InchBlog

Never put off the work till tomorrow what you can put off today.

Best laptops for students: See where the MacBook falls on our list — 07/24/2018

Best laptops for students: See where the MacBook falls on our list

If you’re a student, your laptop is your toolbox, your textbook, your everything — and you need a solid machine that’s going to last you from orientation to graduation. It’s an essential tool, and you need one that you can rely on: No one has the extra cash to be replacing a subpar laptop halfway through school, and you don’t want to be dealing with unexpected repairs when you have papers to write and parties to attend. 

Memory and processors are important when you’re looking for a laptop, especially for classwork: You’ll want something that can handle a ton of tabs and simultaneous programs, as well as enough storage to save downloaded lectures, textbooks, films, the dreaded term project, and other study materials. Here are a few other factors to consider: 

Battery life matters
There’s nothing worse than having your laptop’s battery start to die halfway through a lecture or when you head to the student union to study only to find all the power outlets are occupied. Long battery life is key for students, so having one that can go most of the day (or even overnight for those all-nighters in the library) is essential. 

Don’t overlook a laptop’s weight
The last thing you want in a laptop is one that you have to lug instead of carry, and with full days going between classes on campus, the lighter the computer, the better. Look for something in the range of 1-2 lbs. Trust us: Your back will thank you. 

Consider the price
While laptops are a pretty essential school supply these days, that doesn’t mean there’s the money to drop a couple grand on a machine that’s top of the line. And chances are high that, on a student budget, the price point might make or break a purchase. That being said, you don’t want a laptop that’s going to crap out on you after a year, either. We’ve found machines that balance not-eye-watering price tags with performance and durability. It’s hard to get around the fact that quality laptops mostly cost north of a grand, so think of this as an investment in your next four years. That being said, the broke college kid life is real, so we’ve included some budget options you can rely on too.

Now, read on for our favorite picks. 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1626460%252f1c66e03e 5a3a 4199 9ad7 da01461937af.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=7iheblze8kgnrtlh9fqpg52qlja=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: Apple

The Good

Ultra fast import/export speeds • Quick handling of apps like Adobe • Street cred that goes with a Mac • Siri and touch ID

The Bad

Dongle hell • No touchscreen • Pricey

The Bottom Line

A classic from Apple with the highest specs of any MacBook ever built and ideal for photo and video editing — for those who can afford it.

Apple MacBook Pro

A classic from Apple with the highest specs of any MacBook ever built and ideal for photo and video editing.

  • Storage:
    256GB SSD
  • RAM:
    8GB
  • Battery life:
    Up to 20 hours
  • Features:
    Apple-designed M1 chip, 8-core CPU, 2560 x 1600 HD Retina display, 2 Thunderbolt/USB 4 ports, headphone jack, Touch ID
You had to know we’d throw a MacBook Pro in here. And not just because MacBooks give you great street cred, but because the newest MacBook is a badass powerhouse. They’re the most expensive in our list, but with the introduction of Apple’s first chip designed just for Macs, the price makes sense. The performance on this laptop is almost three times as fast as previous generations and the eight-core CPU in this model has graphics that are five times as fast. Plus, MacBooks will seriously last through beatings, taking you from college straight into the working world.
While Apple hasn’t gotten around to a totally touchscreen laptop yet, the OLED touch bar is such an Apple thing to do. Here, you can control brightness, sound, use touch ID, and do what you would with FN keys. (A lot of people question the point of this, though.) The Retina display has True Tone technology, which automatically adjusts the yellow and blue tones in your screen to match your environment, making things easier on the eyes. As people who appreciate the iPhone’s Night Shift feature will say, the color of your screen can affect your health, and too much blue light before bed can affect your sleep. This is extra clutch for students, because you’re going to need all the shuteye you can get. 
The Pro is a great general-use laptop (and is probably what everyone in your classes will have) but is especially nice for serious apps like Adobe Premiere. Its importing and exporting times are lickety split, even for large files like long 4K videos. If you’re in school for anything like photography, film, graphic design, or music, this will be an ace choice to keep up with your assignments. Its fast internet connection and insane download speeds also allow most webpages and apps to load in less than a second. 
At the end of the day, there are PC people and there are Mac people, and if you’re a Mac person, no amount of shortcomings will change your mind. There are a few different configurations of the 13-inch MacBook Pro depending on the storage and speed you want. Also check out the 16-inch for something a little larger and more powerful.

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1626473%252fe7d0ad97 bddf 4269 9918 9cdd9af94c3d.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=wojghzphxk7l1czw112qixxu6c4=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: asus

The Good

Speedy WiFi connection and charging • Small but gorgeous HD screen • Lightweight for traveling

The Bad

No legacy desktop apps • Cheap-feeling touchpad

The Bottom Line

A well-reviewed, sturdy 2-in-1 with stellar specs that you wouldn’t expect in this price range.

Asus Chromebook Flip

A well-reviewed and sturdy 2-in-1 for under $500 with specs that blow others in this price range out of the water.

