Insta360 Ace Pro review: a flipping low light legend

Insta360 Ace Pro review: a flipping low light legend

insta360 ace pro front shelf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

Insta360 has been one of the most consistent specialist camera manufacturers of the past few years, serving up hit after hit when it comes to 360-degree cameras, tiny cameras and slightly bigger cameras you put on top of your monitor. The one missing piece in its line-up was a GoPro-style action cam – and that’s now been rectified by the arrival of the Insta360 Ace Pro.

The Ace Pro may share the familiar blocky rectangle shape of GoPro’s long-running Hero series (and costs a similar amount to the current Hero 12 Black model) but has some cards to play in an effort to forge its own unique appeal: Leica co-branding, the ability to capture 8K footage and a nifty-looking flip-up touchscreen. Is that enough to muscle in on GoPro’s market share?

Every camera reviewed on Stuff is tested in a range of lighting conditions, with a variety of subjects and scenes. We use our years of experience to compare with rivals and assess ergonomics, features and general usability. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

Find out more about how we test and rate products.

 

Design & screens: full tilt

If you’ve used a GoPro, the Ace Pro feels very similar, from its rugged boxy body (waterproof to 10m, just like the Hero 12 Black) to its offset wide-angle lens and large power and record buttons (located on the side and top respectively). I certainly had no issues getting to grips with it, inserting the microSD card and battery and fully charging the latter via the USB-C port.

Where it differs most dramatically is its touchscreen: Insta360 has fitted the Ace Pro with a large 2.4in rear display that’s mounted on a hinge, allowing it to tilt upwards up to 180º. That means it can face fully forward, of course, making it perfect for shooting vlogs and selfies, but also that it can be tilted slightly to aid with tricky angles – such as if it’s mounted on your bike’s handlebars. I found it an extremely useful feature, although I suspect it does increase the camera’s likelihood of getting damaged in the event of it being dropped or involved in some type of collision – a frequent occupational hazard for an action cam.

There’s a handy small secondary display on the front too, displaying current settings and shooting data so you can quickly check you’re using the right frame rate and resolution before you hit the record button.

In terms of mounting options, the Ace Pro is compatible with the same ‘mounting fingers’ universal system as used by GoPros, which allows it to be fixed to all manner of things. It doesn’t have the fingers built-in, however: instead a magnet-assisted adapter clips to the bottom. The idea, I suppose, is that it’s faster to mount and dismount than a GoPro, and that’s true – but however I did find the clip a little fussy, requiring some checking and pushing to make sure it had actually clicked securely into place. Users will need to take care when using this – an unsecure mount could see the camera falling off its perch and getting damaged or lost.

Interface & performance: swipy and stable

The Ace Pro uses a touch-based interface: you tap on-screen icons to bring up various menus and tooltips, and swipe from the ‘home’ screen left, right, up and down to access recorded content and settings. I found it simple and quite intuitive once I’d played around with it a bit, and for those who don’t want to prod and poke the screen, the camera includes a range of voice and gesture controls too.

You can also control the camera wirelessly through the Insta360 mobile app, which is a very solid effort all round, including good editing features, background downloading of clips and options for sharing content easily or uploading to social media.

There’s a fun feature in the form of the AI Highlights Assistant, which analyses whichever videos you select (although it doesn’t work with videos created using the PureVideo mode) and builds a highlight reel out of them. You can manually edit parts of the reel if you like too. It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but I think it’s great for rapidly creating clips to share with friends and family.

Any action cam worth its salt needs decent image stabilisation, and I found the Ace Pro’s FlowState to be more than sufficient. Available in three ‘strengths’ plus a Horizon Lock mode (which works to 45º during regular video capture and 360º in the FreeFrame video mode), it offers a welcome range of options that allow the user to achieve the best balance between stabilisation and image cropping.

In terms of battery life, I think the Ace Pro just pips the GoPro Hero 12 Black. I left it recording at 4K/30fps to see how long the 1650mAh battery would last, but the 64GB microSD card actually filled up first. That was after 75 minutes, and there was still a good chunk of power left. The battery is fast charging too, going from 0 to 80% in 22 minutes and 0 to 100% in 46 minutes.

Photo and video quality: Dancing in the dark

I’ll start with the bad news: the Ace Pro’s 8K/24fps capture mode hasn’t been available in the camera’s pre-release firmware, so I’ve not been able to test out a feature that could give it the edge over the GoPro in terms of detail. Insta360’s PR team promise it’ll be in the launch firmware, however.

That’s a shame, but even so I’ve been impressed with the camera’s video performance – particularly in low light. I took the Ace Pro out walking on a couple of very dark November nights to test its PureShot video mode, which restricts the frame rate to 30fps but allows 4K capture with image stabilisation, then sprinkles on some AI fairy dust to bring more detail out of the shadows. Action cams have always struggled at night due to their small image sensors, but the DJI Osmo Action 4 did a decent job and the Ace Pro, I think, goes slightly further. Both these cameras use a 1/1.3in sensor, but the Ace Pro’s footage has a bit more crispness to it. It’s still not the sort of pristine footage that’ll get pixel peepers rejoicing the streets, mind you: I noticed some strange artefacts caused by movement and it’s much softer than daytime footage. But it’s a good effort, and I think the best I’ve seen from a standard action camera to date.

Regular video capture offers quality up to 4K/120fps, with automatic HDR if the frame rate is kept at 30fps or below. The footage is sharp with a good balance of colours, but I couldn’t call it better than anything I’ve seen from the Hero 12 Black or DJI Osmo Action 4. The Ace Pro doesn’t offer a 10-bit option for those seeking better colour detail and dynamic range through post-production grading (a missed opportunity, given the Osmo Action 4 and Hero 12 Black do) but there is at least a ‘flat’ colour profile for anyone who prefers to do so.

Sound, meanwhile, is pretty standard. The built-in mics capture stereo AAC audio that suffers quite badly in the wind but serves its purpose well enough; users looking for something special should invest in an external mic setup of some kind.

I don’t think anybody is going to be let down by the footage they get out of the Ace Pro – unless they were expecting it do blow its competitors out of the water, of course. In practice, its video quality is exactly what you’d expect from a flagship action cam. We’ll have to wait and see if the 8K mode turns it into something special.

Photos, meanwhile, are also par for the course. The Quad Bayer sensor offers a choice between 48MP and 12MP (although HDR shots only get the latter) and with the dewarp setting turned the resulting wide-angle images can look quite nice – even dramatic and striking with some clever composition. If you’ve got a decent smartphone in your pocket, though, it’ll probably do a better job for still images than any action cam.

Insta360 Ace Pro verdict

insta360 ace pro lead image

While the Insta360 Ace Pro may not give its closest rivals the image quality pasting its makers might claim, I’m left in little doubt as to its all-round quality. GoPro won’t be losing much sleep over its arrival on the scene, with the Hero 12 Black still offering the best daytime image quality of any action cam, but the Ace Pro’s strong points such as its flip screen and low light video performance do help differentiate it from the competition – and I can’t say it really lets itself down in any other important areas either.

Overall, the Ace Pro represents another thoroughly dependable addition to the range of action cameras on the market, and provides a solid platform for Insta360 to build on with future iterations.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: scaling new heights

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 review: scaling new heights

Bowers Wilkins PX8 headphones lead

Stuff Verdict

Hands down the best Bowers and Wilkins wireless headphones – but the PX8 carries a considerable premium over the already excellent PX7 S2, for fairly minor gains.

Pros

  • Sublime build quality and materials
  • Nuanced sound with exceptional detail
  • Long-lasting battery and quick charging

Cons

  • Not a huge step up from the PX7 S2
  • Can’t listen with a flat battery
  • Carries a hefty price premium

Introduction

B&W knows a thing or two about top-tier headphones. So when I heard it was working on a “no holds barred, reference level” pair, you can bet my ears started to twitch. The Bowers & Wilkins PX8 are exactly that: properly luxurious active noise cancelling cans, built using premium materials and promising stellar sound quality.

Taking tech inspiration from the firm’s uncompromising 700 Series loudspeakers, they originally took pride of place above the PX7 S2 – hardly a middle-of-the-road pair of ‘phones, given the full five-star score – and now sit above the new PX7 S2e in the line-up.

Carbon dome drivers and cast aluminium are unquestionably high-end, but the design might look a little familiar. Is there more to the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 than a luxury finish and an equally luxurious price?

Originally published October 2022, last update November 2023: Royal Burgundy model brings DSP improvements

How we test headphones

Every pair of earphones and headphones reviewed on Stuff is used for a minimum of a week’s worth of daily listening. We use a playlist of test tracks made up of multiple genres to assess sound, and use our years of experience to compare to other models. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

Find out more about how we test and rate products.

Design & build: no compromise

The PX7 S2 was already something of a stunner in the looks department, so it’s no surprise B&W has kept things familiar for the PX8. It has the same general shape, only the materials have been upgraded across the board. Fabric has been replaced with Nappa leather pretty much everywhere (even on the carry case’s zip puller), the logo plates on each ear cup are now diamond-cut, and the arms holding them in place are cast aluminium.

The ear cushions and headband are stuffed with memory foam, which makes for a comfortable fit. That’s a necessity, given the PX8 isn’t especially light at 320g – a full 70g more than Sony’s WH-1000XM5. While the ear cups have plenty of swivel, they apply quite a bit of pressure on your head. This creates a good seal for passive noise isolation but can lead to slight listening fatigue after a few hours.

These headphones simply ooze luxury as soon as you get them in your hands, whether you go for tan leather, the black version I tested, or the newly added Royal Burgundy hue. Also they may be barely a year old at this point, but B&W has already introduced a handful of PX8 special editions: the James Bond 007 edition commemorates the spy’s 60th anniversary in film, while the orange hued McLaren special edition gives a nod to the F1 racing team. 

Bowers & Wilkins Cuffie Wireless Px 8, Nere

The machined metal buttons on each ear cup felt satisfyingly crisp every time I pressed one, and the textured finish on the multi-fuction playback control made it easy to find by touch alone.

