Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Evil Dead: The Game Cover Story – Raising Hell

Saber Interactive and Boss Team Games are targeting the asymmetrical horror genre for a battle between demons and survivors, but it’s quite different than other creature feature forays on the market. In Evil Dead: The Game, don’t expect to find the human heroes cowering in corners or attempting to flee – this 4v1 fear festival takes the fight directly to the forces of evil, hacking enemies in half and blowing them to pieces. In 1981, Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead made a grisly splash onto the horror scene, featuring what’s become an almost formulaic setup: Five unfortunate friends head out to a cabin in the woods for a good time, and then, spoiler alert, good times are not had. The idyllic journey into the country turns into a bloody massacre, spurred on by an ancient evil book known as the Necronomicon. I remember I first saw the movie in a time when villains like Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers fought for dominance over our grade-school nightmares. The film offered the terrifying simplicity of facing your friends after they become possessed undead. It gloried in the sheer, unflinching willingness to lean into the intimate, grim goriness of it all, and the experience left a strong impression. Interestingly enough, it’s possible that The Evil Dead wouldn’t have had the chance to thrive without horror maestro Stephen King’s praise. After seeing it out of competition at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival, King wrote a rave review, leading to New Line Cinema picking the film up for distribution. The movie has gone down as a cult classic and had plenty of influence within the horrorsphere. But Bruce Campell’s portrayal of character Ash Williams has undeniably become the campy, comical face of the otherwise incredibly macabre franchise, infusing the gruesome themes and blood splatters with a hefty dose of comedic quips and one-liners. Multiple films followed the original, including Evil Dead 2 and the completely off-the-wall Army of Darkness, where Ash travels back to medieval times to fight the titular demonic forces. In more modern times, the series has had both a soft reboot and a TV series, with yet another film, Evil Dead Rise, scheduled to hit this year. And then, of course, there’s Saber Interactive’s upcoming game. Read more...
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    The best Apple Watch accessories you can buy

    It didn’t take long for the Apple Watch to become perhaps the most ubiquitous wearable. Even more so than the iPhone, the Apple Watch is a device you can truly make your own with the right accessories. It is, after all, a watch, and like traditional timepieces it’s meant to reflect your personal style. While the most obvious way to customize your Apple Watch is with funky bands, there are cases, stands, wireless chargers and other accessories you can buy that can inject a bit of you into all aspects of Apple Watch ownership. We tested out a bunch of Apple Watch accessories to see which are worth your money.Spigen Thin Fit caseValentina Palladino / EngadgetWhile plenty of us use cases to protect our smartphones from drops and scrapes, you may not think to do the same for your smartwatch. After all, a device that’s literally strapped to your body isn’t as prone to accidental drops as a device that moves in and out of your pocket all day. Chalk it up to me being clumsy, but I’ve knocked my Apple Watch on more door frames than I’d like to admit. For less than $25, a case is a good option if you don’t want to take any chances with that $279-plus smartwatch on your wrist.“Cases” are basically bumpers that surround the edges of the Apple Watch, and some of them even cover the screen. I personally prefer a bumper-style case because, if I’m going to cover the display, it’ll be with a dedicated screen protector. Spigen’s line of Apple Watch cases are solid and they come in two different levels of bulk. The Rugged Armor series has a shock-absorbent layer and raised bezels, making it especially well suited for those who prioritize protection over fashion. Spigen’s Thin Fit series is more my speed: It sits flush against the Watch’s display, but still gives you an extra layer of protection. You can even choose a color that matches your Watch to help it blend in. Two added perks of Spigen’s cases are that they snap on quickly and easily, and they’re quite affordable at around $14 a piece.Buy Spigen Thin Fit at Amazon - $14Zagg InvisibleShield screen protectorZaggIf you don’t want the extra bulk that comes with a case, a screen protector will give you at least a bit more of a safeguard than sporting a naked Watch. Zagg’s InvisibleShield line is a reliable one that provides shatter protection, clarity and enhanced touch-sensitivity. When installed properly (Zagg gives you clear instructions and all the tools you need to do so), you’ll probably forget you have a screen protector on your Watch. These blend in almost seamlessly with the Watch’s hardware, and if you do accidentally ding the screen, the protector should take all of the damage.Buy Invisible Shield screen protector at Amazon - $10Anker Nano Pro 20W chargerAnkerThe latest Apple Watches don’t come with power adapters, so you’ll have to dig one out of your drawer or get a new one to charge it up. Choosing the latter is probably best since Series 7 owners will get a new, USB-C-toting cable, so you’ll need an appropriate adapter to get all of that fast-charging goodness. Anker’s 20W Nano Pro is a good pick because it’s compact and has a few safety features built in. Inside is a dynamic temperature sensor that helps prevent overheating, plus a power tuner chip that helps adjust output based on your device. That second feature is likely more important than the first if you’re primarily using this tiny brick with your Apple Watch, but both will be handy if you ever need to use it with your iPhone. What’s more, the Nano Pro can fast charge iPhone 13s, providing a 50-percent top-up in only 25 minutes, and you can get one that matches the color of your handset if you wish.Buy Anker Nano Pro 20W at Amazon - $20Apple MagSafe Duo chargerAppleApple makes one of the more elegant solutions to charging your iPhone and Apple Watch while traveling. The $129 MagSafe Duo has spaces to wirelessly charge both devices and folds up into a neat square when not in use. The Apple Watch pad flips upward as well, allowing you to use the gadget in Nighttime mode while it’s charging. While this accessory does come with a USB-C to Lightning cable to provide power to the system, it does not come with an AC adapter so you will have to remember to pack your own.Buy MagSafe Duo at Amazon - $129Belkin Boost Charge Pro portable fast chargerValentina Palladino / EngadgetApple Watch chargers are a bit different than Lightning cables in the sense that you probably have only one of the former and many of the latter. Those who travel or commute often should consider getting a second Apple Watch charger, that way you’re not stuck if you forget to pack your one and only before a long weekend trip. Belkin’s Boost Charge Pro portable fast charger is a great option, particularly for those who have a Series 7. The square pad uses Apple’s new fast-charging module, so it’ll be able to power up the Series 7 from 0 to 80 percent in roughly 45 minutes.You can simply sit your timepiece on the module to charge, but it also flips up so you can use the Watch in Nightstand mode while it’s powering up on your bedside table. To support different Watch sizes and protective cases, the pad also has a dial on its underside that lets you adjust the height of the charging module. Plus, the attached USB-C cable that tucks away on the bottom of the pad is four feet long, giving you a bit more placement flexibility than other chargers.The main drawback is its $60 list price, but those strapped for cash should consider Anker’s version, which is very similar to Belkins and only $43. It won’t fast-charge the Series 7, but it will power up the device just like it would a Series 6 or earlier. I also prefer how the attached USB-C cable coils up into the base on this one – it’s a bit neater than Belkin’s solution.Buy Boost Charge Pro at Belkin - $60Buy Anker Foldable Charging Dock at Amazon - $43Bellroy Compact Tech KitBellroyYou’ll likely have your Apple Watch strapped to your wrist while traveling, but it’s a good idea to have a pouch or case that can hold the gadget along with any accessories you need when you’re not wearing it. Bellroy’s Compact Tech Kit is an attractive option not only because of its minimalist design, but the multiple loops and pockets on the inside. It can easily hold your Apple Watch charging cable, an AC adapter and a few extra bands, and you’ll still have space for things like AirPods, a Lightning cable for your iPhone and even a larger power adapter for your laptop. If you don’t mind something a bit more utilitarian, Bagsmart’s small travel organizer is a good option that also costs just $17.Buy Compact Tech Kit at Bellroy - $55Buy Bagsmart small travel organizer at Amazon - $17Apple Watch standsValentina Palladino / EngadgetIf you want to use the Apple Watch’s handy Nightstand mode while it’s charging, I’ve found that Watch holders can make the experience much better. My Watch often topples over or rolls about when I simply trust it to sit on its side next to my bed, but that’s easily fixed with a stand. Elago’s stands may be simple, but they have a lot of personality, coming in colorful dome shapes and in the forms of retro tech. The biggest problem with them, particularly the dome stands, is that they can be prone to sliding around on your desk or nightstand if there’s any tension on your charging cable. But they hold the Apple Watch well and, at under $15, they’re affordable ways to inject more personality into your accessory game.We previously recommended Spigen’s $11 S350 stand as another basic option, but we’d now opt to upgrade to the PowerArc ArcField wireless charger. Coming in at $37, this one looks almost identical to the S350 stand but it comes with an Apple Watch charging module built in, plus an attached, 6.6-foot USB-C cable. It also comes with a few rubber pads of different heights, allowing you to adjust the stand to the right height based on your Watch’s size and if you have a case protecting it. While it costs more than a standard silicone stand for your Apple Watch, it’s worth it for the additional charging power – plus if it does become your main home charger, that frees up the charging cable that came with the Apple Watch to be your on-the-go option.Buy Elago dome charging stand at Amazon - $10Buy Elago W6 charging stand (iPod) at Amazon - $13Buy Spigen PowerArc ArcField wireless charger at Amazon - $37Apple Watch bandsValentina Palladino / EngadgetYou probably made your way to this guide because you already have an Apple Watch that you’re ready to deck out. But if you haven’t made the purchase yet, consider using the Apple Watch Studio to customize the timepiece to your liking. Doing so will let you choose the precise band style and color you want, and there are definitely a few that are worth getting directly from Apple. Both the Sport Band and the Sport Loop are good basic options for everyday and exercise use, but you can find alternatives for much less elsewhere.Apple’s Solo Loop is a good one if you just want to slip your Watch on in the morning without worrying about notches or buckles — just make sure you get the right size when you order. I’m also partial to the Nike Sport Band because its carefully placed holes make it breathable and extra comfortable for working out. But if you want that one, you’ll have to buy the Apple Watch Nike edition, which is just a regular Watch with the Nike+ Run Club app preinstalled.But if you or your loved one already have an Apple Watch, it’s easy to find additional bands across the web. When it comes to basic silicone straps, you can find packs of three to six bands for less than $20 but the quality may be questionable. Look for brands with many high ratings on Amazon if you insist on getting the best bang for your buck. You can also use FakeSpot’s Amazon integration to get an idea for how trustworthy a product’s reviews are.A few reputable brands that make Apple Watch bands are Spigen, Elago and Casetify. Spigen’s Silicone Fit band feels the most similar to Apple’s Sport Band. The material is soft, comfortable and it’s a hair thinner than Apple’s. The biggest difference is that you’ll pay around $10 for one of Spigen’s bands as opposed to $50 for one of Apple’s.Buy Apple Watch bands (5 pack) at Amazon - $20Buy Spigen Silicone Fit band at Amazon - $10Elago’s Sport Bands are made of fluoro-rubber material, so they’re a bit thicker and more substantial than Apple’s standard silicone band. They also have traditional buckle closures, giving them a style that better transitions from workouts to workplaces. They are a good option if you like the simplicity of Apple’s own bands but don’t want to shell out $50 for one.Casetify occupies the opposite end of the spectrum, offering printed and customizable Apple Watch straps that truly stand out. They come in metal, leather, silicone and recycled plastic and you can get as specific as you want. There are plenty of solid colors to choose from as well as dozens of floral and animal prints. Casetify also has trendy collaborations with Disney, Netflix’s Squid Game and other pop-culture heavyweights, and even bands you can personalize with your recipient’s name or initials. While Casetify’s straps are on the expensive side, ranging from $40 to $72, it’s a price worth paying if you absolutely must have a band that fits your style to a tee.Buy Elago sport band at Amazon - $19Shop Casetify Apple Watch bands

