Pixel 6 Launch: Google gives us a deep-dive into the new Pixel’s refreshed product design





It’s rare for Silicon Valley companies to actually explain their design choices and decisions to their customers. Google flouted convention by beginning their Pixel Fall Launch keynote with a pretty comprehensive look at how they designed their latest flagship phone, from its hardware right down to its software.

Just yesterday Apple had us baffled with their MacBooks bringing back ports, connectors, and keyboard elements that Apple took away 5 years ago. Apple’s design process has always been a complete mystery, so it was really odd to see them finally walking back on their past design decisions and bringing MagSafe, HDMI, the SD Card slot, and the Function keys back to their MacBooks. While the Cupertino giant has a reputation of being shrouded by secrecy, Google on the other hand is perceived as much more open, forthcoming, and vocal… After all, they deliberately leaked their own Pixel 6 design MONTHS before it actually launched.

Just 10 minutes into the Pixel 6 reveal, head of hardware Rick Osterloh hands the stage to designer Isabelle Olson to talk about the Pixel 6’s design. Isabelle mentions the Pixel 6’s redesign on the back involves highlighting its breakout feature – its camera. With a bar running across the screen almost like a highlighter running across important text, the Pixel 6’s camera is the first thing you look at.

“So the Industrial Design team designed the phone to celebrate the camera”, Isabel mentions. “The camera bar brings a clean, symmetrical design that puts the camera front and center.” The bar, as strange as it looked back when the images were first leaked, is now an icon of the Pixel’s not-so-subtle evolution, and provides the perfect separating element for the phone’s dual-color back. The Pixel phones originally pioneered this with their split-tone design that had two different colors on the top and bottom of the phone’s rear surface. With the Pixel 6, that split-tone design gets a hearty refresh, with a black belt adding its fair share of contrast in the middle. The phones instantly look refreshing, and are immediately recognizable (a feature that really helps in a market where all smartphones are beginning to look alike).

The Pixel 6 comes in two variants, a 6 and a 6 Pro, which are different sized, and have slightly different designs, but are unified by the same visual language, UI, and the Tensor chip inside the phone. The 6 sports a black metal armature, with 3 color variants with their signature quirky names – Sorta Seafoam, Kinda Coral, and Stormy Black. The 6 Pro, on the other hand, has a more chrome armature (the team used jewelry references to highlight the differences between the Pro and regular models), and comes in Cloudy White, Sorta Sunny, and Stormy Black.

A concern I had earlier with the Pixel 6’s odd camera bump (it’s now referred to a camera bar) was how it made case-design impossible, or rather, difficult to elegantly execute. To subvert these worries, Google even released its own set of cases with a slightly tinted frosted design, matching colors with the phone you have underneath. When paired correctly, the case would actually complement the phone and highlight its color palette rather than being an obstructive piece of plastic that’s only purpose was to protect the phone. The cases, Isabelle claims, are also designed out of recycled plastic (the phone’s chassis is made from recycled aluminum too), helping further Google’s mission to build devices that have a minimal negative impact on the environment. From what it looks like, though, the cases don’t do much to protect the Pixel’s camera bar from direct impact, although that’s the kind of thing you find out months after customers actually buy and use the phones.

Moving onto software, Google has big plans for the Pixel thanks to how powerful its Tensor SoC is designed to be. The new chip unlocks a new era of Material Design that Google calls Material You. Instead of having you adjust to your phone’s settings, Material You has the phone adjust to YOU. For starters, the entire screen’s color palette changes to match your wallpaper, giving you an experience that’s unified. Widgets, icons, and elements complement your theme and they change when you change your wallpaper too. The phone also understands context exceptionally well, serving you up with the information you need right when you need it, from your fitness app’s stats while you’re jogging, to your boarding pass while you’re heading for a flight. As Rick Osterloh keeps reiterating, the Pixel 6 is a completely new take on smartphones, both inside as well as out.

Designer: Google

Watch the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro video below.





The best wireless earbuds you can buy right now

In the last two years, true wireless earbuds have made quite the leap. There’s no doubt the popularity of Apple’s AirPods helped make these headphones a mainstay, but companies’ ability to offer reliable connectivity, great sound and active noise cancellation (ANC) in an increasingly smaller form factor has hastened widespread adoption. You can also get features that used to be reserved for premium models on mid-range devices. Of course, the popularity means that new earbuds are popping up all the time and the list of options is longer than ever. To help, we’ve compiled the best wireless earbuds you can buy right now, including noteworthy features for each selection.

Best overall: Sony WF-1000XM4

Sony totally overhauled its true wireless earbuds with a new design, more powerful noise cancellation, improved battery life and more. However, the choice to change to foam tips leads to an awkward fit that could be an issue for some people. The M4 is also more expensive than its predecessor, which wouldn’t be a big deal if fit wasn’t a concern.
Billy Steele/Engadget

No one comes close to Sony’s true wireless earbuds with its overall mix of sound and features. That was true of the WF-1000XM3 in 2019 and the company distanced itself even further from the competition earlier this year with the WF-1000XM4. A smaller design offers a better fit, but Sony still packed in the features — from adaptive ANC and wireless charging to 360 and high-res audio support. The company’s app gives you the ability to let the M4s do a lot of the adjustments for you based on activity and location. What’s more, tools like speak-to-chat, although imperfect, are handy when you need to have a quick conversation.

I’m not a huge fan of the new foam ear tips, but based on other reviews, I’m in the minority there. Still, it’s easy enough to find alternatives, and those tips shouldn’t deter you from an otherwise excellent set of buds.

Buy WF-1000XM4 at Amazon - $278Buy WF-1000XM4 at Best Buy - $280


Runner up: Master & Dynamic MW08

With its latest true wireless earbuds, Master & Dynamic continues to refine its initial design. The company improved its natural, even-tuned trademark sound to create audio quality normally reserved for over-ear headphones. There are some minor gripes, but M&D covers nearly all of the bases for its latest flagship earbuds, which are undoubtedly the company’s best yet.
Billy Steele/Engadget

Master & Dynamic typically stands out from other audio brands due its attention to detail when it comes to design. When most companies are using spruced-up plastic, M&D chooses aluminum, ceramic and leather — even for its true wireless earbuds. The leather is reserved for its headphones, but Master & Dynamic still pairs premium elements with a stellar set of features on the MW08. 12-hour battery life, improved noise cancellation and excellent sound quality are the highlights, plus the company reduced the overall size of the earbuds for a better fit.

Buy MW08 at Amazon - $349Buy MW08 at Master and Dynamic - $349


Best budget: Anker Soundcore Spirit Dot 2

Anker Soundcore Spirit Dot 2
Engadget

Sure, there are cheaper options, but for $80, it’s hard to beat the Anker Soundcore Spirit Dot 2. These true wireless earbuds are smaller than a lot of the competition which makes them more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. Anker also delivers ample bass, which means they can handle hip-hop, electronic and other genres better than many budget buds. They’re also IPX7 rated, so they’ll easily double as your new workout partner.

Buy Soundcore Spirit Dot 2 at Amazon - $80


Best for iOS: AirPods Pro

AirPods Pro
Billy Steele / Engadget

There’s no denying that AirPods are extremely popular among iPhone owners. And there’s a good reason. The earbuds integrate seamlessly with iOS. Plus, the more recent models offer hands-free access to Siri, on top of core features like quick pairing. In addition to active noise cancellation, the AirPods Pro have one very important thing the “regular” AirPods don’t: comfort. And when you factor in the spatial audio improvements in iOS 14, the Pro model is well worth the extra investment at this point.

Buy AirPods Pro at Amazon - $250


Best for Android: Pixel Buds A-Series

Google Pixel Buds Series A
Engadget

In 2020, Google debuted redesigned true wireless Pixel Buds. They were a massive improvement over the original model, but they were also far from perfect. Instead of issuing a minor update in 2021, the company took nearly all of the best features and put them in the more affordable Pixel Buds A-Series. Hands-free access to Google Assistant, handy language translation and actionable notifications will help with tasks and productivity while improved sound quality makes the A-Series a better option for music than its predecessor.

