Monday, October 25, 2021

CD Projekt Acquires The Molasses Flood, The Studio Behind The Flame In The Flood

CD Projekt has announced that it has acquired The Molasses Flood, the studio known for games like The Flame in the Flood and Drake Hollow.  This news comes by way of a press release from CD Projekt that says The Molasses Flood is a perfect fit for the studio group. The studio will be working on one of CD Projekt’s IP, although it will retain its own identity and won’t merge with any existing teams in CD Projekt.  “The Molasses Flood will be working in close cooperation with CD Projekt Red, but will keep their current identity and will not be merged with existing teams,” the release reads. “The studio will be working on its own ambitious project which is based on one of CD Projekt’s IPs. Details about the project will be announced in the future.”  CD Projekt specifically cites The Molasses Flood’s technological insight and experience as reasons for the acquisition. “We’re always on the lookout for teams who make games with heart,” CD Projekt president and CEO Adam Kiciński writes in the press release. “The Molasses Flood share our passion for video game development, they’re experienced, quality-oriented, and have great technological insight. I’m convinced they will bring a lot of talent and determination to the Group.”  The Molasses Flood’s studio head, Forrest Dowling, says the studio saw an incredible opportunity in becoming part of the CD Projekt group, which is also the home of CD Projekt Red, the team behind The Witcher series and Cyberpunk 2077. Dowling says The Molasses Flood’s acquisition by CD Projekt will allow the team to reach a much wider audience.  While waiting for more details on The Molasses Flood’s next project, check out Game Informer’s The Flame in the Flood review and then check out our Cyberpunk 2077 review. 
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    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

    The very best accessories for the new iPad

    This likely won’t come as a surprise, but the Apple Pencil is the best stylus you can get for the iPad. Both the first- and second-generation Pencils are designed to work specifically with iPads and it shows in their seamless writing performance. The second-gen stylus has a double-tap feature that you can customize to a certain degree, and pressure-sensitivity allows you to add as much or as little detail as you want to digital artwork. I highly recommend shelling out $100 or $130 for the Apple Pencil if you’re an artist — you won’t be disappointed. But there are other options, too. Logitech’s Crayon is more affordable at $70 and it has arguably a better grip than either Apple Pencil. It’s just as good in terms of latency and accuracy — drawing in Procreate was a lag-free experience and my strokes always ended up exactly where I wanted them to be. Buy Apple Pencil (1st gen) at Amazon - $95 Buy Apple Pencil (2nd gen) at Amazon - $125 Buy Logitech Crayon at Amazon - $70 Valentina Palladino / Engadget But as someone who primarily uses an Apple Pencil for digital art, I missed pressure sensitivity when using the Crayon. Aside from that, the other biggest annoyance is that you have to use a Lightning or USB-C cable to charge it (even the newest model for the iPad Pros doesn’t magnetically attach to the tablet for charging). While I wouldn’t recommend the Crayon for serious artists, I would recommend it for anyone who’s on a strict budget, especially digital journal-keepers, hardcore note-takers and the like. If you’re a heavy user of the Apple Pencil or some other stylus, you should consider getting a screen protector for your iPad. They pull double-duty: not only do they act as a first line of defense if your iPad goes careening onto the concrete, but they can also enhance the digital drawing and writing experience. Using a stylus on an iPad is strange at first because gliding the stylus nib over a glass surface feels nothing like “normal” writing. Matte screen protectors can get closer to replicating the pen-on-paper experience, and they also prevent the stylus nib from wearing down so quickly. Paperlike is the most popular in this space, but Bersem’s screen protectors are a great value at $14 for a pack of two. Not only does the matte finish help when you’re drawing or taking digital notes, but it also reduces screen glare and doesn’t interfere with FaceID on the newest iPads. Buy Paperlike screen protector starting at $40 Buy Bersem screen protectors (2 pack) at Amazon - $14 Hubs and adapters Valentina Palladino / Engadget If you plan on pushing your iPad Pro to its limits as a daily driver, you’ll probably need more than the tablet’s single USB-C port. Apple has provided little guidance to which USB-C hubs and adapters work best with the iPad Pros — there’s no MFi certification for accessories like this yet. Some hubs specifically advertise that they work with the newest iPad Pros, and if you want to be extra safe, I recommend buying one of those that comes from a reputable brand. A newcomer in this space is Satechi’s $100 aluminum stand and hub, a foldable rectangle that cradles your iPad and provides a bunch of useful ports and charging capabilities. The holder itself rotates outward, revealing a hidden, attached USB-C cable and a rubber bumper that keeps the stand in place in your desk. On the back edge are a 4K HDMI socket, one USB-A port, a headphone jack, both SD and microSD card slots