Win or Lose, the Virginia Election Will Boost Data-Driven Progressives

Win or Lose, the Virginia Election Will Boost Data-Driven Progressives

Catherine Vaughan doesn’t let herself get excited on election night anymore. She learned that lesson the hard way a year ago, over too many glasses of whiskey at a Cleveland bar, where she and the rest of Hillary Clinton’s Ohio field team were supposed to be celebrating. Instead, they were mourning.

Now, as CEO of the progressive startup Flippable, which she co-founded to raise funding for Democratic state house races, Vaughan faces yet another test of a year’s worth of work. Flippable has raised $125,000 over the last seven months, with the goal of electing five Democrats to the Virginia House of Delegates. Tonight’s election results will be an early indicator of whether Flippable’s predictions about which five races were most winnable for Democrats were right. This time, Vaughan is managing her expectations.

“This is a long fight. None of us expects to flip the entire Virginia house today,” she says. Instead, Vaughan and others stand to benefit from even a loss, using what they’ve learned from the Virginia house race to prepare for a much bigger fight in 2018, when more than 80 percent of state legislative seats across the country are up for grabs.

Still, Vaughan adds, “It can be hard for it all to boil down to one night.”

Flipping the Script

Flippable is one of a new class of progressive startups that emerged from the wreckage of Democrats’ electoral crash landing in 2016. Vaughan and her co-founders, both fellow Hillary Clinton staffers, bet that if they could pool resources from the left’s anti-Trumpers and funnel them into key races, they could potentially claw back some of the power Democrats have lost in local government over the last decade. The key would be picking their races strategically.

Flippable relied on an algorithm that analyzed 30 years worth of Virginia state-level races and six years of gubernatorial, Congressional, and presidential results there to come up with a list of five candidates who appeared to have the best chance of flipping a red seat blue. Sister District, a similar startup that WIRED recently profiled, picked a slate of 13. And The Arena, an organization that has donated money to Flippable, picked another 11 ponies.

Though the groups do overlap some, they differ in important ways. The Arena, for instance, has explicitly targeted long-shot candidates in hopes of growing the grassroots movement in areas Democrats have previously neglected, while Flippable intentionally targets races it views as winnable. Seeing which varying approach works in what ways should also help fine-tune next year’s midterm election push.

“Victory can make you a little complacent,” says Ron Klain, former chief of staff to Vice Presidents Al Gore and Joe Biden, who now serves as chairman of the progressive startup incubator Higher Ground Labs. “Things can work in a losing race and things can fail in a winning race.”

The reason Democrats have spent so much time and money on the Virginia house race is because the party has come around to seeing state house races as a building block to regaining control of Congress. Every ten years, after the national Census, it’s state legislatures that get to redraw the lines that demarcate electoral districts. Living within a given district, of course, dictates which Congressional candidates you can and can’t vote for.

When given the chance, both Democrats and Republicans have tried to creatively draw those maps to maximize their party’s chances of winning a majority of seats, a process known as gerrymandering. Today, Republicans hold 32 state legislatures and 34 governorships, thanks in part to a successful campaign, known as REDMAP, in which conservative donors poured millions of dollars into down-ballot races. Now, groups like Flippable are trying to paint some of the electoral map blue again, beginning in Virginia.

That’s not an especially easy task. Incumbents win these seats the vast majority of the time, partly because the majority of these races feature just a single candidate. In 2015, for instance, 56 out of 100 Virginia house races went uncontested. It’s also highly unusual to flip seats in a non-redistricting year. According to Vaughan, over the last 30 years, the most Virginia seats Democrats have ever flipped in a non-redistricting year was five. “It’s an uphill battle,” Vaughan says.

On top of historical election results, Flippable’s model also accounts for factors like whether an incumbent is running, or whether Democrats have experienced momentum in recent years. But other variables could also be important indicators of success too, like, most obviously, how much money a given candidate raises.

“I’d like to be able to say if a generic Democrat is able to raise this much, and the Republican opponent raises this much, this is the projected margin. We’re not there yet,” Vaughan says. “Our model right now is very much version one.”

The group will also be watching closely to see how efficiently their money was spent. Flippable divides its pool of money differently depending on how much assistance it believes a given candidate needs. If, for instance, a candidate they gave more money to wins by a landslide, Vaughan says, they may rethink the way they’re slicing up the pie.

Win or Lose

Not all of the groups are taking such a metric-driven approach to the Virginia race. For Gupta and The Arena, the Virginia race is a chance not just to win seats, but to test new territory, and to quantify the anti-Trump backlash.

“Democrats generally hug the super-close races on paper and avoid investing enough resources in races that start off a little further away,” Gupta says. “We have to operate from the assumption that something fundamentally changed a year ago. None of us would be in this if it weren’t for the fact that something happened a year ago.”

The Cook Political Report categorizes five of the races The Arena invested in as “tidal wave” races, meaning there would have to be an unprecedented level of support for those candidates to win. But Gupta’s primary goal is to establish a Democratic presence in areas where there has historically been none. “Even if we don’t do as well as we want to do, expanding the map helps tremendously,” he says. “We’re not looking to have a perfect batting average.”

The more these groups can learn from the Virginia house race, Vaughan says, the better prepared they’ll be for the crowded field of candidates in 2018.

“The problem we saw in 2016 was systemic error,” she says. “Everybody was using the same model. I think if everyone loses tonight, then something must be really wrong with what all of these groups are doing.”

Even before Tuesday, Flippable and others already observed a major uptick in grassroots support. According to Flippable, three times as many donors gave $100 or less to Democrats in the Virginia House race this year as they did in 2015. And Gupta says The Arena has helped pay for 17 campaign staffers across 11 races, many of which previously had no paid staffers at all.

These may not be the kinds of wins that make headlines—or policy—but they’re important proof points nonetheless, says Klain. “The measure of political technology is, to some extent, whether or not the candidate you’re helping wins, but that’s a crude measurement, and shouldn’t be the only one,” he says. “I think win or lose, it is very important for these companies to come together after Election Day and figure out what worked and what didn’t.”


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Best AV Receiver 2017: which home cinema AV receiver should you buy?

Best AV Receiver 2017: which home cinema AV receiver should you buy?

Anybody can just watch TV or movies, but for anybody who is really trying to build themselves the best home theater experience possible, the best AV receivers can take you to a whole new level. These receivers are one of the most important parts of any AV setup. You can just buy one of the best TVs and call it good, but you’ll have to settle for the less-than-stellar speakers that are built-in, and that’s not really the way that you want to experience your favorite music and films – trust us.

One of the most important things you need to keep in mind when buying the best AV receiver is whether or not it has enough ports to support all of your devices – without having to juggle around different cables every time you want to switch sources. AV receivers serve as a hub that supports your entire home theater setup, sending audio and video signals to and from whatever devices are being used – this ensures that you get a wonderful experience every time you sit down on your couch. 

There is a wide range of different features that you need to consider when you’re shopping for AV receivers, like the resolution of your TV, the amount of speakers you have, and whether the receiver you’re looking at can support them. And, even when that’s all squared away, you should also keep in mind that not all AV receivers are created equal, and with how expensive these devices can be, it’s important to make sure that you’re getting the best AV receiver for your money.

If you’re looking to consume your media in 4K, you should look for a receiver that has plenty of HDCP 2.2-compatible HDMI inputs. And, if you’re planning on using multi-room streaming, you need to consider which wireless speaker system you are planning to use – Yamaha MusicCast, Heos or Chromecast? Even if that’s not something you’re immediately planning, it can’t be anything but a benefit to make sure your setup is compatible with it for later.

For many people, Dolby Atmos will be the killer app. This 3D audio system has become the gold standard in immersive audio. It may be available on soundbars, but only an AV receiver offers true overhead Dolby Atmos audio. You only need to decide if you want a seven or a nine-channel system.

However, you may not need Dolby Atmos at all, in which case a standard 5.1 sound system  will fill your surround sound needs nicely.

So, if you’re shortlisting a new AV receiver, you’ve come to the right place, so let’s dive into the best AV receivers you can buy today.

Best AV receivers under $699

Sony STR-DN1080

An innovative, affordable Dolby Atmos AV receiver with plenty of cool tricks

Power output (claimed): 7 x 165W into 6 ohms | Dolby Atmos: Yes (5.1.2) | HDMI: 6-in, 2-out | AV inputs: 3 x composite; 2 x digital audio | Dimensions: 430(w) x 156(h) x 331(d) mm | Weight: 9.7kg

Dynamic movie performance
Virtual surround speaker technology
Frustrating user interface
Fussy cosmetic design

It might be late to the party, but Sony’s debut Dolby Atmos AV receiver entertains with some cool functionality. While it’s ostensibly a seven channel design (which means it can run in a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos configuration) there are also two phantom rears which create a pseudo seven channel surround soundstage. The receiver can even virtually relocate the physical position of your speakers, to create a better sonic balance.   

Build quality is commensurate with its price tag. This is no heavyweight, and the fascia looks overly fussy, but the hairline finish is a premium touch. Connectivity is good. We get six HDMI inputs, all HDCP 2.2 enabled. There are also two HDMI outputs, for combi TV and projector use. There are also two analogue AV inputs, plus a pair of stereo phonos and two digital audio inputs.  

The AVR connects via Ethernet or Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth with NFC for quick pairing, plus Airplay.  The AVR also boasts Chromecast Built-in. That’s all the main wireless boxes ticked.

Setup is helped along by the latest iteration of Sony’s Auto Calibration software, which now features a 31-band graphic EQ and a stereo calibration microphone that adjusts phase, distance and level.

Usability is average. The receiver relies heavily on its UI, which is pretty but sometimes a little frustrating.  

Performance is excellent for the price. Tonally the STR-DN1080 may not be particularly warm, but it is exciting. Movies benefit from seamless panning and pronounced dynamics. Power output is quoted at  7 x 165W into 6 ohms. The biggest surprise is the effectiveness of the phantom rears, which really do help fill out the rear surround stage. This sonic trickery positions the STR-DN1080 somewhere above a standard 5.1.2 design, but below a true nine channel amp.