Buy Pixel Buds A-Series at Best Buy - $100


Best overall sound quality: Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2

Sennheiser Momentum True Wireless 2
Engadget

Sennheiser made quite the leap from its first true wireless earbuds to version 2.0. The company figured out the touch controls, extended the battery life and added active noise cancellation. The Momentum True Wireless 2 is also the best sounding set of true wireless earbuds we’ve tested. As we noted during our review, Sennheiser consistently creates an audio profile that highlights minute details of songs, from the subtle attack of acoustic guitar strumming to the deep sub of synths and drum machines. The company’s trademark tone is warm, pleasant and inviting. The downside is these are pricey at around $300 and you can find better battery life (and wireless charging) elsewhere. In terms of pure audio quality though, this is the clear top pick.

Buy Momentum True Wireless 2 at Amazon - $300Buy Momentum True Wireless 2 at Best Buy - $300


Best overall noise cancellation: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds

Bose QuietComfort Earbuds
Engadget

It’s no surprise Bose built a set of true wireless earbuds with impressive active noise cancellation. The company has spent years perfecting its QuietComfort technology to block out the world around you. Most of the time, that’s easier said than done with true wireless, but Bose’s QuietComfort Earbuds stand above the rest in the ANC department. The company allows you to select one of 11 levels of noise cancellation in its app and you can assign three of those to the on-board controls for quick access. It doesn’t match the isolation of its over-ear headphones, but Bose is clearly ahead of the true wireless competition when it comes to blocking unwanted noise.

Buy QuietComfort Earbuds at Amazon - $279Buy QuietComfort Earbuds at Best Buy - $279


Best mid-range: Samsung Galaxy Buds 2

With the Galaxy Buds 2, Samsung adds active noise cancellation to its most affordable true wireless earbuds. This successor to the Galaxy Buds+ are smaller and more comfortable with premium features like wireless charging and adjustable ambient sound. However, ANC performance is only decent and there’s no deep iOS integration like previous models. Still, at this price, Samsung has created a compelling package despite the sacrifices.
Billy Steele/Engadget

Samsung’s recent Galaxy Buds have all been well-designed — perhaps with the exception of the Galaxy Buds Live — and offer a comfy fit due to their small size. The company merged its noise-cancelling Galaxy Buds Pro with the more affordable Galaxy Buds+ to create the Galaxy Buds 2. At $150, this true wireless model remains tiny and comfortable with improved audio quality, adjustable ambient sound and wireless charging. That combination of features makes the Galaxy Buds 2 a solid option for the Android faithful that won’t break the bank.

Buy Galaxy Buds 2 at Amazon - $150Buy Galaxy Buds 2 at Best Buy - $150


Honorable mention: Beats Studio Buds

Beats Studio Buds review
Billy Steele/Engadget

Beats is no stranger to true wireless earbuds, but until recently, the only option was its over-the-ear hook design that isn’t for everyone. With the Studio Buds, the company offers a more “traditional” true wireless fit and surprisingly balanced sound. Plus, the small size keeps things comfortable, even during extended listening sessions. iOS users get hands-free access to Siri and the company offers Android users a similar quick-pairing experience iPhone owners have enjoyed on previous Beats headphones.

Buy Studio Buds at Amazon - $150


Honorable mention: Jabra Elite 75t

Jabra Elite 75t wireless earbuds
Billy Steele / Engadget

Jabra’s true wireless earbuds are always a solid option, offering a lot of features for less than the typical premium flagship prices. The company made an impression with its Elite 65t earbuds in 2018 and followed up in late 2019 with the new-and-improved Elite 75t. Jabra redesigned nearly everything, offering smaller buds with a better fit, in addition to improved sound quality, longer battery life and optional wireless charging. The company also added ANC via a firmware update in 2020, so these don’t seem outdated by any means.

Buy Jabra Elite 75t at Amazon - $150Buy Jabra Elite 75t at Best Buy - $150

Google-inspired Designs that we wish the tech giant would make already in 2021!

The term Google is pretty self-explanatory! There’s nothing that we can really say about the tech giant, that it hasn’t already said for itself via its products. Google is always surprising and delighting us with its groundbreaking products – from the Google Pixel phones to their Nest Smart Speakers. Google’s cutting-edge technology and innovative design philosophies have been a major source of inspiration for designers and creators all over the world. And, we’ve curated some of the best Google-inspired designs that we have come across! From a Google Pixel smartwatch concept to a Google Glass-inspired bicycle accessory – this collection of designs will have you wishing that Google transforms them into a reality soon! And all this while seamless merging your home interior scheme.

This Google Chromecast design is designed to be a media hub. Designed with the stylings of the Apple TV box, Heyninck’s Chromecast 3 box looks pretty nifty, and in many ways follows Google’s product and CMF language. The box connects to a television via a single USB-C connection that has the ability to pull power as well as push media (I assume the cable branches into USB and HDMI ports at its other end.) Being a more budget-friendly option to the Apple TV, this Chromecast design brings to the forefront the ability for your remote to also function as a gaming controller. WHile Apple’s remote does it already, its about time Google brings this to its Chromecast and allow us to put that big screen TV through some quick gaming in a jiffy!


It preserves your aerodynamics while giving you an easy-access rear-view mirror… and it fits right on your spectacles/sunglasses like a rather futuristic, life-saving accessory. Designed to allow you to look behind you without physically glancing over your shoulder as you ride a cycle or motorbike, the CORKY X has an aesthetic that looks rather familiar if you’re a tech enthusiast. Modeled roughly on the form factor of the Google Glass, CORKY X gives you a different kind of HUD. Fitted with a small mirror, the eyewear accessory lets you instantly look behind you simply by glancing out of the corner of your eye.

The Pixel smartphone went onto redefine what a pure Android experience could look like, becoming the gold standard in the Android OS experience. James Tsai’s Google Pixel Smartwatch concept does the same for the Android Wear OS. Embodying Google’s playful-serious aesthetic, the Pixel Smartwatch concept comes in a traditional round format, and in a variety of quirkily named colors. The Android Wear OS logo displays clearly on the always-on display of the watch, transforming into a colorful set of watch hands every time you look at it to read the time. The watch comes with Google’s top-notch voice AI, all of Google’s native apps, and a heart-rate monitor on the back, which ties in well with Google’s plan of acquiring Fitbit and their entire fitness-tech ecosystem.

Designer Devin Sidell’s re-envisioned the Stadia controller as an NES-style bar-shaped controller that’s easy to slide into pockets and backpacks. Its slim profile feels almost like a remote and comes with all the functionality you need. Devin hasn’t taken away from the Stadia controller’s abilities, but rather just streamlined the form to make it more portable. In your hand, the Stadia Bar Controller concept feels a lot like a single Joy-Con from a Nintendo Switch (albeit slightly thicker).

Prosser is back for yet another prediction/leak which he feels is right on point. It’s the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, which Google is slated to release this year… with Google’s first homemade silicone chip on the inside to rival Apple’s M1, and more noticeably, a whopper of a camera bump. I wouldn’t really call this a bump because it’s so wide and protruding, it’s practically a shelf. Like I could literally place a SIM card on top of it and it wouldn’t fall off. Objectively speaking, the band protrudes at least 2-3 millimeters from the phone’s back, making it look almost like a belt or a shelf emerging from the phone. Subjectively, it kind of makes the phone look like a criminal – serves them right for stealing the ‘Pro’ nomenclature from Apple!

The Google Us is a conceptual smart assistant designed to aid teleconferencing. Made to look like a part of Google’s existing smart hardware family, the Google Us is black, and shaped like a Home Mini, with a touchscreen. It runs a stripped-down version of Android and uses Google Hangouts to enable meetings and collaborative conversations by pairing with other smartphones and Us speakers running on the Hangouts platform. You can simply make group calls and conduct structured, timely meetings through the touchscreen interface on the device, much like a smartphone, but with a better focus on maintaining daily schedules and delivering crisp audio to both parties, thanks to Google’s efforts in audio engineering and far-field microphone technology.