  • Storage:
    64GB
  • RAM:
    4GB
  • Battery life:
    Up to 10 hours
  • Features:
    1920 x 1080 FHD display, Intel Core m3-8100Y Processor, two USB-C ports, micro SD slot, USB-A port
Not everyone has close to a grand to drop on a laptop, and if you’re trying not to solely exist on instant ramen for all four years, then Asus’ Chromebook Flip is a great choice. It’s almost half the price of others on our list but holds up under the pressures of student life: It’s thin but sturdy and has a 14-inch full HD touchscreen that can be flipped 360 degrees. Plus, it weighs just over three pounds — which makes it manageable for carrying around campus — and can muster 10 hours of battery life. 
Inside is a Intel Core M3-8100Y processor, up to 4GB RAM, a fully backlit keyboard, and ultra fast loading speeds thanks to the 802.11 b/n/ac WiFi connection. What that means: A super-powerful machine that’ll keep up with you semester after semester. 
Asus has never compromised quality when it comes to their machines, and that’s why they’re one of our favorites. For a budget pick, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1626465%252fabc80002 84b4 480f b9d9 ac5e3a0e22b1.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=jswfhcgiuoxceaceaavbtybuu0m=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: Samsung

The Good

HD webcam • Included stylus • Touchscreen

The Bad

Wonky battery life • No USB-A ports

The Bottom Line

Clutch (and still attractive) choice for writing, drawing, or stylus fans.

Samsung Notebook Pro 9

A 2-in-1 showoff with an included stylus for drawing and note taking, but also ideal for movie-watching and traveling.

  • Storage:
    512GB SSD
  • RAM:
    8 GB
  • Battery life:
    Up to 14 hours
  • Features:
    Full HD 1920 x 1080 touchscreen display, Intel Core i7-8565U up to 4.6 GHz, 1 USB-C and two Thunderbolt 3 ports, media card reader, Intel UHD Graphics 620
Another sweet option for a 2-in-1 tablet notebook (and our choice for the most teched-out laptop) is the Samsung Notebook Pro 9, which comes with a Samsung stylus, the Active Pen. As you can guess, that snazzy pen makes the NoteBook Pro ideal for creative students, whether their major is something like drawing or design, or they simply enjoy doing these things as a hobby. Plus, we’re sure you’ve at least heard through that taking notes via writing helps you retain information better than typing notes, and the Active Pen makes that possible without having to lug physical paper around. It features 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity and has an ultra-precise pencil-like tip.
The color-rich full HD touch screen (1920 x 1080 pixels) offers complete hands-on control, and in tandem with the Active Pen, users can mold the Notebook Pro 9 to their personal creative needs. It’s not the highest res display in this list, but after all of its other aspects, you probably won’t mind. You have a choice in how much drive space you want, up to 2TB and you can decide whether you want Windows 10 Pro or not.
Not many laptops offer this much versatility. Though a seemingly small addition, the inclusion of the Active Pen raises the Notebook Pro 9’s creative possibilities infinitely, and makes the hefty investment worthwhile. 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1480092%252fd2041324 fb03 4b81 9451 aed16b5ecccf.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=thkdqfxk3hfgycrpd k9xtf ar8=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: Acer

The Good

Fast Ryzen CPU processor • Good for gaming and multitasking • Versatile ports • HD webcam

The Bad

Sensitive touchpad • Short battery life • Compressed keyboard

The Bottom Line

The battery life isn’t great, but it makes up for that with its speed and sheer power.

Acer Aspire 5

This is a powerful machine with a fast processor — and it won’t break the bank.

  • Storage:
    128GB SSD
  • RAM:
    8GB
  • Battery life:
    Up to six hours
  • Features:
    AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor, up to 3.5 GHz, bonus HDD storage, 2 USB 3.1 ports, 1 USB 2.0 port, HDMI port
The Acer Aspire 5 looks like it tried to take a page from the MacBook Air’s book with a thin, angled design. (Albeit a little clunkier than the sleek Apple computer.) Regardless of what it looks like, it’s what’s on the inside that matters.
It has a surprisingly powerful AMD Ryzen 3 3200U processor that’s good for having lots of tabs open while you’re doing your schoolwork (or for late night gaming, let’s be honest). This laptop is available in a few different configurations with 8GB to 16GB RAM and 128GB to 2 TB HDD.
The 15.6-inch FHD display has a 1920 x 1080 resolution and the laptop itself is pretty lightweight at just over 4 pounds. Some of Acer’s other budget laptops have pretty bulky, ugly designs, but you won’t feel embarrassed sitting in the library with the Aspire 5. Don’t forget your charger, though, because this thing only gets about six hours of battery life before it dies.
Now, we’re obviously only condoning gaming if it’s happening when all of your studying is done, BUT… this laptop is pretty damn good for entry level gaming. It’s not usually marketed as such, and isn’t for hardcore gaming, but any Ryzen processor will give you enough speed to keep up with your favorite games, glitch-free.
For less than $500, this is honestly an unbeatable laptop — you won’t be disappointed by the quality.

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1626482%252f065b1fe8 d89d 494a a852 98d932ef76eb.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=1o4q525   kmdvsrqgy 9xbeeai=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: Dell

The Good

Compact and portable • Affordable • Touchscreen

The Bad

Less-than-awesome display • Power-intensive apps are a no-go

The Bottom Line

This is a no-frills laptop, but it’ll get the job done and the price is pretty sweet.

Dell Inspiron 11 3195 2-in-1

At 11 inches, this 2-in-1 laptop is super compact and portable — but you’ll have to sacrifice some power.

