The Sonos Era 300, along with its smaller sibling, the Era 100, packs massive sound in a small package. While the Era 100 serves as an upgrade to the Sonos One in size, hardware, and sound, the Era 300 is the Sonos’ “breakthrough spatial audio speaker”, with drivers that fire audio in every conceivable direction (including even upward) to turn any room into a concert hall. “With next-level audio that hits from every direction, Sonos Era 300 doesn’t just surround you, it puts you inside your music”, say the folks at Sonos.
The Era 300 is Sonos’ open challenge to Apple’s Spatial Audio. Its hourglass-shaped design hides four tweeters that direct sound left, right, forward, as well as upward. This unique architecture helps efficiently utilize the space the speaker is located in, with that cleverly engineered upward tweeter using the ceiling as a bouncing board to create that spatial audio experience. Along with the four tweeters are two woofers that provide a rich creamy layer of bass, and custom waveguides that enhance audio dispersion for an expansive soundstage.
Sonos currently supports Dolby Atmos Music via Amazon Music Unlimited for the Spatial Audio experience.
While designed to work remarkably as a solo unit, the Era 300 delivers a much more hypnotic multichannel experience when two are paired as a stereo home theater setup. Movie fans can connect two speakers with Arc or Beam (Gen 2) for a hyperrealistic 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos sound experience that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
The Era 300 boasts WiFi connectivity to let you stream the highest-quality audio formats (including Dolby Atmos via Amazon Music) from anywhere in your home without any interruptions. The speaker works with all popular music streaming apps, with support for AirPlay 2, and even has Sonos Voice Control for controlling playback via your voice. For the more traditionally-minded, however, there’s Bluetooth connectivity, and a USB-C line-out that lets you connect your speaker to a turntable or any other wired source (via the Sonos Line-In Adapter).
Touted as the next-gen smart speaker, the Era 100 is the smaller of the two new speakers from Sonos. Designed as a visual and performance upgrade to the Sonos One, it sports a similar size but with a cylindrical profile, and boasts a dual-tweeter array that produces a detailed stereo separation, along with a significantly larger midwoofer for a richer bass. Unlike the One, the Era 100 has Bluetooth connectivity, along with a USB-C line-in that lets you connect wired sources to your speaker.
The Era 100 doesn’t have Spatial Audio like its larger sibling, notably because it doesn’t possess an upward-firing tweeter. Instead, the Era 100 provides detailed stereo sound thanks to two angled tweeters and custom waveguides that amplify the dispersion of sound waves to create a wider soundstage. Its upper surface houses the familiar dimpled control panel that lets you control and configure playback.
The Era 100 also boasts WiFi connectivity along with support for Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, and wired audio. You can also play music and manage your system hands-free and privately with Sonos Voice Control.
Setting up both the Era 100 and Era 300 is simple, thanks to the Trueplay app that measures the acoustics of your room and then fine-tunes the EQ of your speaker to deliver the best audio quality for your space. For more custom controls, the Sonos app lets you manually adjust bass, treble, and loudness to suit your personal needs.
Both the Era 100 and Era 300 are made with post-consumer recycled (PCR) plastic and packaged in 100% sustainably sourced paper, while highlighting a design that’s built for serviceability by reducing the use of adhesives and transitioning to screws for easy disassembly and repair.
Available starting March 28th, 2023, the Sonos Era 100 is priced at $249, and the Era 300 sports a price tag of $449.
A look at the Sonos Era 300 through a transparent outer body
Flying cars as a mode of transport have been long overdue, but Adelaide-based Alauda Aeronautics wants to run before it can walk. Meet the Airspeeder MK4, a hydrogen-powered crewed flying racecar that has a top speed of 360 km/h (225 mph), a range of 300 km (188 miles), and is all set to premiere at the 2024 Airspeeder Racing Series. It also holds the current record for being the fastest hydrogen-powered eVTOL ever built.
The Airspeeder MK4’s aesthetic instantly stands out as more than just your average eVTOL. Look at it long enough and you’ll see some distinct similarities with a Formula 1 racecar. With propellers instead of wheels, this bad boy has the same aerodynamic form, with a carbon fiber monocoque boasting of front and rear wings, and a single-seater cockpit in between them. Four repositionable propellers sit where you’d expect the wheels, and can face either upwards, forwards, or sideways to help the vehicle lift off the ground, travel forward, and make dramatic turns in mid-air.
