can be hit or miss, but the wireless Mpow 059 offer a surprising level of comfort and sound quality at an incredible price point.

Pros: Folding design, sound is surprisingly good for a pair wireless headphones, cable for wired use, strong value

Cons: Wireless sound signal won’t be as deep or detailed as a wired connection, the mic is only usable in Bluetooth mode

One of the most popular applications for Bluetooth connectivity is headphones. In the past, wireless headphones have been rather hit or miss, but today’s Bluetooth headphones, like the top-rated Mpow 059, are head and shoulders above those of yesteryear.

In terms of design, the Mpow 059 don’t re-invent the wheel. They feature two 40mm neodymium magnet drivers and a full-size over-ear design with rotating padded ear cups and an adjustable cushioned headband. The 059 also include a convenient built-in mic for hands-free calling when synced to your phone, and the earpieces fold inwards for added portability.

What sets the Mpow 059 apart from other inexpensive headphones is that what they do, they do quite well, delivering good wireless sound along with a sleek design and solid build. One really nice touch is that you can actually use the Mpow 059 as wired headphones with the included cable. When used wirelessly, the Mpow 059 draw power from an integrated 420mAh battery for around 13 hours of juice.

For this price range, the Mpow 059 headphones represent an excellent value given their sound quality, great design, and wireless convenience.

The best cheap true wireless earbuds

JLab Audio JBuds Air

The JLab Audio JBuds Air offer a truly wireless design, are relatively comfortable, and sound pretty good too.

Pros: Well designed, great sound, very inexpensive

Cons: Buttons can be tricky, some connectivity issues

True wireless earbuds have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and thankfully, there are some great options out there on a budget. The JLab Audio JBuds Air offer a comfortable, secure fit, great sound, and a very reasonable price tag.

The headphones have plenty of bass response, a decently tuned midrange, and solid clarity in the high end, especially for a pair of headphones in this price range. 

The earbuds are pretty comfortable, too. While they’re not as reliable at staying in your ears as the company’s more expensive headphones, they’re still good at staying put during day-to-day use. And, you’ll get a battery life of six hours on a single charge, and the battery case will get you an extra 18 hours, bringing the total to 24 hours. 

The JLab Audio JBuds Air aren’t perfect. Some reviewers found the buttons were a little tricky to use, and that they sometimes remained connected to your phone even in the battery case. Still, considering the price, those issues are relatively minor. — Christian de Looper

The best cheap wired headphones

Audio Technica ATH M20x 1

If you’re looking for a well-made pair of entry-level headphones that sound great, the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x are more than up to the task.

Pros: Well-made, comfortable, great sound for the price, sturdy 3.5mm cable comes with a 6.3mm adapter

Cons: Bass response is lacking compared to more expensive models

Audio-Technica is one of the biggest names in the world of studio-quality headphones. The company offers a big lineup of professional-grade cans that will set you back hundreds of dollars, but it also makes a variety of affordable alternatives, including the ATH-M20x over-ear headphones.

The ATH-M20x are designed to be an entry-level pair of studio headphones and they feature a full-sized over-ear design with 40mm drivers. 

They work great with phones, but when hooked up to a PC or TV, the ATH-M20x really shine. They deliver excellent sound quality in the high and mid ranges, with sufficient impedance to eliminate annoying interference (like faint buzzing) when hooked up to your electronics. The sound is clear, crisp, and accurate, but don’t expect super-deep bass.

The cushioned headband and leatherette-covered padded ear cups are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, and the cups also provide good noise isolation that filters out the majority of ambient sounds and won’t bother others around you unless you’re really cranking up the volume.

The ATH-M20x could be considered the little sibling of Audio-Technica’s ATH series, as these are essentially a budget-friendly alternative to the M40x and M50x — two highly rated headphones that cost more. But, for about half the price of the M40x, the ATH-M20x are an incredible value.

The best cheap on-ear headphones

Koss Porta Pro 2

If you’re looking to ditch your earbuds for something beefier but still portable, then look no further than the Koss PortaPro.

Pros: Impressive sound quality for size, lightweight and comfortable, folding design is super-portable

Cons: The on-ear design doesn’t isolate noise

When it comes to portable on-ear headphones, one pair stands above the rest: The famous Koss PortaPro. The PortaPro have been around for decades and have earned something of a legendary status among the head-fi crowd. This fame is owed to their impressive output relative to their small size and low cost. They’re not going to put out the same deep sound as a pair of over-ear studio headphones, but the PortaPro nonetheless punch well above their weight in the audio department.

The on-ear pads are connected to a slim, flexible metal headband. This headband features a simple slide adjustment, and the plastic ear pieces fold inwards for portability. The lightweight construction might take some getting used, but the PortaPros are surprisingly durable.

The PortaPro also shine when it comes to sound quality. The lows, mids, and highs are all punchy and responsive. Just bear in mind that the on-ear design won’t isolate noise as well as over-ear headphones. If you like to crank the volume, others are going to hear it.