Waqar Khan’s renders give us a clue of what a folding Pixel would look/feel like. Schematically, it’s no different from Samsung’s first folding phone; although with significant developments made in the world of flexible OLED displays, maybe the ‘Pixel Fold’ could avoid the pitfalls of the Galaxy Fold that came 2 years before it. The renders show a clean matte body (like last year’s Pixel device) along with the presence of a fingerprint reader on the back. That particular detail could be a creative call on Khan’s part, given that in-screen fingerprint readers seem to be quite the norm with Android phones over the past year.

The Spot fulfills the role of a toy, encyclopedia, and bedtime storybook, all in a single handheld device. The camera allows children to capture objects, living things, and phenomena around them, while inbuilt A.I. helps children understand what they are by using optics, object recognition, and machine learning. The in-built AI weaves explanations into storylike narratives, pushing the child to be empathetic, curious, and at the same time, get answers to every question they have, while machine learning helps pick up on the child’s interests and learning pace, adapting to the needs of each child. It’s like a Google Lens for children!

Google's Stadia Controller gets a radical redesign!

Google's Stadia Controller gets a radical redesign!
Designed for an absolutely robust grip, the Playdream has all the necessary controls, from the buttons to a redesigned D-Pad, to the triggers, Google button, and even two extra buttons on the inside of the grip. The ingenuity of the Playdream controller is in the way it ditches the status-quo (and its clever play on the word Daydream too!). Putting aside the standard organic styling popularized by Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and the likes, Playdream sets its own benchmark. The design is radical, but inviting and playful too… just like the Google brand!

Google did create the first wearable with the Google Glass, but honestly, with its $1500 price tag, it sounded like a failure at the get-go. Google also has a tendency to fumble with hardware. Their Project Ara met a sad end last year too. However, Intel picked up on the Glass project where Google left off, with its Recon Jet smart eyewear. Much like the Glass, but with much more style and a lot of refinement, the Recon Jet has the aesthetic of a modern Bluetooth earpiece but sits in front of your eye. It isn’t really an AR or VR device, but it puts a small screen in front of your eye, feeding you information from a small corner… so that you can still see everything around you. I’d like to call this Partial VR.

The Atmoph Window 2 isn’t really a window, but it behaves a lot like one. This smart high-definition display is capable of quite a few things, including playing from a library of 1000 videos of sceneries that you’ll love. The Atmoph Window 2 is the perfect example of a product that’s absolutely unique, even though it uses technology and hardware we’re so familiar with. The scene-shifting smart-window also displays the time, weather, as well as your calendar tasks, keeping you in touch with reality as you stare for hours into the Finnish Laplands, and even comes with Google Home compatibility, allowing you to execute simple voice tasks like “Hey Google, show me Hawaii and play some Hawaiian music”.

The best Chromebooks you can buy

Chromebooks have earned a reputation for being cheap and limited, but that hasn’t been true for a while now. The combination of years worth of software updates and laptop manufacturers making more powerful and better-built Chromebooks means there are a ton of good Chrome OS machines that work well as everyday drivers. Of course, there are an unnecessary number of Chromebooks on the market, so choosing the right one is easier said than done. Fortunately, I’ve tried enough of them at this point to know what to look for and what to avoid.

What is Chrome OS, and why would I use it over Windows?

That’s probably the number one question about Chromebooks. There are plenty of inexpensive Windows laptops on the market, so why bother with Chrome OS? Glad you asked. For me, the simple and clean nature of Chrome OS is a big selling point. If you didn’t know, it’s based on Google’s Chrome browser, which means most of the programs you can run are web based. There’s no bloatware or unwanted apps to uninstall like you often get on Windows laptops, it boots up in seconds, and you can completely reset to factory settings almost as quickly.

Of course, the simplicity is also a major drawback for some users. Not being able to install native software can be a dealbreaker if you’re, say, a video editor or software developer. But there are also plenty of people who do the vast majority of their work in a browser. Unless I need to edit photos for a review, I can do my entire job on a Chromebook.

Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Google has also added support for Android apps on Chromebooks, which greatly expands the amount of software available. The quality varies widely, but it means you can do more with a Chromebook beyond just web-based apps. For example, you can install the Netflix app and save videos for offline watching; other Android apps like Microsoft’s Office suite and Adobe Lightroom are surprisingly capable. Between Android apps and a general improvement in web apps, Chromebooks are more than just a browser.

What do Chromebooks do well, and when should you avoid them?

Put simply, anything web based. Browsing, streaming music and video and using various social media sites are among the most common things people do on Chromebooks. As you might expect, they also work well with Google services like Photos, Docs, Gmail, Drive, Keep and so on. Yes, any computer that can run Chrome can do that too, but the lightweight nature of Chrome OS makes it a responsive and stable platform.

As I mentioned before, Chrome OS can run Android apps, so if you’re an Android user you’ll find some nice ties between the platforms. You can get most of the same apps that are on your phone on a Chromebook and keep info in sync between them. You can also use some Android phones as a security key for your Chromebook or instantly tether your laptop to use mobile data.

Google Pixelbook
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Google continues to tout security as a major differentiator for Chromebooks, and I think it’s definitely a factor worth considering. The first line of defense is auto-updates. Chrome OS updates download quickly in the background and a fast reboot is all it takes to install the latest version. Google says that each webpage and app on a Chromebook runs in its own sandbox, as well, so any security threats are contained to that individual app. Finally, Chrome OS has a self-check called Verified Boot that runs every time a device starts up. Beyond all this, the simple fact that you generally can’t install traditional apps on a Chromebook means there are a lot fewer ways for bad actors to access the system.

As for when to avoid them, the answer is simple: If you rely heavily on a specific native application for Windows or a Mac, chances are good you won’t find the exact same option on a Chromebook. That’s most true in fields like photo and video editing, but it can also be the case in fields like law or finance. Plenty of businesses run on Google’s G suite software, but more still have specific requirements that a Chromebook might not match. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll also miss out on the way the iPhone easily integrates with an iPad or Mac, as well. For me, the big downside is not being able to access iMessage on a Chromebook.

Finally, gaming is almost entirely a non-starter, as there are no native Chrome OS games of note. You can install Android games from the Google Play Store, but that’s not what most people are thinking of when they want to game on a laptop. That said, Google’s game-streaming service Stadia has changed that long-standing problem. The service isn’t perfect, but it remains the only way to play recent, high-profile games on a Chromebook. It’s not as good as running local games on a Windows computer, but the lag issues that can crop up reflect mostly on Stadia itself and not Chrome OS.

Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook


What are the most important specs for a Chromebook?

Chrome OS is lightweight and usually runs well on fairly modest hardware, so the most important thing to look for might not be processor power or storage space. That said, I’d still recommend you get a Chromebook with a relatively recent Intel processor, ideally an eighth-generation or newer M3 or i3. Most non-Intel Chromebooks I’ve tried haven’t had terribly good performance, though Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 runs surprisingly well on its MediaTek processor.

As for RAM, 4GB is enough for most people, though 8GB is a better target if you have the cash, want to future-proof your investment or if you’re a serious tab junkie. Storage space is another place where you don’t need to spend too much; 64GB should be fine for almost anyone. If you plan on storing a lot of local files or loading up your Chromebook with Linux or Android apps, get 128GB. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never felt like I might run out of local storage when using Chrome OS.

Things like the keyboard and display quality are arguably more important than sheer specs. The good news is that you can find less expensive Chromebooks that still have pretty good screens and keyboards that you won’t mind typing on all day. Many cheap Chromebooks still come with tiny, low-resolution displays, but at this point there’s no reason to settle for anything less than 1080p. (If you’re looking for an extremely portable, 11-inch Chromebook, though, you’ll probably have to settle for less.) Obviously, keyboard quality is a bit more subjective, but you shouldn’t settle for a mushy piece of garbage.

