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The 16 best monitors for 2024

If you’ve gotten easily overwhelmed when looking at computer monitors to buy, you’re not alone. The sheer number of options available today is vast, plus monitors continue to evolve rapidly, with new technology like OLED Flex, QD-OLED and built-in smart platforms just in the last year alone. That’s on top of big improvements in things like color accuracy, image quality, size and resolution as well. There’s a lot to think about when choosing the right computer monitor for you, and Engadget is here to help. We’ve researched the latest monitors for all kinds of use cases, whether you’re a business user, a content creator, a multitasker or into competitive gaming. We’ve outlined out top picks for the best monitors below, along with buying advice which should help you decide which is best for you.

Factors to consider

Panel type

The cheapest monitors are still TN (twisted nematic), which are strictly for gamers or office use. VA (vertical alignment) monitors are also relatively cheap, while offering good brightness and a high contrast ratio. However, content creators will find that IPS (in-plane switching) LCD displays deliver better color accuracy, picture quality and viewing angles.

If maximum brightness is important, a quantum dot LCD display is the way to go — those are typically found in larger displays. OLED monitors are now available and offer the best blacks and color reproduction, but they lack the brightness of LED or quantum dot displays. Plus, they cost a lot. The latest type of OLED monitor, called QD-OLED from Samsung, just came out in 2022. The most notable advantage is that it can get a lot brighter, with monitors shown at CES 2022 hitting up to 1,000 nits of peak brightness.

MiniLEDs are now widely used in high-end displays. They’re similar to quantum dot tech, but as the name suggests, it uses smaller LED diodes that are just 0.2mm in diameter. As such, manufacturers can pack in up to three times more LEDs with more local dimming zones, delivering deeper blacks and better contrast.

Screen size, resolution and display format

In this day and age, screen size rules. Where 24-inch displays used to be more or less standard (and can still be useful for basic computing), 27-, 32-, 34- and even 42-inch displays have become popular for entertainment, content creation and even gaming these days.

Nearly every monitor used to be 16:9, but it’s now possible to find 16:10 and other more exotic display shapes. On the gaming and entertainment side, we’re also seeing curved and ultrawide monitors with aspect ratios like 21:9. If you do decide to buy an ultrawide display, however, keep in mind that a 30-inch 21:9 model is the same height as a 24-inch monitor, so you might end up with a smaller display than you expected. As a rule of thumb, add 25 percent to the size of a 21:9 monitor to get the vertical height you’d expect from a model with a 16:9 aspect ratio.

A 4K monitor is nearly a must for content creators, and some folks are even going for 5K or all the way up to 8K. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll need a pretty powerful computer to drive all those sharp pixels. And 4K resolution should be paired with a screen size of 27 inches and up, or you won’t notice much difference between 1440p. At the same time, I wouldn’t get a model larger than 27 inches unless it’s 4K, as you’ll start to see pixelation if you’re working up close to the display.

One new category to consider is portable monitors designed to be carried and used with laptops. Those typically come in 1080p resolutions and sizes from 13-15 inches. They usually have a lightweight kickstand-type support that folds up to keep things compact.

Samsung Smart Monitor M5
Samsung

HDR

HDR is the buzzy monitor feature to have these days, as it adds vibrancy to entertainment and gaming – but be careful before jumping in. Some monitors that claim HDR on the marketing materials don’t even conform to a base standard. To be sure that a display at least meets minimum HDR specs, you’ll want to choose one with a DisplayHDR rating with each tier representing maximum brightness in nits.

However, the lowest DisplayHDR 400 and 500 tiers may disappoint you with a lack of brightness, washed out blacks and mediocre color reproduction. If you can afford it, the best monitor to choose is a model with DisplayHDR 600, 1000 or True Black 400, True Black 500 and True Black 600. The True Black settings are designed primarily for OLED models, with maximum black levels at .0005 nits.

Where televisions typically offer HDR10 and Dolby Vision or HDR10+, most PC monitors only support the HDR10 standard, other than a few (very expensive) models. That doesn’t matter much for content creation or gaming, but HDR streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and other services won’t look quite as punchy. In addition, most models supporting HDR600 (and up) are gaming monitors, rather than content creation monitors – with a few exceptions. 

Refresh rate

Refresh rate is a key feature, particularly on gaming monitors. A bare minimum nowadays is 60Hz, and 80Hz and higher refresh rates are much easier on the eyes. However, most 4K displays top out at 60Hz with some rare exceptions and the HDMI 2.0 spec only supports 4K at 60Hz, so you’d need at least DisplayPort 1.4 (4K at 120Hz) or HDMI 2.1. The latter is now available on a number of monitors, particularly gaming displays. However, it’s only supported on the latest NVIDIA RTX 3000- and 4000-series, AMD RX 6000-series GPUs.

