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Preorders are open for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro



(CNN) —  

Apple’s “Hi, Speed” has come and gone. And we officially have four new iPhones: iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max. All support 5G, are powered by the A14 Bionic processor and feature camera improvements. The launch is a bit more segmented than in years past, though.

iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro will go up for preorder at $799 and $999, respectively, this Friday, October 16 with a launch on October 23. The $699 iPhone 12 mini and $1,099 iPhone 12 Pro Max will go up for order on November 6, with deliveries starting on November 13.

There’s also a $99 HomePod Mini, which goes up for preorder on November 6. There’s a lot to unpack here, though, with MagSafe for the iPhone and much more.

How to preorder iPhone 12 and 12 Pro


Preorders for the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro are open now. The iPhone 12 comes in three storage capacities: 64GB for $799, 128GB for $899 and 256GB for $999. You can pick from Black, White, (PRODUCT) RED, Green and Blue. The iPhone 12 Pro comes in three capcities as well: 128GB for $999, 256GB for $1,099 and 512GB for $1,199. It’s available in Graphite, Silver, Gold and Pacific Blue. Both iPhone 12 and 12 Pro will start delivering to customers on October 23. Here’s where you can preorder from:

Freindly reminder, that there won’t be a wall plug or earbuds in the box. This Anker nano charger is fast and features a USB-C port. Apple’s MagSafe cases are up for preorder as well and start at $49.99 for both the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro.

Waiting for the iPhone 12 Pro Max and iPhone 12 Mini? Preorders start on November 6 with a launch date of November 13. And the iPhone SE is still the entry-level choice at $399, with the iPhone 11 starting at $599 now. Keep reading for detailed analysis on the on the iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max and the HomePod Mini.

5G is coming to the iPhone

Apple seems quite bullish about 5G on the iPhones, noting that it will bring big new features to you, the end-user. And Apple has been partnering with Verizon on 5G, claiming the new iPhone will support Ultra Wideband. We’re left with some questions about support from other carriers and the slow rollout from Verizon on UWB, though, as we’ve noted with Samsung devices this year.

iPhone 12 is official

PHOTO: Apple

The iPhone 12 is real — and really colorful. It’s an all-new design keeping the aluminum frame with a glass back and a glass front for the screen. And, yes, it’s kind of a callback to the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4 flat design. It keeps the same 6.1-inch display size as the iPhone 11, but bezels are smaller. And OLED is coming to non-Pro iPhones: The iPhone 12 has a Super Retina XDR Display. It keeps the same 2,000,000:1 contrast ratio and has twice as many pixels as on the iPhone 11. That means clearer text, darker blacks and extra-vibrant colors. Safe to say OLED on iPhone 12 is big. The iPhone 12 will be available in Black, White, (PRODUCT) RED, Green and Blue. Yes, the latter matches the Apple Watch Series 6.

Apple has been working with Corning for new material on the iPhone 12, which Apple has dubbed Ceramic Shield and claimed is tougher than the glass on any other smartphone. On the 5G front, it was a full team effort, from where to place the antennas and even using Silicon (the processor) to be more efficient. The iPhone will also intelligently switch between 5G networks and 4G LTE networks. This will help save battery life.

And what’s most exciting to us is the new chip inside the iPhone 12: A14 Bionic, an Apple-made Silicon chip built on the 5-nanometer standard, is the same processor powering the iPad Air. There are 11.8 billion transistors inside this chip, an increase of 40% over the A13.

So what makes up the A14 Bionic? It’s a 6-core GPU and 4-core GPU, and there are improvements to machine learning courtesy of the neural engine. The latter moved from 8 cores to 16 cores. This all means the iPhone 12 will be quite efficient and you likely won’t experience any slowdowns. We will, of course, put this to the test. You can bet that Apple tuned this for iOS 14 as well.

Apple specifically called out that League of Legends: Wild Rift will be arriving on the iPhone, and A14 will be making it possible — along with a shoutout to Verizon for 5G to allow gaming from anywhere. (Anywhere with a network connection, that is.)