At the heart of the Airspeeder MK4 is the Thunderstrike Hydrogen Turbogenerator, a 1340 hp, 1000 kW turbogenerator electric engine specifically designed for use in eVTOLs. It gives the Airspeeder a range of 300 kilometers (118 miles) and allows it to reach top speeds of 360 km/h (225 mph) in merely 30 seconds. Arguably pretty important for a racecar, I’d say.
Now in its fourth iteration (hence the MK4 moniker), the eVTOL has a take-off weight of 950 kilograms. Once in the air, an AI-controlled gimbal thrust system allows the Airspeeder to maneuver in mid-air. Each propeller is mounted on a lightweight 3D-printed gimbal, easily allowing the Airspeeder to travel rapidly in any direction and even make sharp turns in the air.
The MK3 (its predecessor) has successfully completed over 350 remote-controlled test flights, even participating in two Airspeeder demonstration races in South Australia last year (2022). The company’s all set to have the MK4 make its mark next year with the first-ever Airspeeder Racing Series in the first-ever manned flying car race.
Using a format and technique similar to those airless car tire concepts we’ve seen before, Wilson’s latest airless basketball employs a similar see-through 3D-printed mesh to create a ball that bounces just like a basketball… but looks like nothing any basketball you’ve ever seen before. The design was unveiled at the NBA Slam Dunk Contest, with Houston Rockets forward KJ Martin taking the ball for a literal spin. Quite to everyone’s amazement, the Airless Basketball prototype responds to stimulus exactly like the standard inflated basketball. It’s easy to grip, has a surprisingly responsive bounce, and defies convention with its unique aesthetic!
Designer: Wilson Sporting Goods Co.
Created as an experimental prototype by Wilson Sporting Goods Co.’s R&D (Basketball) division, the Airless Basketball prototype is a stunning piece of design and engineering that looks, weighs, and bounces just like a basketball, but fundamentally rethinks the ball’s physical structure and underlying physics. The ball employs a 3D hexagonal mesh structure that’s highly elastic, enabling it to bounce just like a pressurized ball. However, its airless nature means it never needs maintaining or refilling, unlike standard basketballs that lose their bounce when they deflate mildly.
What’s so impressive about the Airless Basketball, apart from its jaw-dropping aesthetic, is that it completely rewrites the rulebook. Most basketballs have their signature bounce because they’re filled with pressurized air. Reduce the pressure and the ball just flops onto the floor with a dissatisfying thud. Wilson’s redesign goes against that notion, thanks to its unique structure and elastomeric material. Arrived through multiple design iterations and rigorous testing at the NBA test facility in Ada, Ohio, the ball cleverly balances tradition and innovation, with a futuristic mesh design that still feels relatively familiar in the hand, having the same weight as a regulation basketball and even the familiar seams for players to rest their fingers in.
The ball’s brilliant redesign comes from Wilson’s R&D division, led by Dr. Nadine Lippa, Kevin Krysiak, and a team of designers and engineers. As they worked on ‘reinventing the basketball’, Lippa knew pretty much instantly that such a complex structure could only be achieved through additive 3D printing. Having gone through multiple iterations, the team arrived at the design we see today, featuring the hexagonal mesh that not only gives the ball its signature bounce but also creates a grippy texture, much like the dotted pattern found on existing balls.
The team partnered with EOS, a 3D-printing solutions company, to help build the functional prototype. The ball started out as a pit of white powder, coming to life as the powder was melted into shape using a laser in a process commonly known as SLS or selective laser sintering. After the print was complete, the team dusted off the excess powder, before ‘sealing’ the design into its shape using yet another machine. Black dye was then injected into the model in a third and final process, giving us the final, finished ball. It’s unclear how long the entire process took, although 3D printing is known to be a relatively slower process. The trade-off, however, is a ball that requires much less upkeep and doesn’t ever need pumping or refilling.
Although the ball was just previewed for merely a handful of seconds at the Slam Dunk Contest, we’re yet to see it be used in an entire match. A lot of factors remain undetermined, like the ball’s lifespan, resistance to damage, how well players can grip it, whether objects can get stuck inside the ball’s mesh, how it reacts to spin, and what its overall aerodynamics are.
Wilson isn’t planning on manufacturing these for retail or for professional games. This prototype is the result of a long-term experiment to push the boundaries of innovation at the company and test out new materials and structures. Basketballers can be an incredibly superstitious bunch, and notoriously resistant to major change, so don’t expect to see this in any NBA games soon… although maybe it could debut as an add-on upgrade in NBA Live! EA Sports, make it happen!
