Buying guide for Best Tablets

Apple iPad Pro with WIFI

When Apple first introduced the iPad, they changed the world — and turned tablets from fictional gadgets from the future into essential everyday companions. Tablets are everywhere nowadays, ready to run any app we want, and they come in just about every shape, size, and color you can imagine.

That’s great news for affordability, but the tablet market has grown so crowded that it can sometimes be hard to tell the differences between the cream of the crop and the latest no-name tablet. Tablets have also evolved to become incredibly powerful; in some cases, they’re more powerful than an average laptop.

Whether you’re looking for a tablet for casual use or one that can keep up with you and the work you do, we’ve got you covered. We have everything you need to know to find the tablet that’s perfect for you

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iPads and Tablets

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

Before you start shopping, take a moment to consider how you’ll be using your tablet. These questions will help you get started.

What’s your ideal screen size?

The most important decision to make when you’re shopping for a tablet is what size screen you want. Tablets come in a variety of screen sizes ranging from seven to 14 inches, so you’ve got a lot of options. Your choice should take both readability and portability into account. If you’re looking for a tablet you can hold in one hand and you’re comfortable with a smaller screen, a seven-inch tablet may be perfect for you. On the other hand, if you find yourself squinting at your phone, or if you want a screen that’s roughly the same size as a piece of paper, a 9.7-inch or 12.9-inch tablet may be more appropriate.

Are you an Android smartphone user or an iPhone user?

While there’s certainly no rule against owning devices from different manufacturers, there are definitely advantages to buying a tablet that’s built on the same platform as your phone. The biggest benefit is familiarity. If you’re already familiar with Android or iOS as operating systems, you’ll feel right at home the first time you power up your tablet if you buy one with the same OS. In addition, some tablets and phones from the same brand offer extended functionality when used together. For example, if you’re an iPhone owner, you can set up an iPad so you can answer phone calls from it.

Will you be using your tablet for work?

If you plan to use your tablet for tasks that you might normally complete on a laptop, you’ll want to look for a tablet that can keep up — or a 2-in-1 laptop. If you need a tablet for presentations, writing, or number-crunching, get one with a larger screen and a faster processor.

STANDARD TABLET FEATURES

Storage: Tablets are basically computers under the hood, and every computer needs file storage for the operating system, apps, and personal files. Storage amounts vary between 16GB and 256GB, with the associated cost increase you’d expect. The “right” amount of storage will vary depending on the user; if you keep most of your stuff in the cloud, you don’t need a ton of space, but if you like to keep a lot of movies or TV shows with you — or you have a large photo collection — you’ll want to invest in a tablet with enough room.

Cameras: You can use a tablet camera to take pictures, but holding one up for just the right angle can get pretty awkward and unwieldy, so most people use them for video conferencing services like Google Hangouts, Skype, or FaceTime.

WiFi: WiFi is a standard feature for all tablets; they’re not that useful without an internet connection. That said, it’s important to get a tablet that supports the fastest WiFi speeds available, so make sure the one you buy supports the 802.11ac WiFi standard. (If you have an older router, that’s OK, too; tablets are backward-compatible with older WiFi standards like 802.11n.)

Processor: Every tablet needs a central processing unit (CPU) to run. Most tablet manufacturers make their own processors, so it’s often difficult to compare, say, the iPad’s A12X chip with the Qualcomm processors found in many Samsung tablets. To get a sense of how different tablets actually perform, watch video reviews and see them in action.

Speakers: While tablet speakers can’t hold a candle to headphones or a pair of proper speakers, built-in speakers still matter. Most tablets have two speakers for achieving a stereo effect, but some still rely on a single speaker for mono sound. If you plan on playing music through your tablet’s speakers, get one with speakers on either side for optimal sound separation.

PREMIUM FEATURES AND UPGRADES

Once you’ve got a solid handle on the basics, consider the features you might be willing to pay more for. These are our favorites.

A premium stylus

Styluses have been available for tablets from the beginning, but new innovations are giving the available options a boost. Now, it’s possible to get a stylus that’s custom-designed for your tablet. Proprietary styluses include advanced features. For example, many of them let you use the top end as an on-screen eraser, while others support multiple pen types and allow you to switch between thick pen strokes and thin ones with the click of a button.

Kid-friendly designs and apps

If you’ve got little ones, it’s important to keep an eye on their device usage and put controls in place to keep them from going places online that they shouldn’t. While you can use parental control software for this on any tablet, we recommend buying a kid-friendly tablet instead. Tablets made for kids often include ultra-durable construction so they can be dropped, and they focus on making it easy for parents to keep kids safe.

Expandable memory

Much like laptops, some tablets include Secure Digital (SD) card slots for adding more SD and microSD memory cards. Expandable storage is an incredibly convenient feature because it gives you an option if you ever find yourself running out of storage space. You can even keep extra cards handy and swap them in as needed.

LTE connectivity

If you’ll primarily be using your tablet at home, WiFi connectivity will be enough. But if you want to access the web from your tablet when you don’t have access to WiFi, you’ll need one with an LTE radio. With LTE connectivity, tablets can get online anywhere. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to add your tablet to your mobile data subscription plan from a wireless provider like Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint.

ESSENTIAL ACCESSORIES

Make sure your tablet is always protected and powered up with these peripherals

Tablet case

We always recommend getting a case for any tablet you own to keep it safe from damage and to protect its resale value. If you’ve got a nine- or ten-inch tablet, the ProCase is one of the best options available: it’s affordable, has a kickstand, and looks close enough to leather for our tastes. Best of all: it comes in multiple colors.

Screen protector

It’s also important to protect your tablet’s screen! Screen protectors keep tablet screens scratch-free, and they make it a lot easier to wipe off dirt and fingerprints, too. If you’ve got a 9.7” tablet, we recommend SPARIN’s screen protectors. They’re made from tempered glass, so they’re a lot stronger than typical screen protectors made from plastic. But despite being so strong, they don’t get in the way at all; you’ll still be able to use features like stylus input or a fingerprint reader without a problem. Prevent screen cracks before they happen, and be sure to pick up the right size screen protector for your tablet.

Power bank:

If you take your tablet with you to places where there isn’t always power, it’s important to get a power bank so you can recharge on the go as needed. Anker makes some of the best power banks in the business, and their PowerCore line is their flagship brand. The PowerCore 10000 holds a whopping 10,000 milliamp hours (mAh), which is enough to recharge the average tablet three times. It’s also got PowerIQ, so you know that whatever device you’ve got plugged in is charging as fast as it can handle.

TIPS

  • If you’re buying a tablet that has expandable storage, consider buying one with the minimal amount of built-in storage. Storage space can really drive up the price of a tablet. Sometimes, to get the next size up, you’ll have to pay more than $100. Conversely, microSD cards and other external storage are all pretty cheap. If you need a lot of file storage space and don’t want to spend a ton, consider buying a tablet with expandable storage along with an extra microSD card or two. By taking advantage of removable storage, you can get a lot more space for your money.

.If you’re taking your tablet to an area in which you may not be able to charge it, bring a portable battery with you. Tablet batteries last a while, but they don’t last forever. It’s important to have a backup plan for instances where recharging isn’t an option. Our favorite fix for that is a portable battery — a gadget that’s easy to carry around and always good for an extra charge (or three).
 

  • Avoid refurbished tablets. While buying a refurbished tablet can sound like a great way to save a little money, it’s usually not worth the risk. Because there are no recognized standards for refurbishing, you never know what you’re getting — or if anything was done at all. It’s especially risky with tablets because batteries can degrade over time, so it’s possible that a refurbished tablet could come with a battery that’s not holding a full charge anymore. Save yourself the headache: buy new.

FAQ

Q. How long do tablet batteries usually last?
A.
 It depends on what you’re using the tablet for. In most cases, tablets will last for anywhere from three to six hours on a battery charge. More intense tasks, like streaming video, can reduce that to between two and three hours. In standby mode, most tablets can last a few days without needing to be recharged.

