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. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best Kindles and e-readers we tested in 2021

  • We read novel after novel on several e-readers and Amazon Kindles to find the best e-readers at every price point.
  • A few page-turners later, we found that the Amazon Kindle Oasis remains the absolute best e-reader you can buy in 2021.
  • We also recommend more affordable Kindles and e-readers from Kobo, Amazon’s main competitor.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

To a bookworm, there is no greater pleasure in life than diving into a good book. Although many people still prefer paperbacks, there are those who simply prefer ebooks and e-readers.

Ebook readers have come quite a long way since Amazon’s first Kindle came out in 2007. They are now much faster and more compact. Amazon still offers the widest range of e-readers, but its main competitor, Kobo, has a lot of great e-readers available, too. There is a big difference between the two when it comes to ebook file support – check our FAQ before you commit to one or the other.

I’ve been testing e-readers since 2014 as a tech journalist and book worm. In that time, I’ve tested every new Kindle and Kobo that has hit the market to find the best ones for all kinds of readers. Whether you love page-turning buttons, enjoy reading in the bath, or just want a cheap e-reader for travel, there’s one for you in our buying guide.

Note that all Kindles come in two versions: with special offers and without. If you choose the ones with special offers, you will see ads on the lock screen and potentially elsewhere, but you will save some cash upfront.

Here are the best e-readers and Kindles:

The best e-reader overall

Kindle Oasis

Amazon revolutionized the e-reader with the Kindle Oasis‘ daring design, great page-turn buttons, sharp screen, and giant ebook library.

Pros: Bright screen, page-turning buttons, thin and modern design, robust Kindle ebook store, easy library book access, waterproof, works with Audible

Cons: No EPUB file support and it’s expensive

Although the Paperwhite and Kindle are more budget friendly, Amazon’s Kindle Oasis remains the best e-reader I’ve ever tested. It’s the one I use every day when I’m not testing new contenders.

The Oasis has a modern design that removes the rubbery bezels around the screen and leaves you with a panel of glass and a 7-inch E-Ink screen. The new model is even thinner than the first Oasis and it’s waterproof. 

The asymmetrical design puts two page-turning buttons on the slightly thicker side of the e-reader along with the battery. On the opposite side, the bezel is super thin, as is the e-reader’s body. It is light and easy to hold during hours of reading.

The new adjustable color temperature screen limits the blue light that filters through, which can help prevent eyestrain and sleep disruptions if you’re reading at night. 

Amazon’s Kindle ebook library is very robust, its $9.99/month Kindle Unlimited subscription lets you read as many ebooks as you want. For a limited time, you can get a 2-month subscription of Kindle Unlimited for $5, or 75% off, or a free 30-day trial. Prime Members can also enjoy a selection of free ebooks each month and library books are easy to download once you’ve linked your library card. 

You can also pair the e-reader with Bluetooth headphones to listen to Audible audiobooks.

Kindle Unlimited (Monthly price after free trial) (small)
The best budget Kindle

kindle basic

Amazon updated its basic Kindle, and now that it has a front light, it’s the perfect e-reader for anyone who is on a budget.

Pros: It’s affordable, big Kindle ebook store, long battery life, a good option for kids, front light lets you read in the dark

Cons: A lower-resolution screen, not waterproof

Amazon’s basic Kindle is a great bargain. It may not have the highest resolution screen or water resistance, but it’s still a good e-reader for budget hunters and parents. After years of testing, this basic Kindle still performs perfectly and is a great reading device.

The Kindle comes in both black and white colors. Although the white color is nice, we’ve found that the black one holds up better over time. 

It’s the lightest Kindle in Amazon’s lineup, so it’s very comfortable to hold while reading. The 6-inch screen isn’t as crisp or bright as the Paperwhite’s, so if you have a little more to spend, we recommend you upgrade to the Paperwhite. However, the basic Kindle’s screen is just fine and the built-in front light lets you read at night without having to turn on the lights.

Amazon’s Kindle ebook library has great variety. If you read a lot, the $9.99/month Kindle Unlimited subscription service lets you read as many ebooks as you want. For a limited time, you can get a 2-month subscription of Kindle Unlimited for $5, or 75% off, or a free 30-day trial. Prime Members also get a selection of free ebook titles each month and you can link your library card to borrow ebooks.

Thanks to Bluetooth, you can listen to Audible books from it when you pair wireless headphones. 

Kindle Unlimited (Monthly price after free trial) (small)

 

The best budget e-reader

kobo clara hd

The Kobo Clara HD is an affordable Kindle alternative that supports more ebook formats and has a blue light blocking mode to protect your eyes.

Pros: Supports wide range of book formats, affordable, good size, 

Cons: Slightly pricier than budget Kindle, doesn’t support Kindle files

If you want an affordable ebook reader that supports a wider variety of ebook formats, Kobo’s Clara HD is the e-reader for you. The new Kobo Nia may be a bit cheaper, but it doesn’t perform as well as the Clara HD.

In my testing, this was the clear winner for an e-reader alternative for people who do not want to buy a Kindle.

Its 6-inch screen has a 300-ppi resolution so text is sharp and crisp, plus, the Clara features Kobo’s special ComfortLight PRO tech, which reduces blue light so reading before bed doesn’t disturb your sleep. The Clara HD weighs only 166 grams, so I found it comfortable to hold for long reading periods.

Kobo’s e-readers support 14 file formats, including EPUB, EPUB3, PDF, MOBI, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, TIFF, TXT, HTML, RTF, CBZ, and CBR. You can also read ebooks in several languages, including English, French, German, Spanish, Dutch, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Japanese, and Turkish.

Some ebooks won’t work, of course, so if you own titles from Amazon’s Kindle store or Apple’s iBooks store, don’t buy this e-reader. Otherwise, Kobo has its own bookstore with more than five million titles to supplement your collection. Borrowing from the library is also effortless, thanks to the app Overdrive, which is built into the e-reader.

The best mid-range Kindle

Amazon Kindle

Amazon’s waterproof Kindle Paperwhite sits in the middle of the Kindle lineup with a sharp 6-inch screen and lots of excellent ebooks.

Pros: Sharp screen, tons of ebooks in Kindle Store, lightweight design, grippy rubber finish, long battery life, Bluetooth for Audible audiobooks

Cons: No EPUB file support

If you want a Kindle but you don’t want to pay top dollar for the Kindle Oasis, the waterproof Kindle Paperwhite is the answer. It’s less than half the price, and if you manage to grab it when it’s on sale, you’ll pay even less.

The Paperwhite has a super sharp 6-inch E Ink screen that’s great for reading. There aren’t any page-turning buttons, so if you hate swiping to turn the page, you ought to get the Oasis instead. The grippy rubber finish makes it easy to hold for hours on end.

When we tested the new Paperwhite, we were impressed with the crisp screen and how bright it was. I still periodically use the Paperwhite to test it, and it’s held up well over time.

Amazon’s Kindle ebook library is robust. If you read more than one ebook a month, you might also want to get the $9.99/month Kindle Unlimited subscription service to read as many ebooks as you want. For a limited time, you can get a 2-month subscription of Kindle Unlimited for $5, or 75% off, or a free 30-day trial

Additionally, Prime Members can access a selection of free ebooks each month. Library books are also easy to download after linking a library card.

It has Bluetooth as well, so you can listen to Audible books from the Paperwhite when you pair it with wireless headphones. 

Kindle Unlimited (Monthly price after free trial) (small)
The best big-screen e-reader

kobo forma

You can read in the bath with the water-resistant Kobo Forma and enjoy your favorite books on its big 8-inch screen.

Pros: Water-resistant design, big screen, blue-light filter, supports EPUB formats, easy to get library books with OneDrive integration, supports graphic novels, and long battery life, page-turning buttons

Cons: It’s pricey and there’s no ebook subscription service

You’ll want to get your hands on the Kobo Forma if you’re not an Amazon user, you typically own EPUB ebooks, you enjoy reading graphic novels, or you want to have access to more file types on your e-reader.

You’re not limited to ebooks from Kobo’s store, either. As long as the file type is supported by Kobo, you can drag and drop the content from your computer onto the Kobo when they’re connected with a USB-to-Micro-USB cable. The Forma even has the popular library app OneDrive pre-installed, so you can easily connect your library account on your e-reader. 

Perhaps the best thing about the Kobo Forma is that it is water-resistant enough to take in the bath or to the beach. 

The large 8-inch screen is crisp, sharp, and even offers a blue-light filter to help minimize the amount of blue light the screen emits. This can help lessen eye strain and sleep disruptions.

The Forma also has page-turning buttons like the Kindle Oasis, which make it easier to read one-handed. It’s also the thinnest ebook-reader Kobo makes, so it’s very portable.

What else we considered

Kobo Libra H2O e reader on bookshelf wide view

I’ve tested ebook readers since 2014 during my time as a tech journalist. Over the years, I’ve tested dozens of e-readers by Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. Here are the other e-readers we considered for this guide, and why they didn’t make the cut.

Other e-readers we recommend:

Kobo Libra H2O: Its 7-inch Carta E-Ink touchscreen is manageable to hold, and the screen is super sharp with a 300 pixel-per-inch pixel density that mimics print. It’s waterproof and more affordable than the Kobo Forma, though pricier than the entry-level Clara HD and Nia.

Amazon Kindle Kids’ Edition: The kids’ version of Amazon popular basic Kindle is more or less the same, but it comes with a special kids’ case, a year’s subscription to Amazon Kids+ (FreeTime Unlimited), and two-year guarantee that covers damage. For parents, these kid-friendly features may be worth the extra money, but we still think the regular budget Kindle is good enough and it’s cheaper.

Kobo Nia: The Kobo Nia is an affordable Kindle alternative that supports more ebook formats and comes with enough storage to hold up 6,000 ebooks. It’s still a decent budget e-reader, but the resolution is lower, making the text less crisp, and it has a slower processor that can make searching for titles irritating. 

E-readers we don’t recommend:

Barnes & Noble Nook GlowLight 3: The downfall of the Nook is that it is tied to Barnes & Noble’s ebook store, which is not as robust or budget-friendly as the Kindle ebook store or the Kobo ebook store. The Nook is also more expensive than the entry-level Kindle and Kobo e-readers we recommend, but doesn’t have any cool features to justify the extra money.

Kobo Aura Edition 2: The Kobo Aura isn’t waterproof and it has half the amount of storage, so we recommend the Aura H20 Edition 2 instead. 

Sony Digital Paper: Sony’s Digital Paper is an expensive, but intriguing 10-inch e-reader that doubles as something of a smart notebook. It’s more of a smart notebook than an e-reader, though, and the price makes us hesitate to recommend it, even though it is certainly cool. 

Onyx Boox Nova Pro (currently unavailable): Like Sony Digital Paper, Onyx Boox straddles the line between e-reader and smart notebook. This one is 7.8-inches in size, so it’s smaller and cheaper than the Sony model. 

Older Kindles: Amazon has discontinued older Kindles like the Voyage, the 8th-gen Kindle without a backlight, and the original Oasis. Since they’re no longer available, we don’t recommend them.

How we test e-readers

kindle kids

To state the obvious, to test an e-reader, you need to read on it — a lot! But there is a lot more to it than just that. Here’s what we look for when we test e-readers.

  • Is it easy to set up?
  • Is it easy to get ebooks on the device to read?
  • How wide is the selection of compatible ebooks?
  • Can you get ebooks from other sources (like the library) on the device easily?
  • What special features does it have (Bluetooth for audiobooks, adjustable light, etc)?
  • How long does the battery last and how long does it take to recharge?
  • Is it comfortable to hold while reading for hours at a time?
  • Is the text clear and can it be enlarged as needed?
  • Is the screen bright enough to read in the dark?
  • If it’s rated for water resistance, does it survive a dunk in the tub?
  • Is it good to travel with, based on its durability, weight, and portability?

First, we set up the e-readers and download ebooks on them from a variety of sources, including the built-in ebook store, the library, Project Gutenberg, PDFs, and articles online. We note how easy or difficult the process is and we pay attention to the ebook selection available to ensure that popular titles and classics are readily available.

Then, we read on them until we run out of battery, paying attention to how long that takes, using the brightness setting recommended by the manufacturer. We then charge the e-readers and time how long they take to recharge.

After that, we check how long the battery lasts when we read at whatever brightness we need for however long we like to see how the e-readers handle extreme book reading binges. We also test special features like adjustable lighting, Bluetooth audiobooks, and so on.

If an e-reader claims to be water resistant, we test the claim by dunking it in a tub of water for the time it’s rated to withstand. For further durability tests, we travel around with the e-readers in our work bags and travel bags without cases. We also drop them from the height of a bed, chair, and table to see how they handle falling.

The most important test is obviously what it’s like to read on the e-reader, but all these other factors matter, too.

E-reader FAQs

Is Kindle or Kobo better?

Kindle and Kobo are both excellent e-readers. They are fairly evenly matched in terms of features, book selection, and hardware pricing. The main advantage of Kobo is that it supports the more readily available EPUB format natively, while Kindle does not. It is also easier to borrow ebooks on a Kobo e-reader with OverDrive integration. If you do not want to buy ebooks from Amazon, you already have a collection of EPUB-format ebooks, or you prefer library books, Kobo is the better option for you. Alternatively, if you already have Amazon’s Kindle ebooks, Kindles are the better choice because Amazon’s ebook format is not supported on the Kobo e-readers. It is also really easy to get library books on Kindle, though it does take an extra step.

Should I get an e-reader or a tablet?

If you read regularly, you should get an e-reader instead of a tablet. Not only do e-readers have E INK screens that are easier on the eye, but they also provide zero distractions from your reading material. When you read on a tablet, it’s easy to get distracted, go check email, hop on social media, and lose your focus while reading. E-readers also have longer battery life so you can read more between charges. However, know that all the platforms offer an app for iOS, Android, and more, which means you can put down an e-reader before you go to bed and continue reading on your phone, tablet, or computer during a lunch break.