    Tech that can help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions

    Regardless of how 2021 went for you, 2022 is another chance for all of us to make the new year better than those that came before it. We set New Year’s resolutions with the best of intentions, but it’s no wonder that so many people fail after just a few weeks – old habits die hard. Just as it’s important to have a supportive group of people cheering you on during those particularly hard days, it’s also important to have tools that make it easier to achieve your goals. Whether you’re trying to get healthy, be more organized, or read more, there are tech tools that can make your journey a bit easier (and maybe even more enjoyable).Fitness trackerFitbitA fitness tracker can help kickstart your exercise journey by passively monitoring your wins and showing you daily data about your steps, sleep patterns and more. Fitbit’s Inspire 2 is an all-around good option, not only because it’s fairly affordable at $100, but because it does pretty much everything a beginner would need a fitness tracker to do. It tracks daily steps, calories, heart rate, sleep and more, and it comes with 20 goal-based exercises that you can manually track or let the device’s automatic SmartTrack feature monitor for you. It also has 10-day battery life, so you rarely have to take it off to charge it. And with built-in Tile functionality, you’ll be able to more easily find the device if you do misplace it.SmartwatchCherlynn Low / EngadgetIf you’d rather invest in an all-purpose wearable that also has serious fitness chops, the Apple Watch SE is a good choice. While it doesn’t include some of the bells and whistles that the Series 7 does, it still fferes the same core experience as any Apple Watch. It tracks all-day activity and heart rate, and watchOS finally does basic sleep tracking, too. In addition to built-in GPS for outdoor workouts, it supports dozens of trackable exercises along with fall detection and high and low heart rate notifications. The Apple Watch also excels over basic fitness trackers when it comes to table-stakes smartwatch features: You’ll be able to send and receive text messages from the device, as well as control music playback, smart home devices and more.Workout classesmillann via Getty Images If running isn’t your thing, or it’s just inconvenient to do it where you live, finding exercise classes that you enjoy can make working out a habit you’re more likely to stick with for the long haul. You may prefer to do this through your local gym — that push to get out of the house and into a dedicated exercise space can be really effective for some — but there are plenty of online fitness classes as well that you can participate in from the comfort of your living room. I’ve tried my fair share of these services and my favorite has been Peloton. No, you don’t need one of the company’s expensive bikes or treadmills to take advantage of their classes. Access to the app-only version of the subscription costs $13 per month and it lets you take HIIT, strength, yoga and even outdoor running classes, many of which require little to no equipment at all.If you can’t afford another monthly subscription fee, the internet has tons of free exercise resources — you just have to work a little harder to find the ones you jive with most. I highly recommend Fitness Blender, a free website where you can watch hundreds of workout videos and even set a schedule for yourself, assigning videos to specific days of the week. I like the quality and consistency of their videos, but you may connect more to YouTube workout videos if they’re taught by instructors you like; Heather Robertson and Move with Nicole are two personal favorites.Habit trackerForestAt least in the beginning, keeping track of new habits you’re trying to build can help you stick to them. While you can get deep into this subject if you wander down the bullet-journal rabbit hole, a habit-tracking app is probably the easier option. Done and Strides are two iOS options that let you log when you’ve completed a new habit you’re trying to build or when you avoided a bad habit that you’re trying to break. You can get pretty granular, customizing how often you want to do a task, setting reminders to log, reviewing stats and more. However, both apps have paid tiers to which you’ll be asked to subscribe after you create a few trackable habits.If you’d rather avoid yet another subscription, consider an app like Streaks, which can be all yours for a one-time fee of $5. As for Android, Grow is a free app that takes a similar approach to habit tracking that Forest takes with time management. Plant a virtual tree for each new habit tracked and watch it grow every time you log a completion. There’s also Habitica, which turns habit tracking to an 8-bit RPG game in which your custom avatar levels up every time you log a task.To-do and note-taking appsThings 3 The new year provides an opportunity to get back on track, and one way to do that is by finding organizational tools that work for you — and making sure those tools are as uncomplicated as possible. The worst thing that could happen is that your to-do list or note-taking system ends up being so cumbersome that you avoid using it. Keeping all of your necessary tasks in your head may work on easy days, but it can quickly get overwhelming when you have a million things to handle in both your personal and professional life. I’m a fan of Things for iOS and macOS because it’s detailed enough for big work projects, but simple enough for casual personal tasks. I also love the Today view, which shows me everything across all of my projects that requires immediate attention.However, you’ll spend $80 to get Things for iOS, iPadOS and macOS — and it’s only available for Apple devices. Microsoft’s To Do is an alternative that, while less involved than Things 3, is free and works on almost every platform including iOS, Android and Windows, among others. You can keep it simple and just have a task list and a grocery list, or you can go deeper and add due dates, sub-tasks and even share lists with family members. And if you don’t want to bother with an extraneous app, you can always opt for the reminders app that (most likely) came preinstalled on your phone. That would be Reminders for iOS users and Google Keep for Android users.Google Keep also doubles as a note-taking app, which will be a better solution if you’ve been constantly jotting down ideas for new projects on Post-It notes or scraps of paper that you eventually lose. Apple Notes is the default option for this on iOS devices, and there are plenty of other note-taking apps out there as well. I’m partial to Evernote simply because it’s become my digital file box of sorts. I take notes in it almost every day, but tons of things like online order receipts, messages from my doctor’s office and e-signed contracts all come to me through my email and eventually get saved and tagged in Evernote so I can easily find them in the future.Password manager1Password If you’re looking to up your organization game in the new year, a password manager is a great place to start. I’m partial to 1Password, but there are plenty of other options including LastPass (which has a free version), Bitwarden and Dashlane. After saving all of your passwords for various accounts, you only need to remember one (hence the name) to log in to your 1Password account and access all of the others. The service has browser extensions Chrome, Edge and others that will let you seamlessly log in with the proper credentials with just a few clicks, and 1Password has apps for most platforms including iOS and Android, so you can use it on all of your devices.I also appreciate the Password Generator feature, which helps you create a new, secure password whenever one of yours has expired. LassPass has this too, and Dashlane even has a free tool that anyone can use to make more secure passwords. Not only does this take the onus of coming up with a strong key off your shoulders, but it also makes it easy to override old credentials with new ones.Travel tech organizerBellroyOne of the consequences of the past two is the dual-office life. Many of us now work both from home and from an office, and the last thing you want to do when you arrive in either place is rummage around your backpack only to realize that you’ve left your mouse, charging cable or dongle at your other desk.An organizer bag can prevent this before it happens – we’re partial to BagSmart tech organizers thanks to their utilitarian, water-repellent designs and their multiple pockets and dividers. They also come in different sizes, so you can pick the best one for your commuter bag. If you want something a bit more elevated, Bellroy’s Desk Pouch is a good option. It’s pricier but for the money you get a more elegant design, with a higher-quality material (recycled nylon, weave or ripstop, depending on the color you choose) and a structured base that keeps the bag upright on your desk.Computer docking stationCalDigitIt’s all too easy for your work-from-home setup to get really messy really quickly. When you’re going through your busiest times at work, the last thing you’re thinking about is cable management, but dedicating a bit more effort into tidying up your workspace can make your day to day more efficient and more enjoyable.We recommend some sort of docking station to keep your laptop, monitors, accessories and the like in check. A couple good options are CalDigit’s TS3 Plus and Plugable’s Universal Docking Station. The former has a compact, rectangular design with a total of 16 different ports on it, including a Gigabit Ethernet jack, five USB-A connections, two Thunderbolt 3 sockets and analog audio in/out ports. The latter stands up vertically on your desk and has 13 connectors, including HDMI and DVI ports, six USB-A connections and a Gigabit Ethernet jack. That DVI port may be a deciding factor for you depending on which monitor you have, and Plugable’s device comes with both DVI to HDMI and DVI to VGA adapters.While both of those options are stationary, there are plenty of adapters out there that can give you similar organization while on the go, albeit in a less elegant package. Anker’s USB-C hub is an affordable solution that includes an HDMI port, microSD and SD card readers, two USB-C connections and two USB-A ports. It also supports 100W power pass-through, so you can charge your laptop through the hub while using it.Instant PotInstant Pot / Best Buy Eating healthier — or even just avoiding takeout multiple times a week — can be challenging in part because it usually means cooking more at home. Not only is that hard to do when you’re starting from zero, but it’s especially tough because it takes more time than ordering in from your phone. But tools like an Instant Pot can make the process easier because it cuts your active cooking time down drastically. You can find a plethora of recipes in which you simply throw a bunch of ingredients into the pot, set it and forget it until it’s time to eat.We recommend the Instant Pot Duo for beginners because it’s relatively affordable and combines seven different cooking methods into one appliance, including rice cooking, steaming, pressure cooking, slow cooking and more. If you’re primarily cooking for yourself and a partner, the three-quart model will serve you just fine, but we recommend the six-quart model if you’re routinely cooking for four or more. If the thought of cooking at home actually excites you rather than fills you with anxiety, consider the Instant Pot Ultra, which includes a few extra modes like cake maker and egg cooker, or the Instant Pot Duo Crisp, which includes an air-fry lid.Recipe organizationRichLegg via Getty Images One of the best things about cooking at home is finding recipes that you love so much that you want to make over and over again. You’ll want to keep those recipes safe and readily available so you can refer to them when you need a quick weeknight meal or a dish to bring to your next family reunion. Recipe cards are a great way to do this, and you’ll build up your rolodex of delicious meals over time. If you’d rather have a cookbook of sorts that you fill in yourself over time, opt for a recipe book instead.If you’d rather keep your arsenal of recipes accessible at any time, anywhere from your phone, Paprika’s recipe management app is the best solution I’ve tried. The $5 app basically acts as your digital recipe box, allowing you to enter recipes of your own as well as download them from the internet. You know those hundreds of words that precede online recipes, in which the author divulges their entire life story before telling you their secret to making deliciously moist cornbread? Paprika strips all of those unnecessary bits out and only saves the ingredient list and the instructions. You can also make grocery lists and keep track of pantry staples in the app, so don’t be surprised if it quickly becomes one of your most-used kitchen tools.Reading appScribdDon’t take your habit of doom-scrolling on Twitter for hours every day into the new year. You could instead use the internet to find other things to read and the free Libby app is a good place to start. Powered by Overdrive, it connects you with your local library’s digital collection, allowing you to borrow and download all kinds of e-books, audiobooks, magazines, graphic novels and more. Libby also has a tag system that you can use to “save” titles for later without actually putting a hold on them (although you can do that in the app, too). If you find a bunch of audiobooks you eventually want to get to, you can give them all a “TBR” tag so you can quickly find them and borrow one when you need new reading/listening material.As someone who uses Libby on a regular basis, I love how easy it is to borrow from my local library without leaving my home. However, there have been numerous times in which my library doesn’t have a title I’m looking for. If that happens to you often, you may want to consider a subscription service like Kindle Unlimited or Scribd, both of which give you unlimited access to a wide library of e-books for $10 per month. And for audiobook lovers, your options are Amazon’s Audible or Libro.fm, the latter of which lets you choose the local bookstore you want to support with your purchases.E-readerNathan Ingraham / EngadgetE-readers are still around because so many people recognize how much better it can be to read e-books on a dedicated device — especially one with an e-paper display. Sure, you could read on your smartphone or a tablet, but staring at those screens all day long can be tiring for your eyes. An e-reader like Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo’s Clara HD is a better choice not only for its more comfortable display, but also because it focuses your attention on reading. (If you’ve ever picked up your smartphone intending to finish a chapter only to be distracted by email or Twitter, you know how crucial this is.)The new Kindle Paperwhite has a 6.8-inch display with adjustable warm lights, 20 percent faster page turns and weeks of battery life. The Clara HD is similar, with a 6-inch E-Ink display, adjustable brightness and color temperature, along with weeks of battery life. If you already get most of your e-books through Amazon, the Paperwhite is the best option. You can listen to Audible audiobooks, too, if you connect a pair of wireless earbuds to the e-reader. Kobo’s device primarily gets books via the Kobo Store, but it also supports various file types like EPUB, PDF and MOBI. Plus, it has on-device integration with Overdrive, allowing you to borrow library books directly from the e-reader.