Inside, the carbon dome drivers are angled for a consistent distance to your ears, which B&W says guarantees an accurate soundstage. It worked a charm on the PX7 S2, so I was happy to see the design return here.

Features & battery life: built to last

Pretty much all the physical controls are contained on the right ear cup, with just a single button on the left one for swapping between noise cancelling modes. The power switch doubles up for Bluetooth pairing, there are individual volume keys and the play/pause button’s double-tap functions can be customised through B&W’s extensive smartphone companion app.

Music by Bowers & Wilkins also runs you through the pairing process, although Google Fast Pair takes a lot of the hassle out for Android phone owners. It lets you adjust the treble and bass (no custom EQ, though) and set how sensitive the wear sensor is. Glasses wearers will quickly find that even the low setting can result in accidental pauses while walking around, yet I had no problems at all once I swapped to contact lenses. Perhaps skinnier glasses frames won’t be quite as prone to this: YMMV.

The biggest new addition is being able to play music from certain streaming services directly through the app, and quickly swap between the headphones and any other B&W kit you might own. Deezer, Qobuz and Tidal make the cut right now, with the latter two offering Hi-Res playback.

As with the PX7 S2, Qualcomm’s aptX Lossless codec wasn’t ready for prime time while the PX8 was in development – but it still supports aptX Adaptive for 24-bit playback from supported devices. Bluetooth 5.2 also does the standard SBC and AAC codecs. I had no stutters or dropouts from a week of listening, even while walking through places with heavy foot traffic like train stations and airport terminals.

There’s no 3.5mm port (something that was also absent on the PX7 S2), but a USB-C to 3.5mm cable is stashed neatly in the hard shell carry case, along with a charging cable. Just keep in mind wired listening is a no-go if the Bowers & Wilkins PX8 runs out of battery. The headphones themselves don’t fold to fit inside: only the ear cups twist flat for stowing, so it’ll still take up a fair bit of space in your travel bag.

Battery life is on par with Sony’s best and ahead of the Apple AirPods Max at up to 30 hours between charges with ANC enabled, but a step behind the Sennheiser Momentum 4. Charging is satisfyingly speedy, though, with a 15 minute top-up good for around seven hours of listening time. You’ve got to check the app to see exactly how much juice you have remaining: there’s no audible report when you power the headphones on, just a chime that kicks in when you’re dipping into the red.

Sound quality & noise cancelling: carbon viber

Under the skin, the PX8 goes above and beyond the PX7 S2 in a few key areas. It uses carbon dome drivers, rather than biocellulose ones, and has a 20mm voice coil instead of a 15mm one. Carbon fibre adds stiffness and reduces harmonic distortion at the top end of the frequency range, which should result in better overall resolution and exceptional sound detail.

Guess what? It absolutely does. The PX8 are a delight to listen to, with superb clarity and a balanced tone that rewards critical listening. There’s no musical genre that isn’t done justice: even my back catalogue of early naughties bassline house was suitably energetic, with a deep low end that doesn’t sacrifice definition in pursuit of impact.

All parts of the frequency range flow blend neatly together, with none of the noticeable dips, peaks or gaps in the upper-mids found on lesser headphones. Complicated arrangements and multi-layered tracks are given room to breathe, with an expansive soundstage and impeccable detail.

Interestingly, the Royal Burgundy version introduced in late 2023 brought an entirely new acoustic tune, on top of a bespoke leather treatment inspired by fine wine and some rather spangly gold detailing. According to B&W, it was meant to squeeze every last speck of detail from those bespoke carbon cone drivers.

Tested side-by-side to an older pair that had yet to be updated with the new DSP settings (something existing PX8 owners will be happy to hear is just a firmware update away), the difference was noticeable. Music suddenly had even cleaner, more precise vocal frequencies, while hi-hats and percussion were given just a little more bite. Bowers’ engineers haven’t messed around with bass response, which was already brilliantly well-judged.

There wasn’t a night and day difference between the original PX8 and the PX7 S2, even if the extra level of precision did explain at least some of the PX8’s higher asking price. The improved DSP gives the more premium model some breathing room – although the PS7 S2e also benefit from some tuning magic, so the gap might not be as wide as B&W first thought.

ANC is unchanged from the PX7 S2, with six microphones (three in each ear cup) delivering subtle cancellation designed to reduce background distractions, instead of muting the entire outside world. Think the low-frequency rumble of an air conditioner or a plane’s engines during a flight, rather than passing traffic or chattering colleagues.

Sony and Bose remain my top choice for commuters, as they cope better with higher frequency distractions. The focus here is very much on the music, with ANC adding very little colouration to the sound and letting you concentrate on the details without needing to crank up the volume.

Bowers & Wilkins PX8 verdict

Bowers Wilkins PX8 headphones playing

Was there ever any doubt the PX8 would deliver on B&W’s top-tier promise? These headphones are absolutely a step up from the PX7 S2 on the materials front, and also have the edge sonically. Originally we were talking very small gains, but a DSP re-tune has hammered home just how much clarity is available on tap here. Judged solely on sound quality, I could now happily add an extra star to its rating.

The PX7 S2 set a stonkingly good baseline, though, and the PS7 S2e go even further. For many, spending almost twice as much again will be a case of diminishing returns.

We can’t blame B&W for getting in on the trend for beautifully constructed wireless headphones that cost a small fortune. Point the finger at Apple and the AirPods Max instead, for starting it in the first place. The Bowers & Wilkins PX8 is a wonderfully crafted alternative that well-heeled listeners are sure to love – but PX7 S2 owners shouldn’t feel like they’re massively missing out.

20misham.ir

Best fitness trackers 2023: Fitbit, Garmin, Withings and more

Best fitness trackers 2023: Fitbit, Garmin, Withings and more

Best-Fitness-Tracker-2023-Lead

On the hunt for one of the best fitness trackers? Whether you want to track your runs in preparation for a marathon, or simply want an easy way to keep on top of general stats like daily steps, calories burned, and sleep data, there’s a fitness tracker out there that’s right for you.

There are, in fact, far too many, and sifting through them all can take up quite a bit of time. Luckily though, we’ve done all the hard work for you, by rounding up some of the best fitness trackers for all budgets. If you want to check out other fitness tracker articles, see best kids’ fitness tracker and the best cheap fitness tracker as well as heart rate trackers.

What’s the best fitness tracker?

We think the Fitbit Charge 5 (check price) is the best fitness tracker for most people today. Combining a large screen, svelte design, and advanced health-tracking capabilities like stress management, it ticks all the main boxes (including GPS), for a reasonable price.


Other fitness tracker recommendations

Before we jump into the full list of the best smartwatches you can buy right now, here’s a quick look at our three top picks:

Best minimal fitness tracker

The Oura (check price) is a ring which manages to cram all the fitness tracking features most people need within its minuscule body. Comfortable enough to sleep in and for all-day wear, it’s perfect for those who would rather have a traditional watch without sacrificing fitness tracking abilities.

Best budget fitness tracker

The Xiaomi Mi Band 7 (check price) is an amazing budget option for those looking for a worry-free fitness tracking experience that won’t break the bank.

Best Apple fitness tracker

The Apple Watch SE (check price) offers superb bang for your buck, with fitness tracking, a slick design, and all the smartwatch smarts you need.


The best fitness trackers you can buy today:

Best-Fitness-Tracker-2023-Fitbit-Charge-5

1. Fitbit Charge 5

Stuff Verdict

When the Charge 5 gets its most exciting health features turned on, it’ll be a tracker with big appeal for anyone that wants to pay closer attention to their health beyond tracking steps and runs

Pros

  • Finally gets a screen upgrade
  • Comfortable to wear 24/7 and solid heart rate monitoring
  • Easy to use interface

Cons

  • Data insights locked behind Fitbit Premium
  • Iffy sports tracking accuracy
Fitbit Charge 5 specs
Screen 1.04in AMOLED always-on colour touchscreen
Battery life Up to 7 days
Water resistance 50m
GPS Yes
Sensors ECG, SpO2, ambient light, optical heart rate
Compatibility Android, iOS
Weight 28g

The Fitbit Charge 5 is comfortably one of the best fitness trackers, combining a sleek and stylish design, along with a host of advanced health-tracking capabilities. The latter include stress management, sleep tracking, and heart rate monitoring.

With its built-in GPS smarts, it can track outdoor activities with precision too, making it an excellent tool for runners, cyclists, and hikers. Its battery life is also impressive, lasting up to a reasonable seven days on a single charge. Another benefit is its compatibility with both iOS and Android devices, which allows for seamless integration with a wide range of fitness apps.

While it lacks some features found in more expensive fitness trackers (such as music storage), it makes up for it with a more affordable price point and generously sized screen. Overall, the Fitbit Charge 5 offers excellent value for money for those who are looking for a reliable and accurate fitness tracker. Also check out our guide to the best Fitbit trackers and watches, too.

  • Read more: Fitbit Charge 5 review
Fitbit Charge 5 Tracker Di Attività Con Sei Mesi Di Abbonamento Inclusi, Nero, 3.68 x 2.28 x 1.12 Cm

2. Apple Watch SE

Stuff Verdict

Watch SE lays down the gauntlet for its more expensive siblings, offering most of the same experience for a chunk of cash less

Pros

  • Superb performance, latest-gen chip
  • All the core Apple Watch experience
  • Great value

Cons

  • Larger bezels than Series 8
  • Longer battery life next time please
  • Limited choice of finishes
Apple Watch SE specs
Screen Retina display, 368 x 448 pixels (44mm), 324 x 394 pixels (40mm)
Battery life 18 hours
Water resistance 50m waterproof
GPS Yes
Sensors Accelerometer, gyro, heart rate (2nd gen), barometer, always-on altimeter, compass
Compatibility iOS
Weight 33g (44mm), 28g (40mm)

It might be more expensive than most fitness trackers, but if you’re an iPhone owner looking for a fitness-tracking smartwatch, then the Apple Watch SE (2022 model) is a no-brainer.