Google has an Auto Update policy for Chromebooks, and while that’s not a spec, per se, it’s worth checking before you buy. Basically, Chromebooks get regular software updates automatically for about six years from their release date (though that can vary from device to device). This support page lists the Auto Update expiration date for virtually every Chromebook ever, but a good rule of thumb is to buy the newest machine you can to maximize your support.

How much should I spend?

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Chromebooks started out notoriously cheap, with list prices often coming in under $300. But as they’ve gone more mainstream, they’ve transitioned from being essentially modern netbooks to the kind of laptop you’ll want to use all day. As such, prices have increased a bit over the last few years. At this point, you should expect to spend at least $400 if you want a solid daily driver. There are still many budget options out there that may be suitable as couch machines or secondary devices, but if you want a Chromebook that can be your all-day-every-day laptop, $400 is the least you can expect to spend.

There are also plenty of premium Chromebooks that approach or even exceed $1,000, but I don’t recommend spending that much. Generally, that’ll get you better design quality with more premium materials, as well as more powerful internals and extra storage space. Of course, you also sometimes pay for the brand name. But, the specs I outlined earlier are usually enough.

Right now, there actually aren’t too many Chromebooks that even cost that much. Google’s Pixelbook Go comes in $999 and $1,399 configurations, but the more affordable $650 and $850 options will be just as good for nearly everyone. Samsung released the $1,000 Galaxy Chromebook in 2020; this luxury device does almost everything right but has terrible battery life. Samsung quickly learned from that mistake and is now offering the Galaxy Chromebook 2 with more modest specs, but vastly better battery life at a much more affordable price (more on that laptop later). For the most part, you don’t need to spend more than $850 to get a premium Chromebook that’ll last you years.

Engadget picks

Best overall: Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook

Google Pixelbook Go
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Look beyond the awkward name and you’ll find a Chromebook that does just about everything right that’s also a tremendous value. It gets all the basics right: The 13-inch 1080p touchscreen is bright, though it’s a little hard to see because of reflections in direct sunlight. It runs on a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, the eight-hour battery life is solid, and the backlit keyboard is one of the best I’ve used on any laptop lately, Chromebook or otherwise. The Flex 5 is now a little over a year old, but it still holds up well and is even cheaper than it was when it first launched. It can now regularly be found for well under $400 on Amazon. (As of this writing, it’s priced at $329.) That’s an outstanding value for a Chromebook this capable.

Naturally, Lenovo cut a few corners to hit that price. Most significantly, it only has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone buy a computer with those specs — but Chrome OS is far less dependent on local storage. Unless you were planning to store a ton of movies or install a huge variety of Android apps, 64GB is enough for moderately advanced use. I was concerned about the non-upgradeable 4GB of RAM, but my testing showed that the IdeaPad Flex 5 can run plenty of tabs and other apps without many hiccups. If you push things hard, you’ll occasionally have to wait for tabs to refresh if you haven’t viewed them recently, but other than that this is a solid performer, particularly for the price.

Other things in the IdeaPad Flex 5’s favor include that it has both USB-C and USB-A ports and a 360-degree convertible hinge. I personally don’t find myself flipping laptops around to tablet or stand mode very often, but it’s there if you like working in those formats. At three pounds and 0.66 inches thick, it’s not the lightest or slimmest option out there, but those specs are also totally reasonable considering the price.

Ultimately, the Ideapad Flex 5 hits the sweet spot for a large majority of potential Chromebook buyers out there, providing a level of quality and performance that’s pretty rare to find at this price point. That said, given this laptop has been out for over a year now, we’re keeping an eye out for any potential replacements Lenovo offers, as well as comparable options other manufacturers release.

Buy Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook on Amazon - $430

Upgrade picks: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 laptop with its lid open sitting on a wooden table.
Engadget

Premium Chromebooks with more power, better design and higher prices have become common in recent years. If you want to step up over the excellent but basic Lenovo Flex 5, there are two recent options worth considering: Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 and Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713.

The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is infinitely more stylish than most other Chromebooks, with a bright metallic red finish and a design that looks far better than the utilitarian Flex 5 and Chromebook Spin 713. As I mentioned earlier, Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 fixes some of the serious flaws we identified in the original. Specifically, the 2020 Galaxy Chromebook had terrible battery life and cost $999; this year’s model starts at $549 and can actually last seven hours off the charger. That’s not great, but it’s far better than the lousy four hours the original offered.

Samsung cut a few corners to lower the Galaxy Chromebook 2’s price. Most noticeable is the 1080p 13.3-inch touchscreen, down from the 4K panel on the older model. The good news is that the display is among the best 1080p laptop screens I’ve seen in a long time, and the lower resolution helps the battery life, too. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is also a bit thicker and heavier than its predecessor, but it’s still reasonably compact.

Finally, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 has a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor rather than the Core i5 Samsung included last year. All these changes add up to a laptop that isn’t as ambitious, but is ultimately much easier to recommend. Instead of pushing to have the best screen in the thinnest and lightest body with a faster processor, Samsung pulled everything back a bit to make a better-priced but still premium laptop.

Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713, by comparison, doesn’t look like much from the outside — it’s a chunky gray slab with little to distinguish it from many other basic laptops. While it doesn’t seem exciting, the Spin 713 is just as well-made as the Galaxy Chromebook 2, with a sturdy hinge and body. But what’s most interesting is the display, a 13.5-inch touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. That makes it a much better option than 1080p displays when you’re scrolling vertically through documents and webpages. It has a somewhat unusual resolution of 2,256 x 1,504, thanks to the taller aspect ratio, but it makes for a more pixel-dense display than you’ll find on your standard 13.3-inch, 1080p laptop. Long story short: The screen is great.

As for the rest of the hardware, the 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor is more than enough power for most tasks, and the keyboard and trackpad are solid, if not the best I’ve used before. The same can be said for battery life: I got about the same six to seven hours using the Spin 713 as I did using the Galaxy Chromebook 2. I wish it were better in both cases, but it’s in line with other premium Chromebooks I’ve used lately.

The Spin 713 configuration that I tested costs $699, the same as the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Because I’m such a fan of the 3:2 display, I prefer the Spin 713 (which also has a more powerful processor), but the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is worth a look if you want a laptop that has a little more style and a better keyboard.

Last year, Google’s Pixelbook Go was our pick for the best premium model. It’s still an excellent choice and one of my favorite Chromebooks to use, but it’s almost two years old. Its age coupled with its aging 8th-generation Intel processor make it tougher to recommend. That said, it’s still one of the thinnest and lightest Chromebooks around, and it still handles everything I can throw at it. It also has the best keyboard I’ve used on any recent Chromebook. There’s still a lot to like, but it’s harder to justify spending $650 or more on it. Hopefully Google will release an updated version this fall.

Buy Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 starting at $549Buy Acer Chromebook Spin 713 at Best Buy - $629

A good option for kids: Acer Chromebook 512

Acer Chromebook 512
Acer

While Lenovo’s Flex 5 is inexpensive enough that you could get one for your kid, Acer’s Chromebook 512 might be a better option for young ones in your life. First off, it’s specifically built to take abuse. In addition to the military-rated (MIL-STD 810G) impact-resistant body, you can spill up to 330mL of liquid on the keyboard. A drainage system will flush it out and keep the insides working. (Note that I haven’t actually tried that.) The keyboard features “mechanically anchored” keys that should be harder for kids to pick off, too. Regardless of exactly how much water you can pour onto that keyboard, the Chromebook 512 should handle a child’s abuse better than your average laptop.

This computer isn’t a speed demon, but the Intel Celeron N4000 chip coupled with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage should be fine for basic tasks. The 12-inch screen isn’t a standout either, but it has the same taller 3:2 aspect ratio as Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713. That means you’ll get more vertical screen real estate than you would on the 16:9, 11-inch panels typically found in laptops of this class. (The Chromebook 512’s screen resolution is 1,366 x 912, whereas most 11-inch Chromebooks use a 1,366 x 768 panel.)

All in all, it’s a fairly modest computer, but grade-school kids, a computer that can take some abuse and runs an easy-to-use OS that’s well supported in education should fit the bill well. The Chromebook 512 is priced at $249.99 direct from Acer, but it's going for $219.99 as of this writing at other retailers.