    The best gear to give to the photographer in your life

    If your favorite person has a love of video or photography, a camera may be the best gift they’ll ever get. Some may want to capture their adventures with an action camera, while others may desire a mirrorless camera for portraits, movies or artistic shots. The technology is better than ever as camera makers try to stay ahead of smartphones with faster shooting speeds, sharper video and incredible autofocus. We found the best models for budgets ranging from $400 to $2,500, along with top accessories to complement their existing gear.GoPro Hero 10 BlackWill Lipman Photography for EngadgetFor the adventurer on your gift list, there’s no better action camera than the GoPro Hero 10 Black. It bests the previous Hero 9 Black model in a number of key ways, thanks mainly to the faster GP2 processor. That helps it deliver improved image quality, with higher resolution at up to 5.3K/30fps instead of 5K as before. It also offers improved noise reduction, smoother stabilization, more faithful color reproduction and better handling.Buy GoPro Hero 10 Black at Amazon - $499Buy Hero 9 Black at GoPro - $350Sony Alpha A6100Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / SonySony’s A6100 is a great gift idea for budding photographers, as it offers the best features of its APS-C mirrorless camera series at the best price. Chief among those is the incredibly reliable autofocus system with eye-detection and other AI tricks. Even with fast-moving action, the A6100 will nail focus for video or photos most of the time thanks to the extremely rapid tracking system. It also offers accurate colors, good low-light performance and a flip-up display that allows for selfies and vlogging, with sharp video capture at up to 4K. It’s also one of the best mirrorless camera deals around at $748, or $848 with a 16-50mm kit lens.Buy Sony Alpha A6100 at B&H - $848DJI Ronin SC gimbalDJIA gimbal is a great gift idea for video shooters, helping them boost production value with smooth tracking, panning and other shots. If your loved one has a mirrorless camera, the best option is DJI’s Ronin-SC model. It weighs just 2.4 pounds, 41 percent lighter than DJI’s original Ronin-S — making it easier to use for longer periods. It can stabilize just about any type of video as well, thanks to the ActiveTrack 3.0 mode and AI that can lock onto and track human or other subjects.Buy DJI Ronin SC at Amazon - $439Panasonic GH5Will Lipman Photography for EngadgetIf your gift recipient is into making YouTube videos, the Panasonic GH5 has been the vlogging camera of choice since it first came out . The 20-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor delivers pin-sharp 4K video downsampled from the full sensor at up to 60fps, with a 10-bit high-color option that makes editing easier afterwards. It also includes other necessities for vlogging like a flip-out display, in-body stabilization and dual high-speed card slots. With the arrival of the $1,700 GH5 II, the original GH5 is cheaper than it’s ever been at $1,300, giving your loved one a lot of camera for the money.Buy Panasonic GH5 at Amazon - $1,300Magnus VT-4000 TripodEngadgetIf your giftee is starting to get serious about video, the Magnus VT 4000 is the best budget tripod option out there. It’s lightweight at 8 pounds, but the anodized aluminum construction is strong enough to handle a mirrorless camera and accessories weighing up to 8.8 pounds. The lack of heft makes it practical for travel, while the fluid head allows for smooth tilts and pans. Other features include a middle spreader to keep things steady and legs that extend up to 64 inches so you can match the eyeline of your subjects.Buy Magnus VT-4000 tripod at Amazon - $199Canon EOS R6Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / CanonFor a serious camera gift that’s around $2,500, Canon’s 20-megapixel EOS R6 is the best hybrid model out there. It delivers up to 20 fps burst shooting speeds while the Dual Pixel AF nails focus on nearly every shot, whether in bright sunlight or dim lighting. It’s also a solid pick for video, letting you shoot 4K supersampled video at 60 fps with 10-bit log and HDR options for maximum editing flexibility — again, with Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system that’s second to none. The caveat to that is overheating, which limits use for things like weddings and journalism.Buy Canon EOS R6 at Amazon - $2,499Joby GorillaPod 3KJobySome of the most useful gifts out there for vloggers are Joby’s famous mini-tripods, and the best one for the money is the GorillaPod 3K. Attaching your camera using the secure clip-in mounting plate is dead simple, and you can ensure that everything is even with the built-in level. The flexible legs let you set your camera anywhere to shoot or even wrap it around a tree or other object. The most common usage is as a vlogging handle, as vloggers can bend the legs forward to fit themselves into the video and steady out their shooting.Buy GorillaPod 3K at Amazon - $85SanDisk Extreme Pro SD cardWill Lipman Photography for Engadget / SanDiskYour favorite camera nerd can never have enough memory cards, but they can be a pretty pricey gift. SanDisk’s ExtremePro UHS-I SD cards are cheaper than UHS-II cards, but the 90 MB/s read/write speeds are fast enough for most types of photography and video. If your loved one needs that extra UHS-II speed, Lexar’s UHS-II SD 1667X (250MB/s) and 2000X (300MB/s) SD cards are solid picks.Buy SanDisk Extreme Pro (128GB) at Amazon - $25Buy Lexar 1667X (128GB) at Amazon - $50Buy Lexar 2000X (128GB) at Amazon - $95Rode VideoMic Go and Wireless GoRodeIf the vlogger in your life doesn’t already have one, Rode’s wireless and shotgun microphones are solid, affordable gifts. The VideoMic Go is ideal for interviews and run-and-gun shooting, thanks to the crisp directional audio and relative ease of use. It comes with a shock mount to eliminate bumps or vibrations that could interfere with sound and doesn’t require a battery, unlike past Rode models. Meanwhile, Rode’s Wireless Go is one of the most popular wireless lavalier mics out there, functioning as both a microphone and wireless transceiver. It offers a reliable connection and good audio quality, or you can maximize clarity by connecting an external 3.5mm microphone like Rode’s $40 SmartLav+, the Sennheiser Pro Audio ME2 or others.Buy Rode VideoMic Go at Amazon - $79Buy Wireless Mic Go at B&H - $199Nanlite LitoLite 5C RGBWW Mini LED PanelWill Lipman Photography for Engadget / NanliteA good light is an awesome tool in your favorite photographer or videographer’s arsenal, and a relatively affordable gift to boot. One of the best all-around models is the Nanlite LitoLite 5C RGBWW Mini LED Panel. It weighs just 4.8 ounces, but offers dimmable lighting across a range of colors, with adjustments either on the fixture or via a smartphone app. It mounts on any wall or light stand via a magnet or quarter-inch threads, has cordless operation and a battery that runs for 1.5 hours at full power (charged via USB). The most interesting feature is special effects that range from a cop car’s flashing lights, flames, candlelights, a lightning storm and more.Buy LitoLite mini LED panel at Amazon - $75Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20LWill Lipman Photography for EngadgetBackpacks are life for photographers and video shooters, so they make great gifts — if you get the right one. Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack 20L is a good choice, thanks to the stylish weatherproof design, internal dividers for laptops, cameras, lenses and more, a wrap-around zipper and a protected laptop sleeve. It offers excellent build quality and Peak Design backs that up with a lifetime warranty.Buy Peak Design Everyday Backpack at Amazon - $220Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 17.2Blackmagic DesignAs someone who used to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC exclusively, I never thought I’d switch to another app. I did, though, and can’t recommend Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve 17.2 enough (either the free or $295 studio version). You get a lifetime of updates, so it’s far cheaper than Adobe’s subscription program that runs $630 per year. Resolve is slightly trickier to learn, but far more powerful than Premiere for key tasks like color grading and effects. Most importantly, I’ve found Resolve to be far, far more reliable than Premiere on a wide range of computers, which is easily the most important “feature” on an editing app.Buy DaVinci Resolve 17 at B&H - $295Engadget's 2021 holiday gift guideThe best laptops and tablets to give as giftsThe best tech toys for kidsSeven tech charities to support this holiday seasonThe home theater gear worth gifting this year (even if the giftee is you)The best smartwatches, fitness trackers and wearables to giftThe best board games to gift this holiday seasonSmall, affordable gadgets that make great stocking stuffersThe best gifts for the aspiring influencer in your lifeThe best gifts for the coffee nerd in your lifeAll the gear you need to game-stream like a proThese are the audio gadgets to gift this seasonThe best digital gifts to send your friends and familyThe books and movies we’re gifting this yearThe video games we wish someone would gift usThe best gadgets for your petsSmart home gadgets and kitchen tech that make great giftsThe best gifts for the creatives in your lifeThe best snow and winter sports gear to gift this yearAll the 'fun' gifts our grown-up staff would like to receiveThe best gear to give to the photographer in your lifeEverything in our gift guide under $100