Q. Should I buy a screen protector for my tablet?
A.
In the early days of tablets, screens were prone to scratches, which made screen protectors vital. Since then, the glass used in tablet screens has gotten stronger and more scratch-resistant (although definitely not scratch-proof). The bottom line: if you prefer to go without a screen protector, we’re not going to judge. With some basic precautions and the right case, your screen will likely only face minimal scratches. On the other hand, if you plan to sell your tablet down the line, keeping your screen scratch-free is crucial, so a screen protector may be your safest bet.

Q. Can I send text messages from a tablet?
A. 
Yes — sort of. Text messages come in two flavors: SMS and internet-based messages. SMS messages require a cellular data (LTE) connection, while web-based messages only need a connection to the internet. For example, third-party messaging apps like Facebook’s WhatsApp or Apple’s Messages send data over the web and work well on tablets. In contrast, tablets aren’t usually able to send SMS messages to other devices.

Find the Best TV for Your Home Entertainment

New TV Tech

Hay Football Fans why not upgrade that old TV

LCD TVs are getting better. While OLED TVs top our ratings, the top-performing LCD TVs get better every year, edging closer to OLED TV-like performance. One reason is the rollout of full-array LED backlights, where LEDs are arranged across the entire back of the panel, rather than just along the edges of the screen. That design is combined with a feature called local dimming, where the LEDs are divided into zones that can be illuminated or darkened separately. The result is that dark areas look darker, and you’re less likely to see halos around bright objects on a dark background.

Now, a new development in LCD/LED TV technology, called “Mini LEDs,” takes local dimming one step further. You’ll be seeing this new backlight technology in TVs from LG, Samsung, TCL, and other brands. 

By shrinking the size of the LEDs in the backlight, companies can use more of them packed together into the same area. In fact, these sets can boast thousands of Mini LEDs behind the LCD panel. These are divided into dimmable zones, and because the LEDs are so small, there can be a lot of them—say, a thousand zones, instead of the dozens found in even the best LCD sets up until now. And the zones can be controlled more precisely.

By increasing the dynamic range of the TV—the difference between the brightest whites and deepest blacks the screen can show—Mini LEDs can also help boost a TV’s HDR performance, which is discussed in more detail below. 

Combine all this and Mini LED sets could perform more like OLEDs, while retaining some traditional benefits of LCDs, such as better brightness and a wider choice of brands and screen sizes.

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Tv’s

More OLEDs are on the way. There’s also some news in OLED TVs for 2021. Until recently, OLED sets were available mainly from two companies, LG Electronics and Sony, but this year you’ll also be able to buy them from Skyworth, a Chinese brand, and Vizio, which launched its first OLED sets late last year. You’ll also be able to find smaller OLED TVs, down to 48 inches. One implication of all this is that you should be able to find some less expensive OLED options.

Two more TV tech trends to consider this year are 8K TVs and “Next-Gen TV,” the term being used for a new over-the-air broadcast TV system for those who use an antenna.

8K TVs have arrived—at steep prices. Though 8K TVs made their debut two years ago, they’ve so far been a minuscule portion of TV sales. One reason is that the extra detail you get with these TVs—which have 33 million pixels, compared with 8 million in a 4K set—is mainly evident only in the largest TVs. These new 8K televisions are very expensive, too.

This year, we expect to see more 8K sets from more brands, in screen sizes starting at 65 inches.

While all those millions of extra pixels promise sharper, more detailed images than what you can currently get with 4K UHD TVs, that doesn’t mean an 8K set makes sense for most people. For one thing, you won’t find any native 8K content to watch on one of these sets, at least for a while. A handful of movies have been shot in 8K, and some high-profile events, such as the coming Summer Olympics in Tokyo, will be shot in 8K, but it’s not yet clear how these signal will make their way to your TV. 

Over-the-air TV is advancing, too. Last, there’s Next-Gen TV, technically called ATSC 3.0. This refers to a standard for broadcasting signals over the air. Next-Gen TV is still available in just a few areas of the country, but more are coming. The standard lets TV signals carry a lot more data, so broadcasters can start offering 4K programs and movies with HDR that get beamed to ordinary television antennas. The new standard is IP (internet protocol)-based, allowing some broadcasters to offer over-the-air TV plans that marry traditional over-the-air TV channels with a handful of lifestyle networks you’d typically get from a cable TV company or streaming service such as Sling TV or YouTube TV.

With Next-Gen TV, you may eventually be able to get TV shows and other content on smartphones, tablets, and even in moving vehicles. Broadcasters are also promising improvements in emergency and weather alert systems.

To receive these new TV signals your TV will need an ATSC 3.0 tuner, something not found in most existing televisions. Only a few sets come with one. However, you probably don’t need to worry about that if you’re television shopping. We expect companies to start selling adapters to allow other TVs to use Next-Gen TV signals.

While TV shoppers will see new technology in 2021, a lot of the basic information you need to choose a TV is staying the same. Below is what you need to understand about screen size and other factors to make an informed decision. 

Screen Size

Remember when a 50-inch TV seemed gigantic? Well, TVs with 55- and 65-inch screens are now commonplace. “By the end of 2020, 65-inch models had firmly supplanted 55-inch sets as the most prevalent screen size consumers see in stores,” says Deirdre Kennedy, business director at the retail market research firm Gap Intelligence, which has Consumer Reports as a client.  

In 2021, industry experts expect prices on these larger sets to drop, as they have for the past couple of years, and for more people to buy them. Paul Gagnon, a senior research director at market research firm Omdia, says he expects 60- to 69-inch TVs—mainly 65-inch sets—to account for 18 percent of U.S. television sales in 2021, up from just 12 percent in 2018. And even bigger TVs, 70 inches and larger, should account for 10 percent of sales.

There are no hard-and-fast rules for determining the right size TV—personal preference, the field of view, and even visual acuity come into play. However, if you’d like some guidance, you can try one of the many free online calculators available, or apply the following equation.

If you’re buying a 1080p set—and these have become unusual in larger screen sizes—the closest you can sit to your television, while still maintaining the proper maximum field of view, is 1.6 times the diagonal measurement of your television. So if you have a 60-inch screen, you’d want to sit at least 96 inches (or 8 feet) away.

You can simply reverse the arithmetic if you want to start out with the viewing distance. Measure the distance from your couch to the TV in feet, divide that number by 1.6, and then multiply the result by 12 to get the screen measurement in inches. If you’ll be sitting 8 feet from where you want to put the TV, you’ll end up shopping for a 60-inch television. (You can make the math even simpler if you just measure everything in inches.)

But don’t feel obliged to perform these calculations. These days, just about all larger sets are 4K UHD models. Because these TVs have more densely packed pixels, you can go larger, and your seating distance can be as close as the screen diagonal itself. So, for example, with a 65-inch UHD TV, you could sit as close as 5½ feet from the set.

Just remember that the goal is to create a comfortable, immersive viewing experience. You don’t want to be so close that you can’t see the whole picture or so far back that you miss out on the high-definition detail you’re paying for.

You’ll also have to pay attention to your budget. Below are rough price ranges for several screen sizes. In general, the bigger the screen, the more expensive the set. Of course, performance matters, too—for a given price you can often get a smaller screen with better performance or a larger screen with less performance.

As you can see, for the biggest sets the range is enormous, from just a few hundred dollars up into the thousands. 

• 32-inch set: $100 to $250 

• 39- to 43-inch set: $150 to $500

• 49- or 50-inch set: $220 to $700 is typical; $1,000 or more for premium LCDs and OLED TVs

 55- to 59-inch set: $300 to $1,500 

• 65-inch or larger set: $450 to $4,000A 1080p and UHD TV size based on 6- and 9-foot viewing distances.Rule of thumb for sizing a 1080p TV: Screen diagonal = distance to couch, in inches, divided by 1.6. You can go bigger with a 4K, or UHD, set.See Our TV Ratings

The Ins and Outs of Resolution

A regular high-definition (HD) set is also a called a 1080p model because its screen resolution is 1920×1080. That means it has 1,920 pixels horizontally and 1,080 pixels vertically, so it contains roughly 2 million pixels in all. Think of pixels, short for “picture elements,” as the tiny individual dots that make up the TV’s picture.