Is OnePlus finally responding to estranged founder Carl Pei’s latest company?
Nine days ago, Carl Pei did something most CEOs don’t usually do. He uploaded a review of the OnePlus 11 on Nothing’s YouTube channel. After leaving OnePlus in 2020, Carl severed all association with the company he founded, focusing instead on Nothing – his new venture. This YouTube video was a fun way of looking at how far OnePlus had come after his departure. Today, OnePlus (now an Oppo subsidiary) replied with a cryptic image showing a phone that looks rather heavily inspired by the Nothing phone (1). The device, titled the OnePlus 11 Concept, will debut at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this following week.
Details on the OnePlus 11 Concept are extremely scant, but a user on Weibo did leak the above image, giving us a rather comprehensive look at what the phone’s back will visually appear to be. The otherwise black back panel is punctuated by a series of icy blue lines, hinting at either lighting or a novel liquid cooling system. The back panel’s rumored to be made from carbon fiber, with the blue lines running right underneath it, as is shown in the image below. There’s even a blue ring around the phone’s camera bump, giving the entire conceptual phone a distinctly futuristic, almost-TRON-like appearance. Details around the OnePlus 11 Concept will be revealed at MWC in Barcelona, which starts on Monday, February 27th.
We’ve all been there: you ask Siri a question, and it responds with the ever-frustrating “Sorry I didn’t understand that”. It could be an accent or dialect problem, the fact that Siri isn’t trained on the vast volume of data that Google’s AI is trained on, or just that Apple absolutely dropped the ball on Siri. Apple launched the voice AI as an app almost 13 years ago, although Siri today still feels noticeably dumb and unhelpful even after more than a decade. Google’s voice AI seems to overwhelmingly be the most popular choice nowadays, although there’s a new kid on the block that’s absolutely eating Google’s lunch, at least in the search department.
Unveiled less than a year ago, ChatGPT from OpenAI took the world by storm for its incredible natural language processing capabilities, hitting a million users in just 5 days, and 100 million users in just two months (that’s faster than the growth seen by social media giants like Facebook, Google, and even Snapchat). ChatGPT’s intelligent and human-like responses make it the perfect AI chatbot, especially given that it really understands natural sentences much better than most other AI tools, and it’s most likely to respond with a helpful answer than an apology. Developer Mate Marschalko saw this as a brilliant opportunity to integrate ChatGPT’s intelligence with Siri, turning it into a much more helpful voice AI. With a little bit of hackery (which just took him about an hour), Marschalko combined Siri’s voice features with ChatGPT’s NLP intelligence using Apple’s Shortcuts feature. The result? A much better Voice AI that fetches better search results, offers more meaningful conversations, and even lets you control your smart home in a much more ‘human-friendly’ way… almost rivaling Tony Stark’s JARVIS in terms of usability. The best part? You can do it too!
Marschalko lists out his entire procedure in a Medium blog post that I definitely recommend checking out if you want to build your own ‘SiriGPT’ too, with an approach that required absolutely no coding experience. “I asked GPT-3 to pretend to be the smart brain of my house, carefully explained what it can access around the house and how to respond to my requests,” he said. “I explained all this in plain English with no programme code involved.”
The video above demonstrates exactly how Marschalko’s ‘SiriGPT’ works. His home is filled with dozens of lights, thermostats, underfloor heating, ventilation unit, cameras, and a lot more, making it the perfect testing ground for possibly every use case. Marschalko starts by splitting up his tasks into four distinct request types. The four request types are labeled Command, Query, Answer, and Clarify, and each request type has its own process that GPT-3 follows to determine what needs to be done.
Marschalko’s AI is significantly better at processing indirectly worded commands.
Where the magic really unfolds is in how even indirect requests from Marschalko are understood and translated into meaningful actions by the assistant. While Siri and other AI assistants only respond to direct requests like “turn the light on”, or “open the garage door”, GPT3 allows for more nuanced conversations. In one example, Marschalko says “Notice that I’m recording this video in the dark, in the office. Can you do something about that,” and the assistant promptly turns on the light while responding with an AI-generated response instead of a template reply. In another example, he says “my wife is on the way driving home, and will be here in 15 minutes. Switch lights on for her outside just before she parks up”, to which the assistant responds with “The lights should be turned on by the time your guest arrives!”, demonstrating two powerful things… A. The ability to grasp concepts as complex as ‘wanting to switch a specific light on after a delay of a couple of minutes’, and B. Responding in a natural manner that conveys that they understood exactly what you wanted to be done.
