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We compare Chase Freedom Flex vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited

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(CNN) —  

CNN Underscored reviews financial products such as credit cards and bank accounts based on their overall value. We may receive a commission through the LendingTree affiliate network if you apply and are approved for a card, but our reporting is always independent and objective.

Chase recently pulled off something of a twofer when it introduced a brand-new cash back credit card called the Chase Freedom Flex and at the same time added new bonus categories to its already existing Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card.

Whether you’re new to credit card rewards or an expert in the field, both cards are very enticing. But picking the one that will help you maximize your credit card rewards is quite important. So what are the differences and which one is right for you?

To answer that question, we’ve detailed the pros and cons of these two cards, including each card’s everyday earning rates, bonus categories and other card benefits to help you determine which card best fits your spending habits.

Chase Freedom credit cards

On the surface, the Chase Freedom Flex and the Chase Freedom Unlimited actually look quite similar. They both carry the Freedom name. They both come with no annual fee. And they both offer the opportunity to earn rewards in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed for cash back, or for travel and in other categories at a higher rate when paired with another premium Chase credit card (more on that in a moment).

But there are some differences. So first, let’s take a look at the key details of these two cards side by side:

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Chase Freedom Flex Chase Freedom Unlimited
Sign-up bonus (after spending $500 on purchases in the first three months after opening account) $200 cash back, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart)on up to $12,000 spent in the first year). $200 cash back, plus earn 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart)on up to $12,000 spent in the first year).
Earning on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards 5% cash back 5% cash back
Earning on dining (including takeout & eligible delivery services) 3% cash back 3% cash back
Earning at drugstores 3% cash back 3% cash back
Earning on rotating bonus categories 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases each quarter No rotating bonus categories
Earning on all other purchases 1% cash back 1.5% cash back
Introductory APR on purchases 0% interest on purchases for the first 15 months from the date of account opening (14.99%-23.74% variable APR after intro rate ends) 0% interest on purchases for the first 15 months from the date of account opening (14.99%-23.74% variable APR after intro rate ends)
Cell phone protection Up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year (maximum of two claims in a 12 month period with a $50 deductible per claim) None
Purchase protection Up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per year Up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per year
Extended warranty protection Yes Yes
Auto rental collision damage waiver Yes, secondary coverage Yes, secondary coverage
Trip cancellation/interruption insurance Up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per covered trip Up to $1,500 per person and $6,000 per covered trip
Foreign transaction fee 3% 3%
Annual fee $0 $0

You’ll notice that with both cards, you’ll earn 5% cash back on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% cash back on dining at restaurants (including takeout and eligible delivery services) and 3% cash back at drugstores. So when it comes to those three categories, the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Chase Freedom Flex are completely identical.

But the real difference lies in two other areas. One is the rotating bonus categories that come with only the Chase Freedom Flex, which change each quarter. You can earn 5% cash back in these rotating categories, up to $1,500 in combined purchases every quarter. Examples of past rotating categories include gas stations, department stores and Amazon, but in the October through December 2020 time frame, the Freedom Flex bonus categories are Walmart and PayPal.

See if you qualify for the Chase Freedom Flex credit card.

The second area where these two cards drastically differ is how many rewards you’ll earn in the non-bonus categories. This is where the Chase Freedom Unlimited has a leg up, as you’ll earn 1.5% cash back on all your purchases that don’t fall into the bonus categories, whereas the Chase Freedom Flex earns only 1% for those same purchases.

See if you qualify for the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card.

Although both cards advertise themselves as being “cash back” credit cards, they technically earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points that can be redeemed for cash back at a rate of 1 cent per point. You can also redeem your points for gift cards, or through programs such as Amazon’s Shop with Points, which sometimes offers discounts to targeted card holders for using points.

Related: Get $15 off at Amazon when using your eligible Chase credit card.

However, if you also have a premium Ultimate Rewards credit card — one that charges an annual fee, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card — you can transfer your points earned from the Chase Freedom Unlimited or Chase Freedom Flex into those accounts.

Then you can redeem your points for travel or in other categories through Chase’s “Pay Yourself Back” tool at a significantly higher rate than just 1 cent per point. And you can even transfer your points to any of Chase’s 13 hotel or airline loyalty programs and potentially get even more value for them.

Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve: Which is best for you?

Chase Freedom sign-up bonuses

Both the Chase Freedom Flex and Chase Freedom Unlimited are offering the exact same sign-up bonus. With both of these cards, you can earn $200 cash back (which is technically 20,000 Ultimate Rewards points) after spending $500 on your card within the first three months after opening the account.

Additionally, as part of the current sign-up offer, both cards are offering new card holders 5% cash back on grocery store purchases (not including Target or Walmart), on up to $12,000 spent in the first year. If you end up earning 5% on an entire $12,000 in the first year, you’ll earn another $600 cash back, or 60,000 points.

Related: Earn more rewards on your groceries with these credit cards.

With either the Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited, you
With either the Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited, you’ll get 5% cash back on grocery purchases for the first year you have the card, up to $12,000 in combined purchases.
PHOTO: iStock

Add these two parts of the bonus together and it equals an impressive $800 cash back, or 80,000 points. For two no-annual-fee cards with strong bonus categories, that’s a pretty terrific sign-up offer.

Click here for the bonus offer on the Chase Freedom Flex.
Click here for the bonus offer on the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Chase Freedom card benefits

Although these two Freedom cards are both issued by Chase, they run on different card networks — the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a Visa, while the Chase Freedom Flex is a Mastercard. That means the benefits do vary quite a bit between the two cards.