Ultra High Definition (UHD) TVs, also called 4K TVs, have screen resolutions of 3840×2160, so they contain 8 million pixels, or four times the number of individual pixels as an HD set. The more densely packed array of pixels in UHD sets makes them capable of greater picture detail. The benefits of a UHD TV are more apparent in larger screen sizes—say, 65 inches and above—or when you’d like to sit closer to the TV than you could with a 1080p set.

We’re now also starting to see the first so-called 8K TVs, which have screen resolutions of 7680×4320, with more than 33 million pixels. This is the highest resolution that has been defined in the UHD standard, so technically these sets are also UHD TVs. Right now there aren’t many of them, and they’re typically a good bit more expensive than comparably sized 4K sets.

We don’t recommend purchasing an 8K set right now, because you’ll pay a premium for it and there’s almost no 8K content yet. So these days, purchasing a 4K TV makes the most sense, especially in larger screen sizes where it’s getting more difficult to even find HD sets. You will still find 1080p and 720p TVs in the smaller screen sizes—say, 32 inches and smaller.

There is now a decent amount of 4K content to watch, especially from streaming services such as Amazon and Netflix. There are also 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players that can play 4K Blu-ray discs. We expect more to come on the market in the future.

Another benefit of 4K TVs: Most now support high dynamic range (HDR) and a wider palette of colors, for more vibrant, natural-looking images. To find out more about high dynamic range, see our HDR section below.

The pixels of a 1080p HD TV.

1080p TV

A high-definition TV, with 1920×1080 resolution, will be fine for most viewers, and you’ll save a bit of money compared with a similarly sized UHD set. Almost every 1080p set available is an LCD TV with an LED backlight, but there are also a limited number of 1080p OLED TVs. And right now, it’s hard to find a UHD TV smaller than 39 inches, although we do have one 32-inch 4K set in our ratings. We’ve found that many viewers aren’t able to see the extra detail in a UHD TV from normal viewing distances until they get to very large screen sizes, say, 65 inches and above. Just remember that resolution is only one of a number of attributes that a TV has to get right to produce excellent overall picture quality. Regular HD TVs remain a great choice for many consumers when you factor in price, especially in screen sizes smaller than 65 inches.TV Ratings

The pixels of a UHD TV.

4K/8K UHD TV

Thanks to its higher-resolution 3840×2160 screen, a 4K TV can display greater detail than a 1080p set when presented with high-quality UHD content. New 8K TVs, with 7680×4320 screens, are capable of even greater fine detail. Images on these sets appear sharper, with smoother lines on the edges of objects, depending on your viewing distance. Many UHD sets attempt to enhance the image in other ways. For example, many better TVs now have sophisticated video processing and use artificial intelligence to upscale lower-resolution content to the TV’s 4K or 8K screens. And most 4K sets now support HDR, which provides a higher level of contrast between the lightest and darkest images. Newer UHD TVs also widen the array of colors a TV can display, but exploiting these advantages requires specially produced content. More content that has been encoded with HDR is available every year.TV Ratings

High Dynamic Range (HDR)

As we previously noted, one of the most exciting recent TV developments is high dynamic range, or HDR. When done right, HDR boosts a TV’s brightness, contrast, and color, making the pictures on the screen look more like real life.

As you can see in the dramatized image below, when HDR is at work you’ll see details that might not otherwise be obvious, from the texture of the brick on a shady walkway to nuances in the white clouds in a daytime sky.

You’ll also see brighter, more realistic “specular highlights,” which are glints of light, such as the sun’s reflection off a car’s chrome bumper or an airplane wing. With HDR, those highlights pop; without it, they wouldn’t stand out against other bright objects.

HDR does all that by increasing the contrast between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks a TV can produce. That’s where the “dynamic range” in the name comes from.

“When done well, HDR presents more natural illumination of image content,” says Claudio Ciacci, who heads the Consumer Reports TV testing program. “HDR can flex its dynamic-range muscles in strong sunlit scenes that push the TV’s contrast to the limits,” he adds, “but you’ll also see HDR’s subtler benefits on more simply lit scenes.”

Typically, HDR TVs also produce more vibrant, varied colors than other sets. That’s because HDR is often paired with “wide color gamut,” or WCG, capability.

Standard HDTVs can display about 17 million colors, but those with WCG can display up to a billion. That’s like giving your TV a larger box of crayons to play with.

But you won’t see all that fantastic contrast and color every time you turn on the TV. You have to be playing a movie or TV show that has been mastered to take advantage of HDR and WCG. You can get 4K content with HDR right now from streaming services, on 4K Blu-ray discs, and even from DirecTV’s satellite TV service. But we expect to see more HDR content become available, including through a new over-the-air broadcast standard that’s being launched in many markets this year. (Find out where you can watch 4K content with HDR.)

Types of HDR
So far, we’ve been talking about HDR as if it were just one technology, but there are a few types of HDR, each following a different set of technical specs. 

This can get complicated, and before we get into the details there’s some good news.

First, your TV should automatically detect the type of HDR being used in the content and choose the right way to play it. 

Second, the type of HDR doesn’t seem to be too important right now. What we’ve seen in our labs is that top-performing TVs can do a great job with different types of HDR. The quality of the TV is more important. So it makes sense to buy the best TV you can regardless of the type of HDR it supports.

However, if you’d like to understand the differences among types of HDR, here’s an overview.

One type, called HDR10, has been adopted as an open standard. It’s free to use, and all 4K TVs with HDR support it. That’s also true of all 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players and HDR programming, so you won’t be stuck with a set that can’t play HDR.

But some TVs also offer another type of HDR, called Dolby Vision, which is being promoted as an enhanced version of HDR10. Companies pay a licensing fee to use it. On paper it has some advantages. In particular, it supports “dynamic” metadata, where the brightness levels for a movie or show can be tweaked scene by scene. By contrast, HDR10 uses “static” metadata, where brightness levels are set for the entire movie or show.

Dolby Vision isn’t alone in using dynamic metadata, though. There’s a newer version of HDR10, called HDR10+. It, too, has dynamic metadata, making HDR10 more like Dolby Vision. Right now it’s supported mainly by Samsung, which developed HDR10+, and Amazon, which has said it will support HDR10+ in its streaming service. We’ll be watching to see whether other TV manufacturers adopt it.

You may also hear something in the coming months about another HDR format, called HLG (hybrid log gamma). It could be important if it’s adopted for the next generation of free over-the-air TV signals, which will follow a standard called ATSC 3.0. Many new TVs already support HLG, but it looks like others will be able to get firmware updates if necessary. This matters only for people who get TV through antennas, which are making a comeback.

Are All HDR TVs Created Equal?
No. Our tests show that not every TV with “HDR” written on the box produces equally rich, lifelike images. That’s one reason we now provide a separate HDR score in our TV ratings.

First of all, TVs are all over the map when it comes to picture quality, HDR or no HDR. But there are also challenges specific to this technology. Most notably, a TV might not be bright enough to really deliver on HDR. To understand why, you need to know your “nits,” the units used to measure brightness.

Better-performing HDR TVs typically generate at least 600 nits of peak brightness, with top performers hitting 1,000 nits or more. But many HDR TVs produce only 100 to 300 nits. With an underpowered TV, the fire of a rocket launch becomes a single massive white flare. With a brighter television, you’d see tongues of fire and smoke, as if you were really there.

“The benefits of HDR are often lost with mediocre displays,” Ciacci says.

How Can I Tell a Great HDR TV From a Bad One?
Unfortunately, you can’t just read the packaging—or even rely on how the picture looks in the store.

Some TVs carry an Ultra HD Premium logo, indicating that they’ve been certified as high-performance sets by an industry group called the UHD Alliance, but not all companies are going along. For example, LG and Samsung participate in the program; Sony and Vizio don’t.

What to do instead? Check our TV ratings, which now have a score for HDR.

As you’ll see, the TVs with the best HDR tend to be the priciest. But there are also some good choices for people who want to spend less. And if you’re buying a smaller set or just want to wait on 4K and HDR, you can find several good—and inexpensive—options.A side-by-side comparison of SDR and HDR TV images.HDR can help images come alive.TV Ratings by Consumer Reports

The Facts About Smart TVs

The overwhelming number of TVs on the market, especially in midsized and larger models, are smart TVs. These televisions can access online content, such as streaming video services from Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix. Basic smart TVs may be limited to the most popular services, while others offer a vast assortment of apps. More sophisticated smart TVs can respond to voice commands, using microphones built into the TV’s remote control or using an app on a smartphone.