Marschalko hooked all this into a shortcut called Okay Smart Home, and to power it, all he had to do was activate Siri and say the name of the shortcut (in this case “Okay Smart Home”) and then begin talking to his assistant. The four request types basically allowed Marschalko to cover all kinds of scenarios, from controlling smart home appliances with the Command request to asking the status of an appliance (like the temperature of a room or the oven) with the Query request. The Answer request covers more chat-centric queries like asking the AI for recommendations, suggestions, or general information from across the web, and the final Clarify request would allow the AI to ask you to repeat or rephrase your question if it was unable to detect any of the three previous request types.
Although this GPT-powered assistant absolutely runs circles around the visibly dumber Siri, it doesn’t come for free. You have to set up an OpenAI account and buy tokens to access its API. “Using the API will cost around $0.014 per request, so you could perform over 70 requests for $1,” Marschalko says. “Bear in mind that this is considered expensive because our request is very long, so with shorter ones you will pay proportionally less.”
The entire process is listed in this Medium blog post if you want to learn how to build out your own assistant with its distinct features. If you’ve got an OpenAI account and want to use the AI that Marschalko built in the video above, the Okay Smart Home shortcut is available to download and use with your own API keys.
I’m not entirely sure why the iPhone has a rotating crown on it, but it gives me ‘volume dial on a hi-fi audio player’ energy…
Apple’s rumored to be working on a new iPhone line, after Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reported Apple CEO Tim Cook as telling investors that consumers are willing to pay more for a better iPhone. Just last year, Apple debuted the higher-end Apple Watch Ultra, and it’s safe to say that the iPhone Ultra could easily be something the company is working on behind the scenes. Designer Jimmy Huynh put together renders of what the iPhone Ultra could look like if it followed the footsteps of its Apple Watch counterpart. The design feels a little on the literal side as far as translating details goes, but what Huynh does pretty well is making the iPhone look even more brutish and rugged than its predecessors. It also features what looks like an entirely new camera array featuring one larger shooter and a smaller one, laid out in the same style as the iPhone 14.
Designer: Jimmy Huynh
The iPhone Ultra’s design has a few shockers. Let’s first get that port out of the way – it definitely doesn’t look like a USB-C one, even though Apple’s been given an ultimatum to shift their iPhone line to USB-C by 2023 by the European Union. Moving upward, the bezel on the right to the screen comes with a thick bulge, housing the power button along with a rotating crown. Now the thought of a rotating crown on a smartphone just feels downright odd, but if I were to really think about it, the rotating element could help with quite a few apps, like adjusting the focus on the camera, controlling the volume during music playback, probably even seeking through YouTube or Netflix videos. That knob is a solution looking out for problems if you ask me for my frank opinion, and I’d probably be the first to say it’s the least relevant detail in this otherwise stellar concept.
The iPhone Ultra concept also has another new detail in form of the Action Button, located right above the volume keys. It’s difficult to imagine what this button would do for the smartphone, although it could serve a multitude of purposes within all of the iPhone’s apps. I’d absolutely love for it to be a back or home button, or a camera shutter button when in the camera app.
The rest of the overall design looks pretty good if you ask me. You’ve got that curved body around the edges and an absolutely flat screen, making the iPhone Ultra great to hold and easy to use given that accidental palm touches get significantly reduced with flat displays. The flat display does come with a significant lip around the edges, providing a fair bit of protection from drops. That rounded frame helps with absorbing impact too, and if the Ultra name is any indication, the frame is probably made out of titanium.
Flip the iPhone Ultra over and things really begin looking different. The back panel sports three screws on the corners that fix it to the phone’s frame. I, for one, would bet an entire month’s salary on the fact that Apple would never have exposed screws like this in a bid to look so obviously rugged. I’ll admit, though, that it’s kind of a nice touch.