  • Storage:
    128 GB
  • RAM:
    4GB
  • Battery life:
    Up to five hours
  • Features:
    1366 x 768 resolution, AMD A9-9420e Processor (Dual Core, 2.6Ghz, 1MB Cache, 15W) and Radeon R5 graphics, 2 USB 2.0 ports, USB 3.1 port, HDMI port, microSD reader
The Dell Inspiron 11 3195 2-in-1 is a compact and personal 11 inches and is ideal for minuscule desk space or working on the bus or train. Though it’s small and lower-priced, it’s sturdy where it needs to be and doesn’t feel cheap. Where it falls a bit short is with the display: At a measly 1366 x 768 resolution with less-than-stellar viewing angles. Don’t expect to impress your boo with a Netflix and chill night. (There is an HDMI port to stream to your TV, though.) 
The 128GB of storage will probably be okay for everyday use, but there is an SD card slot as well as two USB 2.0 ports and a USB 3.1 port. As for speed, it’s equipped with a 2.6GHz AMD A9-9420e processor and Radeon R5 graphics card, which is just fine. 
This little machine has a 360-degree hinge for setting it up in different positions and it features a webcam, though don’t hold your breath for anything too outstanding. But for those on a seriously tight budget who are also low on space, it’s a really solid option.

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1626486%252fe8d18d7b 57fa 4e67 baab 2c80d09759df.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=y7 of9gx q2s5hbavwndzr3uzie=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: ASUS

The Good

Stylish • Large 15.6-inch display • Easy connectivity with multiple ports

The Bad

No touchscreen

The Bottom Line

No matter where you go or what you need to plug into it, the VivoBook should have you covered.

ASUS VivoBook

A portable, stylish laptop that doesn’t skimp on components or features.

  • Storage:
    512GB SSD
  • RAM:
    8GB RAM
  • Features:
    AMD Ryzen 5 3500U 4 Quad-Core Processor (2.1 GHz base frequency up to 3.7 GHz, 4 Cores, 6MB L3 Cache), Radeon RX Vega 8 Graphics, USB 3.1 Type A, USB 3.1 Type C, two USB 2.0, HDMI, 1920 x 1080 FHD display
If you want a machine to take you from studying to streaming and gaming seamlessly — at a price point that won’t make your eyes water — the latest VivoBook is a great bet. The ASUS VivoBook not only comes with some style cred to stand out from the crowd, but it has the specs to back it up. This sleek and stylish laptop has a 15.6-inch full HD display with a super-thin bezel, giving you more than enough screen space to multitask and still comes in under 4 pounds. 
Under the hood it has a AMD Ryzen 5 3500U processor with up to 3.7Ghz processor, 8GB of RAM, and a larger 512GB SSD drive. The laptop also doesn’t skimp on connectivity, flaunting two USB 3.1 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, HDMI, Bluetooth 4.1, a MicroSD card reader. (Mac could never.) Nine hours of battery life will get you through most of the day of classes before you have to recharge, too. 
The 15-inch screen does make the laptop feel bigger than some of the others on our list, but it isn’t a sacrifice for those wanting a less cramped workspace. The graphics card in this model is better than previous Vivobooks, but it might not be quite good enough for serious gamers. Still, for everyday use and a solid, stylish build, this computer gets top marks.  

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1626503%252f54748cbd d30a 4420 9fa1 73e2ebf390ff.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=atsknyfymqbgvd5nsipbl e5gqq=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: Huawei

The Good

Fingerprint reader • Dolby Atmos speakers • 3K screen • Glorious battery life

The Bad

Awkwardly placed, low-quality webcam • Smudges easily

The Bottom Line

If you can ignore the webcam placement, this laptop’s 3K touchscreen and stellar speakers make it a powerhouse for studying (and playing).

Huawei MateBook X Pro

If you can ignore the webcam placement, this laptop’s 3K touchscreen and stellar speakers make it a powerhouse for studying (and playing).

  • Storage:
    512 GB SSD
  • RAM:
    16 GB
  • Battery life:
    15 hours
  • Features:
    USB-C ports, 3K touchscreen, second-generation Dolby Atmos speakers, Intel i7-8550U processor, one-touch power button with identity authentication, NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics card, no SD card slot
If you’ve done any other laptop research recently, this pick isn’t quite a shocker. The Huawei MateBook X Pro has been dubbed the best laptop by numerous media brands including PCMag, The Verge, and Tech Radar. We did a video comparing it to the longstanding champ, the MacBook Pro, and guess who came out on top? Huawei. It’s a pretty shameless copy of the MacBook Pro’s thin look, but packs some excellent specs into such a lightweight device — which is ideal for people who travel a lot or have an annoying commute to work. Plus, the battery is said to last up to 15 hours (unheard of for a laptop this size), which will make long days significantly more painless.
The 13.9-inch, 3K 3,000 x 2,080 touchscreen display is crystal clear and movie-theatre like, featuring ultra thin bezels and (with the more expensive i7 version) a Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card. Second-generation Dolby Atmos speakers along the sides will also give your movie nights a boost. It’s also a powerhouse inside, with a quick Gen Intel Core i7 8550U/i5 8250U processor, 16GB of RAM, and 512 GB SSD (which you’ll need, because you’ll probably download a ton of books, and there’s no SD card slot.) 
If you’re wondering where the camera fits in those thin bezels, we’ll let you know that the camera isn’t up there — it’s in a little pop-up button on the keyboard. This makes everything more compact, but gives an awkward up-the-nose angle. The camera isn’t HD either, but since the person on the other end will basically be looking directly into your nostrils, maybe low quality is better. That’ll be annoying if your long-distance relationship relies on Skyping, but don’t let that sway your choice too much. Your smartphone can more than make up the difference.
Read our full review for the MateBook X Pro and find out why we called it a MacBook Pro killer.
The best Bluetooth speakers for getting lost in your favorite playlists —