More than 80 percent of the TVs sold these days are smart TVs, according to market research firm Omdia. But if you’re considering a more basic TV or you already have a TV that lacks smarts, you can easily add internet capability using a separate streaming media player, such as an Amazon Fire TV, an Apple TV, a Google Chromecast, or a Roku player. (Details below.)

Some manufacturers have developed their own smart TV platforms, while others may use a licensed system, such Amazon Fire TV,  Android TV from Google—which is being renamed Google TV— or Roku TV. A TV with built-in smarts can make accessing content easy—there’s only a single remote control—but a separate streaming media player may have more content options, or use an interface that makes finding and accessing content easier.

More TVs these days come with support for third-party voice-enabled digital assistants, such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, and Google Assistant. This will let you perform basic TV controls—such as raising and lowering volume, and changing channels or inputs—and search for shows and movies using voice commands. Sometimes you’ll be able to control other compatible devices, such as smart speakers, lights, or thermostats, right from your TV.

Just be aware that almost all smart TVs collect information about the shows you’re watching and the apps you’re using—for marketing purposes. The degree to which you can control this data collection varies by the brand of smart TV system, but there are ways you can limit the amount of data being collected and shared.

Various streaming media players.

Streaming Media Players

Streaming media players are a popular add-on for TVs, bringing streaming movies, TV, music, and games to TVs that lack internet access. Even if you own a smart TV, you may consider a streaming player if it has features or services your TV doesn’t, or it just performs better.

There are more than a dozen streaming player models, offered in two styles: set-top boxes, and stick players about the size of a USB flash drive. The most basic ones support 1080p video, and many models can play 4K content with HDR from the streaming services that offer it.

Prices for 4K models start as little as $40, and range up to $180 for an Apple TV. You can get a 1080p model starting around $30. Because 4K models often come with promotional discounts, getting a 4K player probably makes the most sense for most consumers because their next TV purchase is likely to be a 4K model. 

And be aware that streaming video requires robust broadband and WiFi connections to prevent the video from freezing or buffering. If you move more of your entertainment to the internet, you may need to upgrade to a faster connection.Streaming Media Player Ratings

A smart TV.

Smart TVs

Smart TVs, also called internet TVs or connected TVs, can be your bridge to a world of online content that you can access directly from the TV itself. Most smart TVs these days let you access multiple streaming video services, such as Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, Sling TV, and YouTube TV, plus one or more internet music services, such as Pandora and Spotify. Many smart TVs also let you check social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and several support casual games as well.

More smart TVs are now voice-enabled, using either their own proprietary artificial intelligence (AI) technologies or working with established third-party digital assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant. (Some sets may have all three.) Some TVs from the major brands will also connect to, and interact with, other smart home devices, allowing you to play music on smart speakers, raise or lower the temperature on smart thermostats, or adjust the room’s lighting on smart lightbulbs, all from the TV.

Like streaming media players, smart TVs need to be connected to your home network. We recommend using a wired Ethernet connection, if possible, but all smart TVs now also have built-in WiFi for accessing your network wirelessly.Check Our TV Ratings

Check the Viewing Angle

Despite many improvements, most LCDs still have a fairly significant shortcoming: limited viewing angle. That means the picture looks its best only from a fairly narrow sweet spot right in front of the screen. We recommend checking the viewing angle by watching a TV from off to the side, and from above and below the main part of the image. As you move away from the center of the screen, the image can dim, lose contrast and color accuracy, or look washed out. And the degree of picture degradation varies from model to model. We’ve found that TVs that use “IPS” LCD panels offer wider-than-average viewing angles for LCD sets, though this can sometimes come at the expense of contrast.

By contrast, OLED TVs have almost unlimited viewing angles, just like old plasma TVs did.

Recently, we’ve seen some TVs from Samsung and Sony that have wider-than-average viewing angles for an LCD-based set without using IPS panels. These are typically in the companies’ higher-priced models.

If you try to check out a TV’s viewing angle in the store, be aware that the TV’s retail setting typically cranks the brightness and boosts colors to unnatural levels, artificially improving off-angle viewing. Whatever you experience in the store, it’s important to also check the viewing angle after you’ve set it up in your home. We suggest you do it immediately so that you can easily return the set if it proves to be disappointing.A person sitting directly in front of a TV.A television’s picture looks best when you’re sitting right in front of it. Check out the quality of the image from a variety of viewing angles.For More See Our TV Ratings

Make the Right Connections

Don’t forget to consider a TV’s connections before you buy. You’ll want to ensure that it has the right type of inputs and outputs to support all your audio/video gear.

Almost all TVs now have side input connections, as well as rear inputs, which provide some flexibility for connecting source components to your TV. Inputs located on the side or bottom of the TV work best if you’ll be mounting a TV flat against a wall. If you are wall-mounting a TV, a short HDMI extender can be used to make connections a bit easier to use.

Smartwatch buying guide

This is a sample of Smartwatches. for the full Catalog click the Submenu under Cell Phones.

It’s shaping up to be a great year to splash out on a smartwatch, with excellent options available from Apple at a broader price range than ever before, and healthy competition from Samsung too.

This could also be the year we finally see the fruits of Google’s blockbuster $2.1 billion purchase of Fitbit, which was first announced in late-2019 and completed in January 2021. Meanwhile, hybrid watch maker Withings is going from strength to strength, the Fossil group has a huge range to pick from across its many brands, and the Swiss have some luxury offerings too.

What follows is the GearBrain guide to buying a smartwatch in 2021. We have highlighted the major brands to consider, and explained the differences between smartwatches and hybrids, and how even some luxury Swiss watches are smarter than ever. We also look at what new models are expected to arrive later this year.

After reading this post why not checkout the Smartwatches this Website has to offer

Smartwatches

What is a smartwatch?

Google Wear OS smartwatches

Smartwatches running Google’s Wear OSGoogle

In our eyes, a watch becomes a smartwatch when it replaces its traditional face and mechanical hands with a touch screen. Some hybrids do a bit of both, putting simpler displays inside the face of a regular watch, but we’ll cover those later.

When it comes to smartwatch operating systems, like with computers and smartphones there are a couple of main players to consider. First there is watchOS, which is the operating used exclusively by the Apple Watch.

Next there is Wear OS, which belongs to Google and was called Android Wear until 2018. The name was changed to promote the fact that watches running Google’s software work with iPhones as well as Android devices – a key differentiator, as all models of Apple Watch only work with iPhones.

Although Google doesn’t produce a smartwatch of its own (those persistent rumors haven’t come true just yet), Wear OS is found on smartwatches made by many brands, from Misfit and Montblanc, to Fossil and Tag Heuer.

Buy Galaxy Watch 3 – Starting at $189.99

Early smartwatches suffered from poor battery life of no more than one day, uninspiring design, and middling performance. Since those formative days, there have been vast improvements in all of these areas, with some batteries lasting two or even three days, slimmer designs, and increased performance with better apps, connectivity and features. That said, for some models (including even the latest Apple Watch) at least one charge every 24 hours is required to get the most out of them.

In most cases, smartwatches can double as a fitness tracker and personal trainer, tracking walking, running, cycling and other activities, sometimes with the help of an embedded heart rate monitor. Some specialize in certain areas, for example the Tag Heuer Connected that comes with a dedicated golf app for measuring distances and keeping score on courses all over the world.

Some, like the Apple Watch Series 4/5/6 and Samsung Galaxy Watch 3, perform the equivalent of a single-lead ECG (electrocardiogram), which can alert the wearer to potential symptoms of atrial fibrillation. Some also offer fall detection, where a contact and even the emergency services will be automatically called if the watch senses you take a hard fall and not get up.

Smartwatches also excel at notifications, subtly vibrating on your wrist when you receive a phone call, text, email or other kind of message. Some can be purchased with a 4G connection and their own data plan, allowing them to make a receive calls and stream music without being connected to a smartphone.

