2020 has been a very, very good year for smartphones. We've seen some wild and crazy stuff land, from folding to flipping devices, and the average phone is better than it's ever been. That puts the OnePlus 8T in a tough spot: It's a good phone that adheres to OnePlus' usual formula, but the competition is better than it's ever been, and "good" isn't enough to beat them.
Amazon has dominated the e-reader industry for so long that most of its competitors have either become niche products or faded out of existence entirely. I'd forgive you for thinking Kindles were the only e-readers sold in the United States, but not only is Barnes & Noble still around, but the company continues to release new Nook readers. And I bought one.
In the era before modern smartwatches, Fitbit's name became synonymous with wearable fitness trackers. Full-fledged smartwatches have become the norm as consumers have demanded more and more from wearables, and Fitbit stepped in with the Ionic and Versa smartwatches a few years ago. I had high hopes that Fitbit would continue to improve and provide Android users a viable alternative to the increasingly frustrating Wear OS experience, but the Sense has some of the same shortcomings and bugs I remember from the Ionic. The Sense also has its own raft of new glitches that I find equally annoying.
Amazon has been producing Fire TV streaming sticks for several years now, but most of them have been mediocre at best. That’s what you’d expect for the bargain-basement price Amazon is charging. The cheapest 1080p-only Sticks have used bottom-of-the-barrel processors, making them unbearably-slow compared to a Chromecast or Roku, though the upgraded hardware in the Fire TV 4K isn't nearly as bad.
It's always exciting to see a renowned game studio launch a brand new IP, especially when that studio designed some of the biggest hits of the decade, like Assassin's Creed: Odyssey, Watch Dogs, and Assassin's Creed: Black Flag. Originally teased at E3 2019 under a different name (and with a different main hero), Immortals Fenyx Rising promises a new adventure set in the annals of Greek mythology. I've been playing Ubisoft's latest title on Stadia for the last couple days, and these are my early impressions.
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The Lenovo Smart Clock Essential is not a massive leap in technology—it's a clock radio. A glorified clock radio. A more sensible, smart clock radio. But it's still a clock with a speaker. It tells the time and weather, and it's got Google Assistant. It's missing a few features, and the audio is about what you'd expect for $50, but I found it to be a great addition to my home. Whether or not you agree depends on what you want out of your Assistant devices, but there's a lot to like about the Smart Clock Essential.
Smartphone gimbals (a.k.a. stabilizers) aren't a new product category, but they've changed and improved quite a bit over the years. While there are always new features being added, that can make them cumbersome and get in the way of usability. Zhiyun is trying out a more simplified and compact design with the Smooth-X and Smooth-XS that's targeted at travelers and casual users. These aren't as flexible as most gimbals, but they're easier to use, cost less, and take less space.
When Apple debuted the Airpods Pro in 2019, it took what customers loved from Airpods and added active noise cancellation, better sound quality, and a sealed in-ear design. The combination of simplicity, reliability, and convenience makes them some of the world's most popular wireless earbuds. Many clones have been created, but some copy the formula better than others. Swedish company Urbanista's new London earbuds cost $149 and offer touch controls, wireless charging, and ANC — pretty much everything that Apple's Airpods Pro do but for significantly less cash. And while they succeed in a number of ways, there are also some potential deal breakers involved.
If nothing else, mobile technology is about striking a balance. You might be super-productive if you always had your laptop around, but that's hardly practical to carry on your person everywhere — enter: the smartphone. Earlier this year I took a look at the Jackery Explorer 1000, an absolute unit of a battery pack. And while it has capacity for days, at 22lbs it's also a lot of heft to be hauling around. Is there a better balance we could find here? Jackery's got a number of options running the gamuts of size and capacity, and now the latest entry might just nail that equilibrium: the Jackery Explorer 300.