Fortnite Festival tries to bring back the heyday of music gaming

Between Fortnite’s propensity for big-name concerts and Epic’s purchase of Harmonix two years ago, the inclusion of some kind of music-making feature in the game was inevitable. What Epic is releasing today is actually far grander: an entirely new mode called Fortnite Festival, a social space where players can team up to perform their favorite songs or jam together on new mixes.

There are two options, or stages, for users to play in the new mode. The main stage, or championship stage, is basically the Rock Band experience recreated inside Fortnite. You’ll form a band with friends and choose a song to perform. Then you play the song using the standard music game format where notes slide down vertical bars, hitting the correct button when the note reaches the bottom. Players can, of course, hear the song as they play it, which can be embarrassing if you’re not that good. Each performer earns points, which in turn leads to XP and character progression in the greater Fortnite ecosystem.

While the main stage may be old-hat to anyone present during the zenith of music games in the 2000s, the jam stage draws from Harmonix’s more recent (and less popular) mixing titles, Dropmix and Fuser. While both of those games had competitive modes, they were a lot more fun as music-making toys, where players could just throw different parts of popular songs together and see what comes out. Jamming in Fortnite Festival is pretty much that, but collaborative.

Fortnite Festival
Epic Games

When you first drop into a jam, your avatar will be standing in a virtual world full of stages, clubs and green spaces. It has an amusement park-like feel, similar to Disney World’s long-gone Pleasure Island. Despite the world’s appearance, you don’t have to climb on stage to play music, you can start jamming wherever you want by pulling up the emote wheel. The actions here have been replaced with song options. Just pick a song and instrument, and your character will start playing. It’s not the entire song, but rather one particular piece of it. To assemble something more complete, you need to collaborate with other players.

Jamming with other players is incredibly easy. All you need to do is walk up to someone who’s already playing (helpfully indicated by a wavy circle) and activate your own emote wheel. The system will automatically mix the two songs together no matter the genre or style. You want to add the vocals from The Killers’ “Mr. Brightside” to the synth from “Gangnam Style?” Go right ahead, and don’t be surprised when someone else drops in the beat from The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.”

Instruments can be swapped out on the fly, and the key and tempo can also be tweaked to make a slow song fast or vice versa. There’s a lot of room for creativity here, as well as cacophony as the levels fill up.

While Fortnite Festival draws heavily on Dropmix and Fuser it has one key advantage over those two titles, one that could lead to success where its predecessors failed: it’s free. All three of the new Fortnite modes will be free, but Festival is a standout since it relies so heavily on licensed music. One huge barrier to entry for music games has always been the additional costs, especially the song packs. $2 for your favorite Nirvana or Bad Bunny tracks might not seem like much at first, but it adds up, and any online cost can be insurmountable to a kid without a credit card. The fact that this is a music game that anyone can download for free on their computer, console or mobile device without being bombarded with ads means it has the potential to make music games popular again.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/fortnite-festival-tries-to-bring-back-the-heyday-of-music-gaming-153624729.html?src=rss

Fortnite aims at the survival-builder crown with its new Lego mode

Remember when Fortnite was just a battle royale game? After six years of storylines, concerts and even Olympic events, Fortnite has grown beyond its roots into a general catch-all social space. And Epic Games isn’t going back, expanding the Fortnite experience even further with three new modes announced at its Big Bang Event this weekend: a racing game, a social music experience and, most importantly to kids, a Lego-themed survival builder that launches today.

If “Lego-themed survival builder” sounds suspiciously like Minecraft to you, you’re not wrong. Minecraft itself has been burdened with comparisons to Lego since its release over a decade ago; this is just the Lego company returning the favor. There’s a survival mode, where your little Lego minifig explores a verdant landscape punching trees and rocks to gather supplies for building. There are skeletons that wander around at night and will attack if they spot you. Various animals wander around that can provide resources: If you pet a chicken it will produce an egg, though I accidentally punched it first and got nothing as every other chicken proceeded to avoid me for the rest of the day.

Once you get into it, though, the comparisons fall away. The procedurally-generated landscape is realistically rendered thanks to the power of Epic’s Unreal Engine, with natural-looking trees covered in individual leaves and blades of grass that blow in the wind. Punching or chopping natural features is what turns them into Lego elements. It’s weird, almost like you’re colonizing the real world by turning it into a Lego one. It’s also huge, about 20 times the size of the battle royale island.

Once you’ve obtained the materials, building is rather simple. There’s a list of building plans, and your character adorably holds a Lego tile with blueprints on it while you’re in the construction mode. Players get a handful of essential recipes to start like a campfire to keep warm and a shack for shelter, and they can earn more as they play and level up. The game will helpfully sketch a ghostly outline of where each component goes, asking the player to slide and lock it into place. There’s no place for error or major creativity in the basic survival mode — that’s what the sandbox is for. There, all of the building plans will already be unlocked, leaving players free to let their imaginations go wild.

There’s plenty here for Lego devotees, as Epic has scanned around 10,000 different Lego elements for use in the game. All of your favorite pieces should be present, and the company plans to add more in the coming months (there are over 30,000 unique Lego elements total). As this is an official collaboration with the company, many of the graphical assets were received directly from Lego, and only “legal” builds will be allowed (as opposed to “illegal” builds, which refer to Lego configurations that in the real world, may stress or break pieces). Hardcore Lego aficionados will definitely appreciate the attention to detail.