Serving up all the key Apple Watch features for a price that’s more affordable than its Series 8 and Ultra brothers (despite featuring the same latest-gen processor), it has all the sleep, fitness, exercise and GPS- sports tracking you’ll need to keep on top of things.

With a plethora of established apps and features at your disposal (including the ever-useful Apple Pay), you’ll have the best of both worlds, for a rather tempting price.

  • Read more: Apple Watch SE review
Apple Watch SE GPS 40mm Midnight Aluminium Case with Midnight Sport Band – Regular

Best-Fitness-Tracker-2023-Xiaomi-Mi-Band-7

3. Xiaomi Mi Band 7

Stuff Verdict

A cheap and cheerful fitness tracker with a surprising number of features for the price

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Good array of sensors

Cons

  • Not the smartest tracker out there
  • No 3rd party app support
Xiaomi Mi Band 7 specs
Screen 1.62 inch AMOLED Touch Display, 192 x 490 pixels
Battery life 14 days
Water resistance 5ATM
GPS No
Sensors 6-axis sensor, PPG heart rate sensor
Compatibility Andoird and iOS
Weight 13.5g

The Xiaomi Mi Band 7 is an affordable fitness tracker that’s ideal for those on a tight budget. Despite its price, it still serves up commendable health and fitness tracking features. We’re big fans of its minimalistic design and even bigger fans of its impressively long battery life — it can last up to a whopping 14 days on a single charge.

Affordability and longevity aside, it provides accurate tracking of daily activities, including sleep and steps taken. Naturally, at this price, it lacks advanced features found in more expensive fitness trackers, such as GPS tracking and personalised coaching, but considering the RRP, we’ll let that slide.

Overall, the Mi Band 7 provides excellent value for money for those looking for a basic fitness tracker and is one of the best ways to kickstart your fitness journey.

  • Read more: Xiaomi’s Mi Band 7
Xiaomi Mi Band 7 Smart Bracelet 6 Color AMOLED Screen Miband 7 Blood Oxygen Fitness Traker Bluetooth Waterproof Smart Band CN version

Best-Fitness-Tracker-2023-Fitbit-Sense-2

4. Fitbit Sense 2

Stuff Verdict

A sleek watch made for health and wellness monitoring that’s a poorer smartwatch thanks to some missing features from the original

Pros

  • Reliable fitness tracking features
  • Bigger push on stress monitoring

Cons

  • Loses features from first Sense
  • Stuttering software
  • Still just okay sports tracking
Fitbit Sense 2 specs
Screen 1.58in, 336×336 AMOLED
Battery life 6+ days
Water resistance 50 meters
GPS Yes
Sensors Optical heart rate, electrical sensor (stress), ECG, red and infrared sensors for oxygen saturation (SpO2), gyroscope, altimeter
Compatibility Android and iOS
Weight 37.6 g

The Fitbit Sense 2 is at the higher end of the company’s lineup, both in terms of features, and budget. Its premium, metal design aside, there are a couple of features that propel it beyond most standard fitness trackers.

The first of these is a built-in EDA (electrodermal activity) sensor, which, in essence, measures how much you’re perspiring. This data is then treated with Fitbit’s specially designed algorithms, to determine your stress levels. Not only can it warn you when you’re getting too stressed, but it can also suggest and take you through various breathing activities to help calm things down.

Other notable features include a temperature sensor, along with an ECG sensor for keeping tabs on your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity, in addition to all the regular health and activity tracking you’d expect. If you can get past the lack of GPS and are happy with around six days of battery life per charge, then this could be the ideal stress-relieving choice for you.

  • Read more: Fitbit Sense 2 review
Fitbit Sense 2 Smartwatch Unisex-Adulto, Nero, 4.03 x 4.03 x 1.12 Cm

Best-Fitness-Tracker-2023-Garmin-Vivosmart-5

5. Garmin Vivosmart 5

Stuff Verdict

Its lightweight design might be forgettable, but if you can deal with the dinky screen and lack of built-in GPS, the Vivosmart 5 offers a lot of tracking smarts for a relatively affordable price

Pros

  • Lightweight, comfortable fit
  • Streamlined, swappable design
  • Comprehensive tracking features

Cons

  • Underwhelming display
  • Slightly fiddly interface
Garmin Vivosmart 5 specs
Screen 0.41×0.73in OLED touchscreen, 88×154 pixels
Battery life 7 days
Water resistance 5ATM
GPS No
Sensors Heart rate, blood oxygen, accelerometer, ambient light
Compatibility Android and iOS
Weight 24.5g (small), 26.5g (large)

If you’re after Garmin’s excellent fitness tracking app’s features but don’t want to spring for one of its pricey watches, then something like the Vivosmart 5 could be the ideal solution. It’s pretty smart, as far as fitness tracking bands go, thanks to a pared-back design and textured rubber shell.

Feature-wise, it ticks most boxes, including the usual fitness and sleep-tracking skills, along with a pulse oximeter, stress tracker, and Garmin’s body battery energy monitor. The addition of smartphone notifications and music controls also lends it some smarter functionality, without entering full smartwatch territory.

Battery life is decent, if not great, with around 7 days of use per charge on offer. If you’re set on using Garmin’s well-established app, then this could be one of the best entry points before potentially upgrading to something more fully-featured in future.

  • Read more: Garmin Vivosmart 5 review
Garmin Vívosmart 5, Smartband E Activity Tracker Unisex Adulto, Nero, 255mm

6. Fitbit Inspire 3

Stuff Verdict

Comfortable, and with a new colour screen, the Fitbit Inspire 3 means maybe you don’t need a smartwatch

Pros

  • A colour screen (finally)
  • Great sleep tracker
  • Best battery life on a Fitbit

Cons

  • Some insights require Fitbit Premium
  • It’s a small display
Fitbit Inspire 3 specs
Screen 72x128px AMOLED
Battery life 10 days
Water resistance 5ATM
GPS No
Sensors 3-axis accelerometer, optical heart rate monitor, red and infrared sensors for blood oxygen (SpO2) monitoring, ambient light sensor
Compatibility Android and iOS
Weight 17.7 g

With a great battery life, minimal-yet-smart design, and a price that’s at the more affordable end of Fitbit’s lineup, the Inspire 3 has plenty going for it.

Sure, you won’t get more advanced features like sweat-based stress tracking or GPS for phone-free runs, but if you want to enter the world of Fitbit’s tried and tested ecosystem while tracking activities, sleep, steps and more, the Inspire 3 won’t let you down.

  • Read more: Fitbit Inspire 3 review
Fitbit Inspire 3,Black/Midnight Zen, Activity Tracker Unisex-Adult, Nero Notte, One Size

Best-Fitness-Tracker-2023-Withings-ScanWatch

7. Withings ScanWatch

Stuff Verdict

A fitness tracker for analogue watch fans, the subtle ScanWatch will track everything from steps to oxygen saturation and ECG

Pros

  • Great design for analogue fans
  • Impressive battery life

Cons

  • Not much information displayed on device
  • Notifications are a little pointless
Withings ScanWatch specs
Screen Analog dial + small PMOLED screen
Battery life 30 days
Water resistance 5 ATM
GPS No
Sensors Multi-wavelength PPG heart rate/SpO2 sensor, stainless steel electrodes, MEMS 3-axis accelerometer
Compatibility Android and iOS
Weight 58g (38mm), 83g (42mm)

Withings’ ScanWatch is a rather unique offering that blurs the lines between fitness trackers, smartwatches, and regular timepieces. Thanks to the combination of a regular analogue face and a built-in miniature display, it offers all the charm of a traditional watch, with advanced features including an ECG sensor, oxygen saturation detection, and sleep apnea detection. This unique combination makes it one of the best fitness trackers.

With sleep tracking, 24/7 activity tracking, heart rate tracking and more all included as well, it’s the perfect watch for fitness fans who want a more traditional aesthetic on their wrist. And, thanks to the lack of a large display, it can last up to 30 days on a single charge too, embarrassing the rest of our picks on this list in the longevity department.

  • Read more: Withings ScanWatch Horizon
Withings ScanWatch – Hybrid Smartwatch with ECG, Heart Rate and Oximeter, 42 mm Black

Best-Fitness-Tracker-2023-Huawei-Band-7

8. Huawei Band 7

Stuff Verdict

A super lightweight and affordable fitness tracker with blood oxygen monitoring and heart rate tracking

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Decent battery life

Cons

  • Sleep tracking could be better
  • No third party app support
Huawei Band 7 specs
Screen 1.47 inch AMOLED, 194 x 368 pixels
Battery life 14 days
Water resistance 5 ATM
GPS No
Sensors Accelerometer, gyroscope, optical heart rate
Compatibility Android and iOS
Weight  16 g

The Huawei Band 7 is one of the cheapest fitness bands available from a known manufacturer, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at it. With a smart, elongated appearance and large display, it looks far fancier than its price tag would suggest.

Its 1.47-inch AMOLED display is a beauty to behold, while its incredibly light 16g weight makes for a device that you’ll barely feel. Features include blood oxygen monitoring and heart rate tracking, in addition to sleep tracking, 96 workout modes, and the ability to view notifications and weather updates.

Huawei reckons you can squeeze up to 14 days of use per charge in typical use cases, or 10 days if you’re really pushing it. Both estimates are impressive, and at this price, we can’t even complain about the lack of built-in GPS.