and a 60W USB-C connection for charging. I liked the versatility of Satechi’s hub. I could easily use it when I needed to prop my iPad up to watch a YouTube video, and by just plugging in the attached cable, I could switch to using my iPad as more of a work device with all of the necessary connectors in place. It’s also surprisingly light at 10 ounces. Combine that with its foldable design and you have a full-featured hub that can easily be stuffed in a bag. Buy Satechi stand and hub at Amazon - $100 Another popular option is HyperDrive’s USB-C adapter. I’ll admit I was skeptical about this one, mostly because so many Amazon reviewers and YouTube personalities have raved about it (and I have a hard time believing a six-port adapter the size of a lighter should cost $90). However, after testing it out, I can say it delivers on its promises: t’s a neat little adapter that’s just large enough to fit an HDMI socket, a USB-C port, a USB-A connection, micro- and regular SD card slots and a headphone jack on its edges. That should cover most things you’d need an adapter for, save for hardwired internet. However, what sets the HyperDrive USB-C adapter apart is that it comes with a tool kit that gives you more flexibility in how you use it. The default plate that surrounds the USB-C plug fits iPads without screen protectors, but there’s an included plate that accommodates screen protectors. HyperDrive even included a third plate with a dongle-like attachment so the adapter doesn’t have to sit right up against the iPad. All you need to do is use the tiny screwdriver that’s in the box to switch out the plates. I think that somewhat justifies its $90 asking price. So many adapters that hug the iPad Pro’s edges are slick but they become basically unusable if you have a case, skin or screen protector. Buy USB-C adapter at HyperDrive - $90 Valentina Palladino / Engadget But $90 for an adapter is still a lot of money and I’d only recommend spending that much if you plan on using the iPad Pro as your daily driver. A cheaper alternative is Anker’s 5-in-1 USB-C adapter: It works just as well as HyperDrive’s; has most of the same ports, with the exception of an extra USB-C port and a headphone jack; and costs only $26. You could use any of these adapters to connect an external drive to your iPad for more space. We’re fans of Samsung’s T7 series and SanDisk’s Extreme drives for those that want a good amount of extra storage in a fairly durable yet pocketable gadget. If you’d prefer something even more portable, SanDisk’s Dual Drive Luxe flash drive is a good option because it can plug right into your iPad’s USB-C port, it’s available in up to a 1TB capacity and it’s small enough to attach to your keys. Buy Anker 5-in-1 adapter at Amazon - $30 Buy Samsung T7 drive at Amazon - $80 Buy SanDisk Extreme drive at Amazon - $85 Buy SanDisk Dual Drive Luxe at Amazon - $50 Chargers and power Valentina Palladino / Engadget A battery pack or an extra charger is important to have in your bag regardless of where you’re going. RavPower’s 26,800mAh power bank can charge iPad Pros 1.5 times using its 30W USB-C PD port. It also works with the newest MacBook Pros and other USB-C laptops in addition to the Nintendo Switch — so it can be your one-stop-shop for all your charging needs. I also appreciate that it comes with its own USB-C to C cable, so you don’t need to remember to bring one with you, as well as the micro-USB cable used to charge the power bank itself. RavPower’s PD charger will set you back $60, but you can opt for the $50 Anker Powercore Essential PD charger if you want to spend a bit less. Its 20,000mAh capacity will provide at least 50 percent more juice to most iPads. It’s not ideal for larger devices like laptops, but it works well with smartphones and tablets. You also don't want to rely solely on the charging adapter that came with your iPad; it's handy to have a backup. Anker's new line of GaN II chargers has a couple of good options, and arguably the best for most people is the 45W Nano II. It's the midrange adapter in the lineup and it can power up a 2020 11-inch iPad Pro up to 30 percent faster than Apple's default adapter. In just a half hour of charging, I got about a 33 percent boost in battery life on my 11-inch iPad Pro. Anker's device is also smaller than Apple's and it has a foldable design, so it'll fit better in cramped spaces and it'll be easier to throw in a travel bag. Buy RavPower 26,800 power bank at RavPower - $60 Buy Anker 20,000 power bank at Amazon - $50 Buy Anker Nano II 45W GaN charger at Amazon - $36

    These Shortcuts will help you remove your iPad or iPhone

    “Spring cleaning” usually conjures up images of tedious housework, but it’s worth thinking about tidying up your smartphone and tablet, too — and I don’t mean physically, though that might also be a good idea. If you’re anything like us, your devices are full of old photos, files and apps taking up valuable storage space. Now is as good a time as any to start cleaning things out. And if you’re an iPhone or an iPad user, Apple’s Shortcuts feature just might be able to help. What are Shortcuts? In a nutshell, Shortcuts let you quickly perform a specific task, or a more complex sequence of tasks, with a single tap or voice command. This idea isn’t unique to Apple — if you’re a geek of a certain age, you probably know these as strings of actions better as “macros.” Building your first Shortcut can seem daunting at first, but