LEGO X Fortnite
Epic Games

And Epic would certainly like to see more Lego fans playing Fortnite, especially kids. Though it started life as a violence-oriented game, the title has evolved into a gathering space where kids sign on just to socialize with friends. The Lego feature, along with the two other modes Epic announced over the weekend — Fortnite Festival and Rocket Racing — are Epic’s way of facilitating that by providing activities that are more than just running around and shooting. By eschewing the violent elements (as well as controversial practices like loot boxes), Epic also hopes to make Fortnite more palatable to parents.

Lego Fortnite, similarly to Minecraft, lets you customize the challenges you'll face in your world. You can toggle gameplay basics like enemies, hunger, temperate damage, stamina and so on, along with some more advanced features. The mode supports up to eight players in a party, and you can delegate seven of your friends as "key holders" to your world, allowing them to access and edit it when you're not around. Each player can have eight worlds saved to their profile. 

As for existing Fortnite players, they’re free to continue playing as they always have and completely ignore the new modes – the only difference they’ll see is that the main menu has been expanded a bit to accommodate the new options. But, if they do decide to try out the Lego mode, they’ll find plenty that’s familiar, as over 1,200 skin options have already been translated into minifigs, and there are 100 emotes for your character to perform. Players will still earn XP, which will go into their overall stats, as opposed to remaining walled within the Lego mode. Cosmetic elements can be used between modes as well and, when you tab between options in the in-game locker, it will tell you what modes each skin is compatible with.

As this is Fortnite, all of the new modes will be free-to-play, including the Lego survival builder. Epic hopes this will bring new players in, though it remains to be seen whether it can draw significant market share from Minecraft. Existing players will see the new option pop up today (December 7), with the other modes set to follow this week.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/fortnite-aims-at-the-survival-builder-crown-with-its-new-lego-mode-151433897.html?src=rss

Fortnite aims at the survival-builder crown with its new Lego mode

Remember when Fortnite was just a battle royale game? After six years of storylines, concerts and even Olympic events, Fortnite has grown beyond its roots into a general catch-all social space. And Epic Games isn’t going back, expanding the Fortnite experience even further with three new modes announced at its Big Bang Event this weekend: a racing game, a social music experience and, most importantly to kids, a Lego-themed survival builder that launches today.

If “Lego-themed survival builder” sounds suspiciously like Minecraft to you, you’re not wrong. Minecraft itself has been burdened with comparisons to Lego since its release over a decade ago; this is just the Lego company returning the favor. There’s a survival mode, where your little Lego minifig explores a verdant landscape punching trees and rocks to gather supplies for building. There are skeletons that wander around at night and will attack if they spot you. Various animals wander around that can provide resources: If you pet a chicken it will produce an egg, though I accidentally punched it first and got nothing as every other chicken proceeded to avoid me for the rest of the day.

Once you get into it, though, the comparisons fall away. The procedurally-generated landscape is realistically rendered thanks to the power of Epic’s Unreal Engine, with natural-looking trees covered in individual leaves and blades of grass that blow in the wind. Punching or chopping natural features is what turns them into Lego elements. It’s weird, almost like you’re colonizing the real world by turning it into a Lego one. It’s also huge, about 20 times the size of the battle royale island.

Once you’ve obtained the materials, building is rather simple. There’s a list of building plans, and your character adorably holds a Lego tile with blueprints on it while you’re in the construction mode. Players get a handful of essential recipes to start like a campfire to keep warm and a shack for shelter, and they can earn more as they play and level up. The game will helpfully sketch a ghostly outline of where each component goes, asking the player to slide and lock it into place. There’s no place for error or major creativity in the basic survival mode — that’s what the sandbox is for. There, all of the building plans will already be unlocked, leaving players free to let their imaginations go wild.

There’s plenty here for Lego devotees, as Epic has scanned around 10,000 different Lego elements for use in the game. All of your favorite pieces should be present, and the company plans to add more in the coming months (there are over 30,000 unique Lego elements total). As this is an official collaboration with the company, many of the graphical assets were received directly from Lego, and only “legal” builds will be allowed (as opposed to “illegal” builds, which refer to Lego configurations that in the real world, may stress or break pieces). Hardcore Lego aficionados will definitely appreciate the attention to detail.

LEGO X Fortnite
Epic Games

And Epic would certainly like to see more Lego fans playing Fortnite, especially kids. Though it started life as a violence-oriented game, the title has evolved into a gathering space where kids sign on just to socialize with friends. The Lego feature, along with the two other modes Epic announced over the weekend — Fortnite Festival and Rocket Racing — are Epic’s way of facilitating that by providing activities that are more than just running around and shooting. By eschewing the violent elements (as well as controversial practices like loot boxes), Epic also hopes to make Fortnite more palatable to parents.

Lego Fortnite, similarly to Minecraft, lets you customize the challenges you'll face in your world. You can toggle gameplay basics like enemies, hunger, temperate damage, stamina and so on, along with some more advanced features. The mode supports up to eight players in a party, and you can delegate seven of your friends as "key holders" to your world, allowing them to access and edit it when you're not around. Each player can have eight worlds saved to their profile. 