HUAWEI BAND 7 GRAPHITE BLACK
€71.45

Best-Fitness-Trackers-2023-Oura

9. Oura Ring Gen 3

Stuff Verdict

A big upgrade over its predecessor, the Gen 3 Oura ring gets an upgraded heart rate sensor, seven temperature sensors, and a new SpO2 sensor

Pros

  • Gives an overall view of health, rest and recovery
  • Comfortable to wear all day
  • Advanced tracking such as SpO2 and menstrual cycle

Cons

  • Much chunkier than a traditional ring
  • Not the best for proper workout tracking
Oura Ring Gen 3 specs
Screen No
Battery life Up to 7 days
Water resistance 100m
GPS No
Sensors Optical heart rate sensor, blood oxygen, infrared photoplethysmography (PPG), skin temperature sensor, photodiodes, 3D accelerometer
Compatibility Android and iOS
Weight 4 – 6 g (depending on ring size)

Want a fitness tracker but don’t want to clutter your wrist and/or sacrifice your beloved traditional timepiece? Enter the Oura — a fitness tracker that’s cleverly incorporated into an honest-to-goodness ring, letting you wear it on your finger of choice for unintrusive tracking.

Covering everything from sleep and heart rate, to steps and body temperature, it’s one of the best solutions for minimalists who don’t want an obvious smart device messing with their fashion Feng Shui.


How to choose the best fitness tracker for you

Overwhelmed by the vast choice of fitness trackers out there? Fear not, for Stuff’s wearable experts are on hand to grace you with their expertise.

The first step is deciding on a form factor — we’ve gone mostly for more minimalist “band”-type trackers, as they’re fitness-focused rather than offering all the apps, bells, and whistles served up by, say, some of the best Android smartwatches. That’s not to say you can’t opt for a smartwatch, mind. In fact, we’ve included the likes of the Apple Watch SE below as it’s a great choice for iPhone users looking for fitness tracking and other smarts in one device.

For the most part, though, you’ll want something compact, thin, and light, with a smartwatch-beating battery life of around five days or more. Waterproofing is a must if you’re swimming, and practically every fitness tracker is weather/sweat-resistant at the very least, for obvious reasons.

Built-in GPS is a bonus if you’re looking to track outdoor activities without having to bring along your bulky smartphone, and other extras like music playback can come in handy for the same reason.

With most fitness trackers offering the same core experience — namely, steps counted, calories burned, heart rate, sleep tracking, activity tracking, and more, you’ll want to decide on which brand you feel most comfortable with. Some fitness trackers offer more comprehensive stats for particular sports like swimming, and if you’ve already got a device from a particular brand, you may want to stay within their ecosystem so that you don’t lose any of your existing app data.

If you’re still set on a smartwatch though, then no problem. Simply read Stuff’s guide to the best smartwatches, and you’ll be golden.

Finally, if you’re serious about getting fit, check out Stuff’s guides to the best workout shoes for the gym, the best running shoes, and the best GPS watches.

“Comparing Google Pixel 8 and Samsung Galaxy S23: Which Should You Choose?”

“Comparing Google Pixel 8 and Samsung Galaxy S23: Which Should You Choose?”

Pixel 8 next to Galaxy S23

Choosing the best Android smartphone gets tougher each year due to the variety of options available. Currently, the spotlight is on Google Pixel 8 vs Samsung Galaxy S23, the top contenders for your money.

Samsung Galaxy S23 5G Dual SIM Android Mobile Phone, 256GB, SIM Free Smartphone, Black

Samsung’s Galaxy S23, priced at $799/£849, boasts a consistent design, borrowing camera elements from the pricier S23 Ultra. With a 6.1in display protected by Gorilla Glass Victus 2, it offers vibrant colors and supports HDR video playback. Its camera setup includes a 50MP main sensor, 12MP ultrawide, and 10MP telephoto lens.

On the other hand, the Pixel 8 at $699/£699, features a curvier design, a tad larger at 6.2in. Its 50MP main sensor, paired with AI enhancements like “Best Take,” promises advanced photography. The Pixel 8’s Tensor G3 processor, optimized for AI, is backed by 8GB RAM and either 128GB or 256GB storage.

Screens: shining differences

Despite being older, Samsung’s S23 retains a performance edge due to its partnership with Qualcomm. Both phones lack impressive battery life, but the Pixel 8’s larger 4575mAh cell offers an advantage over the S23’s 3900mAh. In terms of charging, the Pixel 8 supports 30W wired and 23W wireless, outdoing the S23’s 25W wired and 15W wireless capabilities.

Cameras: evenly matched competitors

Price-wise, the Pixel 8 stands out, being more budget-friendly while offering compelling features. Both phones have trade-offs, making the choice dependent on individual priorities.

 

The best smart home devices 2023

The best smart home devices 2023

Like everyone, you’ve got a smart speaker. But how can you take your connected abode to the next level? Here’s our guide to the most appealing and useful smart home devices you can add to an existing setup to make your property smart.

From Wi-Fi fridges to TVs you can talk to, it’s easy to blow big bucks on connected gear. But you don’t have to: the best smart home devices can get your gaffe online without making mortgage payments a problem.

Yes, smart homes are more accessible than ever. With big players such as Google, Apple and Amazon all competing to connect up your crib – plus plenty of third parties making tech to work with their systems – it’s never been easier or more affordable to transform your house into a smart home.

To help you get started, we’ve rounded up a batch of the best smart home devices. Whether you want clever bulbs to light up your living room or a connected camera to keep an eye on your kids, the gear below will help you get a brainier abode. Thanks to our list of the best smart home devices, you don’t need to knock down walls or embark on a rewiring disaster either.


What smart ecosystem should you go for?

Amazon Alexa remains the GOAT of smart assistants. The number of Alexa-powered Echo devices out there is now in the hundreds of millions, and Alexa’s prowess shows in its accurate responses. And it’s no longer audio-only: the Echo Show range of smart displays is getting better at serving as an effective touch interface, rather than just being voice-controlled with a tacked-on screen.

While Alexa is still a little ahead for controlling the smart home, Google Assistant’s everyday charm is compelling. What sets it apart is its ability to rely on a certain massive search engine and the info it stores about just about everything. Local bus times? No bother, and it’ll even tell you how long it will take to walk to your stop. Google Assistant is also top-notch with follow-up questions, making it able to be more conversational than Alexa or Siri.

Once seen as a part-time lover, Apple’s HomeKit is now a serious smart home ecosystem with hundreds of devices supporting it – and, of course, native support on Apple devices via the Home app. As a simple system to use, it can’t be beaten – even device setup is relatively easy.


The best smart speakers

  • Main article: Best smart speakers reviewed and rated

Amazon Echo Dot

The little helper: Amazon Echo Dot (£50)
All-new Echo Dot (5th generation, 2022 release) smart speaker with Alexa | Charcoal

Alexa has long been on hand to offer assistance from the dinky Dot. Like its bigger sibling, Amazon’s smallest smart speaker now takes the form of a ball. Wrapped in fabric, the updated orb feels playful yet classical, with soft styling to match most decors.

Buttons on top take care of volume and privacy, while an ‘Alexa’ input lets you activate the digital helper without saying her name. Stump up an extra tenner and you’ll also get a built-in clock. Besides the time, this can highlight timers and alarms.

For those familiar with Alexa, it couldn’t be easier to set up. Sound quality is surprisingly mighty for such a compact gadget. Bass is where the smart sphere inevitably falls short, but for listening to the radio and controlling other Alexa-enabled kit around the house, it definitely gets the job done.


Google Nest Audio

Google Nest Audio (£80)
Google Nest Nest Audio – Chalk

If your smart home is handled by Google, the revamped Nest Audio is a neat way to keep it under control. Its minimalist fabric finish means it fits with almost any decor, while four LEDs and a single physical button ensure the interface is foolproof.

While its sound quality won’t satisfy audiophiles, a 75mm woofer and a 19mm tweeter mean there’s plenty of full-bodied punch – so it’s perfect for everyday listening. Want more dynamism? Pair it with a second Nest Audio for a full stereo setup.

The Nest Audio ships with a machine-learning engine, which delivers quicker local processing of common commands. Three near-field mics do a solid job of detecting requests – whether that’s turning off the lights or battling the trivia ‘bot. For under a ton, the Nest audio is a properly smart package.

Little and large

Want the skills of Google Assistant in a smaller fabric blob? Add a Nest Mini to your shelf. It doesn’t pack the acoustic punch of the Audio, but it’s fine for podcasts, recipes or weather updates. Plus far-field voice recognition ensures you don’t have to shout to be heard. 


Apple HomePod Mini

Apple HomePod Mini (£99)
Apple HomePod Mini (grey)

Not to be outdone, Apple has a domestic dome of its own. And it knows the dress code: like both the Echo Dot and Nest Audio, the HomePod Mini wears a natty fabric jacket. It also features a touch-sensitive top for easy interaction.

With Siri at its heart, the HomePod Mini can handle all the usual smart speaker tasks – setting timers, checking the forecast, creating calendar events – plus it works as a HomeKit Hub for controlling your smart stuff.

The Mini also squeezes surprisingly solid sound into such a small unit. It can’t make hi-fi claims like the original HomePod, but its single driver does a stellar job of serving up energetic sound in 360. If you’re already embedded in the Apple ecosystem, this is a great way to get connected.


The best smart displays

  • Main article: Best smart display: the top smart home screens for every budget – reviewed

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd gen)

Amazon Echo Show 5 (2nd gen) (£75)

Amazon’s Echo Show 8 might get more attention, but its pint-sized relative is a great way to add visual smarts to any space. Admittedly, the Echo Show 5 won’t win awards for its specs: at 960×480, the 5.5in screen is low-res, while its 2MP camera and solitary 1.65in speaker are beaten by most smartphones.

But that’s missing the point. The Echo Show 5 is a smart display you can drop just about anywhere – whether that’s your kitchen counter, your bedside table or beside your bathroom sink.

It’s super simple to set up, yet also packs all the power of Alexa, supports pretty much every streaming service and the camera can double-up as a remote security guard. Plus you can pair it with the sold-separately stand for perfectly angled video calls.

  • Which Amazon Echo Show smart display is best for you?