Buy Acer Chromebook 512 at Best Buy - $220

The best Chromebooks you can buy

Chromebooks have earned a reputation for being cheap and limited, but that hasn’t been true for a while now. The combination of years worth of software updates and laptop manufacturers making more powerful and better-built Chromebooks means there are a ton of good Chrome OS machines that work well as everyday drivers. Of course, there are an unnecessary number of Chromebooks on the market, so choosing the right one is easier said than done. Fortunately, I’ve tried enough of them at this point to know what to look for and what to avoid.

What is Chrome OS, and why would I use it over Windows?

That’s probably the number one question about Chromebooks. There are plenty of inexpensive Windows laptops on the market, so why bother with Chrome OS? Glad you asked. For me, the simple and clean nature of Chrome OS is a big selling point. If you didn’t know, it’s based on Google’s Chrome browser, which means most of the programs you can run are web based. There’s no bloatware or unwanted apps to uninstall like you often get on Windows laptops, it boots up in seconds, and you can completely reset to factory settings almost as quickly.

Of course, the simplicity is also a major drawback for some users. Not being able to install native software can be a dealbreaker if you’re, say, a video editor or software developer. But there are also plenty of people who do the vast majority of their work in a browser. Unless I need to edit photos for a review, I can do my entire job on a Chromebook.

Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Google has also added support for Android apps on Chromebooks, which greatly expands the amount of software available. The quality varies widely, but it means you can do more with a Chromebook beyond just web-based apps. For example, you can install the Netflix app and save videos for offline watching; other Android apps like Microsoft’s Office suite and Adobe Lightroom are surprisingly capable. Between Android apps and a general improvement in web apps, Chromebooks are more than just a browser.

What do Chromebooks do well, and when should you avoid them?

Put simply, anything web based. Browsing, streaming music and video and using various social media sites are among the most common things people do on Chromebooks. As you might expect, they also work well with Google services like Photos, Docs, Gmail, Drive, Keep and so on. Yes, any computer that can run Chrome can do that too, but the lightweight nature of Chrome OS makes it a responsive and stable platform.

As I mentioned before, Chrome OS can run Android apps, so if you’re an Android user you’ll find some nice ties between the platforms. You can get most of the same apps that are on your phone on a Chromebook and keep info in sync between them. You can also use some Android phones as a security key for your Chromebook or instantly tether your laptop to use mobile data.

Google Pixelbook
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Google continues to tout security as a major differentiator for Chromebooks, and I think it’s definitely a factor worth considering. The first line of defense is auto-updates. Chrome OS updates download quickly in the background and a fast reboot is all it takes to install the latest version. Google says that each webpage and app on a Chromebook runs in its own sandbox, as well, so any security threats are contained to that individual app. Finally, Chrome OS has a self-check called Verified Boot that runs every time a device starts up. Beyond all this, the simple fact that you generally can’t install traditional apps on a Chromebook means there are a lot fewer ways for bad actors to access the system.

As for when to avoid them, the answer is simple: If you rely heavily on a specific native application for Windows or a Mac, chances are good you won’t find the exact same option on a Chromebook. That’s most true in fields like photo and video editing, but it can also be the case in fields like law or finance. Plenty of businesses run on Google’s G suite software, but more still have specific requirements that a Chromebook might not match. If you’re an iPhone user, you’ll also miss out on the way the iPhone easily integrates with an iPad or Mac, as well. For me, the big downside is not being able to access iMessage on a Chromebook.

Finally, gaming is almost entirely a non-starter, as there are no native Chrome OS games of note. You can install Android games from the Google Play Store, but that’s not what most people are thinking of when they want to game on a laptop. That said, Google’s game-streaming service Stadia has changed that long-standing problem. The service isn’t perfect, but it remains the only way to play recent, high-profile games on a Chromebook. It’s not as good as running local games on a Windows computer, but the lag issues that can crop up reflect mostly on Stadia itself and not Chrome OS.

Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook


What are the most important specs for a Chromebook?

Chrome OS is lightweight and usually runs well on fairly modest hardware, so the most important thing to look for might not be processor power or storage space. That said, I’d still recommend you get a Chromebook with a relatively recent Intel processor, ideally an eighth-generation or newer M3 or i3. Most non-Intel Chromebooks I’ve tried haven’t had terribly good performance, though Lenovo’s Chromebook Duet 2-in-1 runs surprisingly well on its MediaTek processor.

As for RAM, 4GB is enough for most people, though 8GB is a better target if you have the cash, want to future-proof your investment or if you’re a serious tab junkie. Storage space is another place where you don’t need to spend too much; 64GB should be fine for almost anyone. If you plan on storing a lot of local files or loading up your Chromebook with Linux or Android apps, get 128GB. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never felt like I might run out of local storage when using Chrome OS.

Things like the keyboard and display quality are arguably more important than sheer specs. The good news is that you can find less expensive Chromebooks that still have pretty good screens and keyboards that you won’t mind typing on all day. Many cheap Chromebooks still come with tiny, low-resolution displays, but at this point there’s no reason to settle for anything less than 1080p. (If you’re looking for an extremely portable, 11-inch Chromebook, though, you’ll probably have to settle for less.) Obviously, keyboard quality is a bit more subjective, but you shouldn’t settle for a mushy piece of garbage.

Google has an Auto Update policy for Chromebooks, and while that’s not a spec, per se, it’s worth checking before you buy. Basically, Chromebooks get regular software updates automatically for about six years from their release date (though that can vary from device to device). This support page lists the Auto Update expiration date for virtually every Chromebook ever, but a good rule of thumb is to buy the newest machine you can to maximize your support.

How much should I spend?

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Chromebooks started out notoriously cheap, with list prices often coming in under $300. But as they’ve gone more mainstream, they’ve transitioned from being essentially modern netbooks to the kind of laptop you’ll want to use all day. As such, prices have increased a bit over the last few years. At this point, you should expect to spend at least $400 if you want a solid daily driver. There are still many budget options out there that may be suitable as couch machines or secondary devices, but if you want a Chromebook that can be your all-day-every-day laptop, $400 is the least you can expect to spend.

There are also plenty of premium Chromebooks that approach or even exceed $1,000, but I don’t recommend spending that much. Generally, that’ll get you better design quality with more premium materials, as well as more powerful internals and extra storage space. Of course, you also sometimes pay for the brand name. But, the specs I outlined earlier are usually enough.

Right now, there actually aren’t too many Chromebooks that even cost that much. Google’s Pixelbook Go comes in $999 and $1,399 configurations, but the more affordable $650 and $850 options will be just as good for nearly everyone. Samsung released the $1,000 Galaxy Chromebook in 2020; this luxury device does almost everything right but has terrible battery life. Samsung quickly learned from that mistake and is now offering the Galaxy Chromebook 2 with more modest specs, but vastly better battery life at a much more affordable price (more on that laptop later). For the most part, you don’t need to spend more than $850 to get a premium Chromebook that’ll last you years.

Engadget picks

Best overall: Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook

Google Pixelbook Go
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Look beyond the awkward name and you’ll find a Chromebook that does just about everything right that’s also a tremendous value. It gets all the basics right: The 13-inch 1080p touchscreen is bright, though it’s a little hard to see because of reflections in direct sunlight. It runs on a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor, the eight-hour battery life is solid, and the backlit keyboard is one of the best I’ve used on any laptop lately, Chromebook or otherwise. The Flex 5 is now a little over a year old, but it still holds up well and is even cheaper than it was when it first launched. It can now regularly be found for well under $400 on Amazon. (As of this writing, it’s priced at $329.) That’s an outstanding value for a Chromebook this capable.

Naturally, Lenovo cut a few corners to hit that price. Most significantly, it only has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone buy a computer with those specs — but Chrome OS is far less dependent on local storage. Unless you were planning to store a ton of movies or install a huge variety of Android apps, 64GB is enough for moderately advanced use. I was concerned about the non-upgradeable 4GB of RAM, but my testing showed that the IdeaPad Flex 5 can run plenty of tabs and other apps without many hiccups. If you push things hard, you’ll occasionally have to wait for tabs to refresh if you haven’t viewed them recently, but other than that this is a solid performer, particularly for the price.

