Apple may have ushered in the wire-free craze with its now-ubiquitous AirPods, but in 2020, there seems to be an endless influx of wireless earbuds entering the market. Amazon has Echo Buds; Samsung has Galaxy Buds; Google has Pixel Buds; Beats has Powerbeats Pro. The list goes on and on…
With so many options out there, we figured we’d simplify the choice for you by finding the best. So as CNN Underscored has done with on-ear, over-ear and ANC headphones, we decided to tackle the final frontier (for now) of portable listening: true wireless earbuds. Following the beat of our own testing, we discovered the best true wireless earbuds out there:
Apple’s AirPods Pro ($220, originally $249; amazon.com) 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.
For those looking for earbuds to power their workouts, there’s no better option than the Powerbeats Pro ($199.95, originally $249.95; amazon.com). The ear hooks are malleable and will conform to your ear after just a few wearings, so there’s no worry about these falling off even during the toughest of workouts. Additionally, these have an IPX4 resistance, which means neither rain nor sweat storm will kill these buds’ vibe, and a bass-heavy (but not overly heavy) sound performance to boost your workouts.
The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($279.95; bose.com) have all the necessary tropes of true wireless earbuds (no wires, multiple ear tips, a carrying case that doubles as a charger and easy pairing), but they also have an X factor: the Bose legacy. While that does come at a premium, it also comes with the expected balanced sound and class-leading noise cancellation that blocks out way more sound over AirPods Pro.
If you value comfort above all else, the funkily designed Galaxy Buds Live are your best bet. These bean-shaped earbuds proved to be significantly more comfortable than traditional buds. They don’t protrude far into the ear like others we tested — instead sitting rather flush with the ear — so there was no added pressure to any part of the ear. Because they don’t seal the ear quite as much as AirPods Pro, though, you do give up a bit in terms of sound quality. But at $169.99, you’re getting earbuds that, in terms of comfort, you’ll forget are even in your ear, and ones that pack pretty hefty bass in a small package.
Best overall true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
As it should be with any pair of quality earbuds, the first thing you notice about the AirPods Pro is their sound quality, which is second to none.
The latest AirPods seamlessly reproduce every note, strum, hit or key press on a track. The sound output is custom-tuned in real time using Adaptive EQ. While other earbuds may come with a manually controlled equalizer, the AirPods Pro work in real time to analyze drivers, amplifiers and microphones on both the outside and inside of the ear in an effort to reproduce tracks as true to the artist’s intent as possible. Alongside that tech, Apple amped up the bass on the Pros to a thumping degree compared with the regular AirPods.
This all comes into play on songs like “Ex’s & Oh’s” by Elle King, which starts off strong with a leading bass tone and background snares. Sharp vocals are overlaid with guitars and a constant bass remains strong throughout. On some earbuds, this leads to unintended reverb or a crackling sound that creates a less than stellar experience. But not with the AirPods. While the roaring electric guitar is meant to have some reverb, the AirPods’ Adaptive EQ didn’t lower or raise it and left it as the track intends it to be played back, so you can still clearly make out each instrument and its tones.
For a wider soundstage, we went back to the ‘80s with “I’m on Fire” by Bruce Springsteen. The soundtrack starts with a constant snare on the left side with guitars mixed in on the right. Then, as if Springsteen is stepping up to the center microphone, you hear his voice smack-dab in the middle. It’s not a very energetic track, but it’s a tough mix with instruments and sound switching from left to right and swelling together. AirPods Pro don’t add any extra vibrancy to the track by upping tones, but rather present it in a balanced environment that focuses on vocals.
For a more powerful test that encompasses drums, pianos, multiple vocals, guitars and a saxophone, we opted for “Born to Run.” With the AirPods Pro, you can clearly hear each instrument on the track as the Adaptive EQ works to mix the track in real time.