Google Nest Hub (2nd gen)

Google Nest Hub (2nd gen) (£90)
Google Nest Hub Smart Display (H) 11,8 (W) 17,85 (Dia) 6,73 cm – Gesso

Google’s second-gen Nest Hub is a simpler display than the Nest Hub Max, but it also sets you back less than half the price. So you don’t get the clever face-recognition camera or the punchy speakers of the bigger version. What you do get for your £90 is a compact yet clever control panel that’s a top choice for countertop smarts on tap.

Its 7in display is small, but the clear interface makes navigation a cinch. Plus three mics ensure it’s easy to ask Google Assistant to do your bidding, from switching on the lights to cuing up another YouTube cooking video.

And even though there’s no lens, Motion Sense smarts mean you can wave your hands to activate Quick Gestures – ideal if you need to stop a timer but your mouth’s full and your hands are covered in the evidence of your chocolate gobbling.

  • Home smart home: the best gadgets that work with Google Assistant

Logitech Base Charging Stand

Logitech Base Charging Stand (£90)
  • Buy the Logitech Base Charging Stand here

Apple doesn’t make a dedicated smart display (yet), but that doesn’t mean you can’t put a Cupertino touchscreen at the heart of your smart home. Drop an iPad with a Smart Connector on Logitech’s Base Charging Stand and – voila! – you’ve got a connected control panel.

Power is delivered via the Smart Connector, while the stand itself props the panel at a 70-degree angle – perfect for video calls, streaming and managing devices via the HomeKit app. While Apple’s latest tablets aren’t supported, you can easily pick up a compatible iPad online, or repurpose an old one from your tech drawer.

With Siri on-board and thousands of apps on tap (including Google and Amazon services), an iPad is the perfect partner for the Base – transforming from second screen to DIY smart display.


The best smart security tech

  • Main articles: The best video doorbell, Best Ring doorbell, Best outdoor security camera and finally the best indoor security camera

Neos Smartcam

Neos Smartcam (£30)
Neos SmartCam | Telecamera di sicurezza Wi-Fi SmartHome, funziona con Alexa, 1080P HD video, visione notturna, audio a 2 vie, archiviazione cloud gratuita, supporto UK, bianco, confezione singola

Things can happen fast at home: it only takes Fido a second to sniff out freshly baked snacks. Luckily, you won’t miss a thing with this miniature monitor.

A compact cube for smarter security, the wireless watcher keeps a 1080p eye on interior scenes. With the SmartCam connected to your Wi-Fi, you can drop in for a live view any time via the Neos SmartHome app – or receive instant alerts when it detects motion. Fido lurking by the counter? Tap the talk button to tell him where to go.

Infrared night vision ensures 24/7 surveillance, while Alexa compatibility means you can view a live feed on Echo Show devices. Stick an SD card in the slot for continuous offline recording or stash snapshots in the cloud, with free storage of 12-second clips for up to 14 days. Want longer recordings? A Neos Boost subscription will set you back £2.49 per month and unlock longer clips, custom activity zones and scheduling.

Outside eyes

Want a wireless watcher that can work outdoors? Amazon’s own line of security cameras includes the Blink Outdoor – a weather-resistant cam with a two-year battery life. Buy it here


Ring Video Doorbell (2nd Gen)

Ring Video Doorbell (2nd Gen) (£89)
Ring Video Doorbell di Amazon | Videocitofono con video in HD a 1080p, rilevazione avanzata del movimento (Seconda Generazione) | Con un periodo di prova gratuita di 30 giorni del piano Ring Protect

Wi-Fi doorbells can’t open the door for visitors, but they can help you decide whether it’s worth getting off the sofa to do so yourself. Equipped with cameras, these digital bouncers ping real-time alerts to your smartphone when someone pushes their button – and offer a live video of the doorstep lurker.

While it’s not the very latest video doorbell you can buy, the second-gen Ring is still a decent dinger. You get 1080p footage from your front door, as well as night vision, motion detection and two-way talking – so you can tell calling couriers where to stash your packages, even if you’re not at home.

Connected to your Wi-Fi network, the rechargeable Ring plays nice with Alexa and can stream a live feed to Echo Show devices. Stump up £2.50 per month for Ring Protect to unlock additional features, including the all-important option to record, save and share captured videos.


Hive Window or Door sensor

Hive Window or Door sensor (£29)
Hive Window or Door Sensor – White

There’s nothing worse than getting halfway to work, only to wonder if you left a window wide open. For peace of mind about your portals, stick Hive’s sensor on openings around your home.

Fire up the app and you can check the status of every sensor. Safer still, configure the system to send alerts to your smartphone or Apple Watch if a door or window is opened while you’re away.

Got other Hive gear at home? Hook up the sensors for clever integrations, like lights that switch on when you open the door or heating that disables if a window’s open. You can also add them to Hive’s HomeShield alarm system for total security, including smart reports and 30-day event history from £10 per month.


The best smart plugs

  • Main article: The best smart plugs: Alexa, Google, and Siri support
Amazon Smart Plug, works with Alexa, Certified for Humans device

Replacing perfectly serviceable appliances with smart substitutes is expensive and wasteful. For an upgrade that doesn’t involve a trip to the tip, use Amazon’s Wi-Fi Smart Plug to enhance your existing electronics.

From coffee machines to standard lamps, connect any bit of kit to the outlet and it’ll instantly become cleverer. Provided you have an Alexa-enabled device at home (such as an Echo or Fire TV), you’ll be able to ask the voice assistant to switch the socket on or off.

More than just a switch, you can also integrate the Smart Plug – or several – into routines and schedules through the Alexa app. So you can set the coffee pot to activate automatically at 7am, followed by the kitchen radio when you say ‘good morning’.


Elgato Eve Energy

Elgato Eve Energy (£35)
Eve Energy UK – Smart Plug & Power Meter with Built-in Schedules, Voice Control, no Bridge Needed, Apple HomeKit, Bluetooth, Thread

Wi-Fi isn’t the only way to smarten up your sockets. Elgato’s Eve Energy uses Bluetooth for more efficient kit control. Like the Kasa adapter above, simply add it to a standard plug and you can wirelessly switch it on or off.

Things get even smarter when you launch the dedicated app on your iPhone or iPad, where you can configure schedules for automated appliance activation – independent of your internet connection. The app also offers up insights into your energy usage, highlighting how much power individual devices are consuming, plus projected costs.

The Eve Energy plays nice with HomeKit too, so you can instruct your sockets using your voice, while Thread mesh support means it’ll help to extend the reach and reliability of your smart home.

Who goes there

Elgato’s Eve Motion is a wireless motion sensor which can be programmed to trigger all sorts of HomeKit recipes, from switching on your smart lights to enabling the kettle connected to your Eve Energy. Buy it here


Meross Smart Plug

Smart Wi-Fi Indoor/Outdoor Plug (£29)
Smart Plug 13A WiFi meross IP44 Outdoor WiFi Plug, Compatible with Apple HomeKit Alexa Google Assistant SmartThings, Voice Control 2 Grounded Heavy Duty Outlets

It takes more than four walls to make a smart home. Don’t forget the garden: for smarter power outside, add this waterproof twin socket to your patio, porch or patch of grass.

Like any good outdoor power solution, it’s built tough with IP44 rain and dust resistance. Unlike your average extension lead, though, it’s also compatible with every major smart home platform – that means Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, SmartThings and IFTTT.

From lights to sprinklers to the pump for your imaginary pool, the Meross multi-plug lets you control all your garden gear directly via Wi-Fi, as well as setting schedules and timers. Each socket can be enabled individually, too.


The best smart lighting

  • Main article: The best smart light bulbs

Nanoleaf Essentials A19

Nanoleaf Essentials A19 (£18)
Nanoleaf Essentials Smart A19 – Lampadina W B22

Smart bulbs shouldn’t blind you with their price tags. Luckily, Nanoleaf’s Essentials range offers Wi-Fi brightness without draining your savings.

Shipped with several screw styles, each bulb offers millions of colours on tap, adaptive brightness and custom schedules through the app. And you don’t need any separate hub or bridge to get online: simply stick it in a spare fitting, scan the barcode on the box and you’ll be gleaming.

The best bit? Bulbs cost less than £20 each. Start with one for smarter saturation – plus Circadian Lighting to boost your mode – before seamlessly expanding your connected setup as and when you need. They’re Thread-enabled, too, meaning they can join a mesh network with compatible smart kit – extending control around the house for fewer dropouts.

Strip show

Nanoleaf’s Essentials range also includes a simple Lightstrip. At two metres, it’s the ideal length for uplighting your living room or gaming den – and it ships with everything you need for a glow up. Buy it here


Lifx Lightstrip

LifX Z Strip Starter pack (£80)
LIFX Z, 2m Starter Kit LED Strip, Bianco

Run a monochrome light strip along a counter, column or desk for dramatic uplighting. Do the same with this two-metre strip from Lifx for a rainbow showcase to transform any room.

More than a saturated strip, the adhesive ribbon features eight glow zones along its length, each of which can shine a different shade. Pick from presets in the partner app or go wild with colour combos to paint your walls with light.

A single Lifx Lightstrip packs 1400 lumens of vibrant brightness and can be extended up to 10m, so even the biggest abodes can be bathed in better ambience. Plus it plays nice with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri – no hub necessary.


Innr Smart Bulb set

Innr E27 Smart LED Bulb, Tunable White Ambiance Light, Works with Philips Hue*, Google & Alexa (Hub Required) dimmable, 2200-5000K, Shades of White, 2-Pack, RB 279 T-2

Intelligent illuminations are an important part of smart home setup. Trouble is, installing a smart bulb behind every shade soon adds up. For a brighter abode without breaking the bank, start be swapping three standard shiners for the warm white ones in this triple pack.

Innr’s smart bulbs don’t offer the multi-colour magic you might want for your cinema room, but they do support wireless dimming, scheduling and smart scenes. Plus you can control them even when you’re not at home.