Overall, this is an innovative, exciting AV Dolby Atmos receiver. Consider it a brilliant value home cinema offering.  

Marantz NR1607

This slimline Dolby Atmos receiver can slam loud and hard when it needs too

Power output (claimed): 7 x 50W into 8 ohms | Dolby Atmos: Yes (5.1.2) | HDMI: 7-in 1-out | AV inputs: 6 x digital audio (2 x optical and 4 x coaxial) three stereo phono inputs, 3.5mm stereo minijack, six stereo phono inputs | Dimensions: 440(w) x 376(d) x 105(h) mm | Weight: 8.3kg

Easy to accommodate size
Generous feature list
Not a volume monster
Single HDMI output

The latest update to the popular slimline NR line, Marantz’s Dolby Atmos enabled NR1607 packs a load of features into a low profile frame. 

Choose from either a 5.1.2 Atmos configuration, or 7.1 flatbed surround. Wireless connectivity comes via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or AirPlay.  

All seven rear-side HDMI inputs support 4K with HDCP 2.2. There’s only one HDMI output though. This is joined by two digital audio inputs (one coaxial, one digital), plus three AV analogue inputs. On the front panel, there’s another HDMI input and USB with iOS Digital Direct.  

Auto room correction is provided by Audyssey, viaa supplied microphone. It does a reasonable job EQing the receiver to the listening room.   

The 50W p/c power rating may be modest, but this little box can slam loud and hard when it needs too. The subtle, immersive 3D audio of Atmos is also well handled here; audio panning around and overhead is thoroughly engaging. 

The receiver is more than confident with two channel sources, although it lacks the sparkle of some of more expensive rivals.  While the power output is plenty good enough for smaller rooms, larger theater spaces could be a challenge. Edge past 80 on the volume gauge and the mid-range dries out. 

Overall, the NR1607 can be considered a potent slimline Dolby Atmos receiver. HDMI connectivity is class leading, and our only grumble is the solitary output, which could limit options if you want to run both a screen and a projector. 

Best AV receivers under $1,000

Yamaha RX-A860 AV receiver

Smooth and very powerful – and it’s MusicCast compatible too

Power output (claimed): 7 x 100W into 8 ohms | Dolby Atmos: Yes (5.1.2) | HDMI: 8-in 2-out | AV inputs: 3 x composite; 2 x digital audio | Dimensions: 435(w) x 171 (h) x 382 (d) mm | Weight: 10.5kg

Great all-rounder with movies and music
Works with MusicCast wireless speakers
Only three HDMIs support 4K with HDCP 2.2
User interface is all over the place

Yamaha’s RX-A860 is nothing if not versatile.  A seven channel design, it supports Dolby Atmos in a 5.1.2 layout and classic 7.1, as well as 5.1 with front presence speakers driven by Yamaha’s own Cinema DSP processing. Virtual speaker creation is available to help fill the rear channel hole if your speaker layout is 5.1.2, although this isn’t as effective as that offered on the Sony STR-DN1080. There’s also a weird Virtual Cinema Front mode, in which rear speakers are placed at the front of the listening room – but we don’t recommend this.  

The cosmetic design, with its partly mirrored façade, is modernistic, while a fascia flap conceals front-facing HDMI, USB and analogue AV inputs. On the rear are seven HDMI inputs, plus two outputs, but only three support 4K HDCP 2.2 sources, which is a tad mean given the price point.  

Connectivity embraces Ethernet and Wi-Fi, plus Bluetooth and Airplay. Like many Yamaha AV components, the receiver is MusicCast enabled. This means it can be used within Yamaha’s own wireless ecosystem, which also includes small wireless speakers to soundbars and music systems.  

Yamaha YPAO room calibration is provided for setup, using the supplied mic. It works perfectly well. The user interface is a bit uncoordinated though, with windows popping up hither and thither.

Sonically, this receiver is smooth and powerful. Atmospheric TV shows and blockbuster movies both benefit from its easy fast delivery. Even when driven hard, there’s no sense of distress. The RX-A860 keeps its cool. The receiver is sweet with music too. 

Yamaha has always been big on novelty DSP sound fields, and here we get an assortment of post processing flavours. Movies can be watched within Spectacle, Sci-Fi, Adventure, Music Video, or Video Game envelopes. Music has even more. Try them when you’re bored. 

Overall, the RX-A860 warrants a cautious thumbs up. In performance terms, there’s much to like, but the limited provision of 4K capable HDMI inputs could hamper system upgradability. 


This multiroom receiver is a bright, lively listen

Power output (claimed): 5 x 50W into 8 ohms | Dolby Atmos: No | HDMI: 4-in 1-out | AV inputs: 2 x digital audio (1 x optical and 1 x coaxial), 3.5mm stereo minijack, stereo phono | Dimensions: 434(w) x 90(h) x 277(d) mm | Weight: 6kg

Revolutionary design
Compatible with wireless HEOS multi-room speakers
Not Dolby Atmos compatible
Fun for movies, music not so much

It’s not often we see something radically different in the world of AV receivers, but this HEOS model definitely qualifies. For starters, it looks fundamentally different to the herd. There’s no front panel display. Rear connectivity has also been stripped back. Standing just 90mm tall, it’s refreshing compact.  

Build quality is superb. Only a volume knob on the extruded aluminium fascia gives the AVR game away. 

There are four HDMI inputs, and a single output, all with HDCP 2.2 support. There’s just two digital audio inputs (coaxial and optical), plus analogue stereo, 3.5mm minijack, lone USB and Ethernet LAN. Wireless connectivity covers Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Perhaps surprisingly, this is a 5.1 channel design and doesn’t support Dolby Atmos. Key to the receiver’s appeal is HEOS wireless speaker integration. While there is provision for wired rear speakers, the system is designed to work with wireless HEOS rears. In most systems, only the front L/C/R will be tethered. It can also partner with a dedicated wireless HEOS subwoofer. 

While a remote is supplied, it’s a basic zapper. There’s no onscreen display either. Setup and control is done through a HEOS app. 

For our audition, we partnered the AVR with a pair of HEOS 1s at the rear, and the wireless HEOS subwoofer. With speakers grouped, the package becomes a working 5.1 system. There’s no further calibration required.

The HEOS AVR may not be a powerhouse, but it’s a bright, lively listen. The receiver delivers multichannel movie soundtracks with gusto. It’s crisp and exciting, particularly when there’s plenty going on around the soundstage (try it with Edge of Tomorrow Blu-ray, then duck as the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack unloads chaos in every corner).   

This isn’t a particularly musical AVR though. Pop and rock are entertaining enough, but throw a throw it something classical or jazzy and its spatial delineation turns a bit mushy. 

Using wireless rears can invite some problems. While latency isn’t an issue, we were aware of occasional low-level pops and fizzes.

As an ambitious reworking of the classic home theater receiver, we rate this first HEOS AVR as an qualified success. The cosmetics are admirable, and for dedicated HEOS multiroom users the wireless interactivity is a boon. Employing an app for control seems to make perfect sense, the only snag comes if your streaming audio sources are also app controlled and need to be juggled outside of the HEOS app. This may not be the future of AV receivers, but it’s a refreshing rethink nonetheless. 

  • Looking for a great movie to put your sound system to the test? Check out our list of the best sci-fi movies.

Best AV recivers over $1,000

Denon AVR-X4300H

Outstanding performance in every regard

Power output (claimed): 9 x 200W into 6 Ohms | Dolby Atmos: Yes (7.1.2) | HDMI: 8-in 3-out | AV inputs: 4 x composite; 4 x digital audio (2 x optical and 2 x coaxial) | Dimensions: 434(w) x 389(d) x 167(h) mm | Weight: 13.5kg

Powerhouse movie performance
Nine channels of amplification
HEOS compatibility
Overkill if you don’t partner with kick-ass speakers

If you want a no-compromise Atmos experience, then stepping up to a nine channel AV receiver is well worth the premium. With this big Denon, you can opt for 5.1.4, or 7.1.2 – and that makes a big difference to the overall performance. There’s actually processing for eleven channels if you want to add additional amplification. 

But there’s more than just wraparound audio to this beast. The H suffix denotes that it’s also HEOS multiroom compatible. It can play, or route, content to and from other HEOS connected components. Spin a CD on your Blu-ray deck, and you can Party Zone the music through both your cinema system and any connected HEOS speakers.

Build quality is stellar. The receiver has a copper plated chassis with monoblock construction. There are seven rear HDMI inputs, plus one on the front fascia. All support 4K HDCP 2.2 sources. There are also three HDMI outputs. 

There’s also a forest of other inputs, including four digital audio inputs (split between digital optical and coaxial), six analogue stereo pairs and phono (MM) turntable support. You can also stream over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Power output is prodigious, at 9 x 200w into 6 Ohms. This doesn’t mean you should go super-loud, more that it can effortlessly bludgeon without strain or distortion.  

The user interface is slick, with high-res graphics guiding you through the setup routine. Auto calibration is via Audyssey.  

The Denon’s performance is outstanding in every regard. It does a fabulous job with multichannel Dolby Atmos soundtracks, both explosive and atmospheric, and is no slouch when it comes to music either.  Beneath the hood are fourth-gen SHARC DSP processors. Spatial imaging and transient attack is excellent. 

Overall, we rate this class-leading Denon as a home cinema superstar. It’s feature heavy, and massively powerful. But there’s agility behind the brawn. In short, it’s a fabulous home theater performer.