Apple

Apple Watch 6

The Apple Watch Series 6 starts at $399Apple

The first Apple Watch arrived back in 2015 and was pitched as a luxury accessory. Apple even tried to sell $20,000 gold versions, and one briefly appeared on the wrist of Beyonce. But Apple soon changed course, turning the Watch into a health and fitness device that owners wouldn’t want to go a day without.

This move worked, as in 2019 the Apple Watch outsold the entire Swiss watch industry, proving there is huge demand for a wearable that tracks health and fitness, but also carries enough Apple design swagger to not feel like a medical device.

Running Apple’s new watchOS 7 software, the latest models for 2021 are the Watch Series 6 and new, cheaper Watch SE. The Watch Series 3 also remains on sale, priced at just $199. The SE, newly introduced in 2020, is $279 and the Watch Series 6 starts at $399. Hermes models with luxury leather straps and unique faces are the most expensive, reaching $1,499, but there are many mid-price options in-between too.

The Watch SE starts at $279Apple

All models have a heart rate monitor and can track activity, exercise and sleep. But only the Series 6 can perform an ECG, record blood oxygenation and alert its wearer to signs of atrial fibrillation. All are available with or without a cellular connection.

The Watch is offered in two sizes, 40mm and 44mm, and all models have interchangeable straps. There are three case options; from cheapest to most expensive these are aluminum, stainless steel and titanium. New Apple Watch Series 6 (GPS, 40mm) – Blue Aluminum Case with Deep Navy Sport BandList Price: $379.00New From: $379.00 in StockUsed From: $333.52 in Stock

Samsung

Samsung Galaxy Watch3

The Samsung Galaxy Watch3Samsung

Samsung has been in the smartwatch game for longer than Apple, having made its first Android Wear-powered devices back in 2014. The latest model is called the Galaxy Watch3 and it runs Samsung’s own Tizen operating system. The Watch3 is available in two sizes, 41mm and 45, making it suitable for most wrists, and unlike the Apple Watch it has industry-standard lug bars so the straps can be swapped for almost any other.

4G versions are available, giving the watch a data connection and the ability to make and receive phone calls and stream music when not connected to your smartphone. Speaking of which, Samsung Galaxy watches work with iPhones and Androids, whereas the Apple Watch only works (and has only ever worked) with iPhones.

A neat feature of the Galaxy Watch3 is how the bezel rotates to scroll through content, saving you swiping the screen and smearing it with fingerprints. The watch also features a heart rate monitor, and can take an ECG and measure blood pressure and oxygen level.

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2

Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2Samsung

Samsung also currently sells the slightly older Galaxy Watch Active2, which is offered in 40mm and 44mm variants, but has a slimmer design due to the lack of a rotating bezel, which is instead touch-sensitive.

The Galaxy Watch 3 is priced from $260 and is available in rose gold and black. The Active 2 is slightly cheaper at $250, and comes in black, silver and pink gold.

Buy Galaxy Watch 3 – Starting at $189.99

Google and Wear OS

Google WearOS smartwatches

A huge range of smartwatches from various brans run Google’s WearOSGoogle

Formerly known as Android Wear, Wear OS is Google’s smartwatch operating system. It is used by a range of manufacturers, including tech companies like LG and Huawei, but also watch and fashion brands like Kate Spade, Hugo Boss, Guess, Michael Kors and Fossil, plus Tag Heuer.

Wear OS offers the same basic features as watchOS and Tizen. There are several customizable watch faces to pick from, apps to download and install, a notifications system, and varying degrees of fitness, sleep and exercise tracking.

Where the Apple Watch has Apple Pay and Samsung wearables use Samsung Pay, Wear OS watches make use of…you guessed it, Google Pay. Not all models have NFC (a requirement of Google Pay), but most do and these can be used to make in-store purchases instead of using your credit card.

Prices for Wear OS watches start at around the $200 mark for a model from a fashion brand, but climb to over $1,200 for examples from Swiss watchmaker Tag Heuer.

Despite persistent rumors of a ‘Pixel Watch’, Google is yet to produce any smartwatches or wearables of its own. But this could soon change. As we mentioned earlier, Google paid $1.2 billion for Fitbit in November 2019 and completed the takeover in January 2021, so we can expect to see the search giant become more involved in the smartwatch and wearable space soon. TicWatch Pro 3 GPS Smart Watch Men’s Wear OS Watch Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 4100 Platform Health Fitness Monitoring 3-45 Days Battery Life Built-in GPS NFC Heart Rate Sleep Tracking IP68 WaterproofList Price: $299.99New From: $299.99 in Stock

Fitbit

Fitbit Versa 3 smartwatch

Fitbit Versa 3 smartwatchFitbit

Although best known for its exercise trackers, Fitbit also makes a smartwatch called the Versa. The latest Versa 3 runs the company’s own Fitbit OS software, works with iPhones and Android, has a 1.6-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, and promises up to six days of battery life. There is also integrated GPS, water resistance and NFC, plus Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

In short, it’s a fully-functioning smartwatch that also doubles as a top-notch health and fitness tracker from Fitbit. Available in a range of colors, the Versa 3 is priced at around $230. It also comes with a free three-month trial of Fitbit Premium, which costs $10 a month and of which you can read more here. Fitbit Versa 3 Health & Fitness Smartwatch with GPS, 24/7 Heart Rate, Alexa Built-in, 6+ Days Battery, Midnight Blue/Gold, One Size (S & L Bands Included)List Price: $229.95New From: $215.00 in Stock

Hybrid watches

Withings smartwatch range

Withings are among the most attractive hybrid smartwatchesWithings

Generally speaking, the hybrid watch is one which has a traditional face with physical dials, but also includes a Bluetooth connection, accelerometers to track exercise, and a companion smartphone app. Some hybrid watches also have a vibration motor to deliver notifications or silent alarms to your wrist, and most look like regular timepieces.

Although you can’t write an email or hail an Uber with a hybrid smartwatch, you can wear them for weeks or even months at a time before they need charging or a new battery.

The step-counting tech of a hybrid watch is rarely more accurate or more detailed than what your smartphone can manage. But not everyone carries a phone in their pocket all day, and it’s often more convenient to glance at your wrist instead of grabbing your phone and opening the step-counting app to check your progress. Withings Steel HR Sport Hybrid Smartwatch (40mm) – Activity, Sleep, Fitness and Heart Rate Tracker with Connected GPS, Smart Notifications, Water Resistant with 25-Day Battery LifeList Price: $179.99New From: $179.99 in StockUsed From: $109.08 in Stock

Hybrid watches are popular among fashion houses, especially the many brands owned and managed by the Fossil group. As with smartwatches, hybrid watches are made by Misfit, Skagen, Michael Kors, Fossil itself, and many others.

Technology companies have mostly steered clear of the hybrid market, apart from Withings. The French company, which was briefly owned by Nokia before buying itself back in 2018, sells a wide range of great-looking hybrids with classy designs, leather straps and affordable prices.

The company also offers a hybrid with ECG functionality, called the Move ECG. But this is awaiting approval from the FDA, so is yet to go on sale in the US. The company’s latest, called the ScanWatch, is a feature-packed hybrid watch and boasts an attractive stainless steel case – but it too is waiting FDA approval for its ECG function. Withings says it hopes to gain this validation soon. The ScanWatch was due to go on sale in the US before the end of 2020, but as of January 2021 it still isn’t available. All of Withings’ watches can be bought in the UK and Europe.

Swiss smartwatches

Tag Heuer Connected 2020

Tag Heuer has regularly updated and improved the ConnectedTag Heuer

Not to be left on the sidelines, the Swiss watch industry is paying (at least some) attention to the rise of the smartwatch. Tag Heuer was an early mover, partnering with Intel and Google to release the Connected in 2015.

This is a true smartwatch, in that it has a touch screen and runs Wear OS. The latest model, launched in 2020, includes a heart rate monitor for the first time, along with GPS for accurate run tracking and NFC for Google Pay.

Priced from $1,800 to $2,350, the current model is available in a single case size of 45mm and although chunky (around 10mm thick), its design matches the sporty look of Tag’s regular wrist wear.