The camera bump highlights probably the one largest change with the phone’s rear. Unlike the Pro models that sport three cameras, this iPhone Ultra concept only has two lenses (and a LiDAR sensor), but one camera lens is significantly bigger than the other. This larger camera could be the Ultra’s main 48MP wide-angle shooter, although that doesn’t seem ‘ultra’ enough. A bigger camera would mean a larger sensor, enabling the camera to capture more light. This could mean a variety of things, all the way from better bokeh in Portrait Mode, or finally that Astro photography feature that we were all expecting last year. The second lens is probably the 12MP telephoto that we’ve seen on previous models. A redesigned flashlight also sits rather proudly on that massive camera bump, offering brighter light that’s great for photography as well as outdoor use.
Bloomberg’s Gurman mentioned that Apple’s big new bet with the iPhone will either be the Ultra or the highly anticipated iPhone Fold. Details on the nature of the phone will probably leak in the coming months, as we gear up for iPhone season sometime in September or October.
Although it was suspected that Meta had axed all plans to make their wearable around 8 months ago, new photos show that the watch’s design has now entered a more advanced stage, suggesting a fleshed-out V2 that’s probably inching closer to a finished product. Revealed by Twitter user Kuba Wojciechowski, this new iteration confirms all our previous suggestions, including a detachable module featuring a watch face on the front with a notch and a front-facing camera, and a secondary, larger camera at the back that lets people record POV videos and BeReal-style picture-in-picture content.
The images show a rounded-square-shaped device running a watch face, with a pretty sizeable bezel containing a notch and a front-facing camera. The watch shape feels rather odd because it’s neither square nor circular, sitting somewhere in between. I imagine designing the UI for such a device would be weird, given that you can’t really watch videos in such a rounded-square display anymore, making it hard to consume content from Meta’s social media sites at Facebook, Instagram, and its chatting app WhatsApp. There are, however, two buttons on the side of the device, although it’s tough to say what their function is at this point.
The one set of details that still remains, however, is the presence of dual cameras. The front-facing camera eats into the display, while the rear camera (slightly larger) hovers right above a bulge that contains what I assume are the heart-rate sensors. You’ve even got contact pins on the other side that I assume are for charging purposes.
There aren’t too many details about the device’s build and specs, although Kuba mentions that it isn’t running Google’s WearOS, but rather a fork of its open-source Android OS. Facebook has for long played with the idea of building their own ecosystem and app network to escape the monopolies of Apple and Google, and this could just be it. There’s also a Qualcomm chipset on the inside, although it isn’t mentioned which one, and the outer case and band are still to be revealed to the public, although we did put together our own concept just about a year ago, right before it was suspected that work on the wearable had halted indefinitely.
Earlier last year, we covered the Meta Watch too, bringing life to its speculative patent-file images through renderings. If you want to read our coverage on the band from last year, click here.
YouTuber Dave2D got his hands on a dummy unit of the alleged Pixel Fold and here’s everything we know… and feel.
First off, this isn’t even scandalous anymore, given that Google has perhaps the worst track record when it comes to keeping upcoming smartphones a secret. Last year, the company prematurely revealed what the Pixel 7 would look like just for kicks, months before the phone actually launched… so when I see a YouTuber talking about ‘credible leaks’ of Google’s next product, my best bet is that they’re as credible as it comes! Anyway, earlier last year Jon Prosser debuted renders of the highly-anticipated Pixel Fold device, and it seems like Dave2D’s latest video confirms everything we know. Google IS indeed working on a folding Pixel smartphone with an inward-facing foldable display. Although just a 3D-printed dummy unit, Dave2D’s prototype is surprisingly slim, and has a shorter, stouter form factor, similar to Oppo’s Find N2 device.
The dummy unit doesn’t really reveal much apart from the bare-bones design of the phone, but it’s enough to piece together a fair bit of information. When placed alongside the Pixel 7 Pro, the Pixel Fold is relatively shorter, making it easier to hold and operate with a single hand. When compared to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4, the Pixel Fold is MUCH more ergonomic, letting your thumb reach parts of the screen that you couldn’t with Samsung’s foldable. The device also has a new camera bump design, going for something more pronounced like the iPhone’s camera bump, unlike the Pixel’s curved bumper design. All indications show that the Pixel Fold will have the same 3-lens camera unit like the 7 Pro, although the flashlight seems to have migrated to the left of the lenses for some odd reason.
Perhaps the most interesting detail here is the screen, which Dave2D mocked up in post-production to reveal what the Pixel Fold’s actual screen sizes and resolutions will most likely be. The outer screen is expected to have a hole-punch camera, while the insides reveal thicker bezels on the top and bottom, and a camera built right into the upper bezel.