Let’s start with the benefits that the two cards share. Both cards offer three months of complimentary DashPass — which is DoorDash’s food delivery subscription service — along with 5% cash back on Lyft rides through March 2022. You’ll also get secondary car rental insurance, up to two years of extended warranty protection and trip cancellation and interruption insurance.

Related: Are you using the best credit card when ordering food for delivery?

You’ll also have access to purchase protection when you use your Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited to make purchases. This benefit covers any new purchase against damage or theft for 120 days, up to $500 per claim and $50,000 per account.

But the Chase Freedom Flex also comes with a handful of additional World Elite Mastercard benefits that you won’t see on the Chase Freedom Unlimited. The best one is cell phone insurance. As long as you pay your monthly cell phone bill with your Chase Freedom Flex card, you’re covered if your cell phone (or any phone on your monthly bill) is damaged or stolen.

This coverage is good for up to $800 per claim and $1,000 per year, with a $50 deductible per claim, and you’re capped at two claims per 12-month period. This is actually the only no-annual-fee Chase credit card that offers this lucrative protection.

Protect your cell phone with the new Chase Freedom Flex credit card.

Other additional benefits of the Chase Freedom Flex that don’t appear on the Chase Freedom Unlimited include Lyft credits, Boxed.com rewards, complimentary ShopRunner membership and bonus Fandango VIP+ points.

Earn Lyft credits with the Chase Freedom Flex thanks to its World Elite Mastercard benefits.
Earn Lyft credits with the Chase Freedom Flex thanks to its World Elite Mastercard benefits.
PHOTO: Lyft

What could be better on the Chase Freedom cards?

The bonus categories on these two cards should be quite lucrative for many people. However, if you’re looking for a card that solely offers cash back at a great flat rate, you could be better off using CNN Underscored’s benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card.

The Citi Double Cash also has no annual fee and earns 2% cash back on everything you buy — 1% when you make a purchase, and 1% when you pay it off. The Chase Freedom Unlimited earns only 1.5% on all purchases outside the bonus categories, and the Chase Freedom Flex earns an even lower 1% on those purchases.

Related: Read CNN Underscored’s review of the Citi Double Cash Card.

That being said, the Citi Double Cash doesn’t have any bonus categories of its own, so if you have even a small chunk of spending each month either for dining or at drugstores — and also in the rotating bonus categories with the Freedom Flex — you may be better off overall with one of the two Freedom cards.

Also, when compared to many other Chase credit cards, the two Freedom cards have limited travel benefits. This probably isn’t an issue for most people given the state of travel at the moment, but if travel benefits are important to you, you might want to instead consider a card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which comes with enhanced perks such as a $300 travel credit, airport lounge access, a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit and trip delay and cancellation protection.

Of course, all those perks don’t come free. The annual fee on the Chase Sapphire Reserve isn’t small at $550 a year, so you’ll have to determine whether or not those perks are worthy of the price.

Related: Is the Chase Sapphire Reserve worth the annual fee?

Finally, you’ll also want to steer away from using either of the Chase Freedom cards overseas due to their 3% foreign exchange fees. Those fees can add up quite quickly and in most cases will cost you much more than the cash back you’re earning from using the card.

Start earning bonus rewards on your food delivery orders with the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Should you get the Chase Freedom Flex or Chase Freedom Unlimited?

You truly can’t go wrong with either of the two Chase Freedom credit cards, but depending on your needs, one card may be better for you than the other.

If you think you’ll be able to maximize the quarterly bonus categories of the Chase Freedom Flex, that extra 5% cash back each quarter may very well outweigh the lower 1% you’ll get on everything else outside of the bonus categories. But remember, you’ll need to keep track of what those categories are each quarter, along with knowing how much you’ve spent in them.

On the other hand, if you don’t want to have to worry about all that, you’ll find that the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers a simple and easy way to earn credit card rewards. And while both Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in the United States, there are a few exceptions. For example, only Visas are accepted at Costco, so the Chase Freedom Unlimited card will be a better option if you’re a frequent Costco shopper.

That being said, the Chase Freedom Flex offers significantly more benefits than the Chase Freedom Unlimited. If you want a card with cell phone protection, the Chase Freedom Flex is clearly the winner. It will give you peace of mind and potentially save you money down the road — an extremely valuable benefit that is rare on a no-annual-fee card.

Protect your cell phone from damage by paying your monthly bill with the Chase Freedom Flex card.
Protect your cell phone from damage by paying your monthly bill with the Chase Freedom Flex card.
PHOTO: iStock

But if you’re having a hard time deciding between the two cards, you can also get both. There are no restrictions limiting you to having just one of the two, and having both can give you the best of both worlds. For instance, you might find you want to use the Chase Freedom Flex in the rotating bonus categories as well as for its cell phone protection, and then switch to the Chase Freedom Unlimited to earn 1.5% cash back on any purchases that don’t fall into the bonus categories.

Just keep in mind that both of these cards fall under what is colloquially known as Chase’s “5/24” rule, which means if you’ve been approved for five or more credit cards across all banks in the last 24 months, your applications for new credit cards from Chase will be automatically denied.

But that won’t apply to most people who only get a credit card or two every few years, so if you’re considering whether a new credit card makes sense, think about whether the Chase Freedom Flex or the Chase Freedom Unlimited — or both — fit the bill.

Learn more about the Chase Freedom Flex credit card.
Learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited credit card.

Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards of 2020.

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World

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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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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