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25 temporary hacks for sprucing up a rental apartment

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Settling into a brand-new apartment? Congratulations! Your first job is to make it feel less…well, like every other apartment, and more like home. Your home. “You found the perfect apartment and location. Only downside is that it lacks personality and style,” says Michelle Harrison-McAllister, an interior designer based in San Diego. “There are easy and affordable temporary solutions to add your vibe.”

Outfitting your space, though, is not just about bringing out your style. You’ll want to optimize the limited space you have while not damaging walls or fixtures. Happily, we’ve got the proof it’s not nearly as hard as you may think. “For instance, if you are allowed to paint in your apartment, this is an inexpensive way to personalize your space,” suggests Colin Haentjens, an interior designer and licensed architect in Los Angeles. And we’ve got plenty more simple ideas that’ll wow you — and make sure you get your security deposit back — whether you’re a renter or a serial redecorator.

Apartment living room decor

This is where all the fun happens. Make your main space look the part with fresh design ideas.

Mistana Timm Chevron and Herringbone Peel and Stick Wallpaper Roll ($25.08 per roll; wayfair.com)

Mistana Timm Chevron and Herringbone Peel and Stick Wallpaper Roll
Mistana Timm Chevron and Herringbone Peel and Stick Wallpaper Roll
PHOTO: Wayfair

Ideal for renters, these removable panels give you the look of honest-to-goodness wallpaper without fuss. Just peel and stick to any smooth surface. You can even use them to spruce up furniture. You can calculate how much you’ll need by the square foot, or by the roll, which covers 16.5 feet by 20.5 inches.

Manchester Entertainment Stand ($84.99; target.com)

Manchester Entertainment Stand
Manchester Entertainment Stand
PHOTO: Target

Vinyl has come back in a big way, so this space-saving piece may well be a must-have addition to your living room. It’s midcentury-inspired, and just check out that cherry wood finish. It could also work as a side table or nightstand, or be a multifunctional piece.

Rust-Oleum Chalkboard Paint ($10.98; homedepot.com)

Rust-Oleum Chalkboard Paint
Rust-Oleum Chalkboard Paint
PHOTO: Home Depot

Haentjens is a big fan of this specialty chalkboard paint, even if only used on a portion of a wall. “You can constantly update your environment,” he says. “By allowing your friends to express themselves, you’ll have an evolving piece of original and meaningful art.” It can even be used on wood, metal and glass.

Let the Sun Shine In Wall Tapestry ($31.49, originally $44.99; society6.com)

Let the Sun Shine In Wall Tapestry
Let the Sun Shine In Wall Tapestry
PHOTO: Society6

Tapestries are an easy, temporary way to cover a large expanse of wall,” says Haentjens. “Styles range from subdued to wild, and they come in an array of shapes and sizes, so you can liven up any wall area you like.” If this one isn’t quite your taste, take a look at the Society6 store — one is more beautiful than the next.

Falsa Polychrome Washable Rug (starting at $109; ruggable.com)

Falsa Polychrome Washable Rug
Falsa Polychrome Washable Rug
PHOTO: Ruggable

This festive rug with New Mexico vibes will instantly add cheer to any home. And — get this — you can toss it in the washing machine. You just need to take off the nonskid backing first. And it’s more than pretty — it’s pretty tough. It’s also water- and stain-resistant.

Apartment bathroom decor

You may not spend all that much time in your bathroom, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t make a style statement.

The Twillery Co. Long Trellis Bath Rug ($34.99, originally $99.99; wayfair.com)

The Twillery Co. Long Trellis Bath Rug
The Twillery Co. Long Trellis Bath Rug
PHOTO: Wayfair

It’s hard to think of an easier way to give your bathroom a new look than switching out the rug. This one, with a modern geometric design and an anti-skid backing, is made of 100% cotton and is odor-resistant. It comes in a slew of great colors and can be machine-washed and machine-dried too.