The volume produced at 50% is loud enough to block out most sound, even with noise cancellation turned off. But turning on the ANC really shows the power of the AirPods Pro. Their noise-canceling ability rivals even the best over-ear headphones, creating a truly immersive, studio-like listening experience. While flying with AirPods Pro in and the ANC turned on, the engine noise and plane environmental sounds are brought down to a whisper with the volume at 50%; turning the volume up to 70% sounds almost the same as when you were still on the ground. These beat out any other passive or active noise-canceling abilities of all the earbuds we tested, and the experience is consistent whether you’re connected to an iPhone, a Google Pixel, a Mac or even a Surface Go2.
One small imperfection with the AirPods Pro is that, as an Apple-made product, connectivity to iOS devices is prioritized. As soon as you open the lid on the AirPods Pro case, the true wireless earbuds start casting a connection to iOS devices; with non-Apple devices you’ll head over to Bluetooth in order to manually connect to the AirPods Pro when first pairing. After that, opening up the case and placing them in your ears will have them connect. While it may be quicker for iOS devices, in our testing we found the connection to be sturdy and stable with 38 different devices, many of which were not Apple-made. We didn’t experience any dropouts, and using non-Apple devices didn’t affect battery life.
Those pairing with an iPhone also get the “Ear Tip Fit Test” during the initial pairing process. Essentially, this uses Adaptive EQ and pulsating tones to measure which size tips are correct for your ear.
You can comfortably wear these for long stretches, thanks to their design and long battery life — specifically five hours of it (you can quick-charge via the case for an additional five hours) even with ANC turned on. You can stretch that with ANC or transparency modes turned off.
AirPods Pro really land at the top of the mountain both in feature set and in price. At $220 (originally $249), these are the most expensive, but the sound quality, battery life, connectivity and class-leading noise cancellation will blow you away.
Best earbuds for working out: Powerbeats Pro ($174.95, originally $249.95; amazon.com)
No matter how fast we ran or how hard we pedaled, the Powerbeats Pro didn’t so much as wiggle in our ears.
And that’s thanks to the design of their earhooks, which are a bit more compact than others we tested and keep the earbuds more snug to the ear. The earhooks are malleable, allowing them to easily slide over the top of the ear and rest behind it; they’ll even mold to your ear (and you can conform them to the fit you want).
The buds’ IPX4 rating for dust and water means they can withstand a rain shower without fail — or a shower of sweat, be it from a 45-minute Peloton ride, a 5-mile run or just general wear on a sweaty, hot day. While the AirPods Pro share this rating, the Powerbeats Pro’s matte finish allowed the sweat to bead and drip off more quickly than the AirPods’ glossy finish.
Most critically, the Powerbeats Pro also sound great. They produce a balanced sound that puts an emphasis on bass, but it’s not overemphasized as we’d seen in the past with Beats. The mid and high tones are still clear and intact.
For example, “I’m on Fire” isn’t a bass-heavy song, but one that clearly separates the left and right sides. With the Powerbeats, the drums and guitar are separated accurately, and seamlessly blend together as the track concludes. Springsteen’s main vocals come through the center, making you feel as if you are at a concert.
“Born to Run” was even more vibrant on the Powerbeats Pro than on the AirPods Pro: The blast at the beginning with nearly every instrument sounded arena-like. The buds presented the track in a crisp form where you could clearly hear each instrument, which results in a terrific audio experience.
With Jessie J’s “Domino,” you start with vocals that quickly range and harmonize, reaching high tones with a basic backing beat. Guitar is then layered on top with synthesizer sounds as accompaniment. The Powerbeats Pro delivered a crisp mix that didn’t introduce any artifacts or extra noise onto the track. Simply put, they emphasized vocals and the main beat, but not in an overpowering way.
Powerbeats Pro are powered by the same hardware as the AirPods Pro. That means fast pairing with Apple devices and a less magical but still zippy experience with Android. Beats eases this a bit with a companion app for Android that enables a faster connection and quick pairing. Regardless of the device (Apple, Android, Windows or Google Chrome), we found it to be a stable connection with no latency.
