The best smart speakers you can buy

When Amazon first introduced Alexa and the Echo speaker years ago, the idea of talking to a digital assistant wasn't totally novel. Both the iPhone and Android phones had semi-intelligent voice controls — but with the Echo, Amazon took its first step toward making something like Alexa a constant presence in your home. Since then, Apple and Google have followed suit, and now there's a huge variety of smart speakers available at various price points.

As the market exploded, the downsides of having a device that's always listening for a wake word have become increasingly apparent. They can get activated unintentionally, sending private recordings back to monolithic companies to analyze. And even at the best of times, giving more personal information to Amazon, Apple and Google can be a questionable decision. That said, all these companies have made it easier to manage how your data is used — you can opt out of humans reviewing some of your voice queries, and it's also less complicated to manage and erase your history with various digital assistants, too.

The good news is that there's never been a better time to get a smart speaker, particularly if you're a music fan. For all their benefits, the original Amazon Echo and Google Home devices did not sound good. Sonos, on the other hand, made great sounding WiFi-connected speakers, but they lacked any voice-controlled smarts.

That's all changed now. Sonos is including both Alexa and Google Assistant support in its latest speakers. Google and Amazon, meanwhile, made massive improvements in sound quality with recent speakers. Even lower-end models like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini sound much better than earlier iterations. With the growing popularity of these speakers, there are now more options than ever. Let’s walk through the best choices at different price points and for different uses.

Picking an assistant

The first thing most people should do is decide what voice assistant they want to use. Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa are both well-supported options that are continually evolving, with new features added at a steady clip. A few years ago, Alexa worked with more smart home devices, but at this point, basically any smart device worth buying works with both.

It's mostly a matter of personal preference. If you already use Google Assistant on your Android phone, it makes sense to stick with that. But while Alexa isn’t quite as good at answering general knowledge questions, it syncs just fine with things like calendars from your Google account. And it works with perhaps the widest variety of smart home devices, as well. If you’ve never used Alexa or Google Assistant, you can download their apps to your smart phone and spend some time testing them out before buying a speaker.

As for Apple, you won’t be surprised to learn its HomePod mini is the only Siri-compatible speaker on the market, now that Apple has discontinued the larger HomePod. Siri has a reputation for not being as smart as Alexa or Google Assistant, but it’s totally capable of handling common voice queries like answering questions, controlling smart home devices, sending messages, making calls and playing music. Technically, Siri and Apple’s HomeKit technology doesn’t work with as many smart home devices as the competition, but it’s not hard to find compatible gear. And since the HomePod mini arrived last fall, Apple has added some handy features like a new Intercom tool. Apple is also starting to support music services besides Apple Music. Currently, Pandora is the only other option, but Apple has confirmed that Amazon Music will eventually work natively on the HomePod mini as well.

Best smart speaker under $50: Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot 2020
Engadget

Most people's entry point into the smart speaker world will not be an expensive device. Amazon's fourth-generation Echo Dot and Google's Nest Mini are the most obvious places to start for two important reasons. One, they're cheap: Both the Nest Mini and Echo Dost cost $50. Two, they're capable. Despite the low price, these speakers can do virtually the same things as larger and more expensive devices.

Buy Echo Dot at Amazon - $50Buy Nest Mini at Walmart - $50

The Nest Mini was released in late 2019, but Amazon just refreshed the Echo Dot in 2020. After testing both devices, I think the Echo Dot is the best small smart speaker for most people. Amazon keeps improving the audio quality across its Echo line, and the Echo Dot is no exception. It produces much louder and clearer audio than I’d expect from a $50 speaker. The Nest Mini doesn’t sound bad, and it’s perfectly fine for listening in the bedroom while getting ready for the day, but the Echo Dot is a better all-purpose music listening device.

From a design perspective, Amazon broke the mold with the latest Echo Dot. Instead of a small puck like the Nest Mini, the new Dot is shaped like a little globe. It’s much bigger than the Nest Mini, but that size gives it room for higher-end audio components. The Dot keeps the handy physical volume buttons and mute switch on top, along with a button to activate Alexa. While the Dot doesn’t look as sleek as the Nest Mini, having physical buttons makes it easier to adjust volume and mute the mic. I do wish the Dot had a way to physically pause music; on the Nest Mini, if you tap the middle of the device, the music stops.

Another benefit the Echo Dot has over the Nest Mini is its 3.5mm audio out jack, which means you can plug it into other speakers and instantly upgrade the audio quality. When you do that, you can ask Alexa to stream music, and it'll output to whatever speaker you have connected. That'll help you get more mileage out of the Dot in the long run. The Nest Mini answers with a handy wall mount, for people who want to keep their counter or shelf clear. The Echo Dot’s new bulbous form is definitely not suited to this, so if you want a speaker you can really hide, the Nest Mini is probably the better choice.

Overall, the Dot is the best choice for most people, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Nest Mini, either. I generally prefer using Google Assistant over Alexa, and anyone who feels the same should go ahead and get the Nest Mini. The Dot does sound notably better, so if you plan to listen to audio on a regular basis, that’s probably the way to go. But if you only plan to use it for a quick song or podcast when you’re getting ready in the morning, just pick your favorite assistant and go from there.

Best smart speaker under $100: Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo
Amazon

Amazon, Apple and Google all have $100 smart speakers: the fourth-generation Echo, the HomePod mini and the Nest Audio, respectively. All three companies claim superior audio quality, so for lots of people these speakers will be the sweet spot between small speakers like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini and bigger, more expensive models like the Sonos One.

Buy Echo at Amazon - $100Buy HomePod mini at B&H - $100Buy Nest Audio at Walmart - $100

Once again, Amazon punches above its weight. Like the Dot, the new Echo is totally redesigned and the new internals were made with music in mind. It combines a three-inch woofer with two 0.8-inch tweeters — a more advanced setup than either the Nest Audio or HomePod mini. (The Nest Audio uses a three-inch woofer but only a single 0.75-inch tweeter, while the HomePod mini makes do with a single “full range” driver and two passive radiators.)

In practice, this means the Echo is noticeably louder than either the Nest Audio or HomePod mini and much better suited to filling a large room than the competition. It also delivers an impressive bass thump and powerful mid-range frequencies. In fact, my main complaint with the speaker is that highs aren’t quite crisp enough. Compare the Echo to a Sonos One and the One sounds much more lively, while the Echo comes off a bit muddy. Then again, the Sonos One costs twice as much as the Echo.

While the Echo may beat the Nest Audio and HomePod mini on volume and bass, Google and Apple’s speakers are not bad options. The HomePod mini is the quietest of the three speakers, but it still sounds balanced across the entire audio spectrum. The bass isn’t too assertive, but there’s more presence than I would have expected given its tiny size (it’s by far the smallest of these three speakers).

And it has a few nice perks if you’re using an iPhone 11 or newer. Thanks to the U1 “ultra-wideband” chip in recent iPhones, the HomePod mini can tell when there’s a phone near it, which makes handing off music from your phone to the speaker (or vice versa) quite simple. Playback controls for the HomePod mini will automatically pop up as well, and your phone’s lock screen will display music suggestions if the speaker isn’t currently playing. Setup is also dead-simple — just bring an iPhone or iPad near the speaker and it’ll automatically start the process.

Google’s Nest Audio is also quite pleasant to listen to. It’s a little louder than the HomePod mini, and has stronger bass, to boot. It doesn’t have the same overall power and presence that the Echo does, but for $100 it’s a well-balanced speaker that should serve most people’s needs.

All three of these speakers support stereo pairing as well, if you want more volume or crave a more immersive experience. For $200, two Echoes will fill a large room with high-quality sound and enough bass to power a party. A pair of HomePod mini or Nest Audio speakers aren’t quite as powerful, but it makes for a great upgrade if you’re a more avid listener. A pair of Nest Audio or HomePod mini speakers sounded great on my desk during the workday. I don’t need overwhelming volume but can appreciate the stereo separation. And two of those speakers together can easily power a larger living space, although the Echo is the better choice if volume is a priority.

Here too, I think that picking the assistant that works best in your house and with your other gadgets is probably the most important factor — but given Alexa’s ubiquity and the new Echo’s superior sound quality, I think it’s the best smart speaker at this price point.

Best midrange smart speakers: Sonos One, Amazon Echo Studio

If you have more than a passing interest in music, the Echo Dot and Nest Mini aren't really going to cut it. Spending more money to upgrade to a speaker designed with audio in mind is one of the best decisions I've made. For years, I didn't have a proper home music solution, but in the end the modest investment has made my life much more pleasant.

For a long time, my default recommendation was the $219 Sonos One. It hits a sweet spot of size and convenience, and it's a huge upgrade in sound quality over the Nest Mini or Echo Dot, not to mention the larger Echo and Nest Audio. You can use either Alexa or the Google Assistant with it, and Sonos supports a huge variety of music services. But most importantly, it simply sounds great, especially if you tune the speaker to your room using the Sonos iOS app. It takes just a few minutes and makes the One sound lively, with punchy bass and clear highs.

Buy Sonos One at Sonos - $219Buy Echo Studio at Amazon - $200

But Amazon flipped the script in 2019 with the Echo Studio, a $200 Alexa-powered smart speaker that can stand up against the Sonos One. Yes, it's larger than nearly every other speaker in this guide, but the bang-for-the-buck factor is extremely high with the Echo Studio. Naturally, it's a full-fledged member of the Alexa ecosystem, which means you can do multi-room playback with other Echo speakers or set up two Studios in a stereo pair. All of Alexa's features are on board here, and it has a built-in Zigbee smart home hub, if you happen to need that.

The Echo Studio has a few other unique features for music lovers. If you sign up for Amazon's hi-def music service, you can play a (very limited) selection of songs in Sony's 360 Reality Audio format; Amazon refers to this as "3D music." It may sound great, but the selection is so sparse that we can't recommend it as a reason to buy into the Echo Studio — but it will be nice as Amazon expands its catalog over time. That said, the Echo Studio’s five-speaker, 360-degree design naturally provides a more 3D effect than a speaker like the Sonos One, which has a more traditional forward-firing design.

The Studio also supports Dolby Atmos, making it a candidate for a home theater setup — but it only works with Amazon's own Fire TV devices. And using a single speaker for watching movies is odd; it may sound great, but it's not the immersive experience you'll get with a dedicated soundbar and surround speakers. A stereo pair plus Amazon's Echo Sub should sound notably better, but we haven't been able to get that setup yet.

