Buying a new laptop is both an exciting and potentially frustrating experience. Exciting, of course, because a powerful computer that allows you to communicate and work efficiently — and keep yourself entertained — is invaluable.
You may find yourself understandably frustrated, however, as you browse through dozens of different models, configurations, designs and brands. It’s our job to keep up on the latest trends in tech, and we’d be lying if we said we never felt overwhelmed by all of the options ourselves.
But it is our job, and we take it seriously. So for the last few months, we’ve been testing the latest and greatest laptops we could get our hands on, from Apple to Microsoft to Lenovo, and we’ve found some standout machines:
Apple’s MacBook Air barely — just barely — beat out the Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 13 as our top overall pick. The deciding factors came down to its design, strong battery life, display and *fixed* keyboard, and the value gained from seamless integration with Apple’s ecosystem of products and services. Granted, not everyone owns an iPhone and can take advantage of that entire suite, but even then, the MacBook’s reliability was enough to tip the scales in its favor.
Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 13 is no slouch. It nearly matched the MacBook Air across the board, scoring high on performance and hardware while doing its best to keep up with software and ease of use. Instead of top honors, the Laptop 3 earned itself our best touch-screen title. When you combine its PixelSense display, Surface Pen integration and sleek design, it’s hard to complain too much when it comes to Microsoft’s hardware. Battery life was a couple of hours less than the MacBook Air and, ultimately, that factored into our final decision.
Apple’s top-of-the-line MacBook Pro laptop did not disappoint. It’s stacked with powerful internals, including a dedicated GPU that’s powerful enough to zip through video and photo editing. In fact, it earned top marks in our performance and battery life tests. The device, however, is much larger and heavier than the rest of the laptops we tested, and its $2,399 price tag makes it more of a niche computer for those who need the extra power. As such, it took our pick for the best video editing laptop.
Enterprise users will feel right at home with our top pick for business laptops: the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon. It’s astonishingly lightweight, the keyboard exudes confidence for number crunchers and it has enough ports to connect whatever you want to it. The X1 Carbon’s performance was in the middle of the pack, but its battery life was unmatched by any laptop we tested. It’s sure to last through a full day of work and then some. It has a standard HD display, however, and it just doesn’t look as vibrant as the MacBook or Surface Laptop when placed next to them. With long battery life and a history of enterprise success, in a housing that’s extremely portable, we gave it a nod as our best business laptop.
As recently as last year, Apple’s MacBook line was plagued with keyboard issues. Keys would randomly repeat characters or stop working altogether. The problem was bad enough that Apple announced a keyboard service program, listing 16 different models that were eligible for free service and repair. But that all changed when Apple announced it had gone back to the lab and created the Magic Keyboard, which debuted on the 16-inch MacBook Pro.
And let us tell you, dear reader, it’s a treat to type on. The keys are responsive, popping back up and at the ready almost instantly, have a solid feel to each key press and haven’t been prone to the issues found in the previous butterfly keyboard.
The Magic Keyboard alone didn’t earn the MacBook Air top honors, however. The MacBook Air is truly the total package.
Starting at $999, the Air boasts a 13-inch Retina Display, with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 pixels. That’s slightly more than the Surface Laptop 3, and honestly, you won’t likely notice the additional pixels. Instead, where the Air really shines is with its clear and vibrant colors, overall brightness and Apple’s True Tone technology. If you’re not familiar, True Tone dynamically adjusts the color of your display to match the ambient light in your room, resulting in a better picture. It’s not prone to a ton of glare, but it’s not immune to it either.
In addition to the Magic Keyboard, the power button doubles as a Touch ID-equipped fingerprint sensor that quickly and reliably unlocks the laptop, and can even be used to sign into apps or approve purchases. The touchpad isn’t to be ignored — Apple’s touchpads are unmatched. Compared to the competition, MacBook touchpads are typically larger, giving you more room to drag and drop a file across the desktop and react quickly to gestures and taps, and aren’t as fidgety with incorrectly interpreting a right or left click.
At 2.8 pounds, it’s lightweight and portable. So much so that the very first MacBook Air commercial featured an Air being placed into a large envelope as a means to demonstrate just how small the (at the time) new laptop was. Not much has changed since then, with the Air still just as thin and light as ever; you’d be hard-pressed to notice the MacBook Air in your backpack, even after a long day of carrying it around.
Apple advertises battery life of up to 12 hours when playing a movie in the Apple TV app. However, our benchmark using VLC to play a video on loop fell just a little short of that estimate, with the MacBook Air powering off after 10 hours and 12 minutes. In other words, there’s more than enough power here to get through a full workday of use.