Inputs

There are essentially three types of modern display inputs: Thunderbolt, DisplayPort and HDMI. Most monitors built for PCs come with the latter two, while a select few (typically built for Macs) will use Thunderbolt. To add to the confusion, USB-C ports may be Thunderbolt 3 and by extension, DisplayPort compatible, so you may need a USB-C to Thunderbolt or DisplayPort cable adapter depending on your display.

Color bit depth

Serious content creators should consider a more costly 10-bit monitor that can display billions of colors. If budget is an issue, you can go for an 8-bit panel that can fake billions of colors via dithering (often spec’d as “8-bit + FRC”). For entertainment or business purposes, a regular 8-bit monitor that can display millions of colors will be fine.

Color gamut

The other aspect of color is the gamut. That expresses the range of colors that can be reproduced and not just the number of colors. Most good monitors these days can cover the sRGB and Rec.709 gamuts (designed for photos and video respectively). For more demanding work, though, you’ll want one that can reproduce more demanding modern gamuts like AdobeRGB, DCI-P3 and Rec.2020 gamuts, which encompass a wider range of colors. The latter two are often used for film projection and HDR, respectively.

Console gaming

Both the Xbox Series X and Sony’s PS5 can handle 4K 120Hz HDR gaming, so if you’re into resolution over pure speed, you’ll want a monitor that can keep up and provide the best gaming experience possible. 4K resolution, HDR and at least 120Hz is the minimum starting point, but fortunately there are 27-inch displays with those specs starting at well under $1,000.

Pricing and parts shortages

Though the pandemic has eased, monitor supply is still a bit tighter than pre-pandemic levels due to supply and demand issues. To that end, you may have trouble finding monitors at Amazon, B&H or elsewhere for the suggested retail price point. For our guide below, we’re basing our picks on the MSRP, as long as the street price doesn’t exceed that by more than $25.

Best monitors under $200

Best monitors under $400

Best monitors under $500

Best monitors under $1,000

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/how-to-buy-a-monitor-143000069.html?src=rss

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The best fitness trackers for 2024

The fitness tracker isn’t dead, and if you’re reading this, you’re probably one of the people keeping these little devices alive. Smartwatches like the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch have all but taken over the mainstream wearable space, but the humble fitness tracker remains an option for anyone that's really focused on one thing: accurate workout and daily activity monitoring. Despite the overwhelming popularity of smartwatches, there are still a number of solid fitness bands out there to choose from. We've tested a bunch of the most popular fitness trackers available today to name our top picks.

What do fitness trackers do best?

The answer seems simple: Fitness trackers are best at monitoring exercise, be it a 10-minute walk around the block or that half marathon you’ve been diligently training for. Obviously, smartwatches can help you reach your fitness goals too, but there are some areas where fitness bands have proven to be the best buy: focus, design, battery life and price.

When I say “focus,” I’m alluding to the fact that fitness trackers are made to track activity well; anything else is extra. They often don’t have the bells and whistles that smartwatches do, which could distract from their health tracking abilities. They also tend to have fewer sensors and internal components, which keeps them smaller and lighter. Fitness trackers are also a better option for those who just want a less conspicuous device on their wrists all day.

Battery life tends to be better on fitness trackers, too. While most smartwatches last one to two days on a single charge, fitness bands offer between five and seven days of battery life — and that’s with all-day and all-night use even with sleep tracking features enabled

When it comes to price point, there’s no competition. Most worthwhile smartwatches start at $175 to $200, but you can get a solid fitness tracker starting at $70. Yes, more expensive bands exist (and we recommend a few here), but you’ll find more options under $150 in the fitness tracker space than in the smartwatch space.

When to get a smartwatch instead

If you need a bit more from your wearable, a smartwatch may be the best buy for you. There are things like on-watch apps, alerts and even more robust fitness features that smartwatches have and the best fitness trackers don’t. You can use one to control smart home appliances, set timers and reminders, check weather reports and more. Some smartwatches let you choose which apps you want to receive alerts from, and the options go beyond just call and text notifications.

But the extra fitness features are arguably the most important thing to think about when deciding between a fitness tracker and a smartwatch. The latter devices tend to be larger, giving them more space for things like GPS, barometers, onboard music storage and more. While you can find built-in GPS on select fitness trackers, it’s not common.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-fitness-trackers-133053484.html?src=rss

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The best password managers for 2024

Password managers securely store all of the credentials you need on a regular basis. From streaming service logins to banking information and everything in between, these managers keep track of unique, strong online passwords. Your login credentials are not secure if they're all written down on a sticky note near your computer, and if you lose that physical record, you'll have a hard time logging into your most used accounts.

Password managers, with their various apps and plugins, not only keep your information secure but also remove the guesswork around remembering credentials and make it easier to log in from almost anywhere. But while having something is better than nothing, not every password manager stacks up the same. We tested out nine of the best password managers available now to help you choose the right one for your needs.

How do password managers work?