    The best laptops and tablets to give as gifts

    If you’re thinking of getting a laptop or tablet as a gift, you’ve got a wealth of options. Thanks to the latest round of hardware from Intel, Apple, AMD and NVIDIA, all of our portable devices have gotten steadily faster and more efficient. Even the cheapest iPad can be a decent productivity machine, while gaming laptops now have almost all of the power of their desktop siblings. And with the arrival of Windows 11, it's a perfect time to give someone a nifty PC upgrade, especially since very old computers won’t be able to step up.Dell XPS 13DellNot to sound like a broken record, but the XPS 13 is still the best Windows ultraportable you can buy. The design hasn't changed much, but that's not a huge problem: It's still incredibly light and features extraordinarily thin screen bezels. And now you can also take advantage of Intel's latest 11th-generation processors. The XPS 13 can also be configured with an OLED screen, an ideal gift for someone who could use a bright and color accurate display. And if you’ve got someone in mind who could use even more power, the new XPS 15 has the same sleek design, but it has more room for a bigger display and better hardware.Buy XPS 13 at Dell starting at $950Apple MacBook AirWill Lipman Photography for EngadgetApple's MacBook Air hasn't been upgraded since last year's miraculous model — which gave it the winning combination of Apple's M1 processor, a fan-less design, and incredible battery life — but it's still one of the best laptops on the market. It's powerful enough to handle most productivity tasks and a few games, and whoever’s lucky enough to get it won’t have to worry about any fans spinning up, since it’s completely passively cooled. You can also find the M1-equipped MacBook Air on sale occasionally, making it one of the smarter gift purchases this season.Buy MacBook Air M1 at Amazon - $999Apple iPadAppleKudos to Apple for continually improving its entry-level iPad. Once again, it's one of the best tablet gift options on the market. It's faster than ever, thanks to Apple's A13 Bionic processor, and it includes more storage. The $329 model now comes with 64GB, or you could bump up to 256GB for $479. That's more than enough space to save every episode of Bluey and several seasons of Sesame Street to survive long car trips. Sure, the design hasn't changed much since last year, but that doesn't matter much — it’s still a more than capable tablet.Buy iPad at Amazon - $329Amazon Fire HD 10Will Lipman Photography for EngadgetAmazon's Fire tablets are basically just video-first Android slates, but they also prove you don’t have to pay a ton to buy a useful tablet for someone. This year, the Fire HD 10 is a bit faster, has 50 percent more memory and features a slightly brighter screen. And, as a bonus, there's a Bluetooth keyboard accessory that can turn it into a cheap productivity tablet. But its core selling point is the same as always: it can tackle most tablet tasks easily, and it won’t cost too much. (There are also kid-centric Fire tablets worth considering, which come with a more durable case and two years worth of free replacements.)Buy Fire HD 10 at Amazon - $150Razer Blade 15RazerYou can take all of the praise we've given Razer's Blade 15 over the years and apply it to the latest model. Razer's flagship gaming notebook still has a sleek unibody aluminum case, and it packs in the latest CPUs and GPUs, including NVIDIA's top-end RTX 3080. And thanks to improved screen choices, you can also gift models with fast 1,440p displays, which are sharper than 1080p screens, and easier to run natively than 4K displays. If portability is a greater concern, take a look at the new Razer Blade 14, a sub-four-pound notebook sporting AMD's latest processors.Buy Blade 15 at Razer - $1,700ASUS Zephyrus G15Will Lipman Photography for EngadgetIf the gamer in your life wants something more flashy and a bit lighter than the Razer Blade, consider the Zephyrus G15. With the combined power of AMD's latest processors and NVIDIA's latest graphics cards, it'll handle practically any game thrown at it. And if you're on a budget, you can find lower-end models cheaper than the equivalent Razer's. Mostly, though, we love this laptop because it has pretty much everything we'd want in a mobile gaming rig — that includes an excellent keyboard, a speedy 165Hz 1440p screen and excellent battery life. The only downside is that there's no webcam, but any aspiring streamer would rather have a separate external camera anyway.Buy Zephyrus G15 at Best Buy - $1,550Acer Chromebook 512Will Lipman Photography for EngadgetThe best Chromebooks are cheap, sturdy and powerful enough to handle basic school and office work. Acer's Chromebook 512 is one of the best current options, especially if you're looking for something for a child. It has a spill resistant keyboard, a sturdy impact-resistant case, and anchored keys that are harder for kids to pull off. Its Intel Celeron N4000 chip isn't the fastest, but it's enough to work on Google Docs, Sheets and Presentations without breaking too much of a sweat.Buy Acer Chromebook 512 at Amazon - $200Microsoft Surface Laptop 4Will Lipman Photography for EngadgetSometimes it seems like there are just too many PC ultraportables to choose from, but Microsoft's Surface Laptop line are always a solid option. They feature some of the best keyboards on the market, excellent displays and support for all of Microsoft's notebook accessories, like the Surface Stylus. But mostly, we appreciate them for their design simplicity. They're sturdy, attractive and built for productivity. The latest 15-inch model also packs in speedy AMD processors that are powerful enough to play a few rounds of Overwatch.Buy Surface Laptop 4 at Microsoft starting at $799