What is the best e-reader for library books?

Kobo’s e-readers are the best e-readers for library books. They have a library book borrowing app called OverDrive installed so it’s super easy to download library books for free. However, it is also very easy to borrow ebooks on a Kindle, too. It just takes a few extra steps.

What is the cheapest ebook reader?

The Kindle is the cheapest ebook reader we recommend in our guide. Its full retail price is $90 and it frequently goes on sale or less. Kobo also has a cheap e-reader called the Kobo Nia for $100 full retail price, but we recommend spending a bit more on the Kobo Clara HD, which costs $110 full retail price, if you prefer a Kobo to a Kindle.

Is there a color e-reader?

Yes, there are a few, but they are harder to find and buy in the US. Color e-readers are still in their infancy and the colors displayed do not rival those of the LCD or OLED screens on phones and tablets. The site Good EReader lists several color e-reader options, some of which you can buy through its online store. I have not yet tested any of these e-readers.

The best deals on e-readers and Kindles from this guide

E-readers make reading easy. They can fit an entire library and don’t need to be charged for weeks. Better still, these devices are now pretty affordable and see discounts of up to $20 regularly — for all-time lows, you’ll need to wait for Amazon Prime Day or Black Friday. Last year, we saw our top pick, the Kindle Oasis, drop to $175, a huge $75 discount.  

To save money on your favorite reads — we rounded up the best deals on our favorite e-readers below. After testing a bunch, we’re recommending our top e-readers below, with savings of up to 21%. 

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

Read our top Kindle how-tos for more tips and tricks

Kobo Nia e reader
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best home theater systems of 2021 for immersive surround sound

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A home theater system can create an immersive movie-watching experience with surround sound.
  • Compact systems offer convenience, while larger speakers with AV receivers perform the best.
  • Polk’s T Series is our top pick thanks to its impressive performance and affordable price.

Speakers built into your TV are fine for casual viewing, but if you’re looking for an immersive audio experience, you’re going to want to upgrade to an actual home theater system. Home theater systems include multiple speakers and support for surround sound, enabling you to hear movie soundtracks the way they’re meant to be heard: with effects moving throughout your room.

Most home theater systems also include subwoofers for dedicated bass, bringing more impact and rumble to explosions in action movies. An AV receiver is often required as well. The AV receiver is used to power and process your speakers, and many receivers also serve as a connection hub to hook up multiple HDMI devices to your TV.

Though buyers who want high-end systems will typically have to piece together all of these components and purchase them separately, some companies and retailers bundle everything you need in one handy package. If you want an even simpler solution, a multi-speaker soundbar system might be a good fit. Though performance isn’t on par with a genuine speaker setup, soundbar systems don’t require separate AV receivers. For those who want a no-fuss, plug-and-play home theater, a soundbar package is the way to go.

With all of these different options to consider, figuring exactly what type of home theater system works best for your needs can be complicated. Thankfully, we’re here to help simplify the process. I’ve been reviewing home theater gear for nine years, and through hands-on testing and research, I’ve selected the best home theater systems you can buy for a variety of budgets and room sizes.

Note: Some of our picks include AV receivers or built-in amplification, but if an amp isn’t included, we’ve provided a link to a recommended model.

Here are the best home theater systems you can buy:

The best home theater system overall

Polk Audio T series speaker system
Polk T Series 5.1 system

The Polk T Series 5.1 speaker system is a full-fledged home theater package with a surprisingly affordable price tag. 

Pros: impressive performance for the price, floorstanding speakers, 10-inch subwoofer

Cons: Requires a receiver, doesn’t include Dolby Atmos speakers 

Polk’s T Series has long been considered one of the best home theater packages for the money. The system was designed to compete with one of my all-time favorite speaker packages, the Pioneer SP-PK52FS, and it offers similar performance. 

Though I think Pioneer’s speakers have a slight edge, they’re no longer available. And while our previous pick in this category, the Onkyo HT-S7800, offers the added convenience of built-in Atmos support and an included receiver, that system is also completely sold out. 

When it comes to readily available home theater speakers, the Polk T Series is nearly unmatched at this price point. Unlike a lot of other budget-friendly options, the T Series doesn’t just rely on bookshelf speakers. Instead, you actually get floorstanding speakers for the front left and right channels, along with a 10-inch subwoofer that should provide ample bass. 

Reviews for the T Series have been positive. Sound and Vision gives the system an 8/10 and praises the audio quality, saying “the T50 towers deliver the kind of performance that forces you to keep reminding yourself of just how affordable they are.” 

On the downside, these speakers do require a separate AV receiver for amplification and processing, which will add to your cost. To power all of the included speakers you’ll need a 5.1-channel receiver, and the Yamaha RX-V385 is an affordable option that should get the job done well. 

Yamaha RX-V385BL 5.1-channel receiver

Product Card (button)

Polk T Series 5.1 speaker system

The best budget home theater system

Vizio SB36512 F6 Soundbar System
Vizio 5.1 soundbar system

The Vizio Sb3651n-H6 Soundbar System delivers a surround sound experience in an affordable and convenient package.

Pros: Budget-friendly price, separate rear satellites, doesn’t require an AV receiver, Bluetooth streaming

Cons: Small subwoofer, doesn’t support Atmos, performance isn’t as immersive as bigger systems

Soundbars are convenient, but full surround sound setups are more immersive. So, what if you could combine the best of both worlds in a simple, budget-friendly package? That’s where the Vizio Sb3651n-H6 Soundbar System comes in. 

The Sb3651n-H6 is one of the most budget-friendly home theater soundbar options available, delivering a full 5.1-channel experience. This means there are left, center, and right channels in the soundbar itself, along with two separate rear speakers for true surround sound. A 5-inch wireless subwoofer is also included for dedicated bass.

Best of all, the soundbar handles amplification and processing itself so there’s no need to buy a costly receiver unit. The soundbar even includes an extra HDMI input so you can connect another device, like a game console or media player, in addition to your TV. Bluetooth is featured as well for wireless music streaming.

When watching movies and TV, the Sb3651n-H6 offers impressive performance for its price, creating an enveloping soundfield. The subwoofer is also decent for its size, but I’ve found that Vizio models tend to have some balance issues. It’s also important to keep in mind that the soundbar’s overall audio separation, depth, and  clarity can’t equal the quality found on bigger and more expensive systems. 

This is an entry-level audio solution designed for buyers on a budget with smaller rooms. In that context, it delivers great value, but it’s not suited for audiophiles.

The best mid-range home theater system

Focal system
Focal Sib Evo Dolby Atmos system

The Focal Sib Evo 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos system features a compact design and good performance — but you’ll need to buy a separate receiver.

Pros: Compact size, 5.1.2 system with Dolby Atmos speakers, immersive performance

Cons: Requires a separate AV receiver, dialogue sounds a little soft

Looking for a compact, mid-range speaker package with support for Dolby Atmos? The Focal Sib Evo speaker system is for you. The package includes five speakers plus a subwoofer, and the front left and right speakers even include upward firing drivers to create overhead sound.

It’s important to note that you’ll need to buy a separate AV receiver to use this system, and the receiver will need to support Dolby Atmos if you want to take advantage of everything the speakers have to offer. We recommend the Pioneer VSX-834 7.2-channel receiver as a great model with all the features you’ll need.

The speakers deliver truly fantastic sound, offering an enveloping 5.1.2 experience. The two upward firing drivers on the left and right speakers do a great job of bouncing Dolby Atmos effects off of the ceiling, making it really sound like audio is coming from above. The effect can be a little hit or miss, but the added drivers always help to expand the soundstage. 

On the downside, the compact size of the speakers can limit their performance just a tad. Dialogue, in particular, can sound a little soft from the center speaker. The subwoofer is a nice match for medium-sized rooms, but buyers looking for a home theater system to set up in a large space might crave a bit more oomph. 

Pioneer VSX-834 7.2-Channel AV Receiver

VSX-834 7.2-Channel AV Receiver (button)

Focal Sib Evo 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos system

The best high-end home theater system

Klipsch Reference Premiere 7.1.2 speaker system
Klipsch Reference Premiere Dolby Atmos system

If you can afford it, Klipsch’s Reference Premiere 7.1.2 speaker system is a home theater dream come true.

Pros: Incredible 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos audio performance for a true theater-like experience

Cons: Very expensive, large speakers require more space, needs a receiver for power and processing

All of the other home theater packages included in this guide are great performers in their own right, but Klipsch’s Reference Premiere 7.1.2 Dolby Atmos speaker system is on another level. Designed for true enthusiasts, this is the speaker package to buy if you want a full movie theater experience in your living room.

Though there are several different Reference Premiere speakers you can mix and match together, this particular 7.1.2 bundle includes a pair of RP-8060FA speakers with integrated upfiring drivers for Dolby Atmos height effects. In total, the system offers nine speaker channels — two more than our mid-range pick. You’ll need a 9-channel receiver to enable the full 7.1.2 experience, and we recommend the Denon AVR-X3700H for its reliability and packed set of features. 

Klipsch is well known for its proprietary Tractrix horn-loaded technology, and that audio tech is put to good use here. Performance is simply stunning, with range, clarity, imaging, and bass that outclass all of our less expensive recommendations. 

Of course, not everyone is going to have a room large enough to accommodate a setup like this, and only the most serious home theater enthusiasts will want to spend several thousand dollars on speakers. For those willing to make the investment, however, the Reference Premiere series is hard to beat. Expert reviews rave about the performance. High-Def Digest gave the speakers a 4.5/5, and called them “a sonic joy from top to bottom.”

Denon AVR-X3700H

Product Card (button)

Klipsch’s Reference Premiere 7.1.2 speaker system

The best wireless home theater system

Enclave CineHome II 5.1 speaker system
Enclave CineHome II 5.1 speaker system

The Enclave Audio CineHome II offers solid sound quality, but its main advantage is its wireless support.

Pros: Almost completely wireless, includes wireless receiver

Cons: No Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA support, each speaker needs a power outlet

There really isn’t a completely wireless home theater on the market yet, but the Enclave Audio CineHome II is about as close as it gets, allowing you to set up a surround sound system without any speaker wires.

To be clear, each speaker still needs to be plugged into a power outlet or strip, and you do still need to run an HDMI cable to your TV. What the CineHome II does save you from, however, is the hassle of having to run speaker wires to an AV receiver. Instead, the speakers all use WiSA (Wireless Speaker and Audio Association) technology to wirelessly connect to the included transmitter. The transmitter then acts as a hub, complete with an HDMI eARC port and an optical port to connect to your playback devices.

Together, the five speakers and 8-inch subwoofer offer solid audio performance, but sound quality won’t match comparably priced wired home theater systems. It should also be noted that the CineHome II system doesn’t support Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA audio formats. This means you can’t get full lossless audio from Blu-ray discs, but you’ll still get surround sound using standard Dolby and DTS processing. 

The CineHome II replaces our previous pick in this category, the older CineHome HD. The updated model features a more modern design, along with some new connectivity features, like eARC and support for adding even more speakers via modular upgrades that the company plans to offer.

How to choose a receiver

Klipsch Reference Premiere Center Channel Speakers Atmos

If you’re buying a home theater speaker package that requires a separate receiver, there are a few key factors you should look for when choosing a model. First, you’ll need to confirm how many speakers you plan to use in your setup. In general, the more speakers you have, the more enveloping your listening experience will be. More speakers, however, require more terminals on your receiver, so you’ll need to make sure your AV receiver includes the necessary connections and processing support.

To figure this out, you’ll need to take a look at the “channel” specification on your receiver. The number of channels a receiver supports correlates to the number of speakers you’ll be able to set up. Channel designations are listed as a string of up to three numbers separated by decimal points. The first number refers to standard ear-level speakers (left, right, center, surrounds). The second number indicates how many subwoofers are supported for dedicated bass. The final number describes how many height speakers you can connect for Dolby Atmos overhead audio.

For example, if you have a standard 5.1 surround sound speaker layout you’ll need a receiver with at least 5.1-channels. If you have a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos speaker arrangement, you’ll need a receiver with at least 9.1-channels. Dolby Atmos setups will also require a receiver with Dolby Atmos processing support. 

Other key features to look for in a receiver include support for lossless audio formats like Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD-MA. This feature is pretty standard on most receivers sold today. Many receivers also feature HDMI inputs for passing video from a streaming box, Blu-ray player, or game console to your TV. For the most comprehensive 4K HDR passthrough capabilities, you’ll want to find a receiver with support for at least the HDMI 2.0 standard. 

Finally, many receivers also include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless capabilities for easy music streaming from mobile devices. Some receivers even include voice control capabilities via separate Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant devices. Chromecast built-in, Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2, and DTS Play-Fi protocols are all supported on select models as well, so you’ll want to make sure that your receiver supports whatever format works best for your ecosystem.   

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best Chromebooks in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The Pixelbook Go performs like a premium laptop for just $650, making it our pick for best Chromebook.
  • But there are also several worthwhile Chromebooks available for half the price.
  • The low cost and ease-of-use make Chromebooks particularly great for students.

Chromebooks are easy to use and generally cost less than most Windows laptops, making them a great choice for anyone in need of a simple laptop for getting online. And they’re only growing more popular, as research firm Canalys reported that Chromebook shipments increased by a record-breaking 287% in the fourth quarter of 2020.

We’ve tested many Chromebooks over the years and have also conducted plenty of research to find the best ones. Whether you’re in need of a cheap laptop for casual browsing or a daily work machine, there are several great options worth considering depending on your budget.

But it’s also important to understand the ways in which Chromebooks are different from other laptops. Check out our guide to deciding whether a Chromebook is right for you.

Here are the best Chromebooks in 2021

The best Chromebook overall

Google Pixelbook Go

The Google Pixelbook Go is the best Chromebook pick overall for how it brings high-end, premium sensibilities to a much more affordable price point. With all-day battery life and an amazing keyboard, it’s the one to beat.