Think of password managers like virtual safe deposit boxes. They hold your valuables, in this case usually online credentials, in a section of the vault only accessible to you by security key or a master password. Most of these services have autofill features that make it convenient to log in to any site without needing to remember every password you have, and they keep your credit card information close for impulse purchases.

But given that passwords are one of the top ways to keep your online identity secure, the real value of password managers is staying safe online. “It's just not possible without a password manager to have unique, long and hard-to-guess passwords,” Florian Schaub, an associate professor of information and of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, said.

Common guidance states that secure passwords should be unique, with the longest number of characters allowed and uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. This is the exact opposite of using one password everywhere, with minor variations depending on a site’s requirements. Think of how many online accounts and sites you have credentials for — it’s an impossible task to remember it all without somewhere to store passwords safely (no, a sticky note on your desk won’t cut it). Password managers are more readily accessible and offer the benefit of filling in those long passwords for you.

Are password managers safe?

It seems counterintuitive to store all your sensitive information in one place. One hack could mean you lose it all to an attacker and struggle for months or even years to rebuild your online presence, not to mention you may have to cancel credit cards and other accounts. But most experts in the field agree that password managers are a generally secure and safe way to keep track of your personal data, and the benefits of strong, complex passwords outweigh the possible risks.

The mechanics of keeping those passwords safe differs slightly from provider to provider. Generally, you have a lengthy, complex “master password” that safeguards the rest of your information. In some cases, you might also get a “security key” to enter when you log in to new devices. This is a random string of letters, numbers and symbols that the company will send you at sign up. Only you know this key, and because it’s stored locally on your device or printed out on paper, it’s harder for hackers to find.

These multiple layers of security make it difficult for an attacker to get into your vault even if your password manager provider experiences a breach. But the company should also follow a few security basics. A “zero-knowledge” policy means that the company keeps none of your data on file, so in the event of an attack, there’s nothing for hackers to find. Regular health reports like pentests and security audits are essential for keeping companies up to par on best practices, and other efforts like bug bounty programs or hosting on an open source website encourage constant vigilance for security flaws. Most password managers now also offer some level of encryption falling under the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). AES 256-bit is the strongest, because there are the most number of possible combinations, but AES 128-bit or 192-bit are still good.

Who are password managers for?

Given their universal benefit, pretty much everyone could use a password manager. They’re not just for the tech-savvy people or businesses anymore because so much sensitive information ends up online behind passwords, from our bank accounts to our Netflix watch history.

That’s the other perk of password managers: safe password sharing. Families, friends or roommates can use them to safely access joint accounts. Texting a password to someone isn’t secure, and you can help your family break the habit by starting to use one yourself, Lisa Plaggemier, executive director at National Cyber Security Alliance, said. Streaming is the obvious use case, but consider the shared bills, file storage and other sites you share access with the people around you as well.

Are password managers worth it?

You likely already use a password manager, even if you wouldn’t think to call it that. Most phones and web browsers include a log of saved credentials on the device, like the “passwords” keychain in the settings of an iPhone. That means you’ve probably seen the benefits of not having to memorize a large number of passwords or even type them out already.

While that’s a great way in, the downfall of these built-in options are that they tend to be device specific. If you rely on an Apple password manager, for example, that works if you’re totally in the Apple ecosystem — but you become limited once you get an Android tablet, Lujo Bauer, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and of computer science, at Carnegie Mellon University, said. If you use different devices for work and personal use and want a secure option for sharing passwords with others, or just don’t want to be tied to one brand forever, a third-party password manager is usually worth it.

How we tested

We tested password managers by downloading the apps for each of the nine contenders on iPhone, Android, Safari, Chrome and Firefox. That helped us better understand what platforms each manager was available on, and see how support differs across operating systems and browsers.

As we got set up with each, we took note of ease of use and how they iterated on the basic features of autofill and password generators. Nearly all password managers have these features, but some place limits on how much you can store while others give more control over creating easy-to-type yet complex passwords. From there, we looked at extra features like data-breach monitoring to understand which managers offered the most for your money.

Finally, we reviewed publicly available information about security specs for each. This includes LastPass, which more experts are shying away from recommending after the recent breach. For the sake of this review, we’ve decided not to recommend LastPass at this time as fallout from the breach still comes to light (The company disclosed a second incident earlier this year where an unauthorized attack accessed the company’s cloud storage, including sensitive data. Since then, hackers have stolen more than $4.4 million in cryptocurrency using private keys and other information stored in LastPass vaults.)

These are the password managers we tested:

Best password manager: 1Password

Many security experts trust 1Password with their private information and, after testing it out, it’s clear why. The service includes industry standard encryption, a “secret key” that only you know on top of your master password, a zero-knowledge policy that means it keeps no data, and other security features like frequent audits, two-factor authentication and a bug bounty program. That said, 1Password did fall victim to a recent cybersecurity incident that’s worth noting. 1Password detected suspicious activity on its Okta instance, but an investigation “concluded that no 1Password user data was accessed.” 1Password now also supports passkeys, which are credentials stored in your most used devices that are protected by biometric authentication (like fingerprints or facial recognition) or PINs.