The best Bluetooth speakers for getting lost in your favorite playlists

BEST DEALS ON BLUETOOTH SPEAKERS:


These days, most of us carry around our music playlists on our phones, which is just fine when we’re wearing headphones, but not as good when we want to play music in our backyards, by the pool, or at a hangout with friends. That’s when you’re going to need a good speaker. Specifically, a good Bluetooth speaker. 

As per usual, we want to help you find the best one, so let’s get into it. 

What type of sound quality do you need?

Will you be using your speakers solely for music? For podcasts (yes, some people do that)? Maybe a bit of both? You should decide that now, because it will surely factor into what kind of speaker you end up getting — whether that’s surround sound, Dolby Atmos, something for the great outdoors or just plain old stereo (which is also great, don’t feel pressured to get something super fancy and expensive if you don’t really need it). Not all speakers produce the same kind of sound quality, so it’s important to know exactly the kind of listening experience you’re looking to get out of it before you make the purchase

How much space do you have?

Speakers can get pretty big, even portable ones, so take stock of how much useable space you want to dedicate to your audio setup both horizontally and vertically. Not everyone has the room for multiple speakers that work in tandem, so don’t overwhelm yourself with something gigantic if it’s constantly going to be getting in your way. There are plenty of speakers that can be easily stored or concealed, and some that are small enough to rest on a tabletop or shelf.

What’s the deal with wattage?

When you’re shopping for a new speaker, you’re going to see the word “wattage” a lot. While that might be meaningless gibberish to you when you see it on a product page, it’s actually a pretty simple concept. Basically, wattage defines the limit of how high your speaker can go without distorting the sound. Unless you enjoy really blasting your tunes or you regularly host parties, 50 watts is normally going to be more than enough for the average listener. But if you really like to crank it up to 11, the more (watts) the merrier. While smaller portable Bluetooth speakers tend to have the least amount of wattage, there are certainly some exceptions (which you’ll see within our picks below). 

How many speakers do you need to buy? 

We always say that you should choose quality over quantity. Having two amazing speakers is always going to get you better results than having five “meh” speakers. Plus, having too many speakers around is just going to take up an unnecessary amount of space. If you have the room, we think two speakers maximum is the perfect number. 

Two speakers are especially ideal if you listen to a lot of music — music is normally recorded for a stereo setting, so having a left and right channel will do you wonders. And if you have a smaller space, even one really good speaker should do you just fine (as long as it sounds great). Many Bluetooth speakers also have easy pairing options with other speakers of the same make, so setting them up should be a breeze.

Should you get a smart speaker?

Smart speakers are great in their own right, but they aren’t always the best way to listen to your audio — most of them are too small to get the best audio experience possible, and aren’t really prioritized for music in the first place (sorry, Alexa). If you really can’t live without having some sort of smart assistant within your speaker setup, we recommend getting something that is Bluetooth-enabled and connecting it to your smartphone. That way, you get the perks of your phone’s built-in smart assistant without having to downgrade the speaker itself. 

Does it need to be waterproof?

It doesn’t, but it really can’t hurt. Even if you’re not planning on taking your speaker out by the pool during the summer, it’s not out of the question that it could be a target for spills no matter where you have it in your home. It would be a shame if a rogue glass of water ended up being the demise of your new speaker, so if you have the option to go waterproof, do it (unless you have your heart set on one that doesn’t have the feature).

What are the best Bluetooth speakers?

No matter what you’re looking for in a Bluetooth speaker, we’re positive that at least one of our recommendations will definitely fit your style. Below, our picks for the best Bluetooth speakers in 2021. 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1613295%252f64aeb20f cfed 49a4 a66d ce2a16a2279e.png%252f480x0.png?signature=urzx0ldiwtidxd4rvyev2we0lsk=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: sonos

The Good

Built-in smart features, supporting Alexa and Google Assistant • Great audio quality • Easy switch from WiFi to Bluetooth • Features Auto TruePlay technology • Available in black or white to match decor

The Bad

Pricey • No smart features in Bluetooth mode • Not small or light weight enough for convenient travel

The Bottom Line

The Sonos Move has the quality and flexibility to be a great at-home Bluetooth speaker.

Sonos Move

This easy-to-use, rechargeable speaker streams over Bluetooth as well as WiFi, which is convenient if you want to use it at home.