As for existing Fortnite players, they’re free to continue playing as they always have and completely ignore the new modes – the only difference they’ll see is that the main menu has been expanded a bit to accommodate the new options. But, if they do decide to try out the Lego mode, they’ll find plenty that’s familiar, as over 1,200 skin options have already been translated into minifigs, and there are 100 emotes for your character to perform. Players will still earn XP, which will go into their overall stats, as opposed to remaining walled within the Lego mode. Cosmetic elements can be used between modes as well and, when you tab between options in the in-game locker, it will tell you what modes each skin is compatible with.

As this is Fortnite, all of the new modes will be free-to-play, including the Lego survival builder. Epic hopes this will bring new players in, though it remains to be seen whether it can draw significant market share from Minecraft. Existing players will see the new option pop up today (December 7), with the other modes set to follow this week.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/fortnite-aims-at-the-survival-builder-crown-with-its-new-lego-mode-151433897.html?src=rss

The 10 best tech toys for kids in 2023

"Tech toys" doesn’t have to mean video games –not that there’s anything wrong with some time curled up with excellent titles like Tears of the Kingdom and Spider-Man 2. But when it’s time to step away from the TV and engage with the real world, there are still ways to play that involve gadgets and science and all the other STEM goodness that we love here at Engadget. We’ve got playtime covered for kids and adults, as well as interests ranging from cuddly to competitive.

Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Game Controller

Bumpas Cute Cuddle Pal

Leapfrog Chat and Count Emoji Phone

Yoto Mini

LEGO The Insect Collection

Tamagotchi Uni

Make It Real: Mini Pottery Studio

Spin Master Bitzee

Vital Hero Batman

Hot Wheels Rift Rally

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-tech-toys-for-kids-140038520.html?src=rss

The 10 best tech toys for kids in 2023

"Tech toys" doesn’t have to mean video games –not that there’s anything wrong with some time curled up with excellent titles like Tears of the Kingdom and Spider-Man 2. But when it’s time to step away from the TV and engage with the real world, there are still ways to play that involve gadgets and science and all the other STEM goodness that we love here at Engadget. We’ve got playtime covered for kids and adults, as well as interests ranging from cuddly to competitive.

Fisher Price Laugh & Learn Game Controller

Bumpas Cute Cuddle Pal

Leapfrog Chat and Count Emoji Phone

Yoto Mini

LEGO The Insect Collection

Tamagotchi Uni

Make It Real: Mini Pottery Studio

Spin Master Bitzee

Vital Hero Batman

Hot Wheels Rift Rally

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-tech-toys-for-kids-140038520.html?src=rss

SteelSeries starts out strong with its first dedicated gaming microphones

The rise of streaming and the switch to remote work means that in the past few years, more people are using mics than ever before. Which in turns means that lots of companies are looking to get into the space, and the latest entrant is well-respected game accessory manufacturer SteelSeries. Though the company’s probably best known for its headsets, it just might change that perception with its $180 Alias and $330 Alias Pro gaming microphones, available today.

Upfront I’ll admit I’m not a streamer, but I do make regular use of a microphone in both podcasting and regular Dungeons & Dragons sessions on Discord. And, like so many during the pandemic, I found myself in an endless array of remote meetings over Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, WebEx, and whatever else companies want to throw out there. Even in the year 2023, it’s a pain in the ass. My go-to mic for the past few years has been the Elgato Wave:3, which I admire for its excellent audio and solid build quality. But in use it hasn’t always been a dream; weirdly enough I never got it to work properly with USB headsets, even those made by its parent company Corsair. And switching between apps, even with the Elgato software installed, wasn’t always a smooth process. I’ve started so many meetings with my computer outputting to the wrong device (usually the internal laptop microphone, which as you can imagine, is crap).

SteelSeries looks to simplify all that with its GG software, which automatically works with all SteelSeries hardware. I plugged in the Alias and it was detected immediately; I didn’t have to adjust the settings in any app or on my system. Within seconds I was on a call with a friend on Messenger, and Discord automatically made the adjustment on its own as well. In 2023 I would expect audio software should just work, and GG fits the bill. It has lots of built-in customization for things like lighting so you don’t have to be a programmer to make your setup look cool. It also lets you set levels program by program, with multiple outputs so you can have what your stream hears be different from what you hear on your end. It’s just a good level of control that allows professionals (as well as amateurs) fine-tune their stream to their liking.

SteelSeries Apex
Kris Naudus for Engadget

Of course, solid software wouldn’t be anything without the hardware to back it up, and the Alias and Alias Pro are high-quality, extremely attractive microphones to have on your desk. They’re both oblong pills suspended by elastic cords in a ring-shaped stand. It’s easy enough to remove and mount on a boom arm, and both models of the Alias come with a clip to attach it to your existing arm, or you can purchase one from SteelSeries.

From there the two mics have different features: the entry-level Alias has a volume dial and mute button right on its front, while the Pro outsources those to the included mixer, which requires external power (it comes with an AC adapter). The mixer has two dials, which can be customized in the GG software, and two buttons for muting mic and headset audio. (They feel extremely nice to push.) The biggest difference, however, is where the Pro gets its name from, and that’s the XLR connection in the back. That’s a higher-end connector than most users will need, but professionals looking to add a speciality gaming microphone into their mix will appreciate it. The mixer also comes with two USB ports so you can do dual PC streaming.