Read More:

 Tag Heuer Connected Chronograph Touchscreen Dial Men’s Watch SBG8A10.BT6219List Price: $2,114.87New From: $2,114.87 in Stock

The latest Connected, released in 2020, offers more color and material options than ever, including a limited-edition version aimed specifically at golfers. This commitment makes us think Tag Heuer is in the smartwatch game for the long haul, and we hope to see more versions of the Connected in the years to come.

Montblanc also jumped aboard the smartwatch bandwagon with the Summit, which runs Wear OS. Now in its third generation, the Summit 2+ is a thousand-dollar Swiss smartwatch with a stainless steel case, leather strap, heart rate monitor, integrated GPS, 8GB of storage, and a 1.3-inch display housed in a 43.5mm case.

The latest Swiss smartwatch is the Hublot Big Bang E, which also runs Google’s Wear OS and features a 42mm black ceramic case with a rubber strap. It is priced at $5,800.

Finally, there are the Swiss watchmakers who blend modern technology with their centuries-old craft. For example, Frederique Constant has a collection of four hybrid smartwatches falling into the circa-$1,000 sector. The collection includes quartz-driven mens and ladies watches, which connect to the company’s own smartphone app over Bluetooth to track your activity and sleep.

The best smartwatches of 2021

Shopping for a smartwatch might seem easy at first, but it can quickly become daunting. If you’re an iPhone user, you clearly think of the Apple Watch first — but it’s 2021 and there are three models to pick from: Series 3, SE and Series 6. Or maybe Fitbit’s Sense or Versa that mixes heavy health features with some communication convenience catches your eye. And if you’re on Android, is Samsung’s Galaxy Watch line your only option, or is Wear OS worth a look?

Well, we’ve done the legwork by continually testing smartwatches day by day, week by week and month by month this year. As each new model hits the market, we strap it to our wrist and put it through the wringer. Of course, that means this guide is ever evolving, evidenced by a new winner (the Apple Watch 6 has now edged out its predecessor). After copious testing, here are the best smartwatches out now:

After reading this post why not checkout the Smartwatches this Website has to offer

Smartwatches

The Apple Watch Series 6 isn’t just the best smartwatch for the iPhone; it’s the best smartwatch period. It offers the ability to take calls, quickly respond to messages and have plenty of apps on your wrist. Apple opted to keep the now classic design, and it comes in new finishes. The S6 processor inside is the fastest in any smartwatch. And then there are the health features: The watch not only tracks countless activities but can also take an electrocardiogram (ECG), measure heart rate, track blood oxygen levels and detect if you’ve fallen. At $384.99, it’s not the cheapest, but it’s more than worth it.

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 is starting to follow the lines of the Apple Watch by offering some features that require a Galaxy smartphone. Even so, it still integrates with nearly all Android devices, and it offers native support for tasks like messaging and triaging your inbox. The Watch 3 also features a rotating circular bezel that’s used for navigation of the interface. Health features are on board here as well: ECG, heart rate, activity tracking and SpO2 stand out.

Our value pick this time around is the $279 midrange Apple Watch SE. For $80 more than the Series 3, you get the modern Apple Watch design with a larger screen and better hardware inside. It’s powered by the S5 processor, which premiered for $399 in the Series 5, so it runs watchOS 7 like a champ. It’s lacking the always-on display and core health features like ECG and blood oxygen readings, but at the end of the day, it’s a great entry point to the smartwatch world.

Best overall smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 6 (starting at $384.99; amazon.com)

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

Earlier this year, our top overall pick for the best smartwatch was the Series 5. Perhaps not so surprisingly, the Apple Watch Series 6 now takes that honor. It keeps the same base price of $399 (though you can currently find some models available for $384.99 on Amazon) and nearly all of the features, plus adds in a few more — namely the ability to monitor blood oxygen levels from your wrist, an always-on altimeter for tracking elevation and a brighter display.

Let’s be clear, though. As we said in our full review of Series 6, if you don’t see the need for the new health features, you can stick with your Series 5. The Series 6 got a few smaller features that can make a big impact rather than a wild new feature or design change.

The other key point is that Apple Watches work only with iPhones. You’ll set them up via the Watch app, which comes preinstalled on an iOS device and handles setup, settings and more. It offers incredibly deep integration and one of the best experiences found on any wrist. Your messages, calls, apps, contacts, favorite photos and more are all accessible.

Apple’s watchOS 7 powers the experience on Series 6, and the upgraded S6 processor delivers subtle speed improvements and more efficiency. With the latter, simple user interface elements, like opening an app or starting a fitness activity, just happen faster. It just feels a bit more refined. And alongside fitness, well-being and health have become staples of the Apple Watch ecosystem. As much as the watch is a tool for communication, these other features start to tip the scale.

You can track a plethora of workouts like cycling, dance, meditation, running, hiking, elliptical and even boxing. In some cases, the Apple Watch can auto-recognize your workout and start tracking results. Directly from your wrist, in real time, are the calories burned, length of workout and heart rate. The watch tracks this data and syncs with your connected iPhone to safely store the data.

The Apple Watch can also alert you of an increased heart rate, along with the ability to take an ECG, using both an optical and electrical heart rate sensor built into the backside of the watch and the Digital Crown. The Series 6 can still monitor noise levels for hearing health, detecting falls and tracking your sleep.

That sensor on the back has some extra LEDs and photodiodes this year to enable blood oxygen monitoring. We stress-tested this against pulse oximetry, or pulse ox, readers, essentially the small devices that clip onto your fingers and test blood oxygen or SpO2 in the same fashion. In total, we tested more than 20 times a day over a two-week period and found the Series 6 to be in line by about a digit compared to the pulse ox readers. (As with all these health features, the Apple Watch is not a doctor and is not meant to replace one.)

And the Series 6, as of this publishing, is the only available Apple Watch with the always-on display. In a workout, when you can’t always raise or tap to wake, it’s great to see your core stats. The always-on display truly makes it feel like a real timepiece.

The Apple Watch Series 6 delivers an impressive amount of features and elegant design, in a complete albeit pricey package. If you’re focused on health and want that always-on display along with everything the Apple Watch can do, the Series 6 is the ultimate choice. We just wish it worked with Android.

Best Android smartwatch: Galaxy Watch 3 (starting at $399.99; samsung.com)

Samsung Galaxy Watch 3

PHOTO: Jason Cipriani/CNNSamsung Galaxy Watch 3

Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 3 replaces the Galaxy Watch Active 2 as our best Android watch, thanks to its refined design, physical rotating bezel and increased display size.

Samsung announced the Watch 3 in August, with several health-focused features and a larger screen as the main highlights. The Watch 3 can track your stress level, measure your blood oxygen level and, thanks to a recent update, perform an ECG to monitor for heartbeat abnormalities.

Granted, Samsung surprised everyone and released a software update for the Galaxy Watch Active 2 that added Sp02 and ECG capabilities. Adding key health features to a watch that launched several months ago without even a hint of it having that capability demonstrates Samsung’s commitment to improving products over time.

But there’s a catch. In order to use the ECG app, you have to use either watch with one of Samsung’s Galaxy phones. Hopefully Samsung changes its mind and opens up this feature to all Galaxy Watch 3 and Active 2 users in the future.

Even though the Active 2 and Watch 3 share the same core features, what really won us over is the Watch 3’s overall design. There’s a true rotating bezel on the Watch 3 that has a pleasant click and tactile feedback as you rotate it to scroll through an incoming message or to navigate through your installed apps.

We had no issues looking at the 1.4-inch display on the 45mm model in direct sunlight, and it was always quick to respond to taps and swipes.

The included leather band and the more sophisticated design make it a watch you feel comfortable wearing to work or the gym.

Battery life will net you about two days of use when you’re not using the always-on display mode, which does exactly what it sounds like, although in a low-power state to conserve battery. However, with AOD on, you’re looking at charging the Watch 3 every day.

Even if you don’t have a Galaxy phone, it’s hard to find a smartwatch that supports Android devices as well as the Galaxy Watch 3, and it does so in style. The Watch Active 2 is still a fantastic choice for someone who wants to save some cash or prefers the fitness-focused design, but for everyone else, the Watch 3 is the best Android smartwatch you can find right now.