This durable, battery-powered speaker is a great Bluetooth speaker for your home, especially if you want one you can move around with you, say from the pool area to your office to the dining room. The Sonos Move is also strong enough to take the occasional drop or bump. While it is portable, it’s not the easiest to travel with over long distances, due to its weight and bulky size. The battery lasts up to 10 hours and comes with a charging base. You can also recharge it with a USB-C charger. 
This speaker is also super easy to use: it’s quick to set up, it’s easy to control through the Sonos app, and you can easily switch from WiFi to Bluetooth streaming when needed. It’s also weather-resistant and able to stand up to humidity, rain, snow, dust, sun rays, and salt. 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1613291%252fe14c4e98 4a36 4db9 b011 04a422afb9b9.png%252f480x0.png?signature=zpsm39t3ol a4fsx6j2pyraybyy=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: sony

The Good

360 Reality Audio • Seven drivers for a balanced experience • Smart assistant support

The Bad

Port on the bottom is a bit hard to access

The Bottom Line

If you want ambient, room-filling sound without having to buy a multi-piece sound setup, the Sony SRS-RA5000 is the way to go.

Sony SRS-RA5000

The Sony SRS-RA5000, with its room-filling 360 Reality Audio and balanced set of drivers, is one of the best ambient experiences you can have with a Bluetooth speaker right now.

The SRS-RA5000 is the latest offering from Sony audio, and puts 360 Reality audio at the forefront of the speaker’s features. Equipped with Sony’s unique spatial sound technologies, the SRS-RA5000 is able to create an ambient, room-filling sound that is more immersive than your run-of-the-mill audio experience. 
That enhanced experience comes in a relatively compact speaker, and boasts more than just great sound. You’ll get three total up-firing speakers, three side speakers, and a woofer for rich, well-rounded end product, as well as smart and easy-to-use Bluetooth, WiFi, Chromecast, and Spotify functionality. It’s also compatible with most smart speakers, so voice controls can be used to control the device.

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1613316%252ff920b3b6 9651 458a 866f 1980d38b85b4.png%252f480x0.png?signature=btt3k45rrvhgszmb mbvouztlb0=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: jbl

The Good

Solid audio output • Water resistant design • Easily portable • Built-in 3.5mm cable for physical connection • Available in fun colors

The Bad

Low bass output • Speaker only has skip forward button • Shorter battery life compared to other speakers

The Bottom Line

The Clip 2 is super portable and reasonably priced, but the button functionality is less than ideal.

JBL Clip 2

This speaker is the definition of compact, and it’s small enough to clip to your belt.

The JBL Clip 2 may be small, but it’s mighty. It’s completely waterproof, super durable and powerful. It has 8 hours of battery life (plenty to last you for a commute to work or a picnic in the backyard) and, of course, it’s ultra portable. Weighing only 6.6 ounces, it can be clipped onto your clothes or backpack with its carabineer clip. 
You can get it in a wide range of fun colors, including red, blue, green, it has an integrated audio cable and a mic for speakerphone calls. 
Of course, it’s small so it has limited volume but you can wirelessly connect two or more clip speakers together to amplify your sound if you need it (say for a backyard barbecue). 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1613325%252f956e8c3b 99a7 43f2 a032 055a7d6784f9.png%252f480x0.png?signature=exbamweqyc8j7pplybboezgclyc=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: JBL

The Good

Available in fun colors • Portable • Easy to charge • Good audio • Water resistant for 30 minutes

The Bad

No 3.5 mm input • No USB charging

The Bottom Line

The Flip 5 provides great sound quality in a portable body — it’s a great value for the money.

JBL Flip 5

The JBL Flip 5 is a great size for taking on the go and has amazing sound quality, making it a good value for your money.

The JBL Flip 5 may not have the most impressive features, but it’s a rugged, great-sounding portable speaker that has everything you need with nothing you don’t. With Bluetooth-only playback, it’s easy to connect and use at home and on-the-go, indoors and outdoors. It has IPX7 waterproof certification, which means that it can fall in water for 30 minutes and survive — handy if you want to ever use it near a pool. 
The sound quality is good and well balanced, with more bass than its predecessor, the Flip 4. It offers decent battery life and it’s small enough to be portable — you can slip it into your bag without losing too much space.

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1613342%252f0bf2bd12 95fa 4abf adfa e6ba64f45aed.png%252f480x0.png?signature=uycszsqn11sixxw1orlqkyepgxw=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: ultimate ears

The Good

Great sound for its size • Waterproof and dust proof • Rugged, durable and drop-proof up to five feet

The Bad

Bass not as deep as larger speakers

The Bottom Line

The UE Wonderboom 2 delivers a small, portable speaker that’s ideal for dealing with anything nature can throw your way.

UE Wonderboom 2

Ultimate Ears delivers a small, portable speaker that’s ideal for dealing with anything nature can throw your way.

The UE Wonderboom 2 is a powerhouse for its size and price. It’s the perfect size for traveling — you can easily stick it in your bag without taking up any real space — and it’s rugged enough to endure the normal bumps and bruises that an active lifestyle brings with it. In fact, you can drop it from heights of up to five feet and have it survive. It’s also waterproof and floats if you drop it in water, and features a healthy 13 hours of battery life.
But the mark of a good speaker isn’t just how portable it is. What matters most is the sound — and again, the UE Wonderboom 2 performs. However, it doesn’t have the deep bass of some larger speakers. 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1613340%252f3c56c7f4 2b18 48e0 a948 ee51f4502c2f.png%252f480x0.png?signature=eoiqz4tv uu cmq sdprojtgzmc=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: Ultimate ears

The Good

Waterproof • Floats • Long battery life • Clear sound

The Bad

Charging dock not included • Bass is not great at high volumes

The Bottom Line

This speaker is loud enough to throw a great outdoor party, waterproof to survive a fall in the pool, and portable for being on the go.