1Password has a pretty intuitive user interface across its mobile and desktop apps. A tutorial at download helps you import passwords from other managers onto 1Password so that you don’t feel like you’re starting over from scratch. It also clearly rates the strength of each password and has an “open and fill” option in the vault so that you can get into your desired site even more quickly. We also liked the user-friendly option to scan a set up code to easily connect your account to your mobile devices without too much tedious typing.

At $3 per month, the individual subscription comes with unlimited passwords, items and one gigabyte of document storage for your vault. It also lets you share passwords, credit card information and other saved credentials. If you upgrade to the family plan for $5 each month, you’ll get to invite up to five people (plus more for $1 each per month) to be a part of the vault.

Best free password manager: Bitwarden

Bitwarden’s free plan includes unlimited passwords on an unlimited number of devices, which is more than we’ve seen from some of its competitors. There are drawbacks like you can only share vault items with one other user, but we think that’s a fair tradeoff.

Bitwarden is based on open-source code, meaning anyone on GitHub can audit it, which is a good measure of security. On a personal level, it includes security audits of your information, like a data breach report, that can keep you in the know about when your passwords have been leaked and when it's time to change them. Plus, it’s widely available across the platforms we tested, including Windows and iOS, with a level of customization, options to access your password vault and more. It also recently added passkeys to its vault and two-factor authentication options as a secure way to sign in.

Bitwarden may be the best free password manager, but it does have a paid version and we do think it’s worth it. At $10 annually for individuals or $40 for families, you unlock encrypted file storage, emergency access, unlimited sharing and more additional features. But the free version comes with the basics that can get anyone set up on password management easily.

Best password manager for cross-platform availability: NordPass

Across password managers we tested, cross-platform availability was relatively similar. Most are widely available across web browsers and different operating systems, including our other top picks on this list. But we wanted to give a nod to NordPass here because of how easy the service makes it to access your vault from any platform while keeping your data safe. NordPass even lets you use biometric data to sign in now, like your fingerprints or face, making it even easier to get into accounts across devices.

NordPass has a free option with unlimited passwords and syncs across devices. A $2-per-month premium plan keeps you logged in when switching devices, comes with security notifications and allows for item sharing. A family subscription comes with six premium accounts and only costs $4 per month. This makes it an excellent budget option as well. Besides the pairing code to connect accounts, NordPass is a pretty standard password manager. Scanning a code gets me from my laptop to mobile device to work computer super easily. If you’re constantly switching devices and those extra few seconds save your sanity, it’s worth considering.

Best password manager for shared access: Dashlane

Dashlane has four subscription options: A free user gets access to a single device with unlimited passwords; an advanced user pays $3 per month to get upgraded to unlimited devices and dark web monitoring; for $5 per month, a premium user also gets VPN access and an $7.49-per-month family plan includes access for up to 10 subscribers.

It met all the criteria we looked for, but with a clear emphasis on sharing credentials. Dashlane highlights “secure sharing” starting at its free level, which is a functionality that some competitors keep behind a paywall. Other free features, however, recently took a hit. Dashlane limited the number of passwords users of the free version could store. Access for up to 10 members in a family plan is one of the bigger plans we’ve seen as well. While we were testing it, password sharing seemed front of mind with a tab dedicated to it in Dashlane’s browser extension. Arguably the biggest caveat here, though, is lack of Linux support.

FAQs

Why use a password manager?

Using a password manager can enhance your online security. They store all of your complex passwords and autofill them as needed, so that you can have unique, strong passwords across the web without remembering each of them yourself. In many cases, unique passwords are your first defense against attack, and a reliable manager makes it easier to keep track of them all.

How secure are password managers?

Password managers are a secure way to store your credentials. Experts in the field generally agree that the benefits of accessibility when storing complex passwords outweigh the possibility of attack, like what happened with LastPass. But with any service, it can vary from provider to provider. You should look out for zero-knowledge policies, regular security audits, pentests, bug bounty programs and encryption when choosing the right secure password manager for you.

What if I forget my master password?

Forgetting a master password won’t necessarily lock you out for good, but the recovery process varies from provider to provider. Some services give you a “security key” at sign up to enter when you log into new devices. It can also be used to securely recover your account because it’s a random string of keys stored locally that only you have access to. Other services, however, have no way to recover your vault. So creating a master password that you won’t forget is important.

How can I make a good master password?