Given the quality of the Studio, the speaker shines when used with a high-def streaming service, like Amazon Music HD or Tidal's HiFi tier. The downside is that you'll pay for those — but if you want to stick with standard Spotify or Apple Music, the Studio still sounds great.

While the Studio is comparable to the Sonos One in terms of pure audio quality, the Sonos ecosystem does have a few advantages over Amazon. Sonos speakers that support voice commands, like the One, work with either Alexa or Google Assistant. So if you prefer Google, Sonos is probably the way to go. And Sonos speakers work with a much broader set of music services. I’ve spent a lot of time recently comparing the One to the Echo Studio, and I go back and forth on which is superior in terms of music quality. They definitely have different profiles, and while I have come to prefer Sonos over Amazon, I know plenty of people (including my colleague Billy Steele) who find the opposite to be true.

If you have a smaller home and aren't concerned with multi-room playback, the Echo Studio should be your pick. But if you're interested in building out a multi-room setup over time, Sonos currently provides a greater variety of speakers for that mission. But either way, you'll end up with a setup that puts something like the Echo Dot or Nest Mini to shame.

Best smart speaker for music lovers: Sonos Five

Sonos Play 5

As nice as the Echo Studio and Sonos One are, there's only so much you can get out of them. If you crave more bass, clarity and stereo separation, the Sonos Five is one of our favorite pure music speakers. It has all the conveniences of the One (except for one, which we'll get to) and sounds significantly better than any other Sonos speaker. It also sounds much better than the Echo Studio and anything Google is currently selling.

Buy Sonos Five at Sonos - $549

That said, the Five stretches our definition of a smart speaker here because it doesn't have a built-in voice assistant. But it's so good at music playback that it's worth recommending you pick one up along with an Echo Dot or Nest Mini. Both of those speakers work with Sonos, so you can use voice commands to control the Five just as you would a dedicated Alexa or Google Assistant device. It’s also easier to recommend than it was a year ago, because Sonos refreshed the speaker last spring with a new wireless radio as well as more memory and a faster processor. This means it should stay current and work with future Sonos software updates for years to come.

Since we're talking "best" here, I'm going to go ahead and recommend that true music junkies splash out on two Five speakers and pair them in stereo. Put simply, it's the most enjoyable experience I've had listening to music in years; I found myself picking up new details while listening to albums I've heard over and over again. It's a wonderful experience and worth saving for if you're a music lover. Put simply, I didn't know what I was missing until I tried the Five.

Best portable smart speaker: Sonos Roam

Sonos Roam portable speaker outside, standing vertically on a wooden railing.
Engadget

While many people will be happy with a few speakers strategically placed throughout their home, you might want something that works outside as well as inside. Fortunately, you can find speakers that pair voice controls and strong music playback performance with portable, weatherproof form factors. For my money, it's hard to beat the Sonos Roam for sheer versatility, not to mention audio quality.

Buy Sonos Roam at Sonos - $179

When used inside the home, the Roam works like any other Sonos speaker. It fits in with an existing multi-room Sonos setup, or you can get a pair for stereo playback. Like most other Sonos speakers, it works with either the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and it supports essentially every major music service available. It sounds very good given its tiny size; it’s quieter and not quite as clear as the Sonos One, but it still packs a surprising bass thump and distinct highs.

Since it was designed with on-the-go usage in mind, the Roam has a battery and Bluetooth so you can take it anywhere and use it far away from your WiFi network. And its diminutive size makes it easy to take it everywhere, both around the house and out and about. It’s also the first Sonos speaker that is fully waterproof, as well as dust- and drop-resistant, so you shouldn’t worry about taking it to the pool or beach.

The Roam gets about 10 hours of battery life, whether you're on WiFI or Bluetooth. There are other portable speakers that last longer, so if you’re really going to push the battery you might be better served by another option.

Sonos also has another portable option, the Move. Like the Roam, it’s a full-fledged Sonos speaker when on WiFi and works with Bluetooth when you’re away from home. But it’s $400 and much larger than the Roam, and even bigger than the Sonos One. This means it is very loud and has better audio quality than all the other speakers I’ve mentioned, but it’s not something you can toss in a bag and bring with you anywhere. When I reviewed it, I liked having a speaker I could tote around the house with me and out to my porch, but the Roam does that all just as well in a much smaller package. The Move is a good option if you want a high-quality speaker for a living room with the option to occasionally drag it to the backyard.

While this guide is all about smart speakers, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention all of the solid portable speakers out there that either have limited smart features or none at all. We have an entire guide to the best portable Bluetooth speakers, and some of our favorites that support smart voice commands come from Bose. The $149 SoundLink Flex supports Siri and Google Assistant commands, plus it has an IP67 design that's roughly the size of a small clutch bag. It pumps out bright, dynamic sound and can pair with other speakers for stereo sound, too.

On the higher end of the spectrum, the $399 Bose Portable Smart speaker supports Alexa and Google Assistant commands, and since it can connect to WiFi, you can ask your preferred assistant to play music from Spotify, Amazon Music and other services. On top of that, it produces well-rounded sound, sports an IPX4 design with a convenient carry handle and will last up to 12 hours on a single charge.

The best smart speakers you can buy

When Amazon first introduced Alexa and the Echo speaker years ago, the idea of talking to a digital assistant wasn't totally novel. Both the iPhone and Android phones had semi-intelligent voice controls — but with the Echo, Amazon took its first step toward making something like Alexa a constant presence in your home. Since then, Apple and Google have followed suit, and now there's a huge variety of smart speakers available at various price points.

As the market exploded, the downsides of having a device that's always listening for a wake word have become increasingly apparent. They can get activated unintentionally, sending private recordings back to monolithic companies to analyze. And even at the best of times, giving more personal information to Amazon, Apple and Google can be a questionable decision. That said, all these companies have made it easier to manage how your data is used — you can opt out of humans reviewing some of your voice queries, and it's also less complicated to manage and erase your history with various digital assistants, too.

The good news is that there's never been a better time to get a smart speaker, particularly if you're a music fan. For all their benefits, the original Amazon Echo and Google Home devices did not sound good. Sonos, on the other hand, made great sounding WiFi-connected speakers, but they lacked any voice-controlled smarts.

That's all changed now. Sonos is including both Alexa and Google Assistant support in its latest speakers. Google and Amazon, meanwhile, made massive improvements in sound quality with recent speakers. Even lower-end models like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini sound much better than earlier iterations. With the growing popularity of these speakers, there are now more options than ever. Let’s walk through the best choices at different price points and for different uses.

Picking an assistant

The first thing most people should do is decide what voice assistant they want to use. Google Assistant and Amazon's Alexa are both well-supported options that are continually evolving, with new features added at a steady clip. A few years ago, Alexa worked with more smart home devices, but at this point, basically any smart device worth buying works with both.

It's mostly a matter of personal preference. If you already use Google Assistant on your Android phone, it makes sense to stick with that. But while Alexa isn’t quite as good at answering general knowledge questions, it syncs just fine with things like calendars from your Google account. And it works with perhaps the widest variety of smart home devices, as well. If you’ve never used Alexa or Google Assistant, you can download their apps to your smart phone and spend some time testing them out before buying a speaker.

As for Apple, you won’t be surprised to learn its HomePod mini is the only Siri-compatible speaker on the market, now that Apple has discontinued the larger HomePod. Siri has a reputation for not being as smart as Alexa or Google Assistant, but it’s totally capable of handling common voice queries like answering questions, controlling smart home devices, sending messages, making calls and playing music. Technically, Siri and Apple’s HomeKit technology doesn’t work with as many smart home devices as the competition, but it’s not hard to find compatible gear. And since the HomePod mini arrived last fall, Apple has added some handy features like a new Intercom tool. Apple is also starting to support music services besides Apple Music. Currently, Pandora is the only other option, but Apple has confirmed that Amazon Music will eventually work natively on the HomePod mini as well.

Best smart speaker under $50: Amazon Echo Dot

Amazon Echo Dot 2020
Engadget

Most people's entry point into the smart speaker world will not be an expensive device. Amazon's fourth-generation Echo Dot and Google's Nest Mini are the most obvious places to start for two important reasons. One, they're cheap: Both the Nest Mini and Echo Dost cost $50. Two, they're capable. Despite the low price, these speakers can do virtually the same things as larger and more expensive devices.

Buy Echo Dot at Amazon - $50Buy Nest Mini at Walmart - $50

The Nest Mini was released in late 2019, but Amazon just refreshed the Echo Dot in 2020. After testing both devices, I think the Echo Dot is the best small smart speaker for most people. Amazon keeps improving the audio quality across its Echo line, and the Echo Dot is no exception. It produces much louder and clearer audio than I’d expect from a $50 speaker. The Nest Mini doesn’t sound bad, and it’s perfectly fine for listening in the bedroom while getting ready for the day, but the Echo Dot is a better all-purpose music listening device.

From a design perspective, Amazon broke the mold with the latest Echo Dot. Instead of a small puck like the Nest Mini, the new Dot is shaped like a little globe. It’s much bigger than the Nest Mini, but that size gives it room for higher-end audio components. The Dot keeps the handy physical volume buttons and mute switch on top, along with a button to activate Alexa. While the Dot doesn’t look as sleek as the Nest Mini, having physical buttons makes it easier to adjust volume and mute the mic. I do wish the Dot had a way to physically pause music; on the Nest Mini, if you tap the middle of the device, the music stops.

Another benefit the Echo Dot has over the Nest Mini is its 3.5mm audio out jack, which means you can plug it into other speakers and instantly upgrade the audio quality. When you do that, you can ask Alexa to stream music, and it'll output to whatever speaker you have connected. That'll help you get more mileage out of the Dot in the long run. The Nest Mini answers with a handy wall mount, for people who want to keep their counter or shelf clear. The Echo Dot’s new bulbous form is definitely not suited to this, so if you want a speaker you can really hide, the Nest Mini is probably the better choice.

Overall, the Dot is the best choice for most people, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend the Nest Mini, either. I generally prefer using Google Assistant over Alexa, and anyone who feels the same should go ahead and get the Nest Mini. The Dot does sound notably better, so if you plan to listen to audio on a regular basis, that’s probably the way to go. But if you only plan to use it for a quick song or podcast when you’re getting ready in the morning, just pick your favorite assistant and go from there.

Best smart speaker under $100: Amazon Echo

Amazon Echo
Amazon

Amazon, Apple and Google all have $100 smart speakers: the fourth-generation Echo, the HomePod mini and the Nest Audio, respectively. All three companies claim superior audio quality, so for lots of people these speakers will be the sweet spot between small speakers like the Echo Dot and Nest Mini and bigger, more expensive models like the Sonos One.