UE Ears Boom 3

If you’re looking for a wireless speaker for the pool, this waterproof, floatable speaker is your best bet.

The UE Ears Boom 3 features 360 sound and reaches high volumes, making it ideal for playing outside in large backyards. It takes a little short of three hours to charge, but then has 15 hours of battery life — perfect for a long day outside.
One of the best features, though, is that it’s waterproof enough to survive being dropped and left in a pool for up to 30 minutes. In fact, it floats in water, so it’s easy to retrieve if it does end up taking a swim.

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1613329%252f32239639 2e88 455d aa90 40a3d9213740.png%252f480x0.png?signature=j3h88qr5qnpjaabwebm1pon25aw=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: Bose

The Good

360-degree sound • Siri and Google Assistant compatible • Weatherproof

The Bad

Charging dock not included • Not fully waterproof or dust proof

The Bottom Line

A great choice if you’re looking for a speaker that provides a 360-degree listening experience.

Bose Soundlink Resolve

If you’re looking for a 360-degree Bluetooth speaker that’s smaller than Sony’s new line, the SoundLink Revolve is a great choice.

This sleekly designed speaker is portable and offers true 360-degree surround sound, making for a great listening experience. The Bose SoundLink Revolve can also be paired with a second speaker for stereo sound or integrated into a Bose audio system. 
The speaker is easy to use and features a built-in mic that can be used to take phone calls or use your phone’s smart assistant. It also features a good battery life of 12 hours, though the charging dock must be purchased separately. 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f1613331%252f8d295051 f609 46a0 85bd 08fb08e0ed83.png%252f480x0.png?signature=lkniochemg  vxro6wyoo9zskng=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: amazon

The Good

Built-in Alexa • Privacy protection

The Bad

Not waterproof • Connected by wire

The Bottom Line

The Echo gives you a solid speaker and virtual assistant all in one.

Echo Dot (4th-gen)

If you want a smart assistant that also can generate solid sound, the new Echo Dot is a good choice.

Let’s get straight to the point — the Alexa voice control is what gives the 4th generation Echo Dot an edge over the others. With complete hands-free control, you can play your favorite streaming services (like Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, etc.), radio stations, podcasts, and Audible. 
While the sound may not be as powerful as others, its multi-room feature will be sure to fill your entire home. With it, you can play synchronized music across Echo devices in different rooms or even synch your Echo to your Fire TV device to bring movies to life with home-theater audio. You can also use it as a speaker when you have multiple Echos connected and make announcements to whatever room you choose.

The best headphones for any situation — 07/13/2018

The best headphones for any situation

There are literally thousands of different headphones, earphones, and earbuds out there to choose from. All have the same idea at heart — to provide you with audio without having to play it out loud for everyone to hear. But some achieve this result so much better than others. 

Sure, you could just hit up Amazon and buy the cheapest pair (especially during Prime Day), but that’s not always a great idea. You’re going to want to get the best pair for you, and that means you’ll have to think about how you plan on using them after you buy them. Are you planning on listening at home? Taking them on your commute? Do you want to avoid lousy battery life? Go completely wireless?

We’ve checked out numerous pairs of headphones and earphones, and have narrowed them down to our favorites to make your life easier. Regardless of your budget or requirements, there’s a perfect pair of headphones for you out there.

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f825902%252fc21e698a c9c9 4ecc bcbb b4e6119b25e4.jpeg%252f480x0.jpeg?signature=kmxomknsw94am0o61uszzevk9pk=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: bose

The Good

Google Assistant available • Amazing noise cancellation • Battery life

The Bad

Pricey • Bluetooth range could be better

The Bottom Line

You’re not gonna hear a thing but your music with these (expensive) babies, and dropping that coin is definitely worth it.

Bose QuietComfort 35 II

One of Bose’s best creations yet, the second generation Quiet Comfort 35s offer a classy look and optimal noise cancellation.

  • Battery life:
    20 hours
  • Colors:
    Black, silver
  • Bluetooth range:
    30 feet
Bose products typically ooze class and that’s the case with the Bose QuietComfort 35 II. Primarily, they’re fantastic headphones for their noise-canceling properties. Blocking out a ton of ambient noise, thanks to their comfy and sizable ear pads, they’re perfect for traveling and avoiding the noise of other commuters or travelers. Essentially, it’s like being cocooned away from the rest of the world. Even with noise cancellation switched off, they’re highly effective at eradicating irritating noises. 
Sound-quality-wise, they’re not quite as exceptional as some of Bose’s competitors, but they still pack a hefty punch. A 20-hour battery life (greatly increased if you switch off noise cancellation) means the music won’t stop any time soon either. 
Added bonuses: Additionally, Google Assistant is available through the headphones, reading back notifications for you, and even news headlines or reminders. It’s not a device seller, but it’s a convenient bonus in an already remarkable set of headphones. 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f825258%252f0eccebef 5702 430a bc7c fa3c99782429.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=romtm7fqv67p4 jgmrqnaoo6pne=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: bose

The Good

Will actually stay in your ears • “Find my headphones” app • Charging case included

The Bad

Chunky • Super crappy battery life

The Bottom Line

These glorious little guys from Bose are basically guaranteed to stay in your ear, but if you lose one, there’s an app for that.