Pros: Excellent display, incredible keyboard, lightweight and slim, long battery life

Cons: Fanless CPU, pricey upgrades, no biometric login, small-capacity storage

Google’s latest Chromebook to date, the Pixelbook Go, is also the one we’d recommend to most people who want the quintessential Chromebook experience.

With its approachable starting price, the Pixelbook Go offers up a surprisingly premium mobile computing experience that comparable laptops don’t even bother to. For instance, the Pixelbook Go features a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel (1080p) touchscreen with an embedded 1080p webcam as well as 8GB of memory (RAM). Some of these features,  aren’t even seen on the new entry-level Dell XPS 13, which comes with a non-touch display and 720p webcam. 

Where the Pixelbook Go falls is storage, with just 64GB of space to start, relying heavily on the fact that Chromebooks utilize cloud storage via Google Drive (online connectivity required). Still, it’s more storage than most Chromebooks offer at this price point. Also, with a rated battery life of 12 hours, it’s one of the longest-lasting Chromebooks around.

We love the Pixelbook Go for its incredibly quiet and comfortable typing experience as well as how it brings high-end sensibilities to a more approachable price. At its starting price (our recommended configuration), this is the absolute best Chromebook for the price. However, if you’re considering the most expensive configuration — with an Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 4K Ultra HD display — we’d suggest looking for a flagship Windows or MacBook laptop instead.

The best value Chromebook

Samsung 4+

Samsung’s 15-inch Chromebook 4+ packs the most value into a budget laptop that we’ve ever seen, with many modern niceties for so much less than most laptops with similar features.

Pros: Decent display, long battery life, lots of ports

Cons: Small local storage, low amount of RAM

For those looking to squeeze the absolute most value possible from a Chromebook purchase, it’s difficult to beat the 15-inch Samsung Chromebook 4+. You’re getting an incredible amount of laptop for its asking price — no question.

What you get is a sleek, subtle platinum-colored frame housing a 15.6-inch, 1080p display, with power from an Intel Celeron CPU backed by 4GB of RAM and a 32GB SSD. That’s supported by two USB-C ports, one USB 3.0 port, and a microSD card reader — along with Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) and Bluetooth 4.0 — for connectivity.

All of this comes within a device that can last for up to 10 hours and 30 minutes on a single charge, and can search the web for you and answer questions with just your voice using Google Assistant. Save for biometric login and more local storage, there’s nothing else that this budget laptop leaves off the table.

If you’re a student looking for a new Chromebook before heading back to school in the fall, it’s worth checking out Samsung’s student discounts. The company offers a 10% education discount, which it says you can combine with other offers for savings of up to 30%.

The best 2-in-1 Chromebook

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 has a spacious screen and a sleek convertible design, making it a great choice for those who want a flexible yet affordable laptop.

Pros: Smooth performance, good port selection, great display

Cons: Speakers aren’t the best

The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is an affordable, lightweight 2-in-1 Chromebook with a tall 3:2 screen. That extra height makes Acer’s Chromebook a particularly strong choice for those who want a basic laptop with more screen space for work or entertainment.

Since it’s a convertible laptop, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713‘s display folds backwards so that it can be used as a tablet. Like many similar convertibles, the Chromebook Spin 713 can take on a few different forms thanks to its flexible design. 

For example, you can prop it up like a tent,  or tuck the keyboard under the display. Both modes are ideal for times when you just want to look at the screen without the distraction of a keyboard.

The model I’ve been using runs on Intel’s 10th generation Core i5 processor and comes with 8GB of RAM, a 128GB solid state drive, a 2,256 x 1,504 resolution display, and an estimated 10 hours of battery life, impressive specifications for a Chromebook.

But Acer also launched a new version of this Chromebook in June 2021 that comes with Intel’s newer 11th generation processors, Thunderbolt 4 support, the option for a fingerprint reader, and the same 10-hour battery life.

Otherwise, the Acer Chromebook 713 stands out for its vibrant and spacious screen and comfortable keyboard. The speakers sound a little shallow since they’re located on the bottom of the notebook, and the fans can sometimes get a little noisy. But the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 is a winner all-around.

The older model with an Intel Core i3 is on sale for just $359 at Best Buy, which is an excellent price for a laptop of this caliber. Students should also check out Acer’s education discount program, which slashes 10% off certain prices and offers free shipping.

The best compact Chromebook

Lenovo Chromebook Duet

Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet offers a combination of portability and versatility that seems impossible to beat at this price.

Pros: Low price, portable and attractive design, included keyboard and cover

Cons: Only one USB-C port, performance can sometimes be sluggish

Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet, which costs $270, is the right choice for anyone who prioritizes portability and affordability in a Chromebook. It’s smaller and cheaper than Apple’s least expensive iPad and comes with a back cover and keyboard case at no extra cost. It’s not a powerful laptop, but it’s suitable for anyone who wants an inexpensive device for basic tasks.

But don’t misinterpret that to mean that this Chromebook feels cheap. The tablet itself has a solid yet lightweight build that makes the Duet feel more expensive than it actually is. 

The tablet comes with an attractive textured back cover and detachable keyboard that provides a comfortable typing experience. They add a bit of heft to the tablet, but even with these accessories the Duet is small and light enough to tote around with ease. 

The top-firing speakers are surprisingly loud for this tablet’s size, and their location at the top of the tablet means you don’t have to worry about accidentally blocking them while holding the device. It also should last for 10 hours on a single charge according to Lenovo’s estimates.

But the Lenovo Chromebook Duet‘s performance makes it best-suited for easy everyday tasks, like using Google’s productivity services (Gmail, Google Docs, etc.), reading the news, and watching movies. The tablet can get a little laggy when switching between apps frequently, and it stutters when running graphics-intensive games. 

The Chromebook Duet also only has one USB-C port, so there isn’t much flexibility when it comes to connectivity. There isn’t even a headphone jack, although Lenovo includes a dongle in the box. Still, the Lenovo Chromebook Duet offers a tremendous amount of value for the price.

Students can get a 5% discount site-wide through Lenovo, but that doesn’t apply to products that are on doorbuster or clearance sales.

The best 13-inch Chromebook

HP Chromebook 14 G5

The HP Chromebook 14 is an excellent buy for those looking for that traditional laptop experience without spending a ton of cash. With lots of basic features but also versatility, we think it’s a winner.

Pros: Excellent price, lots of ports, long battery life

Cons: 1080p costs extra, tiny local storage

For those seeking a little more screen size and power from their Chromebook than a mere 10 or 11-inch device can offer, we suggest considering the HP Chromebook 14. This has many of the same features as your average 11-inch Chromebook, but with more space and a 14-inch, 720p screen crammed into a 13-inch-sized laptop.

The HP Chromebook 14 is both drop and spill resistant to a minor extent, and comes packing an Intel Celeron CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 32GB SSD for storage. Again, this device is assuming that you’ll be using cloud storage via Google Drive to supplement your local space. The included microSD card slot can help expand that local storage as well.

On top of that, the laptop has two USB-C 3.1 and two USB 3.1 ports, offering plenty of room for expansion in all sorts of ways, including displays. Finally, this Chromebook can last for up to 10 hours on a charge.

It’s currently $50 more expensive than the Lenovo Chromebook Duet, but comes with perks like a larger screen and many more ports. The Duet, however, has twice the amount of storage and features a 2-in-1 design unlike this laptop.

If you’re after a more traditional laptop experience but aren’t looking to spend a fortune, then this is the best Chromebook for that job.

Qualified students and teachers should also check out HP’s education discounts, which may result in savings of up to 35%.

The best premium Chromebook

A red Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 on a white background

Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 has a premium build that’s lightweight, sturdy, and colorful without the high price tag to match.

Pros: Attractive and lightweight design, excellent screen, solid performance

Cons: Battery life could be better, somewhat shallow keyboard

Chromebooks are usually less expensive than Windows laptops, but that doesn’t mean they have to feel cheap. Samsung’s $550 Galaxy Chromebook 2 is one of the best examples of this yet. It has a lightweight and slim aluminum build that comes in a flashy red color option, setting it apart from the gray slabs typically found elsewhere. 

Design alone isn’t enough to make a laptop worthwhile. But having a device that feels well-built and is light enough to carry around with ease certainly is, and Samsung’s Chromebook accomplishes that without question. At 2.71 pounds, it’s just a hair lighter than the MacBook Air.

But what really makes the Galaxy Chromebook 2 stand out is how the 2-in-1 design, vibrant QLED screen, and performance come together. Like most Chromebooks, it’s intended for light productivity and web browsing. 

The Intel Core i3-powered Galaxy Chromebook 2 handles my everyday workload with ease, although the fans pipe up once I have more than 25 tabs open in Chrome. But they quickly quiet down, and the laptop never feels sluggish while web browsing. 

Colors pop on the Galaxy Chromebook 2‘s QLED display, making this an especially good laptop for entertainment. It’s not significantly better than you’d get from other well-regarded Chromebooks like the Google Pixelbook Go or Acer Chromebook Spin 713, but it’s certainly crisper. Plus, Samsung’s Chromebook has much slimmer borders framing its screen, which makes it easier to focus on the content when watching videos.

The battery life is shorter than other laptops we’ve tested, considering it had 22% of its capacity left after our six-hour battery test. The keyboard also doesn’t have as much depth as I would like. But overall, this is a solid option for those who want a nice-looking Chromebook with a great screen and reliable performance.

Other great Chromebooks for school

HP Chromebook 11

The same Chromebook that might be suitable for most people isn’t necessarily going to cut it for schoolwork. Some Chromebooks might be over-the-top for middle school assignments, while the most basic Chromebooks could have a hard time keeping up with the demands of high school and college coursework. 

There are also some features that are particularly useful for students. Chromebooks for school should be lightweight and durable, for example, since students will likely be carrying them around between classes. Features like stylus support may also be more important than display resolution for classwork since students may need to jot down scientific formulas or math equations.

The Acer Chromebook Spin 713 and Lenovo Chromebook Duet are examples of Chromebooks that we think are particularly great for school, but we also think they’re broadly appealing enough to recommend for general use as well. Here are a couple of other Chromebooks to consider for school.

1. HP Chromebook X360 14 — affordable size

Portability is undeniably important, but sometimes you really need the bigger screen to see what you’re doing or to multi-task. The HP Chromebook x 360 14 offers this without making the rest of the chassis too big, and it does so at a decent price. It even still delivers a 360-degree hinge and stylus support for total flexibility. And don’t forget to check out HP’s education discounts if you’re a qualifying student or educator.

Chromebook x360 14 (button)

2. Dell Chromebook 3100 — rugged and reliable

If having a durable laptop that you can toss in a backpack without concern is a top priority, Dell’s Chromebook 3100 is worth considering. Dell says it’s been tested to survive 5,000 micro-drops and 30-inch drops onto steel, and it also has a spill-resistant keyboard. Trusted Reviews put this to the test after accidentally spilling coffee on the keyboard, dropping it on a hardwood kitchen floor, and putting it in the hands of a four-year-old, finding that it held up. Dell’s Chromebook comes in either 2-in-1 or standard clamshell options, with the convertible starting at $369 and the regular notebook beginning at $249. Both starting options come with an Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and an 11.6-inch 1,366 x 768 display. It’s not a computing powerhouse by any means, but it’s a reliable machine for getting basic work done that should be more than capable of taking a tumble or two. Dell also offers a 10% discount on select electronics and accessories as part of its education discount program for those who qualify.

Chromebook 3100 (button)
Chromebooks we look forward to testing

Acer's Chromebook 314 partially open at an angle against a white background

Acer Chromebook 314: Acer is also launching a new 14-inch Chromebook that it says should get up to 15 hours of battery life. The laptop has a 14-inch 1080p touchscreen and only costs $270, meaning it could give our current value pick from Samsung some fresh competition. 

Acer Chromebook 317: Those who want the biggest screen possible on a Chromebook may want to check out the Acer Chromebook 17. Launched in June 2021 for $380, the company claims it’s the first 17-inch Chromebook. It runs on the latest Intel Celeron processors, has an estimated 10-hour battery life, and comes with two USB-C ports plus a few additional connections. All told, it sounds like it could be a compelling option for those who want an affordable laptop with a big screen.

What to consider when buying a Chromebook

Chromebooks aren’t designed like Windows or Mac machines. Instead of using an operating system (OS) with software that resides on the computer, Chromebooks run on a cloud-based OS called Chrome OS. It’s very simple and easy to use. In place of a productivity suite like Microsoft Office, you get Google’s services like the Chrome web browser, Gmail (email), Docs (documents), Sheets (spreadsheets), Slides (presentation), and Drive (cloud storage); all these applications and others are accessed via cloud.

This means all of your files will save to the cloud in Google Drive, so you never have to worry about losing them or saving a physical copy to your Chromebook’s storage. As you can guess, much of Chrome OS’s core functions work through the Chrome web browser.

Although Chromebooks are cloud-based laptops, they can work offline. There are some Chrome OS apps and programs you can download; Google’s office suite has an offline mode; you can read or save files locally on a local solid state drive (SSD), external hard drive, USB flash drive, or SD card (if the Chromebook has a memory card reader); and even install Android apps from the Google Play store (Chromebooks released in 2017 or newer). But, most of your activity will be online through Google’s apps or the Chrome web browser. If you need specific programs, like Adobe Illustrator, Premiere or Logic Pro X, that are only available for Mac OS or Windows, then a Chromebook isn’t the best buy for you.

Some of the newest Chromebooks are quite high-end, with sharp, vibrant screens, comfortable keyboards, latest ports (USB-C and USB 3.0), and fast processors (CPUs). Couple that with the fact that just about any Chromebook available today supports the majority of Android apps through Google Play, and you have some awfully capable machines. However, not all Android apps perform well on a Chromebook, and we recommend using the web-based option instead, if there is one. For example, streaming Netflix through the web browser is preferable to using the Netflix Android app.