The Koss PortaPro might just be the perfect pair of travel headphones and they’re a solid value. If you’re willing to pay a bit more, you can even buy a version with Bluetooth support for wireless listening.

The best cheap gaming headphones

HyperX Cloud Stinger

Kingston’s excellent HyperX Cloud Stinger offers everything you need for intense gaming sessions without cutting corners.

Pros: Outperforms similar headsets in its price range, comfortable design, good audio and microphone quality, compatible with all modern gaming platforms

Cons: The microphone folds up but cannot be removed

Gaming headsets have something of a bad rap among the audiophile community. Yet, these headsets have improved considerably in recent years, with brands like Kingston releasing impressive models, like the excellent HyperX Cloud series.

Our pick, the Cloud Stinger, is Kingston’s budget-focused HyperX model. One of the reasons gaming headsets get the side-eye from audio enthusiasts is because the built-in mic means that makers have to pack more electronics into the housing, potentially causing sound quality to suffer. The Cloud Stinger doesn’t skimp on hardware, however, with beefy 50mm directional drivers that deliver big sound.

The drivers are contained in large rotating memory foam ear cups that are comfortable enough for hours of gaming. The padded headband is adjustable via a steel slider, and while the rest of the headphone housing is polymer, it feels durable without being too heavy.

Although the drivers are large, they’re fairly basic, and the sound quality is very good but not mind-blowing. You’re simply going to have to spend a lot more money if you want super-detailed studio-quality sound. The directional drivers make it easy to pick up in-game environmental details and they also isolate noise very well.

The microphone feels very sturdy but you can’t remove it when you’re just using the Stinger as normal headphones. It simply folds up out of the way. For the price, however, it’s hard to find fault with the HyperX Cloud Stinger.

The best cheap wireless earbuds

iFrogz

The iFrogz Impulse Duo headphones deliver good sound quality for the price.

Pros: Excellent design, affordable, Bluetooth connection

Cons: The sound quality isn’t as good as other options on this list

Besides sounding pretty good for the price, the reason iFrogz Impulse Duo earbuds made the cut over all the other budget earbuds we’ve tried is their design.

The dual driver construction is what gives these earbuds an audio-edge over the competition. But mostly, these earbuds succeed where most Bluetooth models fail: Instead of having all of their technology built into an unwieldy dongle that hangs off the cable connecting both buds, iFrogz built it all into a magnetic clip.

Clip the dongle onto your clothes, pop in the earbuds, and you’re ready to listen to music. In terms of audio quality, you shouldn’t expect an audiophile experience at this price point, but don’t expect a bad one, either. These are actually the upgraded version of the earbuds iFrogz previously released, and while the design is the same, time was spent in improving the sound quality.

I’ll put it to you this way. These headphones are so easy to use that they’re my go-to pair between reviews. It’s just so convenient to coil them up and pop them in my pocket after a commute. — Brandt Ranj

The best cheap wired earbuds

Panasonic ErgoFit

The Panasonic ErgoFit earbuds are about as basic as a pair of wired earbuds headphones can be, but they feature surprisingly good sound quality.

Pros: Impressive value, comfortable fit, integrated microphone and call remote

Cons: Some build quality issues, audio performance is good for the price but not on par with more expensive earbuds

If you don’t mind a fully wired design, it’s hard to ignore the value that Panasonic’s ErgoFit earbuds provide. Sure, you don’t get Bluetooth playback and you do have to deal with wires running down your ears, but when it comes to in-ear headphones in this price range, few can compete with the overall quality of the ErgoFit.

Each earbuds uses a 9mm neodymium magnet driver, and the resulting sound is very solid for the price. To be clear, you won’t get anything near audiophile-quality, but reviews from Tom’s Guide and Reviewed both note the ErgoFit’s deep bass performance. Though overall clarity is only decent, the earbuds offer a lot for very little.

The ErgoFit earbuds don’t provide much in the way of extra features, but the headphones do include an integrated microphone and call remote for easy use with smartphones. You still won’t get the convenience of a Bluetooth wireless connection, but the mic is a nice inclusion. 

Overall build quality is nothing to get excited about, but that’s to be expected for such a budget-friendly headphone model. If you want to save even more, Panasonic also has a version of the ErgoFit without the microphone and remote for an even lower price. 

What else we considered

The Soundpeats T2 wireless earbuds are incredibly affordable and sound surprisingly good for their price. They also come with active noise cancellation, but don't expect premium Bose performance.

We’d feel remiss if we didn’t mention the SoundPeats T2 wireless earbuds as an upgrade option over the JLab Audio JBuds Air if you’re willing to spend $60.

The T2 have surprisingly good sound quality and feature active noise cancellation (ANC) as the justification for their higher price tag. At $60, the T2 are an easy recommendation if you’re looking for cheap-enough wireless earbuds with ANC. You’re not getting the best noise cancellation, but it’s still better than no noise cancellation.

How to shop for headphones

WH-1000XM4 headphones lifestyle

Headphones are available in a variety of styles and sizes specifically designed to suit different needs. A large pair of over-ear headphones, for instance, can offer impressive sound quality for listening at home, but they’re not ideal for portability.