As I am not a professional audio person I stuck with the regular Alias, which connects to your setup using USB-C. It also has a single headphone jack for plugging in a headset, and I appreciated the mic stand design for keeping the cords tidy. When you plug in the mic it’ll start working right away; you’ll know because the front of the mic is outfitted with LED lighting that will show your levels. If the single bar of lights rises into the red, you know you’re clipping. When the mic is muted, a big red “X” is displayed on the surface, so there’s absolutely no question about the state of your recording.

SteelSeries Apex microphone
Kris Naudus for Engadget

In chatting with friends and family over various chat programs, the reports I got was that my audio was clear and loud, though one podcasting friend did think I did sound a little off at times — possibly because I got too close to the mic. At a normal distance I sounded fine. By my own reckoning through headphones, I thought it sounded great — on par with the audio I get from the Elgato Wave: 3 though a little more sensitive as it picked up the occasional ambient sound, like my typing. This isn’t unusual when I’m using a mechanical deck, but in this case it was the spongier membrane keyboard on my laptop. It can be mitigated by simply moving the devices further apart, if you have the space to do so.

Overall I think it’s a good piece of hardware to have on my desk; one of those accessories that makes you excited to record a stream, podcast or anything else you can imagine. You don’t need good tools to start creating, but the SteelSeries Alias is one of those that makes you want to make something because it’s such a delight to use.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/steelseries-starts-out-strong-with-its-first-dedicated-gaming-microphones-140041321.html?src=rss

The best gaming accessories on a budget for 2024

PC gaming can be an expensive hobby, at least when it comes to hardware. You want the best CPU and graphics card you can afford and, if you’ve tried to buy one of the latter over the past few years, you know how pricey that can get. After you spent a ton on building or buying a new machine, you might find you don’t have much left over for accessories like gaming headphones, keyboards, mice and more. But that doesn’t mean you have to settle for less. Manufacturers have really stepped up the budget game, building headsets, keyboards and more that offer AAA quality for under $100 — these are a few of our favorites.

Gaming headsets

Gaming keyboards

Gaming mice

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-budget-gaming-accessories-130040522.html?src=rss

The best gaming gear for graduates

The next graduating class is about to hit the workforce, but hopefully they’ll take the summer off to sleep, chill at the beach and… game. Now that they’re adults though, they don’t have to settle for discounted (though still solid) and hand-me-down accessories for their PC. They just accomplished something huge, so you can splurge to make sure their gaming lives can go as smoothly as we hope their job search will. We’ve picked the must-have accessories that will up your student’s game and let them know how proud you are of them as both recent grads and grownup gamers.

8BitDo Pro 2

Your grad is fully out in the adult world now, so they really deserve a pro-level controller for their gaming activities — particularly one that’s flexible for all their needs, be it mobile or console gaming. 8BitDo makes a number of great solutions, but the one that we’d recommend above all else is the Pro 2. This PlayStation-styled controller is super comfortable to hold, pairs easily via Bluetooth and is compatible with a wide range of devices, from Windows and macOS machines to Android devices to the Nintendo Switch. If your grad is a tinkerer, the Pro 2 will even work with the Raspberry Pi. This is truly the Swiss Army knife of game controllers.

Logitech G435

A headset is a must-have if you want the best game audio, but being tethered to a computer or console is not so much fun. Neither is the selection of colors available for most headsets, unless you’re a big fan of red and black all the time. Luckily, Logitech has this stylish wireless headset for around $80. The G435 connects to a computer via a Logitech Lightspeed dongle so your gamer won’t have to worry about Bluetooth lag or an unreliable connection. As for looks, it comes in cheery colors like blue or lilac, and the padded ear cups and headband will keep a head cool while not mussing up their hair.

Elgato Stream Deck Mini

If your grad is thinking about a career in streaming, they’re going to need the proper equipment to get started. It’s best to start out small, and the Stream Deck Mini is a nice, affordable way to dip their toe in the water. The Deck’s six buttons give budding streamers one-touch access to popular functions like lighting, audio and emotes. And it’s super easy to set up — just drop and drag in the software. Becoming a famous streamer can be a lot of work, and the Stream Deck just makes it a bit easier to handle.

Razer Thunderbolt 4 Dock Chroma

The end of college means that it’s time to settle down from lugging a laptop to the campus library and finally setting up a permanent workstation at home. But starting a career doesn’t mean your grad can’t have fun and, besides, they probably don’t have a lot of space to work with, so doubling up their gaming and work setups is essential. This dock ensures they can plug all the needed peripherals into their USB-C laptop and know they’ll always work, and it looks pretty good too.

Logitech Litra Glow

Another key item to a successful streaming career is the lighting. After all, someone can’t be an on-camera personality if you can’t see them on camera. But ring lights can be expensive, unwieldy or just hard to set up. Logitech makes all those problems go away with its Litra Glow streaming light. This compact light can clip on the top of a laptop for on-the-go streaming while also providing soft all-over illumination — no telltale rings in your grad’s eyes when they stream.

Timbuk2 CS03 Crossbody Sling

No more classes means your grad can slim down in the backpack department. But if they’re a gamer they’re still going to need something with lots of pockets to store cables and cards. Gaming accessory maker SteelSeries and shoulder bag company Timbuk2 have collaborated on a pair of bags made for the gaming lifestyle, and the smaller CS03 is perfect for carrying around a Nintendo Switch, headphones and other mobile gaming accessories. This crossbody bag may remind you of a fanny pack, but it has way more pockets for cords and game cards, and a padded lining to keep delicate LCD screens safe from scratches.