relax: You don’t need to be a coder to create a truly useful setup. All it really takes is a little time to put all the pieces together. More than anything, I’ve come to think of these things as little logic puzzles. You know the result you’re looking for — it’s just a matter of thinking through the steps and finding the right sequence of actions to get you there. There are, of course, limits to what Apple will let you do. Let’s say you’re like me, and you’re just awful at remembering to clear out your notifications regularly. I would love to create a Shortcut that would automatically dismiss notifications generated more than a day or two ago, but Apple doesn’t make information about a notification’s age available to Shortcuts. Similarly, there doesn’t appear to be a way — for now, at least — to figure out the last time you used certain apps, so there’s no way to build a Shortcut that highlights apps you could delete without missing them. As you’ll see later, Apple also has a fairly limited set of tools for interacting with files stored directly on your iOS device. Granted, there are a handful of third-party apps, like Toolbox Pro, Data Jar and JellyCuts, that dramatically expand on the Shortcut tools that ship in iOS, but the thing to remember is that there are some tasks you can’t pull off with Shortcuts yet. Oh, and for the sake of your sanity, it’s best to start piecing together Shortcuts on as big a screen as possible. Since there’s no Shortcuts functionality available on Apple’s Macs — even the new ones running the iPhone-inspired M1 chipset — that means use an iPad if you have one. Don’t worry: As long as your iPad and iPhone are signed into the same Apple ID, any Shortcut you create on one will be visible in the other. How to create a Shortcut Piecing together complex actions to help clean out our devices involves a lot of trial and error at first, so let’s work through a basic example. Meet BackupNotes: It’s the first half-decent Shortcut I ever made, and as the name implies, it’s meant to help you quickly save your old notes in the cloud before you go through and start cleaning house. The logic here is pretty straightforward. First, we check today’s date and dial it back 30 days to make sure nothing relatively new and necessary gets caught in the net. And right off the bat, you have a few different ways to pull this off. At first, I actually created a separate shortcut called “MonthAgo” that takes the current date and subtracts 30 days from it. From there, I could add an instruction to the BackNotes workflow to run the MonthAgo shortcut first, then pass that adjusted date into the Find Notes action. Turns out, that whole rigmarole wasn’t actually necessary. After a little Googling, I could just define the date and adjust it directly inside this shortcut. This new approach is a whole lot cleaner, but I’m still grateful I took the long way around first since it opened my eyes to the possibility of linking multiple shortcuts together. It’s pretty much smooth sailing from there. Searching for actions related to the Notes app in the Shortcuts sidebar reveals a handful of options, including just the one we need to select notes older than the date we defined earlier. Then, just add an action for compressing those notes into a single ZIP file — you can’t see it in the image above, but there’s also a text field to give the new compressed file a name — and cap things off with a save action. I should note that while those last few steps sound like the easiest, they took a little more time to figure out than I care to admit. Originally, I had wanted my iOS devices to open the share sheet so you could more easily get that new ZIP file to contacts, or into the cloud storage app of your choice. You can do that, but there’s a caveat. If you use a Shortcut to give a file a name and try to send it via the share sheet, the name doesn’t actually stick; it winds up with whatever generic name Gmail or Telegram or Google Drive decides to give it. Naturally, the Shortcuts apps’ flexibility means there’s a fairly easy workaround, if you’re game. It just takes a couple extra steps right at the end. You could, for instance, close things out with an action to send that same file via the share sheet, plus one more to delete it after you’ve moved it where you want it. It’s functional when run, but it requires one final tap to confirm you want to delete the ZIP file, which feels a little inelegant. Thankfully, the solution I landed on does just fine for my purposes. By saving the notes backup through iCloud Drive, you can manually choose a third-party storage service (Google Drive, in my case) that you’ve already connected to the iOS Files app. Tweaking the formula Now that your notes are all safely stored elsewhere, you can now scrub through them all and delete as needed. But what could we do if we put a twist on that basic formula? Well, how about this: Let’s back up other files you’ve stored on your iOS device before you go on a cleaning spree. As you can see, the last two steps here are the same as in the previous example, but the lead-in is a little different. Because I want to be able to choose the backup’s file name rather than just tag it with the date as we did before, things start with an “Ask for text” action. The user then punches in whatever file name they want, which gets saved as a variable in the following step. (Pro tip: Once you find actions you suspect you’ll use frequently, you can save