Other things in the IdeaPad Flex 5’s favor include that it has both USB-C and USB-A ports and a 360-degree convertible hinge. I personally don’t find myself flipping laptops around to tablet or stand mode very often, but it’s there if you like working in those formats. At three pounds and 0.66 inches thick, it’s not the lightest or slimmest option out there, but those specs are also totally reasonable considering the price.

Ultimately, the Ideapad Flex 5 hits the sweet spot for a large majority of potential Chromebook buyers out there, providing a level of quality and performance that’s pretty rare to find at this price point. That said, given this laptop has been out for over a year now, we’re keeping an eye out for any potential replacements Lenovo offers, as well as comparable options other manufacturers release.

Buy Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook on Amazon - $430

Upgrade picks: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2, Acer Chromebook Spin 713

Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 laptop with its lid open sitting on a wooden table.
Engadget

Premium Chromebooks with more power, better design and higher prices have become common in recent years. If you want to step up over the excellent but basic Lenovo Flex 5, there are two recent options worth considering: Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 and Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713.

The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is infinitely more stylish than most other Chromebooks, with a bright metallic red finish and a design that looks far better than the utilitarian Flex 5 and Chromebook Spin 713. As I mentioned earlier, Samsung’s Galaxy Chromebook 2 fixes some of the serious flaws we identified in the original. Specifically, the 2020 Galaxy Chromebook had terrible battery life and cost $999; this year’s model starts at $549 and can actually last seven hours off the charger. That’s not great, but it’s far better than the lousy four hours the original offered.

Samsung cut a few corners to lower the Galaxy Chromebook 2’s price. Most noticeable is the 1080p 13.3-inch touchscreen, down from the 4K panel on the older model. The good news is that the display is among the best 1080p laptop screens I’ve seen in a long time, and the lower resolution helps the battery life, too. The Galaxy Chromebook 2 is also a bit thicker and heavier than its predecessor, but it’s still reasonably compact.

Finally, the Galaxy Chromebook 2 has a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor rather than the Core i5 Samsung included last year. All these changes add up to a laptop that isn’t as ambitious, but is ultimately much easier to recommend. Instead of pushing to have the best screen in the thinnest and lightest body with a faster processor, Samsung pulled everything back a bit to make a better-priced but still premium laptop.

Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713, by comparison, doesn’t look like much from the outside — it’s a chunky gray slab with little to distinguish it from many other basic laptops. While it doesn’t seem exciting, the Spin 713 is just as well-made as the Galaxy Chromebook 2, with a sturdy hinge and body. But what’s most interesting is the display, a 13.5-inch touchscreen with a 3:2 aspect ratio. That makes it a much better option than 1080p displays when you’re scrolling vertically through documents and webpages. It has a somewhat unusual resolution of 2,256 x 1,504, thanks to the taller aspect ratio, but it makes for a more pixel-dense display than you’ll find on your standard 13.3-inch, 1080p laptop. Long story short: The screen is great.

As for the rest of the hardware, the 11th-generation Intel Core i5 processor is more than enough power for most tasks, and the keyboard and trackpad are solid, if not the best I’ve used before. The same can be said for battery life: I got about the same six to seven hours using the Spin 713 as I did using the Galaxy Chromebook 2. I wish it were better in both cases, but it’s in line with other premium Chromebooks I’ve used lately.

The Spin 713 configuration that I tested costs $699, the same as the Galaxy Chromebook 2. Because I’m such a fan of the 3:2 display, I prefer the Spin 713 (which also has a more powerful processor), but the Galaxy Chromebook 2 is worth a look if you want a laptop that has a little more style and a better keyboard.

Last year, Google’s Pixelbook Go was our pick for the best premium model. It’s still an excellent choice and one of my favorite Chromebooks to use, but it’s almost two years old. Its age coupled with its aging 8th-generation Intel processor make it tougher to recommend. That said, it’s still one of the thinnest and lightest Chromebooks around, and it still handles everything I can throw at it. It also has the best keyboard I’ve used on any recent Chromebook. There’s still a lot to like, but it’s harder to justify spending $650 or more on it. Hopefully Google will release an updated version this fall.

Buy Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 starting at $549Buy Acer Chromebook Spin 713 at Best Buy - $629

A good option for kids: Acer Chromebook 512

Acer Chromebook 512
Acer

While Lenovo’s Flex 5 is inexpensive enough that you could get one for your kid, Acer’s Chromebook 512 might be a better option for young ones in your life. First off, it’s specifically built to take abuse. In addition to the military-rated (MIL-STD 810G) impact-resistant body, you can spill up to 330mL of liquid on the keyboard. A drainage system will flush it out and keep the insides working. (Note that I haven’t actually tried that.) The keyboard features “mechanically anchored” keys that should be harder for kids to pick off, too. Regardless of exactly how much water you can pour onto that keyboard, the Chromebook 512 should handle a child’s abuse better than your average laptop.

This computer isn’t a speed demon, but the Intel Celeron N4000 chip coupled with 4GB of RAM and 32GB of storage should be fine for basic tasks. The 12-inch screen isn’t a standout either, but it has the same taller 3:2 aspect ratio as Acer’s Chromebook Spin 713. That means you’ll get more vertical screen real estate than you would on the 16:9, 11-inch panels typically found in laptops of this class. (The Chromebook 512’s screen resolution is 1,366 x 912, whereas most 11-inch Chromebooks use a 1,366 x 768 panel.)

All in all, it’s a fairly modest computer, but grade-school kids, a computer that can take some abuse and runs an easy-to-use OS that’s well supported in education should fit the bill well. The Chromebook 512 is priced at $249.99 direct from Acer, but it's going for $219.99 as of this writing at other retailers.

Buy Acer Chromebook 512 at Best Buy - $220

How Michelangelo’s Statue of David helped inspire one of the most beautiful, home-friendly speaker designs ever

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

The fact that fabric is now considered an industrial design material can be directly attributed to Google. When the company first designed smart speakers for homes, it deliberately looked to interior decor for inspiration. In came soft forms, fabric clads, leather trims, and home-friendly color palettes. Google’s smart home products played a pivotal role in reinventing how home appliances are designed to fit into their domestic surroundings rather than look like gadgets, and it’s something the Torso Speaker embraces so incredibly well with its statuesque design that draws inspiration from marble sculptures from the Greco-Roman times. The speaker’s bust-shape is a rather literal interpretation of turning gadgets into home-friendly decor, but there’s something immensely poetic about how it draws a balance between the two! By drawing from the beauty and perfection of marble sculptures, the speaker echoes those very attributes too – elegance, beauty, perfection.

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

What the Torso does is quite literally show us that we’re in a Renaissance period of smart home-appliance design. Speakers are being made to blend into surroundings, with them sometimes looking like lamps, furniture, or even as IKEA’s demonstrated, photo-frames. Designer Yang Dong Wook created the Torso speaker in the image of Michelangelo’s bust of David, bringing its nuanced classical qualities into product design. Created as a part of Samsung’s Design Membership Program, the Torso speaker explores the relationship between interiors and gadgets (sort of the same way Samsung’s Serif TV did). The speaker looks remarkably like an abstract bust you’d proudly place on your mantelpiece, displaying for all your guests to see. It adopts the same shapes, contours, and tilts as the Bust of David, with the slanted shoulders and the slightly angled head, resulting in an incredibly expressive form.

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

The speaker’s built to scale and serves a highly elevated decorative purpose in its surroundings. Its neck acts as a vessel, allowing you to use the speaker as a vase or a place to hang your ornaments, and that gray finish gives it a pristine marble-like appearance too.

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

While the upper part of the Torso serves as a vase-like container, its collar area comes outfitted with the speakers, sitting under a fabric clad. The speakers fire forwards (because of how the Torso has a very definite front profile), while passive radiator channels in the bottom create a reverberating bass.