SteelSeries Rival 5 Gaming Mouse

Gaming mice are great for a lot more than just gaming — they’re great for school and work, so if your grad doesn’t already have one, why not upgrade them to the versatile Rival 5? Its curved shape feels great in the hand and the customizable lighting isn’t too flashy so it works for both home and office. Players will appreciate the array of nine programmable buttons that fit all genres of gaming, including popular titles like Fortnite and Genshin Impact to deeper strategy experiences like the Civilization series.

Razer Huntsman Mini Linear

We’re big proponents of gaming keyboards here at Engadget, even if you don’t play on a PC all that much. That said, we understand that not everyone has the room for a giant deck at their home. That’s why the recent trend of 60 percent keyboards is a huge plus: now anyone can enjoy sweet, high-quality typing action without having to completely clear off a desk to get it. Gamers and non-gamers alike will appreciate the Huntsman Mini’s swift key response, while everyone else in the room will appreciate the quiet linear switches.

The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom

Graduations are big, momentous events, and so are new mainline Zelda games. Why not tie the two together by setting your recent grad with this epic, world-spanning title that is sure to keep them busy all summer? (And we mean busy – have you seen the latest trailer?) It’ll be a nice bit of immersive escapism while they’re trying to figure out what to do next with their life.

Switch Sports

Your grad is an adult now, and being an adult means bills, working and taking care of your health. Rather than let it be just another dull chore they have to deal with, why not keep them active with this collection of games that will get them moving? All your favorite motion-controlled sports are here, including golf, tennis and yes, bowling. It’ll be a great chance to bond too, as you regale your grad with tales of long ago Wii Sports glory.

Final Fantasy XVI

It’s been seven years since the last major Final Fantasy game, which makes this the perfect gift for a college grad who’s just finished up four years of attending lectures, writing papers and passing exams. Unfortunately, it isn’t out until the end of June, so you’ll have to pre-order and hope your grad can wait a little longer for their much-anticipated present. But high school grads should be good to go on the release date, with plenty of adventure to tide them over until school restarts in September.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-gaming-gifts-for-graduates-150047802.html?src=rss

Where to sell your used and unwanted gadgets

Every year means new iterations of your favorite phones from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Google, so you might be tempted to upgrade to your handset. But with some new phones costing over $1,000, keeping up with the latest and greatest can really take a toll on your wallet. So why not offset the cost by putting your old device up for sale? If you’re wondering which trade-in service will yield you the biggest bang for your buck, and how easy it will be, we have answers to those questions (and more). We've rounded up some of the leading contenders for offloading your old electronics. It’s not just phones, either — perhaps you have an old laptop that isn't quite cutting it anymore, or maybe you've got some other stuff sitting in the closet collecting dust.

Trade-in sites

RECYCLE-PHONES/

If you're looking for the littlest hassle and want your money as soon as possible, there are plenty of sites that will automate the trade-in process. You'll select your device from a list, get a quote within minutes and send the device back for cash in a matter of days.

Decluttr

Decluttr definitely lives up to its name. Not only can you sell phones from a number of manufacturers, including Apple, Samsung and Google, but the site also takes lots of physical media, including CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays, video games and books. For devices, you'll be asked for a general assessment of its condition, and given a quote immediately. Once you complete your order the site will send you a free shipping label. Decluttr also will accept handsets as old as the iPhone 6S, though it'll offer you only $7 for a 16GB model in good condition.

uSell

uSell operates as a broker, searching other sites for their best offers on a given device and taking care of the rest. Like most buyback sites, it's big on iPhones, but you can still sell off other manufacturers' devices; it really depends on who's buying them at that point. The selection is a bit of a grab bag — newer phones like the Galaxy S21 aren't listed, though you can get a quote for the iPhone 11 ($210 for an unlocked, “flawless” 64GB model). Once you complete your order the site will send you a free shipping kit to send out your phone, and you can get paid for the item via PayPal, Venmo or an old fashioned check.

ecoATM

If you don't want to have to worry about packaging up your old device and mailing it off, or would like to receive your payout right away, there's always ecoATM. It's literally there in the name: an automated machine that you place your device into and it examines the handset and pays you on the spot. It accepts the biggest brands (i.e., Apple, Google and Samsung), along with devices from a wide variety of manufacturers, including LG, Motorola and ZTE. If the machine determines that your device isn't worth anything at all, you can still use ecoATM to responsibly recycle your old gadget. You'll find ecoATM kiosks in Walmart and Kroger locations, as well as malls and check cashing stores across the country.

Amazon

While browsing Amazon listings, it’s likely you’ve come across products marked as “refurbished.” Well, if you’ve ever wondered where those come from, a lot of them likely hail from Amazon’s trade-in program. The company will put its own products, like Kindle readers and Fire tablets front and center, but you can also send in phones and gaming products in for an Amazon gift card as well. It’s not great if you want cash, but if you’re looking to upgrade an Amazon device this option is your best bet, as trading in an older one also nets you a 25 percent discount in addition to the store credit. You’ll need to print out a shipping label, or you can drop off your electronics at select Amazon Locker or Whole Foods locations.

Apple

This is a good option if you’re looking to upgrade to a newer Apple device. You can trade in iPhones, iPads, Macs and even Apple Watches. That’s notable as wearables are a category you don’t often see on trade-in sites. Apple will even take your old Android phone if you were thinking of making the switch. The trade-in values are on par with other sites, but you can get a smaller payout in the form of a gift card instead if you’d rather wait before making a new purchase, want to put it toward media purchases or even just use it in an Apple Store. Which, by the way, also accepts trade-ins in case you’re not comfortable shipping your old but still expensive device.