Here are some key hardware specifications to look out for when shopping for Chromebooks:

  • Displays: If you’re concerned about how the text, images and video will appear on the Chromebook screen that you’ll be looking at while using it, we recommend looking for a 720p (1,280 x 720) resolution at a minimum, with 1080p (1,920 x 1,080) being the gold standard. There are also 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) Chromebooks, but those are exorbitantly expensive whereas you can get a 1080p Chromebook for even $500. If you’re looking for a touchscreen, the majority of those come in 2-in-1 hybrid designs and generally start at around $700 for ones with decent hardware inside.
  • Processors: A benefit to Chrome OS is that it doesn’t require much power to run swiftly and efficiently, so most Chromebooks come with fanless processors either from Intel’s Pentium and Celeron lines or ARM-based chip designs. If you need more power for some reason, makers like Google and HP do sell Chromebooks with Intel Core processors at the highest end.
  • Memory: The memory (RAM) in your Chromebook dictates how many programs or browser tabs you can run simultaneously before the machine has to reload your content when accessed. Most Chromebooks come with just 4GB of RAM, though some higher-end models offer 8GB or as much as 16GB. We’d feel the most comfortable and free to work without limits using 8GB of RAM, but basic users will get away with 4GB easily.
  • Storage: Chromebooks rely heavily on the cloud storage services that Google provides via Drive, so most models come with between 16GB and 64GB of onboard space, which is usually expandable via a microSD card. More premium models in recent years have begun shipping Chromebooks with more storage via faster solid-state drives (SSDs) rather than cheaper flash memory. With Google Drive accessible in the Chrome OS interface as if it were local storage, we would strongly consider a subscription with your Chromebook purchase to save some upfront cost. If you’re that concerned with local storage, grab a microSD card or a thumb drive.
  • Ports: Most every single Chromebook is going to come with at least one standard USB port, likely the 2.0 edition in terms of data transfer speed. However, more modern and premium models have made the move to the sleeker, faster, and more versatile USB-C standard, so keep that in mind if you want the latest and greatest. Finally, don’t expect to see a lot of ports on Chromebooks, being inherently focused on simplicity and portability. Much of what Chromebooks lack in wired connectivity can be made up for with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best kids’ headphones in 2021 that protect their hearing

  • Headphones you consider for your child should have a noise-limiting feature that caps the volume at safe levels.
  • The BuddyPhones Wave Headphones are the best kids’ headphones in our opinion, thanks to their three different maximum volume settings.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends that around 85 to 90 decibels or dB – or about as loud as a leaf blower – should be the limit when it comes to adult noise exposure. So it’s safe to say that kids shouldn’t be exposed to sounds louder than that, either.

That’s why the majority of the kids’ headphones on our list have maximum volume control features that prevent the audio from reaching dangerous levels. Most of them also have plenty of other cool features, too, from wireless connectivity to active noise-canceling technology to audio sharing ports.

When choosing the best headphones for your kid, first make sure you are considering pairs that will fit. Many are designed for bigger kids and won’t fit a toddler properly, while some pairs are small enough for your two- or three-year-old but won’t fit onto an elementary-aged child. Next consider price, because there are kids headphones that cost 10 bucks and some that cost 10 times more. And as you consider price, think about the kid(s) who will be using them and gauge the likelihood that they’ll be damaged, lost, or destroyed and will need replacing.

Finally, look at the special features of each option and consider what makes them a good choice for your child specifically. Do they watch shows in bed and need a pair that will easily stay in place while they’re lying down? Are they a genuine audiophile who needs top quality sonic equipment? Do they share media with a sibling or friend all the time? Do they drop things or spill drinks on a daily basis?

On this list, you’ll find kids’ headphones perfect for all of those young user profiles and more. I’ve tested many of them second hand – my son is the actual gear guy on this one.

Here are the best kids’ headphones:

The best kids’ headphones overall

Buddyphones

The BuddyPhones Wave headphones have three different maximum volume settings so they adapt to suit kids of different ages.

Lots of kids’ headphones have a noise-limiting feature, but the BuddyPhones Wave headphones have three. You can set the maximum volume at 75dB, a safe limit for toddlers, at 85 dB, a safe maximum for kids in general, or at 94dBfor temporary use in noisy environments like planes, trains, or out on the streets. That means one pair of headphones can serve kids of different ages or can serve the same kid as they grow from toddler to preschooler to plain old kid.

The Wave headphones are water-resistant and durable, so the occasional spill or drop isn’t going to end the music. Their battery lasts up to 18 hours with a full charge, and the soft, hypoallergenic ear cushions ensure comfort even with such extended use. They can be used for calls thanks to a built-in microphone, which can also help during study sessions thanks to a StudyMode setting that uses the mic to pick up and clearly transmit audio to the young wearer’s ears. An included cable also lets you plug in another pair of headphones to share the audio, so that two kids can listen to audio or a video.

My son also loves these headphones, which are a go-to in our house.

Pros: Multiple volume limit settings, soft and comfortable ear cups, water-resistant

Cons: Diminished audio quality at lower volume limits

The best kids’ headphones for shared listening

Snug Play Headphones

The Snug Play+ Audio Sharing Headphones have a built-in port, so you can connect another pair of headphones so siblings or friends can enjoy audio simultaneously.

Remember back in the day when you and your sibling or buddy had to press your heads together to share a set of headphones? Or when you had to split up a pair of earbuds, holding the other ear shut in a vain attempt to hear the show you were watching or song that was playing? Well, those days are gone, thanks to the, “why didn’t they think of that before?” addition of an audio-out port on the Snug Play+ Audio Sharing Headphones.

These headphones allow a second pair to be connected, outputting the audio they are getting into this second pair. Using the port, two kids can share the same iPad, computer, radio, or DVD player without disturbing anyone else in the room or the car.

The 40mm drivers produce decent sound quality, which is limited to 93 decibels. That’s a bit louder than ideal, but still safe, and you can always tell the kids to turn it down, of course. The Snug Play+ headphones come in multiple color options, and they’re pleasantly inexpensive.

Pros: Multiple headphones can be linked together, low price, multiple colors available

Cons: Not durable enough over time

The best kids’ headphones for comfort

CozyPhones headphones

The CozyPhones Headband Headphones use slender little speakers tucked into a soft, comfortable headband that stays in place in any position.

One of the most common issues with kids’ headphones is simply keeping the things properly positioned on their ears. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen a pair of headphones slipping off my son’s head, I’d be ready to roll my change. With the CozyPhones Headband Headphones, that ubiquitous over-the-head band design is gone. Instead, these earphones are held in place by a soft, warm headband that wraps around your kid’s head.

The headband and the slender design of the speakers allow a child to wear their CozyPhones when lying down or walking around, both of which usually preclude other headphones from staying in place. As the fleece headband is nice and warm, they’re also a great choice for use during colder weather. While the audio quality doesn’t match that of other options on our list, the unique design and functionality of these headphones still makes them a great choice.

There are more than a dozen styles of headband to choose from, including a smiling lion, purple monster, ninja turtle, and many more. And when your kid isn’t listening to audio, the speakers can be removed and the headband enjoyed simply as a garment.

A writer from Daily Dot called them “a well-thought-out, well-designed, quality product” but said that “no one is going to buy CozyPhones because they’re looking for superior sound quality and booming battery power,” the actual audio quality being somewhat lacking.

Pros: Stay in place well, warm and soft headband, lots of styles to choose from

Cons: Audio quality only average

The best kids’ headphones on a budget

Noot headphones

Noot headphones work great and are incredibly affordable, making them a solid choice if your kid is a bit clumsy or careless.

Kids aren’t the most graceful creatures on Earth. They drop things, they spill things, they step on things, and so on. They’re also not the best at remembering where they left their stuff. So don’t be surprised if at some point your kid’s headphones end up crushed, soaked, cracked, or lost. If said headphones were the Noot Products K11 Kids Headphones, then it’s really no big deal.

Now, you can’t expect budget headphones to be the best on the planet, and these aren’t. But their 40mm stereo drivers deliver decent audio quality — suitable enough for watching cartoons or listening to nursery rhymes. The cushioned ear cups do a good job of creating passive noise reduction. The long braided nylon cord resists tangles and is strong enough not to break even after a number of drops or snags.

One major downside to these headphones is the lack of volume limit. You’ll have to closely monitor the volume on your child’s devices so they don’t damage their hearing.

Pros: Very low price tag, rugged design, broad size adjustment range

Cons: No volume limit feature

The best high-end kids’ headphones

Puro Sound Labs

The Puro Sounds Labs BT2200 Kids Headphones deliver audio quality that rivals or surpasses most headphones designed for adults.

My son has a pair of Puro Sounds Labs BT2200 headphones, and I swear if the things were just a bit bigger, I’d probably use them as often as my own fancy adult-sized headphones. They feature dynamic 40mm drivers that deliver deep bass, rich mids, and clear highs, with audio clarity that makes listening to music, playing a game, or watching a show a pure pleasure.

As they feature excellent passive background noise reduction thanks to the padded ear cups and noise limiting at 85dB, they work well even in noisy environments without putting a kid’s hearing at risk.

As they feature excellent passive background noise reduction thanks to the padded ear cups and noise limiting at 85 decibels, they work well even in noisy environments without putting a kid’s hearing at risk.

My son would likely use these headphones almost exclusively save for the fact that we experience intermittent issues pairing them to devices via Bluetooth connection. This is easily solved by use of a cord or by going through the whole forget and re-pair process, but it can be a bit of a frustration.

In terms of audio quality, however, the BT2200s are peerless in the kid headphone category. You’ll pay for that quality, however, so if your kid isn’t the most careful with their belongings, you might want to opt for a more budget-friendly pair.

Pros: Excellent sound quality, good passive noise reduction, safe noise limit feature

Cons: Expensive, some connectivity issues

Check out our other great kids’ tech guides

95 Fire Tablet Kids Edition

The best tablets for kids

With larger screens and fewer communication options than smartphones, tablets can be easier and safer for kids to use. Many tablets also come with comprehensive parental controls and child-safe content. Put all of that together, and it’s no surprise that tablets are often the first gadget children use on a regular basis.  These are the best tablets for kids.


The best STEM toys

STEM toys help kids develop the skills they will need to excel in the jobs of the future, so we’re all for letting children play with programmable robots, DIY computers, electrical motors, and circuit sets, and any other hardware that fosters such abilities. There’s just one caveat: The toy also has to be genuinely fun. These are the best STEM toys for kids.


The best kids’ cameras

Photography is a fun and easy way to teach kids about creativity, and there’s no better way to start them on that path than putting a camera in their hands when they are young. These are the best cameras for your budding young photographer.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 8 best cheap headphones in 2021 – all under $50

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Flagship headphones are pricey, but you can still find some excellent models on a budget.
  • Audio-Technica’s ATH-M20x are the best cheap headphones thanks to their great sound for the money.
  • For more headphone recommendations, check out our roundup of the best headphone deals.

If you spend a lot of time listening to music, watching shows and movies, and playing video games, then a good set of headphones is one of the quickest ways to get the most out of your media. A good set of cans creates an immersive experience by letting you hear all the detailed highs and lows.

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 standard over-ear headphones as well as some more specialized models that offer additional portability, wireless functionality, or other features built for specific tasks.

Here are the best cheap headphones you can buy:

The best cheap headphones overall

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 our top pick: 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. This means that they’re best suited for use with your laptop or desktop computer. Smaller devices like smartphones won’t have enough power to get the most out of these headphones.

When hooked up to a PC or TV, however, 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 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 headphones have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and thankfully, there are some great options out there on a budget. Perhaps the best budget true wireless headphones are the JLab Audio JBuds Air, because they offer a comfortable, secure fit, a 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 headphones 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. 

Of course, 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 wireless Bluetooth headphones

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: Solid construction, 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 design 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 15-20 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 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 over-ear headphones

Tascam TH 02   1

The Tascam TH-02 are an unbeatable value for a pair of over-ear headphones that sound great and isolate noise well with a closed-back design.

Pros: Solid construction, good sound quality, comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, the closed-back design isolates sound well

Cons: Pleather ear cups aren’t that breathable, the vinyl covering on the padded headband is prone to peeling after a while

Most pairs of budget-friendly headphones feature an open-back or semi-open-back design. These types of headphones leak sound out as well as let ambient noise in, making them less than ideal for busy environments with other people around (think co-workers or roommates). The closed-back over-ear Tascam TH-02 headphones stand out as a clear exception to this rule, and are a shining example of the value that headphone makers are offering today.

I’ve been personally using a pair of Tascam TH-02 for about three years now. I initially intended to use them as “beater” headphones that I wouldn’t have to be too fussy about, but I found the sound quality more than good enough for music and gaming (bass, mids, and highs all come through smoothly and cleanly), and they quickly became one of my workhorses, especially when I’m traveling and don’t want to risk losing or breaking a more expensive set.

They’ve proven to be very durable, although the vinyl covering of the padded headband eventually started to peel after a couple years. The peeling proved to be no big deal, as I simply pulled it all off to reveal the soft cloth pad underneath. More importantly, the pleather ear cup covers have remained intact with minimal wear despite years of use.

If all you need is a no-frills, no-nonsense set of over-ear closed-back headphones, then the Tascam TH-02 have you covered. — Lucas Coll

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. 

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.

Porta Pro (small, Preferred: Amazon)JBuds Air (small, Preferred: Amazon)TH-02 Closed Back Studio Headphones (small, Preferred: Amazon)

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

Check out our other headphone buying guides

Apple AirPods Pro

The best over-ear headphones


The best noise-cancelling headphones


The best earbuds


The best true wireless earbuds


The best gaming headsets

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 4 best cheap TVs in 2021 – all under $500

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Flagship TV models are expensive, but there are many affordable smart TVs with solid performance.
  • The Hisense U6G is our top pick thanks to its fantastic balance between price and picture quality.
  • For more TV recommendations, check out our guides to the best 4K TVs and best OLED TVs.