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

The controls for the speaker are located on the shoulder of the bust. A power button on the left lets you switch the Torso on or off, and a Bluetooth button on the right lets you connect a device. The shoulder-bridge sports a touch-sensitive volume slider, so increasing or decreasing the volume becomes an incredibly interactive, almost sensual experience, as you drag your fingertip down the Torso’s shoulder. Talk about a product having sex appeal!!

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

The Torso speaker does a few things pretty adeptly. For designers and companies, it shows how inspiration can be found practically anywhere. For a consumer, it unlocks an absolutely new category of products that redefine tech and home decor completely, combining the timeless beauty of Greco-Roman sculptures with a contemporary, functional product… but most importantly, for the vast design movement, it shows how a design can have a timeless quality to it, by borrowing from something that’s truly iconic, classical, and evergreen in its allure!

Designer: Yang Dong Wook

Torso Speaker inspired by Michelangelo Statue of David

Facebook just filed a patent for a baseball cap with a built-in AR headset and it looks terribly cringe

This is an opinion piece. All views expressed in this article belong to me, the editor.

I don’t believe in punching down. As the editor of a pretty well-to-do design magazine, it makes little sense to call out individual designers and students over their work. I do, however, believe in being able to hold larger companies and billion-dollar OEMs to a different standard. There is power in being able to critique designs and help the world understand what’s measurably good and what isn’t… which is why I think it’s alright to sometimes critically look at Apple’s Cheesegrater Mac, the Tesla Cybertruck, or in this case, Facebook’s AR Baseball Cap which is frankly ugly enough to make Google Glass look cutting-edge.

Outlined in a patent filed back in 2019, and spotted just this week by Founders Legal, it looks like Facebook’s working on a more accessible AR headset that can be worn everyday, anywhere. The AR headset exists as a snapback-style cap (although there’s a fedora version too) with a flip-to-open display built into its visor. Facebook describes the design for its forward-thinking headgear as an alternative to traditional AR headsets and goggles that can often appear thick and clunky. In doing so, instead of opting for a more sci-fi design, Facebook believes that integrating the headgear into something like a cap or hat that people wear around every day, is a much better solution. I don’t know about you, but I can’t help cringing at the very thought of a sci-fi fedora. In fact, Facebook even indicates that this foldable display system can easily integrate into different cap styles, including potentially even (and this was actually referenced in the patent file) cowboy hats.

Gizmodo writes: It might look extremely silly, but in its patent filing Facebook says there are some notable advantages of a design like this. It makes it easier to position potentially hot electronics farther away from someone’s face, thereby increasing overall comfort and wearability. The length of the visor also makes it easy for Facebook to position AR components like cameras, sensors, etc. It sounds practical in theory, but looks far from aesthetic if you ask me for my completely subjective opinion. The idea of having to wear a cap so that I can access AR functions seems odd. Not to mention the fact that casualwear and cutting-edge tech don’t necessarily go hand in hand. It’s an incredibly delicate tightrope when you’re walking between tech and fashion – Apple’s excelled in this domain, Google’s had a few hits and misses. I don’t think Facebook’s got this one in the bag.

With news about Apple working on AR glasses, it would almost seem like the sensible move to adopt that direction too. More than 70% of all adults wear glasses as opposed to probably the 20-ish percent who wear baseball caps and fedoras on a daily basis. That’s discounting the fact that an even smaller number of people actually wear caps indoors. Besides, I really don’t know if there’s any data on how many people want cyberpunkish fedoras with built-in AR displays. Those numbers are yet to be collected.

Images Credits: Andrew Bosworth (Facebook Technologies, LLC.)

Google-inspired designs that every techie would love to see come true in 2021!

Google is always surprising and delighting us with its groundbreaking products – from the Google Pixel phones to their Nest Smart Speakers. Google’s cutting-edge technology and innovative design philosophies have been a major source of inspiration for designers and creators all over the world. And, we’ve curated some of the best Google-inspired designs that we have come across! From a Google Pixel smartwatch concept to a PixelBook Pro laptop concept – this collection of conceptual designs will have you wishing that Google transforms them into a reality soon!

The Pixel smartphone went onto redefine what a pure Android experience could look like, becoming the gold standard in the Android OS experience. James Tsai’s Google Pixel Smartwatch concept does the same for the Android Wear OS. Embodying Google’s playful-serious aesthetic, the Pixel Smartwatch concept comes in a traditional round format, and in a variety of quirkily named colors. The Android Wear OS logo displays clearly on the always-on display of the watch, transforming into a colorful set of watch hands every time you look at it to read the time. The watch comes with Google’s top-notch voice AI, all of Google’s native apps, and a heart-rate monitor on the back, which ties in well with Google’s plan of acquiring Fitbit and their entire fitness-tech ecosystem. I wouldn’t be surprised if this wearable concept were entirely waterproof too, just to fire shots at Apple!

 The PixelBook Pro concept, created by India-based designer Ayush Singh Patel (who coincidentally happens to share his birthday with Google too), is an ode to the very best elements of all laptops and phones, combined into one product… If Google is a search-aggregator that finds the best results based on a query, the PixelBookPro is a Chromebook that aggregates the greatest elements of consumer tech into one well-made device. On the UI front, it feels every bit like a Chromebook – robust, reliable, great for an entire day’s worth of regular computing, but on the design front, you’ll notice that it shares the flexibility of the Lenovo Yoga series (with a similar hinge detail), the general silver aesthetic of the MacBook line (even with a silver G on the back of the screen), a flat metal edge that’s highly characteristic of the iPad Pro (and even the upcoming iPhone 12, according to rumors), an Alcantara-fabric base surrounding the keyboard as found in Microsoft’s Surface Pro, ASUS ROG-inspired cooling vents on the back, and Bang & Olufsen audio-drivers above the keys as found in HP’s Envy and Pavilion laptop series.

Here’s a look at the Project Stream controller, a visualized concept based on Google’s patented design… a concept, if executed perfectly, that could tank XBox and PS sales, and even kill the gaming laptop industry. The Project Stream (I made the mistake of calling it Steam a bunch of times. I wonder why Google hasn’t caught onto that glaring possibility) helps integrate quite a few community features into the gaming experience too. For starters, since you’re gaming on the cloud and having the game streamed to you in real-time, you can stream your game to other people too. The controller has a chat/voice button built into it, aside from a Stream button, home button, options button, and your regular control sticks, action keys, a directional pad, shoulder buttons, and triggers.

If you’ve got Google‘s slew of products around your home, there’s a lot of information you can access right at your fingertips, from the time of the day to the weather, weekly forecast, indoor temperature, your appointments, new email notification, to mention a few. The Google Nest Clock concept gives you a display to view that information on the wall of your house, offering a better alternative to browsing through your phone, or asking your Google Nest Home smart speaker and having it narrate things in audio back to you. The Google Nest Clock concept builds on the design format of the Nest thermostat, but strips away the thermostat functions and just makes it a sleek, elegant-looking clock. With a variety of clock-faces and the ability to layout crucial information for you, from the weather to what the traffic looks like on the way to work, the Nest Clock provides the experience of having a smart display you can speak of commands to.

Chris Barnes’ conceptual Google device caters to the niche audience that needs connectivity the most but struggles to keep up with technology or to avoid the complications associated with advanced tech. The Google Home Phone is a fusion of the Google Home smart-speaker (now the Nest Audio smart-speaker) and the Google Pixel), but its spiritual ancestor is, in fact, the landline phone. Designed to be a smart device with a dockable receiver or ‘phone’, the Google Home Phone lets the elderly connect with their relatives and friends who are also a part of the Google ecosystem. Once set up, the Home Phone works like a smart speaker, allowing you to ask for help, access information, or contact people, while the detachable ‘handset’ functions as the receiver on a landline, allowing you to lift it off the base and talk to people, not just using audio, but using video too!