Buy Echo at Amazon - $100Buy HomePod mini at B&H - $100Buy Nest Audio at Walmart - $100

Once again, Amazon punches above its weight. Like the Dot, the new Echo is totally redesigned and the new internals were made with music in mind. It combines a three-inch woofer with two 0.8-inch tweeters — a more advanced setup than either the Nest Audio or HomePod mini. (The Nest Audio uses a three-inch woofer but only a single 0.75-inch tweeter, while the HomePod mini makes do with a single “full range” driver and two passive radiators.)

In practice, this means the Echo is noticeably louder than either the Nest Audio or HomePod mini and much better suited to filling a large room than the competition. It also delivers an impressive bass thump and powerful mid-range frequencies. In fact, my main complaint with the speaker is that highs aren’t quite crisp enough. Compare the Echo to a Sonos One and the One sounds much more lively, while the Echo comes off a bit muddy. Then again, the Sonos One costs twice as much as the Echo.

While the Echo may beat the Nest Audio and HomePod mini on volume and bass, Google and Apple’s speakers are not bad options. The HomePod mini is the quietest of the three speakers, but it still sounds balanced across the entire audio spectrum. The bass isn’t too assertive, but there’s more presence than I would have expected given its tiny size (it’s by far the smallest of these three speakers).

And it has a few nice perks if you’re using an iPhone 11 or newer. Thanks to the U1 “ultra-wideband” chip in recent iPhones, the HomePod mini can tell when there’s a phone near it, which makes handing off music from your phone to the speaker (or vice versa) quite simple. Playback controls for the HomePod mini will automatically pop up as well, and your phone’s lock screen will display music suggestions if the speaker isn’t currently playing. Setup is also dead-simple — just bring an iPhone or iPad near the speaker and it’ll automatically start the process.

Google’s Nest Audio is also quite pleasant to listen to. It’s a little louder than the HomePod mini, and has stronger bass, to boot. It doesn’t have the same overall power and presence that the Echo does, but for $100 it’s a well-balanced speaker that should serve most people’s needs.

All three of these speakers support stereo pairing as well, if you want more volume or crave a more immersive experience. For $200, two Echoes will fill a large room with high-quality sound and enough bass to power a party. A pair of HomePod mini or Nest Audio speakers aren’t quite as powerful, but it makes for a great upgrade if you’re a more avid listener. A pair of Nest Audio or HomePod mini speakers sounded great on my desk during the workday. I don’t need overwhelming volume but can appreciate the stereo separation. And two of those speakers together can easily power a larger living space, although the Echo is the better choice if volume is a priority.

Here too, I think that picking the assistant that works best in your house and with your other gadgets is probably the most important factor — but given Alexa’s ubiquity and the new Echo’s superior sound quality, I think it’s the best smart speaker at this price point.

Best midrange smart speakers: Sonos One, Amazon Echo Studio

If you have more than a passing interest in music, the Echo Dot and Nest Mini aren't really going to cut it. Spending more money to upgrade to a speaker designed with audio in mind is one of the best decisions I've made. For years, I didn't have a proper home music solution, but in the end the modest investment has made my life much more pleasant.

For a long time, my default recommendation was the $219 Sonos One. It hits a sweet spot of size and convenience, and it's a huge upgrade in sound quality over the Nest Mini or Echo Dot, not to mention the larger Echo and Nest Audio. You can use either Alexa or the Google Assistant with it, and Sonos supports a huge variety of music services. But most importantly, it simply sounds great, especially if you tune the speaker to your room using the Sonos iOS app. It takes just a few minutes and makes the One sound lively, with punchy bass and clear highs.

Buy Sonos One at Sonos - $219Buy Echo Studio at Amazon - $200

But Amazon flipped the script in 2019 with the Echo Studio, a $200 Alexa-powered smart speaker that can stand up against the Sonos One. Yes, it's larger than nearly every other speaker in this guide, but the bang-for-the-buck factor is extremely high with the Echo Studio. Naturally, it's a full-fledged member of the Alexa ecosystem, which means you can do multi-room playback with other Echo speakers or set up two Studios in a stereo pair. All of Alexa's features are on board here, and it has a built-in Zigbee smart home hub, if you happen to need that.

The Echo Studio has a few other unique features for music lovers. If you sign up for Amazon's hi-def music service, you can play a (very limited) selection of songs in Sony's 360 Reality Audio format; Amazon refers to this as "3D music." It may sound great, but the selection is so sparse that we can't recommend it as a reason to buy into the Echo Studio — but it will be nice as Amazon expands its catalog over time. That said, the Echo Studio’s five-speaker, 360-degree design naturally provides a more 3D effect than a speaker like the Sonos One, which has a more traditional forward-firing design.

The Studio also supports Dolby Atmos, making it a candidate for a home theater setup — but it only works with Amazon's own Fire TV devices. And using a single speaker for watching movies is odd; it may sound great, but it's not the immersive experience you'll get with a dedicated soundbar and surround speakers. A stereo pair plus Amazon's Echo Sub should sound notably better, but we haven't been able to get that setup yet.

Given the quality of the Studio, the speaker shines when used with a high-def streaming service, like Amazon Music HD or Tidal's HiFi tier. The downside is that you'll pay for those — but if you want to stick with standard Spotify or Apple Music, the Studio still sounds great.

While the Studio is comparable to the Sonos One in terms of pure audio quality, the Sonos ecosystem does have a few advantages over Amazon. Sonos speakers that support voice commands, like the One, work with either Alexa or Google Assistant. So if you prefer Google, Sonos is probably the way to go. And Sonos speakers work with a much broader set of music services. I’ve spent a lot of time recently comparing the One to the Echo Studio, and I go back and forth on which is superior in terms of music quality. They definitely have different profiles, and while I have come to prefer Sonos over Amazon, I know plenty of people (including my colleague Billy Steele) who find the opposite to be true.

If you have a smaller home and aren't concerned with multi-room playback, the Echo Studio should be your pick. But if you're interested in building out a multi-room setup over time, Sonos currently provides a greater variety of speakers for that mission. But either way, you'll end up with a setup that puts something like the Echo Dot or Nest Mini to shame.

Best smart speaker for music lovers: Sonos Five

Sonos Play 5

As nice as the Echo Studio and Sonos One are, there's only so much you can get out of them. If you crave more bass, clarity and stereo separation, the Sonos Five is one of our favorite pure music speakers. It has all the conveniences of the One (except for one, which we'll get to) and sounds significantly better than any other Sonos speaker. It also sounds much better than the Echo Studio and anything Google is currently selling.

Buy Sonos Five at Sonos - $549

That said, the Five stretches our definition of a smart speaker here because it doesn't have a built-in voice assistant. But it's so good at music playback that it's worth recommending you pick one up along with an Echo Dot or Nest Mini. Both of those speakers work with Sonos, so you can use voice commands to control the Five just as you would a dedicated Alexa or Google Assistant device. It’s also easier to recommend than it was a year ago, because Sonos refreshed the speaker last spring with a new wireless radio as well as more memory and a faster processor. This means it should stay current and work with future Sonos software updates for years to come.

Since we're talking "best" here, I'm going to go ahead and recommend that true music junkies splash out on two Five speakers and pair them in stereo. Put simply, it's the most enjoyable experience I've had listening to music in years; I found myself picking up new details while listening to albums I've heard over and over again. It's a wonderful experience and worth saving for if you're a music lover. Put simply, I didn't know what I was missing until I tried the Five.

Best portable smart speaker: Sonos Roam

Sonos Roam portable speaker outside, standing vertically on a wooden railing.
Engadget

While many people will be happy with a few speakers strategically placed throughout their home, you might want something that works outside as well as inside. Fortunately, you can find speakers that pair voice controls and strong music playback performance with portable, weatherproof form factors. For my money, it's hard to beat the Sonos Roam for sheer versatility, not to mention audio quality.

Buy Sonos Roam at Sonos - $179

When used inside the home, the Roam works like any other Sonos speaker. It fits in with an existing multi-room Sonos setup, or you can get a pair for stereo playback. Like most other Sonos speakers, it works with either the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, and it supports essentially every major music service available. It sounds very good given its tiny size; it’s quieter and not quite as clear as the Sonos One, but it still packs a surprising bass thump and distinct highs.

Since it was designed with on-the-go usage in mind, the Roam has a battery and Bluetooth so you can take it anywhere and use it far away from your WiFi network. And its diminutive size makes it easy to take it everywhere, both around the house and out and about. It’s also the first Sonos speaker that is fully waterproof, as well as dust- and drop-resistant, so you shouldn’t worry about taking it to the pool or beach.

The Roam gets about 10 hours of battery life, whether you're on WiFI or Bluetooth. There are other portable speakers that last longer, so if you’re really going to push the battery you might be better served by another option.

Sonos also has another portable option, the Move. Like the Roam, it’s a full-fledged Sonos speaker when on WiFi and works with Bluetooth when you’re away from home. But it’s $400 and much larger than the Roam, and even bigger than the Sonos One. This means it is very loud and has better audio quality than all the other speakers I’ve mentioned, but it’s not something you can toss in a bag and bring with you anywhere. When I reviewed it, I liked having a speaker I could tote around the house with me and out to my porch, but the Roam does that all just as well in a much smaller package. The Move is a good option if you want a high-quality speaker for a living room with the option to occasionally drag it to the backyard.

While this guide is all about smart speakers, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention all of the solid portable speakers out there that either have limited smart features or none at all. We have an entire guide to the best portable Bluetooth speakers, and some of our favorites that support smart voice commands come from Bose. The $149 SoundLink Flex supports Siri and Google Assistant commands, plus it has an IP67 design that's roughly the size of a small clutch bag. It pumps out bright, dynamic sound and can pair with other speakers for stereo sound, too.

On the higher end of the spectrum, the $399 Bose Portable Smart speaker supports Alexa and Google Assistant commands, and since it can connect to WiFi, you can ask your preferred assistant to play music from Spotify, Amazon Music and other services. On top of that, it produces well-rounded sound, sports an IPX4 design with a convenient carry handle and will last up to 12 hours on a single charge.