TV pricing has come down a lot in recent years. Gone are the days when buying a 4K TV meant having to spend thousands of dollars.

Now, you can get a nice 4K TV with decent high dynamic range (HDR) support and plenty of smart TV apps for only a few hundred bucks. You can even find big-screen options in sizes as large as 65 inches without totally breaking the bank.

Of course, there are always trade-offs to keep in mind when buying a TV on a budget. A true home theater experience still comes at a premium, but choosing an entry-level TV doesn’t mean you have to settle for poor image quality, a small screen, or a dumb display without the latest streaming services.

I’ve been covering the consumer electronics industry for nine years, and during that time I’ve reviewed numerous TV models at various price points. Through research and testing, we’ve selected the best display models you can buy on a budget.

Here are the best cheap TVs you can buy:

The best cheap 4K TV overall

Hisense U6G 4K TV
Hisense’s U6G delivers impressive picture for the price.

The Hisense U6G Android TV uses local dimming and quantum dots to deliver some of the best picture quality you can get on a budget.

Pros: 4K with every major HDR format, local dimming, quantum dots, Google Assistant voice remote, solid brightness capabilities for the price

Cons: No HDMI 2.1 ports, 50-inch model has less dimming zones than larger versions

Buying a TV on a budget typically means you have to miss out on some advanced features found on more expensive sets. The Hisense U6G totally dispels that notion, and the 50-inch model is an especially great value at under $500. 

The U6G is the 2021 successor to the Hisense H8G. It carries over everything we loved about that model while keeping a similar low price. Meanwhile, our previous pick for best cheap 4K TV overall, the 55-inch TCL 5 Series, has actually gone up in price this year. The TCL is still a fantastic set but, for the money, the Hisense now edges it out. 

One of the most important image features you should look for in a new 4K TV is high dynamic range (HDR). HDR enables enhanced contrast and wider colors for a more realistic picture. The U6G offers some of the best HDR specs in its price range. It also supports every major HDR format so all your bases are covered.

It’s a little disappointing that the TV lacks Google’s newest smart TV system, Google TV, but the older Android TV OS is still a solid performer with easy access to tons of  services. Google Assistant is also supported via the included remote for reliable voice control.

I reviewed the 2020 version of this TV last year and this new model is expected to perform even better. Buyers who want more advanced features, like HDMI 2.1 for next-gen gaming, will have to pay more for the step-up U7G or U8G, but at this price, the U6G is a bargain.

The best cheap 4K TV for wide viewing angles

LG UP7000 4K TV
The UP7000 is a great fit for people who sit off to the side of their TV.

The LG 55-inch UP7000 offers better viewing angles than most budget TVs, enabling solid picture no matter where you sit.

Pros: Wide viewing angles, affordable price for a 55-inch model

Cons: Black levels and contrast aren’t great, doesn’t include a voice remote

Though many of the 4K TVs recommended on this guide offer solid picture performance, they all suffer from one pesky drawback: mediocre viewing angles. 

This means that colors and contrast wash out when you sit off to the side. Though that’s not a problem for people who can plop down on a couch right in front of their TV, it can be an issue for buyers who have to position their seats in other parts of the room.

If viewing angles are your main priority, then the 55-inch UP7000 from LG is one of your best options on a budget. This 2021 model is the successor to our previous pick, the UN7000. 

The UP7000 uses a special type of panel that’s designed to offer improved off-axis picture. This lets you sit off to the side of you display without the TV’s colors and contrast dramatically degrading. Picture quality will still shift a bit, but not as badly as it would on a typical LED TV. 

On the downside, TVs with panels like this tend to have worse black levels and contrast than other displays. This particular model also lacks local dimming or wide color support. So, while great for viewing angles, the UP7000 doesn’t have particularly good home theater performance in a dark room.

Like most LG TVs, this one offers access to many popular streaming services. HBO Max, however, is missing. Unfortunately, the UP7000 also lacks a voice remote, but you can use the TV with a separate Alexa or Google Assistant device. 

The UP7000 is also available in a few larger and smaller screen sizes, but we think the 55-inch model offers the best value. Also, keep in mind that only the 75-, 65-, 55-, and 43-inch models use panels with wide viewing angles, according to Rtings.

The best cheap 4K TV with a big screen

Hisense A6G 4K TV
The A6G 4K TV is an affordable 60-inch display.

The Hisense A6G is one of the most affordable 60-inch 4K TVs on the market, offering a big-picture experience for a budget-friendly price. 

Pros: Big display for an affordable price, HDR10 and Dolby Vision support, voice remote included

Cons: Image quality is only average, lacks local dimming or quantum dots

Flagship big-screen 4K TVs can cost a couple thousand dollars, but that doesn’t mean that budget buyers always have to settle for smaller screen sizes. In fact, there are several worthwhile big-screen models out there that don’t cost an arm and a leg. 

Our previous pick for this category, the Vizio 65-inch V-Series, remains an impressive TV for the money, but stock is now hard to come by and its price has increased a bit since its initial launch. With that in mind, we’re recommending the more affordable Hisense 60-inch A6G in its place.

The 60-inch A6G is bigger than most TVs in its price range, and boasts a 4K screen with entry-level HDR and Dolby Vision capabilities. That should net you solid picture quality for casual viewing, but the display lacks local dimming and wide color support so you won’t get the most out of HDR videos.

Android TV is integrated for easy access to most major streaming services. A voice remote is also included with built-in support for Google Assistant.

Budget buyers who favor home theater performance over size will be better off going with the smaller Hisense 50-inch U6G for a similar price, but if you want a 60-inch 4K TV in this price range, the A6G offers good value for the money.

The best cheap 1080p TV

TCL 40 in tv
TCL’s 3 Series has very basic picture performance, but its low cost is appealing.

It doesn’t have 4K resolution or other advanced features, but the TCL 40-inch 3 Series HDTV is one of the most affordable 40-inch Roku TVs you can buy.

Pros: Very affordable, Roku TV platform with easy access to streaming apps

Cons: Not 4K, no HDR or wide color support, no voice remote, smaller screen size

The TCL 3-Series is about as basic as a smart TV can get. It’s the smallest display on this list, it features a 1080p resolution screen instead of 4K, and it lacks HDR support — but when it comes to overall value for the money, the TV is still a worthy option for budget buyers. 

This 40-inch smart TV uses a modest Full HD panel. While you won’t be able to watch 4K HDR streams from Netflix, the reality is, most  live TV content is still presented in SDR high definition. With that in mind, this 1080p screen is fine for casual viewing needs. 

Overall image performance isn’t as good as the more expensive TVs on this list, but at a screen size of 40 inches, it would actually be hard to see major benefits from an upgrade to 4K. The lack of local dimming is a bit more of an issue, but contrast and black levels are decent considering the low price.

While the included remote doesn’t feature voice control, you can pair the TV with a separate Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant device.

This definitely isn’t a TV geared toward buyers looking for advanced picture quality. Instead, the TCL 3 Series is meant to appeal to people who just want a reliable 40-inch smart TV with easy access to their favorite apps. Thanks to the simple yet effective Roku platform, the 3-Series does just that.

Check out our other TV buying guides

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The 5 best true wireless earbuds in 2021 for listening on the go and at home

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best wireless earbuds balance portability, sound quality, comfort, and features.
  • Jabra’s Elite 85T manage to do all that for a great price, making them our top pick overall.

True wireless earbuds are headphones that fit neatly in your ear and are completely without wires. Because they’re so small and wire-free, these earbuds can be easily transported and stored in small charging cases when you’re not wearing them, not to mention they’re more comfortable and lightweight than on-ear or over-ear headphones.

There’s no shortage of true wireless earbuds available, making any buying decision difficult. The sheer convenience of this type of headphone makes them suitable for everyday use, on-the-go listening, workouts, and noisy environments. The best models offer the right balance of comfort, cost, and battery life.

After testing and comparing several pairs of true wireless earbuds, we’ve selected the best models you can buy in 2021. Our picks cover a variety of needs and budgets, offering recommendations based on overall value, sound quality, specific platforms, and more.

Here are the best true wireless earbuds:

How we test wireless earbuds

We take product testing seriously, and we aim to use consistent, reproducible testing methods. For audio products like headphones and wireless earbuds, we assess their sound quality by listening to a wide range of music genres. To replicate the most likely scenario that our readers would be using wireless earbuds, we stream music from common mobile devices, both iOS and Android, with popular music streaming services. We also test the ease of setup and use. 

An extra note on sound quality on wireless earbuds: We don’t base our assessment on how “accurate” their sound is. “Accurate” headphones tend to be studio-grade or monitor headphones that have flatter sound signatures, and they aren’t very pleasing for general listening. Those kinds of studio-grade headphones tend to be designed for audiophiles or professionals. We’re making recommendations for “most of us” who simply want a good, convenient pair of wireless earbuds we can use with our computers and mobile devices. 

For noise-cancelling performance, we find common noisy environments and try new models against our top picks one after the other in the same testing period. 

We are currently devising a way to validate the battery life claims that companies make about their wireless earbuds and headphones. However, we haven’t found that any claims have been dramatically inaccurate so far.

The best wireless earbuds overall

An open case of the Jabra Elite 85T with one outside of the case on a white background

The Jabra Elite 85T have high-end audio quality and noise-cancelling performance for a great price.

Pros: Great audio quality, good noise cancellation, customizable sound, Bluetooth Multipoint, comfortable fit, wireless charging case, water resistant

Cons: Can be prone to interference (very rare) 

Jabra’s Elite 85T are the first headphones that pop into my mind when someone asks me what wireless earbuds they should buy. 

That’s largely because they’re such good all-rounders that do almost everything well for a good price. Audio quality and noise cancellation are very good, they fit well, they come with a wireless charging case, and they’re water-resistant. 

Battery life is fairly average at five and half hours for the buds with ANC activated, but the wireless charging case holds 19.5 hours of charge, making for a total of 25 hours. You can get up to 31 hours with ANC turned off. 

Phone calls are fine, but they’ll struggle in noisy environments, where my test calls were disjointed and full of “can-you-hear-mes.” That’s par for the course in noisy places with most wireless earbuds and even full-size headphones — you need to spend more and get the Sony WF-1000XM4, or full-size WH-1000XM4 or Bose 700 if this is a priority for you. 

There was one instance during testing where the Elite 85T faced interference — they hated being next to a TV in an office waiting room, and they crackled to the point that it was better to simply take them off. This was the only instance I encountered this issue, so it’s likely isolated.

The best premium wireless earbuds

The Sony WF-1000XM4 outside of their case on a glass table

The Sony WF-1000XM4 are best-in-class for sound quality and noise cancellation, but they’re best suited for those willing to pay their high price. 

Pros: Superb audio quality and noise cancellation, customizable sound, long battery life, comfortable ear tips, wireless charging case, good phone call quality, water resistant

Cons: Pricey, lack Bluetooth Multipoint, app could be easier to use

If you’re looking for the best pair of wireless earbuds and you’re willing to spend up to $280, Sony’s WF-1000XM4 come highly recommended. 

Audio quality and noise-cancelling performance are only rivaled by the Bose Quiet Comfort Earbuds, but for the same price as the Bose, we’d rather recommend the Sony WF-1000XM4 for their slightly better battery life. Sony also has excellent EQ settings in the Sony Headphones app that helps you get the best out of the earbuds. 

We also prefer the foam ear tips on the WF-1000XM4, as they make for a more secure ear-plug-style fit that ensures a tighter seal. The Bose may be more comfortable in the ears, but users who have difficulty getting earbuds to fit properly may have more trouble getting a proper seal with them. 

You also get a long eight-hour battery life with ANC activated on the buds themselves, and the wireless charging case’s 16 hours makes for a total of 24 hours of battery life. You can get up to 36 hours with ANC turned off. The WF-1000XM4 are also water-resistant, and offer good phone call quality with some ability to reduce ambient noise, so the person you’re calling can hear you better.

The best mid-range wireless earbuds

Amazon’s new Echo Buds (2nd generation) offer plenty of features and customization

Amazon’s Echo Buds 2 offer almost everything you’d want in wireless earbuds for a little less than most competitors.

Pros: Good sound quality and noise cancellation for the price, customizable sound, sleek and comfortable design

Cons: Not as much bass as pricier earbuds, sometimes feel loose while exercising without wing tips, no multi-device connectivity

If $180 for our overall top pick — the Jabra Elite 85T — is a little out of budget, Amazon’s Echo Buds 2 are a great alternative. They offer good sound that can be customized, noise cancellation, and water resistance for a cheaper price.

The Echo Buds 2 come with four different tips compared to the usual three you get with most earbuds, so you’re likely to find a great fit. Plus, the optional included wingtips add security to the fit for workouts.  

Battery is about average at five hours for the buds with ANC enabled, or six and a half hours with ANC off. With the case, you get 15 hours total with ANC on, and 19.5 hours with ANC off. For $20 extra, Amazon offers a model with a wireless charging case.

The best budget wireless earbuds

The Belkin SoundForm Earbuds in an open case on a white background

Belkin’s Soundform wireless earbuds deliver impressive sound for the money, and they’re water-resistant, too.

Pros: Impressive sound for price, touch controls, water resistance 

Cons: No ANC, microUSB charging case 

At such a budget-friendly price, we’d be too nitpicky to say anything wrong about the audio quality on the Belkin Soundform. Sure, it’s not quite as rich and bass-y as pricier earbuds, but you’re still getting good clarity, and they don’t sound hollow — a common trait in cheaper earbuds. And they certainly have some punch, too. 

You’re not getting noise cancellation, but the ear-plug-style ear tips do a decent job at muffling ambient noise. You do get IPX5 water resistance, which is great to see on such an affordable pair of earbuds. Combined with their lighter weight, they’d make an ideal pair for working out, as well as daily use. 

