The HMD-backed resurgence of Nokia in the smartphone market has been a real treat to watch. After years of watching Microsoft bungle its Nokia acquisition, the Nokia name is again emblazoned on excellent smartphone products. However, most Nokia phones have been toward the budget end of the spectrum. They've been good for the money, but the Nokia 9 PureView is a true flagship with high-end specs, a wild five-camera setup, and an in-display fingerprint sensor. All that, and it's a few hundred dollars less than competing phones. Read More
Nubia is finally selling a phone in North America. Sadly, it's not that wacky dual-screen device but the more modest Red Magic Mars gaming phone. We've talked repeatedly about how most gaming phones aren't any more suited to gaming than the competition, but the Red Magic Mars at least tries to justify the name with dedicated shoulder buttons and a custom gaming mode. Read More
True wireless earbuds are big business these days, and they’re especially popular since Apple released its to-be-seen-with AirPods. Samsung's first attempt at this product category in 2016 was a little disappointing, but the updated Gear IconX that came out the following year offered improved battery life, a redesigned case, and better connectivity. The $200 price tag was too high for what you got, but frequent discounts made them a slightly more viable prospect.
Fast-forward to 2019 and Samsung is back with its latest iteration. Galaxy Buds is already a far more appealing and marketable name. They also cost much less than their predecessors at $130, even undercutting the AirPods by a full $30. Read More
You are no longer stuck with a few Google-branded speaker options if you want to invite Assistant into your home. There are speakers from JBL, Sony, and many others—including Marshall. The updated Marshall Stanmore II speaker launched recently, and it looks like a feasible alternative to Google's best-in-class Home Max. It combines classic Marshall styling with modern voice assistant features, but it comes with a steep $400 asking price. Read More
Like it or not, headphone jacks are getting harder to find on smartphones, and that makes your wireless headphones more crucial than ever. There are some compelling true wireless options out there, but you have to spend big to get features like low-latency, Type-C charging, and long battery life. As the technology improves, we're finally starting to see some compelling budget options in true wireless—for example, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air. For a mere $80, these earbuds offer an experience that's almost a match for products that cost twice as much. If you can make a few small compromises, they're an incredible deal. Read More
Everyone is trying to make true wireless earbuds these days, but most of these products aren't very good. The technology has gotten cheap enough that any white label OEM can throw together a true wireless setup that does the bare minimum. Unless you simply refuse to have wires under any circumstances, these cheap options aren't worth the tradeoffs like sync issues, poor sound quality, and A/V lag. At the high-end, there are true wireless systems that can almost match a nice set of regular Bluetooth earbuds, but there's a lot of variation. The RHA TrueConnect earbuds look like an able competitor, but the USB Type-C port can't make up for the missing features and so-so sound quality. Read More
Anker's Soundcore sub-brand sells all kinds of wireless audio gear, from earbuds to soundbars. They generally target a pretty midrange market; they're not chintzy by any means, but historically, they haven't been expensive, either. Starting at $200, though, Anker's new Soundcore Model Zero and Model Zero+ speakers are decidedly more premium than the company's previous offerings. And while they're not quite a home run, there's a lot to like here. Read More
When Google announced Chrome OS as a platform, it talked about LTE as one of the defining characteristics. At the time, Google pitched Chrome OS as always up-to-date and backed up because your laptop would have a constant connection. There have been some LTE-equipped Chromebooks but none for the past few years as manufacturers have focused more on the budget end of the market. The new Samsung Chromebook Plus V2 brings LTE back to Chrome OS, but it does so with a higher price tag. Read More
Jaybird has had a busy few months. Following September's release of both the flagship X4 and budget Tarah, the company released last month the Tarah Pro, a second high-end headset that evidently shares enough in common with Jaybird's entry-level offering to share its name.
Tarah, it seems, is Jaybird's name for these devices' particular form factor, rather than an indicator of budget-friendliness. While the Pro take a number of design cues from the vanilla Tarah, they certainly don't take inspiration from their price: at $160, the Tarah Pro are Jaybird's most expensive earbuds. They're also the company's best. Read More
If you peruse our Winter 2018 Most Wanted audio guide (and you should — good stuff in there), you'll notice an unfortunate trend. With few exceptions, manufacturers of wireless audio gear seem timid about adopting USB Type-C charging. So I was excited to get my hands on the Rowkin Ascent Charge: they're fully wireless earbuds whose case is decked out with not only the increasingly standard USB-C, but also Qi wireless charging. And after using the buds for a couple of weeks, I like them a lot, but a few grating flaws are stopping me from loving them. Read More