The best student discounts we found for 2022

Your college years can be some of the best of your life, but we know it can be tough to enjoy them when you’re scrounging every dollar for textbooks, food and (if you’re lucky) the occasional outing with friends. Money is tight when you’re a student, and that financial stress can be compounded by the reality of having to stay on top of your studies.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s student discounts. Many companies offer their products and apps for less to those struggling through lectures, writing term papers and studying for finals. We’ve compiled a list of the best deals you can get on useful services, along with some things you’ll enjoy in your down time. Just keep in mind that most of these offers require you to prove your status as a student either by signing up with your .edu email address or providing some form of student identification.

Shopping

Amazon Prime Student
Engadget

Amazon Prime Student

If you’re not piggybacking off of your parents’ Amazon Prime account, you can have the subscription for less while you’re in school. College students can get Prime Student for free for six months, then it costs only $7.49 per month after that. That comes out to about $90 per year, and the membership includes the same perks as regular Prime does, including free two-day shipping, free same-day delivery in select areas, and access to the entire Prime Video library.

Buy Prime Student at Amazon - $90 a year

Best Buy

While it doesn’t offer a specific student discount, Best Buy has Student Deals that you can sign up to receive. Aside from proving your student status, the only requirement is for you to be a My Best Buy member; that program is free to enroll in. We actually recommend that most people sign up for My Best Buy because some items, especially during site-wide sales, will be even cheaper for members. All student deals will appear in the Member Offers page in your account.

Sign up for Student Deals at Best Buy

Apple

Apple offers some deals to students and educators in the form of knocking down the prices of its most popular laptops and tablets. There isn’t a flat percentage rate across all products; the discounts vary by device. For example, right now students can get a MacBook Air M1 starting at $899, which is $100 less than the normal starting price, and the iPad Pros start at $749, which represents a $50 discount. These are decent savings if you must have a brand new Apple product, but those with tighter budgets should also consider Apple’s refurb program. Also for 2022, students can get up to a $150 gift card and 20 percent off AppleCare when they purchase a qualifying Mac or iPad.

Shop Apple’s back-to-school promos

Samsung

Much like Apple, Samsung doesn't offer a blanket discount across all of its products for students. But you can save depending on what you're looking to buy. For example, you can save hundreds on the latest Galaxy S22 smartphones, and the discount will be deeper if you have a handset to trade in. On the laptop-and-tablet side of things, you can get a Galaxy Chromebook 2 for as low as $350 or a Galaxy Tab S8+ for. as low as $200.

Shop Samsung’s back-to-school promos

Microsoft

Microsoft also provides students and educators with up to 10 percent off its gadgets, including the already affordable Surface Go 2 and the Surface Headphones 2. And Microsoft’s online store doesn’t only sell Surface devices: You can also find Windows PCs from Lenovo, HP, Acer and others there at discounted prices.

Shop Microsoft’s back-to-school promos

Streaming

Spotify
Engadget

Spotify

Spotify Premium’s student plan gives you a lot for only $5 per month. Besides access to millions of songs, it also includes Hulu’s ad-supported tier and Showtime’s ad-free service. You’d spend roughly $27 a month if you paid for all three separately at their full prices, making this student offer one of the best you can get.

Buy Spotify Premium Student - $5 a month

Pandora

Pandora also offers students its Premium membership for $5 per month. Pandora’s offering doesn’t include any additional services, but you do get an ad-free experience, personalized music, unlimited skips and unlimited offline play. Plus, you’ll get 60 days of free use before your payments kick in.

Buy Pandora Premium Student - $5 a month

Apple Music

Apple also slashes 50 percent off its Apple Music subscription for students, bringing it down to $5 per month. The offer is available for up to 48 months so you can enjoy the rate for the entirety of your college experience. What’s more, the company bundles Apple TV+ in this student offer, so you can watch Apple originals like Ted Lasso and Severance.

Buy Apple Music Student membership - $5 a month

Paramount+

Paramount+’s student discount knocks 25 percent off the Essentials monthly plan, so you’ll end up paying around $3.75 per month for access to the service’s content with limited commercials. With this subscription, you can watch shows like Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, South Park, RuPaul’s Drag Race and more, but just keep in mind that this particular plan doesn’t include access to your local CBS station.

Buy Paramount+ Student - $3.75/month

Discovery+

Discovery+ knocks 40 percent off monthly plans for students, so you can get access for only $3 per month. You’ll pay for the Ad-Lite plan, so there will still be commercials to sit through, but you can get that discounted rate for as long as you are an enrolled student.

Buy Discovery+ Student - $3/month

Tidal

Tidal provides student discounts on both of its streaming services: Premium and Hi-Fi. Premium drops to $5 per month, down from $10, while Hi-Fi costs $10 per month, down from $20. Tidal is still often overshadowed by Spotify and Apple Music, but these discounts are a good way to give it a try without spending too much money.

Buy Tidal Student starting at $5 a month

Hulu

College students can sign up for Hulu’s ad-supported plan for only $2 per month. That’s $4 less than the normal price and a great deal considering all of the content that Hulu has to offer (think: The Handmaid’s Tale, Grey’s Anatomy, Rick & Morty and more). Yes, you have to deal with commercials, but it’s a small price to pay to binge-watch shows like Brooklyn Nine Nine, which can provide a much-needed laugh when you’re drowning in coursework.

Buy Hulu (ad-supported) - $2 a month

YouTube

If you’re already spending a lot of time watching YouTube, you may have a better experience with YouTube Premium. The Student plan cuts nearly 50 percent off the price so you’ll pay $7 per month for ad-free video viewing, background play, video downloads and access to YouTube Premium Music. The latter is YouTube’s attempt at a Spotify/Apple Music competitor, but it has a long way to go before it can really hold a candle to those services. However, if you listen to most of your music via YouTube already, Premium could be your one-stop-shop for music and video streaming.

Buy YouTube Premium Student - $7 a month

Headspace

Being a student is stressful even in the best of times, but now it’s even more difficult to concentrate and find peace. Headspace is just one of many meditation and mindfulness apps available that can help with that, but it stands apart with an excellent student discount: $10 for the entire year, or $60 less than a normal annual membership. In addition to a large library of meditation lessons and routines to follow, Headspace recently added SleepCasts, a collection of soothing voices reading bedtime stories to help you fall asleep, as well as “mindful” workout routines.

Buy Headspace Student plan - $10 a year

Tools

Adobe Creative Cloud
Engadget

Adobe Creative Cloud

You’re probably using Adobe products if you’re studying anything related to digital art or design. Adobe Creative Cloud is the industry standard in this space but the entire suite of programs is quite expensive at $53 per month. Thankfully, Adobe has education pricing for students that drops the entire creative suite to $20 per month for the first year. That includes the big programs like Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC along with Lightroom CC, Premiere Pro CC, Adobe XD and more.

After your first year, the monthly cost increases to $30 per month. While not ideal, it’s still more affordable for students than it is for industry professionals. If you’re not tied to Adobe programs, you might also consider Affinity Photo, Designer and Publisher apps from Serif ($50 each for the Mac or Windows versions), which compete with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign, respectively.

Buy Adobe CC - $20 a month

Ableton Live

Regardless of whether you’re studying music production, students can get 40 percent off Ableton Live Standard or Suite for as long as they are enrolled full-time. That brings Live 11 Standard down to $269 and Suite down to $449 — great discounts on some of the best music software available right now.

Buy Ableton Live starting at $269

Microsoft 365

Many students have to use Microsoft 365 tools on the regular. If your college or university doesn’t provide you with an account, you can still get Microsoft 365 for free by taking advantage of the company’s student and educator discount. This gives you access to Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and even Microsoft Teams free of charge, which is a solid deal considering an annual subscription costs $100.

Get Microsoft 365

Ulysses

Spending all day and night writing papers is even more frustrating when you don’t have all your writing organized in one place. Ulysses is a popular writing app for mac/iOS that can be used for note taking as well as thesis writing, with features like auto-save and auto-backup, word-count writing goals, markup, plain text support and DropBox integration. Normally, Ulysses costs $40 per year but students can get it for only $12 every six months, or $24 per year. There isn’t a direct alternative for Windows users, but you do have options including Scrivener (a one-time student price of $41.65), IA Writer (a $20 one-time price) and FocusWriter (free and open-source).

Buy Ulysses - $24 a year

Evernote

Evernote can be an indispensable tool if you like to keep all of your thoughts in one place — everything from class notes to web clippings to to-do lists. Students can get half off one year of Evernote Premium, which brings the price down to $4 per month or $48 for the year. Premium is the way to go if you’re investing in Evernote because it syncs your notes across unlimited devices, gives you offline access, lets you annotate PDFs and search saved documents.

Buy Evernote Premium (1 year) - $4 a month

Notion Personal Pro plan

Notion provides students and educators its Personal Pro plan for free just by signing up with a valid .edu email address. While the free version of the service has a ton of features, the Pro plan adds unlimited pages and blocks, file uploads and version history. That means you won’t be restricted if you want to collect your entire academic life in Notion, along with your personal to-do lists, agendas, notes and more.

Get Notion Personal Pro plan

Github Student Developer Pack

Aspiring developers can sign up for Github’s Student Developer Pack, which includes discounts and resources that developers can use to learn, create projects and more. Github partnered with a bunch of companies including Educative, Canva, Namecheap, Bootstrap Studio and others to offer students access to many of the services they’ll need as the expand their skills.

Get Github Student Developer Pack

Squarespace Student plan

Whether you’re itching to get a jump-start on your portfolio or just want an online space to show off your work, Squarespace is a good option as it gives students a 50 percent discount on any of its annual plans. The most affordable option will cost $72 for the year, which is half the normal yearly price of $144. Squarespace is one of many website builders out there, but it’s particularly popular with creative professionals. Its customizable templates make it easy to build a website and make it look exactly how you want it. Plus, you can upgrade down the line to add things like website analytics, custom JavaScript and CSS and e-commerce.

Buy Squarespace starting at $72 a year

News

The Atlantic
Engadget

You shouldn’t rely on Twitter to be your sole source of news. With foreign wars, new viruses, Supreme Court decisions and upcoming elections making headlines daily, it’s important to get your news from reliable sources. Yes, it’s daunting to get into the news on a regular basis, but it’s crucial to know what’s going on in the country and the world as a whole. Here are some reputable news organizations that offer student discounts on their monthly or annual subscription plans.

The Atlantic: Starts at $35 per year for digital-only access.

The New York Times: $6 every four weeks for a base subscription.

The Washington Post: $1 every four weeks for digital-only access.

The Wall Street Journal: Starting at $4 per month for the Student Digital Pack.