Performance-wise, don’t expect it to keep up with strenuous gaming or video editing sessions. It’s best suited for standard everyday computing tasks like web browsing, emailing, streaming video, office work and light video or photo editing. Best of all, if you’re an iPhone user, MacOS and iOS work together seamlessly, and that’s worth a lot when considering the overall experience. For example, you can send and receive messages — iMessage or traditional text messages — on your phone, then pick up the conversation on your MacBook without any delay.
Our biggest gripe about the MacBook Air? It has only two USB-C ports, both of which are on the left side: one you’ll use for charging the laptop, and the other you’ll find yourself connecting some sort of docking station to. More ports wouldn’t hurt, Apple.
We tested the $1,299 model, which is equipped with an Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory (RAM) and 512GB of storage. You can, of course, further customize that configuration, adding more memory, storage or a faster processor, but for most, we wager this build hits the sweet spot of performance and cost.
For the majority of folks, the MacBook Air is the right tool for the job. It’s compact, has trustworthy battery life and boasts strong performance, and Apple finally fixed the keyboard. We have no hesitation in recommending the MacBook Air as our best overall laptop.
Microsoft’s Surface lineup is a master class in hardware design for Windows laptops, 2-in-1s and tablets, and the Surface Laptop 3 13.5-inch is no exception.
The Laptop 3 has a 13.5-inch PixelSense touch-screen display with a resolution of 2256 x 1504. That’s just a touch below the resolution of the MacBook Air, but good luck trying to truly tell the difference between the two when looking at an image. You will notice the different screen ratio, however. The Surface Laptop has an aspect ratio of 3:2, whereas the MacBook Air uses a 16:10 aspect ratio. Basically, the Laptop 3 has a taller but slightly narrower display than the MacBook Air. You’ll be able to see more of a document on the screen, but you may experience some letterboxing when watching widescreen shows. The visual difference between the two ratios comes down to personal preference. Above the display is a Windows Hello camera setup that uses facial recognition to almost instantly unlock Windows 10 as you open the lid.
The display will respond to touch, be it with your finger or with a Surface Pen. During our testing, the Laptop 3’s display never faltered when it came to registering taps and swipes. There was minimal, if any, lag when using the Surface Pen to jot notes on a PDF or sketch on a screenshot. On the Dell XPS models we tested, for example, on occasion they would fail to register a tap or swipe. It wasn’t frequent, but it is something we noticed. Taking a screenshot with a couple of taps on the display, for instance, followed by using the Surface Slim Pen to draw an arrow along with a quick note was a surprisingly simple and helpful process.
Given that Laptop 3’s screen doesn’t fold 180 degrees to convert it into a tablet, you’re limited to a normal clamshell range for display movement. Even so, we didn’t find our arm straining to reach the screen. Touching is pretty natural, and it fits in well with a classic keyboard and trackpad interface model. Windows 10 has touch support baked into the OS, allowing you to enable a touch-focused tablet mode that provides bigger buttons, enables swipe gestures and makes going back and forth from keyboard and touchpad to touching the screen to select something a natural experience.
The keyboard is almost as good as Apple’s Magic Keyboard, but it has a slightly thinner profile. The keys are fast to type on but take more of a light touch to activate, which can lead to accidental presses as you contemplate your next word or sentence.
With an estimated 11.5 hours of battery life, we were slightly disappointed by the eight hours and 32 minutes we experienced during our benchmark test. However, it’s common for laptops to fall short of company estimates, and we can’t find much to complain about when a battery lasts through nearly a full day of use.
One drawback to the Surface line as a whole is the proprietary charger that Microsoft uses. Instead of using a USB-C connection, you’re left with Microsoft’s slim and reversible adapter. It would be nice to have that port replaced with another USB-C port, or even a USB-C and USB-A port, so you can connect a couple of peripherals or charge the laptop.
Speaking of ports, you’ll find a lone USB-C port and a USB-A port on the left side of the deck. You will likely want to pick up some sort of dongle or dock to connect more than a couple of devices to your laptop.
The Laptop 3 13 starts at $999, but the model we tested is priced at $1,599. It includes an Intel Core i7, 16GB of memory (RAM) and 256GB of storage. We’d love to see Microsoft include more storage at this price point, but with the addition of a Microsoft 365 subscription and its 1TB of OneDrive storage, we felt confident with the amount of storage space on our review sample for daily tasks.
The $999 model includes 128GB of storage, an amount that’s far too easy and quick to fill up, especially if you plan on installing any games or multimedia software. By the time you start working with large files, you’ll find yourself having to clear space.