The bulbs also support voice control via Google Assistant and Alexa, although you will need a separate hub to get set up. Innr sells its own Bridge, although the bulbs also work with most mainstream systems, including SmartThings, Zigbee and Philips Hue (albeit sans HomeKit compatibility). Owner of an Echo Studio, Echo Show 10 or fourth-gen Echo? You won’t need any additional hardware, because these devices double up as Zigbee bridges.


The best smart TV streaming sticks

  • Main article: The best TV streaming sticks and devices

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Roku Streaming Stick 4K | Lettore multimediale in streaming HD/4K/HDR

Roku cut its teeth with affordable streaming sticks. While its latest streamer stays true to the budget brief, it’s no cut-price solution for smart home entertainment.

Support for pretty much every major streaming platform – including Disney+, Apple TV and BT Sport – means it’s one of the most versatile devices you can stick behind your TV. Provided your set has an HDMI port compatible with HDCP 2.2, it can serve up delicious 4KD HDR video at 60fps. It also supports HDR10/10+, HLG and Dolby Vision.

The simple remote makes it straightforward to navigate all that content. Prefer to ask your voice assistant what’s on? Roku doesn’t play favourites: the Streaming Stick 4K works with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri, so you can load up shows any which way you want. And thanks to improved Wi-Fi range, that should happen more speedily.


Chromecast with Google TV

Chromecast with Google TV (£60)
Chromecast Google TV

Google’s standard Chromecast receiver makes it a cinch to cue up web content on your telly box. While you can still ‘cast’ to the updated plug-in puck, it’s become much more than a passive receiver: equipped with Google’s TV interface, it’s now a proper smart streaming system for you TV.

Google’s entertainment hub pulls together content from multiple services on a single screen, with personal recommendations from across all of your favourite platforms. Chromecast also supports more than 6500 apps, which means you’ll always have something to watch.

Streaming quality is slick, with sharp 4K HDR at up to 60fps, plus support for cinematic Dolby Atmos, Dolby Vision and HDR10+. And thanks to the bundled remote, Google Assistant’s support is just a press away – whether you want to load up a show or view a live feed from your doorbell.


Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Max

This binge-watching stick will transform your telly into an Alexa-powered smart screen. Connected to a spare HDMI slot on the back of your set, it can stream stunning 4K content from almost all of your favourite services.

Support for Dolby Vision, HLG and HDR10/10+ means you get the latest visuals, while Wi-Fi 6 ensures the strongest possible connection. There’s Dolby Atmos as well, for more immersive audio (if your sound setup supports it).

Extra memory and processing power ensures the interface is as zippy as ever, although Amazon still puts its own shows first in the recommendations. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, provided you’re a Prime subscriber. If you are, you’ll find the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is the perfect complement to your existing setup: with Alexa built into the box, one request is all it takes to load up shows, navigate apps and control your connected kit.

I’ve owned every Pixel phone since the first generation, but I might skip the Pixel 8

Close up of Pixel 8 camera on blue background

Ever since the first Google Pixel smartphone showed up, I’ve been something of a superfan. The most important piece of tech I own might be my Pixel 7; for most people it’s one of the best smartphones you can buy. But I might not get the Pixel 8.

To explain why, first I should be clear why I rate the range so highly.

For me, a Pixel’s most compelling feature is its cameras. These phones are renowned for their phenomenal photographic abilities, with Google’s software processing being second to none. They might not have the most impressive sensor setups (to match something like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra), but the results are just as – if not more – impressive. And that’s before getting on to features like Night Sight and Google Photos’ AI-powered image editing.

Other reasons? Unlike most phones that run Android, Pixels have a completely clean UI with no bloatware. They get timely software and security updates, and for more years than most rivals. Subjectively I also think the non-Pro Pixel is the perfect size for a smartphone. And let’s not forget they are (usually) excellent value for money; you get flagship-grade features, design, and performance, at a price that undercuts the competition.

  • Related: the best Google Pixel 8 deals and prices

The Pixel 8 gets a lot of things right

Pixel 8 from Google site

Now, don’t get me wrong, the Google Pixel 8 gets a lot of things right. I’m a fan of the new Hazel and Rose colours, appreciate the boosted brightness that now nudges 2000 nits when you step outside, and Google has made this year’s model even smaller. There’s a 6.2in screen now, down from 6.32in on the Pixel 7, yet it keeps the same sharp 2400×1080 resolution.

Boosting the refresh rate from 90Hz to a smoother 120Hz is a welcome move, as is increasing the battery capacity – even if it’s only by a small amount. Features previously exclusive to the Pro model, like Macro Focus close-up photography, also make the cut.

But let’s be honest. If the Pixel 8 were an iPhone, it would be an S model. This is, on paper, a small update.

And while Google has added a lot of smart new software features, such as Audio Magic Eraser in video and Magic Editor for group photos, it’s likely that I’ll be trickled down to older Pixel models thanks to Pixel feature drops.

And then there’s the elephant in the room: the price. The Pixel 8 starts at $699/£699 – that’s $100/£100 more than last year’s model! In a time where budgets are tight, I just can’t justify spending that much on a relatively minor upgrade. Similarly, the $999/£999 Pixel 8 Pro is $100/£150 more than the outgoing Pixel 7 Pro. That exactly matches how much Apple wants for an iPhone 15 Pro.

For Pixel 7 owners like myself, it just doesn’t make sense to upgrade – even with some tempting trade-in offers currently doing the rounds.

If the price doesn’t put you off and you’re using a Pixel 6 or older, you can pre-order the Google Pixel 8 below:

25 best gifts under $100/£100 for Christmas 2023

25 best gifts under $100/£100 for Christmas 2023

best-gifts-under-$100-£100-2023-lead

 

Looking for the best gifts under $100 / £100? As luck would have it, you can bag plenty of excellent festive tech gifts for less.

OK, so you can’t wrap up a brand-new console on a budget. But you can find a whole host of Yuletide treats without going into the red.

From smart speakers to wireless earphones, the list below features our pick of the top Christmas gadget gifts you can buy for £100 or less. The best bit? None of them will make your recipient feel short-changed.

Our pick of the best gifts for under $100/£100 for Christmas 2023

best-gifts-under-$100-£100-2023-Sony-WF-C700N

They may not be as good as Sony’s class-leading MX5 buds, but this pair of wireless in-ears are still absolutely worthy of gracing one’s ears if premium budgets are out of reach. Comfortable, noise-cancelling, and with superb sound to back it up (courtesy of Sony’s clever sound enhancement engine), they’re a failsafe pick that won’t let you (or your recipient) down.

best-gifts-under-$100-£100-2023-amazon-echo-pop

Amazon Echo Pop

The Echo Pop won’t blow anyone away with audiophile-gade sound quality. And it doesn’t have to at this price. Temptingly affordable, compact, and available in some rather funky hues, it’ll make for a great addition to any space where music and Alexa skills are needed. Made from all manner of recycled materials, it’s the most accessible way to gift the power of voice assistance this Christmas.

If you know someone who’s forever complaining about the woefully unfrothed status of their milk, this handheld gizmo from Dualit will make their day. Taking care of things in both the heating and frothing department, its easy one-hand operation, coupled with different attachments for hot chocolate and milkshakes, will make it a staple tool in any kitchen.

best-gifts-under-$100-£100-2023-Philips-VoiceTracer-DVT1600,

An excellent choice for budding students and/or MI6 applicants, the VoiceTracer is a minimalist pen with discrete audio recording smarts. A built-in microphone and easy one-touch recording come in handy for lectures and interviews, while 32GB of memory and a large battery make for a dash of added convenience. Pop the cap, and you can plug it directly into a PC’s USB port for instant cable-free transfers as well. And no, it doesn’t self-destruct. To our knowledge.

best-gifts-under-$100-£100-2023-huawei-watch-fit-se

Huawei Watch Fit Special Edition

Carving out a rather handsome niche for itself thanks to a curvy rectangular build, the Fit Special Edition provides plenty of smartwatch smarts for the money. A bright, punchy 1.64in AMOLED display makes everything pop, while sleep, health tracking, and notifications tick off all the major boxes. Compatible with Android and iPhone handsets, it punches well above its sticker price.

best-gifts-under-$100-£100-2023-anker-soundcore-space-one

Anker Soundcore Space One

About as good a pair of noise-cancelling cans you can get for the money, the Space One offers custom 40mm drivers with support for LDAC hi-res wireless audio, with a substantial 40 hours of play time in between charges with ANC on, and 50 hours with it off. Promising to reduce external sounds by up to 98% and with a smart unassuming build, we can think of far worse things to spend your cash on.

best-gifts-under-$100-£100-2023-gomatic-navigator-6l-sling

Gomatic Navigator 6L Foldable Sling Bag

Designed to collapse into near-nothingness so that it can easily squeeze into larger luggage, this 6L sling comes into its own for day trips where travelling light is key. With internal pockets, a comfortable strap, and an external water bottle pocket, it’s best thought of as one of those speedboats you’ll find hidden inside superyachts, ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice. Minus the multimillion-quid price tag, that is.

best-gifts-under-$100-£100-2023-jlab-epic-keyboard

JLab Epic Keyboard

Capable of connecting to three devices simultaneously, this wireless JLab keyboard is aimed at multitaskers who work across multiple phones, laptops and/or tablets. Quiet soft-touch keys will be appreciated by anyone else in the vicinity, while a media knob lets you blast or quieten tracks and videos with a simple twizzle.

Nokia C12

With an RRP of one penny shy of a ton, the C12 falls a little short of impulse buy territory. It’s still a bargain by smartphone standards though, with Android 12 (Go edition), a 6.3in screen, a rear camera and all-day battery life all making an appearance. An ideal phone for those who aren’t fussed about specs, and/or a festival phone that’s a bit more capable than more basic featurephones.