    The best outdoor gear for the fall

    The weather is starting to get cooler, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to head indoors for winter just yet. There’s ample time to enjoy the backyard, porch or balcony before the first snowfall. We’ve rounded up the best outdoor gear for cooking, relaxing and imbibing this fall, from a pizza oven, to a uniquely designed fire pit and a smart outlet for your outdoor lighting.Ooni Karu 16OoniIf you’ve opened Instagram in the last several months, chances are you’ve seen someone firing up an Ooni pizza oven in their backyard. The company has become even more popular during the pandemic, and rightfully so. Its line of wood- and gas-fired pizza ovens allow you to make restaurant-quality pies at home. The Karu 16 is the company’s latest offering, with a larger stone for bigger pizzas, an easier to access fuel chamber and a built-in thermometer. The door is also attached so it’s simpler to use and has a glass window so you can keep an eye on things without losing heat. Like commercial Neapolitan-style ovens, the Karu 16 can reach temperatures of up to 950 degrees Fahrenheit, and does so in just 15 minutes. This model runs on wood chunks out of the box, but the company offers an optional gas burner for $100.Buy Karu 16 at Ooni - $799Traeger Ironwood 650 and 885Billy Steele/Engadget Cooler weather is a perfect time to tune up your backyard pitmaster skills. Even if you’re a beginner, Traeger’s line of WiFi-connected pellet grills can guide you through the entire cooking process. The company’s app, which allows you to control and monitor its grills remotely, is also packed with recipes and step-by-step guidance.Personally, I like the Ironwood series, which comes in two sizes with 650 and 885 square inches of grilling space. They sit in the middle of Traeger’s lineup, and offer the best bang for your buck. Low and slow smoking? Yep. Hot and fast searing? They do that too. And with the company’s pellet sensor, you don’t have to worry about running out of fuel halfway through a 10-hour brisket sesh.Shop Ironwood series at Traeger starting at $1,400Weber Genesis II EX-315EngadgetWeber is best known for its charcoal kettle grills, but its gas models aren’t too far behind. Following up on the smart grilling tech it built into its SmokeFire pellet grills in 2020, the company brought the Weber Connect system to its gas lineup earlier this year. There are a number of options here, but the Genesis II EX-315 is a great mid-range choice. Thanks to the Connect tech, you get real-time food doneness updates, estimated completion times and fuel level monitoring.Weber Connect also offers step-by-step guidance based on the food you're cooking and the LED display on the grill shows both meat and ambient temperatures. Of course, the grill is WiFi-enabled, so all of this info can be sent to your phone. And if you get caught in the dark, a handle-mounted light and backlit control knobs are there to help.Buy Genesis II EX-315 at Weber - $1,030Thermoworks Thermapen OneThermoworksThe Thermapen is the grilling tool I use most often. It’s handy for making sure I’m not serving undercooked chicken or overcooking a pricey steak I’ve had in the sous vide for hours. It’s also great to have in the kitchen to instantly check temps of things like bread. Thermoworks unveiled the successor to its wildly popular Thermapen Mk4 earlier this year with the Thermapen One. The device is super fast, giving you a reading in one second. It’s also more accurate and has a brighter display than the previous model. The screen automatically rotates depending on how you hold it, plus an auto-wake and sleep feature and IP67 rating keep things running smoothly.Buy Thermapen One at Thermoworks - $105Meater Plus probe thermometerMeaterI’ll admit it: when I first saw Meater’s wireless food probes I was skeptical that they would work well. The Meater Plus has all of the convenience of the company’s original wireless probe, but with extended Bluetooth range. Each one has two sensors, so it can monitor both internal food temperature and the ambient temp of your grill. All of the info is sent to the company’s app where you can set target temperature, get estimated completion times and follow step-by-step directions if you need them. What’s more, you don’t have to worry about routing wires since the Meater Plus is completely wireless and stays out of your way. Not having to fight food probe cords is a grilling innovation I’m sure a lot of people can get behind.Buy Meater Plus at Amazon - $100Thermacell E-55ThermacellLast year, the Thermacell Patio Shield kept us mosquito-free for socially-distanced outdoor activities. For 2021, the company is back with the E-55 that offers a 20-foot coverage area and is fully rechargeable. This slightly larger unit runs on a Li-Ion battery instead of burning fuel to keep the biting bugs at bay for up to 12 hours. If you need more protection for you and the fam, you can buy refills for up to 40 hours of use. Also, like other Thermacell products, the E-55 doesn’t give off any odor, so you’ll barely notice it’s there.Buy Theramcell E-55 at Amazon - $40Solo StoveBilly Steele/Engadget As the temperatures drop, a fire pit is a cozy place to spend your time. However, most of the cheap options you’ll find at your local big box store aren’t really designed to channel smoke away from you or to maximize airflow. Solo Stove’s stainless steel fire pits do both, creating a roaring fire that won’t smoke you out. Each of the three models, ranging from $269 to $599, are portable(ish) and burn whatever variety of wood you happen to have. I’ve been testing the Ranger, the smallest and most portable option. While you can certainly set these right on the ground or concrete patio, I highly recommend splurging for a stand and a weather-proof cover which cost around $80 for the Ranger and Bonfire models.Buy Solo Stove starting at $269TP-Link Kasa outdoor smart plug and dimmerTP-LinkI tested the Kasa Outdoor Smart Plug for our first backyard guide and I was immediately hooked. TP-Link recently announced a new model of the smart plug in addition to a dimmable single-outlet version. Both are waterproof and plug into your existing outside outlet to give you one or two spots for lights and other gear. With the two-plug option, you can control each one independently. The Kasa app allows you to set a schedule, timer, runtime and more for each plug, so you can automate when those string lights over the deck turn on. Additionally, they work with Alexa and Google Assistant, so you don’t even need to pick up your phone most of the time. Plus, 300 feet of WiFi range means you shouldn’t have trouble connecting these to your home network for use.Buy Kasa outdoor smart plug at Amazon - $25Sony SRS-XB13SonyWhen you need tunes outside, whether that’s at home or on the go, Sony’s tiny XB13 speaker is a great option. Its small size makes it insanely portable, but it still manages big sound thanks to Sony's Extra Bass feature and Sound Diffusion Processor. It’s rated IP67 for dust- and water-proofing so taking it outside shouldn’t incite anxiety. What’s more, it has a UV coating for protection from the sun. You can use the XB13 for hands-free calls and employ two of them at once for a stereo pair. It lasts up to 16 hours on a charge and will only set you back $60.Buy SRS-XB13 at Amazon - $58Brumate Toddy and Toddy XLBrumateI’ve been a big fan of Brumate’s beverageware since I bought myself a Hopsulator Trio for a beach vacation a few years ago. I still use it all the time, during both warm and cool months. However, when the temperatures begin to dip, I tend to reach for hot beverages more often, so Brumate’s Toddy insulated mug is a better option. The cup works well to keep drinks hot or cold and the trademark feature is the spill-proof lid. That thing has saved me from massive cleanup more times than I can count. The regular Toddy can hold 16 ounces while the Toddy XL doubles the capacity to 32 ounces.Buy Brumate Toddy starting at $30

    The best gaming laptops you can buy, plus how to pick one

    For a few years now, gaming laptops have been some of the most intriguing PCs around. They’ve gotten thinner and lighter, naturally — but they’ve also become vastly more powerful and efficient, making them suitable for both work and play. They’ve adopted some bold innovations, like rotating hinges and near desktop-like customizability. Gaming laptops are where PC makers can get adventurous.If you’re a professional in the market for a beefy new computer, and you like to play a few rounds of Apex Legends on occasion, it may make more sense to go for a gaming notebook instead of a MacBook Pro-like workstation. You’ll still get plenty of power for video encoding and 3D rendering, plus you may end up paying less than you would for some comparable workstations.Devindra Hardawar/Engadget What's your budget? Your laptop buying journey starts and ends with the amount of money you're willing to spend. No surprise there. The good news: There are plenty of options for gamers of every budget. In particular, we're seeing some great choices under $1,000, like Dell's G15, which currently starts at $930. PCs in this price range will definitely feel a bit lower quality than pricier models, and they'll likely skimp on RAM, storage and overall power. But they should be able to handle most games in 1080p at 60 frames per second, which is the bare minimum you'd want from any system.Stepping up to mid-range options beyond $1,000 is where things get interesting. At that point, you'll start finding PCs like the ASUS Zephyrus ROG G14, one of our favorite gaming notebooks of the last few years. In general, you can look forward to far better build quality than budget laptops (metal cases!), improved graphics power and enough RAM and storage space to handle the most demanding games. These are the notebooks we'd recommend for most people, as they'll keep you gaming and working for years before you need to worry about an upgrade.If you're willing to spend around $1,800 or more, you can start considering more premium options like Razer's Blade. Expect impeccably polished cases, the fastest hardware on the market, and ridiculously thin designs. The sky's the limit here: Alienware's uber customizable Area 51m is an enormous beast that can cost up to $4,700. Few people need a machine that pricey, but if you're a gamer with extra cash to burn, it may be worth taking a close look at some of these pricier systems.What kind of CPU and GPU do you want?The answer to this question used to be relatively simple: Just get an Intel chip with an NVIDIA GPU. But over the last two years, AMD came out swinging with its Ryzen 4000 and 5000-series notebook processors, which are better suited for juggling multiple tasks at once (like streaming to Twitch while blasting fools in Fortnite). In general, you’ll still be safe getting one of Intel’s latest 10th or 11th-gen H-series chips. But it’s nice to have decent AMD alternatives available for budget and mid-range laptops, especially when they’re often cheaper than comparable Intel models.When it comes to video cards, though, AMD is still catching up. Its new Radeon RX 6000M GPU has been a fantastic performer in notebooks like ASUS’s ROG Strix G15, but it still lags behind NVIDIA when it comes to newer features like ray tracing. I’ll admit, it’s nice to see a Radeon-powered notebook that can approach the general gaming performance of NVIDIA’s RTX 3070 and 3080 GPU.If you want to future-proof your purchase, or you’re just eager to see how ray tracing could make your games look better, you’re probably better off with an NVIDIA video card. They’re in far more systems, and it’s clear that NVIDIA has had more time to optimize its ray tracing technology. RTX GPUs also feature the company’s DLSS feature, which uses AI to upscale games to higher resolutions. That’ll let you play a game like Destiny 2 in 4K with faster frame rates. That’s useful if you’re trying to take advantage of a high refresh rate monitor.NVIDIA’s RTX 3050 is a decent entry point, but we think you’d be better off with at least an RTX 3060 for solid 1080p and 1440p performance. The RTX 3070, meanwhile, is the best balance of price and performance. It’ll be able to run many games in 4K with the help of DLSS, and it can even tackle demanding titles like Control. NVIDIA’s RTX 3080 is the king of the hill; you’ll pay a premium for any machine that includes it.It’s worth noting that NVIDIA’s mobile GPUs aren’t directly comparable to its more powerful desktop hardware. PC makers can also tweak a GPU’s voltage to make it perform better in a thinner case. Basically, don’t be surprised if you see notebooks that perform very differently, even if they’re all equipped with the same RTX model.What kind of screen do you want?Screen size is a good place to start when judging gaming notebooks. In general, 15-inch laptops will be the best balance of immersion and portability, while larger 17-inch models are heftier, but naturally give you more screen real estate. There are some 13-inch gaming notebooks, like the Razer Blade Stealth, but paradoxically you'll often end up paying more for those than slightly larger 15-inch options. We’re also seeing more 14-inch options, like the Zephyrus G14 and Blade 14, which are generally more powerful than 13-inch laptops while still being relatively portable.But these days, there are plenty more features to consider than screen size alone. Consider refresh rates: Most monitors refresh their screens vertically 60 times per second, or 60Hz. That's a standard in use since black and white NTSC TVs. But over the past few years, displays have evolved considerably. Now, 120Hz 1080p screens are the bare minimum you'd want in any gaming notebook — and there are faster 144Hz, 240Hz and even 360Hz panels. All of those ever-increasing numbers are in the service of one thing: making everything on your display look as smooth as possible.For games, higher refresh rates also help eliminate screen tearing and other artifacts that could get in the way of your frag fest. And for everything else, it just leads to a better viewing experience. Even scrolling a web page on a 120Hz or faster monitor is starkly different from a 60Hz screen. Instead of seeing a jittery wall of text and pictures, everything moves seamlessly together, as if you're unwinding a glossy paper magazine. Going beyond 120Hz makes gameplay look even more responsive, which to some players gives them a slight advantage.Steve Dent/Engadget Not to make things more complicated, but you should also keep an eye out for NVIDIA's G-SYNC and AMD's FreeSync. They're both adaptive sync technologies that can match your screen's refresh rate with the framerate of your game. That also helps to reduce screen tearing and make gameplay smoother. Consider them nice bonuses on top of a high refresh rate monitor; they're not necessary, but they can still offer a slight visual improvement.One more thing: Most of these suggestions are related to LCD screens, not OLEDs. While OLED makes a phenomenal choice for TVs, it's a bit more complicated when it comes to gaming laptops. They're limited to 60Hz, so you won't get the smoother performance you'd find on a high refresh rate screen. And they're typically 4K panels; you'll need a ton of GPU power to run games natively at that resolution. OLED laptops still look incredible, with the best black levels and contrast on the market, but we think most shoppers would be better off with an LCD gaming laptop.Devindra Hardawar/Engadget A few other takeaways:Get at least 16GB of RAM. And if you're planning to do a ton of multitasking while streaming, 32GB is worth considering.Storage is still a huge concern. These days, I'd recommend aiming for a 1TB M.2 SSD, which should be enough space to juggle a few large titles like Destiny 2. Some laptops also have room for standard SATA drives, which are far cheaper than M.2's and can hold more data.Normally we'd recommend getting your hands on a system before you buy, but that's tough as we're in the midst of a pandemic. I'd recommend snagging your preferred system from a retailer with a simple return policy, like Amazon or Best Buy. If you don't like it, you can always ship it back easily.Don't forget about accessories! You'll need a good mouse, keyboard and headphones.Engadget picksDevindra Hardawar/Engadget The best gaming laptop for most people: ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14Starting price:$1,599 (Current model with RTX 2060)Recommended spec price (Ryzen 9, RTX 3060): $1,799If you can't tell by now, we really like the Zephyrus G14. It's compact, at just 3.5 pounds, and features AMD's new Ryzen 5000-series chips paired together with NVIDIA's latest graphics. It's a shockingly compact machine, and while its 14-inch screen is a bit smaller than our other recommendations, it looks great and features a fast 144Hz refresh rate. We also like its retro-future design (some configurations have tiny LEDs on its rear panel for extra flair). While the G14 has jumped in price since last year, it’s still one of the best gaming notebooks around. The only downside: It doesn't have a webcam, which can be inconvenient in the era of never-ending Zoom calls. Still, it's not that tough to attach an external camera. (If you want something bigger, consider the Zephyrus G15.) Buy ASUS Zephyrus G14 at Amazon - $1,599DellThe best budget option: Dell G15Starting price:$1,029We've been fans of Dell's G5 line ever since it first appeared a few years ago. Now dubbed the G15, it starts at just over $1,000 and features all of the latest hardware, like Intel's 11th-generation CPUs and NVIDIA's RTX 30-series cards. (You can also find AMD's Ryzen chips in some models.) It's a bit heavy, weighing over five pounds, but it's a solid notebook otherwise. And you can even bring it into mid-range gaming territory if you spec up to the RTX 3060.Buy G15 at Dell starting at $1,029Devindra hardawar/Engadget The best premium gaming laptop: Razer Blade 15Starting price:$1,700Recommended model (QHD, RTX 3070): $2,200Razer continues to do a stellar job of delivering the latest hardware in a sleek package that would make Mac users jealous. The Blade 15 has just about everything you'd want, including NVIDIA's fastest mobile GPU, the RTX 3080, as well as Intel's 11th-gen octa-core CPUs and speedy quad-HD screens. You can easily save some cash by going for a cheaper notebook, but they won't feel nearly as polished as the Blade.Buy Blade 15 at Razer starting at $1,700AcerA solid all-around option: Acer Predator Triton 500 SEStarting price:$1,749While we've seen some wilder concepts from Acer, like its 360-degree hinge-equipped Triton 900, the Triton 500 is a more affordable bread and butter option that doesn't break the bank. This year, it’s bumped up to a 16-inch display, giving you more of an immersive gaming experience. It’s relatively thin, weighs just over five pounds , and it can be equipped with Intel's 11th-gen CPUs and NVIDIA's RTX 30-series GPUs. Acer's build quality is as sturdy as ever, and it has most of the standard features you’d need in a gaming notebook.Buy Acer Triton 500 SE at Best Buy - $1,749RazerThe best way to go big: Razer Blade 17Starting price:$2,399Take everything we loved about the Razer Blade 15, scale it up to a larger 17-inch screen, and you’re pretty much in gamer paradise. If you can live with its six-pound weight, the Blade 17 will deliver the most desktop-like gaming experience that you can find in a notebook. It’s relatively slim, and it’s perfect for binging Netflix in bed. The Blade 17 is also a smart choice if you’re editing media, as its larger screen space makes it perfect for diving into larger timelines. It’s not for everyone, but sometimes you just want to go big or go home, right?Buy Blade 17 at Razer starting at $2,399