Another fitness-centric bonus is the on-device controls, which let you easily manage playback, engage voice assistance and even adjust the volume. And you won’t have to worry about these calling it quits before you’re done with your workout: We averaged almost nine hours on the Powerbeats Pro.
With earhooks and a matte finish, Powerbeats Pro are not only up to the task of handling sweat or a downpour, but they’ll last nine hours. For $199.95 (originally $249.95), you’re getting the same sound quality as AirPods Pro, and at times even more vibrant.
Best noise-canceling true wireless earbuds: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds ($279.95; bose.com)
The QuietComfort Earbuds are, quite frankly, the best noise-canceling earbuds we’ve used to date — even better, in this regard, to the AirPods Pro. They fully block all background noise from a room in an instant.
In an apartment with a noisy central air system that was set to high, putting the QuietComfort Earbuds in and setting noise cancellation to 10 resulted in serenity. The QuietComfort Earbuds remove all tones, while AirPods Pro allow some noises to pass through.
There are also levels to the noise cancellation — 11, to be precise — and as you go up on the scale, the earbuds, microphones and algorithms work to block out environmental noise. You can even have no music playing and noise cancellation turned on to help you focus (a pretty handy work-from-home hack if we say so ourselves). Level zero is a transparency mode, similar to the mode on AirPods Pro, as it allows environmental noise in.
But fret not: That powerful noise cancellation doesn’t hamper battery life. QuietComfort Earbuds fall slightly ahead of other earbuds with six hours of battery life — no matter if noise cancellation is on or off. Higher volumes and higher levels of noise cancellation do result in that falling closer to five hours and 30 minutes, though. The battery case provides two additional full charges, and it delivers a neat quick-charge function. A quick 15-minute journey in the case delivers two hours of playback. For comparison, AirPods Pro delivered five hours with no noise cancellation and four hours and 30 minutes with noise cancellation on.
Expectedly, sound quality from the QuietComfort Earbuds is in line with previous Bose earbuds and headphones. It’s a rich and balanced mix that doesn’t shy away from delivering an energizing audio experience, which is ticked up a few notches here with a more powerful bass and focus on lower tones.
EDM and pop genres absolutely shine with the QuietComfort Earbuds. “Wake Me Up” by Avicci starts with a simple guitar strum that sounds quite wide, with deep vocals overlaid. It comes through clear, with no distortion or cracking, even at full volume. About 38 seconds in you get a strong kick drum, which delivers a rousing bass beat that delivers in full force before more instruments, higher vocals and an electronic beat mask over the track.
The remastered version of “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen comes through vibrantly, and the QuietComfort Earbuds deliver an invigorating wall-of-sound effect, allowing you to clearly hear the drums, piano and guitar at the opening.
All in all, it’s one of the best mixes Bose has produced, and those who like EDM, pop or strong bass will be exceptionally happy here.
Our biggest qualm is with their design, which is, summed up in a word, noticeable. They’re quite large and have a long oval build that sticks out of your ear. While overall the buds are comfortable, you’ll definitely notice them in your ears, as they’re pretty heavy for true wireless earbuds. Each bud is 0.3 ounces, or 8.5 grams. AirPods, for instance, are nearly 3 grams lighter, and the same goes for Galaxy Buds Live. It’s harder to forget these are in your ears; after the first few wears, you’ll also feel that something was in your ears after removing them.
But if you can look past the not-so-discreet design, along with the $280 price tag, the Bose QuietComfort Earbuds bring a lot of features. Namely, they deliver the best noise cancellation on any pair of true wireless earbuds — besting the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3s.
Most comfortable earbuds: Galaxy Buds Live ($169.99; samsung.com)
Samsung’s Galaxy Buds Live are James Bond-like in their stealth. The bean-shaped earbuds sit in, and are flush with, the ear. No stem sticking out like the AirPods. No speaker tunneling into your ear canal like the Amazon Echo Buds. No hook wrapping itself around your ear like the Powerbeats Pro. In short: No part of the Galaxy Buds Live will cause any pressure, pinch or poke your ear, or cause any other discomfort. Instead, they sit comfortably, and somewhat unnoticeably, in your ears.