Arcam FMJ AV850

Arcam’s best sounding AV receiver to date, but it has a frugal spec

Power output (claimed): 7 x 100W into 8 ohms | Dolby Atmos: Yes (5.1.2) | HDMI: 7-in 3-out | AV inputs: 6 x digital audio (2 x optical and 4 x coaxial) three stereo phono inputs, 3.5mm stereo minijack, six stereo phono inputs | Dimensions: 433 (w) x 425 (d) x 171 (h)mm | Weight: 16.7kg

Sublime musical performance
Class leading auto calibration system
Only seven channels of amplification
Outdated user interface

While the Arcam AVR850 is unlikely to win any Best Value accolades – it’s unashamedly expensive for a 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos design – its overarching musicality is hard to beat. This is arguably the UK audio specialist’s best sounding AV receiver to date.   

The AVR850 uses Class G power amps, conservatively rated at 100W-per-channel.

The design is understated, with a nice matte cabinet finish and big central volume knob. It tips the scales at a reassuringly heavy 16kg.  

Connectivity is good. There are seven HDMI inputs, all with HDCP 2.2 support, plus three HDMI outputs. Audio options include six analogue inputs, and six digital audio inputs.  

The really significant difference here, compared to previous Arcam home theater boxes, is the provision of Dirac Live room calibration.

Arguably the most sophisticated auto calibration technology available, it does a extraordinary job fine tuning the receiver to the listening room. Dirac tuning is not carried out by the receiver with a microphone, but via a laptop. Sounds complicated? Don’t fret. Buyers will have room calibration done by the dealer that supplies the receiver.

While Dirac is the height of sophistication, the user interface is pretty basic, just a plain text box. Arcam isn’t even trying to impress here.

Still, the receiver sounds sensational, with precise imaging that really makes the most of Dolby Atmos encoding. It’s tight and forceful with action sequences, and delicious melodious with two channel music. That feature count may look frugal for the price, but when it comes to performance, your investment will be repaid in spades.    

The Arcam AV850 may be ruinously expensive for a seven channel amplifier, but tuned with Dirac, it’s clearly a premium performer. We’re prepared to forgive it any foibles.


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Apple Pay Cash is now available in the iOS 11.2 public beta

Apple Pay Cash is now available in the iOS 11.2 public beta

Back in September we were a little bummed to learn that iOS 11 was launching without Apple Pay Cash, Apple’s peer-to-peer Venmo competitor that lets you send cash to friends.

As TechCrunch reports, though, the service is now available through the iOS 11.2 beta, but both you and the person you’re sending money to will have to have the public beta installed on your iOS device in order for Apple Pay Cash to work. For now, at least, the service only works for US iOS customers. 

Betas are volatile by their very nature, and there’s always a slight chance of bricking your phone, so we wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re a developer. And now that we’ve gotten that little disclaimer out of the way, here’s the link to sign up for Apple’s public betas

Flash cash

The actual Apple Pay Cash option is easy to find, too. Apparently all you need to do is open the Messages app used for SMS texts, and you’ll find a button for Apple Pay when you click on the Apps button next to the space where you write your messages. 

You’ll need to have at least $10 in your account to use it, and two-factor authentication needs to be enabled. The process of sending money should be relatively instant, as it’s working off of the same debit and credit card accounts you likely already have linked for Apple Pay. No fees apply for debit cards, but you’ll have to pay an “industry standard” fee for credit cards.

Interestingly enough, you’ll apparently also be able to send money through Contacts and Siri. Based on personal experience, though, you’d be wise to make sure Siri understands that you’re saying $15 instead of $50 before you let the cash go. 

Just in case, you know.


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The best fitness apps we’ve used – get in shape in just 20 minutes a day

The best fitness apps we’ve used – get in shape in just 20 minutes a day

With our busy schedules these days, it’s hard to find the time (or energy) to stay in shape. Either we’re working constantly, or we’re buried up to our necks in social obligations, and we’re not exactly chomping at the bits to set aside huge swaths of our schedules to working out every week. Luckily the best fitness apps can help you stay in shape – and the best part is that you don’t need to have hours free every single day to do it.

Now that winter is literally right around the corner, and the warm summer weather is now just a pleasant memory, everyone is going to be spending a lot more time inside. This means it is more important than ever to stay active, especially with those deliciously high-calorie holiday meals coming. The best fitness apps are ready for this winter demand, supplying you with fast High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) exercises that will make you sweat without making you late.

The three aspects that all the best fitness apps will aim to include are affordability, convenience and sports science. And when you combine these with some awesome running gadgets, you can make expensive personal trainers and gym memberships a thing of the past.

However, there are hundreds of different fitness apps out on the market, and it’s definitely challenging to find the best one for your needs. But, you can save your energy for those HIIT workouts, because we’ve found all the best fitness apps that you can download for whatever mobile device you carry. 

1. Nike+ Training Club 

Free: iOS, Android

Nike, with this extremely comprehensive and aesthetically pleasing app, boasts 100+ workouts varying from endurance, mobility and strength with a host of both swift, 15 minute workouts and longer endurance sessions, so you can constantly change up your workout.

AirPlay and AppleTV support (along with Chromecast mirroring) will display the instructions on a larger screen or speaker system, and it even features a lot of famous athletes (including Rory McIlroy, Ellie Goulding and Serena Williams) busting a sweat with you as ‘motivation’.

An added bonus exists if you use the Nike+ Run Club app, as all your jogging efforts will be automatically synchronised to your Nike profile too, giving a complete picture of your fitness.

2. Freeletics

Free (Coaching from £2.28 ($2.69 / around AU$4) per week): iOS, Android 

Freeletics offers a host of workouts that are all centered around high intensity interval training, or HIIT. This platform revolves around four free platforms – Gym, Bodyweight Workouts and Training, Nutrition and Running.

You’ll use bodyweight moves such as sprawls, jump squats, pull-ups, jump squats, burpees and sprints that you must finish as quickly as possible, weekly nutrition plans help maintain your fitness between workouts and a superb premium coaching service is available if you need an extra boost.

3. Sworkit

Free (£3.98, ($4.99 / around AU$7) per month): iOS, Android

Tell Sworkit the type of workout you’re looking for (strength, cardio, yoga, or stretching) and the amount of time you’ve got to do it (anywhere from five minutes to an hour), and the app delivers moves to follow during your sweat session.

Choose to upgrade and the app will enable you to customise your workouts by setting the number of reps and the areas of the body you want to focus on.

It’s a simple system that offers great workouts for those already armed with knowledge of the areas they want to target.

4. Adrian James Bootcamp

£2.29 (around $3 / AU$4): iOS

Adrian James proudly boasts that his bootcamp is the toughest 15-minute workout on the planet. 

Yeah, it’s one of those apps, just like the Insanity DVD infomercials you’ve woken up to on the sofa (although we’ve completed that plan, and it does actually work – unlike most things that are advertised late at night).

No equipment needed, lots of how-to videos, points grading, motivation and plenty of exercises that are suitable for beginners too… but do expect to sweat and ache.

There’s also companion Six Pack and High Intensity apps for the same price, should you feel the need to punish yourself further at the end of the ‘basic’ Bootcamp.

5. Daily Burn

Free (In-app purchases from £7.99 ($10, around AU$13.50)): iOS, Android

Daily Burn is like your own private YouTube fitness channel, offering 500 workout videos taught by expert trainers, lasting from 15 minutes to an hour.

Your money gives you the power to pick and choose just what’s right for your workout, and if you can ever conceive of getting bored with what’s on offer, more videos are added regularly.

There are also 20 different programs – from high-intensity cardio to yoga – and each workout can be streamed to Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod, laptop or desktop…so you’ll have no excuses for not being able to access the right session at the right time.

It does seem a little expensive, but with the range of options and ways to stream the content it’s perfect for those committed to getting in shape.

6. Daily Yoga

Free (with in app purchases): iOS, Android

Fitness isn’t just about squat-thrusts and burpees, and this app explores alternative ways to stay fit by packing in high definition video as an ideal introduction to the ways of the Yogis.

All the routines are under 30 minutes and there are 50 classes available – the Yoga for Runners is particularly recommended if you’re a jogger and getting worryingly stiff – and each session is categorised according to the body part you want to focus on.

7. Seven

Free (£3.99 ($3.53 / around AU$7) per month for premium): iOS, Android

Treating fitness like a classic (but basic) video game, Seven sets you the challenge of working out for seven minutes a day for seven months using no more than a chair, wall and your own body weight.

You start with three lives but missing one day will lose one of them (shown as a heart, rather menacingly) and missing three in a month will reset your progress to zero.

If you stick to it you’ll see results, but it’s worth paying the extra per month for the premium workouts to avoid the monotony of the free routines.

8. Workout Trainer

Free (pro version £5.58, $6.99 (around AU$10)/month): Android, iOS (Apple Watch and Android Wear compatible)

With a dizzying selection of over 1000 intense workouts ranging in length from five to 15 minutes, each with step-by-step audio and video instructions, if there’s nothing in Workout Trainer to tempt you from the sofa you’re in serious trouble.

As well as the standard workouts, you can build your own custom routines and share them online, as well as trying out some of the community-created routines yourself.

A Pro subscription gives a big upgrade in features, such as advert-free HD workout videos and even more routines to torture your screaming muscles with.

9. Fitivity Pilates Exercise Workouts

Free (pro version costs £3.99 ($5, around AU$7)): iOS, Android

Pilates is all about strengthening the core – specifically the back, abdomen and hips. Ask any fitness pro and no matter what level of fitness you are, they’ll harp on endlessly about the importance of this area for back strength, balance, posture, strength and flexibility.

While not offering everything you could want – few Pilates apps are perfect, we’ve found – Fitivity offers all the instructions you need to start training your core, with simple-to-follow routines.

Do it for the three free weeks and, if you want more, the pro version will give you unfettered access when you pay up.

10. Pact

Free: iOS, Android

Tried all the above but still can’t seem to find 15 minutes to work up a tiny sweat? Does money motivate you more than the idea of a healthy heart and a six-pack?

If so, you need Pact, the first app that encourages you to gamble on your ability to get fit.