On the camera front, there’s still a dual-camera system:

  • 12-megapixel ultrawide camera — this enables you to capture wide field-of-view shots without having to move.
  • 12-megapixel wide camera with an F/1.6 aperture and seven-element lens. Apple says it’s a 27% improvement in low-light performance.

All of these come together to deliver the classic iPhone photography experience. No need to dillydally around with modes — just point and shoot. That’s thanks to computational photography and smart HDR 3. This will analyze whatever you’re shooting in real time. It should be really impressive, and it’s not just photos during the day. Night Mode is here, expanding to both back cameras and the TrueDepth front-facing system.

On the video front, Apple is delivering a night time-lapse mode. We expect, from the demo video and our analysis, that this should deliver the same low-light performance from still photos to videos shot on the iPhone 12.

iPhone Mini is announced

The iPhone 12 Mini is real and it has a 5.4-inch display that makes it smaller than the iPhone SE. It has all the same features of the iPhone 12 as well. So, really, it’s the iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12. The feature set here is seriously impressive, and OLED along with camera improvements will be a big deal for many. 5G will be important to you if you’re in an area with coverage. Likely, though, the iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 will be the best options for many of you.

Let’s talk cost. iPhone 12 Mini starts at $699, and iPhone 12 starts at $799. Essentially, the Mini is replacing the current iPhone 11 (in terms of price).

iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max join the party


As expected, we have two additional iPhones. The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Both adopt this new flatter design, with a shiny machine-milled stainless steel edge and three cameras on the back.

To be specific, it’s a precision glass back and a stainless steel edging. The Pro models look stunning in Space Gray, Silver, Gold and Pacific Blue. They’re rated up to IP68 for water resistance. They support the MagSafe charging standard and feature the new Ceramic Shield display.

The iPhone 12 is 6.1 inches (up from 5.89 inches on the 11 Pro), and the iPhone 12 Pro Max is 6.7 inches (up from 6.5 inches on the 11 Pro Max). They’re still sharp and vibrant OLEDs here as well. The A14 Bionic powers these displays along with the rest of the hardware. The big change? Deep Fusion, which provides a hefty amount of detail in images, arrives on all four cameras on the Pro and Pro Max (the three on the back and one on the front).

Let’s talk about the camera setup:

  • 12-megapixel ultrawide camera
  • 12-megapixel wide with f/1.6 aperture
  • 12-megapixel telephoto designed for portraits and optical zoom situations

The 12 Pro Max gets some additional camera smarts as well. It specifically gets 87% improved in low-light performance, and that means better Night Mode performance as well.

Coming later this year to the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max will be CameraProRaw, which keeps all the data and allows you to process the image on the device itself or within other pro apps (think Photoshop). It combines the raw image with Apple’s computational photography. Previously, you’d have to pick one or the other.

On the video front, Apple is enabling HDR video recording. To be specific, 10-bit dynamic range allows you to capture more colors and an overall sharper image. It’s also the first device to record Dolby Vision HDR. This is a pretty deep partnership with Dolby. This is enabled for 4K resolution at 60 frames per second. It all happens on-device, tapping into the power of A14 Bionic.

As expected, after it debuted on the iPad Pro 2020, LiDAR is coming to the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. You’ll be able to precisely scan rooms, take full advantage of augmented reality (AR) and improve photos. For instance, Apple uses LiDAR in low light to enable faster autofocus. Apple claims it’s 6x faster at delivering autofocus in low light.

The iPhone 12 Pro starts at $999 with 128GB of storage, and the iPhone 12 Pro Max starts at $1,099 with 128GB of internal storage. That’s a doubling of base storage from 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max.

HomePod Mini features spherical design

PHOTO: Apple

A smaller HomePod is official, and it’s spherical like the new Amazon Echos. Mesh fabric is wrapped around the outside, like the larger HomePod, and is available in either Space Gray or white. Center on the top is an LED-backlit screen that glows when Siri is engaged. You can also control volume and playback on the screen.