The best study-from-home essentials for students

Engadget recommends a variety of laptops every year as part of our back-to-school guide. But that’s not quite enough if you want a productive study environment. Whether you’re a student staying home this year or you’re returning to campus, you’ll benefit from a few additional essentials. A laptop stand is useful for preventing neck and arm pain, while a lumbar pillow supports the lower back. A pair of noise-cancelling headphones does wonders for blocking out distractions and a LED lamp helps ease eye fatigue. From an external keyboard to a USB dock, we think all our suggestions below will lead to much-improved setup for those long study sessions.

Soundance Laptop Stand

Soundance Laptop Stand
Engadget

While laptops are more convenient than desktops, using just your notebook for long periods of time is bad for your posture and can lead to neck ache. That’s why we strongly recommend getting a laptop stand. You can position your machine so that the screen is at the appropriate height. In general, you want your eye level to be one to two inches below the top of the display.

One of our team’s favorites is this one from Soundance, which can support laptops with 10- to 15-inch screens. It’s made from a sturdy aluminum alloy and the surface that holds the laptop is rubberized, which prevents it from sliding around. And, thanks to a series of detachable components, it’s also one of a few stands that’s easily portable. You can take it apart and put it together in minutes, making it great not just for your desk at home, but also for using it in the library.

The Soundance raises your laptop six inches above the desk, which should work well for most people. Also, the elevated design both facilitates better posture and helps ventilate your laptop. There’s even enough space underneath for you to store your keyboard and mouse when they’re not in use. If you want one with adjustable height, we recommend the Rain Design iLevel 2. It’s not quite as portable and it’s more expensive than the Soundance, but it’s a good option if you need a stand with more flexibility.

Buy Soundance laptop stand at Amazon - $40Buy Rain Design iLevel 2 at Amazon - $65

Logitech K780 multi-device wireless keyboard

Logitech K780 multi-device wireless keyboard
Engadget

If you do get a laptop stand, you’ll definitely want an external keyboard to go along with it. (It’s not going to be comfortable typing on your laptop while it’s docked in the stand.) We recommend a wireless model so you don’t have to worry about cords cluttering up your desk. Logitech’s line of Bluetooth keyboards is an Engadget favorite, and the K780 is one of the brand’s most versatile models. It’s a full-size keyboard complete with a numpad, but it still feels slim and compact. The keys are responsive and comfortable as well, and you can pair it with up to three devices. There’s even an integrated cradle if you wish to use it with a smartphone or iPad.

Buy Logitech K780 at Amazon - $65

Logitech M525 wireless mouse

Logitech M525 wireless mouse
Engadget

In addition to the external keyboard, you should get a wireless mouse to match. Logitech’s M525 is a great option thanks to its ergonomic design and affordable price point. It’s small enough that it won’t take up much space on your desk and It has an ambidextrous design that’ll fit both right and left-handed users. Its precision scroll wheel has a tilt function that allows for side-to-side scrolling as well. We should note, however, that this isn’t a Bluetooth mouse; you connect it to your computer via a USB receiver.

If you’d rather have the convenience of Bluetooth, consider the MX Anywhere 3. It has a 4,000-dpi Track Anywhere sensor that works on most surfaces, even glass. However, the MX Anywhere 3 is a lot pricier at $80 and it doesn’t include the aforementioned tilt wheel, so bear that in mind.

Buy Logitech M525 at Amazon - $40Buy MX Anywhere 3 at Amazon - $80

Purple Back Cushion

Purple Back Cushion
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Long study sessions often mean sitting for an extended amount of time, which can result in lower back pain. You could get a chair with better back support, but those can be expensive. Plus, if you’re living in a dorm, you probably don’t have much choice in furniture anyway. The next best option is to get a lumbar support pillow. I personally recommend the Purple Back Cushion because it has a cushy grid that’s malleable enough to mold to the contour of my spine. One of the features that sets it apart from other cushions is that it has hundreds of air channels, which means you won’t get a sweaty back after sitting in a stuffy dorm room all day long. It comes with a washable cushion cover and an integrated strap that helps you attach it to most chairs.

Buy Purple Back Cushion at Amazon - $59

AFROG Multifunctional LED Desk Lamp with Wireless Charger

AFROG Multifunctional LED Desk Lamp with Wireless Charger
Engadget

Studying into the wee hours of the morning will be more difficult if you have bad lighting. Not only will you strain your eyes to see anything, but you may be more inclined to climb into bed as the sun sets and you get deeper into the night. A versatile desk lamp like this one from AFROG is essential because it will illuminate your whole work space easily, plus this particular model has five color modes and seven brightness levels, so you can customize it to your liking. The color modes will be crucial since they allow you to change the light’s temperature, so you don’t have to stick with harsh, white light the whole time if you don’t want to. We also like the built-in wireless charger on this model, which allows you to keep your phone topped up while you study.

Buy AFROG desk lamp at Amazon - $40

Sony WH-CH710N headphones

Sony WH-CH710N headphones
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

A pair of noise-cancelling headphones is great for blocking out unwanted noise during study sessions, be it from annoying siblings or a raucous roommate. You might be hesitant to get one because you think noise-cancelling headphones are expensive, and for the most part that’s correct. Fortunately, there are some budget options that aren’t terrible.

Take Sony’s WH-CH710N wireless cans, for example. Engadget’s Billy Steele noted that it offers decent range and good clarity, adept ANC, plus it has dual noise sensors that can detect environmental noise. You can also switch to ambient sound mode if you need to quickly hear the world around you. They also offer an impressive 35 hours of battery life, plus USB-C quick charging that promises 60 minutes of playback on a 10-minute charge.

These headphones may look a little more basic than the higher-end XM5s, but Sony didn’t compromise on comfort here thanks to adjustable sliders and soft oval-shaped earcups. They’re also much more affordable at $148 (and we’ve seen them for less), giving you a lot of bang for your buck.

Buy WH-CH710N at Amazon - $148

Fully Cora standing desk converter

Fully Cora standing desk converter
Fully

A good workspace is key when you’re studying at home (or in your dorm room) and chances are you have a desk setup that’s not perfect, but merely suitable. One way to upgrade it is by adding a standing desk converter like the Cora from Fully. It sits on top of your desk and allows you to stand and work whenever you want, which is much healthier for your body than sitting all day. The Cora is made from liquid-resistant laminate and it comes with non-skid pads so it won’t damage any surface you put it on. Plus at $179, it’s much more affordable than buying an actual standing desk.

Buy Cora at Fully - $179

24-inch ViewSonic VA2456-MHD monitor

24-inch ViewSonic VA2456-MHD monitor
Engadget

Sometimes a laptop screen just isn’t big enough, and an external monitor is needed for you to do your best work. It’s useful for those who need more screen real estate for stats and charts, Excel spreadsheets, editing photos or video, or just looking over copious amounts of code.

However, monitors can be pricey. ViewSonic’s 24-inch VA2456-MHD, however, delivers an impressive feature set for the price. Though we haven’t reviewed it, it’s highly-rated on Amazon and we’ve liked ViewSonic’s other monitors in the past so we know the company has a solid track record for quality. The VA2456-MHD has HDMI, DisplayPort and VGA connections, which makes it pretty versatile for a budget monitor. It also has 1080p resolution and an IPS panel for wide-angle viewing. Its three-sided frameless design is sleek too, an important quality for such a relatively large object. Lastly, it has a blue light filter to help minimize eye strain.

Buy 24-inch ViewSonic monitor at Amazon - $190

Ironflask 32 oz Sports water bottle

Ironflask 32 oz Sports water bottle
Engadget

You have to stay hydrated while you’re rushing around campus and trying to get your work done while also trying to fit in a little fun now and then. A water bottle like this one from Iron Flask will make it that much easier for you to keep your favorite drink with you at all times. Its double-walled, vacuum-sealed design keeps cold liquids cold for 24 hours and hot drinks hot for 12 hours, plus it comes with three lids (straw, flip and stainless steel) so you can choose your favorite. We like the 32-ounce model because it’s big enough that you can fill it up in the morning and have enough water for a full day of classes and activities. However, the 32-ounce doesn’t fit in a standard cup holder, so if you spend a lot of time in the car, opt for the 22-ounce model or smaller.

Buy Iron Flask (32 oz) at Amazon - $24

This Echo Dot speaker stand has the Greek God Atlas holding up your Alexa device

Call it an eclectic piece of home decor or an odd metaphor for Amazon’s global dominance.

Meet Atlas. Greek Titan, mythical holder of planet Earth, and now a tabletop accessory to plop your 4th Gen Echo Dot smart speaker on. Designed and manufactured by Etsy seller MisfitGeekGifts, this rather quirky little relic comes 3D printed from a special PLA filament which gives it a marble-like finish. Available in plinth and no-plinth varieties, Atlas holds up your Echo Dot perfectly, as if it were a massive globe. My only gripe is that it isn’t designed to conceal the Echo Dot’s charging cable, which would honestly then make it the perfect smart speaker stand in my book!

Designer: MisfitGeekGifts

Legend has it that Atlas, a Titan, was condemned to hold up the earth and skies in eternity after losing the battle versus the Titan gods and Olympian gods. Most representations show Atlas holding up a globe while simultaneously succumbing to its incredible weight. In the case of this little tabletop accessory, though, the globe gets replaced for a spherical Echo Dot 4th Gen. (If you’re a flat earther, you could just use the flatter Echo Dot 3rd Gen too)

The 3D printed stand comes in a plinthed (below) and a non-plinthed (above) version depending on how much vertical space you have on your tabletop surface. The model isn’t aggressively detailed, although that works in its favor since the filament is just translucent enough to look cloudy against the light, looking exactly like marble from afar. You can choose from MisfitGeekGifts’ catalog of other filaments too, including sandstone, wood, rainbow, or even bronze/silver/gold-colored plastic filaments! MisfitGeekGifts will also resize the print for you if you’ve got the larger Echo speaker as opposed to the Echo Dot.

Prefer sci-fi over Greek mythology? Here’s another Echo Dot speaker stand that turns your smart device into the Mandalorian helmet!

The post This Echo Dot speaker stand has the Greek God Atlas holding up your Alexa device first appeared on Yanko Design.

The best smart displays you can buy

Smart displays have evolved quite a bit since the initial debut of Amazon’s first Echo Show back in 2017. In fact, the category didn’t really come into its own until Google joined the fray with its own line of hardware about a year later. Now, both of these companies are essentially dominating the smart display landscape, with each offering their own take on a smart assistant with a screen.