The top portion of each bud does feature a small rubber circle out of the box — although it can be swapped for a larger tip — to ensure the Buds Live stay in place, but you can barely tell that tip is there. Despite the lack of earhooks or stems, the Buds Live stay put. No matter if we were sitting at our desk or out for a jog, the Buds Live didn’t budge.
Aiding in the comfort is an air vent near the speakers on each earbud. Essentially, this acts as a way for air to flow into the ear, alleviating any pressure buildup on the eardrum. Other earbuds, AirPods Pro and Galaxy Buds+ included, use an ear tip around the speaker to create a seal, which does wonders to block passive outside sound. But it also creates more pressure on the ear, leading to a kind of boxed-in feeling that some might find uncomfortable.
The small size of the Buds Live belies their sound quality. While they don’t seal the ear like the AirPods Pro — leading to some sound leakage — the Galaxy Buds Live do pack some powerful audio. Samsung managed to keep a 12mm speaker (tuned by AKG) in each bud, which means sound is strong and on par with our other top picks.
The Buds Live deliver a balanced mix that lets each instrument category stand out, as opposed to the more nuanced sound of the AirPods that let you hear individual instruments. With a song like “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen, it’s not muddied, but you hear more groups of instruments rather than each individual melody produced. The Buds Live do shine with lower-end and bass tones, though. Drums in “Born To Run” have a noticeable bop to them. “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish features a prominent bass beat that keeps the song going, and the Buds Live present it strong with no crackling or other artifacts. And similar to the Buds+, you get some control over the playback mix with a companion app that allows you to create a custom EQ or pick from a number of presets.
Thankfully, Samsung does not waste the comfort of these earbuds with lackluster battery life. You’ll be able to rock out for hours. In our tests, we got six hours with ANC turned on (eight with ANC turned off). Though that still falls behind the insane 11 hours of listening with no ANC that the Galaxy Buds+ offer, these beat the AirPods Pro by an hour.
The main takeaway with the Galaxy Buds Live is that you’ll forget they’re in your ears, and you’ll walk away after six or eight hours with no ear pain. That’s a high bar for any true wireless earbud, let alone one with a unique design and solid sound. At $169.99, these undercut our top pick and are more comfortable to boot.
How we tested
We listened to a wide range of genres from pop to classic rock, focusing on bass, as well as soundstage and sound clarity. We charged each pair to full and let them drain. We wore them for hours at a time to get a feel for how they fit. We also analyzed and rated the nuances of each device’s control scheme.
Read on for a thorough breakdown of each and every testing category.
- Overall: We assessed general sound quality using a number of tracks. Core songs we tested include: “Born to Run,” “Domino,” “I’m on Fire,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “What A Man Gotta Do,” “Ex’s & Oh’s,” “Rosalita,” “Yellow Submarine,” “Dance Tonight,” “Higher Love,” “You Make My Dreams” and “Get Down Tonight,” among others.
- Low, mid, high: During the lower, mid-ranged and higher tones in songs, we listened to how each pair addressed each range.
- Bass: We listened to how well buds could reproduce the depth and kick of bass in a variety of songs.
- Soundstage: Musical soundstage is the three-dimensional feeling provided by high-quality stereo sound. Strong soundstage shows off the instrument and vocal positions in 3D space.
Design and comfort
- Build quality: Testing a number of physical properties of each pair of buds, we determined how heavy they felt in our ears, as well as whether they used an earhook to hold them in place. We also tested whether they bent, and to what degree, as well as the sturdiness of the build, and rated how soft or firm each pair was, a factor that affects comfort and ear size flexibility.
- Fit in ear: On multiple days, we wore each of them from three to eight hours at a time to determine how these fit in the ear, namely in the form of comfort or if pressure was added. We tried them out at various times during the day to account for varying ear canal tension. We also monitored fit with different genres at different volumes. If any additional ear tip sizes were included, we tried them to find the best fit.