It'sWorthMore

The nice thing about It’sWorthMore is that its on-site forms handle a larger variety of gadgets than other sites, incorporating companies such as Microsoft, AMD and even GoPro in addition to standards like Apple, Samsung and Google. You’ll answer a few standard questions about your device’s condition and whether you still have the original box — obviously, the more you’ve kept from the original packaging, the better. You’ll then get a ballpark estimate of its worth and a prepaid shipping label to print out. Once your device is received you’ll generally get the assessment and payment via check, PayPal, Venmo or Zelle within two to three business days.

BuyBackWorld

The appeal of BuyBackWorld is that device assessment is a streamlined process: Instead of having to answer a barrage of detailed questions for your device you give it a general assessment and let the site handle the rest. Just like with It’sWorthMore, BuyBackWorld will provide a printable shipping label in your confirmation email but, if you don’t have a printer or boxes to pack your device up, you can always have the site send you a free shipping kit, which can handle everything the site takes except desktop computers.

GadgetGone

If you’ve read through the other site descriptions, GadgetGone’s modus operandi should be familiar: To sell a product, you’ll have to answer a few questions about what type of device you have and what condition it’s in, after which the site will generate a prepaid shipping label. At least here you can find brands like OnePlus included among the options, and you can also sell MacBooks and Mac Minis here. You can get paid a number of ways, too, including PayPal, virtual VISA card, Amazon and Target gift cards or just good old fashioned bank transfer.

Store trade-ins

C1YC8B A GameStop video game store in the Herald Square shopping district in New York gamestop; videogames; shopping; electronic

Sometimes you need your money right now, or just don't want to trust your device to the vagaries of various shipping companies. There are a few nationwide retailers that accept trade-ins for cash or store credit. Additionally, wireless carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T and Sprint will all give you credit toward a new phone.

Best Buy

Best Buy also offers trade-ins both by mail and in-store — with more than 1,000 locations, this might be extremely convenient for you. You fill out the form online and bring that to customer service. It's easy, but there's one big downside: You can get your payout only via a Best Buy gift card. This is great if you spend a lot of money with them anyway, but less good if you really need cash.

GameStop

GameStop is infamous for buying games back at ridiculously low prices and flipping them at near retail, but don't let that stop you from making some easy cash when you need to quickly clear your closet of old electronics and games. And yes, I said cash: GameStop offers store credit, a Visa prepaid card or actual money if you want to take your bounty elsewhere. For example, you can trade in Animal Crossing for the Switch and get $22 in store credit or $18 cash, which isn't bad when new copies are going for $48 on Amazon. GameStop also accepts phones, tablets and Apple Watches, though the prices aren't going to match what you'd get from an online trade-in site.

Consumer to consumer

eBay Introduces Boxing Weekend On Dec. 26 and 27 At Eight Westfield Malls Across The Country, Making It Even Easier For Consumer

Sometimes you prefer to cut out the middleman and get a bit more personal — a transaction where you're selling your device directly to another person instead of letting a faceless site flip it for you as a "refurbished" unit. In those cases, you want a site that's more user-to-user, though a few will still automate certain bits to make your sale as smooth as possible.

Swappa

Swappa is a marketplace site, which means sellers can set their own price. So if you're getting rid of a newer phone, this is probably the best way to go — the iPhone 13 fetches around $515, for example. That's a huge improvement over what you'd get selling through a site like Decluttr, which is offering only $422 for a 128GB unit.

Amazon

When shopping on Amazon, you've probably been tempted by some of those marketplace deals in the past and, chances are, if you list an item on there, someone will give your old device a look. Since almost everyone on earth seems to have an Amazon account, your potential customer base is huge, and it costs only $0.99, plus a percentage based on category, to sell an item through the site. The downsides are that Amazon isn't really optimized for individual sales; you'll be competing with wholesale companies and even bots that will tweak the price of a product automatically in response to the competition.

eBay

eBay is sort of the Wild West of sales sites, but the biggest advantage is that you can sell anything there and hopefully find a buyer, regardless of how old a product is. Even so, the site has come a long way in the past decade or so, adding structured categories that can help lead customers to your product. For phones, you can search by network, color or storage capacity, and even filter for features like 4K video or fingerprint sensors.

In the end, it still works as it always did: You list a product and set an end date for the listing with a minimum price, or just set a "Buy It Now" price if you don't want to wait to see how an auction turns out. Chances are you already have an eBay account with a feedback score, so there's no extra setup required on your part. Your first 250 listings are free every month, and you'll pay up to 15 percent of the purchase price only if an item sells. The biggest downside is that you're competing with a lot more sellers, and chances are there's always someone willing to undercut you on price.

Cash-back comparison

Ultimately, the site you go with should be whatever's most useful and convenient, but if you just care about how much money you'll end up with, we've priced out a few recent flagship handsets just to give you an idea of what each site offers. We've also thrown in the Nintendo Switch, because it might be time to sell yours off and finally upgrade to an OLED model.