Wager how many days you reckon you can work out, put some money where your mouth is and get running.

It pairs with your phone’s GPS as well as with RunKeeper, Fitbit, Jawbone Up and MapMyRun and the more you stick to your programme the more cash you can win from competing lazy members.

11. Runtastic Training series

Free (upgraded versions £1.99 / $1.99 / AU$3.99) : iOS, Android
Runtastic sounds like it’s only good for one thing, but actually it’s brilliant at bodyweight strength training too.

There are loads of apps by Runtastic – confusingly, a lot of them seem to do similar things but look completely different – but we’re really into Sit Ups, Squats, Press Ups and Pull Ups at the moment, as they’re just so friggin’ simple.

Simply start the app, it’ll tell you where to hold your phone, and how many reps to do. You’ll get rest targets (which the more hardcore of you can skip) and the progression every couple of days feels manageable. You can even save your workout progress to the cloud and use other devices when needed.

The free version only gets you to level one, but by the end of that you’ll be fully into how much stronger you’re getting and the upgrade cost to Pro is fully worth it. If you’ve been an Adidas MiCoach user in the past, you’ll get free access to the Pro apps automatically too (thanks to Adidas buying Runtastic fairly recently).


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Best running gadgets 2017: the top fitness tech to help you run better

Best running gadgets 2017: the top fitness tech to help you run better

Running is simple, right? You just put one foot in front of the other, and then rinse and repeat. Preferably in quick succession. However, there is nothing, no matter how simple and intuitive, that can’t be improved by some innovative tech – consider this list of the best running gadgets distinct evidence.

Being able to monitor your form and knowing just how fast you’re going, how far you’ve traveled, and just how close you are to finally reaching that new personal best (PB) is a fantastic tool for improving and optimizing your running. This data will help you recognize the areas that you need to work on, and it will bring your goals closer than they’ve ever been before.

When paired with the best fitness apps, the power of fitness tech becomes difficult to ignore. So, we’ve gone ahead and made a list of the best running gadgets that will help you become a lean, mean running machine. Because as intuitive as running is, why not make it an easier, more enjoyable experience? 

1. FlipBelt

Ultimate stash belt for all your run-tech

Nothing falls out
Soft, secure and comfy
Need to take care with sizing
Not waterproof

The market is absolutely saturated with devices that feature data tracking, stats and apps, but FlipBelt is one of the most uncomplicated pieces of gear around. It’s also one of the most indispensable.

Pull the flexible fabric tube up around your waist, fill it with all your running essentials – phone, credit card, energy gels, emergency change for the public bathroom – and flip over. And, just like that, everything sits firmly around your waist.

Unlike a fanny pack with its adjustable straps and buckles, the belt sits flush against the skin so there’s essentially no bounce. No zips on the openings means no chafing and, assuming you get the correct size – there are five to choose from ranging from a 23- to 41-inch waist – there’s no riding up either.

You can even get water bottles designed to fit inside the belt, so it’s ‘goodbye’ to that sloshing lopsided gait.

2. Shapeheart Armband

Two-for-one HR tracker and phone holster

Heart rate tracking
Data syncs with Strava
It’s an armband
Heavier than other bands

Any runner that is striving to be more efficient in their exercise needs one thing above any other, and it’s a space-saving two-in-one gadget like the Shapeheart Armband. 

Unless you’re planning to purchase the Apple Watch 3, carrying your phone on runs is often an unavoidable hassle and, while armbands aren’t everyone’s favorite, they’re regrettably necessary for most runners. And if that’s something you need, you may as well make it twice as useful.

Not only does the Shapeheart provide a convenient way to carry your phone, with a magnetic case that allows you to easily detach your phone from the strap to take calls, capture those necessary running selfies (or check Google Maps), it also monitors your heart rate.

A detachable optical heart rate (HR) sensor located in the neoprene armband sends your heart rate data to basically any running app you choose – Nike+, Strava and Runkeeper – so you can ensure you’re training in the right zone for your goals.

While it obviously won’t be as accurate as a HR chest strap, the armband should be more trustworthy than the data from a watch as you’re less likely to get that gap between sensor and wrist that can cause irregular HR stats.

3. Lumo Run Sensor

Perfect for fixing form

Comprehensive form advice
Helpful post-run video drills
Easy to lose
No third party app sync

The Lumo Run is one of the best running gadgets in the world, and anyone who is serious about improving their performance and speed should be paying attention.

With no less than seven different sensors, including an accelerometer, gyroscope and vibration sensor, all you need to do is attach the 25g lightweight device to the back of your shorts and you’ve negated the need for a trip to the augmentations lab.

Lumo tracks all your essential running form stats – that’s cadence (steps per minute), bounce, pelvic movement and how much brake you apply with each step – and sends them to the Lumo app for you to obsess over later, along with personalized recommendations for pre- and post-run exercises based on how you’ve just performed.

You’ll also get tips on aspects of your form to work on during each run, along with live audio-coaching to help you adjust your form on the go.

The caveat for those who prefer running on the light-side, however, is that audio cues and GPS stats, such as pace and distance, are only available if you take your phone along for the ride (see the Shapeheart Armband listed above).

With 20 days of run time and onboard storage for sessions where you want to track phone-free runs this is your best tool for developing your form.

4. Jaybird X3

Lightweight sounds for wireless miles

Excellent adaptable sound
Good battery life
Proprietary charging dock
Intermittent signal

The Jaybird X2 in-ear headphones were extremely popular among runners and we expect the X3 to follow in that tradition These new neckband-style Bluetooth earbuds improve upon their predecessors in nearly every way and even come in at a more respectable price.

To begin with, they’re slightly smaller but keep the sweat-proof design and shockingly great sound.

Bluetooth 4.1 means longer battery life that can easily last you through a marathon with battery to spare, while there’s also more precise control over the audio, thanks to a new companion MySound app that lets you fiddle with sound levels to your heart’s content.

However, what really makes them significant to any runner is how great they fit while running. The wide variety of fitting options means they stay secure in your ears while the lightweight cable eliminates any tug. The only thing that reminds you they’re attached to your head at all is your exercise jam motivating you to strive for that PB.

Read the full review: Jaybird X3

5. AfterShokz Trekz Air

Perfect for safer running soundtracks in urban spaces

Super lightweight
Improve awareness for safer running
Uncomfortable on longer runs
Sound leakage

Designed exclusively for working out, the new generation of wireless AfterShokz IP55 sweat-resistant bone-conduction headphones weighs in at just 30g, that’s about 20% lighter than the original Trekz Titanium – because every gram counts when you’re shooting for a PB.

Ideal for running, no wires means no pulling your earbuds out with every arm swing, six hours of music and calls from a 90-minute full charge means they’ll see you through a marathon with time to spare.

The battery life is far from its most important feature, however, the open-ear design allows you to hear what’s going on around you at all times, particularly important on darker nights and misty mornings and makes them race legal in the UK for open-road running.

Other useful improvements include dual noise cancelling mics so you can actually take that call while you’re on the run (as long as you can breathe) and redesigned bone transducers that deliver more bass, one of our biggest bugbears with previous AfterShokz. The pause button has been overhauled to be easier to tap too… in short, this is a brilliant upgrade.

And because sport headphones tend to spend a lot of time kicking about in the bottom of a bag, they come with a durable premium titanium frame and wraparound band that can withstand a few knocks.

6. Altra Torin IQ

Smart shoes for improving technique

Form tracking without extra gear
Detailed running dynamics insights
Live coaching lacks finesse
Only one style of shoe

Designed to improve your technique and reduce the chance of injury, just about the only thing these smart trainers don’t do is run for you.

As you plod the pavements they’re collecting all kinds of data via lightweight pressure sensors that run the length of the shoes, storing the stats on the Altra IQ app and providing live coaching tips to help you improve your stride.

Monitoring cadence, impact every time you hit the ground, data on how you’re landing – heel, midfoot or forefoot first – how your stride changes with terrain and elevation and even how long your foot is in contact with the floor, these zero-drop cushioned shoes are a stat-loving strider’s dream.

7. LifeBeam Vi

The future of run coaching

Excellent cadence coaching
Brilliant audio
Limited post-run stats
No training plans

The Lifebeam Vi is an AI running coach contained in these specially designed headphones. This amazing AI technology will adapt to your training schedule and offer personalized advice and workout suggestions as you go.

The bio-sensing earbuds keep track of your distance, speed, elevation, heart rate, cadence and more. This way, the Vi can learn every aspect of your running game, encouraging you to keep going when you’re about to hit a new goal, instructing you to slow down if you have a tendency to set off too fast, offering pace-specific training and suggesting recovery days or harder sessions where necessary.

And, you might think this is kind of creepy, but the Vi will learn your name, where you’re at, and even the weather around you, in order to tailor her advice to the exact minute and location you are at. For instance, she’ll give you some tips for running in the rain if winter is coming.

The Vi is ambitious by design, and represents a future of intelligent fitness and running devices. We’ve spent a lot of time with her – the AI is female-voiced – and while right now she’s a great tool for casual and newer runners building fitness, she’s lacking some essential features that more serious runners, those chasing new PBs, are going to be looking for.

However, with the ability to support years of software upgrades, Vi can only get better as you do and for those who’d love real-time run coaching but can’t afford it, Vi could make for a good AI option.

8. Halo Sport

Using brain science to improve your performance

Uses science to improve performance
Free scalp massage
Bulky to wear
Audio quality could improve

There’s a reason these headphones look like they’re going to tweak your brain – they are.

Part of a rising trend for applying advanced neuroscience to sport and fitness, Halo Sport employs clever, and somewhat complex, brain science to make you run faster. Worn before your workout, Halo delivers a tingling electrical stimulation over a 20-minute warm up period known as ‘neuropriming’.

The idea is that electric signals help the movement-controlling neurons in your brain fire more easily.