them as favorites for easy access.) With the beginning and the end sorted, it’s all a matter of getting to the files we need. That’s easier than it sounds. Rather than use the “Find Notes” action from last time, “Get File” is what we need to dig into your iOS device’s file structure. Once that action is in place, it’s important to make sure the options for showing the document picker and selecting multiple files are ticked. That way, once you actually run the Shortcut, you’ll be able to navigate through the folders on your device and pick the ones you’d like to package up and offload in the final two actions. Once again, you can store that new compressed file in almost any cloud storage service that’s connected to your Files app. (I say “almost” because Dropbox can be added to your Files app, but you can’t navigate to it when it’s time to save the file. If your life lives in Dropbox, you have to use a different, similarly straightforward action to store your backup in there.) As useful as this Shortcut can be, Apple’s limitations mean it’s not as automated as one might prefer. There’s no way that I know of to use the “Get File” action to collect all files in a specific folder, like the one all your Safari file downloads get saved to. Being able to automatically select those files, bundle them up and save them somewhere would be really helpful, but the app just doesn’t offer that kind of granularity. Adding more actions I don’t know about you, but the screenshots album on my phone is a disaster — it’s all fleetingly funny tweets, images of my homescreen I captured by accident and a screen grab of this beautiful nightmare. If your iOS device is starting to run low on storage, clearing up every little bit can help, so let’s take a stab at a Shortcut that automatically deletes some of those old images. Right off the bat, there are two new actions to dig into. The first does exactly what it says on the tin — feed it a snippet of text and the Shortcut will read it aloud. (This obviously isn’t necessary, but what’s life if you can’t goof around a little?) The second, meanwhile, is one you’ll probably find yourself returning to pretty frequently. It gives you the ability to define and display multiple options in a notification that slides down from the top of the screen. In this case, we want to be able to delete screenshots we consider old, or delete all screenshots in one fell swoop. It also introduces us to the idea of carrying out multiple tasks in a single Shortcut. This will definitely come in handy as you continue to build your own. Granted, these are pretty simple tasks — one of them does the now very familiar date adjustment trick, and uses the Find Photos action to select all of the screenshots created more than a month ago. (You can tweak this pretty easily if you’d rather, say, select screenshots that were last modified before a specific date.) Once that action applies those criteria to find the right images, it’s just a matter of adding a Delete Photos action to get rid of them. By default, you’re prompted to confirm you want to erase those files, so there’s always a chance to back out if you think better of it. As for the next task, deleting all screenshots instead of a selection of them? That's easy: Just recreate the previous task, but without specifying how old the screenshots should be. As with the other examples we’ve worked through, there’s plenty of room for experimentation and customization depending on exactly how you’d like things to work, but for now, we have a dead-simple tool for clearing out some of your old, unneeded files What next? So, we’ve created a few helpful Shortcuts — now what? Well, you should probably try them out. All the Shortcuts you make are accessible from inside the app, but there are situations where you might need quicker access to them. For those cases, you can put the appropriate Shortcuts right on your home screen, and as usual, there are a few ways to do this. The simplest way to go is by adding a Shortcut widget. On an iPhone, long-press an app icon and tap the plus sign that appears in the top-left corner. From there, you can pick out exactly the widget layout that feels right, and plop it in the middle of all your apps. If that looks a little too big for your liking, you can also create app icons on your home screen that directly execute your Shortcut of choice: Engadget Alternatively, you could always just use Siri — it can recognize all of your Shortcuts by name, and executes them (almost) the same way as if you had just poked at your screen. The only real difference is that if any of your Shortcuts require text input, like the file name prompts we built above, you’ll have to respond out loud rather than punch text in manually. This is just a crash course for Shortcut creation. If you’re interested in learning more about crafting these clever utilities, there’s no shortage of places to turn — I’ve mostly relied on the excellent r/Shortcuts subreddit and Chris Lawley’s YouTube channel to get a sense of what was and wasn’t possible early on. But, the best way to figure out how to make better Shortcuts is by pulling some apart. Pop into your iOS device’s settings and allow “untrusted” shortcuts. This allows you to install shortcuts created by other people, and looking at how their logic unfolds can be extremely informative. Just make sure you take a few moments to look at how those third-party shortcuts actually work before you run them!