Bose SoundSport Free

These glorious little guys from Bose are basically guaranteed to stay in your ear, but if you lose one, there’s an app for that.

  • Battery life:
    5 hours
  • Colors:
    Triple black, midnight blue, orange
  • Bluetooth range:
    30 feet
What you need to know: Truly wireless earphones are hugely liberating but frequently rather underwhelming when it comes to performance. Bose’s SoundSport Free earbuds combine freedom and high sound quality to form a potent package. 
Known as one of the most secure fitting set of earbuds out there, they’re perfect for if you listen to music while hitting the gym, going for a run, or simply want to feel safe in the knowledge that your pricey acquisition can’t be easily lost. 
They’re a little on the chunky side, but Bose’s patented StayHear+ wingtips ensure they’re snug in your ear at all times. A charging case means you don’t have to worry about unsightly cables, even when charging them up. 
Added bonuses: The SoundSport Free also offer some water resistance, rated up to IPX4. You won’t be swimming with these on, but they’re good to go in rain or exceptionally sweaty conditions. There’s a ‘find my headphones’ feature within the Bose app too, which is super useful for those times when you misplace them. They also frequently go on sale for $50 off, so keep an eye out (we’ll also let you know, obviously).

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f825261%252f76e4136d b2be 4ba6 93f7 90bf9e319ee2.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=nczgslz6tpg96lk04i9fosby3qi=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: akg

The Good

Up to 30 hour battery life • Excellent balanced sound quality

The Bad

Okay noise cancellation • Not wireless

The Bottom Line

The sound performance on these bad boys gives Bose a run for their money, and they’re significantly cheaper.

AKG N60NC Headphone

The sound performance on these bad boys gives Bose a run for their money, and they’re significantly cheaper.

  • Battery life:
    15-30 hours
  • Colors:
    Black
  • Bluetooth range:
    Wired
What you need to know: When performance and sound quality is everything to your headphone buying experience, you need to buy AKG’s N60 Noise Cancelling Headphones. Their noise cancellation isn’t quite as powerful as Bose’s offering, but the sound performance is second to none. They’re not wireless, but come with a specially designed carrying case to make traveling as easy (and untangled) as possible.
Expect to hear well balanced beats, solid bass, and clearly defined midranges. Whatever music you listen to, you’ll hear good performance, even when dealing with quieter instrumental pieces that show up frequency buzzing in cheaper noise cancelling headphones. Playback is limited to about 15 hours but that’s still pretty good for most users. That increases to 30 hours if you switch off noise cancellation. 
Added bonuses: One of the AKG N60NC Headphones’s great strength is its lightweight and small enough to toss into your bag. Other than that, these are a little light on quirky features, focusing on sound quality instead. 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f825629%252f19402143 6d8f 4f04 a6f2 2f7839c5a8a7.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=sr3ipfm ag0xfwote10gmenzof8=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: sennheiser

The Good

Automatically adjusts to surroundings • Above average wireless range • Extreme customization

The Bad

Lightweight mid ranges • Pricey

The Bottom Line

Picky audiophiles will adore the different modes while frequent flyers will love the seamless connection, even in the air.

Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless Headphones

Picky audiophiles will adore the customizable modes while frequent flyers will love the seamless connection, even in the air.

  • Battery life:
    20-30 hours
  • Colors:
    Black
  • Bluetooth range:
    50 feet
What you need to know: On the surface, the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless Headphones might seem like yet another high quality pair of noise cancelling headphones, but they’re so much more than that. They also have a bunch of useful customization features so you get exactly the experience you want.
Regardless of whether you tweak and poke, the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless Headphones are a great pair of cans. Comfortable and reasonably stylish, your ears won’t feel squashed while you’re wearing them. 
Sound quality is the best yet from a pair of Sennheiser headphones. Meaty yet well balanced, they’re particularly great for listening to bassy tunes, delivering a hefty kick to your ears. The only downside is some lightweight mid ranges but only audiophiles will really notice this discrepancy. 
Added bonuses: Where the Sennheiser PXC 550 Wireless Headphones truly stand out is with their wealth of features. Active Noise Cancellation isn’t just a matter of off or on — there are two modes. One uses full power noise cancellation while the other scales according to the amount of ambient noise going on around you. It’s ideal if your ears are sometimes sensitive to the pressure effect of noise cancellation, while still protecting you from irrelevant noise.
Alongside that, the Sennheiser app allows for a tremendous amount of tweaks, with presets like Movie mode or Speech giving you a different experience depending on what you’re listening to. 

 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f825649%252f6033e81b d03e 45d7 bb87 7c9cc8dad8e7.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=ji4hjnzezpmq9ow859eaupnwujw=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: plantronics

The Good

Affordable • Great for on-the-go use • Workout headphones

The Bad

Slightly unattractive design • Audiophiles will notice a lack of oomph

The Bottom Line

They’re not the slickest choice, but if you’re tired of headphones feeling heavy, these are your guys.

Plantronics BackBeat Fit 500

They’re not the slickest choice, but if you’re tired of headphones feeling heavy, these are your guys.