Tuva Knobs, Set of 2 ($20; anthropologie.com)

Tuva Knobs, Set of 2
Tuva Knobs, Set of 2
PHOTO: Anthropologie

“Cookie-cutter apartments typically have cheap hardware in bathrooms,” says Haentjen. Swapping out cabinet knobs and drawer pulls is not hard, he adds. These elegant knobs will give a boring washroom new life.

Segbeauty Shower Dispensers, 3-Pack ($16.99; amazon.com)

Segbeauty Shower Dispensers, 3-Pack
Segbeauty Shower Dispensers, 3-Pack
PHOTO: Amazon

Replacing product packaging with sleek containers is a fast, easy way to elevate the aesthetics of your bathroom. Enter this trio of plastic pump dispensers for shampoo, conditioner and body wash. The warm golden color is great for fall, but the set also comes in a pretty blue. (At this price, you can grab both and swap out.)

Vintage Palm Shower Curtain by Drew Barrymore Flower Home ($25; walmart.com)

Vintage Palm Shower Curtain by Drew Barrymore Flower Home
Vintage Palm Shower Curtain by Drew Barrymore Flower Home
PHOTO: Walmart

Give your bath a shot of vintage drama with this woven cotton shower curtain. It’s lined so splashes are contained, and it’s festooned with tassels for extra flair.

Apartment kitchen decor

Those often cramped apartment kitchens need to be done up with an eye toward functionality as well as flair.

Very Berry Marble Effect Peel-Stick Countertop ($34.90; amazon.com)

Very Berry Marble Effect Peel-Stick Countertop
Very Berry Marble Effect Peel-Stick Countertop
PHOTO: Amazon

Rentals often have outdated, basic countertops. A peel and stick countertop, or an adhesive countertop, is a budget-friendly and fast way to make your new apartment channel your style. They can also be easily removed when it’s time to move on. As you can see from its happy reviewers, this lustrous white marble effect vinyl can instantly modernize a more outdated-looking kitchen. It wipes clean, so it’s easy to maintain as well.

Legrand Radiant Wireless Charger ($57.17; amazon.com)

Legrand Radiant Wireless Charger
Legrand Radiant Wireless Charger
PHOTO: Amazon

Kitchen counter space is precious. This genius charger will replace any standard outlet in about 15 minutes. (Don’t worry: No new wiring is needed.) Your phone will be up and out of the way as it charges. It looks a lot nicer than a charging cable next to your toaster too.

Honeywell UltraPro Puck Lights, 3-Pack ($29.99; amazon.com)

Honeywell UltraPro Puck Lights, 3-Pack
Honeywell UltraPro Puck Lights, 3-Pack
PHOTO: Amazon

Hello, under-cabinet lighting! These would look amazing in a galley kitchen. They’re both linkable and dimmable. They’re easy to install — and to remove and take with you to your next home.

LongKing Peel and Stick Backsplash ($34.99, originally $39.90 for 10 sheets; amazon.com)

LongKing Peel and Stick Backsplash
LongKing Peel and Stick Backsplash
PHOTO: Amazon

This fabulous marble-look tile backsplash is as easy to clean as it is to put up. You just wipe with your normal cleaner,” says Harrison-McAllister. It’s heat- and moisture-resistant, so it will hold up fine even next to the stove or sink. You can pick from 10 different color palettes and tile designs.

Smoko Potato Light ($22; urbanoutfitters.com)

Smoko Potato Light
Smoko Potato Light
PHOTO: Urban Outfitters

We only have eyes for this spunky spud. Its soft glow turns on and off with a touch sensor, and it’s USB rechargeable. No, it does not serve any purpose besides sitting on your counter looking astoundingly cute. Isn’t that enough?

RoomMates Tin Tile Peel and Stick Wallpaper ($34.99 per roll; amazon.com)

RoomMates Tin Tile Peel and Stick Wallpaper
RoomMates Tin Tile Peel and Stick Wallpaper
PHOTO: Amazon

This goofproof wallpaper can be peeled off and repositioned, and it doesn’t leave any sticky residue behind. It’s durable and thick, with each roll covering about 28 square feet. You can also get it in a nice copper shade.