    The very best Chromebooks you can purchase

    All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Chromebooks have earned a reputation for being cheap and limited, but that hasn’t been true for a while now. The combination of years worth of software updates and laptop manufacturers making more powerful and better-built Chromebooks means there are a ton of good Chrome OS machines that work well as everyday drivers. Of course, there are an unnecessary number of Chromebooks on the market, so choosing the right one is easier said than done. Fortunately, I’ve tried enough of them at this point to know what to look for and what to avoid. What is Chrome OS, and why would I use it over Windows? That’s probably the number one question about Chromebooks. There are plenty of inexpensive Windows laptops on the market, so why bother with Chrome OS? Glad you asked. For me, the simple and clean nature of Chrome OS is a big selling point. If you didn’t know, it’s based on Google’s Chrome browser, which means most of the programs you can run are web based. There’s no bloatware or unwanted apps to uninstall like you often get on Windows laptops, it boots up in seconds, and you can completely reset to factory settings almost as quickly. Of course, the simplicity is also a major drawback for some users. Not being able to install native software can be a dealbreaker if you’re, say, a video editor or software developer. But there are also plenty of people who do the vast majority of their work in a browser. Unless I need to edit photos for a review, I can do my entire job on a Chromebook. Nathan Ingraham / Engadget Google has also added support for Android apps on Chromebooks, which greatly expands the amount of software available. The quality varies widely, but it means you can do more with a Chromebook beyond just web-based apps. For example, you can install the Netflix app and save videos for offline watching; other Android apps like Microsoft’s Office suite and Adobe Lightroom are surprisingly capable. Between Android apps and a general improvement in web apps, Chromebooks are more than just a browser. What do Chromebooks do well, and when should you avoid them? Put simply, anything web based. Browsing, streaming music and video and using various social media sites are among the most common things people do on Chromebooks. As you might expect, they also work well with Google services like Photos, Docs, Gmail, Drive, Keep and so on. Yes, any computer that can run Chrome can do that too, but the lightweight nature of Chrome OS makes it a responsive and stable platform. As I mentioned before, Chrome OS can run Android apps, so if you’re an Android user you’ll find some nice ties between the platforms. You can get most of the same apps that are on your phone on a Chromebook and keep info in sync between them. You can also use some Android phones as a security key for your Chromebook or instantly tether your laptop to use mobile data. Nathan Ingraham / Engadget Google continues to tout security as a major differentiator for Chromebooks, and I think it’s definitely a factor worth considering. The first line of defense is auto-updates. Chrome OS updates download quickly in the background and a fast reboot is all it takes to install the latest version. Google says that each webpage and app on a Chromebook runs in its own sandbox, as well, so any security threats are contained to that individual app. Finally, Chrome OS has a self-check called Verified Boot that runs every time a device starts up. Beyond all this, the simple fact that you generally can’t install traditional apps on a Chromebook means there are a lot fewer ways for bad actors to access the system. As for when to avoid them, the answer is simple: If you rely heavily on a specific native application for Windows or a Mac, chances are good you won’t find the exact same option on a Chromebook. That’s most true in fields like photo and video editing, but it can also be the case in fields like law or finance. Plenty of businesses run on Google’s G suite software, but more still have specific requirements that a Chromebook might not match. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll also miss out on the way the iPhone easily integrates with an iPad or Mac, as well. For me, the big downside is not being able to access iMessage on a Chromebook. Finally, gaming is almost entirely a non-starter, as there are no native Chrome OS games of note. You can install Android games from the Google Play Store, but that’s not what most people are thinking of when they want to game on a laptop. That said, Google’s game-streaming service Stadia has changed that long-standing problem. The service isn’t perfect, but it remains the only way to play recent, high-profile games on a Chromebook. It’s not as good as running local games on a Windows computer, but the lag issues that can crop up reflect mostly on Stadia itself and not Chrome OS. What are the most important specs for a Chromebook? Chrome OS is lightweight and usually runs well on fairly modest hardware, so the most important thing to look for might not be processor power or storage space. That said, I’d still recommend you get a Chromebook with a relatively recent Intel processor, ideally an eighth-generation or newer M3 or i3. Most non-Intel Chromebooks I’ve tried haven’t had terribly good performance, though Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 runs surprisingly well on its MediaTek processor. As for RAM, 4GB is enough for most people, though 8GB is a better target if you have the cash, want to future-proof your investment or if you’re a serious tab junkie. Storage space is another place where you don’t need to spend too much; 64GB should be fine for almost anyone. If you plan on storing a lot of local files or loading up your Chromebook with Linux or Android apps, get 128GB. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never felt like I might run out of local storage when using Chrome OS. Things like the keyboard and display quality are arguably more important than sheer specs. The good news is that you can find less expensive Chromebooks that still have pretty good screens and keyboards that you won’t mind typing on all day. Many cheap Chromebooks still come with tiny, low-resolution displays, but at this point there’s no reason to settle for anything less than 1080p. (If you’re looking for an extremely portable, 11-inch Chromebook, though, you’ll probably have to settle for less.) Obviously, keyboard quality is a bit more subjective, but you shouldn’t settle for a mushy piece of garbage. Google has an Auto Update policy for Chromebooks, and while that’s not a spec, per se, it’s worth checking before you buy. Basically, Chromebooks get regular software updates automatically for about six years from their release date (though that can vary from device to device). This support page lists the Auto Update expiration date for virtually every Chromebook ever, but a good rule of thumb is to buy the newest machine you can to maximize your support. How much should I spend? Nathan Ingraham / Engadget Chromebooks started out notoriously cheap, with list prices often coming in under $300. But as they’ve gone more mainstream, they’ve transitioned from being essentially modern netbooks to the kind of laptop you’ll want to use all day. As such, prices have increased a bit over the last few years. At this point, you should expect to spend at least $400 if you want a solid daily driver. There are still many budget options out there that may be suitable as couch machines or secondary devices, but if you want a Chromebook that can be your all-day-every-day laptop, $400 is the least you can expect to spend. There are also plenty of premium Chromebooks that approach or even exceed $1,000, but I don’t recommend spending that much. Generally, that’ll get you better design quality with more premium materials, as well as more powerful internals and extra storage space. Of course, you also sometimes pay for the brand name. But, the specs I outlined earlier are usually enough. Right now, there actually aren’t too many Chromebooks that even cost that much. Google’s Pixelbook Go comes in $999 and $1,399 configurations, but the more affordable $650 and $850 options will be just as good for nearly everyone. Samsung released the $1,000 Galaxy Chromebook in 2020; this luxury device does almost everything right but has terrible battery life. Samsung quickly learned from that mistake and is now offering the Galaxy Chromebook 2 with more modest specs, but vastly better battery life at a much more affordable price (more on that laptop later). For the most part, you don’t need to spend more than $850 to get a premium Chromebook that’ll last you years. Engadget picks Best overall: Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook Nathan Ingraham / Engadget Look beyond the awkward name and you’ll find a Chromebook that does just about everything right that’s also a tremendous value. It gets all the basics right: The 13-inch 1080p touchscreen is bright, though it’s a little hard to see because of reflections in direct sunlight. It runs on a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, the eight-hour battery life is solid, and the backlit keyboard is one of the best I’ve used on any laptop lately, Chromebook or otherwise. The Flex 5 is now a little over a year old, but it still holds up well and is even cheaper than it was when it first launched. It can now regularly be found for well under $400 on Amazon. (As of this writing, it’s priced at $329.) That’s an outstanding value for a Chromebook this capable. Naturally, Lenovo cut a few corners to hit that price. Most significantly, it only has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone buy a computer with those specs — but Chrome OS is far less dependent on local storage. Unless you were planning to store a ton of movies or install a huge variety of Android apps, 64GB is enough for moderately advanced use. I was concerned about the non-upgradeable 4GB of RAM, but my testing showed that the IdeaPad Flex 5 can run plenty of tabs and other apps without many hiccups. If you push things hard, you’ll occasionally have to wait for tabs to refresh if you haven’t viewed them recently, but other than that this is a solid performer, particularly for the price. Other things in the IdeaPad Flex 5’s favor include that it has both USB-C and USB-A ports and a 360-degree convertible hinge. I personally don’t find myself flipping laptops around to tablet or stand mode very often, but it’s there if you like working in those formats. At three pounds and 0.66 inches thick, it’s not the lightest or slimmest option out there, but those specs are also totally reasonable considering the price. Ultimately, the Ideapad Flex 5 hits the sweet spot for a large majority of potential Chromebook buyers out there, providing a level of quality and performance that’s pretty rare to find at this price point. That said, given this laptop has been out for over a year now, we’re keeping an eye out for any potential replacements Lenovo offers, as well as comparable options other manufacturers release. Buy Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook on Amazon - $430 Upgrade picks: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, Acer Chromebook Spin 713 Engadget Premium Chromebooks with more power, better design and higher prices have become common in recent years. If you want to step up over the excellent but basic Lenovo Flex 5, there are two recent options worth considering: Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 and Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is infinitely more stylish than most other Chromebooks, with a bright metallic red finish and a design that looks far better than the utilitarian Flex 5 and Chromebook Spin 713. As I mentioned earlier, Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 fixes some of the serious flaws we identified in the original. Specifically, the 2020 Galaxy Chromebook had terrible battery life and cost $999; this year’s model starts at $549 and can actually last seven hours off the charger. That’s not great, but it’s far better than the lousy four hours the original offered. Samsung cut a few corners to lower the Galaxy Chromebook 2’s price. Most noticeable is the 1080p 13.3-inch touchscreen, down from the 4K panel on the older model. The good news is that the display is among the best 1080p laptop screens I’ve seen in a long time, and the lower resolution helps the battery life, too. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is also a bit thicker and heavier than its predecessor, but it’s still reasonably compact. Finally, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 has a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor rather than the Core i5 Samsung included last year. All these changes add up to a laptop that isn’t as ambitious, but is ultimately much easier to recommend. Instead of pushing to have the best screen in the thinnest and lightest body with a faster processor, Samsung pulled everything back a bit to make a better-priced but still premium laptop. Nathan Ingraham / Engadget Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713, by comparison, doesn’t look like much from the outside — it’s a chunky gray slab with little to distinguish it from many other basic laptops. While it doesn’t seem exciting, the Spin 713 is just as well-made as the Galaxy Chromebook 2, with a sturdy hinge and body. But what’s most interesting is the display, a 13.5-inch touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. That makes it a much better option than 1080p displays when you’re scrolling vertically through documents and webpages. It has a somewhat unusual resolution of 2,256 x 1,504, thanks to the taller aspect ratio, but it makes for a more pixel-dense display than you’ll find on your standard 13.3-inch, 1080p laptop. Long story short: The screen is great. As for the rest of the hardware, the 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor is more than enough power for most tasks, and the keyboard and trackpad are solid, if not the best I’ve used before. The same can be said for battery life: I got about the same six to seven hours using the Spin 713 as I did using the Galaxy Chromebook 2. I wish it were better in both cases, but it’s in line with other premium Chromebooks I’ve used lately. The Spin 713 configuration that I tested costs $699, the same as the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Because I’m such a fan of the 3:2 display, I prefer the Spin 713 (which also has a more powerful processor), but the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is worth a look if you want a laptop that has a little more style and a better keyboard. Last year, Google’s Pixelbook Go was our pick for the best premium model. It’s still an excellent choice and one of my favorite Chromebooks to use, but it’s almost two years old. Its age coupled with its aging 8th-generation Intel processor make it tougher to recommend. That said, it’s still one of the thinnest and lightest Chromebooks around, and it still handles everything I can throw at it. It also has the best keyboard I’ve used on any recent Chromebook. There’s still a lot to like, but it’s harder to justify spending $650 or more on it. Hopefully Google will release an updated version this fall. Buy Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 starting at $549 Buy Acer Chromebook Spin 713 at Best Buy - $629 A good option for kids: Acer Chromebook 512 Acer While Lenovo’s Flex 5 is inexpensive enough that you could get one for your kid, Acer’s Chromebook 512 might be a better option for young ones in your life. First off, it’s specifically built to take abuse. In addition to the military-rated (MIL-STD 810G) impact-resistant body, you can spill up to 330mL of liquid on the keyboard. A drainage system will flush it out and keep the insides working. (Note that I haven’t actually tried that.) The keyboard features “mechanically anchored” keys that should be harder for kids to pick off, too. Regardless of exactly how much water you can pour onto that keyboard, the Chromebook 512 should handle a child’s abuse better than your average laptop. This computer isn’t a speed demon, but the Intel Celeron N4000 chip coupled with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage should be fine for basic tasks. The 12-inch screen isn’t a standout either, but it has the same taller 3:2 aspect ratio as Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713. That means you’ll get more vertical screen real estate than you would on the 16:9, 11-inch panels typically found in laptops of this class. (The Chromebook 512’s screen resolution is 1,366 x 912, whereas most 11-inch Chromebooks use a 1,366 x 768 panel.) All in all, it’s a fairly modest computer, but grade-school kids, a computer that can take some abuse and runs an easy-to-use OS that’s well supported in education should fit the bill well. The Chromebook 512 is priced at $249.99 direct from Acer, but it's going for $219.99 as of this writing at other retailers. Buy Acer Chromebook 512 at Best Buy - $220

    All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.There's never been a better time to be a PC gamer, especially when it comes to laptops. Gaming notebooks are lighter, more powerful and cheaper than ever before. They're particularly useful for students because their beefy hardware could be helpful for rendering video and doing any other schoolwork that would make super-thin ultraportables sweat. You can find some general advice on choosing gaming laptops in our guide. In this piece, you'll find a few selections specifically geared towards school use. Are gaming laptops good for college? As stated above, gaming laptops are especially helpful if you're doing any demanding work. Their big promise is powerful graphics performance, which isn't just limited to games. Video editing and 3D rendering programs can also tap into their GPUs to handle especially demanding tasks. While you can find decent GPUs on some productivity laptops, like Dell's XPS 15, you can sometimes find better deals on gaming laptops. My general advice for any new workhorse machine: Get at least 16GB of RAM and the largest solid state drive you can find. Those components are both typically hard to upgrade down the line. The one big downside to choosing a gaming notebook is portability. For the most part, we'd recommend 15-inch models to get the best balance of size and price. Those typically weigh in around 4.5 pounds, which is a significantly more than three-pound ultraportables. Today's gaming notebooks are still far lighter than older models, though, so at least you won't be lugging around a 10-pound brick. Also, if you're not into LED lights and other gamer-centric bling, keep an eye out for more understated models (or make sure you know how to turn those lights off). Best midrange for most people: ASUS Zephyrus G15 Will Lipman Photography / ASUS The Zephryus G15 has all the power you'd want in a gaming laptop, at a price that's more reasonable than higher-end options. It's a slightly larger follow-up to last year's favorite for this category (the G14), but there's still lots to love. The G15 features AMD's latest Ryzen 5000 processors, along with NVIDIA's RTX 3000 GPUs. And, judging from our benchmarks, it manages to make good use of all that power. It also has a fast 165Hz 1440p screen, which is ideal for playing games at high framerates. The G15 doesn't have a webcam, but its solid specs and performance more than make up for that. Buy Zephyrus G15 at Best Buy - $1,850 Best high-end option: Razer Blade 15 Will Lipman Photography for Engadget For years, Razer has staked a reputation for building gaming laptops that look as good as MacBooks. And that's still true. Razer's Blade 15 features a sleek and sturdy metal case, an impressively understated design (unless you really kick up those RGB keyboard lights), and just about all the power you'd want in a portable gaming powerhouse. If money is no object, you can equip the Blade 15 with Intel's latest 11th-gen processors, NVIDIA's powerful RTX 3080 and either a 240Hz QHD or 360Hz HD screen. While you'll pay a bit more for the Blade 15 compared to some other models, you've still got a few different price points to work with. The entry-level model starts at $1,699 with an RTX 3060 GPU and 144Hz 1080p display. That's certainly enough power for most games and creative apps. If you're looking for something a bit smaller, Razer's new AMD-powered Blade 14 looks compelling as well. Buy Blade 15 at Razer- $1,699 A stylish mid-range option: Alienware M15 R5 Ryzen Edition Will Lipman Photography / Alienware Alienware's M15 notebooks have made for solid options over the last few years, but the R5 Ryzen Edition adds something new to the mix with AMD's latest processors. Basically, you can expect slightly better multi-core performance from this machine, compared to its Intel-equipped siblings. The Alienware M15 still retains the brand's signature, sci-fi-like aesthetic, making the R5 Ryzen Edition a great option if you want a notebook that’s also distinct (without looking garish like cheaper offerings). Buy M15 R5 Ryzen Edition at Dell - $1,274 Best budget option: Dell G5 15 Will Lipman Photography / Dell While Alienware has established itself as a solid premium brand, Dell's cheaper G-series notebooks are worth a look for anyone on a budget. In particular, the G5 15 continues the trend of delivering very capable hardware under $1,000. Sure, the case may contain a lot of plastic, and the screen doesn't offer all of the latest niceties, but for the price it's hard to find something much better. Buy G5 15 at Dell - $960 Best no-limit gaming laptop: ASUS Zephyrus Duo 15 SE Will Lipman Photography / ASUS Taking the idea of a gaming laptop to the absolute extreme, ASUS's latest Zephyrus Duo combines AMD's latest Ryzen mobile processors with all of NVIDIA's great RTX 30-series hardware. And, true to its name, it has two screens: a gorgeous 15.6-inch main display, and a very wide secondary panel right below. That opens up a near desktop-level of multitasking, since you can have windows spread across both screens. That could be useful for browsing the web and keeping an eye on Twitter at the same time. (Or, perhaps squeezing in a game of Overwatch while following an online lecture on the other screen. We won't tell anyone.) Buy Zephyrus Duo 15 SE at ASUS - $2,899