You get touch sensors for media controls, volume control, and picking up phone calls. They can even summon Siri on iOS devices. Battery life is rated at five hours for the buds themselves, and the charging case holds 19 hours of charge, making for 24 hours of total battery life.

To charge the case, the Soundform use microUSB — a fading standard that’s being replaced by the more modern USB-C connection. That’s not a big deal, especially considering the affordability of these wireless earbuds.

The best wireless earbuds for Apple users

airpods pro

Apple users who want to get the most out of Apple’s ecosystem should consider the AirPods Pro.

Pros: Integrate with the Apple ecosystem, decent sound and noise cancellation, water resistant, wireless charging case, comfortable and more universal fit than standard AirPods

Cons: Inferior earbud battery life compared to competition

The vast majority of wireless earbuds will work on any Apple device with a Bluetooth connection, and you’ll find better sound quality, noise cancellation, and battery life for the price. But no other wireless earbuds complement your Apple devices like the AirPods and AirPods Pro

The AirPods Pro pair seamlessly with iPhones and Apple Watches, and they can connect to Macs simultaneously to switch back and forth to various Apple devices automatically. As expected, Siri is fully supported, and you can take advantage of Apple’s Audio Sharing feature that lets you share what you’re listening to with another user’s pair of AirPods. 

Anyone who’s had fitting issues with the standard AirPods will find solace with the AirPods Pro and their silicone tips, which fit deeper in your ear canal, but don’t quite have an ear-plug fit. As a result, they’re comfortable and light in the ear. Their water resistance also makes them a suitable option for working out. 

And if the AirPods Pro are a little over budget, the cheaper standard AirPods also come with seamless Apple ecosystem support. You just lose noise cancellation and water resistance, and audio quality isn’t as good.

What else we considered

We also tried out the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds, and they actually come highly recommended in the premium category, next to the Sony WF-1000XM4. Their audio quality and noise-cancelling performance are comparable to the WF-1000XM4, and they come with nearly identical features like water resistance. The main reason the Bose didn’t quite make it to the top of the list is because the sound profile is very much Bose’s, and it’s harder to sculpt the sound to the way you like it.

We also tried the Jabra 75T, the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+, and the Beats Studio Buds, all of which are in the $120 to $150 price range. These are all great options, and they would be worthy alternatives to the Amazon Echo Buds 2. Just note that the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1+ don’t have noise cancellation. 

We also tried the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro, which we loved at first. However, their value proposition has diminished since we’ve tested more capable and better-priced wireless earbuds.

The best deals on wireless earbuds from this guide

Apple AirPods are one of the most sought-after wireless earbuds on the market. However, they don’t fit all needs. They may be convenient for everyday listening with an iPhone, but other brands are a better fit for Android devices or specific uses, like working out. Most of the year, our picks are discounted to a little less than retail price; the AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds Pro are often $20 off, for example. During Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Prime Day, they’ll likely be down even more. 

Below, we rounded up the best deals on wireless earbuds from top brands, including Sony, Apple, and Jabra.

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

Check out our other headphone buying guides

Bose 700 headphones lifestyle in office
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The 7 best wireless phone chargers of 2021

  • The best wireless chargers provide a convenient way to charge your phone without the hassle of plugging in.
  • I’ve tested more than 40 wireless chargers over the past few years to find the best ones.
  • Our guide highlights chargers in different categories and suits various budgets.

To put it simply: no one likes charging their phone. Whether you’re chatting on a video call, reading the news, or listening to music during a run, there’s nothing like the panic that comes with seeing your battery dip below 20%.

Wireless chargers are a great way to power up your phone easily without fumbling with a power cord. In the early days, wireless chargers only offered slow speeds, were hampered by competing compatibility standards, and required precise placement in order to work. But as support for wireless charging has spread, especially after it became standard across the iPhone lineup in 2017, the technology has improved rapidly.

As an early adopter and tech reporter with more than a decade of experience, I’ve tested more than 40 different wireless chargers over the years, so I’m well placed to recommend the best picks to serve different needs. Later on in this guide, we breakdown things you should consider when shopping for a wireless charger.

Here are the best wireless chargers

The best wireless charger overall

Moshi_Otto_Q_Wireless_Charger

The Moshi Otto Q has a gray fabric design that looks good anywhere, it charges most phones at top speed, and it is sturdy.

Pros: Stylish look, non-slip, charges through cases

Cons: No adapter included, LED too bright for nightstand

With a smart design that combines style and function perfectly, the Moshi Otto Q is an excellent wireless charging pad. It supports fast wireless charging at up to 10W, which means it can charge up an iPhone and most Android phones at top speed.

Clever use of a metallic-looking silver plastic with a gray fabric cover helps this wireless charger stand out from the crowd in a good way. It looks at home on a wooden table, a nightstand, or a kitchen counter. 

The silicone ring on top both cushions your phone and prevents it from sliding off the charger. There’s also a rubbery pad on the underside that prevents it from slipping, even if you bump the table or nightstand that it’s on. Moshi supplies a USB-C to USB-A cable that’s 3 feet long in the box, but the manufacturer does suggest that you will need an adapter rated at Quick Charge 2.0 (9V/2A) minimum to get the maximum speed from it. This one from RAVPower should work.

I’ve been using it with a Samsung Adaptive Fast Charger, and it has been happily charging up a variety of phones, including an iPhone X and a Pixel 4.

The Moshi Otto Q has foreign object detection, so if any metal gets in between it and the phone it’s charging, it just turns off. You’ll want to make sure any case you use is metal-free, but thickness isn’t an issue. Moshi says it can charge through cases up to 5mm thick, and I’ve tested it with a variety, including some fairly thick protective cases, without any issues. Simply plug the USB-C cable into the back and plug the USB-A end into an adapter and you’re set. 

There’s a white LED at the front of the Moshi Otto Q that pulses gently while it’s charging and stays on when your phone is fully charged. Unfortunately, this light can be annoying in the bedroom when you’re trying to sleep, so the nightstand is not the best location for this wireless charger. I’ve placed mine on a side table in the dining room and it fits in nicely. 

My whole family has been using the Moshi Otto Q for a couple of years now and it’s still going strong, so I can wholeheartedly recommend it. The lack of an adapter in the box is a bit disappointing, but the style and quality build justify the price tag. Moshi also offers a 10-year warranty. 

The best fast-charging wireless charger

Anker PowerWave Alloy Pad charging a phone on a table

If you have a phone capable of charging at 15W or you want to future-proof, then the Anker PowerWave Alloy Pad is best for you.

Pros: Durable design, non-slip, long cable

Cons: No adapter included, LED too bright for nightstand

This compact metal puck blends into any room easily and feels built to last. It can fast charge most Qi-supporting Android phones and iPhones at the top speed they support, with four distinct charging modes designed to charge different smartphone models as quickly as possible.  

Anker is more focused on function than style and this sturdy, solid, weighty wireless charging pad has a silicone pad on the top and a silicone ring on the bottom to prevent any slippage. Pop your phone on the center of this pad and it will stay in place, even if a call comes in and it begins to vibrate. The only slight annoyance of the silicone is that it attracts dust and hairs. 

It comes with a relatively lengthy 5-foot cable, but you’ll need to provide your own power adapter. Cases are nothing to worry about because the Anker PowerWave Allow Pad can charge through cases up to 5mm thick. It also has safety features like temperature control and foreign object detection, and the alloy body helps it to stay cool in use.

The downside of the Anker PowerWave Alloy Pad, beyond the slightly dull design, is the presence of a blue LED at the front that lights up when it’s charging your phone. This light is likely to irritate you if you plan on using this wireless charger on the nightstand.

The best wireless charging stand

Best iPhone docks - Belkin BOOST UP Wireless Charging Stand

You can prop your phone up in landscape or portrait orientation while charging with the speedy Belkin BOOST UP Wireless Charging Stand.

Pros: Supports portrait or landscape, 4-foot power cord and adapter included, non-slip

Cons: Doesn’t fast charge some phones, quite large

Sometimes wireless charging stands are better than pads because they allow you to prop your phone up, making it easy to see incoming notifications or to check the time. The downside with stands is that they can be a little unstable and easy to accidentally knock your phone off.

The Belkin Boost UP Wireless Charging Stand has a smart design with a circular charging pad and a wide frame that makes it extremely stable. It’s also capable of charging your phone while it’s propped in landscape or portrait orientation and it can deliver up to 10W.

The Belkin BOOST UP comes in black or white plastic and has a wide frame with non-slip rubber padding on the bottom edges and on the surfaces where you rest your phone. The design makes it easy to position your phone correctly so that it charges.

Many stands claim to offer charging in portrait or landscape, but in practice, it can be tricky to find the right spot in landscape. With the Belkin BOOST UP, the angled circular pad makes it easy, and I’ve found it works reliably with an iPhone X and Pixel 4.

Another advantage with the Belkin BOOST UP is that it comes with a cable and adapter. My version has a barrel connector and the cable is permanently attached to the adapter you plug into the wall. There is another version of this wireless charger that comes with a separate cable and adapter. Either way, it’s nice to have the correct adapter included. 

It can charge through cases up to 3mm thick. There are also two pinprick LEDs in different positions, so that one is always visible whichever way you place your phone to charge. They light up white when charging and turn orange if there’s a problem, like keys or another metal object being stuck on the pad. It also has overheating protection built in for peace of mind.

If you have an iPhone, the Belkin BOOST UP can charge at the top speed of 7.5W, and it can hit 9W for Samsung phones, but for every other device, including Google’s Pixel phones it is capped at 5W. This isn’t a problem if you use it for overnight charging, and I think the light is small enough here that the Belkin BOOST UP is a good choice for the nightstand. It usually costs $50.

The best luxurious wireless charger

Bezalel_Altair_Wireless_Charger

A classy aluminum body with suede padding makes the Bezalel Altair a great looking, sturdy wireless charging stand for your phone.

Pros: Looks great, very stable, charges through cases

Cons: No adapter included, expensive

If you want a wireless charger that’s solid and sturdy with good looks, whether there’s a phone on it or not, then the Bezalel Altair is worth considering. It can deliver up to 10W of power, so it will charge iPhones and many Android phones at their maximum wireless charging speed. Carved from a single piece of aluminum, it’s strong and it looks great. 

There are two rubber pegs that stick out to prop your phone on, and there’s a white LED just beneath them. A suede pad, with a relatively subtle logo, allows you to rest your phone safely on the stand while it charges. A solid rubber base prevents it from sliding around on the desktop. Bezalel also provides a 3-foot, flat, non-tangle, USB-C to USB-A cable in the box. You’ll have to buy your own adapter and you’ll want one that’s rated at QC 2.0 or higher, like this one from RAVPower.

One of the nice things about the design is that you can prop your phone in landscape or portrait orientation, and it will charge. It’s also the perfect angle to have on your desk for face unlock and for video calls. I have it on my desk and use it with my Pixel 4 every day. It’s not capable of charging the Pixel at top speed, but the style and utility make up for that. If you’re ever in a rush and want to charge up via cable, the peg design allows easy access to the charging port on your phone, so you can prop your phone in portrait and plug in a charging cable.

It can charge through cases up to 5mm thick, but one downside here is that it doesn’t automatically detect foreign objects between the phone and charger and shut itself off like many wireless chargers do. Because it’s angled, this is less likely to be an issue than with a pad, but it’s worth noting. 

Sadly, the white LED stays lit all the time when this charger is plugged in or charging, so it’s not suitable for the nightstand if light is going to bother you. I think this style is better suited to a desk anyway. If you like the look of it, you can expect to pay $65.

The best wireless charger for travel

Fuse_Chicken_Universal

The multi-talented Fuse Chicken Universal All-in-One World Travel Charger is a battery pack, travel adapter, and wireless charger all at once, so it’s perfect for jet-setters.

Pros: Clever multi-functional design, great for travel, compact

Cons: Expensive, bulky at outlet, power button required to turn on USB charging

The Fuse Chicken Universal All-in-One World Travel Charger makes it easy to charge your phone in a variety of ways while you travel. It’s a battery pack, a wireless charger, and a travel adapter all wrapped into one portable device that’s about the same size as a MacBook power adapter.

Set your phone down on the charger, and it acts like a quick-charging 10-watt wireless charger, but if you’re on the move, you can also plug in a cable to use it as a battery pack. The 6,700mAh battery inside the charger is enough to fully charge most phones, though you’ll find you can squeeze a little more from it if you plug in, rather than use the wireless charging function. 

I was able to fully charge a Pixel 4 with change using the USB-C port. It can deliver up to 18W, which is enough to charge an iPhone or Pixel at top speed. As a wireless charger, you can expect a fair bit less, because wireless charging is less efficient. Luckily, you can see how much battery life is left in the internal battery by pressing the power button. The percentage remaining will display on the tiny LED screen.

When it comes time to plug in the charger and re-juice the internal battery, you can plug it right into a regular wall outlet. If you’re not in the US, and you happen to be traveling to the EU, UK, or Australia, Fuse Chicken has you covered with travel adapters for all those countries. Simply slide on the adapter you need, again, much like a MacBook power adapter. A small bag comes with the charger, so you have a place to safely store those adapters.

The USB-C port can also charge the battery up if you can’t plug it in for some reason. It is a bit bulky, which can sometimes be a problem with some outlets or power strips. There’s also a USB-A port that’s capable of delivering 12W, so you can plug your phone’s charging cable and juice up your device that way if you prefer. You can use both ports at the same time to charge multiple devices at once, should you need to. 

Downsides include the fact that you can’t use the wireless charging function when it’s plugged in, because it plugs in vertically. You also must press the power button sometimes when plugging in a cable or it won’t start charging your device. Sadly, it can’t charge a USB-C laptop like the MacBook, but you can charge any phone, tablet, ereader, or accessories like headphones with it.