- Stays in the ear: With buds inserted, we took a walk, went on a run, did a 45-minute Peloton workout and wore them around the house to test their ability to stay put. We also tried lying down and tilting each ear toward the floor.
- IP rating: An IP rating is an international standard scoring electrical devices on how well they resist elements like dust and moisture. We tested each device to the fullest extent of its rating, spraying them with water, and wearing them in the rain and during intensive workouts. With dust, we tried to get a bit dirty running outside in a number of environments and tested removing the dust.
- Connectivity: We tested three connectivity functions: VoIP calls (specifically FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Skype), latency and fast pairing. For VoIP testing, we simply rang people up and recorded real-time feedback on quality. To test latency, we looked into how quickly on-device controls registered with each device — for example, how long it took to pause music when we used the pause function on a pair of buds. Finally, we checked whether buds could fast pair, such as Apple-made pairs quickly being recognized by and pairing with Apple devices. We tested these on an array of devices, including iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, SE (2020), 8, XR, Google Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, Pixel 3a, Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, Galaxy S20 Ultra, Galaxy Note 10+, Galaxy S10e, Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+, TCL 10 Pro, TCL 10L, OnePlus 8 Pro, Fire HD 8, Galaxy Tab S6, 16-inch MacBook Pro, 13-inch MacBook Pro (2020), 2018 and 2020 MacBook Air, Apple Watch Series 3, Apple Watch Series 5, 7th-Gen iPad, 10.5-inch iPad Pro, 11-inch iPad Pro (2018), 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2018/2020), HP Zenbook, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, Surface Pro 6, Surface Book 2, Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Go2.
- On-device controls: We learned every control on each device, looking at how intuitive functions like playback, calls, volume adjustments and Bluetooth pairing are. We noted which controls required holding our finger down versus one or several presses. We also listened for voice narration of controls or information such as battery life.
- Off-device controls: We determined whether a device had a companion app or if it had native support on a specific device (e.g. AirPods Pro and Apple devices). If they did, we sussed out how much control they provided and what value the experience brought to the table.
- NC: Noise cancellation is measured by how well a device cancels environmental sounds. Some devices feature active noise cancellation (ANC), which uses microphones to listen to and cancel the frequencies of these sounds. To test NC, we put on buds with and without music under a variety of environmental conditions. This includes outdoor running and Peloton workouts, taking a walk on a windy day, listening to a dog barking, commuting on public transportation, and flying in an exit row and at the front of a plane.
- Voice control: We tested numerous commands in a variety of conditions. These included dictating messages or emails, sending payments, asking for inquiries and dialing a number.
- Call quality: We made numerous calls to people across various devices via VoIP and mobile calls. We listened to the sound quality of the calls and noted any artifacts like crackling or poor compression. We also took feedback from recipients on how we sounded.
- Battery life: We matched how long each pair’s battery lasted against how long they are purported to last.
- Battery life + case: We performed the same test comparing each pair’s battery life plus the additional battery life provided by its case. This included testing with and without the additional battery life provided by charging cases.
- Charging time: We recorded how long it took to charge the buds from dead to full, how long they gained percentage after being dead, and quick-charge functions.
- Warranty: We determined which warranty/warranties were provided with each device.
How we rated
Every pair of earbuds received a score for each subcategory. The combined scores of each tier comprised each category’s max score. For our workout pair, we put an emphasis on subcategories such as battery life and fit in-ear. Naturally, our top pick for battery life required the best score under the battery life category.
Check out how we broke down the points below.
- Sound quality had a maximum of 25 points: overall (10 points), low, mid and high (5 points), bass (5 points) and soundstage (5 points).
- Design and comfort had a maximum of 25 points: build quality (10 points), fit in-ear (5 points), stays in the ear (5 points) and IP rating (5 points).
- Connectivity had a maximum of 10 points: connectivity (10 points).
- Controls had a maximum 10 points: on-device controls (5 points) and off-device controls (5 points).