Waqar Khan’s renders give us a clue of what a folding Pixel would look/feel like. Schematically, it’s no different from Samsung’s first folding phone; although with significant developments made in the world of flexible OLED displays, maybe the ‘Pixel Fold’ could avoid the pitfalls of the Galaxy Fold that came 2 years before it. The renders show a clean matte body (like last year’s Pixel device) along with the presence of a fingerprint reader on the back. That particular detail could be a creative call on Khan’s part, given that in-screen fingerprint readers seem to be quite the norm with Android phones over the past year.

As we’re experiencing the eventual explosion of mobile gaming thanks to Apple Arcade, Google Stadia, and Xbox Game Pass, Elastic Force hopes to give mobile gaming its Wii moment. A series of accessories designed to bring physicality to digital gaming, Elastic Force relies on resistance training as a gaming control. In short, the more force you apply, the more control you exert in the game. Instead of simply mashing buttons together, Elastic Force’s accessories invite you to perform actions like pulling, lifting, twisting, and squeezing to control aspects of the game. Sure, it makes the game more difficult, but it adds a sensory element to gaming, immersing you more. Ultimately, you interact both mentally and physically with the game, exercising not just your mind and eyes but your body too… and the positive reinforcement of the game makes you enjoy it all too!

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Simply called Sight, this personal telescope was inspired by Google’s existing line of sophisticated electronics. A sports a robust yet minimalistic form with expert ergonomics, including a comfortable, padded viewing eyepiece located on top rather than behind the unit. It harnesses the latest tech to optimize the magnification experience including a dual-lens system with First Light Adaptive Optics (FLAO) for enhanced clarity. In a myriad of cool color combinations including their Very Silver and Really Blue, there’s also one for every stargazer’s unique style.

Prosser is back for yet another prediction/leak which he feels is right on point. It’s the Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, which Google is slated to release this year… with Google’s first homemade silicone chip on the inside to rival Apple’s M1, and more noticeably, a whopper of a camera bump. I wouldn’t really call this a bump because it’s so wide and protruding, it’s practically a shelf. Like I could literally place a SIM card on top of it and it wouldn’t fall off. Objectively speaking, the band protrudes at least 2-3 millimeters from the phone’s back, making it look almost like a belt or a shelf emerging from the phone. Subjectively, it kind of makes the phone look like a criminal – serves them right for stealing the ‘Pro’ nomenclature from Apple! However, that really isn’t an indictment on the phone’s design itself, it gives the Pixel a strong new character, which makes sense because this is a new era for the Pixel.

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It’s called MoDi and it transforms your precious device from something that disturbed your sleep cycle into a sleep aid that combats smartphone addiction. Placed next to your bedside, you first dock your smartphone in MoDi. (Placed in its holder, the glow from the screen is diffused through a screen, creating an ambient light.) Engage the sleep system by using your voice. MoDi will guide you through a breathing meditation to put your body and mind at ease. You’ll begin to calm and slowly drift off to sleep. If you happen to wake up in the middle of the night, you can ask for the time rather than glance at a bright screen which could end up keeping you awake for hours. At your scheduled wake-up time, a soft LED will slowly brighten along with your designated alarm sound. It’s smart tech to kick off your day and help you wind down!

Google is rumored to be working on a foldable PIXEL Smartphone with a release date as early as 2021





It seems like Google was hibernating all through last year and the company finally woke up in May with their IO conference (which they canceled in 2020). As we gear up for Techtober (an informal term MKBHD uses to describe the September-October-November months that see all the major smartphone releases), rumors are suggesting that the Pixel 6 may be accompanied by the announcement of something MUCH more interesting… a foldable Pixel phone.

Developers who scanned through the Android 12 Beta were surprised to find model numbers for the Pixel 6 family, including foldable codenamed ‘Passport’. Suggesting that it would be a passport-shaped device that would open and close like the Samsung Galaxy Fold, with a similar dual-screen layout. The rumors prompted Tech YouTuber Waqar Khan to create renders of the purported device, which comes with a Pixel 5-inspired camera module, an outer screen with a hole-punch camera, and a large folding screen on the inside with yet another hole-punch camera.

The existence of a Pixel Fold was first touted by Ross Young, a digital analyst, who took to Twitter to mention that Google could launch the folding phone as early as 2021, or in the beginning of 2022. Young also said that the company was toying with the idea of a rollable smartphone, but the mention of “Project Passport” in Google’s own Android Beta seemed to confirm that they were working on developing a stock Android OS just for a foldable Pixel.

2021 is definitely an interesting year for Google, as they’re also developing their own silicon to rival Apple. Titled ‘Whitechapel’, Google’s silicon chip will make it to its smartphones, hopefully giving it a performance upgrade that should push it miles ahead of its competition. The Whitechapel chip could potentially even make the foldable Pixel an incredibly powerful and efficient device.

Waqar Khan’s renders give us a clue of what a folding Pixel would look/feel like. Schematically, it’s no different from Samsung’s first folding phone; although with significant developments made in the world of flexible OLED displays, maybe the ‘Pixel Fold’ could avoid the pitfalls of the Galaxy Fold that came 2 years before it. The renders show a clean matte body (like last year’s Pixel device) along with the presence of a fingerprint reader on the back. That particular detail could be a creative call on Khan’s part, given that in-screen fingerprint readers seem to be quite the norm with Android phones over the past year.

The confirmed Pixel 6 is set to debut at Google’s ‘Made By Google’ hardware event, which usually happens around October. It’s unclear if the event will be an in-person or a virtual one, and we can only hope that the company also teases (if not releases) the folding Pixel along with its expected lineup which includes a flagship phone, smart-speaker, and possibly Google’s first-ever smartwatch, which comes 2 years after the company announced it was acquiring Fitbit for $2.1 billion.

Designer/Visualizer: Waqar Khan

The only thing I absolutely hate about the Google Pixel 6 is how ugly its cases are going to be…

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

The Google Pixel 6 is coming… and with it, a barrage of hideous cases that completely destroy its beautiful aesthetic.

Roughly a month ago Jon Prosser claimed he had credible information regarding how the upcoming Google Pixel 6 would look. The images he shared with the world showed a radical new design that had a pretty standout visual detail – an elongated camera bump that covered the entire phone’s width… it was less of a bump and more of a ‘bumper’. My own personal thoughts on the design were mixed, although I have to admit it was refreshing to see Google investing effort into its Pixel range after an extremely lackluster performance last year. I am, however, having second thoughts after seeing the kinds of smartphone cases appearing on websites like Alibaba as we slowly approach the Pixel 6’s launch.

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

You see, that camera belt may be a design feature, but it’s also a major design flaw once you consider that most smartphone users would end up buying protective cases to shield their expensive smartphones from damage. The benefit with almost every smartphone’s camera bump is that its camera exists INSIDE its body, so when case-designers make cases, the simple solution of navigating around the smartphone’s camera bump is to create a cutout there. The case has a rather manageable hole through which the camera peeks through, sort of like a ski-mask. That, however, isn’t possible with the Pixel 6… A look at the image below should explain why.

The fact that the Pixel 6’s camera module extends all the way from the left to the right makes it very difficult to create one single cutout. If one were to simply go about creating a camera hole, you’d essentially have a case that exists in two parts that are barely connected together near the middle. The case becomes a merely decorative product that simply protects the edges of the smartphone, giving no cover to the cameras, which in the case of the Pixel 6, are dangerously exposed. The only way to really overcome this problem and make a proper case would be to design OVER the phone’s wide camera bump, adding another 1-2 millimeters to it and making the bump EVEN LARGER. The cutout would then exist only around the lenses and not the bump itself… as you can see in the image below.

This ‘technical’ solution spells disaster for the Pixel 6’s aesthetics. It exaggerates the phone’s elongated camera bump, turning an elegant detail into an ugly caricature… and the minute you choose an opaque cover over a transparent one, it practically conceals every element of the Pixel 6’s design, making it look like “just another phone”, albeit with a monstrous bump around its camera, exposing a major flaw in Google’s design approach to the Pixel 6 – that smartphone designs exist in a bubble where phone-makers expect you to NOT put protective cases on expensive and fragile phones. Not Okay, Google.

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

Google Pixel 6 Protective Cover Case Alibaba

Images via: Alibaba