A good master password should be unique, with the longest number of characters allowed and uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Experts often recommended thinking of it like a “passphrase” instead of a “password” to make it easier to remember. For example, you can take a sentence like “My name is Bob Smith” and change it to “Myn@m3isB0b5m!th” to turn it into a secure master password that you won’t forget.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-password-manager-134639599.html?src=rss

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The best smartwatches for 2023

There are dozens of smartwatches out now to consider, when just a few years ago, the market was much less crowded. Today, the wearable world is filled with various high-quality options, and a few key players, like the Apple Watch, Samsung Galaxy Watch and Fitbit Versa, have muscled their way to the front of the pack with their smart features. Maybe you've been eyeing a couple of smartwatches and haven't been able to decipher which will be best for you, or maybe you've been wearing a smart timepiece for quite some time and think it's about time for an upgrade. Regardless of which camp you fall into, the list of specs you’ll want to consider before deciding which is the best smartwatch for you to buy is a long one, and we'll help you make sense of it. After testing numerous smartwatches, we've come up with our top picks and buying advice that will help you make sense of all of your options.

What factors to consider in a smartwatch

Google WearOS interface on a smartwatch.

Compatibility

Apple Watches only work with iPhones, while Wear OS devices play nice with both iOS and Android phones. Smartwatches made by Samsung, Garmin, Fitbit and others are also compatible with Android and iOS, but you’ll need to install a companion app on your smartphone.

The smartwatch OS will also dictate the type and number of third-party apps you’ll have access to. Many of these aren’t useful, though, making this factor a fairly minor one in the grand scheme of things.

Price

The best smartwatches generally cost between $300 and $400. Compared to budget smartwatches, which cost between $100 and $250, these pricier devices have advanced operating systems, communications, music and fitness features. They also often include perks like onboard GPS tracking, music storage and NFC, which budget devices generally don’t.

Some companies make specialized fitness watches: Those can easily run north of $500, and we’d only recommend them to serious athletes. Luxury smartwatches from brands like TAG Heuer and Hublot can also reach sky-high prices, but we wouldn’t endorse any of them. These devices can cost more than $1,000, and you’re usually paying for little more than a brand name and some needlessly exotic selection of build materials.

Battery life

Battery life remains one of our biggest complaints about smartwatches, but there’s hope as of late. You can expect two full days from Apple Watches and most Wear OS devices. Watches using the Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor support extended battery modes that promise up to five days of battery life on a charge — if you’re willing to shut off most features aside from, you know, displaying the time. Snapdragon’s next-gen Wear 4100 and 4100+ processors were announced in 2020, but only a handful of devices – some of which aren’t even available yet – are using them so far. Other models can last five to seven days, but they usually have fewer features and lower-quality displays. Meanwhile, some fitness watches can last weeks on a single charge.

Communication

Any smartwatch worth considering delivers call, text and app notifications to your wrist. Call and text alerts are self explanatory, but if those mean a lot to you, consider a watch with LTE. They’re more expensive than their WiFi-only counterparts, but cellular connectivity allows the smartwatch to take and receive phone calls, and do the same with text messages, without your device nearby. As far as app alerts go, getting them delivered to your wrist will let you glance down to the watch face and see if you absolutely need to check your phone right now. 

Fitness tracking

Activity tracking is a big reason why people turn to smartwatches. An all-purpose timepiece should function as a fitness tracker, logging your steps, calories and workouts, and most of today’s wearables have a heart rate monitor as well.

Many smartwatches' fitness features include a built-in GPS, which is useful for tracking distance for runs and bike rides. Swimmers will want something water resistant, and thankfully most all-purpose devices now can withstand at least a dunk in the pool. Some smartwatches from companies like Garmin are more fitness focused than others and tend to offer more advanced features like heart-rate-variance tracking, recovery time estimation, onboard maps and more.

Health tracking on smartwatches has also seen advances over the years. Both Apple and Fitbit devices can estimate blood oxygen levels and measure ECGs. But the more affordable the smartwatch, the less likely it is that it has these kinds of advanced health tracking features; if collecting those kinds of wellness metrics is important to you, you’ll have to pay for the privilege.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active
Engadget

Music

Your watch can not only track your morning runs but also play music while you’re exercising. Many smartwatches let you save your music locally, so you can connect wireless earbuds via Bluetooth and listen to tunes without bringing your phone. Those that don’t have onboard storage for music usually have on-watch music controls, so you can control playback without whipping out your phone. And if your watch has LTE, local saving isn’t required — you’ll be able to stream music directly from the watch to your paired earbuds.

Displays

Most wearables have touchscreens and we recommend getting one that has a full-color touchscreen. Some flagships like the Apple Watch have LTPO displays, which stands for low-temperature polycrystalline oxide. These panels have faster response times and are more power efficient, resulting in a smoother experience when one interacts with the touchscreen and, in some cases, longer battery lives.