All phone prices are for the lowest storage capacity, usually 128GB. The prices are for the unlocked models when available, or the carrier where it's being traded. These prices were valid the day this post was written, but they fluctuate daily or, in the case of sites like Amazon and eBay, hourly.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Google Pixel 6

Nintendo Switch

Declutter

$432

$226

$135

$125

uSell

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

ecoATM

$280

$155

$40

N/A

Sprint

$230

$115

$45

N/A

Verizon

$282

$220

$15

N/A

T-Mobile

$230

$115

$45

N/A

AT&T

$280

$230

$130

N/A

Best Buy

$330

$150

$105

$50

GameStop

$291 cash / $364 credit

$131 cash / $164 credit

N/A

$80 cash / $100 credit

Swappa

$455

$224

$124

$238

Amazon

$401

$275

$190

$75

eBay

$405

$368

$200

$131

BuyBackWorld

$415

$230

$140

$110

It'sWorthMore

$442

$273

$153

$100

GadgetGone

$465

$271

$141

$41

If you were looking to sell some games, we've also got a shorter list, because not every site accepts trade-ins. GameStop will offer you more money than what's listed below if you're a member of its Elite or Elite Pro programs.

Elden Ring (Xbox)

Horizon Forbidden West (PS5)

Pokémon Legends Arceus (Switch)

Decluttr

$17

$17

$20

GameStop

$11 cash / $14 credit

$13 cast / $16 credit

$14 cash / $17 credit

Amazon

$8

$51

$14

eBay

$21

$20

$25

Once you've picked a site and listed your item, there are a few important things to remember before you ship off your device. The most important, when disposing of a phone or laptop or any other device containing personal data, is to do a full factory reset. That also means turning off "Find My iPhone" and the activation lock on iOS devices. See if you can unlock the phone, too; you'll actually get more money selling it carrier-free. And finally, make sure you've backed up any important data you may have, like contact info, game saves and, of course, photos. Cash is great, but it won't save your memories.

Images: Mike Blake / Reuters (ecoATM); Alamy (Gamestop); Getty Images for eBay (eBay)

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/where-to-sell-used-electronics.html?src=rss

Where to recycle your used and unwanted gadgets

For decades now we’ve become accustomed to tossing all sorts of things into the recycling bin, like glass bottles, aluminum cans and cardboard. One category, however, that still isn’t on everyone’s list is consumer electronics. Over a billion phones were purchased in 2022, and that’s just one type of gadget. All that electronic waste can have real consequences for the planet, so it’s something you should have on your mind next time you clean out that closet.

Sure, you can try parting with your stuff for cash, but it can be tough, if not impossible, to find someone who wants a 12-year-old printer or a busted CRT. Few places have curbside pickup — in fact, some localities make it illegal to leave electronics for the garbage collectors — so you're going to have to find a reputable center to take it. We've gathered some resources to help you dispense of your broken and unwanted computers, televisions and any other gadget flotsam that's taking up space.

National chains

Scrap metal, iron and computer dump for recycling or safe disposal. Ulsan, South Korea.

There is no national electronics recycling law at this time, so you won't find any federal programs to assist you with getting rid of old devices. The USPS does run a program for federal agencies and their employees, but it's not available to the general public. Instead, the rest of us have to rely on nationwide retailers to toss out our old stuff.

Best Buy

Best Buy has more than 1,000 locations in the United States, so it's likely you have one nearby where you can drop stuff off. You just need to take it to the customer service counter. They'll issue you a receipt too, but keep in mind that you can't claim the drop-off as a deduction on your taxes because Best Buy isn't a charity.

You can even recycle televisions and monitors, though you'll be charged a fee of $30 per item to cover the higher costs of transporting and disassembling them. (Consumers in California are not charged the $30 fee, while locations in Connecticut and Pennsylvania will not accept televisions or monitors at all.) If you're turning in a printer, you’ll get up to a $50 voucher toward the purchase of a new HP or Epson printer (select models only).

Also be aware that Best Buy limits you to three items per household per day, including up to two televisions.

Staples

Recycling your stuff at Staples is similar to Best Buy — just bring your products to the customer-service counter. But it’s more limited in that you can only bring in seven items a day, and the store won’t accept televisions at all (monitors are allowed). Staples Rewards members also receive a small credit of $5 per month for bringing in goods to be recycled or shredded. Members who spend at least $50 on ink or toner within a 180 day period can also receive $2 for every used ink cartridge they turn in, up to 20 a month.

Office Depot

Office Depot Recycling
Office Depot

Office Depot has more than 1,300 locations, but unlike Staples and Best Buy, it won't recycle your old gadgets for free. If you're only getting rid of a few phones or batteries, those can be turned in at no charge. For everything else, you must purchase a Tech Recycling Box, which costs $8.39, $18.29 or $28 depending on the size. Once you have the box, you can fill it with as many items as you want, provided they all fit inside, including smaller televisions. So it's a great deal if you have a lot of stuff you want to dispose of. These can be turned in either in person or by mail.

You can also return used ink and toner cartridges and get $2 each, up to 10 a month, if you’re a rewards member and spend at least $10 in-store on products within the same month.

Home Depot and Lowes

You can dispose of old rechargeable batteries, old phones and CFL bulbs in the dropoff boxes at any of 2,300 Home Depot or 2,200 Lowe’s locations. The bins are usually located in the front of the store, and Home Depot has an 11-pound limit on individual items.