Below, we’ve detailed some common headphone types, explaining the basic advantages and disadvantages of each style. Wired and wireless options are available for all of the headphone types we’ve listed.

Over-ear headphones: This style of headphone features large ear cups that are designed to rest over your ears to create a seal around them. Over-ear headphones are typically capable of offering better sound performance and noise isolation than other headphone types. On the downside, they tend to be larger and less portable. 

On-ear headphones: Like over-ear headphones, on-ear models also feature ear cups, but instead of completely covering your ear with a seal, they simply rest on top of your ears. Though they can still provide good audio, this design makes them less suitable for isolating outside noise. However, on-ear models can be more compact than over-ear models.

Earbuds: Unlike on-ear and over-ear models, earbuds are compact headphones with separate left and right buds that can be designed to either rest just outside your ear canal or be inserted inside. In-ear buds can feature different size tips to better fit different ear shapes, allowing them to create a tight in-ear seal for better sound and noise isolation. Some earbuds feature a wire to connect the left and right buds together, while true wireless models are completely free of cables. This design makes earbuds great for portability and use with smartphones.  

Gaming headset: Designed for use with video game consoles and computers, gaming headsets include an integrated microphone for online multiplayer chat, allowing you to communicate with other players. Headsets can be on-ear or over-ear, and certain models feature support for advanced surround sound processing and 3D audio formats. Some gaming headsets are built for specific platforms while others feature universal compatibility with multiple systems. 

The best deals on budget-friendly headphones from this guide

While it’s tempting to pick up a pair of headphones for dirt cheap, it’s also easy to spend your money on a pair that doesn’t sound very good, or isn’t very comfortable. We tested several pairs of headphones to find the ones that are an especially good value.

Better still, headphones see discounts all the time; picks like the Koss Porta Pro and HyperX Cloud Stinger are usually available for $5 to $10 less than retail, year-round. You can also look forward to deeper discounts during Black FridayCyber Monday, and Prime Day. 

We’ve rounded up the best deals on budget-friendly headphones below.

059 Bluetooth Headphones Over Ear (small, Preferred: Walmart)Porta Pro (small, Preferred: Amazon)JBuds Air (small, Preferred: Walmart)Impulse Duo Headphones (small, Preferred: Amazon)Cloud Stinger Gaming Headset (small, Preferred: Amazon)

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

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The 6 best webcams of 2021 for work or fun

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

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

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

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

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

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

Here are the best webcams you can buy

Our testing methodology

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

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

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

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

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

The best webcam overall

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best webcam for video quality

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

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

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

Cons: Expensive

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

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

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

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

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

The best budget webcam

A closeup of the Logi C270HD attached to a computer

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

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

Cons: Only 720p resolution, mount lacks versatility

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best premium webcam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The best webcam for streaming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What should you look for when buying a webcam?

Field of view

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

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

Resolution 

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

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

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

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

Windows Hello compatibility

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

AI Auto-Focus

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

Tripod mounting

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

Can you use a smartphone instead of a webcam?

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

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

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

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

Can you use a digital camera instead of a webcam?

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

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

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

What else we considered

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

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

What we look forward to testing

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

  • Elgato Facecam ($199.99): The Elgato Facecam targets streamers and content creators. Its specifications and construction mirror the Razer Kiyo Pro. Both capture 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second and include a Sony Starvis image sensor tuned for low light performance (the Dell Ultrasharp Webcam also uses this sensor). It does not include a microphone.
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The best iPad cases in 2021 for every situation

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

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

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

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

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

Here are the best iPad cases of 2021:

The best overall iPad cases

iPad Pro 11 2021 Ascend Trifold Hard Case in black

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

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

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

The version for the 10.2-inch iPad costs $30.99, while the enhanced 11-inch iPad Pro models cost $68.99 – which makes this one of the most expensive cases in ESR’s lineup. The company also offers a Rugged Protection Bundle for the 11-inch iPad Pro for $70.34  which includes the Sentry case, along with a reinforced tempered-glass screen protector.

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

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

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

Worth a look:

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

Apple Magic Keyboard case for iPad in black

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

Apple products usually come at a premium, and that’s no different with its iPad cases. Apple’s cases are expensive, but also sleek and functional. 

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

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

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

The only downside to the Magic Keyboard – aside from its high starting price – is that it lacks any protection on the sides of the iPad. There are other worthy keyboard cases on the market that address this problem, but few are as well-made as the Magic Keyboard.

Worth a look:

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

Logitech combo touch keyboard case ipad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth a look:

Combo Touch (small)
The best iPad case for protection

otterbox ipad case

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth a look: 

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

Zugu iPad Pro case in black

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

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

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

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

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

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

Worth a look: 

iPad Pro 12.9 (5th Gen) Case (small)
Our methodology

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

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

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

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

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

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

What to consider when buying an iPad case

Compatibility

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

Apple currently sells five different iPad models:

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

Features

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

Budget

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

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