You won’t see significant gains with the latter, though, because the extra battery essentially gets used up when these devices have always-on displays, as most flagship wearables do today. Some smartwatches have this feature on by default while others let you enable it via tweaked settings. This smart feature allows you to glance down at your watch to check the time, health stats or any other information you’ve set it to show on its watchface without lifting your wrist. This will no doubt affect your device’s battery life, but thankfully most always-on modes dim the display’s brightness so it’s not running at its peak unnecessarily. Cheaper devices won’t have this feature; instead, their touchscreens will automatically turn off to conserve battery life and you’ll have to intentionally check your watch to turn on the display again.

NFC

Many smartwatches have NFC, letting you pay for things without your wallet using contactless payments. After saving your credit or debit card information, you can hold your smartwatch up to an NFC reader to pay for a cup of coffee on your way home from a run. Keep in mind that different watches use different payment systems: Apple Watches use Apple Pay, Wear OS devices use Google Pay, Samsung devices use Samsung Pay and so forth.

Apple Pay is one of the most popular NFC payment systems, with support for multiple banks and credit cards in 72 different countries, while Samsung and Google Pay work in fewer regions. It’s also important to note that both NFC payment support varies by device as well for both Samsung and Google’s systems.

Best overall: Apple Watch

When Apple unveiled the Apple Watch Series 9 in September, the company appears to be focusing on ways for you to interact with the device without having to touch the screen. It introduced a new Double Tap gesture that’s based on its Assistive Touch accessibility tool, allowing users to use a pinching action to navigate the system. If you’re unable to use your other hand to swipe, for example, you can Double Tap to bring up your Smart Stack or dismiss an alarm.

The feature is not something you can utilize throughout the entire watchOS interface, but when it does work, it could make little tasks a lot easier. Dismissing timers while cooking or starting a workout tracker when you’re already in the middle of your run are just some ways Double Tap could be very helpful.

Apple also brought on-device Siri processing to the Series 9, thanks to its new S9 system-in-package (SiP) processor. This way, the assistant responds slightly more quickly, but, more importantly, it can answer you even when you’re offline. It might not be able to pull web results when you’re disconnected, but it can at least control your music and timers. Later this year, Siri Health Requests will arrive, allowing you to ask it for your sleep, move and workout data, too.

Throw in a new Find My iPhone interface thanks to a second-generation ultra wideband (UWB) chip, brighter screen (that also gets dimmer at night), as well as a refreshed interface via watchOS 10, and the Series 9 feels like a meaty upgrade from its predecessor. The increased focus on Siri and touch-free interaction methods is also another advantage that the Apple Watch has over its competitors, and the company remains the king of the smartwatch category. Though it still lags its rivals on sleep-tracking, the Series 9 definitively beats out last year's Series 8 to be the best smartwatch available now and the best Apple Watch for most people.

Read our full review of the Apple Watch Series 9

Best budget smartwatch: Fitbit Versa 2

Dropping $400 on a smartwatch isn’t feasible for everyone, which is why we recommend the Fitbit Versa 2 as the best sub-$200 option. Even though Fitbit has come out with the Versa 3 and 4, the Versa 2 remains our favorite budget watch because it offers a bunch of features at a great price. You get all of these essentials: Fitbit’s solid exercise-tracking abilities (including auto-workout detection), sleep tracking, water resistance, connected GPS, blood oxygen (SpO2) tracking and a six-day battery life. It also supports Fitbit Pay using NFC and it has built-in Amazon Alexa as a voice assistant.. While the Versa 2 typically costs $150, we’ve seen it for as low as $100.

Best smartwatch for Android: Samsung Galaxy Watch 6

The best smartwatch for Android users has long been one of Samsung’s Galaxy watches. Though Google may have given the company some competition with the debut of the Pixel Watch last year, it still trails behind on battery life and built-in features. And with the Galaxy Watch 6 series this year, Samsung continues to reign as smartwatch king for non-Apple users.

One of the company’s biggest advantages is its hallmark spinning bezel, which went away last year, only to be brought back in 2023’s Galaxy Watch 6 Classic. This model not only resurrects the fidget-spinner-esque ring, but also manages to be smaller and lighter than before. The bezel is slightly thinner, while still offering a smooth, tactile way to navigate Wear OS 4 without tapping at the screen. It’s not a huge change from the Galaxy Watch 4 Classic, so if you’re wondering about upgrading based on size alone, don’t expect much of a difference. You’ll appreciate that the displays are brighter, though, and therefore easier to read in direct sunlight.

What makes the Galaxy Watch 6 more compelling than previous models are its updated health and fitness tracking tools. The onboard skin temperature sensor now works overnight to help keep track of ovulation and menstrual cycles, while new sleep-coaching tools offer greater insight on how to get better rest. The company also added an irregular heart rhythm monitoring feature and will alert you if it detects anomalies in your cardio patterns. Runners will also appreciate the new personalized heart rate zones, which will help keep you precisely in the cardio ranges that are right for you, rather than those generated based on population data.