- NC (noise cancellation) had a maximum of 5 points: overall (5 points).
- Microphones had a maximum of 10 points: voice control (5 points), call quality (5 points).
- Warranty had a maximum of 5 points: warranty (5 points).
Other true wireless earbuds we tested
Amazon Echo Buds ($129.99; amazon.com)
Echo Buds hit the scene last fall and aimed to pack a punch with a price of $129.99 that undercut nearly all the other core wireless earbuds. These ended up being average across the board, but they’re a solid option as a value pick. Their very focused in-ear design lacks some of the stability offered by the likes of the Galaxy Buds+. Given their size, you might expect a similar battery life, but the longest usage period we got with these was 4½ hours. Sound was balanced across the board but lacked some vibrancy and loudness.
Apple AirPods (starting at $129, originally $159; amazon.com)
Apple’s second-generation AirPods provide a really close experience to the AirPods Pro, but these lack some of the wideness for sound quality (as well as bass) and feature no noise cancellation. You get the classic AirPods design with a white finish, and there are no gel tips — these just go right into your ears. You still get five hours of battery life on each charge, fast pairing and hands-free “Hey Siri” access.
Google Pixel Buds ($179; bhphotovideo.com)
The Pixel Buds feature solid sound, battery life and a stealthy design. On the whole playing field, these sit in the middle across the board. For Android users, these deserve a look after the Galaxy Buds+, especially if you want a deep integration with the Google Assistant. The Pixel Buds offered some of the best voice pickup we experienced.
Microsoft Surface Earbuds ($199.99; microsoft.com)
The Surface Earbuds performed well in our testing and real-world usage. You’ll get stable connectivity, a unique circular disc-like design, and eight hours of battery life. But for $199.99, you’re going to be left wanting more, especially when you compare them with our top picks. Microsoft super fans who use the 365 suite daily will be impressed by dictation and other integrated features.
Sony WF-1000XM3 ($178, originally $229.99; amazon.com)
We once ranked Sony’s WF-1000XM3s as the top in true wireless, but nearly a year later, we’ve found some clear areas where they fall short, notably in design. We don’t like how much they stick out of and weigh down the ear. Additionally, there is no type of resistance, which makes them harder to recommend for wear in a variety of situations. Sound is still good, with a wide soundstage and an app for customization.
Samsung Galaxy Buds+ ($130, originally $149.99; amazon.com)
If you want a pair of true wireless earbuds that won’t break the bank, Samsung has you covered with the $130 Galaxy Buds+. These lasted 11 hours on one charge — that’s six more hours than AirPods Pro and two more hours than Powerbeats Pro. That long runtime is paired with an equalizer in the companion app for iOS or Android, so you can up the bass or increase high tones as you see fit, which means you’ll get good sound quality that holds its own against more expensive options.
All the products we found to be the best during our testing this year
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.
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.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($79.95; amazon.com)
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.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($165; originally $179.95; amazon.com)
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.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottlecoffee.com)
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.
Best cold brewer coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffeepot ($25; amazon.com)
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.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan With Lid ($39.97; amazon.com)
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.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($499.95; breville.com)
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.
Best knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($119.74; amazon.com)
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.
Best true wireless earbuds: AirPods Pro ($199, originally $249; amazon.com)
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.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($278, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($119.95, originally $199.95; amazon.com)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($129.99; logitech.com)
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.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
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.
Best ring light: Emart 10-Inch Selfie Ring Light ($25.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best linen sheets: Parachute Linen Sheet Set (starting at $149; parachute.com)
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.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head (starting at $74.44; amazon.com)
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.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier (starting at $49.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best TV: TCL 6-Series (starting at $579.99; bestbuy.com)
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.
Best streaming device: Roku Ultra ($99.99; amazon.com)
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.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; away.com)
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.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 (starting at $31.99; amazon.com)
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.
Trump’s misleading tweet about changing your vote, briefly explained
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
1/4 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. https://t.co/hVl4b032W6
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) October 27, 2020
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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