Your brain learns to repeat movements such as the strides you make when running through a process called plasticity, but neuropriming is intended to get your brain into a state of ‘hyper-plasticity’ so it reaches its fine-tuning state more quickly and you get greater muscle control and better results from your workout.

Small-scale studies with baseball team San Francisco Giants showed improvements in speed and explosiveness and there’s a weight of scientific research to back up their effectiveness.

However, unless you really, really care about shaving that elusive minute off your Parkrun time, then this might be a trend to monitor rather than dive in to at this stage.


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Best SSDs 2017: the top solid-state drives for your PC

Best SSDs 2017: the top solid-state drives for your PC

Many a files have been stored on hard drives, but did you know there’s an affordable way for computers to handle storage faster? With the best SSD, or solid-state drive at your fingertips, you can say goodbye to the spinning disks of the past and wave hello a shiny new piece of hardware that rids the hindrances of lengthy load times.

This remains the case whether you’re using an SSD to play your favorite games or simply to boot up an operating system, like Windows 10. Once you’ve decided that making the switch to an SSD is the move for you, it’s time to start thinking about what kind of SSD is the absolute best SSD for you. As they range from SATA III to PCIe M.2, there are differences.

What’s more, different SSDs take advantage of various flash technologies as well – Intel’s 64-layer 3D NAND being one of the latest – making the whole space very fragmented in terms of speed and, in some cases, even capacity. Lucky for you, we’ve tackled the whole nine yards, having scaled numerous examples of just about every SSD you can buy in one article.

Best SSD: Samsung 960 Evo

The undisputed king of SSDs

Capacity: 250GB/500GB/1TB | Interface: PCIe | Warranty: 3-years

PCIe Interface
Variety of sizes
Off-putting price tag

This is the top SSD on the market, and with good reason. It’s astonishingly fast, with up to 3200 MBps read and 1900 MBps write speeds. That’s due to the PCIe interface, which allows light-years faster speeds than the already extremely quick SATA interface. On top of that, it’s available with up to 1TB capacity. And it only requires 5.7 watts of power when active and a mere 1.2 watts when idle. 

Best gaming SSD: Kingston HyperX Predator

Up your game with this unbeatable SSD

Capacity: 240GB/480GB/960GB | Interface: PCIe | Warranty: 3-years

M.2 form factor
Available half-height adapter

Kingston’s HyperX line-up is aimed squarely at gamers. Its headsets are known for being much higher quality than their price might hint at, and HyperX customer support is excellent. Its line of SSDs for gaming computers come in an M.2 form factor, but are also available with a half-height adapter that plugs into your PCIe like any other expansion card.

Best NVMe SSD: Samsung 960 Pro

Maximum performance

Capacity: 512GB/1TB/2TB | Interface: PCIe | Warranty: 3-years

Excellent speeds
Available up to 2TB
Whopping price for the larger sizes

The NVMe standard is designed to maximize the strengths of solid-state drives, and the Samsung 960 Pro takes full advantage. With an M.2 form factor and ridiculous read speeds of up to 3500 MBps, these SSDs are already enticing, but the fact it’s available as large as 2TB is incredible. All that storage doesn’t come cheap, but if you need lots (and LOTS) of fast storage, it’s definitely worth it.

Best PCIe SSD: Toshiba OCZ RD400

The most flexible SSD install

Capacity: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Interface: PCIe | Warranty: 3-years

Lots of sizes
Fast read/write
 Not all sizes available in all form factors 

If you’re looking for plenty of options, the Toshiba OCZ RD400 series of drives come in 4 sizes and three different form factors: M.2, M.2 2280, and add-in card (AIC). Not all sizes are in all form factors, so if you’re looking for a fast 1TB drive, make sure you have room in your computer case. 

Best M.2 SSD: WD Black PCIe SSD

One hardy SSD

Capacity: 256GB/512GB | Interface: PCIe | Warranty: 5-years

Great warranty
Good price
 Limited size choices 

This M.2 SSD from WD comes with a 5-year warranty and boasts some pretty excellent read/write times, up to 2050 MBps read and 800 write on the 512GB model. Great for installation or OS purposes, but unfortunately the available sizes don’t leave a lot of flexibility as far as storage is concerned.

Best SATA 3 SSD: WD Blue SSD

Globs of flash storage for less

Capacity: 250GB/500GB/1TB | Interface: SATA | Warranty: 3-years

Excellent price
Good size selection
Limited by interface

If you want to save a few bucks, but don’t want to sacrifice too much in the way of performance, the WD Blue SATA SSD is a great compromise. It nearly maxes out the bandwidth of the SATA 3 interface with its read/write speeds, and you can find the 1TB model in the wild for a pittance. 

Best U.2 SSD: Intel 750 Series

Wired for the future

Capacity: 400GB/800GB/1.2TB | Interface: PCIe | Warranty: 5-years

Great warranty period
Huge capacities
 Not as fast as some other PCIe drives 

The U.2 standard allows for bigger SSD capacities and uses your computer’s PCIe x4 slot to send all that data back and forth. The Intel 750 series includes a cable so you can mount the drive in the bay on your case and still plug it into the PCIe slot on your motherboard.

Best budget SSD: Crucial BX300

The value king

Capacity: 120GB/240GB/480GB | Interface: SATA | Warranty: 3-years

Beats the MX300
Not as fast as some other PCIe drives

The Crucial BX300 isn’t the fastest SSD you can buy, but it is affordable and chiefly reliable to boot. Sold in three different sizes, this SATA drive is aimed at users still hanging onto older desktops and laptops that might want their PCs to boot up at a rate more analogous to their phones. Plus, it’s a better performer than the pricier MX300, thanks to MLC NAND.

Best endurance SSD: HP S700 Pro

Tough for anything you throw at it

Capacity: 128GB/256GB/512GB/1TB | Interface: SATA | Warranty: 3-years

Runs forever
Variety of capacities
Relatively slow

If you need an SSD that will last into your next computer, the HP S700 Pro has just what you need. Its life will far exceed its warranty, offering up 2 million hours of use and up to 650 terabytes written. This is one SSD that’s in it for the long haul, but the SATA interface will slow things down somewhat in the read/write department, which technically helps it last even longer.

Best SSD boot drive: MyDigitalSSD BPX

Affordable and fast

Capacity: 240GB/480GB | Interface: PCIe | Warranty: 5-years

Good price to performance
Excellent warranty
 Runs hot

Booting from an SSD is a life changer. Seriously, if you’re loading your OS from a hard drive, you’re doing it wrong. The difference is night and day. This PCIe SSD from MyDigitalSSD is an excellent choice for booting up, with a good price and solid performance. It only goes up to 480GB, but if you’re just using it to run your OS, that’s way more than enough.

Best external SSD: Samsung Portable SSD T5

Worth the premium for USB-C fanatics

Capacity: 250GB/500GB/1TB/2TB | Interface: USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 2 | Warranty: 3-years

Incredibly fast
Highly compact

Unless you have a laptop or desktop computer that employs the USB Type-C Gen 2 interface, you might want to reconsider your interest in the Samsung Portable SSD T5. Otherwise, with read/write speeds of up to 540/515MBps, respectively, this external storage device does its best to keep up with some of the more modest PCIe players, and the result is superb.

Read the full review: Samsung Portable SSD T5

  • If you wait until Black Friday, you ought to find some stellar SSD deals

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article


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The 8 best 13-inch laptops of 2017

The 8 best 13-inch laptops of 2017

If there is one thing that every laptop aims to achieve, it’s a perfect balance of high performance and high portability. And it’s this ideal balance that makes the best 13-inch laptops such great devices. Manufacturers know this, and they’re continuously releasing new products that push further towards this goal, delivering computers that can not only travel wherever you do, but can keep up with your workload, no matter what it is.

There are so many great 13-inch laptops backed both by macOS and Windows 10. Chromebooks offer some great budget options, and there are plenty of cheap laptops out there for anyone looking to save some money. You don’t have to buy a MacBook to get a great experience.

AMD’s new mobile Ryzen CPUs are on the way, and they could bring a lot of changes to the 13-inch laptop market. 

Without further ado, whether you want a super-premium MacBook with all the bells and whistles, or something a bit more frugal and utilitarian, you’ll find something great in our list of the best 

  1. Dell XPS 13
  2. Asus Zenbook Flip UX360
  3. HP Spectre x360
  4. Samsung Notebook 9
  5. Acer Aspire S 13
  6. Lenovo Yoga 910
  7. 13-inch MacBook Air
  8. 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display

Best 13 inch laptop

1. Dell XPS 13

If it ain’t broke, make it handsome

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i3 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD (3,200 x 1,800) | Storage: 128GB – 256GB SSD

Faster than ever
Same long-lasting battery
Still poor webcam position
No Windows Hello

Dell has once again struck (rose) gold with the XPS 13, especially now that they feature 7th generation Intel Core CPUs. The beautiful design, lengthy battery life and even the SD card slot are still there, only now it’s souped up with improved internal components and a sleeker aesthetic reminiscent of the MacBook and HP Spectre lineups. What’s more, the full-size processor and 13.3-inch display are somehow packed (magic?) into an 11-inch frame made possible by Dell’s own nearly bezel-less InfinityEdge display technology.  

Read the full review: Dell XPS 13 

Best 13 inch laptop

2. Asus ZenBook Flip UX360

An affordable 2-in-1 laptop

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core M3 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 515 – 620 | RAM: 4GB – 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – QHD+ (3,200×1,800) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Thin and light
All-day battery life
Lacking multitasking performance
Sacrifices to build quality

There’s a new entry to Asus’s Zenbook lineup with the UX360, featuring a lot of the same specs as its predecessor but with the flexibility of a 2-in-1 laptop. While the ability to bend over backwards may diminish the build quality somewhat, it allows for new levels of functionality for computer consumers who want a laptop and tablet all in one. Thanks to an all-day battery, the Zenbook Flip UX360 really can go with you for everything you do. And, with a wide variety of internal customization, you can deck out the Zenbook Flip UX360 for your own personal needs, saving you some cash or boosting its performance. 