As expected, it will be tuned for audio, capable of acting as a Siri-powered smart home hub. Inside, there are two forward-facing speakers with a woofer on the bottom. Like the larger HomePod, there’s an Apple S5 chip inside, which enables computational audio. Essentially, the speaker will analyze the music to give you the best dynamic experience for your current setup. It takes these readings over 180 times a second.

You can, of course, pair multiple HomePod Minis together and two will auto pair for stereo. We’re hoping HomePod Mini can also pair with the original HomePod. Apple also noted that later this year you’ll be able to seamlessly hand off from your iPhone to the mini speaker by just holding your phone near it.

Big News: HomePod Mini will support Apple Music, iHeartRadio, Podcast, Pandora and Amazon Music. Notably, Spotify is missing from that list. You can still cast directly from your iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Mac or Apple TV via the AirPlay 2 standard (essentially, Apple’s technology for streaming music from your iPhone).

Siri on the HomePod will be the same personal assistant as on any other supported device. Yes, she can be your DJ, but you can ask her to text, make a call and even tell you your next scheduled calendar event. She can even give you a rundown of your day, much like how the Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa do. Multiple voices are supported on the HomePod Mini and will give specific responses depending on the person chatting with her.

What’s pretty notable is that if you ask what time a store closes, Siri will sync up with CarPlay to have directions ready to go for you. That’s the seamless integration we really want to try.

On the smart home side, the HomePod Mini can act as a hub. You can ask her to turn on lights, lock the doors and even turn on a smart plug, like you can on any Siri-enabled device (i.e., all the standard home control experience you’d expect).

New with HomePod Mini is Intercom, though, a feature that lets you send a message from one HomePod Mini to another. And it goes a step beyond, also working with iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and CarPlay. Alexa and Google speakers work only with connected smart speakers.

HomePod Mini will cost $99 and go up for order on November 6. You can expect orders to arrive starting November 16.

Return of the MagSafe


Remember MagSafe, the handy old Mac laptop chargers that added a magnet to the front of the charging port? If you tripped over the cord, it didn’t take the laptop down with it. Well, Apple is bringing MagSafe to the iPhone in the form of magnets being built into the wireless charger coil. And Apple is boosting the charge speed from 7.5 watts to 15 watts. That means much faster charging times. Essentially, cases and wireless chargers are magnetized to the back of the iPhone. A case snaps to the back of the iPhone. A wallet case attaches to the phone case. And the wireless charger attaches to that.

Apple has a combination MagSafe Duo Charger that combines an iPhone charger with an Apple Watch charger. It’s not AirPower, but it is an Apple-made wireless charger. We’ll be digging into this new MagSafe standard soon enough.

And we can finally confirm: No headphones or wall plugs will come in the box of any iPhone 12 models. It might hurt a little, but it will reduce emissions and shrink the box of the iPhone by a whole lot. Luckily, there are plenty of accessories to pick from, as a USB-C to Lightning cable will be included in the box.

Beats Flex: $50 earbuds with Apple smarts

So, yes, the iPhone 12 family doesn’t ship with earbuds in the box, but Beats by Dre has quite a solution. It also won’t cost you nearly as much at the $249.95 Powerbeats Pro. Introducing the Beats Flex, a $50 pair of Bluetooth earbuds (note the cord connecting the two) that features Apple’s W1 chip for fast pairing.

Essentially it’s the 2020 version of Beats X with updated internals. Beats Flex now deliver 12 hours of battery life and will charge via a USB-C port. You can get Beats Flex in Beats Black, Yuzu Yellow, Smoke Gray and Flame Blue.

And the design is not so much a neckband as it is a lightweight flex-form cable. Most importantly, you can wear it as a necklace when not in use. Powering the audio are dual-chamber acoustics in both the left and right earbuds. It should be improved sound that’s on par with more recent products.

Beats Flex will be great to pair with iPhone 12 Mini, 12, 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, as they don’t ship with earbuds in the box. Beats Flex will be available from Apple today and other retailers on November 20.


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



(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.

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.

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



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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