Apartment bedroom decor

We spend a third of our lives asleep, so it’s well worth the effort to turn your snoozing space into a sanctuary.

Opalhouse Tropical Peel & Stick Wallpaper Green ($34 per roll; target.com)

Opalhouse Tropical Peel & Stick Wallpaper Green
Opalhouse Tropical Peel & Stick Wallpaper Green
PHOTO: Target

This sunny wallpaper couldn’t be easier to put up. It’s completely self-adhesive. And it can be peeled off — no residue — and put back if you don’t line up the print just right the first time. Whether you’re reimagining an accent wall or your whole bedroom, peel and stick wallpaper is one of the easiest products to work with, asserts Harrison-McAllister.

“With so many colors and patterns to choose from, you can express your personality,” she says.

Nanoleaf Rhythm Smarter Kit ($199.99; homedepot.com)

Nanoleaf Rhythm Smarter Kit
Nanoleaf Rhythm Smarter Kit
PHOTO: Home Depot

How cool is this? Put together your own design with modular light panels, then place it on your wall with mounting tape. Colored lights will sync with soothing music as you wind down for the night. Through the app, you can even set a gentle wake-up “alarm.”

Marseille Rug (starting at $60; riflepaperco.com)

Marseille Rug
Marseille Rug
PHOTO: Rifle Paper Co

This stunning yet affordable floor cover, starting at roughly 2 feet by 4 feet, is just the right size for a smaller bedroom. It’ll look great at the foot of your bed. Larger sizes and lots of other gorgeous designs and colors are available too.

Fasade Brushed Nickel Waves Backsplash ($19.95; homedepot.com)

Fasade Brushed Nickel Waves Backsplash
Fasade Brushed Nickel Waves Backsplash
PHOTO: Home Depot

Who says a backsplash is only for the kitchen? The metal-look backsplashes by Fasade are a favorite of Harrison-McAllister’s. She uses them throughout clients’ apartments, including bedrooms. “The illusion of metal works with both rustic and modern styles,” she says. “I like this funky wave pattern on headboards.”

Novogratz Webster Plant Stand ($64.99; target.com)

Novogratz Webster Plant Stand
Novogratz Webster Plant Stand
PHOTO: Target

Greenery adds life, color and visual interest to a room. You can display three potted plants on this industrial-rustic piece. It’ll be perfect in an apartment where there aren’t enough windowsills that work for your philodendrons.

Pompom LED String Lights ($16; urbanoutfitters.com)

Pompom LED String Lights
Pompom LED String Lights
PHOTO: Urban Outfitters

This jaunty set of lights brightens up your bedroom without the surface-scarring adhesive most LED light sets use. They work on batteries, so you don’t need to display them near an outlet.

Apartment office decor

A work-from-home space is a new necessity. Whether you’re lucky enough to have an actual room, or only a nook, we’ve got the goods that’ll inspire your best work.

Erin Gates by Momeni Zebra Area Rug ($123.29, originally $399; amazon.com)

Erin Gates by Momeni Zebra Area Rug
Erin Gates by Momeni Zebra Area Rug
PHOTO: Amazon

Elevate your work area with a chic faux fur rug. It has a low pile — only 1/10 of an inch — so it looks like actual animal hide. The soft backing grips bare floors to keep it from slipping around. It also comes in cheetah and brown cow designs.

Wiremold Cable Management Kit ($11.18, originally $13.99; amazon.com)

Wiremold Cable Management Kit
Wiremold Cable Management Kit
PHOTO: Amazon

Keep your workspace from becoming a tangle of wires. Corral all those cords in sleek covers that set up with easy-peasy adhesive backing. Tip: Paint them the same color as the wall to turn ugly wires into an architectural element.

Lasko My Heat Personal Electric Heater ($38; walmart.com)

Lasko My Heat Personal Electric Heater
Lasko My Heat Personal Electric Heater
PHOTO: Walmart

This personal ceramic heater will keep you cozy while adding a pop of color to your work spot. Another plus: It takes up hardly any space, and it’s truly small enough to sit on your desk. Oh, and if you pay for utilities, you’ll be happy to hear it runs on only 200 watts. It’s also available in white, a vivid blue and black.