Read the full review: Asus Zenbook Flip UX360

3. HP Spectre x360

HP’s flagship 2-in-1 goes ultra-thin with style

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i3 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Nvidia GeForce 940MX 2GB | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) IPS UWVA LED-backlit multi-touch display | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

Ultra-thin and light styling
Long-lasting and quick-charging battery
Lacks SD card reader
Especially thick bottom bezel

The HP Spectre x360 is the one you bring home to your parents. It’s stunningly well-crafted, featuring a silvery design that makes it every bit as cutting-edge on the outside as it is within. Given the option between a 7th-generation i5 or i7 Ultrabook-class processor and a 1080p or 4K screen, HP allows for plenty of room for customization. It’s not underpowered, nor does its battery life suffer from overcompensation. In fact, in our own movie test, the HP Spectre x360 lasted a whole 8 hours and 45 minutes. The only real caveat is that, like a lot of its competitors, the Spectre x360 also lacks an SD card slot, opting instead for a pair of USB Type-C ports. 

Read the full review: HP Spectre x360

Best 13 inch laptop

4. Samsung Notebook 9

Great performance on the cheap

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) LED anti-reflective display | Storage: 256GB SSD

Thin, smart styling
Competitively priced
Micro-sized video ports
Short battery life

Though it’s failed to make a dent in the laptop space with much more than its Tab Pro S convertible, Samsung’s follow-up to the 2012 Series 9 notebook boasts not only capable specs, but a competitive price as well. Marketed as an Ultrabook, it’s certainly disheartening to know the battery life lasts only five hours, but given its sleek and sexy design, it almost doesn’t matter. What’s more, with the Samsung Notebook 9, you won’t have to deal with bloatware made infamous by many of the other Microsoft OEMs.

Read the full review: Samsung Notebook 9

5. Surface Laptop

Microsoft’s most direct shot at the MacBook yet

CPU: 7th generation Intel Core i5 – i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 – Iris Plus Graphics 640 | RAM: 4GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.5-inch, 2,256 x 1,504 PixelSense display | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Gorgeous design
Well built
Windows 10 S is limited

The Surface Laptop is Microsoft’s first stab at a ‘traditional’ laptop, if you can even call it that knowing full well that its PixelSense touchscreen and Alcantara keyboard are anything but conventional. Featuring a full stack of U-series 7th generation Intel Core i processors, the Surface Laptop beats out Apple’s 12-inch MacBook any day of the week, and for a lower starting price at that. Despite the ports and operating system being limited, the Surface Laptop is appealing for its laudable design, beautifully vivid screen and impressive performance.

 Read the full review: Surface Laptop

6. Lenovo Yoga 910

Versatile with a generous helping of elegance

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.9-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) – UHD (3,840 x 2,160) IPS multi-touch | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

Substantially larger screen
Rocking speakers
Heats up (and gets loud) fast
Disappointing battery life

The Lenovo Yoga 910 is all about second chances. It throws away many of the signature design traits of the previous model, the Yoga 900, in favor of a more pristine outward appearance and a heavy duty Intel Core i7 processor as well as the option of a 4K display. Lenovo also managed to squeeze a larger, nearly 14-inch screen into the same 13-inch chassis of the Yoga 900 without compromise. Not to mention, even with the implementation of USB-C ports, the Lenovo Yoga 910 doesn’t completely neglect USB Type-A, dragging the precious connection standard of the past along with it.

Read the full review: Lenovo Yoga 910

Best 13 inch laptop

7. 13-inch MacBook Air

The best battery life in a 13-inch laptop

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 6000 | RAM: 8GB | Screen: 13.3-inch, LED HD (1,440 x 900) | Storage: 128GB – 512GB SSD

Fantastic battery life
802.11ac Wi-Fi
No Retina screen
Not easily upgradeable

In a market densely populated with slim-line laptops from a massive range of manufacturers, Apple’s MacBook Air fights on admirably – though it started showing its age on the outside a long time ago. It has Intel’s fifth-generation Core-series processors rather than the newest Skylake variants, but it’s still a capable machine; even more so since Apple made 8GB of RAM standard across the line.

Read the full review: 13-inch MacBook Air

best 13 inch laptop

8. 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

CPU: Dual-core Intel Core i5 – Core i7 | Graphics: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640 – 650 | RAM: 8GB – 16GB | Screen: 13.3-inch IPS, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels | Storage: 256GB – 1TB SSD

Faster processor
Superb battery life
Force Touch underdeveloped
Unchanged design

The latest iteration of Apple’s seminal MacBook Pro series is here, and as you would expect it makes a number of notable improvements over last year’s offering. While it might not exactly feature the strongest battery life in the game (scoring under an hour less than last year’s offering), it does offer increased performance by way of a new CPU and faster RAM. Add that to Apple’s continued dedication to simplicity and beautiful design and you have a laptop that is sleek, portable and reliable.  

Read the full review: Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2017)

Joe Osborne and Gabe Carey have also contributed to this article


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Best processors 2017: top CPUs for your PC

Best processors 2017: top CPUs for your PC

If there’s one segment of the ever-cutthroat technology world that never really settles down, it’s the processor market. It sometimes seems like, every few months, the consensus on what the best processors are is completely flipped on its head. For instance, when AMD Ryzen came out a few months ago, it was praised by everyone for finally dethroning Intel. A few months pass, and then Intel drops their 8th generation Coffee Lake CPUs and changes everything up, even offering higher core and thread counts than their impressive, 7th generation Kaby Lake CPUs.

However, things are a little bit more complicated than just figuring out who has the fastest chip. Pricing and availability tend to throw a wrench in the works. For example, Intel’s Coffee Lake processors offer the best theoretical price to performance ratio, going off the MSRP alone. But, you won’t be able to find one of these 8th gen CPUs at MSRP, they’re being price gouged to an insane degree by retailers and system builders.

If you’re impatient and need to get your hands on a fresh block of silicon today, you can breath easy because there are still plenty of 7th generation Kaby Lake CPUs that are not only still good, but will be a lot easier to get your hands on. Whatever chip you decide on, however, do yourself a favor and make sure that you pick out the best motherboard for whatever processor you buy, or you could end up with an extremely pricey paperweight. While you’re at it, be sure to look at some CPU coolers to protect your investment.

To further complicate things on the brand-new processor front, Intel’s Coffee Lake processors require their own distinct chipset even though they have a similar socket to Kaby Lake processors. That’s another rabbit hole to jump into, but the simplified version is: if you’re going with 8th generation, get a Z370 board.

Don’t let our ramblings distract you from the excitement. Whether you’re looking to play the best games, or just work, we’ve sorted through a huge amount of processors and have brought you a list of the best processors you can buy today. 

Whether AMD Ryzen, Intel Kaby Lake or Coffee Lake, our top picks are listed below:

Best CPU: Intel Core i7-8700K

Overclockable champion, now with more cores

Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base clock: 3.7GHz | Boost clock: 4.7GHz | L3 cache: 12MB | TDP: 95W

Hyper-threading overtakes Ryzen
Low-impact overclocking
Overclocking only on K models
Requires new motherboard

During the Coffee Lake-S launch, Intel claimed that it’d be giving us its best gaming processor ever; they weren’t wrong. This ’K’ series chip decimates AMD’s flagship in almost every way possible. Abandoning the company’s invisible rule to keep processors sporting over four cores out of the hands of the mainstream, the i7-8700K makes hexa-core the new vogue. 

Read our full review: Intel Core i7-8700K

Best high-end CPU: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X

Ripping threads and breaking records

Cores: 16 | Threads: 32 | Base clock: 3.4GHz | Boost clock: 4.0GHz | L3 cache: 32MB | TDP: 180W

Ready for the ultimate mega-tasking
Easier to install than Intel
More power-hungry than Intel’s rival
Switching profiles requires a full restart

When AMD released its Zen architecture-based Ryzen chips back in June, they relied on the promise of a price-to-performance ratio that finally knock Intel off of their untouchable throne. Simultaneously, however, they fell quite short of Intel in terms of raw horsepower. That all changed overnight with the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X, a chunk of silicon that’s not only a better value than Intel’s Core i9-7900X, but it’s also easier to anchor into the socket of any x399 motherboard. 

Read the full review: AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X

Best mid-range CPU: AMD Ryzen 5 1600X

Six cores for less than the price of four-core chip

Cores: 6 | Threads: 12 | Base clock: 3.6GHz | Boost clock: 4.0GHz | L3 cache: 16MB | TDP: 95W

Awesome multi-core performance
Cool running chip
Tricky overclocking

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that with its mid-range chip, AMD offers more cores for less money when compared to Intel. While in year’s past this has equated to making compromises in other areas to keep the costs low, the Ryzen 5 1600X remains economical without being shown up. After all, operating with six cores and 12 threads, there’s no shame in a 3.6GHz base frequency, not to mention the 4.0GHz boost in addition to overclocking capabilities. 

Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 5 1600X

Best entry-level CPU: AMD Ryzen 3 1300X

Welcome to the circus of value

Cores: 4 | Threads: 4 | Base clock: 3.5GHz | Boost clock: 3.7GHz | L3 cache: 8MB | TDP: 65W

Impeccable value
More cores than most budget CPUs
Lagging benchmark scores
Runs a little too warm

Many people will assume that because it requires discrete GPU to use, the AMD Ryzen 3 1300X is built solely for gaming. Once you drop your assumptions, though, you’ll see it as the little processor that could. That’s because, at a price that’s the definition of reasonable, you’re getting a chip that’s 53% faster at encoding video than the Intel Core i3-7350K in Handbrake and – with the right GPU attached – can easily help you attain 60 frames per second in Overwatch. 

Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 3 1300X

Best gaming CPU: Intel Core i5-7600K

“K” series Core processing at an i5 cost

Cores: 4 | Threads: 4 | Base clock: 3.8GHz | Boost clock: 4.2GHz | L3 cache: 6MB | TDP: 91W

Easy to overclock
OC approaches i7-6700K stock speeds
Negligible upgrade over Skylake

Like the 7700K that preceded it on this list, the Intel Core i5-7600K is an unlocked, overclockable quad-core processor from Intel. However, it also suffers from the same integral shortcoming; that is that it’s barely an upgrade over the i5-6600K. Be that as it may, squeezing out only 300MHz over its precursor brings it nearly in line with the last-gen Core i7-6700K when overclocked. All the while, it won’t put too much of a dent in your budget either.

Best VR CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X

Ryzen to the occasion and VR-ready to rumble

Cores: 8 | Threads: 16 | Base clock: 3.6GHz | Boost clock: 4GHz | L3 cache: 16MB | TDP: 95W

Stunning multi-core performance
Insane price
Overclocking is touch and go
Temperatures are ‘unique’

The primary contender to Intel’s Core i7-7700K, the AMD Ryzen 7 1800X poses a convincing threat to Intel’s flagship. While it’s unfortunately more expensive than the 7700K, uncharacteristic for the oft value-focused Red Team, the Ryzen 7 1800X most certainly keeps up with some of Intel’s older chips. Plus, unlike the Core i7-5960X and -6700K it most intimately rivals, the AMD Ryzen 7 1800X is much more qualified for VR now and into the future.

Read the full review: AMD Ryzen 7 1800X

Best video editing CPU: Intel Core i7-7820X

X gon’ give it to ya

Cores: 8 | Threads: 16 | Base clock: 3.6GHz | Boost clock: 4.3GHz | L3 cache: 11MB | TDP: 140W

Solid multi-core performance
Best value for an eight-core Intel chip
Little benefit over cheaper Ryzen 1800X
Threadripper is cheaper

The naming convention is confusing, given that the Intel Core i7-7820X is part of Intel’s “Skylake-X” series rather than the X-class chips built on the 14nm Kaby Lake node, but semantics matter very little when you get to go hands-on with an Intel CPU boasting this many cores. Although the fact that you’ll need a new motherboard to use this octa-core monster might be enough to scare some users off to Ryzen, Intel loyalists shan’t mind the upgrade. 

Best performance processor: Intel Core i9-7980XE

This 18-core processor dominates all

Cores: 18 | Threads: 36 | Base clock: 2.6GHz | Boost clock: 4.4GHz | L3 cache: 24.75MB | TDP: 165W

Exceptional performance
Single-core results are incredible 
Price, price, price
Monstrous overclocking power draw 

Intel’s 18-core processor is all about brute force. With the ability to kick up all of its cores to 4.8GHz (by our testing at least), this monstrous CPU brings performance to a new level of insanity. The only caveats are this processor power draw and price are equally beastly.

Read the full review: Intel Core i9-7980XE

Best budget CPU: Intel Pentium G4560

Intel Core i3 power at a Pentium price tag

Cores: 2 | Threads: 4 | Base clock: 3.5GHz | L3 cache: 3MB | TDP: 54W

Closely tails Core i3-7100
Supports hyper-threading
Limited to DDR4-2400 memory
Inferior performance to Intel Pentium G4560

With the amount of money you’ll save by purchasing the Intel Pentium G4560 over a Core i3 chip, we promise you won’t mind the ever-so-slight loss in performance you can expect from this hardy value chip. As the first Pentium processor in quite some time to feature hyper-threading, the G4560 goes out of its way to show us all what we’ve been missing. And, in benchmarks, it proves itself eerily adjacent to the more expensive Intel Core i3-7100.

Best HTPC CPU: AMD A12-9800

Integrated graphics, now there’s a novel idea

Cores: 4 | Threads: 4 | Base clock: 3.8GHz | Boost clock: 4.2GHz | L2 cache: 2MB

Doesn’t require graphics card
Compatible with AM4 mobos
Limited to DDR4-2400 memory
Inferior performance to Intel Pentium G4560

Maybe you’ve probably heard some bad things about the AMD A12-9800, some of which are justified, but some salty impressions we’ve seen are just based on how AMD’s first AM4-compatible APUs aren’t Zen-based. Instead, the A12-9800 takes advantage of the Bristol Ridge architecture, which is basically just a refresh of the Bulldozer family AMD has been slowly iterating on since 2011. Even so, this is the best way single AMD chip build independent of a discrete GPU – for now.

  • Ready to up the ante on your display? The best monitor is here


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The best Bluetooth headsets 2017

The best Bluetooth headsets 2017

Smartphones just continue to evolve, seemingly daily, adding features that previously we only dreamed of. At the end of the day though, these magnificent little computers are still, well, phones. So, in spite of all of the technological advancements in the mobile space, making phone calls is still pretty much the same experience as it was 10 years ago. Luckily, the best Bluetooth headsets can work to alleviate some of the hassle that goes with making phone calls, even making it so that we don’t even need to take our phones out of our pockets.

No matter what task you have at hand, whether you’re driving, walking, working or just walking around trying to multitask, there are Bluetooth headsets that can take the hassle out of talking on the phone. There are even bluetooth headphones that can do the trick, and even some running headphones if you’re really hustling around. These are great if you want to both listen to music and make calls while on the go. Bluetooth headsets, however, are still a great, simple way to multitask while talking on the phone, and can save you a ton of time. And, time is money.

While the best Bluetooth headsets can go a long way to simplifying phone calls, finding a truly great headset might be a little harder than you think. There are tons of headsets on the market – a bunch of which even look very similar to each other – and the features and functionality can vary wildly between different devices. And, while you’ll have trouble finding a headset that doesn’t work with modern phones, it can be hard to decipher just how the experience will be.

Don’t worry, though, here at TechRadar we are here to save you time, money, and the risk of buing a useless ear accessory. Here’s our list of the nine best Bluetooth headsets on the market right now.

(Editor’s note: If you’re looking for a hands-free solution AND want better audio clarity from your mobile device, check out our list of the Best Bluetooth earbuds, many of which offer a built-in microphone for phone calls on top of higher-quality audio components.)

Best Bluetooth headsets

1. Jabra Motion

Classic design

Weight: 1.75kg | Battery life: 7 hours | Wireless range: 100m | NFC: Yes | Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 4.0

Nice design
Good battery life
Not the best sound quality

The Jabra Motion has phenomenal call quality, which is definitely the most important thing that a Bluetooth headset can be good at. The sound quality isn’t perfect but with motion and environment-sensitive noise-cancelling it performs well even in loud environments. It’s also easy to sync, set up and use. It also has a battery that will last you 7 hours of continuous calls, so even during a busy day of work, it won’t let you down. The Jabra Motion might come with a pretty high asking price, but it’s a small price to pay for all of these great features. Just make sure to try it on before you buy, as despite being adjustable for size and wearable on either ear it won’t be a perfect fit for everyone. 

Best Bluetooth headsets

2. Plantronics Voyager Legend

Old, but great

Weight: 1.8kg | Battery life: 7 hours | NFC: No | Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 3.0

Comfortable to wear
Showing its age

The Plantronics Voyager Legend is getting on a bit but it’s still one of the very best Bluetooth headsets around. It’s designed with comfort in mind, so you can wear it for extended periods without it bothering you and it sits securely in place too, so it won’t fall off. It’s also completely hands free, as caller ID will announce the name of whoever is calling you and you can simply say “answer” to take the call. Its noise-cancelling is effective even in busy environments and multiple microphones ensure strong voice quality, for a great all-round Bluetooth headset.

Best Bluetooth headsets

3. Plantronics Voyager Edge

Compact and discrete

Weight: 9.07g | Battery life: 6 hours | Wireless range: 10m | NFC: Yes | Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 4.0

Very light
Voice commands
Not the best battery life
Short distance

Plantronics simply makes phenomenal Bluetooth headsets, which is why it should come as no surprise that this isn’t the first Plantronics headset to make it on the list of the best Bluetooth headsets, and it certainly won’t be the last. The Plantronics Voyager Edge is built to be compact and discreet, but there is a huge amount of tech built into this tiny package, including three microphones and a boom arm for stellar voice quality. Like the Voyager Legend the Edge also supports voice commands (with multiple language support) and it’s smart enough to know when you’re wearing it, so if you put it on when you get a call it will automatically come through on it. NFC makes for quick and simple pairing and it does a great job of cancelling out background noise. Its small size does mean its battery life isn’t exactly on the same level as some competitors, but at six hours of talk time it’s still very passable. 

Best Bluetooth headsets

4. Jawbone Era

Incredibly small

Weight: 10.3g | Battery life: 5.5 hours | Wireless range: 10m | NFC: No | Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 2.1

Incredibly small
Very light
Battery life is short
Showing its age

The Plantronics Voyager Edge may be small, but the Jawbone Era is tiny, so if you really don’t want it to be obvious that you’re wearing a Bluetooth headset this is the one to go for. Not only is it small, but it also fits snugly in your ear and is in no danger of falling out. You could even wear it while jogging. Then there’s NoiseAssassin, which cleverly detects vibrations in your skin, so it can tell the difference between you talking and the background noise, enabling it to completely mute everything around you. It’s clever stuff, though it occasionally has issues staying in contact with your skin, and like the Voyager Edge the battery life isn’t the best.

Best Bluetooth headsets

5. Plantronics Marque 2

A great budget Bluetooth headset

Weight: 7.08g | Battery life: 7 hours | Wireless range: 10m | NFC: No | Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 3.0

Great price
Good feature set
Sound quality not the best
Struggles with noise cancellation

The Plantronics Marque 2 isn’t as feature packed as some headsets on our best Bluetooth headset list, but it gets the basics right and does a bit more besides. It’s small, comfortable to wear and can last for up to seven hours of calls, which is a great start. It can also be used to deliver voice prompts from GPS apps, can be connected to two devices simultaneously and features noise-cancelling technology, though it’s not quite as good at this as some rivals. It’s not overly stylish and sound quality is good but not great, but with such an affordable price tag it’s a very solid buy.