It’s that screen that makes smart displays so much more useful than smart speakers. Rather than just having a voice recite the current weather report, for example, you can see a five-day forecast as well. The same goes for when you ask about your shopping list or calendar; it's simply easier to see the whole list or your day's appointments at a glance.

Plus, displays offer other benefits that speakers can't, like watching videos or checking your webcam to see who's at your front door. They're especially handy in the kitchen, where you can use them for step-by-step cooking instructions. And, thanks to touchscreens, you can often navigate through functions and settings a lot faster than using your voice.

Amazon vs. Google

The first question you should ask is whether you'd rather be in Amazon's ecosystem or Google's. If you have a lot of Google products in your home, like Nest thermostats or Nest cams, then a Google-powered model makes more sense. If you have Amazon products, like a Fire TV Stick or a Ring cam, Amazon would obviously be a better choice. Of course, it's perfectly acceptable to have products from competing companies in the same home, but just realize they might not work seamlessly with each other.

Aside from that, the two systems also offer some unique features. Google, for example, works best if you have an existing Google account and use services like Calendar and Photos. In fact, we especially love Google smart displays because they work well as digital photo frames. You can set it up to automatically pull in pictures of friends and family from your Google Photos library, and the algorithm is smart enough to use what it thinks are the best shots — so less chance of blurry photos or images of your eyes half-closed showing up, for example.

It might seem like a minor point, but seeing as the display is on standby 90 percent of the time, its secondary function as a digital photo frame is very welcome. All Google smart displays also support YouTube and YouTube TV, step-by-step cooking instructions and all of the usual benefits of Google Assistant, like weather reports. As with Assistant on the phone, it also has voice recognition, so only you can see your calendar appointments and not others.

Amazon's smart displays, on the other hand, are slightly different. Instead of YouTube, they offer some alternative video streaming options, including Amazon Prime, NBC and Hulu. They also come with two browsers (Silk and Firefox), which you can use to search the web or watch YouTube videos – a handy enough workaround given the lack of a dedicated app.

Amazon devices offer step-by-step cooking instructions as well, thanks to collaborations with sources like SideChef and AllRecipes. In fact, the cooking instructions sometimes include short video clips. But although you can use Amazon's displays as digital photo frames, the process is not quite as intuitive as Google’s, and Amazon doesn’t have anything comparable to Google’s photo-sorting algorithm.

The best smart displays

Smart displays come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and some are better suited to certain rooms in the home than others. So while we do have some favorite all-around picks, we've also compiled a list of smart displays that would suit specific use cases as well.

The best Google smart display: Google Nest Hub

Google Nest Hub

We at Engadget tend to prefer Google smart displays because most people are likely already entrenched in the Google ecosystem due to the ubiquity of Google services like Gmail, Calendar and so forth. We also tend to find Google Assistant to be a little smarter than Alexa, especially when bringing up answers from the web. As mentioned earlier, we also really like the tie-in with Google Photos and the smart photo-sorting algorithm.

Our favorite smart display overall is Google's latest Nest Hub. Its 7-inch size is a better fit in more rooms, and its unobtrusive design combined with its soft fabric exterior blends nicely into your existing home decor. It does everything we think most people would want in a smart display, like YouTube videos, step-by-step cooking instructions, smart home controls and the ability to check in on your Nest cams if you have any.

In fact, the Nest Hub is especially useful if you have a Nest video doorbell, as the camera view of who’s at the front door will show up on the screen. An ambient light sensor helps to detect the light and color temperature of the environment and adjusts the screen to match. Plus, if you choose, it can help track your sleep patterns if placed next to your bed.

Another feature of the Nest Hub is actually a lack of one: It doesn't have a camera. That gives it that additional layer of privacy that many people covet, and it's also a lot more suitable for personal spaces like the bedroom. Sure, you could also cover up a camera with a shutter, but with the Nest Hub you don't have to remember to do that.

Buy Nest Hub at Walmart - $100

Runner up: Google Nest Hub Max

Google Nest Hub Max

If you like Google but you miss having a camera for video calls, or you just prefer a bigger screen, consider the Google Nest Hub Max. At 10 inches instead of seven, it works a lot better for watching videos from YouTube and YouTube TV. It's especially useful in the kitchen, where it functions as a kind of portable television, and you can see more of those step-by-step cooking instructions at a glance. The bigger display also means a larger photo frame, which you may prefer.

As mentioned, the Nest Hub Max adds a camera to the mix. It doesn't have a physical shutter, which is a concern, but you can shut it off with an electronic switch. You can use the camera for video calls with Google's Duo service as well as Zoom, and it can also function as a Nest Cam to help you keep an eye on your house when you're away. Another benefit of the camera is the addition of Face Match facial recognition for authentication purposes, which we found to be a little more accurate than just using Voice Match.

Last but not least, the Nest Hub Max's camera adds a unique gestures feature that lets you play and pause media simply by holding up your hand to the screen. It's not entirely necessary, but it's potentially useful if you're in a noisy environment and just want the music to stop without having to shout over everyone. Or perhaps you have messy hands while cooking and don’t want to dirty up the display.

Buy Nest Hub Max at Walmart - $170

The best Amazon smart display: Amazon Echo Show 8

Amazon Echo Show 8
Amazon

Our favorite Amazon smart display is the second-gen Echo Show 8. Its 8-inch screen is just right; it doesn’t take up as much space as the Echo Show 10, but it’s also more suitable for watching videos than the tiny Echo Show 5. Like other Amazon smart displays, it has a built-in camera, but there is a physical camera cover to help alleviate privacy concerns.

As such, the Echo Show 8 is a compelling choice if you want the option of using your smart display for video calls. Not only is the camera quality fantastic, but the Show 8 has a feature that automatically frames your face and follows your movements during video calls. It’s useful if you want to move around as you’re chatting, or if you have rambunctious children and pets running around the house and you want to involve them in the conversation. You can use the Echo Show 8 to make calls between other Echo Show displays, or through Skype or Zoom.

As with the other smart displays, the Echo Show 8 also works as a digital photo frame and can be used to keep up with the news, check the weather and control smart home devices. If you want to use your smart display to play music, we also really like the Echo Show 8’s audio quality on account of its deep bass and rich tone.

Buy Echo Show 8 at Amazon - $130

Runner up: Amazon Echo Show 5

Amazon Echo Show 5 smart speaker
Nicole Lee / Engadget

At only 5.5 inches wide, the Echo Show 5 is one of the smallest smart displays on the market, and as a result, will work nicely on a desk or a nightstand. In fact, one of the reasons we like the Echo Show 5 so much is that it doubles as a stellar smart alarm clock. It has an ambient light sensor that adjusts the screen's brightness automatically; a tap-to-snooze function so you can whack the top of it for a few extra minutes of shut-eye; plus a sunrise alarm that slowly brightens the screen to wake you up gently.

The Echo Show 5 does have a camera, which might make you a touch queasy if you are privacy conscious – especially if this is supposed to sit by your bedside. Still, it does have a physical camera cover, which can help ease any fears.

Buy Echo Show 5 at Amazon - $85

The best smart clocks

Lenovo Smart Clock

Perhaps a smart display doesn't appeal to you because you don't care about watching videos on it. But maybe the idea of a smarter alarm clock like the Echo Show 5 intrigues you. In that case, I’d recommend the 4-inch Lenovo Smart Clock 2, which isn't a full-fledged smart display because you can't play any videos on it, but it does use Google's smart display tech, so you can use it for controlling your smart home as well as checking out your Nest Cams.

We also like it because it lacks a camera, which makes it perfect for your nightstand. It has all of the features we want in a smart alarm clock, like an ambient light sensor, that tap-to-snooze function and a sunrise alarm. Plus, the latest version can double as a night light – you can swipe down the display to enable it – and you can get an optional wireless charging base to go with it.

If the Smart Clock 2 is too advanced for you, Lenovo does offer an even simpler version called the Smart Clock Essential. It really isn’t a smart display at all – it’s really more of a smart speaker with a clock – but it does perform many of the same functions as the Smart Clock 2.

Lenovo sells the Smart Clock Essential in two different versions: One has Google Assistant, while the other is powered by Alexa. The one with Google Assistant has a built-in night light, an extra USB port for charging devices and a mic-mute button. The one with Alexa, on the other hand, is compatible with an optional docking station that can be used with accessories such as a wireless charging pad or an ambient light dock (it comes in either a sea lion or a squid shape) that can act as a night light.

Buy Lenovo Smart Clock 2 at Walmart - $70Buy Lenovo Smart Clock Essential at Walmart - $33

The best gifts for new dads

It's hard to be a new parent even during the most idyllic times. So what can you do to help? How about gifting a new dad something to make their lives a bit easier. Maybe they just need a breather from the hellstorm of diapers and sleep training. Or perhaps they want a better way to distract their screaming spawn. Here are a few options to consider.

10.2-inch iPad

10.2-inch iPad
Apple

Apple's entry-level iPad is one of the most useful devices for any new parent. It can be your child's gateway to video chatting with their grandparents (and with the new Center Stage cameras, they’ll always be in frame), or a life-saving distraction during long car rides. It could be a new dad's way to catch up on their favorite show while stuck dealing with mealtime. Or it could be a way for growing kids to read interactive stories and play games. The iPad can be whatever you want it to be. And paired with a decent case, it can be durable enough to survive life with tiny humans. (And if it does break, at least it's far cheaper to replace than an iPad Air, or a typical laptop.)

Buy 10.2-inch iPad at Amazon - $329

Jabra Elite 85t earbuds

Jabra Elite 85t earbuds sitting on a few books.
Engadget

There's no question that we love Jabra's lineup of wireless earbuds. The Elite 85t delivers solid active noise canceling, a slim and light design, and excellent sound. And best of all, they cost around $200 and you can often find them for around $150. No matter which smartphone you have, the 85t are an excellent way to catch up on podcasts while trying to rock a baby to sleep. And they'll be even more useful during the rare bit of downtime for new parents. They're perfect for rocking out to your favorite tunes, or pair them to your TV or set-top box to enjoy late-night movies without making much noise.

Buy Jabra Elite 85t at Amazon - $200

SmartNoggin Nogginstik

The SmartNoggin Nogginstick baby toy.
SmartNoggin

This relatively cheap rattle is deceptively useful. It has a light-up face to keep babies interested, multiple textures for them to explore, and a mirror on the bottom for them to learn their own faces. It was a secret weapon during my child's first-year tantrums, so much so that I've gifted it to every new parent I know. It's not high tech at all, but it's a reminder that they’re called classics for a reason.