Closeup of the internal single-lens camera setup
Dave2D also speculates that aside from mimicking the Oppo Find N2’s smaller form factor, the Google Pixel Fold will have a similar hinge detail too, that causes the screen to recede inwards when folded shut, causing it to assume a more natural water-drop shape that gives it a longer life while minimizing the crease that tends to form with foldable displays.
A USB-C port on the bottom comes as no surprise, although there isn’t any word on wireless charging capabilities
Although there’s no official word from Google, we could expect the Pixel Fold as early as this year, alongside the Pixel 8 launch, or probably even sooner when Google officially announces the Pixel 7A. The Pixel Fold is also expected to cost an eye-watering $1700, although I’d probably hold my wallet if I were you. Given the company’s track record with axing products and services, we don’t want another Stadia on our hands, do we now?
Everyone wants their home tidy, organized and safe, but it’s not always easy to keep it that way. Fortunately, there are gadgets that can help make all of it a little easier. We often review smart speakers, robotic vacuums and more here at Engadget, and for the holiday season we’ve compiled a list of favorites that will make excellent gifts for you or your loved ones. Plus, they don’t need to be super tech savvy to use these either – most of our suggestions are simple enough for those new to the smart home world.
Instant Vortex Plus
Air fryers might seem like just glorified convection ovens, but in our tests, we found that they do produce astoundingly crisp foods, with results that are either better or comparable to convection toaster ovens. The Instant Vortex Plus is easily our favorite, thanks to its clear viewing window so your giftee can see the food while it’s cooking, plus there’s an odor-removing filter that helps reduce cooking smells. It’s roomy enough to fit four large chicken thighs and it heats up much faster than a conventional oven. Best of all, clean-up is near effortless – the rack is dishwasher-safe and the non-stick drawer basket can be washed with soap and water.
If your loved one frequently complains about stolen packages or simply wants a way to see who’s at the front door without opening it, consider gifting them a video doorbell. Our favorite is the Arlo Essential Video Doorbell, which is compatible with Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple Homekit. They’ll be able to get a 180-degree view of their visitor from head to toe, plus it alerts your phone with a video call whenever someone rings the bell. It comes with a three-month trial to Arlo’s Smart subscription service right out of the box, which also includes motion detection that differentiates between a person, package, vehicle or animal.
Google’s Nest Hub smart display is a great device to have around the home — especially if your gift recipient already uses the Google Assistant. It works as a digital photo frame and they can use it to watch YouTube and Netflix. It can also make calls via Google Duo and offers recipe videos along with step-by-step cooking instructions. If the user so chooses, they can track their sleeping patterns if they place the device next to their bed. Additionally, if they already have a Nest Doorbell camera, they can easily use the display to see who’s at the front door.
For those who prefer Alexa over the Google Assistant, the Echo Show 8 is a great alternative to the Nest Hub. It also works as a digital photo frame and its 8-inch display is a good size for streaming shows from Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu while prepping dinner. It can also be used to keep up with the news, check the weather and control smart home devices. Since Amazon has a partnership with Allrecipes and Food Network Kitchen, users can find assorted recipes and instructional videos as well.
Blink’s indoor camera offers the gift of peace of mind in a compact and affordable package. Your loved one will appreciate the fact that Blink is wireless and battery-powered; since they don’t have to place it near an electrical outlet, it can sit almost anywhere. They also won’t have to worry about recharging the camera since it can last up to two years on its two included AA batteries. Aside from just letting them monitor their home, it also features customizable motion alerts so they’ll only get alerted when they want to. There’s also two-way audio so they can hear and speak to the person (or pet) on the other end.
Maybe you have someone in your life who could use a little help cleaning up after themselves. For that, we recommend getting them one of our favorite robot vacuum cleaners, the iRobot Roomba 694. It can suck up dirt and debris from both hardwood and carpeted floors, with an edge-sweeping brush taking care of dusty corners. The companion app lets them control it remotely, or they can set up a cleaning schedule so the little robot can do its thing at a set time. It even automatically docks and recharges itself if it’s low on battery.
Smart locks are a great way to add security and convenience to any home. We recommend August’s WiFi smart lock because it’s easy to use, and since it fits over an existing deadbolt, it’s great for homeowners and renters alike. It lets your loved ones unlock the door completely hands-free, which is handy if they have their arms full of groceries. They can set it so that it automatically locks once the door is closed, or after a set period of time. If someone’s at the door but they’re at the office or in the backyard, they can easily let them in with a single finger tap. They can also grant access for specific friends or family members, which means they might never need to put the key under the doormat ever again.