    The very best laptops for university students

    All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. We’re all contending with a return to normalcy, and going back to school can feel strange yet exciting. Whether you’re heading to a physical campus, taking classes online or a mix of both, a laptop is likely going to be the control center for your studies. And things have changed quite a bit over the last year or so. We’ve seen the introduction of Apple’s M1-powered MacBooks and Microsoft just announced Windows 11. With ARM-based computers harkening a future where the line between mobile and desktop computing is blurry and Windows 11 working to bridge that gap by supporting Android apps, the laptop market is the most exciting it’s been in years. But that might lead to more questions for shoppers. What should you look out for if you want an ARM-based PC? Will they run Windows 11 when that update is available? What are some key specs you should add to your must-have list this year? We compiled this guide to help you make the right choice, alongside a list of this year’s best laptops. What to look for in a laptop for school (and what to avoid) First: Windows on ARM still isn’t worth it. Snapdragon laptops may look and feel classy, offer excellent battery life and cellular connections, but they’re typically too expensive, especially considering their limited app compatibility and finicky software. Apple’s M1 MacBooks, on the other hand, are great for almost everyone, barring those who need external GPUs, niche software or more than 16GB of RAM. Over on the Intel side of things, almost every notebook released this year packs an 11th-generation Core processor. You’ll likely be able to find a cheaper version of a product with a 10th-generation chip, and it should still serve you well. And don’t forget about AMD’s Ryzen, either — they’re plenty powerful and no longer just for the bargain bin. If you're eagerly awaiting the arrival of Windows 11 devices, don't expect to see them before the semester begins. They're more likely to show up in the fall around Microsoft's usual hardware event in October. Across the industry, companies have shifted to taller aspect ratios for their screens. The Surface Laptops sport 3:2 panels, and many Dell and HP models offer 16:10. While the older 16:9 format is nice for watching videos, you’ll probably appreciate a taller option when you’re writing an essay. Some devices, like Dell’s XPS and Samsung’s Galaxy Book Pro, come with OLED panels, which will be nice for working with photos and videos. They usually cost more and take a toll on battery life, though, so you’ll need to weigh your priorities. Fortunately, there’s a diverse selection of laptops around, so you should be able to find a suitable one regardless of your preferences. Here are our favorite notebooks for your return to academia. Apple MacBook Air M1 With its swift performance, slim fanless design and excellent battery life, the MacBook Air M1 is a no-brainer for any Apple user. You’ll appreciate familiar features like the Retina display, solid keyboard and trackpad. Plus thanks to the company’s excellent Rosetta 2 emulator software, you won’t notice a huge performance difference when relying on Intel apps. The big news though, is the ARM-based M1 allows the laptop to run iPhone and iPad apps too. While not every app will be available on macOS, the potential for more options on your desktop here is great. Now you just have to make sure you can keep the distractions at bay — which should be easy with the upcoming Focus modes on macOS Monterey, which rolls out later this year. Unfortunately for those looking for more internal storage or something to run their bespoke video streaming setup, the MacBook Air M1 tops out at 256GB storage while both the Air and the Pro only go up to 16GB of RAM. The MacBook Pro M1 also lacks support for multiple monitors and an external GPU. Those with more demanding workflows might need to look to Windows or an Intel-powered MacBook to ensure app compatibility. Buy MacBook Air M1 at Amazon - $999 Dell XPS 13 Dell’s XPS series has been our favorite for years. Despite a somewhat plain design that some might call “classic,” the XPS 13 still stands out for nailing pretty much everything a laptop should have. Great performance? Check. Gorgeous screen? Check. Comfortable keyboard? Check. Throw in a long-lasting battery and a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports in the latest versions, and you’ve got a powerful workhorse for all your classes (and more). The company shifted to a 16:10 aspect ratio in 2020, and recently added a 4K OLED option. That means you’ll see greater contrast ratios and deeper blacks for maximum display goodness. The OLED configuration will cost you $300 more than the Full HD LCD option, but those who want the best viewing experience may not mind the premium. We also recommend you spend a little more and get at least the Core i3 model with 8GB of RAM instead of the meager 4GB that the base model offers. Buy XPS 13 at Dell - $930 Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 If you’re looking for an excellent typing experience, look no further than the Surface Laptop 4. Microsoft has killed it with the keyboards on its recent Surface Laptops and this one’s no different. Though they’re not as deep and springy as ThinkPads, the buttons here are deliciously responsive and have ample travel. The roomy trackpad is solid, too. Of course, it’s important that the Surface Laptop 4 deliver on everything else, or we wouldn’t recommend it. The 15-inch version that we tested offered breezy performance, respectable battery life and a lovely 3:2 Pixelsense screen which supports Microsoft’s Surface Pen input. Though its design is a little staid, the Surface Laptop 4 still has a clean, professional design and a luxurious aluminum case that's sturdy enough to withstand being stuffed in your backpack. Plus, at 3.4 pounds, it won't burden your shoulders too much. The best thing about the Surface Laptop 4 is that its base model, which comes equipped with AMD’s Ryzen 5 processor and 8GB of RAM, starts at $1,000. That rivals the Dell XPS 13, making it a better buy for the value-conscious: You get more screen, more power and more RAM for the money. Both the Surface and the XPS are great options, but the latter offers an OLED panel and thinner bezels that make it look more modern. Buy Surface Laptop 4 at Microsoft - $999 Samsung Galaxy Book Pro For those whose priority is light weight, the Galaxy Book Pro series should be at the top of your list. At just 2.36 pounds for the clamshell and 3.06 pounds for the convertible model, the 15-inch Galaxy Book Pro is one of the lightest 15-inch laptops around. It’s also super thin at 0.46 inches thick, and despite its compact size it manages to house three USB-C ports (one of them supporting Thunderbolt 4), a microSD card reader and a headphone jack. It also packs an Intel Core i5 or i7 processor and at least 8GB of RAM, along with a 68Whr battery that delivers a similar runtime to the Dell XPS 13 and Surface Laptop 4. That’s particularly impressive given the Galaxy Book Pro has a Super AMOLED screen, which offers sumptuous image quality, high contrast ratio and deep blacks. Unfortunately, Samsung is still stuck on a 16:9 aspect ratio, which will feel outdated in a year or two, but it’s not a deal breaker. The Galaxy Book Pro’s keyboard isn’t as comfortable as the Surface Laptop 4’s but it’s pleasant enough, and the trackpad is enormous. We’re more concerned about the odd webcam software that makes you look dark and splotchy, so if looking your best on video calls is of concern you might want to consider something else. Plus, the $1,100 base model comes with an Intel Core i5 chip, 8GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage, making it a competitive offering against the Dell and Surface laptops. Awful camera aside, there’s plenty to love about the Galaxy Book Pro, especially for those looking to lighten their loads. Buy Galaxy Book Pro at Samsung - $999 Acer Chromebook Spin 713 If you’re considering saving a few hundred bucks by opting for Chrome OS, the Acer Chromebook Spin 713 might be the right choice. Sure, there are cheaper Chromebooks out there, but it’s one of few machines with a 3:2 aspect ratio and has a utilitarian design that makes it perfect for butterfingers. That price also gets you an 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and sturdy 360-degree hinge so you can set it up in a variety of modes. The 13.5-inch screen is also more pixel-dense than most 1080p displays of the same size. Though the Spin 713 only clocked about 8 hours on our battery test, that’s enough to get you through a work day. If $700 feels too expensive for a Chromebook, you could also wait till it inevitably goes on sale to save a bit more. There are sleeker, more powerful Chromebooks available, but Acer’s Spin 713 offers a good mix of performance and a modern screen for the money. Buy Acer Chromebook Spin 713 at Best Buy - $700 Acer Aspire 5 If price is your utmost concern, then we recommend the Acer Aspire 5. It’s a 15-inch Windows laptop with an AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor with 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage that costs between $400 and $450. Yes, that’s less memory than anything else on this list, but it also costs much less than any of our non-Chromebook suggestions. There’s plenty of ports here — including an Ethernet socket — and the aluminum chassis should make this laptop feel more expensive than it is. You’ll also appreciate its reliable performance, comfortable keyboard and 1080p display. For the price, the Aspire 5 offers everything you need to get through the school day, making it a great bargain. Buy Aspire 5 at Acer starting at $399

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