Our test configuration was impressively smooth and performed well, even under intense workloads consisting of multiple documents and countless Edge browser tabs open at the same time. You’ll have no issues doing light video editing or even some borderline extreme photo editing on the higher-end configurations. Heck, you can even get a game of Fall Guys in without breaking a sweat. (The laptop, that is. We can’t speak for you.)
The Laptop 3 13 stands out, thanks to its overall performance, battery life, design and the versatility of the touch screen. It’s simply a joy to use and a welcome alternative to Apple’s MacBook line.
Apple’s most expensive and most powerful MacBook Pro lives up to its status and price tag. The model we tested will set you back $2,799, but it’s more than capable of handling nearly whatever you can throw at it.
With an Intel Core i9, 1TB of storage, 16GB of memory (RAM) and an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M GPU, the 16-inch MacBook Pro will not only power through an overly complicated Excel spreadsheet, but it’ll handle heavy video and photo editing without coming to a crawl. All of these specs mean you get a dedicated computer processing unit, plenty of RAM and storage along with a dedicated graphics processing unit. All in a portable laptop.
The 16-inch display has a resolution of 3072 x 1920, with Apple’s True Tone technology and 500 nits of brightness. When looking at the screen, it’s almost deceiving, as it feels like there’s more real estate to work with than on a laptop with a 17-inch display. Optical illusions aside, this display is probably our favorite out of the pool of laptops we tested. The greens and blues in one of the default wallpapers of a forest, for example, were almost mesmerizing to look at. Opening a bright and colorful photo in the Photos app and then adjusting its tone, brightness and color saturation is a good way to quickly examine the display’s range and abilities.
Of course, Apple’s Magic Keyboard is in use here. The keys are slightly thinner than those on the MacBook Air (something we experienced with the 13-inch MacBook Pro as well) but still quick, responsive and a joy to type on. Again, Apple put its Touch ID fingerprint reader inside the power button, making it painless to log in to your local account or sign in to online accounts when using a password manager. The MacBook Pro’s Touch Bar, which amounts to a small touch screen just above the keyboard that adapts and presents digital buttons based on the app you’re using, is helpful at times but not a must-have.
And with a speaker on each side of the keyboard, you won’t find yourself cranking up the volume just so you can hear your favorite song or an audio cue in the video you’re splicing.
This laptop is big — you’ll definitely know when you have it in your bag — but not as bulky as you’d think. Measuring 14.09 by 9.68 by 0.64 inches and weighing 4.3 pounds, the 16-inch MacBook Pro doesn’t reach gaming-laptop levels of size and weight.
Battery life was solid as well, lasting 10 hours and 23 minutes in our benchmark test. It’s more than enough to get through a full day of work.
There are a total of four USB-C ports, with two on each side, that you can use to connect accessories or an external monitor, or charge the MacBook Pro.
Depending on your workload and how often you find yourself editing 4K clips, you might be able to get by with the $2,399 base configuration. For that price, you’ll get the same overall design but with an Intel Core i7 processor, 512GB of storage and 16GB of memory (RAM).
Naturally, the MacBook Pro, like the Air, uses all of Apple’s services and provides that same overall experience. It’s a well-rounded machine designed for someone who needs a laptop to do more than just the occasional resource-heavy task.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a rather unassuming laptop. Its black design with subtle red highlights makes it look like another run-of-the-mill laptop. And, in a lot of ways, it is. However, once you start using the X1, you realize its sole purpose is to get work done.
The X1 measures 12.72 by 8.54 by 0.59 inches and weighs 2.4 pounds, but it feels so much smaller and lighter than that; we wouldn’t complain one bit if we were handed this laptop and told we had to carry it around campus all day.
The 14-inch display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and is more or less your basic high-definition display. That’s not to say it falls short in any way, but there’s nothing noteworthy about its color or clarity. We didn’t find any faults with it and are confident you won’t either.
The keyboard really sealed the deal for us. The keys aren’t the standard square shape but instead have a slight curve on the bottom edges that round it off. This small change from a typical keyboard key, along with the spacing between the keys themselves, makes typing on the X1 a rather enjoyable experience. It didn’t take long after setting it up before we were typing at full speed with minimal errors.
In the middle of the keyboard is a small red nub, or TrackPoint, that puts controlling the mouse pointer at your fingertips — literally. Instead of having to move your hand down to the touchpad below the keyboard, you can place a finger on the small red dot and move the mouse around, then use the left- and right-click buttons at the top of the touchpad to select an item. It’s what we grew up using on older laptops, so we feel right at home when switching between typing and moving the mouse. Just don’t tap on the TrackPoint and expect it to do anything; it’s strictly used to move the mouse around.