Air purifiers are great gifts for anyone who has allergies, lives in a polluted area or just wants to breathe easier at home. And if you want to give someone a smarter air purifier, consider the Mila Air. It ships with one of seven pre-configured HEPA filters that can filter out particles and allergens like pollen and dust. It also has a ton of customization options: There’s a “Housekeeping Service” mode that goes full blast when no one’s in the room, a “Sleep Mode” that turns the lights off and reduces the fan speeds at night, plus a “White Noise” option that mimics soothing sounds like waterfalls. The Mila also has a bevy of sensors that can tell you if there’s carbon monoxide in the air, or if the humidity is too high.
With a smart plug, any appliance can be part of a connected home for not a lot of money. TP-Link’s Kasa smart plug is a particularly good one because it is both affordable and incredibly compact (and if you’re really short on space, there’s a mini version that’s even smaller). Together with its companion app, they can schedule a timer to turn on and off anything from Christmas lights to a coffee maker. It’s also compatible with both Alexa and Google Assistant, which lets them add voice control to any outlet.
With most of us having so many gadgets and smart home devices, perhaps the best thing you can give your loved one is the gift of better WiFi to keep things running smoothly. Amazon’s Eero routers will deliver just that. The latest models support WiFi 6, the latest and fastest WiFi standard, and will support 75-plus devices simultaneously. It also covers up to 1,500 square feet with WiFi speeds up to 900 Mbps, so it’s unlikely they’ll ever have to deal with dead spots or buffering again. The Eero 6 also comes with a built-in Zigbee smart home hub that lets them connect compatible devices without having to purchase a separate device.
Add some color to your loved one’s life with the Philips LED smart bulb starter kit, which comes with four multi-color bulbs plus a Hue Hub that connects them all together. The bulbs can fill the room with millions of different colors so they can choose from warm moody lighting for a cozy atmosphere or rainbows for parties. In the companion app, they can create timers and routines so that their lights gradually turn on in the morning or off in the evening. And it’s scalable: They can eventually have up to 50 lights connected to one Hue Hub, giving them the freedom to outfit their whole home with smart lights if they wish.
The holidays are a good time to upgrade an audio setup, whether it's for yourself or for someone on your shopping list. We’ve compiled a group of the best audio gear that ranges from noise-canceling headphones to true wireless earbuds and speakers. There are also a range of prices for each product type, so you don’t necessarily have to break the bank unless you’re really looking to splurge this year.
If you’re shopping for the complete package in a new set of headphones, there’s one clear best choice. No other company packs in as many features as Sony does on the WH-1000XM5, and they’re combined with a stellar sound and effective ANC. With this model, Sony redesigned its flagship headphones, making them way more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. The company also made noticeable improvements to the active noise cancellation, adding a separate V1 chip in addition to the QN1 that was inside the M4. The 1000XM5 still has all of the features that typically make Sony’s premium headphones so good. 30-hour battery life, a combo of touch controls and physical buttons, Speak-to-Chat automatic pausing when you talk, and the ability to change noise modes based on your activity or location. — Billy Steele, Senior News Editor
If sound quality is the primary factor in your next set of headphones, Bowers & Wilkins pair impressive audio quality with solid ANC performance. The Px7 S2 are my favorite headphones I’ve reviewed this year in terms of sound. There’s also a more refined design that doesn’t look overly plasticky and the headphones fit comfortably even after hours of use. Call quality, ambient sound and automatic pausing need some refining, but they get the job done. At the end of the day, the design, sound quality and noise cancellation make the Px7 S2 a strong pick in the current field. Plus, they’ll last way beyond the stated 30 hours of battery life. — B.S.
When picking the best-sounding headphones from 2022, it’s difficult to choose between the Px7 S2 and the Momentum 4. However, Bowers & Wilkins gets the edge in terms of design, but they’re evenly matched on sound quality and the rest of the competition isn’t close. Sennheiser does have an impressive 60-hour battery life in its favor and improved ANC performance. Those two items alone might be enough for you to overlook the very generic design for the music lover on your list this year. — B.S.