This travel friendly, all-in-one wireless charger is also very expensive. However, if you travel to those countries a lot, it’s worth it.

The best wireless charger for multiple phones

Unravel_Wireless_Charger

If you want to wirelessly charge up to three devices simultaneously, the clever Unravel Wireless Charger is the only one of its kind.

Pros: Clever fold-up design, wirelessly charges three devices at once, extra USB-C port

Cons: Expensive, looks a bit cheap

Whether Apple will ever revive its AirPower wireless charging mat, which was going to be capable of charging your iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods all at once, remains to be seen, but there are alternatives. The Unravel Wireless Charger offers three wireless charging pads linked together with hinges. 

There are two versions of the Unravel; there’s the Unravel AW+ and the Unravel 3+1. The Unravel AW+ has two wireless charging pads that can deliver up to 10W for phones, AirPods, or another Qi device, and a third pad that’s specially designed to charge an Apple Watch. The AW+ is obviously ideal for Apple fans. The Unravel 3+1 has three wireless charging pads offering up to 10W each, and it also has a second USB-C port that can be used to charge up a fourth device.

Both versions can fold up concertina style to stow neatly away for travel. You get a 30W charger in the box and a cable. Apart from the fact it folds up nicely, travel utility is expanded when you consider that you can potentially use the same USB-C Power Delivery (PD) charger as your MacBook to power this wireless charger. However, it’s important to note that you’ll need a 60W charger if you want to get the fastest possible charging rate from all three pads at once. 

The clever design features don’t end there. You can also configure the Unravel into a triangular shape, fold out a small perch to prop your phone in landscape orientation, and watch a movie while it charges. There are black and red versions, but I recommend the glow-in-the-dark model because it gives off just enough of a glow for you to position your phone on it in the dark, but not so much that it interrupts your shuteye. 

While I’m a big fan of the Unravel, it’s not perfect. Finished in soft-touch plastic, this isn’t the kind of charger that’s going to subtly blend in with your décor. There are pinprick lights that turn on when it’s charging, but most phones cover them, so they seem redundant. The fold-out perch for propping your phone in landscape orientation also feels quite flimsy. 

Still, this versatile wireless charger is ideal for busy families or people with multiple devices to pop on the charger at night. It’s also a useful companion for travel if a single pad isn’t going to meet your needs. Both versions of the Unravel are typically the same price, but read the descriptions to make sure you get the right one for you. The manufacturer, Ampere, also offers versions with world plug sets and different chargers on its website.

The best wireless charger for Apple devices

Belkin_BOOST_CHARGE_3 in 1

If you want to charge up your Apple Watch and AirPods alongside your iPhone, then this special edition of Belkin’s Boost Charge 3-in-1 charger is for you.

Pros: Can simultaneously charge three devices, 4.5-foot power cord and adapter included, attractive design, non-slip

Cons: Expensive, large

This elegant wireless charging station from Belkin can wirelessly charge your iPhone at the current top rate of 7.5W, but it also has a magnetic Apple Watch dock built in, and there’s a wireless charging pad for your AirPods or AirPods Pro. The ability to charge all three of your Apple devices simultaneously from a single outlet makes this accessory an ideal pick for placing on a nightstand or desk.

With a glossy plastic finish in black or white, this Belkin charger has a slightly futuristic feel. The base is solid and wide to aid stability, and there’s a soft rubbery covering on the bottom that ensures it stays put. The round charger for the iPhone is angled, extending up on a shiny stainless steel pole, and there’s a curved lip to guide your placement and keep the iPhone in place. 

The magnetic Apple Watch charger is built-in and sits at a 90-degree angle, which is perfect for Nightstand mode. The circular pad behind the Apple Watch charger provides a spot for your AirPods. The included AC adapter has a permanently attached cable and slots into the back neatly with a barrel connector. The cable has an ample 4.5-foot length, and the adapter provides enough power to charge your three devices at top speed.

Two, tiny, pin-sized LEDs light up white when an iPhone or AirPods are charging and turn amber if there’s a problem with alignment or something has snuck in underneath your device. Thankfully, they are low-key and shouldn’t disturb your slumber if you decide to use this charger on the nightstand. The iPhone pad can also handle cases up to 3mm thick, so you don’t have to worry about removing your case to charge. 

I’ve been testing this charger with an iPhone X and an Apple Watch Series 5, and it has won a permanent place on the nightstand. If you like to use Nightstand mode and set alarms on your Apple Watch, then this charger is especially good. I’d prefer it didn’t have the LEDs, but at least they are tiny.

The catch is that the Belkin Boost Charge 3-in-1 Special Edition for Apple Devices is expensive. It’s a hefty investment, but I appreciate the fact that everything is included, and the Apple Watch charger is built-in, so all you need to do to get going with this is plug it into the wall. There is a cheaper version with similar functionality for a bit less, but it lacks classy touches like the stainless steel.

What else we considered

Wireless_Chargers_Also_Considered

There are so many good wireless chargers available that it’s impossible to cover them all. These are the wireless chargers that came closest to making the list, and they are all decent alternatives if you don’t like what you’ve seen so far.

  • Nomad Base Station Pro: With cutting edge technology inside, this wireless charger doesn’t require careful placement of devices. Stick your phone down anywhere on the surface and it will charge. It has space and power enough for two phones and a set of AirPods to charge together. It’s also beautifully crafted from aluminum with leather padding on top and comes with a braided cable and wall charger. The only reason it fails to make the list is the high price. Read our Nomad Base Station Pro review to learn more.
  • AirUnleashed: This large wireless charging pad is designed to emulate Apple’s ill-fated AirPower charger and has space for an iPhone, an Apple Watch, and AirPods. It has a minimal design in black or white with a soft touch finish. Sadly, there’s no AC adapter included, it requires precise placement, and you must remove some Apple Watch bands to charge. I found it too easy to accidentally bump my iPhone off the sweet spot, and after testing for a few weeks this charger is starting to look shabby. 
  • OtterBox OtterSpot: Bringing some genuine innovation to the table, OtterBox’s wireless charging system starts with a simple round base charger that looks much like any other. What sets it apart is the fact you can put a battery pad with a 5,000mAh capacity on top; it can charge wirelessly, and it can serve as a wireless charger for your phone. You can even stack additional batteries to charge them all up at once, and then take them with you when you leave. The entry price gets you one base charger and one battery, but this system can get pricey fast.
  • RAVPower Wireless Charging Stand: After a year’s service, this unobtrusive black stand still works perfectly and can deliver up to 10W. It is Qi certified, has temperature controls to prevent overheating, and sports an LED that blinks green when everything is working and red when there’s a problem. It only just misses out on a place above. 
  • Google Pixel Stand: Capable of wirelessly charging your Pixel 4, 4 XL, 3, or 3 XL at top speed, the Pixel Stand also supports some interesting Google Assistant features. Use your Pixel as an alarm clock, get your daily schedule, or turn your Pixel into a digital photo frame. This will charge any Qi device, but it’s only worth paying this much if you have a Pixel phone that can take advantage of the special features. 
  • Mophie Charge Stream Pad+: With a dull, but practical design that includes a rubbery, non-slip finish, and a white LED light, this wireless charger can deliver up to 10W. It also comes with a 5-foot cable and a QC 2.0 adapter. It charges most phones at top speed, but can’t charge through bulky cases. No major complaints about the functionality, but there simply isn’t enough here to justify the high price. 
  • Satechi Wireless Charger: The chamfered aluminum frame is smart, and there’s a silicone cross in the middle of the shiny top surface to cushion your phone. Sadly, charging is slow at 5W, there’s no adapter in the box, and the LED is far too bright to use on the nightstand. 
  • Twelve South HiRise: With a clever design that includes a weighted leather base, with a pop-out puck that you can take with you for wireless charging on the go, the Twelve South HiRise is unusual. It can deliver up to 10W, but can’t deal with thicker cases and ships without an adapter, making the price tough to swallow. 
  • Courant Wireless Chargers: These fancy leather-clad 10W wireless chargers make nice gifts, but they are too expensive to recommend over our other picks — especially as the basic Catch:1 wireless chargers don’t come with outlet adapters. The Catch:2 and Catch:3 do come with adapters, but cost $120 and $140, respectively when they’re on sale.

How to choose a wireless charger

The wireless charger landscape has evolved in the last few years, with new features, faster charging speeds, and a range of different shapes and styles. To make sure your chosen charger is going to meet your expectations, it’s important to pose a few questions before you shop. 

What device or devices do you want to charge?

Make sure that your smartphone — or other device — supports Qi wireless charging. Every entry on our list is a Qi wireless charger. Many Android phone manufacturers, like Samsung, have included wireless charging support in their flagship phones for years now. Apple introduced wireless charging support with the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X, and every iPhone since then has supported it.

Don’t assume your phone supports it, though, take the time to check. A few manufacturers still haven’t adopted wireless charging, and it’s less common in mid-range and budget devices.

What is the top speed your device can charge at?

At first, wireless chargers were capped at 5W, but you can get 10W or even 15W chargers now. However, the speed you can wirelessly charge your phone at is set by the manufacturer. At the time of writing, for example, the iPhone 12 Pro tops out at 7.5W (or 15W through Apple’s MagSafe charger), Google’s Pixel 5 can charge at 12W, and Samsung’s Galaxy S20 can charge at up to 15W.

Do you need a charging cable and adapter?

Many wireless chargers are sold without a wall adapter, though they generally include a cable. It’s important to make sure that you have the right cable and adapter to enable the top charging speed. If you use a 5W adapter with a 10W charging pad, for example, you’re only going to get 5W charging. Apple also no longer includes a power adapter in the box with its new iPhones, so you’ll want to make sure you have the proper adapter handy if you’re planning on buying a new phone. 

Where are you going to use it?

The nightstand will be the ideal location for some, but you may prefer to have a wireless charger on your desk at work, on the kitchen counter at home, or perhaps all three. Different kinds of chargers will work better in different locations. For example, if it’s for the nightstand, you probably don’t want a wireless charger with a bright flashing light. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best tablets in 2021 for every size and budget, from the powerful iPad Pro to Amazon’s kid-friendly Fire tablet

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The 10.2-inch Apple iPad is still the best tablet, thanks to its balance of performance and price.
  • Remember to check out those featured in the ‘what we considered’ section for the full picture.
  • Also expect the new 2021 iPad Pro and Amazon Fire HD 10 to join this list once they’ve been tested.

Tablets have become a necessity for a lot of people, despite there being less of them out there than smartphones or laptops. Thanks to the advances in functionalities a lot of them have acquired over the years, they’ve become quite vital to most folks, playing a variety of roles – from being a secondary laptop or screen for work to the main device people rely on for their daily computing demands.

It isn’t a surprise, therefore, that now there’s a tablet for pretty much everyone. The newly released iPad Pros, fitted with Apple’s highly praised M1 processor and that stunning XDR display, target creative professionals seeking the absolute best. Meanwhile, something like the Amazon Fire HD 10 is best for budget users who don’t really need to pay for all that power. There are tablets for kids as well, with the Fire HD 8 Kids being the ultimate choice if you want the best value.

As for the rest, the most highly recommended tablet for most people is almost always going to be Apple’s standard iPad 10.2, which is affordable enough while offering the best set of features and apps.

To help you decide which tablet is best for you, we gathered the best tablets for every type of user including those with premium tastes and those who prefer things small and portable.

Here are the best tablets

The best tablet for most people

ipad 2019 10.2 cyber monday deal

The 10.2-inch iPad is a great tablet for the vast majority of tablet users, and it supports the Apple Pencil.

Pros: Incredible price for an iPad, slick aluminum design, Touch ID for security and Apple Pay, great screen, supports the Apple Pencil 

Cons: Light on entry-level storage, no expandable storage

Apple’s standard 10.2-inch iPad is a breath of fresh air in a sea of premium tablets. While all the others seem to be getting more expensive, it offers an incredible balance of price, performance, and features – the best out of any other tablet we’ve tested, in fact. 

Starting at $330, the 10.2-inch iPad is a great inexpensive option as a general purpose tablet. It may run on the same A12 processor that spun the wheels in the 2018 iPhone XS series, but this chip is still a very capable processor that will see you through your needs. That is, if your needs mostly consist of running undemanding apps, streaming videos, sending emails, browsing, and playing games designed specifically for iOS.

The 10.2-inch iPad is also perfectly suitable as a lightweight productivity tablet especially when paired with a Bluetooth keyboard or keyboard case to type up documents, messages, and emails. If taking notes or drawing is a criteria, the 10.2-inch iPad also supports the first generation of the Apple Pencil, which is good for general use. 

For more intense productivity where you think a mouse would be beneficial or for more involved creative tasks where support for a more precise stylus is necessary, Apple’s iPad Air or Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7 would be a better choice. However, for general usage, the 10.2-inch iPad already offers a lot more for less.

And finally, Apple’s iPads are normally the best tablets to buy in general largely because of the wider availability of apps that are specifically designed for iPads. On top of that, as with any Apple product, Apple’s physical stores are good resources for repairs, and users have a clear idea of where to bring their iPad if something goes wrong.

The best budget tablet

Amazon Fire HD 10

The latest Amazon Fire HD 10 (2019) is super affordable, but it still delivers a good set of features that you’ll enjoy using for watching videos and running simple apps.

Pros: Low price point, performs basic functions of a tablet well, offers expandable storage with a memory card slot, good for kids, works especially well for those with Amazon Prime accounts

Cons: Not a high performer, slow at charging, restricted to Amazon’s app store, no access to Google Play Store

Amazon’s Fire Tablets have come a long way from being a glorified e-reader. While previous iterations of the Amazon Fire HD 10, for example, were sluggish, its more recent models have improved quite a bit in terms of performance.