Next to the touchpad is a fingerprint sensor you can use to unlock the laptop, and while it feels slightly out of place, it’s as simple and efficient as Apple’s implementation.
The ThinkPad doesn’t use Intel’s high-end i7 processor like some of the other laptops we tested. Instead, it uses a modest Intel Core i5 processor that includes 256GB of storage and 8GB of memory (RAM). At least, that’s what the $1,613.50 configuration we tested was equipped with. All of those numbers can be distilled down into a laptop that’s fast enough to crunch numbers and deal with countless meeting requests, but without a faster processor or a dedicated GPU, you won’t want to push it with intense gaming or video editing.
Battery life is where the ThinkPad X1 Carbon truly shines, even though it fell short of Lenovo’s estimate of 19.5 hours, lasting 10 hours and 35 minutes, the longest out of all the laptops we tested — so you’ll be able to work all day on it without hunting down a nearby plug.
As for ports, there are two USB-A ports, two USB-C ports, one HDMI port and a network extension port for docking your ThinkPad in the office.
With a starting price of $1,249, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is affordable and capable — and built for the business environment. Whether you need to type out an agreement, mark up an NDA or crunch through a spreadsheet, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is up for the challenge. Most importantly, it doesn’t weigh you down, with a stealthy build and long battery life.
How we tested
After combing through new models, tabulating on the right configurations and circling back on our previous favorites, we settled on a pool of 10 laptops. Once we had all the models on hand, we began the unboxing process and charging them up to 100%. (Many laptops come with some power out of the box, but very rarely do they ship topped up.)
As with every CNN Underscored review, we rigorously test devices both quantitatively and qualitatively. For laptops, we made the decision to benchmark first to get a standard for quantitative performance. If you’ve read our standalone laptop, tablet or mobile phone reviews, these tests will be familiar.
On Windows laptops, we performed GeekBench 5 and PCMark 10 tests. These run the laptops through a series of workflows and application processes, many of which you’d find yourselves (and we found ourselves) completing on a daily basis. For Mac laptops, PCMark 10 is not available, so GeekBench 5 was performed.
Regardless of operating system, we put each laptop through our standard battery test, which involves charging the laptop to 100%, setting brightness to 50% and engaging airplane mode to ensure connectivity is off. We then loop a 4K video file with the sound set to 15% until the battery dies and the machine turns off. These tests are monitored in person as well as via two cameras to ensure accuracy.
The combination of battery and benchmark testing gives us a quantitative feel for the devices and a hard number for each that can be used for comparisons. We then used each laptop as our daily driver for work, play and entertainment tasks, testing the battery to see if it could last through a full day of tasks, watching a movie to get a feel for the display and, of course, running a bunch of different applications.
Our testing categories were as follows:
- Build quality: We looked at what the laptop was physically made of and how it felt in our hands, on a desk and in our laps.
- Portability: Thickness and weight of each laptop was top of mind here, along with the overall size and bezels. We also tested if it could fit in a range of bags.
- Looks: We took note of the overall design, if it was sleek or stealthy.
- Total battery life: The CNN Underscored battery test, explained above, was used to determine a quantitative battery life number.
- Stress test: We noted whether intense photo or video editing reduced battery life and how the laptop performed when playing a game.
- Benchmarking: Using GeekBench 5 and PCMark 10, explained above, we established a baseline for performance.
- Processors and GPU: We observed how the internal hardware performed and if most models across similar price points had the same specs. Can these handle a full productivity load? Can we get the laptop to bottleneck?
- RAM: We considered how much RAM or memory comes standard and if it’s enough for core tasks.
- Storage: We noted whether the laptop opts for a solid-state drive (SSD) or a traditional hard drive (HD).
- Ports: We looked at how many ports the laptop features, any legacy options available and if a dongle comes in the box.
- Overall: We observed how the speakers performed in core use cases, including movies, music and system sounds.
- Compression: We made note if the laptop speakers added any extra compression to core sounds or tracks.
- Bass: Did the laptop generate bass or was it mostly missing?
- Overall: We tested the display with various test images, applications (including word processing for pixelation), videos, VoIP, photo editing, gaming and even video editing.
- We additionally took a closer look at vibrancy, bezels, clarity and resolution.
- Overall: To get a feel for a keyboard, you really need to type a ton — and that’s exactly what we did.
- We paid close attention to specific categories, like tactileness and punchiness of the keys.
- Experience out of the box: What apps come preloaded that provide real user benefits? Is there a ton of bloatware?
- Ease of use: How easy was it to navigate around the respective base software and any core apps?