Audio-Technica’s affordable wireless headphones have consistently offered solid performance that would make a great gift, even with the lack of noise cancellation. The company’s latest are the M20xBT, a Bluetooth version of the A-T’s popular M20x wired cans. A comfy fit and up to 60 hours of battery life will cost you just $79. Connect to multiple devices at once with Bluetooth multipoint connectivity and reliably control tunes with physical buttons. The design isn’t as refined as the company’s pricer models like the M50xBT2, but you get the bulk of what makes Audio-Technica’s cheaper options so good. — B.S.
Sony’s first set of LinkBuds were a unique open-wear concept, but they weren't for everyone. To expand the lineup with more universal appeal, the company debuted the LinkBuds S back in the spring. These earbuds may be tiny but they still offer active noise cancellation and the smaller size means they’re more comfortable to wear for long periods of time. That’s the entire point of the LinkBuds S as Sony built them to be worn all the time, although you can expect up to six hours of use with ANC enabled. Transparency mode makes this possible and features like Speak-to-Chat and Adaptive Sound Control highlight the list of additional features. — B.S.
If you're shopping for a set of workout earbuds this year, the best option is the Beats Fit Pro. These offer a lot of handy features from AirPods thanks to Apple's H1 chip. The overall size is smaller than a lot of earbuds, which leads to a comfy fit. Plus, the added wing helps keep them in place during physical activity. Punchy bass brings energy to cardio sessions but the low-end tone remains balanced, rather than overpowering, and six-hour battery life should be enough to get you through the bulk of the day. — B.S.
Thanks to JLab, you can give a decent set of true wireless earbuds as a stocking stuffer. For $20, the Go Air Pop covers most of the basics. Eight-hour battery life, on-board controls, EQ presets, IPX4 moisture protection and the ability to use just one earbud at a time are all on the features list. The Go Air Pop is smaller than its predecessor, the Go Air, and this model comes with a case that completely closes. What’s more, the company kept the integrated USB on the charging case, so you don’t have to worry about looking for a cable when you’re out of power. — B.S.
If you’re shopping for a Bluetooth speaker this year, the UE Wonderboom 3 is an affordable, tiny option that still packs a punch. It’s adventure-proof thanks to an IP67 rating, audio quality is bright and an outdoor mode boosts treble and bass so sound can be heard over a greater distance. You can also easily pair two Wonderboom 3 units for stereo sound, which won’t cost you a fortune thanks to the low price. And with up to 14 hours of battery life, you should be able to keep the tunes going for a while. — B.S.
If someone on your list asked for a Bluetooth speaker but has a more refined audio taste, perhaps the Marshall Tufton will fit the bill. It’s pricey, but the investment gets you up to 20 hours of battery life and the option of a wired connection via 3.5mm aux jack. As is the case with all of the Marshall wares, the Tufton carries the look of the iconic guitar amps and this model has an audio quality that’s equal parts dynamic, warm and almost analog in its performance. On-board treble and bass knobs are also there to assist with any adjustments. — B.S.
While portable Bluetooth speakers are great on-the-go, there are benefits to the set-it and forget-it options like Marshall’s Acton III wired model. It’s ideal for someone’s bedroom, living room or kitchen and offers 60-watts of power for just $280. Marshall’s classic amp-styled exterior looks great too, with its fabric grille and soft-touch exterior made up of 70-percent recycled materials. On top, you’ll find backlit physical controls so you can adjust settings in the dark and won’t always need a phone to control playback.
The Acton III delivers a rich and dynamic sound across a wider soundstage than previous models, with a bass response that’s also hefty for its size. On top of the sound quality, you get app support with EQ controls, OTA updates and a placement compensation feature to adjust for the acoustics in your space.
The overall build quality and sound makes it a gift anyone can appreciate, even as a stationary companion to a small portable speaker. There are two larger options as well, if you know someone who likes it loud. Either way, you’ll be a shoe-in for the party that will inevitably follow. – Jon Turi, Homepage Editor
If you’re unsure of what to give the music lover in your life this holiday season, why not allow them to give high-resolution streaming a shot. Several services offer the option of higher quality audio, but unfortunately not many of them allow you to gift a subscription. Instead, you’ll simply need to purchase a gift card that your recipient can apply to a high-res plan. Gift cards are available for Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Tidal and others, although you may just need to buy a generic gift card for the company in cases like Amazon and Apple. I’d also suggest giving an App Store or Google Play gift card for someone to apply to a Nugs.net plan to unlock a vault of high-resolution live performances from Bruce Springsteen, Jack White, Pearl Jam, Dead & Company and more. — B.S.