As usual, the Galaxy Watch 6 series also brings processor upgrades and some battery life improvements, alongside more apps optimized for your wrist. All told, the set of software updates coming to this year’s model, including support for Samsung Wallet (instead of just Pay), make the Galaxy Watch 6 more useful than before. Just know that if you have a slightly older model, most of these will likely trickle down to your device soon. If you’re considering trading in for a newer model, it’s worth paying attention to the actual hardware differences. For Android users thinking of getting their first smartwatch, though, the Galaxy Watch 6 or Watch 6 Classic are the best all-rounded option available.

Read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Watch 6

Stylish smartwatches: Fossil and more

Michael Kors Access Gen 5e MKGO at CES 2021
Fossil

Yes, there are still companies out there trying to make “fashionable” smartwatches. Back when wearables were novel and generally ugly, brands like Fossil, Michael Kors and Skagen found their niche in stylish smartwatches that took cues from analog timepieces. You also have the option to pick up a “hybrid” smartwatch from companies like Withings and Garmin – these devices look like classic wrist watches but incorporate some limited functionality like activity tracking and heart rate monitoring. They remain good options if you prefer that look, but thankfully, wearables made by Apple, Samsung, Fitbit and others have gotten much more attractive over the past few years.

Ultimately, the only thing you can’t change after you buy a smartwatch is its case design. If you’re not into the Apple Watch’s squared-off corners, all of Samsung’s smartwatches have round cases that look a little more like a traditional watch. Most wearables are offered in a choice of colors and you can pay extra for premium materials like stainless steel. Once you decide on a case, your band options are endless – there are dozens of first- and third-party watch straps available for most major smartwatches, and for both larger and smaller wrists, allowing you to change up your look whenever you please.

Other smartwatches our experts tested

Apple Watch Ultra 2

The Apple Watch Ultra 2 is probably overkill for most people, but it has a ton of extra features like extra waterproofing to track diving, an even more accurate GPS and the biggest battery of any Apple Watch to date. Apple designed it for the most rugged among us, but for your average person, it likely has more features than they'd ever need.

Apple Watch SE

The Apple Watch SE is less feature-rich than the flagship model, but it will probably suffice for most people. We actually regard the Watch SE as the best smartwatch option for first-time buyers, or people on stricter budgets. You’ll get all the core Apple Watch features as well as things like fall and crash detection, noise monitoring and Emergency SOS, but you’ll have to do without more advanced hardware perks like an always-on display, a blood oxygen sensor, an ECG monitor and a skin temperature sensor.

Google Pixel Watch 2

Google made many noteworthy improvements in the Pixel Watch 2. Unlike the first iteration of the smartwatch, the Pixel Watch 2 is actually a solid contender when positioned next to the likes of the Apple Watch and Samsung's Galaxy Watch. In our review, we praised its excellent heart rate measurements and health insights, plus it has stress management tools that excel over similar features provided by its competitors. However, software quirks and confusing data representations prevent it from earning a spot on our top picks list.

Garmin Forerunner 745

The Garmin Forerunner 745 is an excellent GPS running watch for serious athletes or those who prize battery life above all else. When we tested it, we found it to provide accurate distance tracking, a killer 16-hour battery life with GPS turned on (up to seven days without it) and support for onboard music storage and Garmin Pay.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-smartwatches-153013118.html?src=rss

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Unveiling The AI Wonders

In a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to redefine the realms of possibility, this past week was nothing short of a roller-coaster ride in the AI domain. With Time Magazine unveiling its much-anticipated list of the ‘Best Inventions of 2023’, the AI community found itself both celebrated and critiqued. The list featured a medley of 12 AI-driven tools, painting a vivid picture of how AI is intertwined with our daily lives. However, the festivities came with a side of controversy, as some noteworthy inventions found themselves in the shadows of the celebrated ones.

by Matt Wolfe

Adobe’s Generative Phill, GP4 by OpenAI, Runway Gen 2, and a host of other AI marvels graced Time’s list, but it was the omission of Mid Journey Version 5 and the inclusion of Stable Audio that raised eyebrows. Mid Journey, known for crafting photorealistic images, arguably outshines Dolly 3, yet found no mention. Stable Audio, despite its rather underwhelming outputs, somehow made the cut, while superior music-generation tools like Oiko and Google’s Music LM were overlooked.

The spotlight also turned to the Humane AI pin, a product that, despite its buzz at a TED talk and a runway show, remains largely elusive to the global audience. The involvement of Time’s co-chairs and owners, Mark and Lynn Benioff, as investors in Humane, also surfaced, igniting discussions on bias and vested interests in the evaluations.

The week also saw Mid Journey unroll the beta version of its new website, promising a future where image generation on its platform would be a breeze. The lightning-fast search functionality showcased on the website left many in awe, emphasizing how AI is revolutionizing the user experience. Yet, the anticipation continues to build for the image generation feature, which remains on the horizon.