- Overall: We noted what it was like to use as a daily driver and how it performed with a plethora of apps and workflows.
- Overall: We noted the length of the included warranty and what it covers.
How we rated
We gave every laptop a score in each subcategory described above and combined them to determine a score for the overall category. We gave the most weight to hardware, with other categories following behind.
Hardware had a maximum of 60 points: processors and GPU (25 points), benchmarking (10 points), storage (10 points), ports (10 points) and RAM (5 points).
- Design had a maximum of 25 points: build quality (10 points), portability (10 points) and looks (5 points).
- Battery life had a maximum of 20 points: total battery life (15 points) and stress test (5 points).
- Display had a maximum of 20 points: overall (10 points), vibrancy (3 points), clarity (3 points), bezels (2 points) and resolution (2 points).
- Software had a maximum of 15 points: experience out of the box (5 points), ease of use (5 points) and preloaded apps (5 points).
- Speakers had a maximum of 10 points: overall (5 points), compression (3 points) and bass (2 points).
- Keyboard had a maximum of 10 points: overall (5 points), tactileness (3 points) and punchiness (2 points).
- Usability had a maximum of 10 points: overall (10 points).
- Warranty had a maximum of 5 points: overall (5 points).
Other laptops we tested
Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch (starting at $1,299; amazon.com)
Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro is a fine machine, no doubt. It’s well designed, has Touch ID, integrates with Apple’s ecosystem and has a display that makes other laptops jealous. But, for us, the use of an eighth-generation Intel processor (compared with 10th-generation processors in all other models we tested) combined with its price tag kept this from being crowned the best overall laptop. Performance-wise, you’re unlikely to notice the difference between the two processors, but over time, the older hardware will show signs of slowing down sooner. If you want something more powerful than the MacBook Air and have the room in your budget, the 13-inch MacBook Pro is a worthy choice.
Acer Aspire 5 ($709.57; amazon.com)
Acer’s Aspire 5 surprised us with its performance, especially when you factor in its low price. Overall, however, the build quality, display and battery life held it back. Out of all the laptops we tested, the Aspire 5 had the worst battery life, clocking in at five hours and 30 minutes in our benchmarking. The plastic housing helps with the overall weight, but with the cost of feeling cheap. About performance: The Aspire 5 kept up with the Dell XPS models we tested, and even some of the MacBooks, so we have confidence that this model will be able to get the job done. Just keep your charger handy.
Dell XPS 13 (starting at $783.99; dell.com)
Dell’s XPS line has remained competitive and impressive over the years, and while the XPS 13 had a strong showing in our testing, it fell short of any top honors. Performance-wise, the XPS 13 9300 was able to keep up with whatever routine task we threw at it. But the sheer amount of preloaded shortcuts, applications and even antivirus software was enough to give us pause. Bloatware needs to be a thing of the past, especially when it comes to constant passive-aggressive prompts and reminders about our antivirus trial expiring soon. In addition to bloatware, the keyboard on the XPS 13 felt, to be blunt, cheap. Despite its drawbacks, the Dell continues to use stunning displays in its XPS line.
Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (starting at $881.99; dell.com)
We have a lot of the same complaints and compliments for the XPS 13 2-in-1 as we do for the standard 2-in-1. Performance, again, was respectable and something we’d have no problem working on daily. The touch screen and display quality makes up for some of that, especially when you fold the screen all the way back and use it more as a tablet than a laptop. But at the end of the day, the combination of bloatware and a keyboard that just isn’t an enjoyable experience kept it off the podium.
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 15 (starting at $1,199.99; microsoft.com)
As we noted, we really liked the smaller of the two Surface Laptop 3 models, but the 15-inch model fell flat when it came to performance in our testing. Specifically, we tested the AMD edition, and both regular performance and battery life fell short of expectations — Microsoft’s and ours. For example, we saw a lowly five hours and 36 minutes of battery life in our battery benchmark. That’s not nearly enough to get through a couple of movies, let alone an entire workday. The overall design and appeal is there with the larger Laptop 3, but we just wanted more from it.
Samsung Galaxy Book S (starting at $949.99; samsung.com)
Samsung’s Galaxy Book S looks absolutely stunning. It’s compact and lightweight, and it packs enough battery life to go well into the night after a full day of classes. However, it uses the same type of processor your phone uses, which means apps need to be built specifically for the platform. Because of that, whether or not an app works, or if it works well, is going to be a learning experience of its own. The technology behind the Galaxy Book S is undoubtedly the future, but it’s not quite ready for most.
Read more from CNN Underscored’s hands-on testing:
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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