Twelve South AirFly Pro

If you’ve ever had to endure a long-haul flight without headphones, we feel your pain. Screaming children, incessant small talk, and a general sense of being too connected with the general public can make time in the sky pass agonisingly slowly. The AirFly Pro will protect you from this fate, as long as you remember to bring along your trusty Bluetooth headphones. Converting regular headphone jacks into Bluetooth transmitters, you can enjoy wireless audio with your own headphones for hassle-free, blissful peace.

best-gifts-under-$100-£100-2023-philips-hue-secure

Philips Hue Secure Contact Sensor

 

  • Nothing says “I care for you” more than home security gear. Gift that special person in your life with Philips’ Hue Secure contact sensor, and they’ll always know when a door or window is opened, thanks to its ability to seamlessly merge into existing Hue setups. Safety aside, it can also be used to automate actions such as turning lights on when entering a room — useful for nighttime trips to the WC.

OneOdio OpenRock S

They may not be as good as Sony’s class-leading MX5 buds, but this pair of wireless in-ears are still absolutely worthy of gracing one’s ears if premium budgets are out of reach. Comfortable, noise-cancelling, and with superb sound to back it up (courtesy of Sony’s clever sound enhancement engine), they’re a failsafe pick that won’t let you (or your recipient) down.


Stuff Christmas Gifts £100 Xiaomi Smart Band 7 Pro

Xiaomi Smart Band 7 Pro

Slapping a fitness wearable on their wrist is a good way to remind relations to get started with their post-Christmas running plan, and Xiaomi’s new Smart Band 7 Pro gives them a lot for less than £100. Built-in GNSS promises better tracking and faster position locking than the Smart Band 6, while an 84% larger AMOLED display allows them to see a lot more information and data without having to swipe. 


Stuff Christmas Gift ideas for £100: Marshall Willen Bluetooth speaker

Marshall Willen

Marshall’s most backpack-friendly Bluetooth speaker to date is also perfect stocking fodder. As you’d expect, it looks not unlike a shrunken version of one of the legendary brand’s amps, but here you’re pairing a smartphone rather than plugging in a guitar. The diddy speaker might weigh just 310g, but Marshall has managed to cram in two passive radiators paired with a 2in full-range driver, for noise-making capabilities that belie its small size.


Stuff Christmas Gift Ideas Logitech Litra Glow streaming light

Logitech Litra Glow

Shopping for a streamer, or perhaps just someone who’s seemingly never not on a video call of some description? This ring light alternative ensures they always look their best. Logitech promises that its TrueSoft tech delivers full-spectrum LED light for a balanced, natural look across all skin tones, while a three-way monitor mount allows you to find the perfect position. It’s passed strict testing guidelines too, so is fully approved to use for the duration of any Warzone stream.


Christmas Gift Ideas for £100: 1More Sonoflow headphones

1More Sonoflow

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and these wireless cans look not unlike Sony’s all-conquering WH-1000XM5. In our review we noted surprisingly good noise-cancelling and punchy sound for a decidedly wallet-friendly pair of headphones, and the 50-hour battery life (with ANC on) is enough to listen to all of The Beatles’ back catalogue several times over before you need to find a plug. The big difference between these and Sony’s offering? The sub-£100 price tag makes them a reasonable Christmas request.


Stuff Christmas Gifts £100 Logitech MX Keys Mini Keyboard

Logitech MX Keys Mini

A writer’s retreat might be just the thing to inspire your next bestseller. Stick Logitech’s compact keyboard in your backpack for top typing wherever you travel. Slim, light and good for up to five months on a single charge, the Mini features full-sized keys which are sculpted to suit your fingertips. Its solid metal build reduces the rat-a-tat that would otherwise earn the ire of fellow authors, while an emoji shortcut means you’ll easily find the right smiley to celebrate when you get published.


Christmas Gift Ideas for £100: GameSir Pro smartphone controller

GameSir X2 Pro

For all its ongoing enthusiasm for cloud gaming, Microsoft is yet to launch an Xbox handheld. But with GameSir’s latest controller, you can at least make your Android phone look like one. An officially licensed version of its X2, the X2 Pro is available in both black and white (depending on whether you prefer the Xbox Series X or Series S aesthetic), and matches up with the traditional Xbox face button layout and design. New members even get a free month of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate thrown in.


Christmas Gift Ideas for £100: Nomad Horween Leather mousepad

Nomad Horween Leather Mousepad

 

Razer Blade 16 Automobili Lamborghini Edition review: speed demon

Razer Blade 16 lamborghini edition lid

Introduction

How do you make what was already one of the most powerful yet portable gaming laptops around just that little bit more exclusive? A tie-in with a supercar company ought to do the trick. The Razer Blade 16 Automobili Lamborghini Edition is every bit as powerful as the standard Blade 16, only now it’s rocking a bespoke look that wouldn’t look out of place on the passenger seat of an Aventador or Urus.

That means this 16in mean machine is packing the most powerful Nvidia GPU ever squeezed inside a laptop, an overclockable Intel Core i9 processor, and a dual mode 4K mini-LED display so bright it should come with a pair of sunglasses. Might it be so fast Razer needs to have its license suspended? Or does an astronomical asking price stop it from getting out of first gear?

How we test laptops

Every laptop reviewed on Stuff is tested using industry standard benchmarks and apps to assess performance and battery life. We use our years of experience to judge display, sound and general usability. Manufacturers have no visibility on reviews before they appear online, and we never accept payment to feature products.

Find out more about how we test and rate products.

Design & connectivity: deft dimensions

No need for a double take: the Razer Blade 16 really is a gaming laptop. At 22mm thick and weighing in at 2.45kg, it’s only marginally more portly than an Apple MacBook Pro 16in. Even with the chunky power brick in tow (necessary for supplying the power-hungry GPU with enough volts for 4K gaming) we had no issues carrying it around as our regular work machine.

This Automobili Lamborghini edition parks Razer’s preferred green and black colour combo in favour of one pulled straight from Sant’Agata’s paint catalogue: Arancio Orange. The geometric pattern on the lid is a nod to the Lamborghini Revuelto’s distinctive LED running lights, and the ouroboros logo has been traded for Lamborghini’s bull crest. Both are anodised aluminium, so won’t fade or rub off over time. There are also colour-matched USB ports at the sides, and a serial number on the underside marking its 1-of-150 limited status.

Special edition machines tread a fine line between trendy and tacky; we reckon this is the former. Elsewhere, though, the black metal finish picks up prints like nobody’s business. You’ll have to keep a cleaning cloth handy if you want the Blade 16 looking its best.

Razer Blade 16-16 Inch Gaming Laptop, Switchable UHD+ 120Hz / FHD+ 240Hz Mini-LED, Intel i9-13950HX, 32GB DDR5 5600MHz, NVIDIA Geforce RTX 4090, 2TB PCIe Gen4 NVME SSD

There’s a stellar selection of ports at the sides for a 16in machine. It has two USBs (one Type-C and one Type-A), a full-size HDMI output and an SD card reader on the right, and two more USB Type-As, one USB Type-C and a 3.5mm headphone port on the left. That’s also where you’ll find the proprietary charging port; the laptop can accept a charge over USB-C, but not at a high enough wattage to be any good for gaming.

Performance: lap record

If CPUs were motor blocks, the Intel Core i9-13950HX inside the Blade 16 would be a nitrous-injected, twin-turbocharged V12. It’s a 24-core beast that can hit 5.5GHz on boost, and there’s enough headroom in the vapour chamber cooling system that you can overclock it even further if you fancy. There’s a generous 32GB of DDR5 memory and a 2TB NVMe SSD, too. It’s so fast to reach the Windows desktop you might not even notice the custom Lamborghini boot sequence.

GPU grunt comes courtesy of an Nvidia RTX 4090 with 16GB of dedicated video memory. While other 16in laptops including the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 have to work within a restricted 145W thermal window (TDP), Razer can achieve the chip’s maximum 175W. In practice, that makes it a gaming monster that can wipe the floor with desktop PCs running RTX 3090s, despite using a fraction of the power draw.

Let’s talk numbers, shall we? At native 4K resolution and without any sort of upscaling, Doom Eternal managed 180fps at Ultra Nightmare quality. Counter Strike 2 averaged 90fps with every setting cranked, and Lies of P nudged north of 70fps. Ghostwire: Tokyo hit 80fps with ray tracing enabled.

Starfield is a lot more demanding, averaging 45-50fps at native resolution, and Cyberpunk 2077 was an even bigger ask. On the Psycho detail preset without any kind of ray tracing, native 4K performance topped out at 22fps. Nvidia’s DLSS tech makes all the difference here, delivering an impressive 90fps. The visual differences are so minor you’d be stupid not to use DLSS just about everywhere that supports it.

Cyberpunk’s path-based ray tracing mode is about as punishing as present-day gaming gets. Even with DLSS, we had to drop to a lower resolution in order to breach 60fps – but that’s also true on larger 17in gaming laptops such as the MSI Titan GT77. That the slim Razer Blade 16 can keep pace is mighty impressive stuff.

The internal fans have to get mighty loud to keep everything cool while under load, but performance was always consistent. They can’t stop the top of the chassis from getting toasty after an extended play session, though. You’re not going to want to touch above the keyboard tray for a while afterwards.

Nvidia’s Optimus graphics switching is quick to throw things back to Intel’s integrated GPU when you’re back on the Windows desktop, but don’t go thinking that means epic battery life. We averaged three to four hours away from the mains, with a mix of web browsing, working and video playback. That’s about right for a gaming laptop, but not enough to leave the charger at home when travelling.

Screen & sound: geared for speed

Razer Blade 16 lamborghini edition gaming

From games to streaming shows, everything that appears on the Razer Blade 16’s display looks absolutely gorgeous. The mini-LED panel produces astonishingly high contrast, and the more than 1000 dimming zones put it up there with OLED in terms of depth and black levels. Even in tricky scenes, like fireworks against a night sky, we struggled to spot any backlight blocking or blooming. Slim bezels and a 16:10 aspect ratio also help you get lost in whatever’s onscreen.