  • Battery life:
    18 hours
  • Colors:
    Black, teal
  • Bluetooth range:
    33 feet
What you need to know: Many headphones are comfy but few are so comfortable that you forget you’re wearing them. The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 500 are the exception to this rule. Incredibly lightweight, they’re perfect if you work out regularly and don’t want to feel your headphones at all times. That doesn’t mean that these feel cheap either. Despite their affordable price tag, there’s still a decent level of quality here, thanks to anodized aluminum rails that support the headband piece. Just don’t expect them to look amazing when showing them off to friends.
Able to withstand a downpour, even if water seeps into an ear cup, they really are ideal for outdoors use. 
Sound quality is pretty good too, although lacks a certain oomph to the beat. Low end sounds are where this is most evident, but if you’re running or working out with weights, you won’t notice this anywhere near as much as if sitting at home taking in the sounds. 
Added bonuses: The Plantronics BackBeat Fit 500 are really pretty cheap for what they offer, so don’t expect any noticeable added bonuses. It’s fairly functional yet effective stuff. 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f825752%252f1802975f 9547 4c5b 8a49 1105b11a88fb.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=rccmqw cpzbd4h8rpmm51qumcpu=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: jlab audio

The Good

Best water resistance we’ve seen • Impressively high volume • 30-hour charging case included

The Bad

Next to no noise cancellation • Crappy battery life on their own

The Bottom Line

Work out often? These are the buds you can count on to stay in your ears no matter how sweaty you get.

JLab Epic Air Earbuds

Gym goers and runners know the pain that is earbuds constantly falling out — these puppies will stay in while delivering exceptional volume.

  • Battery life:
    7 hours
  • Colors:
    Black
  • Bluetooth range:
    30 feet
What you need to know: In-ear earphones are great for many things, but they’re often a little awkward for those times when you’re bouncing around at speed at the gym. Who wants to be using the jumprope and have their earbuds fall out during a key moment? The JLab Epic Air earbuds won’t win prizes for looks, but you can’t beat how secure they are in your ears.
That’s thanks to the earbuds including hooks that help you slot them into your outer ear, keeping them secure and snug, no matter what you do. Alongside that is IP55 water rating so they’re resistant to water, even if it rains or you sweat a ton. You can even rinse them off at the end of a hard session. Just don’t submerge them.
Sound quality is respectable with unusually high volumes achievable, although don’t expect any noise cancellation to speak of here. 
Added bonuses: Battery life is often an issue for truly wireless earphones, with the average pair mustering at most 3.5 hours. The JLab Epic Air earbuds manage up to 7 hours so you’ll only need to charge them half as often as your existing wireless earbuds. (However, their included charging case can give up to an extra 30 hours of juice, so you’re safe if you have that with you.) They come with a nice charging case too that’s conveniently small and easy to use. Plus, a double tap of the earbud button summons up Siri or Google voice commands which is a neat bonus. 

Uploads%252fcard%252fimage%252f825941%252fbf1a2cb4 c4ee 4711 98d7 53de8d6d7dd4.jpg%252f480x0.jpg?signature=3oul5crkqwwobs9qo9aazvqndgm=&source=https%3a%2f%2fblueprint api production.s3.amazonaws

Image: skull candy

The Good

Under $40 • Can fit in your pocket • Good bass for the price

The Bad

Not truly wireless • Mediocre highs and mids • Short wireless range

The Bottom Line

They definitely get the job done, but the lack of tweakable features shows that you get what you pay for.

Skullcandy Jib Wireless Earbuds

They definitely get the job done, but the lack of tweakable features shows that you get what you pay for.

  • Battery life:
    6 hours
  • Colors:
    Black, red, blue, purple
  • Bluetooth range:
    6 feet
What you need to know: Wireless earphones don’t have to cost a fortune, providing you’re willing to compromise. That’s the thinking behind Skullcandy Jib Wireless Earbuds. Bluetooth based but with a cable connecting the two earbuds together, they’re not truly wireless since there is that wire to contend with, but you still won’t have to plug them in anywhere. Better than anything though, they’re super affordable. 
The earphones offer surprisingly powerful bass for their price, along with well matched highs and moderate mids. There are no options for tweaking frequency response, and certainly no dedicated app, but if you want some earphones that simply just work, these are worth a purchase. Battery life weighs in at about six hours, which should be good for your daily commute and gym session. 
Added bonuses: Low in price means that the Skullcandy Jib Wireless earbuds lack the finer details. There’s a built-in mic so you can take hands-free calls, and a button for volume and accepting calls, but that’s about it. Just appreciate they’re super lightweight and easy to put in your pocket. 

What to consider when buying a pair of headphones

The big thing before any purchase is to consider what you’re going to use them for. Are you going to be using them to listen to music quietly at home? Then it doesn’t really matter if they’re wired or not. Comfort and sound quality are key here.

However, if you’re heading to the gym or going for a run, then you might want to consider a wireless option. That way, you won’t have to worry about wires getting tangled up when you’re working on beating your personal best. 

Long battery life is great if you’re planning on using your headphones for hours on end, but how many of us really need to worry about that? As long as it covers the daily commute, most users will be fine.

Similarly, noise-cancelation features will depend on your needs. Passive noise-cancelation is fine if you’re not too worried about zoning out at the gym. If you’re keen to avoid all the background noise on the train or subway to work, however, then active noise-cancelation is a must.

Do you notice every fine nuance in the music you listen to? Or do you just know what you like? The musically minded will hate budget offerings with weak bass, mids, and highs, but plenty of average users will be just fine with these. If you’re keen on music sounding perfect, expect to pay more.