Target

Target locations have drop-off bins for recyclables located near the entrance; in addition to bins for paper and plastics, there is a specially-designated bin for e-waste like cellphones and used ink cartridges

Manufacturers

Stack of old, broken and obsolete laptop computer

If you can't make it to a retail location, especially when you need to get rid of only one or two items, many companies offer recycling programs for their own products. They'll even pay for shipping. Some run their own programs while others use outside organizations. We've outlined policies from a handful of manufacturers below.

Amazon

While Amazon would love to direct you to its trade-in program, you're probably reading this post because there's stuff you can't sell, and for those items Amazon offers mail-in recycling. You can send in your busted Kindles, Fire TVs and even Dash Buttons, as well as select peripherals like keyboards and mice. You'll just need to fill out some forms online and generate a shipping label, which you can slap on any box. Drop it off at a UPS location, and you're good to go; Amazon will cover all the costs.

Apple

Apple's
Apple

If your iPhone or MacBook is still in good shape, you should consider selling it, but if it's too old or beat up you can still score a gift card by turning it into Apple's recycling program. For iPhones (as well as select handsets from Samsung and Google), iPad and Apple Watches you'll be asked to fill out a form attesting to the product's condition and given a trade-in quote, with a working iPhone 7 going for $30 and an iPhone 11 scoring you $160. For Macs, you'll be asked to provide a serial number as well. Though Apple won't give you cash for anything it deems old or unacceptable, you can still mail it in or bring it to any Apple Store so it can be responsibly disposed of.

Dell

Dell offers drop-off recycling via a partnership with Goodwill. Not every location participates, but there are more than 2,600 that do. And, because it's a charity, you may even be able to deduct it as a donation on your taxes. Dell also has a mail-back program on its site where you can generate a shipping label and drop the package off at a FedEx location instead.

Epson

You can ship old products back to Epson by simply creating a shipping label on its site and dropping it off at a FedEx location. Or just drop it off at a Best Buy location for a $30 or $50 voucher toward a new Epson printer.

HP

If you can, HP recommends taking its products to the nearest Best Buy. Ink and toner cartridges can be returned by mail; the company will mail you an envelope that can hold between 3 and 8 ink cartridges and can be dropped off in a mailbox or at the post office. For toner and large quantities of ink cartridges, you can print out a label and use your own box, or request a box be sent directly to you, which you’ll fill with items and drop off at a UPS location.

Other manufacturers

Many other companies use outside recyclers to dispose of their products, and you'll often see the same names popping up again and again across different manufacturers. This should simplify things in some cases — you should be able to send in products from multiple sources in one package. You just need to fill in the make and model to generate a prepaid shipping label. However, different states have different rules on what you can return, so the drop-downs for selecting your product may vary by area.

Two major recycling companies you'll notice a lot are RLG, which covers Acer, Canon, Google, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft and Motorola, and MRM, which recycles products for Alcatel, BlackBerry, Barnes & Noble (nook), TCL and Toshiba.

Phones

Electronics Recycling

Cell phones are the easiest gadget to recycle — if you haven't already decided to sell yours off on eBay or via sites like Decluttr and ecoATM. But, if you can't or won't make some cash off of it, you can send it to:

Call2Recycle, which has drop-off centers all over the country in many chain stores, including Lowes and Home Depot. It will also accept rechargeable batteries.

Cell Phones for Soldiers accepts phones in any condition and sells them to refurbishers or recyclers. The proceeds go toward purchasing phone cards for troops so they can call their friends and family back home. To be clear, the phones are not given directly to the soldiers.

The four major US carriers — Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint — all offer free recycling. You can trade in your old device in-store or send it in for a credit toward a new phone, or let them straight up recycle it. AT&T also participates in Cell Phones for Soldiers.

If you do decide to try your luck with ecoATM to see if your old phone is still worth a few bucks and it turns out it's worth nothing, you can at least rest easy knowing that the company will also recycle your phone responsibly.

States

computer parts for electronic recycling

There may not be a national law dictating that you must recycle your electronics, but at least 26 states have passed rules that vary widely on what they demand of manufacturers and consumers. Almost all states that do collect products for recycling provide this service free, with the bill footed by the companies in some way. Most provide some local programs to help you get rid of your stuff, regardless of whether recycling your gadgets is required or optional.

States where you can no longer dispose of electronics in the regular trash and must recycle them include: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

The following states have laws requiring manufacturers to pay for recycling, but you, the consumer, are not actually required to recycle your electronics: Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.

The following states have some special circumstances worth noting:

Connecticut: Does not allow recycling centers to charge you a fee for turning in electronics, so many organizations and retailers that would usually charge for recycling televisions and monitors do not accept them. Because you cannot dispose of them curbside, you can take them to a municipal transfer station for free.

New York: If you live in a New York City apartment building with 10 or more units, contact your landlord about getting an ecycleNYC drop-off box installed in your building. It’s super convenient and free.

Pennsylvania: Does not allow retailers to charge you a fee to recycle, so places like Best Buy and Staples will not accept televisions or monitors. Many recycling centers have also closed as a result of underfunding, so check the list of open locations first. Some nonprofit recyclers may still accept the items, and you should check to see if your local government is hosting any drop-off events. Lancaster and Dauphin Counties also still run civic recycling programs.

Virginia: This state does not have a dedicated statewide recycling program, but some localities run their own programs including Fairfax, Loudoun and Rockbridge counties, and cities like Arlington. Check each municipality’s site for details.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/where-to-recycle-electronics.html?src=rss