    The very best budget robot vacuums 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. We all could use a little help keeping our homes clean, and now we live in an age where robots are actually capable of lending a (mechanical) hand. Robot vacuums are some of the most recognizable smart home gadgets available today with their circular shapes and propensity for bumping into walls. While they provide an undeniable convenience, they can also have high price tags. It’s not unheard of to drop close to $1,000 on a high-end robo-vac. But unlike just a few years ago, today there are plenty of budget robot vacuum options to choose from. At Engadget, we consider anything under $300 to be cheap in this space and you may be surprised to see how many there are at that price point. And if you’re new to the world of robot vacuums, you may find that one of these budget gadgets does everything you expected and more. Are robot vacuums worth it? Friends and family often ask me if new gadgets are “worth it,” and when it comes to robot vacuum the answer is yes. The most important thing they have going for them is autonomy — just turn it on, walk away. If you’re someone who wants to spend as little time as possible cleaning your home — or just someone who detests vacuuming — then a semi-autonomous robot is a great investment. There are plenty of other good things about them that we’ll discuss in a bit, but let’s take a look at the biggest trade-offs when opting for a robot vacuum: less power, less capacity and less flexibility. The former two cons go hand in hand — robot vacuums are much smaller than upright vacuums, which leads to less suction. Also, they hold less dirt because their built-in bins are a fraction of the size of a standard vacuum canister or bag. Also, while robo-vacs are cord-free, that means they are slaves to their batteries and will require regular recharging. When it comes to flexibility, robot vacuums do things differently than standard ones. You can control some with your smartphone, set cleaning schedules and more, but robo-vacs are primarily tasked with cleaning floors. On the flip side, their upright counterparts can come with various attachments that let you clean couches, stairs, light fixtures and other hard to reach places. What to look for in a budget robot vacuum Valentina Palladino / Engadget When looking for a cheap robo-vac, one of the first things you should consider is WiFi connectivity. While you may think that’s a given on all smart home devices, it’s not. Some of the most affordable robo-vacs don’t have the option to connect to your home WiFi network. If you choose one like this, you won’t be able to control it with a smartphone app or with voice commands. Another feature that’s typically reserved for WiFi-connected robots is scheduling because most of them use a mobile app to set cleaning schedules. But WiFi-incapable vacuums usually come with remote controls that have all the basic functions that companion mobile apps do, including start, stop and return to dock. And if you’re concerned about the possibility of hacking, vacuums with no access to your WiFi network are the best option. You should also think about the types of floors you have in your home. Are they all carpet? Or mostly hardwood and tile? Carpets demand vacuums with more suction power that can collect debris that gets pushed down into nooks and crannies. Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal metric by which suction is measured. Some companies provide Pascal (Pa) levels and generally the higher the Pa, the stronger. But other companies don’t rely on Pa levels and simply say their robots have X-times more suction than other robot vacuums. So how can you ensure you’re getting a robot vacuum that will adequately clean your floors? Read the product description. Look for details about its ability to clean hardwood and carpets, and see if it has a “max” mode you can use to increase suction. If you are given a Pa measurement, look for around 2000Pa if you have mostly carpeted floors. Size is also important for two reasons: clearance and dirt storage. Check the specs for the robot’s height to see if it can get underneath the furniture you have in your home. Most likely any robot vacuum you find won’t be able to clean under a couch (unless it’s a very tall, very strange couch), but some can get under entryway tables, nightstands and the like. As for dirt storage, look out for the milliliter capacity of the robot’s dustbin — the bigger the capacity, the more dirt the vacuum can collect before you have to empty it. Object detection and cliff sensors are other key features to look out for. The former helps the robot vacuum navigate around furniture while it cleans, rather than mindlessly pushing its way into it. As for cliff sensors, these prevent robot vacuums from taking a tumble down your stairs and they are a must-have if you have a multi-level home. The best budget robot vacuums Best overall: $250 Shark Ion RV761 Valentina Palladino / Engadget It was harder to name a best budget robot vacuum than I anticipated because many of the machines I tested were pretty solid. However, two in particular stood out a bit from the crowd — the