Best budget smartwatch: Apple Watch SE (starting at $279; amazon.com)

PHOTO: Jacob Krol/CNN

Starting at $279 and offering many of the standout features of the Series 6, the Apple Watch SE retains the modern Apple Watch design with a larger display compared to the Series 3 and the S5 processor that debuted in the Series 5.

The Apple Watch SE also boasts the Apple-made S5 processor — the same one inside the Series 5. Put simply: That means that the SE delivers big value.

Our favorite new feature is real-time translations via Apple’s virtual assistant. It’s quite handy to get a quick translation right from your wrist and without opening a dedicated app. Most impressively, it shows how capable the S5 chip inside really is.

Apple Pay works just as well — and as quickly — as with the Series 5 and Series 6. And, thanks to watchOS 7, the Apple Watch SE can track hand-washing just the same as the Watch 6. The microphones specifically listen for water from a faucet, hand motions and even the sound of soap being pumped from a bottle. And when it detects you’re washing your hands, you’ll see a countdown appear on your wrist. Once the 20 seconds is up, you’ll feel a vibration and hear a short jingle. You can also choose to receive a reminder once you’re back home to wash your hands. This taps into the GPS built inside and some improvements to Apple Maps.

Sleep tracking is on board as well and allows you to set a goal for the number of hours you want to sleep and tracks whether or not you’re hitting that goal. You won’t find data about different cycles like you might on a Fitbit, but it’s the same sleep tracking experience as on the Series 6 or any other Apple Watch that supports the feature. It just won’t track your blood oxygen periodically overnight.

The fitness aspects on the SE are essentially the same experience you’ve had on every other Apple Watch with move and exercise goals you can track. You can also use the Workout app to pick from a plethora of exercises — indoor or outdoor cycling, functional strength training, barre, dance, running, jogging, surfing and countless others — that the Apple Watch SE will accurately track through an array of sensors. We didn’t notice any slowdowns or tracking differences between the SE and Series 6. Both were able to get an accurate number when it came to calories burned, minutes exercised and heart rate tracked throughout.

The Watch SE features heart rate tracking, noise level monitoring, fitness tracking and fall detection. What’s sacrificed here, compared to the Watch 6, is a faster processor, quick charging capability, a brighter display, ECG readings, blood oxygen monitoring and the always-on display.

We missed the always-on display the most. It just makes the Apple Watch feel more like an actual wristwatch. Secondly, the health features like blood oxygen and ECGs (as well as a more advanced heart rate sensor) might make you opt for Series 6.

The Apple Watch SE delivers a tremendous amount of value with minimal compromises — as any Apple SE product should. If you can look past no electrical heart rate sensor, blood oxygen monitoring and an always-on display, it’s the clear choice when looking for the most value.

How we tested

As Underscored does with any product we test, we went deep on these watches. In many cases, it’s using them as any consumer would, wearing them daily, using them for workouts, maxing out the battery and, of course, seeing how they hold up to normal wear and tear.

Any wearable, including a smartwatch, is a very personal product, and your preference can be heavily dependent on your phone of choice. That’s why we tested every watch with an iPhone SE, an iPhone 11, an iPhone 11 Pro, an iPhone 11 Pro Max, a Galaxy S20 and a Pixel 4 XL (except, of course, the Apple Watch Series 6, Series 3 and SE, which only work with an iPhone).

We carefully went through the setup process, noting any necessary apps and extra steps each watch required. (For instance, how easy was it to set up notifications, one of the key features of a smartwatch?) We also considered third-party app and watch face availability, along with the ability to customize the overall look of the watch face.

We asked ourselves how easy it was to complete routine tasks, like viewing a weather forecast, checking daily agenda or sending a message. With everything set up, we wore each watch for several days, monitoring battery life with normal usage with the occasional workout mixed in, and continued to note how easy each watch was to use and any signs of wear and tear.

We paid close attention to activity tracking and health features. With the latter, we established a baseline with consumer-facing devices that are designed to just track those metrics (i.e., SpO2 or heart rate).

Once we had a good enough understanding of a watch, we rated it.

How we rated

We scored each watch across several categories: battery life, operating system, design, durability, hardware, ease of use, fitness tracking and warranty. You can see the category breakdown below.

We chose not to include the price in the overall score and instead took a step back and tried to objectively look at all the devices on the same playing field. With the scores added up (and some healthy back and forth), we layered in price consideration, then made picks.

  • Design had a maximum of 20 points.
  • Operating system had a maximum of 20 points.
  • Battery life had a maximum of 20 points.
  • Durability had a maximum of 20 points.
  • Fitness and health tracking had a maximum of 20 points.
  • Hardware had a maximum of 10 points.
  • Ease of use had a maximum of 5 points.
  • Warranty had a maximum of 5 points.

Other smartwatches we tested

Apple Watch Series 3 ($169, originally $199; amazon.com)

The Apple Watch Series 3 currently starts at $169 on Amazon and offers almost everything the Series 6 and SE do. But then we considered that the hardware that makes up this watch is now three years old, and as watchOS continues to grow and progress, the Series 3 will begin to slow down as Apple adds more features to watchOS or, even worse, support for future updates and features will eventually leave the Series 3 behind. That doesn’t mean that the features it has now will go away — and it’s a fine watch with these features — but to future-proof your investment, the Series 6 or Watch SE are better choices.

Fitbit Sense ($329.95; amazon.com)

Fitbit’s latest watch has more health-related sensors and features than any watch we’ve ever tested. It can measure how stressed you are, track blood oxygen levels and monitor your skin’s temperature while you sleep, and a future update will enable ECG readings to check for irregular heartbeats. Of course, it does all of the staple fitness tracker stuff that Fitbit helped pioneer, like counting steps, active minutes, workouts and sleep. But after testing it, the Sense feels more like a medical device than a smartwatch. You have to use a specific watch face at night in order to track your Sp02, for example. There’s a ton of potential with Sense, but the overall experience needs to be refined. And then you need to know what to do with all of that data. If you want a watch that can give you more health info than almost any other smartwatch available right now, then Sense, well, might make sense for you.

Fitbit Versa 2 ($178.95; amazon.com)

The $178.95 Fitbit Versa 2 is a very good but very basic smartwatch. Its primary focus, and what it does best, is tracking activities and sleep — but after that, it falls short of what the Apple Watch Series 3 or Galaxy Active 2 can do.

Fossil Sport ($99, originally $275; fossil.com)

The $99 Fossil Sport is powered by Google’s Wear OS platform, and that’s unfortunate. Despite its $99 price tag, the Fossil Sport came up short nearly across the board, with a lackluster design, poor battery life and, most importantly, its operating system. Wear OS is in desperate need of a new approach. It’s slow, confusing to navigate and makes routine tasks feel more complicated than they should be.

Garmin Instinct Solar ($399.99; garmin.com)

The Garmin Instinct Solar has the unique feature of being able to recharge itself using solar power. That’s right — the watch face is a miniature solar panel that sips on sunrays to slowly replenish the battery. As such, Garmin estimates 24-day battery life off a single charge, as long as you’re outside for three hours a day in direct sunlight. In our testing, 12 days of use between charges was the norm. (We clearly need to get out more.) Tracking workouts, hikes and walks via the watch and dedicated GPS was simple once we got the hang of the watch’s interface. Where the Instinct Solar fell short was with its smartwatch capabilities. You can’t limit which apps send alerts to your watch — it’s all or nothing. If you spend a lot of time outdoors and you want a watch that’s built and designed for an active lifestyle without the often unnecessary smartwatch features like granular alerts, then the Instinct Solar makes a compelling offering.

Garmin Venu ($349.99; garmin.com)

The $349.99 Garmin Venu is well designed, but its battery life is subpar, and we found the operating system to have a steep learning curve. Interacting with notifications was a confusing experience that we never truly got the hang of. This is clearly a watch designed by runners for runners, based on its durable design and health stats like pulse ox or energy monitoring built right in. If that sounds like what you want, you’ll be happy with the Venu.