Based on our own experience with previous generations of the Amazon Fire HD 10, as well as reviews of the 2019 model from PCMag and Tom’s Guide, it’s an ideal and inexpensive tablet for simple video streaming, browsing the web, and naturally, ticking another book off your reading list. 

Boasting a 10-inch screen with 1080p resolution and a 2.0 GHz octa-core processor that gets the job done for running basic apps, the Amazon Fire HD 10 is certainly an excellent budget proposition. If you have a bit of flexibility in your budget, a 64GB storage is also on hand for just a little more – something you should consider if you plan on utilizing those two 2MP cameras located in front and in the back.

Like all of Amazon’s tablets, the Fire HD 10 is also a terrific option for kids, thanks to its extensive parental controls, kid-friendly features, and availability of apps designed specifically for kids – though the smaller and cheaper Fire HD 8 or Fire HD 7 may better suit smaller children. 

Just bear in mind that Amazon’s tablets are restricted to Amazon’s own app store and don’t support Google’s Play Store so app selection will be more limited. Most popular streaming apps can be found in Amazon’s app store, except for YouTube’s dedicated app. There’s a workaround where you can watch YouTube videos from the web browser, however. You can check the app selection in Amazon’s own app store before buying to make sure it has the apps you’ll want to run here.

The best high-end Android tablet

Samsung Tab S7

Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7 is as stylish as it is powerful, you can use it as a laptop in a pinch, and it comes with the superb S Pen stylus.

Pros: Gorgeous screen, fast processor, S-Pen stylus is included, and powerful speakers

Cons: Expensive compared to most Android tablets

Samsung has been making excellent Android tablets for years, and its recently launched Galaxy Tab S7 continues that tradition. Scratch that, this new release improves on its predecessors in a lot of ways, making it perhaps the best Samsung tablet release yet. Make no mistake: this is a high-end Android tablet that can go toe-to-toe with Apple’s iPad Pro on nearly every level.

The Galaxy Tab S7 is a stylish, well-made tablet with a metal frame and back. The keyboard case is sturdy and turns your tablet into a quasi-laptop – although, while it does moonlight as a laptop and does a heck of a job at it, it is a tablet first and foremost.

This tablet showcases Samsung’s knack for making astonishingly beautiful screens, boasting a stunner of a 11-inch LTPS LCD screen. I watched lots of Netflix and Prime Video on the tablet, and I was really impressed by the clarity, color reproduction, and intensity of the brilliant screen. 

When used with the included Samsung’s S-Pen stylus, you’re getting a terrific experience, whether you’re creating designs or simply scribbling your thoughts. The S-Pen itself feels like a real pen. I love to draw on tablets, and I was impressed by the lack of lag on the Tab S7. Palm rejection works perfectly as well. 

Other noteworthy features here are the 128GB of storage to give you ample space for downloads, a microSD card slot if you ever need to expand your memory, and that fast performance made possible by the Snapdragon 865 Plus, one of the best chips for Android devices, powering it.

The Galaxy Tab S7 comes with a steep price tag, starting at $649.99 for its base configuration. However, if you want the best iPad Pro alternative, this is it.

The best tablet for professionals

iPad Pro Keyboard 4

Apple’s iPad Pro comes in 11-inch and 12.9-inch sizes with specs that are so high-end they surpass some laptops.

Pros: Gorgeous screens, new design with smaller bezels, excellent specs, high-end performance, Pencil is superb for drawing, two screen sizes, now comes with mouse support

Cons: Very expensive, accessories are extra

The recently released iPad Pros for 2021 are set to be a game-changer, touting the same much-lauded M1 processor that runs Apple’s newest MacBook computers and brings big gains in power and battery life.

Additionally, these new iPad Pros come equipped with a Thunderbolt connector for more accessory compatibility, optional 5G connectivity, and up to 2TB of storage. The 12.9-inch model also features a Liquid Retina XDR display powered by mini-LED technology for enhanced brightness and clarity.

We are currently testing the 2021 iPad Pro lineup. In the meantime, the 2020 iPad Pro still has its merits, including those slim bezels, a stunning sharp screen in two sizes, and a powerful processor. It also comes in 11- and 12.9-inch screen sizes to suit your preferences, with the 12.9-inch screen ideal for digital artists who need room to roam and the 11-inch model better for portability. (You may also more easily get a deal on a previous-generation model.)

Regardless of the model, the 2020 iPad Pro is a powerhouse. The A12Z Bionic processor is so high-powered it can surpass some laptops. Apple’s entry-level model comes with 128GB of storage, but you can get up to 1TB if you want to spend a whole lot of money. Apple no longer sells the 2020 iPad Pro, but you can still find it through retailers like Amazon.

We recommend picking up the new Apple Pencil if you like to take notes or draw. It may cost $129, but the new version charges wirelessly and magnetically attaches to your iPad for easy storage.

Apple’s Keyboard will also cost you a pretty penny, so we recommend going for a third-party case and keyboard. — Malarie Gokey

The best tablet for kids

Fire HD 8 Kids Edition Lifestyle 2

If you feel a little nervous handing your mobile devices to your kids, the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition tablet comes with a tough case to keep it safe.

Pros: Better performance, rugged build, parental controls built-in, longer battery life, two-year worry-free guarantee, a plethora of apps, more affordable than ever 

Cons: Doesn’t contain powerful components, tablet runs slower than most models

When it comes to kids, it’s not advisable to just hand them your pricey tablet. That’s why tablets for kids exist, because not only are they built to withstand all the abuse a toddler can muster, but they’re also cheap enough that you won’t feel bad when they are eventually destroyed.

Take the Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition, for example. It comes with a tough kid-proof case that’s designed to protect it from drops and bumps as well as keep crumbs and other messes away. 

Amazon is so confident that this case will do the job that it offers a two-year worry-free guarantee. That way, if you’re dealing with a mini Hulk, you can rest assured that Amazon will replace the device for free. We only wish it also offered some level of water-proofing.

It takes more than a rugged build to be a great kids tablet, and the Fire HD 8 Kids Edition knows that. It comes with a whole lot of kid-friendly content and apps so that your kids can play educational games, watch their favorite shows, and even read books to their heart’s content – or at least until you say so. 

Amazon bundles it with a year’s worth of free Amazon Kids+ access to save you money. After that, it’s $2.99 a month, which really isn’t bad considering that your kids will be entertained for hours and you’ll get a much deserved break when you need it.

While its predecessor is a little sluggish, the newest Fire HD 8 Kids Edition offers better performance without costing you a lot more. That’s without mentioning its longer battery life of up to 12 hours, more storage (that is also expandable up to 1TB, thanks to its microSD card slot), and USB-C port for faster charging.

The Amazon Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is a slightly bigger option with better performance than our previous choice, the Fire 7 Kids Edition, and it’s barely more expensive at $140.

The best small tablet

iPad Mini 2019

The iPad Mini is essentially a smaller replica of the standard 10.2-inch iPad. Just watch out for its higher price tag. 

Pros: Compact, good performance, sharp screen, works with the Apple Pencil

Cons: Dated design, expensive for what it is

The 2019 iPad Mini is Apple’s small tablet that’s powered by the capable A12 Bionic chip, and it supports the first-generation Apple Pencil, which makes the Mini a great tablet for note taking or drawing.

The Mini‘s 7.9-inch Retina display has a sharp 2,048 x 1,536-pixel resolution, too, so you can really enjoy watching videos, reading, and creating on the screen.

You can choose between 64GB or 256GB of storage and three color options: Silver, Space Gray, or Gold). If you want to keep the price down, you can get the Wi-Fi-only version, but there is also a Mini with both cellular and Wi-Fi connections.

Our main gripe with the iPad Mini is that it’s a smaller version of the $330 10.2-inch iPad with nearly the same specs, and yet it costs $70 more. That higher price casts a shadow over the iPad Mini, as it’s hard to justify paying extra for something smaller, especially if it’s a year old already. Still, it’s the best small tablet there is.

What else we considered

iPad Air Wide

There are a lot of amazing tablets out there, and just because they didn’t quite make our list above, that doesn’t mean they’re not equally worthy of consideration when you’re looking for your next tablet. 

In fact, there are a couple of tablets we’ve tested that we wish we could include, but have opted not to. That’s mostly because they couldn’t quite compete in terms of value – even though when it comes to performance and features, they are still top-notch.

It was hard not to include, for example, the iPad Air 4, which was released in October 2020. This stunning tablet from Apple is thin and lightweight, and it comes in three appealing colors on top of the usual space gray and silver. 

It also delivers impressive performance, thanks to Apple’s latest A14 Bionic chip, and that beautiful 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display that’s simply terrific for media consumption. That’s without mentioning its compatibility with the second generation Apple Pencil and the Magic Keyboard, both of which turn it into a highly capable creative and productivity tool.

Unfortunately, it’s also neither the best value of the iPads nor the most powerful. However, it’s the way to go if you have a bigger budget but don’t necessarily need the sheer power that the iPad Pro offers.

Then there’s the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 Plus, which is as premium as you can get in the Android tablet scene. This “Plus” version of the Galaxy Tab S7, our current
“best high-end Android tablet” pick, comes with an even more beautiful Super AMOLED display with 2,800 x 1,752 resolution, as well as an in-screen fingerprint sensor and a longer battery life, making it a superior prospect.

Sadly, it’s also the pricier one, starting at $850. While that price is cheaper than the iPad Pro, the fact that the Tab S7 is cheaper still makes the S7 Plus less appealing for most people – even those looking for something premium. 

However, if you do want the best of the best and have deep pockets, it’s definitely worth the upgrade

How to pick the right tablet for you

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Operating systems for tablets

As with smartphones and laptops, you can choose among a few different types of operating systems with tablets. Picking the right OS will enhance your enjoyment of the tablet you select.

  • Apple’s iOS: For many people, the name iPad is synonymous with tablets. Although the iPad wasn’t the first tablet on the market, it’s credited with making tablets popular and invigorating the tablet market in 2010. The iPad runs Apple’s iOS operating system, which also powers the iPhone. iOS has a great interface and works equally well on a smartphone or tablet screen. There are tons of special apps made for the iPad, which makes it an excellent investment. However, because only Apple-branded iPads can run iOS, you’ll pay more for them versus tablets with other operating systems. 
  • Google’s Android: You also may be familiar with the Android operating system, managed by Google. Android powers many different kinds of smartphones. It’s also very user-friendly and offers tons of apps. There are numerous Android tablets to choose from, and they range in price from under $10 to around $600 and up. 
  • Amazon’s Fire OS: Fire OS is a special ecosystem, rather than an operating system, as it runs on top of Android. Basically, it brings Amazon’s services to the forefront of the OS and you download apps from Amazon’s app store. Amazon also has special software for kids on its kid-friendly tablets. These Fire tablets are much more affordable than any other kind of tablet.
  • Microsoft’s Windows: Microsoft has tweaked the Windows operating system to make it far more user-friendly than older versions of Windows, meaning it works equally well with a traditional desktop computer or a touchscreen tablet. When running Windows on a tablet, you’ll have access to a lot of traditional software, but you’ll find a significant lack of apps compared to Apple or Android. However, since these tablets run Windows, they can be used as full laptops.

What to look for in a tablet

Tablets have a lot of different strengths, depending on the one you choose. Think about what you want to do with the tablet, and you’ll be able to find one that’ll perfectly meet your needs.

  • Battery Life: Completing a really long car trip in successful silence may depend on whether your tablet has a long battery life. Battery life typically can range anywhere from 4 to 12 hours, depending on the tablet model and screen size. Seven hours is about average.
  • Connectivity: Different tablets allow you to make a connection to the Internet in a few different ways. Most will offer Wi-Fi connectivity, allowing you to connect to your home or work network. Others also include the ability to connect to a cellular network, much like a smartphone, and access the Internet through the cell network. However, you must have a cellular account with a monthly fee to use it.
  • Fast Processor: Look at the CPU and GPU chips included in your tablet. Newer, more powerful chips will give you faster performance levels. Some Windows tablets even have laptop-level processors inside, so you can use them as portable PCs. However, you will pay more for more power.
  • Keyboard: Most tablets are able to connect to a physical keyboard for typing, making it easier to input data into the tablet versus using the digital keyboard on the screen. Some tablets are 2-in-1 devices, meaning the keyboard/screen configuration looks more like a laptop because the two are connected. You then can fold up the keyboard to make it work like a tablet.
  • RAM: RAM is the amount of memory used to operate software and apps. This is different from the type of memory used for data storage. The more RAM you have available on the tablet, the better it will perform, but the more you’ll have to pay.
  • Screen Resolution: Tablets that can display more pixels will have a sharper image that looks great. If you want to watch movies on the tablets, having a resolution of at least full HD quality (1,920 x 1,080 pixels) will be very desirable.
  • Screen Size: The size of the tablet’s screen marks the most important feature for most people. Larger screens work better for things like watching movies, drawing, or playing games. Of course, screen size plays a direct role in the size of the tablet, too. So if you want a smaller tablet, you’ll want a smaller screen.
  • Storage: Tablets have an interior solid state drive (or SSD) for storing apps, movies, games, and more. You may be able to add more storage through a Micro SD memory card, although not all tablets have a memory card slot. Some tablets rely on cloud storage for extra storage. You may want extra storage for movies, books, and games.
  • Stylus: Some people love having a stylus for working with the tablet, especially if they’re drawing by freehand. Not every tablet can make use of a stylus, and some stylus pens don’t work as well as others. So if you need one, do your homework to find a tablet that can take full advantage of the features of the stylus.

Check out our guide to the best iPads you can buy

ipad air and ipad mini 2019

The best iPads you can buy

Apple is the uncontested king of tablets. The word iPad is synonymous with the word tablet. Chances are if you own a tablet at all, you have an iPad.

We’ve tested nearly every iPad that has been released over the past three years, and these are the absolute best iPads you can buy. You can also check out the best iPad cases for every type of person and read why we love the Apple Pencil.

Read the original article on Business Insider