Buy Nogginstik at Amazon - $24

Sonos Roam

A white Sonos Roam speaker sitting on an outdoor ledge.
Engadget

Sonos' most portable speaker is an excellent choice for new parents, especially if they’ve already bought into the Sonos ecosystem. It's small enough to throw in a bag, giving new parents a way to play some tunes during a picnic. It relies on Bluetooth, so pretty much any device can connect to it. But the best part is that it also works over Wi-Fi with an existing Sonos setup. So if you start playing some songs on your larger Sonos speakers, you can easily pipe that over to the Roam and bring it to your backyard. And since it's from a brand that's known for excellent sound quality, you can expect everything to be much richer than other cheap Bluetooth speakers.

Buy Roam at Sonos - $179

Apple Watch Series 7

Apple Watch Series 7
Apple

The Apple Watch is great for working out — but it can also be a handy tool for new parents. It's a simple way to keep tabs on texts and other notifications when your hands are full with a baby or baby-related ephemera. It lets you start and stop podcasts when you can't reach your phone. And — here's the kicker — it's also a perfect way to distract youngins and de-escalate shouting matches. It turns out, having a tiny screen on your wrist that can display photos is pretty useful! And it's also a relatively safe device for babies to fiddle with, thanks to its touchscreen. (Of course, you can take your pick of any competing smartwatch for Android users, but we'd recommend Samsung's Galaxy Watch 4.)

Buy Apple Watch Series 7 at Amazon - $399Buy Galaxy Watch 4 at Amazon - $250

GoPro Hero10 Black

GoPro Hero10 Black
GoPro

Action cameras are great for vacations and high-impact sports, but they can be just as useful for new parents. It's the sort of thing you can strap onto a hat when you go out for a light hike with a little one, or just leave it running in your backyard to capture their first steps. Sure, we've all got smartphone cameras, but it's tough to leave those running for extended periods, and they're still a bit distracting if you're dealing with a child. A camera like the Hero10 Black, on the other hand, is something you can just set, forget and discover little video treasures later.

Buy Hero10 Black at Amazon - $500

Theragun Mini

Someone using the Theragun Mini on their elbow.
Theragun

Keeping up with a new baby can lead to aches and pains in muscles that dad never knew he had. The Theragun Mini can give him the opportunity to get a massage without leaving the house. While there are much bigger and more powerful Theragun machines, the Mini is a good size for beginners and those who want to take its muscle relief power wherever they go. It has a single button that dad can use to change the massage gun’s speed and its ergonomic design makes it easy to reach different parts of the body. And arguably the best part is its 150-minute battery life — while that might not seem like a long time, it truly is when you consider the fact that you don’t need to use it for more than a few minutes each day to feel the results. With that schedule, dad could use the Theragun Mini every day for a month or more before needing to recharge it.

Buy Mini at Theragun - $199

Comixology

Promotional images for the Comixology service.
Comixology

It’s hard to keep up with comics when kids are around, but Comixology makes it easy to catch up on your favorite releases. If you know a comic nerd who’s eager to see what the X-Men are up to, or who just wants to catch up on long-running graphic novel series, it’s worth sending them an Amazon gift card that they can use with Comixology. It’s particularly useful for anyone who has an iPad or a decent Android tablet. Not surprisingly, bright and portable screens are one of the best ways to appreciate comic art!

Buy Amazon gift cards for Comixology

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Game controller

Fisher Price Laugh and Learn Game controller
Fisher Price

A perfect gift for any gamer dads in your life, the Laugh and Learn Controller is basically a baby-proofed version of a modern gamepad. There's a joystick, directional pad, and array of buttons for kids to fiddle with. But like any good distracting toy, it also lights up and makes sounds to keep them entertained. It's not exactly complex, but it's inexpensive and effective. That's particularly true for parents of little ones who always gravitate to their expensive console controllers.

Buy Laugh and Learn Controller at Amazon - $10

Greens Steel insulated tumbler

Greens Steel Beast insulated tumbler
Greens Steel

Coffee, tea or another caffeinated beverage is an essential for many new dads and Greens Steel’s insulated tumblers can keep their drink of choice hot or cold for hours. While we all appreciate that luxury, it’s especially important for parents who often find themselves sipping tepid coffee hours after they brewed their first cup because they got distracted with kid duties. These tumblers are made of 18/8 food grade steel and they have a double wall vacuum that maintains temperatures for up to 12 hours. And regardless of which size you get (20-, 30- or 40-ounce) they all fit into standard-sized cup holders, so dad can bring his drink with him when he runs out for an emergency diaper restock.

Buy Greens Steel tumbler at Amazon - $29

How to see everything you’ve watched on Netflix and other streaming services

Streaming is a curious beast. One minute you'll be enjoying the '80s vibe of Stranger Things and the next you'll be struggling to pick something from that overwhelming catalog. Sometimes, though, you'll stumble on something that you'd normally never choose — a Netflix suggestion from a friend or a recent addition that had escaped your glance as you navigated Amazon Prime Video's curated menus.

However, once you've watched that movie or TV show and moved on, it may drop back into relative obscurity, reducing your chances of remembering and paying that recommendation forward many months later. You may also have watched something, hated it and want to make sure it doesn't impact future recommendations. Luckily, many streaming services keep a running list of the things you've watched (if they haven't been removed from the catalog due to licensing agreements). Here's how to find them.

Netflix

Netflix
Engadget

Finding your viewing history on Netflix is a simple affair. Visit Netflix.com, ensure you're logged in and then hover over your profile name. Select Your Account from the menu. Now, scroll down to the bottom and select Viewing Activity. You should now be presented with a list of everything you've streamed on your account.

Alternatively, you can click here.

While you're there, you can decide how your history impacts Netflix recommendations. Clicking the X next to a title will ensure it's deleted from your Recently Watched or Continue Watching row, but it will also ensure that Netflix doesn't use a moment of streaming weakness against you. Once it has been removed, it won't appear in your list until you watch it again.

Apple TV+

Apple TV Recently Watched
Engadget

Apple's catalog of streaming originals might not be as broad as, say, Netflix or Disney+, but the iPhone-maker has a very comprehensive movie and TV store that can help fill the gaps. 

If you're looking to see what you've recently watched on either Apple TV+ or inside Apple's TV app generally, the company does provide a way to see your viewing history, but it's hidden away right at the bottom of the TV app itself.

Simply open the TV app on a Mac or iOS device and keep scrolling to the very bottom of the Watch Now tab. There, you'll see a small selection of your most recently viewed content. Select the 'See All' link to view everything you've ever watched on Apple TV (this may also include movies and TV shows from third-party apps you have installed on your Apple TV streamer.)

Unfortunately, Apple doesn't offer a dedicated 'Recently Watched' section in the TV+ web UI, opting instead for an 'Up Next' section. You can, however, clear what you have watched by heading to Settings and selecting Clear Play History. Alternatively, click here.

You can also remove individual movies and TV episodes from your Recently Watched list by long-pressing on the thumbnail of the content you wish to remove and selecting 'Remove from Recently Watched.' Perfect, if you've viewed something you told your significant other you'd wait for them to watch together.

Disney+

Disney+
Engadget

Disney+ may now be over two years old, but it's not quite yet caught up with the likes of Netflix and Amazon when it comes to features. Sadly, that means you can't currently see your viewing history on Disney+.

Like many of its rivals, Disney does offer a Continue Watching section, which may help surface movies or TV shows that you may have stopped viewing just as the credits began to roll. 

If it's something you feel very strongly about, you can head to the Disney+ website and hit the Give Feedback button at the bottom to, very politely, request that they add the feature.

Hulu

Hulu Keep Watching
Engadget

If you're a Disney+ subscriber in the US, there's a chance that you may have signed up for the Disney Bundle to get subscriptions to Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu for a discounted price. Unlike Disney+, however, Hulu does allow you to properly maintain your watch history both inside its apps and on the web. 

It may not be immediately obvious, but Hulu keeps your viewing history inside the Keep Watching section, from which you can browse the movies and TV shows you've already streamed. To make things confusing, you cannot see the individual episodes of a show you've already watched in the Keep Watching section, so you'll need to select the Details page of a particular series and add it to My Stuff. This will also let you see how many unwatched episodes you've got left to stream.

To remove content, navigate to the Keep Watching page and click on the X to purge it from your watch history. On mobile, tap the three dots on the thumbnail of the selected show or movie and hit Remove from Watch History.

HBO Max

HBO Max
Engadget

As it stands, HBO Max doesn't offer a way to see everything you've watched. It does, however, automatically add movies and TV series that you haven't finished watching to its Continue Watching row on the home screen of the service. 

To remove a movie or show from your Continue Watching listing in your app or on the web, tap on your profile icon, then Continue Watching, and then Edit. Then, simply tap the X next to an individual item or Clear All to remove everything. When you're finished, hit Done.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Viewing History
Engadget

Unlike Netflix, Amazon doesn't make it easy to see what you've previously watched. In fact, it buries its listing inside a number of links that you wouldn't otherwise check.

If you want to go the manual route, ensure you're logged in on the Amazon website and click the Your Account link on the top bar. On the resulting page, scroll down to Personalization and click Improve Your Recommendations. Now, on the left menu, click Videos You've Watched.

The quicker method is to click here if you live in the US or here if you live in the UK.

Here, you can rate a TV show or movie so that Amazon can better understand your likes and dislikes or exclude that listing entirely. If you've found that both Netflix and Amazon have done a poor job of matching content to your interests, this is a good way to provide it with more insight.

Peacock

Peacock
Engadget

Peacock doesn't currently provide a way to see everything you've streamed on its service. It does, however, offer a Continue Watching section that will list all of the movies and TV shows that you have started but may not have completely finished. 

Paramount+

Paramount
Engadget

Paramount+ also doesn't currently provide a way to see everything you've watched. There is a Keep Watching section, though, that lists all of the movies and TV shows that you have started but may not have completely finished.

The best gifts for grads under $50

Gifting can be difficult at any time, but it’s been particularly hard over the past couple of years. You may still be working with a tight budget, but you also want to give that grad in your life something that can help make the transition to post-school life a bit easier (and more fun). The tech gifts that come to mind immediately — iPhones, smartwatches, game consoles and the like — are not exactly budget-friendly. But there are handy gadgets out there that won’t drain your wallet completely. Here’s Engadget’s list of the best tech gifts under $50 for new graduates.