Shark’s Ion RV761 and iRobot’s Roomba 694, and Shark’s device ended up besting the Roomba in a few areas: price, battery life and cleaning modes. Buy Shark Ion RV761 at Best Buy - $250 The Shark RV761 comes in at $250 and includes two extra side brushes and one extra filter in the box. Not only is that a great price for the vacuum alone, but those included extra parts increase the amount of time you have before you have to shell out more money to keep the vacuum working properly. Unfortunately, the robot’s design doesn’t do it any favors — it has a bowling-shirt vibe that I can’t get over. But I applaud its clearly labeled buttons, something many other robot vacuums don’t have. No obtuse icons here, just easy to read text for Clean, Dock and Max (the latter referring to the high-powered clean mode). You could rely just on the buttons, but it also connects to WiFi so you can use the Shark Clean app. I had no trouble connecting the Shark to my home WiFi network by following the in-app instructions, and I even got to name it before the setup was complete (Sharkey — I know, very original). It makes as much noise as I’d expect a robot vacuum to — loud enough that I had to up the volume of the podcast I was listening to, but not loud enough for me to hear it when it was cleaning a different room down the hall. I live in a mid-sized New York apartment, so “down the hall” really isn’t all that far away. Surprisingly, switching to Max mode didn’t dramatically increase the noise level either. The Shark doesn’t have a spot-clean feature, but Max mode is good to use when you have a specific area that needs a lot of attention. I gave Max mode a shot a few times, but I found the standard cleaning mode did a good enough job of inhaling dirt, debris, crumbs and even the cat hair embedded in my carpets. I also appreciated the Shark’s adjustable wheels, which raise and lower automatically depending on the “terrain” and the obstacles in its path. I first noticed the wheels when the Shark ran over my cat’s nearly 1-inch thick toy mouse, something that most other robot vacuums just push around as they move. The mouse was unharmed, just a little squished after the encounter, and the Shark avoided sucking up any of my cat’s other toys, too (even if it did push her T-shaped play tunnel around the living room incessantly). Valentina Palladino / Engadget The Shark has proximity sensors like many other machines do, which help them avoid collisions. But in my experience, very few robot vacuums are actually good at doing this — they often bump into walls and furniture, readjust and move on. What sets robot vacuums apart is their ability to avoid getting stuck, or least get unstuck quickly. The Shark was just ok at this — it was tripped up by a display case that had just enough space in between its legs that the robot tried to get underneath it, but alas, failed every time. The robot ran for an hour and a half on average in its standard cleaning mode. That’s right in line with the company’s estimated battery life, and more often than not, the Shark returned to its dock fairly quickly when it was getting low on battery. Only once did I actually have to pick up the machine and set it on its charger. Usually, I used the Shark Clean companion app. The homepage lets you start and stop cleanings as well as switch to Max mode and “find” the robot, which just forces the machine to beep loud enough that you’ll (hopefully) hear it from across your home. You can also see how long the device has been cleaning when it’s mid-job and a full cleaning history, which is helpful to check out if you forgot the last time you ran the vacuum. In the app menu, you’ll find the scheduling feature, which lets you choose recurring days and times for regular cleanings. Ultimately, Shark’s RV761 did everything I expected a good robot vacuum to do and did them well. For a semi-autonomous device, small details — like reliable WiFi connectivity, good battery life and a well designed app — can make or break your experience. While there were a few small hiccups along the way, they didn’t overshadow the fact that the Shark RV761 provides a ton of value for only $250. Runner up: $300 iRobot Roomba 694 Valentina Palladino / Engadget iRobot’s new Roomba 694 comes close to the Shark RV671. At $300, this model will eventually replace the Roomba 675 but, aside from an updated exterior, it’s fundamentally the same vacuum. I much prefer this robot’s all-black design to that of the Shark and it looks better than older Roomba models, too. It has three physical buttons on it — start, dock and spot — and, like the Shark, it connects to WiFi so you can control it via the iRobot app. Unfortunately, your $300 gets you the vacuum and its necessary parts only so you’ll have to pay up immediately when you need a replacement filter or brushes. Buy Roomba 694 at iRobot - $300 Setting up the Roomba 694 is much like the Shark machine — open the companion app and follow the instructions. Once it’s connected to your home WiFi network, you’re able to use the app to control the vacuum whenever you don’t feel like using the physical buttons. However, the spot-clean function is only available as a button, which is a bit of a bummer considering I expected the app to mirror the buttons while adding even more customizable controls. iRobot’s app is a bit better than Shark’s. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Shark Clean app — it’s reliable and easy to use. But iRobot’s app puts most pertinent controls on the homepage, so you rarely (if ever) need to navigate through its menu to do things like set a cleaning schedule. Overall, it’s a bit more polished than Shark’s app and that might be best for less tech-savvy people. But simplicity can be tricky. The overall iRobot user experience is incredibly straightforward and some will prefer that over a more complicated setup. But customization and flexibility are sacrificed to achieve that. I was a bit shocked to see the features other robot vacuums have that iRobot machines don’t. Direction controls are a good example — believe it or not, most higher-end robot vacuums can’t be controlled like toy cars. But some like the Anker Eufy vacuum has them on its physical remote, and Roborock’s E4 vacuum has digital direction controls in the Mi Home app. The Roomba 694 may not have a ton of bells and whistles, but it gets the job done and does so without you needing to tend to it. It’s on par with the Shark robot in terms of cleaning but it generally only ran for around 45 minutes before needing to dock and recharge. iRobot says run times will vary based on floor surfaces, but the 694 is estimated to have a 90-minute battery life when cleaning hard floors. Regardless, it’s more than a half hour less than Shark’s robot. While 45 minutes may be enough time for the robot to scuttle around most rooms in my apartment, those with larger homes may have to wait for it to recharge in order to clean everywhere. iRobot has made a name for itself in the autonomous vacuum market for good reason. It’s machines are polished, dead simple to use and the accompanying app is excellent. That ease of use (and the reputation of the iRobot name) comes at a slightly higher price tag, which many will be willing to pay. But there are plenty of solid options now that didn’t exist even just three years ago. Best bang for your buck: $230 Anker Eufy RoboVac 11S Valentina Palladino / Engadget Anker’s $230 Eufy RoboVac 11S was one of the cheapest vacuums I tested but it also proved to be one of the most versatile. First thing to note: this robot vacuum doesn’t have WiFi, but it does come with a remote that gives you most of the functions you’d find in an app (including a schedule feature). Eufy also includes additional brushes and filters in the box. Buy Eufy RoboVac 11S at Amazon - $150 The “S” in this robot’s name stands for slim, and it’s roughly 0.5-inches thinner than all of the other vacuums I tested. Not only does this make the 11S lighter, but it was the only one that could clean under my entryway table. The 11S has a physical on-off toggle on its underside plus one button on its top that you can press to start a cleaning. It always begins in auto mode, which optimizes the cleaning process as it putters around your home, but you can use the remote to select specific modes like spot and edge clean. I ended up repeatedly using the 11S’ spot clean feature. My partner’s main hobby involves a lot of craft supplies and usually results in tiny pieces of scrap paper all over the floor. The 11S cleaned them up well when in spot-clean mode which focuses its suction in one area as it spins outward in a spiral. I didn’t even have to pick up and move the 11S to the paper-strewn location either — the remote’s direction buttons let me drive the vacuum almost like an RC car. The 11S has three power modes — Standard, BoostIQ and Max — and I kept mine on BoostIQ most of the time. It provided enough suction to adequately clean my carpeted floors, missing only a few crumbs or pieces of debris in corners or tight spaces around furniture. It ran for roughly one hour and fifteen minutes when in BoostIQ mode and it has remarkable collision avoidance. Sure, it bumped into walls and some large pieces of furniture, but it was the only vacuum that I tried to consistently avoid hitting my cat’s play tunnel that lives in the middle of our living room floor. As far as noise levels go, you can definitely hear the difference between BoostIQ and Max, but none of the three settings is abhorrently loud. In fact, I could barely hear the 11S when it was on the opposite end of my apartment running in BoostIQ mode. Thankfully, error alert beeps were loud enough to let me know when something went awry, like the 11S accidentally getting tripped up by a rogue charging cable (which only happened a couple of times and neither robot nor cable were harmed in the process). Overall, the Eufy RoboVac 11S impressed me with its smarts, despite its lack of WiFi. The lack of wireless connectivity is arguably the worst thing about the robot and that’s saying a lot. It’s worth mentioning that this model is rated for up to 1300Pa suction, but you can grab the next model up, the RoboVac 11S Max, which gives you 2000Pa suction (just know that it’ll likely be louder as a result). But you can’t argue with the value of the $230 11S — especially when it’s often on sale for around $150.