Colours are brilliantly vibrant, and accurate enough for creative pros. The HDR-capable panel can also reach a whopping 1000 nits peak brightness. Seriously, it hurts your eyes when standing close to bright light sources in certain games. And that’s not even this laptop’s main party trick.

The native 4K panel usually tops out at 120Hz, which is a fast enough refresh rate for smooth single player gaming – but Razer knows serious multiplayer gamers want even quicker response times. So there’s a second mode available through the Synapse utility software, which drops the resolution down to 1920×1200, but doubles the refresh rate to 240Hz. The Blade 16 has to reboot to swap modes, but it takes less than a minute before you’re back on the desktop and ready to play.

No, it doesn’t look as sharp as a native 1200p display, and only FPS die-hards will truly appreciate the difference 240Hz gaming makes, but if you mainly play competitive shooters it’s nice to have the option. Maybe your Counter Strike K/D ratio will thank you for the extra frames – which the GPU has no problem delivering.

There’s a decent level of clarity on show from the stereo speakers, which easily make themselves heard over the internal fans. There’s not a huge amount of bass though, even as far as laptops go, which can leave music and videos sounding a little anaemic. Fully crank the volume and the high-end gets shrill, too. Gamers should reach for a headset before booting up their favourite title.

Keyboard & touchpad: the write stuff

It’ll hardly come as a shock that the Blade 16 has per-key backlighting. Razer does, after all, love a bit of RGB. The Automobili Lamborghini Edition lights up bright orange, but the Synapse software lets you fully customise every key. Certain games have pre-set colour schemes that kick in when you run them, too. The laser-etched keys are uniformly lit, with zero bleed between each one.

Razer hasn’t tried to squeeze in a numerical keypad, preferring to leave room either side of the keyboard tray for upward-firing speakers. There’s still space for a full size QWERTY ‘board, with only the up and down arrows needing half-height keys. You can pick whether the function keys default to their multimedia shortcuts, and there’s also a keyboard combo for disabling the touchpad while using a mouse, though it’s not labelled.

The keyboard doesn’t use mechanical switches like some gaming laptops, but we had no trouble typing at full speed. Key travel is pretty short, but each one quickly springs back into place after it’s released.

We’re also big fans of the glass touchpad, which is simply massive. The smooth surface allows for friction-free scrolling and sensitivity is well judged for getting around the desktop at 4K resolution. Physical clicks provide good feedback that can be missing from some haptic-based touchpads.

Razer Blade 16 Automobili Lamborghini Edition verdict

Razer Blade 16 lamborghini edition verdict

No-one needs a Lamborghini in their garage. A humble hatchback will get to from A to B perfectly well – but if you can afford one, it’s an undeniably cool way to get around. This limited-run Razer Blade 16 is a similar deal: at a penny under $5000 it’s one of the priciest gaming laptops out there, but the performance on tap is monstrous, and the display puts many top-tier gaming monitors to shame.

The bad news? Only 150 are being made, and they’ll all be sold in the US. But that’s the price you pay for pace-setting hardware and extreme exclusivity.

Happily the regular Blade 16 has just as much oomph, and is also a little easier on the wallet, at $4300/£4400 when you buy direct from Razer. We’ve also spotted it for as low as £3800 from third-party retailers. You really can’t get faster while also staying so portable, and for some that’ll be absolutely worth the price of admission.

?Apple Watch Series 9 vs Ultra 2: what’s the difference

Apple Watch Series 9 watch faces

We were already big fans of the Apple Watch Series 8 and the Apple Watch Ultra. They’re two of the top smartwatches or GPS watches that money can buy, and now they’ve been given an upgrade.

But how do the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 compare?We’ll be bringing you our full reviews soon. But let’s compare the specs first!

Design & build: FineWoven

There’s no major surprises when it comes to the design of both the Apple Watch Series 9 or the Watch Ultra 2. The same button layout and new Action Button remain, and the display is characteristically Apple looking in its flatness.

We thought the weight might have been reduced, but we had no word from Apple on that. The previous Apple,Watch Ultra weighed almost twice that of the smaller Apple Watch Series 8, but on initial impressions that’s not about to get any lighter.

Apple Watch Series 9 [GPS 41mm] Smartwatch with Starlight Aluminum Case with Starlight Sport Band M/L. Fitness Tracker, Blood Oxygen & ECG Apps, Always-On Retina Display, Water Resistant

The Apple Watch Series 9 is available in 41mm and 45mm sizes, and comes in pink aluminum, starlight, silver, midnight and product red colours. Cases are also available in gold, silver and graphite. The Watch Ultra 2, meanwhile, is built from more recycled materials and has a black colour option. It is only available in 49mm.

Apple has invented its own brand-new material. That’s called FineWoven, a microtwill made of 68 percent post-consumer recycled material. Apple has also ditched leather in all its new products and if you buy the Watch SE or aluminum Series 9 with a sport loop strap then it is Carbon Neutral.

Screen: increased nits

The Apple Watch Series 9 offers a 2000 nits display, which is twice as much as the Series 8, says Apple. At night, it can go down to a humble 1 nits in brightness.

Designed to handle the brightest sunlight, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 goes up to 3000 nits (up 1000 nits on last year). It’s also extended its built-in location mapping widgets. Apple is calling this modular ultra, and uses the outer edge of the display to show data such as elevation and depth.

Some moderately big news is that the Apple Watch Series 9 has introduced a new gesture-controlled by the watch hand. That’ll be the double tap. Simply tap your index finger and thumb twice, and you can answer and end calls, scroll through widgets, pause and play TV shows and snap photos from your phone. Revolutionary…indeed.

The Ultra has always been for the more active user. The original smartwatch comes with a dual-frequency GPS for improved tracking, and is fitted with all sorts of health-measuring tech. The Apple Watch Ultra 2 has only improved these features, or at least made them more accessible. The Ultra 2 features the double tap, as well as advanced metrics such as dual-frequency GPS.

Apple Watch Ultra 2 [GPS + Cellular 49mm] Smartwatch with Rugged Titanium Case & Blue Alpine Loop Small. Fitness Tracker, Precision GPS, Action Button, Extra-Long Battery Life

Performance & battery: much of the same

The take home information when it comes to the performance of both smartwatches is that they feature a brand new S9 SiP (system in package). This is designed to upgrade speed and efficiency. And much like the iPhone 15, the two watches come with improved Find My. This can direct you to your lost Apple product and takes distance and direction into account.

The Apple Watch Series 9 has an ‘all-day’ battery life of 18-hours. Until we can test that out ourselves, it’s hard to say how that translates into real life.

A key criticism of the original Watch Ultra though was its battery life. It was advertised as lasting for up to three days, but in reality that was more like two days. We found that the battery also worsens over time, which isn’t exactly reassuring if you’re planning a long hike in the wilderness. We were somewhat disappointed, then, to learn that the battery life for the Apple Watch Ultra 2 remains the same.

Both smartwatches come running watchOS 10 straight out of the box. WatchOS 10 brought us revamped widgets, new control centre access, better GPS and more Apple Fitness+ features.

Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Ultra 2: price

There’s no beating around the bush on this one. The Apple Watch Series 9 is a full $400/£400 cheaper than the Apple Ultra 2. At $399/£399, the Apple Watch Series 9 is certainly the more cost effective choice. The Apple Watch Ultra 2, meanwhile, is available for $799/£799.

Apple Watch Series 9 [GPS 41mm] Smartwatch with Starlight Aluminum Case with Starlight Sport Band M/L. Fitness Tracker, Blood Oxygen & ECG Apps, Always-On Retina Display, Water Resistant

Apple Watch Series 9 vs Apple Watch Ultra 2: verdict

We’ll point out the obvious here and say that both the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2 don’t reinvent the wheel. They build on many of the features we saw in earlier models. In that, deciding which smartwatch is worth your money comes down to personal usage.

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is suited to lovers of the great outdoors, but it demands a hefty asking price. The Ultra 2 is also competing with the Garmins of this world, alongside a whole bunch of reasonably priced health trackers. Right now, if you already have an Apple Watch Ultra, we’d recommend sticking with your current model. If you’re tempted by the Apple Watch Series 9, then on immediate impressions there’s not many upgrades that make buying a new one worthwhile.

Sennheiser Accentum headphones bring affordable ANC

Sennheiser Accentum headphones

 

The Sennheiser Accentum headphones offer an attractive alternative for those seeking noise-cancelling headphones without breaking the bank. While the Sennheiser Momentum over-ears are renowned for their noise-cancelling prowess but come with a premium price tag, the Accentum headphones provide a more budget-friendly option while still delivering effective noise isolation. These headphones boast a combination of hybrid active noise cancellation (ANC) technology and impressive battery life, making them accessible to a wider audience.

Equipped with 37mm dynamic transducer drivers, Sennheiser claims that these headphones deliver an immersive audio experience characterized by powerful bass and crystal-clear clarity. If their performance is anywhere close to the highly regarded Momentum 4 headphones, users can expect a delightful and engaging music listening experience.

 

Sennheiser Accentum headphones bring affordable ANC

Each padded ear cup has been designed with maximum passive sound isolation in mind, while separate microphones target low and high frequencies for effective ANC. Those mics also have built-in wind reduction, so should help your speech stay nice and clear when making voice calls, and adjustable side-tone pipes some of it back into the ear cups for more natural conversation.

The Sennheiser Accentum headphones boast an impressive battery life, offering 50 hours of playback with active noise cancellation (ANC) activated. Even a quick ten-minute charge via a power source provides an additional five hours of playback. These headphones support wired listening through USB-C, utilizing an integrated DAC for enhanced audio quality.

They feature aptX HD codec support for superior audio fidelity, along with standard SBC and AAC codecs. Bluetooth 5.2 enables multipoint connectivity, allowing simultaneous pairing with two devices. The headphones can be customized using Sennheiser’s smartphone companion app for EQ adjustments and firmware updates.

The Sennheiser Accentum headphones are available for pre-order, with the black version expected on October 4th and the white variant arriving in late November. They are priced at £160/€180 each.

 

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