Anker Nano Pro 20W

Anker Nano Pro 20W
Anker

Anker’s latest 20W charger will be a handy gift for any grad. More often than not, the new gadgets we buy today don’t come with AC adapters, so having an extra on hand can’t hurt. The Nano Pro can fast-charge the latest iPhones to 50 percent in only 25 minutes, plus it’s smaller than Apple’s own 20W adapter. It also has advanced features like a Dynamic Temperature Sensor, which keeps the charger from overheating, and a power tuner chip, which adjusts power output depending on the connected device. It may not be the trendiest graduation gift, but it’s one that your grad will likely take with them to work, on vacations and elsewhere.

Buy Nano Pro 20W at Amazon - $20

Google Chromecast with Google TV

Aa Chromecast with Google TV plugged into the back of a TV.
Google

Whether they’re still mooching off their parents’ subscriptions, or have finally sprung for their own Netflix account a streaming device is a great gift for a recent grad. The latest Chromecast with Google TV makes the original Chromecast experience much better by adding a physical remote to the mix, along with the new Google TV interface. The remote makes it easier to navigate and the on-screen menus, and the software will serve up TV and movie recommendations based on subscriptions you have. The Chromecast with Google TV supports services including Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max and more, and it’ll stream in 4K HDR with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Plus, you can still cast even more content from your smartphone or tablet to your TV.

Buy Chromecast with Google TV at Walmart - $50

8Bitdo Pro 2

An overview photo of the 8BitDo Pro 2 gaming controller lined up neatly next to a variety of compatible game platforms.
8BitDo

We’ve been fans of 8Bitdo’s affordable, multi-platform controllers for quite some time, and the new, $50 Pro 2 is no exception. You can use it with the Nintendo Switch and on Windows, macOS, Android and Raspberry Pi, and you’re able to map functions to buttons using its companion smartphone app. The Pro 2 also adds new bumper buttons under each arm, something the previous version did not have. In general, 8Bitdo’s controllers are more ergonomic than, say, relying on a keyboard and mouse when playing PC games. They’re also a dramatic improvement over the Switch’s Joy-Cons which, if we’re honest, aren’t the most comfortable controllers to use for long stretches of time. The Pro 2 charges up via USB-C, but you can also remove the battery pack and replace it with AA batteries if you know you won’t be able to charge up frequently.

Buy 8Bitdo Pro 2 at Amazon - $50

RavPower 16,750mAh portable charger

RAVPower 16,750mAh portable charger
RAVPower

A portable changer is truly a gift that keeps on giving and RavPower’s 16,750mAh brick is strong enough to charge up smartphones and tablets alike. That’s enough to top off your iPhone 11 Pro Max 2.5 times or an iPad Air once. It has two iSmart output ports so you can power up two devices simultaneously, and its indicator lights will give you an idea of the brick’s remaining power level. Even with a larger-than-average capacity it’s surprisingly compact, measuring 5 x 3.15 x .9 inches, and its built-in flashlight can help you find lost items in a pinch.

Buy portable charger at RavPower - $36

2022 Tile Mate

2022 Tile Mate
Tile

While we often recommend AirTags to Apple users to keep track of their things, Tile’s trackers are another great option that’s more universal. Unlike AirTags, these tiny Bluetooth trackers work with Android devices as well, and are compatible with Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. Also, the latest Tile Mate has a built-in keyring hole, so your grad can unbox it, hook it onto their keys, set it up in the mobile app and get going. With a Bluetooth range of 250 feet, these trackers can help them locate their lost stuff quickly, plus they can add their contact information to the Tile – just in case someone else finds their things first. We also like the Mate’s IP67-rated design, which should protect it even when it’s exposed to the elements on rainy days.

Buy Tile Mate at Amazon - $25

Logitech Pebble

The Logitech Pebble mouse in light blue sitting on a desk next to a keyboard.
Logitech

Whether your grad will commute to their first office job or work from home, a wireless mouse is a must-have when on a computer all day. Logitech’s Pebble is a solid option because, not only can it easily disappear into a bag thanks to its slim profile, but it will also run for up to 18 months on its single AA battery. It’s not an accessory they’ll have to worry about charging up each night. We also like its ambidextrous design and its relatively quiet nature — unlike other mice, it makes little noise when you’re clicking and scrolling away. You’ll also have the option to connect it via Bluetooth or USB receiver, and there are a handful of fun colors to choose from.

Buy Logitech Pebble at Amazon - $30

Greens Steel Beast insulated tumbler

Beast insulated stainless steel tumbler
Greens Steel

It’s important for grads, busy with job applications, internships, new jobs and side hustles, to stay hydrated. Green Steel’s Beast insulated tumblers are good for hot and cold drinks, plus they’re made of 18/8 food grade steel that’s dishwasher safe and they come with metal straws and a splash-proof lid. And regardless of which size you get (20-, 30- or 40-ounce), they’ll all fit into standard sized cup holders. A 20-ounce model has been my morning companion almost every day for the past year or so and it still looks fresh. We also recommend Yeti’s Ramblers if you’re willing to drop a bit more on your grad’s new favorite mug.

Buy Greens Steel tumbler at amazon - $29

Bodum Chambord French Press

A Bodum Chambord french press on a table with milk and two coffee cups.
Bodum

If your grad is a coffee (or tea) lover, elevating their brewing game can make a big difference in their daily lives. Bodum’s Chambord French Press is a simple, affordable vessel that will be a step up from your standard drip coffee machine or aging teapot (while it’s marketed as a coffee maker, it could be used as a tea press instead). The container is made of borosilicate glass and you can get the frame in either plastic or stainless steel. Instead of paper filters a french press uses a plunger and mesh filter that pushes coffee grinds and tea leaves down, infusing flavor into the water above. That should save you money over time and creates less waste.

Buy Chambord French Press at Amazon - $38

Tribit XSound Go

A Tribit XSound Go speaker sitting on a white table with a person using a smartphone in the background.
Tribit

There are plenty of Bluetooth speakers out there, but Tribit’s XSound Go stands out for its simplicity. Measuring 6.7 x 2.2 x 2.3 inches, it’s nearly pocketable and can stay on your desk all day long while you work and then transition to a backyard party with ease. It’s IPX7 waterproof so it’ll withstand a dunk in the pool, and its 24-hour playtime lets you use it all day long without interruptions. It has good sound quality with deep, but not overpowering, bass and it includes a built-in mic with which you can take calls. Just pair it with your smartphone or tablet, choose your tunes and let the speaker do the rest of the work.

Buy Tribit XSound Go at Amazon - $48

Repel Windproof Double Vented travel umbrella

A woman in the rain huddled under a Repel travel umbrella.
Revel

Hear us out — a good umbrella is an unexpected yet invaluable gift. Few things are worse than getting stuck in a downpour on your way to work, especially if you use public transit to get there. Repel’s windproof travel umbrella is just the right size — not too big or too small at 11.5 inches in length — and its nine reinforced fiberglass ribs prevent it from being blown inside-out easily. We also like its single-button design, allowing you to open or close it with one hand. Repel’s umbrella is one of those practical gifts that your grad will be glad to have at the most crucial times, and they’ll save money in the long run by not needing to buy a new, cheap umbrella every time the skies open up.

Buy Repel umbrella at Amazon - $32

  

How to sell your used and unwanted gadgets

It’s new-phone season again, between all the announcements at Mobile World Congress last month and the inevitable release of new iPhones and Pixels looming in the fall. Which means you'll be faced with a hard choice: upgrade or stick it out another year with your current device. The annual cycle of new flagship handset releases can be a little tough on your wallet, though, which is why you might want to offset the cost by putting your old device up for sale. But which trade-in service will yield you the biggest bang for your buck? And how much of a pain will it be? We've rounded up some of the leading contenders for offloading your old electronics. 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 a minute 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 HTC, but the site also takes lots of physical media, including CDs, DVDs, 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 reaches back pretty far like with sales of the iPhone 6, though it'll offer you only $5 for an 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 ($305 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 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 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 stores and malls 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 device also nets you a 20 percent discount in addition to the store credit.

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 device 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, and you can get your payout in the form of a gift card instead if you’d rather wait before making a new purchase, 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, Sonos 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 receive the assessment and payment via check, PayPal 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 can just 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 every gadget 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. The site’s biggest gimmick is that you can also send in photos of your pets; you won’t get any additional money but your fur baby (or scaled or feathered friend) may be featured on social media.

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 quick 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 $21 in store credit or $17 cash, which isn't bad when new copies are going for $50 on Amazon. GameStop also accepts phones and connected home devices, though the prices aren't going to match what you'd get from an online trade-in site.

Consumer to consumer

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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 $729, for example. That's a huge improvement over what you'd get selling through a site like Decluttr, which is offering only $506 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 50 listings are free every month, and you'll pay 10 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 Xbox One X, because it might be time to sell yours off and finally upgrade to an Xbox Series X.

All phone prices are for the lowest storage capacity, either 64GB or 128GB. The prices are for the unlocked models when available, or the carrier where it's being traded. These are only estimates, and were valid the day this post was written. Prices will fluctuate daily or, in the case of sites like Amazon and eBay, hourly.

Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max

Samsung Galaxy S20+ 5G

Google Pixel 5

Xbox One X (1TB)

Decluttr

$446

$292

$287

$190

uSell

$480

N/A

N/A

$120

ecoATM

$265

$140

$90

N/A

Sprint

$330

$225

$205

N/A

Verizon

$338

$288

$195

N/A

T-Mobile

$360

$225

$190

N/A

AT&T

$330

$290

$200

N/A

Best Buy

$380

$275

$250

$200

GameStop

$369 cash / $461 credit

$252 cash / $315 credit

N/A

$188 cash / $237 credit

Swappa

$594

$540

$280

$245

Amazon

$536

$537

$309

$430

eBay

$445

$525

$300

$150

BuyBackWorld

$450

$300

$175

$125

It'sWorthMore

$463

$303

$203

$180

GadgetGone

$465

$335

$290

$160

If you were looking to sell some games, we've also got a shorter list, because not every site accepts game 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.

Battlefield 2042 (Xbox Series X/S)

Horizon Forbidden West (PS5)

Pokémon Legends Arceus (Switch)

Decluttr

$7.62

$28

$28

GameStop

$1.76 cash / $2 credit

N/A

$26 cash / $33 credit

Amazon

$50

$68

$51

eBay

$10

$46

$53

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 of your device. 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 a carrier-free device. And finally, make sure you've backed up any important data you may have, like contact info, game save data 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)