Meanwhile, Shutterstock upped its game with a slew of AI-based features for image editing, aiming to provide a seamless experience for crafting the perfect image. Amazon too, joined the AI imagery bandwagon, introducing a tool to embellish advertisement images for a better customer engagement.

Google, on the other hand, is investing in helping users discern AI-generated imagery from the real ones. The newly announced ‘About This Image’ feature in Google Images, aims to provide historical and contextual data about images, marking a step towards countering misinformation and promoting authenticity.

AI’s potential misuse is a topic that resonates across the tech realm, and this week saw several tech giants including OpenAI, Google, and Microsoft come together to form a forum for AI Safety Research. With a $10 million fund to back this initiative, the focus is on red teaming AI models to unearth vulnerabilities and devise strategies for a more secure and ethical AI ecosystem.

In the race towards making AI accessible and interactive, Amazon introduced ‘Explore with Alexa’ for kids, while YouTube is reportedly negotiating with music labels to create an AI tool for voice replication of famous musicians, potentially opening doors to AI-generated music on a new level.

The week was also rife with leaks and speculations. Snapdragon 8 Gen 3, supposedly designed for generative AI, is rumored to challenge iPhone 15’s Ray tracing capability. Meanwhile, leaks surrounding Google’s Gemini and Stubs hint at an exciting future where creating AI-generated app prototypes could become a norm.

The discourse on AI’s potential threat to humanity found a new angle with Meta’s Chief AI Scientist dismissing the fears as premature. This, juxtaposed with Bill Gates’ assertion that generative AI is plateauing, brings a mixed bag of optimism and caution as we navigate the AI landscape.

As we revel in the advancements and debate the downsides, one thing is clear – the AI journey is full of surprises, some pleasant, others not so much, but all contributing to a future where AI is not just a tool, but a companion in our digital odyssey.

This narrative was just a slice of the AI world’s weekly chronicle. Stay tuned for more insights and remember, the future of AI holds many more revelations, some already on the horizon while others yet to be imagined.

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AI’s Market Odyssey

Unveiling Cloud Giants’ Fortunes Amid Economic Renaissance

The recent post-earnings narrative of tech titans Alphabet and Microsoft unveils a broader tale of AI’s pervasive influence in reshaping market dynamics. While Microsoft’s Intelligent Cloud reigned supreme with AI at its helm, Alphabet’s cloud unit treaded calmer waters. The stock market reverberated with Microsoft shares leaping 4% and Alphabet’s declining by 8%. It was a dramatic exposition of how AI’s integration within cloud realms is not just a tech narrative, but a financial saga intricately entwined with broader economic currents.

by Reuters

The year 2023 heralded a renaissance of AI’s macroeconomic dialogue. The once speculative discussions blossomed into empirical dialogues, transcending the realm of Large Language Models (LLMs) and chatbots. AI’s tentacles now extend into virtually every global industry, orchestrating a symphony of transformations from healthcare and education to finance.

The monumental rise of LLMs underscored the potential of AI to redefine labor markets and economic structures. The early skepticism, echoed in economists’ quip ‘What AI?’, has transmuted into a tangible analysis of AI’s macroeconomic imprint. Scholars like David Autor and Daron Acemoglu pioneered this transition, yet the enigmatic relationship between AI, labor, and productivity continued to befuddle economists. Today, scholars like Erik Brynjolfsson herald the early signs of AI-driven productivity growth across sectors.

Amidst this backdrop, Alphabet and Microsoft’s diverging post-earnings narratives exemplify the varying degrees of AI’s market influence. The fiscal dialogues underscored AI’s pivotal role in cloud revenue growth, albeit with Alphabet trailing behind. The narrative mirrors a broader market trend where AI’s labor-substituting prowess is both celebrated for boosting productivity and feared for potential job displacements in legacy sectors like manufacturing, transportation, and healthcare.

Delving into the financial sector, AI’s influence is palpable. Nneka Chike-Obi from Sustainable Fitch accentuates AI’s transformative potential in sustainable investing, while Arbroath Group’s Christopher Smart underscores AI’s ‘productivity boost’ in the white-collar domain. The unfolding narrative also rings alarm bells, with Bilva Chandra from RAND Corporation warning against AI-fueled market manipulations.

The discourse extends into public policy realms, with OMFIF dedicating an edition of the Bulletin to explore AI’s macroeconomic and financial facets. Experts from academia and the financial sector converge to discuss AI’s market implications, with a collaborative call to arms for both public and private sectors to foster AI research and mitigate associated risks.

The tale of Alphabet and Microsoft is but a glimpse into AI’s market odyssey. As AI continues to morph from a speculative entity to a market mover, the cloud giants’ narrative is a telling prologue to a broader economic saga awaiting to unfold. The labor market, productivity indices, and financial sectors are now intertwined with AI’s evolving narrative, painting a complex tableau of challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the AI-driven market epoch.

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