    Readers compare the Galaxy S20 lineup

    Samsung updated its flagship lineup with three models earlier this year: the S20, the S20+ and the S20 Ultra. When Engadget put them through their paces as part of our official reviews, editor Cherlynn Low liked the screen, refresh rates and camera of the S20, the battery life and build quality of the S20+ and the S20 Ultra’s performance. But we wanted to hear from readers who purchased the phones, asking them to review their handsets this past summer. Here’s what they said about each phone, from size and display to cameras. Hardware The physical design of the handsets themselves received mixed feedback. The S20 was “too big” according to Henry, though Sneak liked “that it is slightly narrower than the S10” and “fits comfortably in my hand.” Meanwhile, Ryan said those who were interested in the S20+ should “be aware that this is a tall and wide phone that will often require two-handed use; if you prefer one-handed, I would go with the regular S20.” Ultra owners were okay with its size — Steve said he’d like it even bigger, but admitted he didn’t care about one-handed operation, while Charlie said he didn’t notice the weight difference at all, even coming from a Note 10+.  Cherlynn Low/Engadget Henry also mentioned the S20’s build quality, saying it “didn’t feel as premium as past phones” and that it “would have been nice to get a proper black color” for the handset. Jun Jie was likewise disappointed with the colors on the Ultra: “You went from Aura-ish colors on the Note10+ to Cosmic Grey on the S20 Ultra that’s more dull than my future. Why?” And both Henry and Steve wanted a headphone jack on the S20 and S20 Ultra, respectively.  Screen The screens on all three handsets hit big with users. Sneak said the S20’s display is amazing, Ryan found the screen on the S20+ beautiful, adding that he can use the 120Hz with no noticeable difference in resolution. However, he did say that the “screen glass is easily susceptible to scratching,” and that “after a month of careful use, there are three or four small scratches noticeable when the screen is off. The notion that Gorilla Glass is somehow impervious to scratching is clearly a myth.”  Cherlynn Low/Engadget When it came to the 120Hz refresh rate on her S20+, Brianna was enthusiastic, saying she “loves the buttery smooth refresh rate” and that she “never knew I needed 120Hz in my life until I saw it in person! Never going back!” Charlie called the screen on the S20 Ultra beautiful, Jun Jie found it glorious and Steve admitted the large screen was one of his “killer apps” on the Ultra, but he skips using the 120Hz mode because it drains the battery. Camera There was very little negative feedback about the camera features of the S20 lineup. The S20 and S20+ both have a 3x optical zoom system, while the S20 Ultra boasts a 100x Space Zoom with a 4x optical zoom. Sneak liked the camera on their S20, but Nick was disappointed that his S20+ didn’t feature a real telephoto camera and will instead crop a 64MP frame.  Cherlynn Low/Engadget S20 Ultra users were more detailed about their experiences. Derek called the camera cool, despite having to return his initial handset because of an issue with it. Steve said he “uses the Pro mode all the time and I love the level of control. I have used the 100x zoom, and while it’s not perfect, it’s better than not having the option at all.” And Charlie found the camera to be amazing, adding that “it has focus issues sometimes but I expect that to be fixed with software updates in the near future. The zoom capability is incredible and very helpful in my job.”  Battery The battery life of the phones was only briefly mentioned by the reviewers. David and Nick felt let down by the battery life of their respective S20 and a S20+. David said he was “disappointed with my phone’s battery life compared to my previous phones, and the phones of others in my family.”  Cherlynn Low/Engadget Meanwhile, Ryan and Jun Jie had the opposite experience. Jun Jie listed battery life as one of the many advantages of going with an S20 Ultra, and Ryan said the battery on his S20+ lasts “considerably longer than my S7, and I can use the phone all day without worrying about recharging.”  Comparisons Our users were fairly critical with regards to comparing their handsets to other phone models. David said “one of my biggest frustrations with the S20 is the tediously slow on-screen fingerprint unlock, to the point that I am considering switching back to an LG V series.” He felt that “overall, the S20 is a satisfactory phone but … my previous flagship, the LG V30+, gave a better ownership experience.” Ryan, who upgraded to the S20+ from an S7, said it took him a few weeks to adjust to the size of the newer phone. Nick, who also owns an S20+, felt it was a bad thing that the handset “is so similar to all other A-series Samsungs that you cannot easily tell the difference. It’s not a very shiny flagship, as previous models were. I was twice as excited when I bought my S7 Edge, which it replaced.” Steve was pragmatic about his S20 Ultra, saying “this phone is good for a while but next time I’ll probably look at the ‘A’ series. Better bang for the buck.” Derek was less matter-of-fact about his S20 Ultra: “I’ve learned my lesson and this is the last S series phone I will buy. I’m going back to the Note phones I was buying. This phone was not worth the price.”  Cherlynn Low/Engadget However, a few users of each handset were more pleased with their purchases. Sneak was “extremely glad that the Bixby button is gone, and I’m also glad that Samsung didn’t put the power and volume buttons on the ‘wrong’ side like they did with the Note 10 and 10+.” And Jun Jie and Charlie were both happy with their S20 Ultras, with Jun Jie stating there are “many praises to be sung about this phone,” and Charlie finding it an “incredible phone in many ways.”  In this article: thebuyersguide, userreview, userreviews, userreviewroundup, user reviews, user review, user review roundup, Samsung Galaxy, Samsung, Galaxy S20, galaxy s20 plus, Galaxy S20 Ultra, feature, gear 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. Comments 77 Shares Share Tweet Share

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