Midcentury Geometric Removable Wallpaper ($59; urbanoutfitters.com)

Midcentury Geometric Removable Wallpaper
Midcentury Geometric Removable Wallpaper
PHOTO: Urban Outfitters

A cinch to stick, unstick, restick and remove, this graphic wall covering will infuse energy into your work area. An Urban Outfitters exclusive, it comes in convenient panels. Use one to set off a small area or several to enliven an entire wall.

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All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year

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(CNN) —  

Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.

Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.

So, as we enter peak gifting season, if you’re on the hunt for the perfect gift, we know you’ll find something on this list that they (or you!) will absolutely love.

Coffee

Best burr coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249; amazon.com or walmart.com)

Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder
Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder

Beginner baristas and coffee connoisseurs alike will be pleased with the Baratza Virtuoso+, a conical burr grinder with 40 settings for grind size, from super fine (espresso) to super coarse (French press). The best coffee grinder we tested, this sleek look and simple, intuitive controls, including a digital timer, allow for a consistent grind every time — as well as optimal convenience.

Read more from our testing of coffee grinders here.

Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)

Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker
Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker

During our testing of drip coffee makers, we found the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker made a consistently delicious, hot cup of coffee, brewed efficiently and cleanly, from sleek, relatively compact hardware that is turnkey to operate, and all for a reasonable price.

Read more from our testing of drip coffee makers here.

Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)

Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus
Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus

Among all single-serve coffee makers we tested, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button.

Read more from our testing of single-serve coffee makers here.

Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)

Blue Bottle coffee subscription
Blue Bottle coffee subscription

Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single-origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs.

Read more from our testing of coffee subscriptions here.

Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)

Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot
Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot

This sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe produces 1 liter (about 4 1/4 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span, and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.

Read more from our testing of cold brew makers here.

Kitchen essentials

Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)

T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid
T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid

If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying-pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2 1/2-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.

Read more from our testing of nonstick pans here.

Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)

Breville Super Q
Breville Super Q

With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. At $500, it does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to about $1.30 a day over a year seems like a bargain.

Read more from our testing of blenders here.

Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)

Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set
Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set

The Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set sets you up to easily take on almost any cutting job and is a heck of a steal at just $119.97. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping, as well as the classic look of the chestnut-stained wood block. If you’re looking for a complete knife set you’ll be proud of at a price that won’t put a dent in your savings account, this is the clear winner.

Read more from our testing of knife sets here.

Audio

Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)

Apple AirPods Pro
Apple AirPods Pro

Apple’s AirPods Pro hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.

Read more from our testing of true wireless earbuds here.

Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)

Sony WH-1000XM4
Sony WH-1000XM4

Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but phenomenal noise-canceling ability. So much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pros, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear XM4s better seal the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pros, could not compete with — which is to be expected considering their $348 price tag.

Read more from our testing of noise-canceling headphones here.

Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)

Beats Solo 3
Beats Solo 3

The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable $199.95 price tag.

Read more from our testing of on-ear headphones here.

Beauty

Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($11, originally $22; amazon.com or $22; nordstrom.com and stilacosmetics.com)

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick
Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick

The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.

Read more from our testing of matte lipsticks here.

Best everyday liquid liner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; stilacosmetics.com or macys.com)

Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner
Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner

The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. We found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades.

Read more from our testing of liquid eyeliners here.

Work-from-home essentials

Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 (starting at $381.60; amazon.com or $415, wayfair.com)

Steelcase Series 1
Steelcase Series 1

The Steelcase Series 1 scored among the highest overall, standing out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. At $415, the Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.

Read more from our testing of office chairs here.

Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)

Logitech Ergo K860
Logitech Ergo K860

We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard (meaning there’s a triangular gap down the middle) coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position that eases the tension that can often accompany hours spent in front of a regular keyboard. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic keyboards here.

Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)

Logitech MX Master 3
Logitech MX Master 3

The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.

Read more from our testing of ergonomic mice here.

Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)

Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light
Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light

The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light. And at a relatively cheap $35.40, this light combines usability and affordability better than any of the other options we tested.

Read more from our testing of ring lights here.

Home

Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)

Parachute Linen Sheets
Parachute Linen Sheets

Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.

Read more from our testing of linen sheets here.

Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)

Kohler Forte Shower Head
Kohler Forte Shower Head

Hands down, the Kohler Forte Shower Head provides the best overall shower experience, offering three distinct settings. Backstory: Lots of shower heads out there feature myriad “settings” that, when tested, are pretty much indecipherable. The Forte’s three sprays, however, are each incredibly different and equally successful. There’s the drenching, full-coverage rain shower, the pulsating massage and the “silk spray” setting that is basically a super-dense mist. The Forte manages to achieve all of this while using only 1.75 gallons per minute (GPM), making it a great option for those looking to conserve water.

Read more from our testing of shower heads here.

Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)

TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier
TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier

The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ramped up the humidity in a room in about an hour, which was quicker than most of the options we tested. More importantly, though, it sustained those humidity levels over the longest period of time — 24 hours, to be exact. The levels were easy to check with the built-in reader (and we cross-checked that reading with an external reader to confirm accuracy). We also loved how easy this humidifier was to clean, and the nighttime mode for the LED reader eliminated any bright lights in the bedroom.

Read more from our testing of humidifiers here.

Video

Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)

TCL 6-Series
TCL 6-Series

With models starting at $599.99 for a 55-inch, the TCL 6-Series might give you reverse sticker shock considering everything you get for that relatively small price tag. But can a 4K smart TV with so many specification standards really deliver a good picture for $500? The short answer: a resounding yes. The TCL 6-Series produces a vibrant picture with flexible customization options and handles both HDR and Dolby Vision, optimization standards that improve the content you’re watching by adding depth to details and expanding the color spectrum.

Read more from our testing of TVs here.

Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

Roku recently updated its Ultra streaming box and the 2020 version is faster, thanks to a new quad-core processor. The newest Ultra retains all of the features we loved and enjoyed about the 2019 model, like almost zero lag time between waking it up and streaming content, leading to a hiccup-free streaming experience. On top of that, the Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K.

Read more from our testing of streaming devices here.

Travel

Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)

Away Carry-On
Away Carry-On

The Away Carry-On scored high marks across all our tests and has the best combination of features for the average traveler. Compared with higher-end brands like Rimowa, which retail for hundreds more, you’re getting the same durable materials, an excellent internal compression system and eye-catching style. Add in smart charging capabilities and a lifetime warranty, and this was the bag to beat.

Read more from our testing of carry-on luggage here.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)

Anker PowerCore 13000
Anker PowerCore 13000

The Anker PowerCore 13000 shone most was in terms of charging capacity. It boasts 13,000 mAh (maH is a measure of how much power a device puts out over time), which is enough to fully charge an iPhone 11 two and a half times. Plus, it has two fast-charging USB Type-A ports so you can juice a pair of devices simultaneously. While not at the peak in terms of charging capacity, at just $31.99, it’s a serious bargain for so many mAhs.

Read more from our testing of portable chargers here.

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Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained

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Open Sourced logo

Searches for changing one’s vote did not trend following the recent presidential debate, and just a few states appear to have processes for changing an early vote. But that didn’t stop President Trump from wrongly saying otherwise on Tuesday.

In early morning posts, the president falsely claimed on Twitter and Facebook that many people had Googled “Can I change my vote?” after the second presidential debate and said those searching wanted to change their vote over to him. Trump also wrongly claimed that most states have a mechanism for changing one’s vote. Actually, just a few states appear to have the ability, and it’s rarely used.