Best Bluetooth headsets

6. Plantronics M55

Small price, big features

Weight: 8g | Battery life: 11 hours | Wireless range: 10m | NFC: No | Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 3.0

Long battery life
Not the most stylish design
Some social media features only work in the US

The Plantronics M55 is a truly budget headset, but you get a lot for your money. While it doesn’t have a premium build it’s perfectly comfortable to wear, it supports voice commands for truly hands-free use and the sound quality is good, especially when aided by the built in noise-cancelling tech. The M55 also has a DeepSleep mode which activates when it’s separated from a paired smartphone for 90 minutes and leaves it with up to five months of battery life, but simply bring your phone within range and it will quickly wake up again.

Best Bluetooth headsets

7. Jabra Wave

A great Bluetooth headset for chatterboxes

Weight: 13.3g | Battery life: 8 hours | Wireless range: 10m | NFC: No | Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 3.0

Good battery life
Showing its age

With a talk time of over eight hours the Jabra Wave is a Bluetooth headset which just keeps going and going, making it a great choice if you’re going to be away from a charger for an extended period. Its fairly large size means it’s not the most discreet of headsets, but it’s a worthwhile trade-off for all that battery life. It also features strong audio quality and is good at suppressing noise, especially wind. Add to that easy pairing and the ability to connect it to two devices at once and the Jabra Wave is a good option.

Best Bluetooth headsets

8. Jabra Supreme UC

A dual-purpose Bluetooth headset

Weight: 18g | Battery life: 6 hours | Wireless range: 10m | NFC: No | Bluetooth version: Bluetooth 3.0

Excellent call quality
Not great for music

With excellent call quality and the ability to pair it with both a smartphone and a PC simultaneously the Jabra Supreme UC is an effective and versatile headset. You can switch between sources by holding the end call button for two seconds and that allows you to almost seamlessly switch between using it for a phone call or other services like Skype and Google Hangouts. The faux-leather ear pad makes it comfortable to wear, though isn’t quite as secure as in-ear headsets and it features great call quality and effective noise-cancelling, along with voice controls for just about everything, so it really is the complete package.


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The best WiFi extenders: top 8 devices for extending your Wi-Fi

The best WiFi extenders: top 8 devices for extending your Wi-Fi

If you’re anything like us, your home or office is absolutely packed with many devices that demand constant simultaneous Wi-Fi connections. Whether it’s computers, smartphones, gaming consoles or tablets, the best Wi-Fi extenders will make your life a lot easier and save you a ton of time when it comes to managing your office or home network. Even if your network only needs to support one device, the best Wi-Fi extenders will ensure you’re always connected, regardless of how big your home or office is.

Most people will find that their Wi-Fi network is powered entirely by a single modem and a Wi-Fi router that, if not built into the modem, is located very close to it. This solution can be very efficient for some, especially if you’re in a very small apartment or office, but if it isn’t located in a central area, or if you have floors or walls between your routers and any devices that need to connect to it, you can run into some performance issues.

These are the situations where the best Wi-Fi extenders start really showing their value. They connect to the original network, then amplify that signal, so that it reaches every corner of your home or office. That’s right, you’ll be able to binge Stranger Things in your upstairs bedroom with no problems.

The market is absolutely packed with wonderful Wi-Fi extenders, so to assist you in finding the ideal extender for your situation, we’ve compiled this list of the best Wi-Fi extenders on the market in 2017.

1. Netgear AC1200 WiFi Range Extender EX6150

Fast speeds throughout your house

Bands: 802.11ac 5GHz and 2.4GHz | Connectivity: 1 x Gigabit Ethernet port | Features: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPS), Extender/Access Point mode switch, power button

Super simple setup
Compact design
Only one Ethernet port

Netgear has become almost ubiquitous in the networking world over the years, and it has put its considerable knowledge to great use here with the AC1200 WiFi Range Extender EX6150. The EX6150 model is a simple device that you can plug directly into any electrical outlet.

This Wi-Fi extender boasts quick and simple setup, with no need to use any installation software. Just follow the straightforward instructions and, before you know it, you’ll have reliable and fast Wi-Fi throughout your entire office or home.

2. D-Link Wi-Fi Dual Band Range Extender DAP-1520

Compact solution

Bands: 802.11ac 5GHz and 2.4GHz | Connectivity: N/A | Features: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPS), two internal antennas

Small design
Easy to use
No Ethernet
Basic functions

D-Link’s reticent Wi-Fi Dual Band Range Extender (DAP-1520) is tiny and inconspicuous, meaning that while it has extremely robust performance boosting your Wi-Fi network throughout your home or office – it’s virtually invisible to anyone who isn’t explicitly looking for it.

The unassuming and straightforward design does come with some inherent issues, however: it doesn’t feature an Ethernet port for extending a wired connection. Also, contrary to some Wi-Fi extenders, the antennae are internal, and while that does allow it to disappear into the background, it does mean range is somewhat reduced.

3. TP-Link RE350 AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender

Simple and easy to use

Bands: 802.11ac 5GHz and 2.4GHz | Connectivity: 1 x Ethernet | Features: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPS), LED shows connection strength for easy placement

Ethernet connection
LED showing connection strength makes installation easy

TP-Link is a Chinese networking company, and that shouldn’t put you off, as they’ve slowly been gaining recognition in the West. And, with good reason. With devices like the TP-Link RE350 AC1200 Wi-Fi Range Extender, it’s easy to see their worth: it does the job well, it’s inexpensive and the design is pleasing, as well.

While it’s far from being fastest Wi-Fi extender in the world, it features a phenomenal range, due to two external high-gain antennae and an LED on the front displaying how strong the signal quality is, making installing it in the right location a walk in the park.


4. Netgear AC1200 Desktop WiFi Range Extender EX6200

Big and powerful

Bands: 802.11ac 5GHz and 2.4GHz | Connectivity: 5 x Ethernet, 1 x USB 3.0 | Features: Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPS), Beamforming, quad-core processor

Very powerful
Five Ethernet ports

If you’re seriously thinking about expanding your Wi-Fi network, then the Netgear AC1200 Desktop WiFi Range Extender (EX6200) is certainly worth consideration. Many other Wi-Fi extenders are small devices that sit in an outlet, the EX6200 looks more like a router or modem though.

While the size may rub some people the wrong way, it does allow it to offer a range of options – including five Ethernet ports for wired devices, which other Wi-Fi extenders are unable to include. High-powered amplifiers ensure your Wi-Fi can reach all parts of the building, and a quad-core CPU helps make the network faster and more reliable.

5. Linksys RE6500 AC1200 Dual-Band Wireless Range Extender

Another powerful choice

Bands: 802.11ac 5GHz and 2.4GHz | Connectivity: 4 x Ethernet, Audio Jack | Features: Linksys Spot Finder Technology, music streaming, easy setup

Audio streaming capability
Bulky design

The Linksys RE6500 AC1200 is an yet another Wi-Fi extender that looks more like a router. The more sturdy design allows Linksys to include four gigabit Ethernet ports, which means that you are empowered to expand your network to internet-connected devices that need an ethernet connection.

It also has an audio output jack which allows you to connect it to speakers or an audio system, allowing you to stream digital music from your PC to your audio receiver.

6. D-Link DAP-1320 Wireless N300 Range Extender

Small and cheap

Bands: 802.11n 2.4GHz | Connectivity: N/A | Features: WPS, internal antennae

Very small
Not the fastest Wi-Fi
No Ethernet

If you’re looking for an inexpensive way to beef up your Wi-Fi network, and you’re ok with making a few concessions in performance and features, then the D-Link DAP-1320 Wireless N300 Range Extender is a great device for you. This tiny device doesn’t include any Ethernet ports, and it doesn’t feature dual bands or 802.11ac, presently the fastest form of Wi-Fi.

Still, it is designed well and built to last, and it’s a quick, easy and cheap way of bolstering your Wi-Fi network as long as you’re not anticipating too much network traffic.

7. D-Link Wireless AC1200 Dual Band Gigabit Range Extender DAP-1650

A great all-rounder

Bands: 802.11ac 5GHz and 2.4GHz | Connectivity: 4 x Ethernet, USB 2.0 | Features: WPS, reset button, guest access

Good price
Good selection of ports
Not great range
USB is only 2.0

That’s right, D-Link has scored another entry on the list of the best wi-fi extenders. The D-Link Wireless AC1200 Dual Band Gigabit Range Extender DAP-1650 is a fantastic mid-range Wi-Fi extender that packs in some of the features of more pricey extenders, such as multiple Ethernet ports and USB, while also boasting a design that’s not only small, but also blends into the background.

The DAP-1650 looks fantastic, and it’s priced competitively. The only drawback is that due to its compact size and internal antennae, its range isn’t as wide as some other extenders.

AVM Fritz Box 3490

8. Linksys Velop

Layman’s mesh Wi-Fi comes at a cost

Bands: 802.11ac 5GHz and 2.4GHz | Connectivity: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet per unit (1 WAN and 1 LAN each) | Features: App-based setup; dual-stream (2×2), 802.11ac networking; 716MHz quad-core ARM Cortex A7 processor, beamforming

Fully modular mesh network
Inconspicuous design
Pricey in comparison
Performance too dependent on position

The Linksys Velop makes a sound argument for a wireless mesh network’s ease of setup. With the aim of replacing both your router and your now-antiquated range extender, the Velop arrives at a time when companies like Google and Netgear are doing the same thing. The main way Linksys hopes to differentiate its contender in the wireless mesh networking space is with a user-friendly setup that anyone with a smartphone can understand. With just a visit to the App Store or Google Play marketplace, you’ll have the Linksys Velop running in a matter of minutes.

Read the full review: Linksys Velop


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