Twitter did not attach a label to Trump’s recent tweet.
Twitter

Trump’s claim about what was trending on Google after the debate doesn’t hold up. Searches for changing one’s vote were not among Google’s top trending searches for the day of the debate (October 22) or the day after. Searches for “Can I change my vote?” did increase slightly around the time of the debate, but there is no way to know whether the bump was related to the debate or whether the people searching were doing so in support of Trump.

It was only after Trump’s posts that searches about changing your vote spiked significantly. It’s worth noting that people were also searching for “Can I change my vote?” during a similar period before the 2016 presidential election.

Google declined to comment on the accuracy of Trump’s post.

Trump also claimed that these results indicate that most of the people who were searching for how to change their vote support him. But the Google Trends tool for the searches he mentioned does not provide that specific information.

Perhaps the most egregiously false claim in Trump’s recent posts is about “most states” having processes for changing your early vote. In fact, only a few states have such processes, and they can come with certain conditions. For instance, in Michigan, voters who vote absentee can ask for a new ballot by mail or in person until the day before the election.

The Center for Election Innovation’s David Becker told the Associated Press that changing one’s vote is “extremely rare.” Becker explained, “It’s hard enough to get people to vote once — it’s highly unlikely anybody will go through this process twice.”

Trump’s post on Facebook was accompanied by a link to Facebook’s Voting Information Center.
Facebook

At the time of publication, Trump’s false claims had drawn about 84,000 and 187,000 “Likes” on Twitter and Facebook, respectively. Trump’s posts accelerated searches about changing your vote in places like the swing state of Florida, where changing one’s vote after casting it is not possible. Those numbers are a reminder of the president’s capacity to spread misinformation quickly.

On Facebook, the president’s post came with a label directing people to Facebook’s Voting Information Center, but no fact-checking label. Twitter had no annotation on the president’s post. Neither company responded to a request for comment.

That Trump is willing to spread misinformation to benefit himself and his campaign isn’t a surprise. He does that a lot. Still, just days before a presidential election in which millions have already voted, this latest episode demonstrates that the president has no qualms about using false claims about voting to cause confusion and sow doubt in the electoral process.

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Nearly 6,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year

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From January to September, 5,939 civilians – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded – were casualties of the fighting, the UN says.

Nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban fighters rages on despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations has said.

From January to September, there were 5,939 civilian casualties in the fighting – 2,117 people killed and 3,822 wounded, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a quarterly report on Tuesday.

“High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report said.

Civilian casualties were 30 percent lower than in the same period last year but UNAMA said violence has failed to slow since the beginning of talks between government negotiators and the Taliban that began in Qatar’s capital, Doha, last month.

An injured girl receives treatment at a hospital after an attack in Khost province [Anwarullah/Reuters]

The Taliban was responsible for 45 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 23 percent, it said. United States-led international forces were responsible for two percent.

Most of the remainder occurred in crossfire, or were caused by ISIL (ISIS) or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, according to the report.

Ground fighting caused the most casualties followed by suicide and roadside bomb attacks, targeted killings by the Taliban and air raids by Afghan troops, the UN mission said.

Fighting has sharply increased in several parts of the country in recent weeks as government negotiators and the Taliban have failed to make progress in the peace talks.

At least 24 people , mostly teens, were killed in a suicide bomb attack at an education centre in Kabul [Mohammad Ismail/Reuters]

The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington blamed the then-Taliban rulers for harbouring al-Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaeda was accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.

Calls for urgent reduction of violence

Meanwhile, the US envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Tuesday that the level of violence in the country was still too high and the Kabul government and Taliban fighters must work harder towards forging a ceasefire at the Doha talks.

Khalilzad made the comments before heading to the Qatari capital to hold meetings with the two sides.

“I return to the region disappointed that despite commitments to lower violence, it has not happened. The window to achieve a political settlement will not stay open forever,” he said in a tweet.

There needs to be “an agreement on a reduction of violence leading to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”, added Khalilzad.

A deal in February between the US and the Taliban paved the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to sit with the Afghan government to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula.

But progress at the intra-Afghan talks has been slow since their start in mid-September and diplomats and officials have warned that rising violence back home is sapping trust.

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