Skagen Falster 3 ($295; skagen.com)

The $295 Skagen Falster 3 is also powered by Google’s Wear OS platform, but it surpassed our overall expectations. There’s not a lot Skagen can do about the shortfalls of Wear OS as a whole, suffering from some of the same issues as the Fossil Sport — it’s confusing to navigate and offers only mediocre battery life — but it’s a good-looking watch, with performance that was able to keep pace with whatever we threw at it. Tasks like messaging, taking calls, tracking steps and playing music didn’t result in any slowdowns. Perhaps the biggest downside to the Falster 3 is its price tag. At nearly $300 for a Wear OS watch, you have to really love Google’s ecosystem to spend that kind of cash.

Windows Surface vs. Apple iPad

The 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro is a few hundred dollars more expensive than the iPad Air, but it’s worth the investment if you want an iPad with a bigger screen. The additional space is especially useful for multitasking, or if the iPad is your primary drawing tool and you need the biggest canvas you can get. Compared with the iPad Air, the iPad Pro has a smoother-looking screen that refreshes 120 times per second instead of the usual 60, and it has a nicer rear-facing camera and a somewhat faster processor, too. But as with other iPads, its support for external monitors is limited, and Apple’s first-party keyboard options are expensive.

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If you want a nice, light Windows tablet to browse or draw on for short stretches but you also want a laptop with a full workday’s worth of battery life and enough processor and graphics power to run 3D drafting apps or play PC games, the Microsoft Surface Book 3 (13.5-inch) is your best choice. It costs a lot of money: Typically our recommended configuration is $2,000, an amount that buys you a Core i7 processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 graphics processor, 16 GB of memory, and 256 GB of storage. But it also has a stable, laptop-style base with a great keyboard and trackpad plus a useful array of ports, and the display doubles as a tablet that’s remarkably light for its size when undocked. The Surface Book’s two batteries—one in the tablet itself and one in the base—mean it has excellent battery life, as well.

The standard Apple iPad (8th generation) can do virtually anything the iPad Air or iPad Pro can do—it runs the same library of tablet-friendly apps, multitasking works the same way, and it has a Smart Connector for you to attach an external keyboard. But compared with the Air and Pro models, the standard iPad’s screen isn’t as large, it has a Lightning port instead of the more useful and versatile USB-C, and it still uses the first-generation Apple Pencil, which isn’t as nice to hold as the second-generation Pencil and is more awkward to pair and charge. But for $200 less than the cheapest iPad Air, there’s no better value if you want to get work done on a tablet (as long as you can work around iPadOS’s limitations).

MacBook VS Windows Computers

There’s never been a better time to buy a laptop. Today’s top notebooks are more powerful and portable than ever, and you no longer have to pay a fortune for a dependable workhorse.

Most laptop shoppers, though, will have to make an important decision before hitting “buy”: Do you go for one of Apple’s premium MacBooks or delve into the vast amount of Windows 10 laptops out there? We’re here to help you make that choice.

There are a ton of key factors to consider when deciding between a MacBook or Windows notebook, from the software experience to the range of machines available in each ecosystem. Here’s what you need to know before buying your next laptop.

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It’s all about the software

The biggest difference between Windows and Apple laptops comes down to the software and user experience. And while Windows 10 and macOS both have their pros and cons, your choice between the two may largely come down to personal preference as well as how each platform syncs up to your other devices.

If you’re a big Apple fan, macOS may be more your style. MacBooks can sync up easily to your iPhone and iPad, allowing you to access things such as calendars, contacts, notes and even text messages across devices. Thanks to macOS’ Handoff feature, you can start a task on your iPhone, iPad and even Apple Watch and finish it on your Mac.

Its latest major software update, macOS Big Sur, makes the Mac experience more iOS-like than ever. You’ll see familiar app icons and widgets for things such as Messages and Mail, and can quickly adjust things like brightness and music playback via a handy Control Center that mimics what you get on an iPhone. If you’re an iOS fan who likes the streamlined software experience that Apple delivers, the Mac has that same “it just works” simplicity to it.

Meanwhile, Windows 10 is the most popular operating system out there and can be found on everything from budget entry-level notebooks to high-end gaming rigs from a variety of manufacturers. If you’ve used any version of Windows over the years, you’ll find plenty of familiar features, including a Start menu for quickly accessing apps and a bevy of built-in Microsoft programs such as Outlook and the snappy new Edge browser.

Windows 10 is arguably the more flexible of the two operating systems and comes optimized for touch on supported touch-screen laptops and convertible 2-in-1 devices (Apple currently doesn’t offer a touch-enabled MacBook, if that’s something important to you). And while the Mac has Handoff for iPhone users, Windows 10 has a handy Your Phone app that lets you access your Android apps and messages right from your laptop. Your Phone also works with iOS devices, but its functionality is largely limited to sending web pages from your phone to PC.

Think about the apps you need

Perhaps even more important than the user experience is what apps you actually plan on using. Both Windows and macOS have access to most major web browsers, productivity suites and creative applications, so either will likely get the job done for everyday web surfing, email and basic office work. But for those who need something more niche, the differences matter.

Macs are popular among music producers, thanks to Apple’s high-end Logic Pro software as well as the intuitive GarageBand app you get out of the box for free. Photo and video editors might be drawn to MacBooks as well, thanks to popular Apple-only apps like Final Cut Pro and Pixelmator.

If gaming is your priority, however, Windows wins by a landslide here. Assuming you pick a powerful enough system, Windows 10 laptops have access to thousands of top PC games across various marketplaces, including big blockbusters like The Witcher 3Control and Doom Eternal. MacBooks can play some essential favorites like Minecraft and Cuphead as well as the 100-plus titles on Apple Arcade, but those looking to do serious gaming should spring for a capable Windows laptop.

Consider your budget (and how much power you need)

PHOTO: iStock

Price will likely be one of your main concerns when buying a new laptop, and MacBooks and Windows notebooks can differ wildly in terms of the types of systems you can get at different price points.

Apple’s current MacBook lineup is simple and streamlined, but the company’s laptops aren’t the cheapest. The most affordable notebook in Apple’s roster is the $999 MacBook Air, which delivers the best performance you can find in this price range, thanks to its stellar new M1 processor.

Stepping up to the MacBook Pro line will get you added graphics muscle (ideal for intensive tasks like photo and video editing), but you’ll pay a premium starting at $1,299 for the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Those who want a bigger screen can spring for the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which starts at $2,399 and can go up to a whopping $6,699 depending on how much extra memory, storage and graphics power you want to configure it with. However, we recommend waiting for Apple to upgrade the 16-inch MacBook Pro with its new M1 chip before you buy one.

Windows laptops, on the other hand, run the gamut from a few hundred bucks to thousands of dollars. If you just need something for basic web surfing, email and word processing, affordable machines such as the $199 HP Stream or $499 Acer Aspire 5 will more than get the job done. Those who need to do heavier multitasking without spending a fortune can check out the $999 Dell XPS 13 and $949 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, two of our picks for the best laptops you can buy overall. There are also convertible 2-in-1 machines such as the $399 Microsoft Surface Go 2 and $649 HP Envy x360 13, which can double as tablets, thanks to detachable keyboards or folding designs.

Top gaming laptops run the gamut from the attainable $1,099 Asus ROG Zephryus G14 to the fully loaded $3,625 Alienware Area-51m, which packs a powerful Intel Core i9 processor and beastly Nvidia RTX 2080 graphics for tearing through the hottest PC games at optimal settings. And if it’s a mobile workstation you need, models such as the $1,989 HP Zbook Studio pack in desktop-grade specs for getting video editing and design work done on the go.

To wrap things up, Apple’s laptop selection is less daunting, with three main models that lean toward the premium side of things. But you can’t beat the sheer variety and versatility of Windows laptops out there, whether you need a $200 notebook for web surfing or a $2,000 powerhouse for playing the latest blockbuster games.

Bottom line

PHOTO: CNN

Picking between a MacBook and Windows laptop comes down to three key factors: your budget, your performance needs and, perhaps most critically, the types of apps and software experiences you want access to.

MacBooks are a no-brainer for those already in the Apple ecosystem, with seamless interactivity with your iPhone and iPad. From the new M1-powered MacBook Air to the high-end 16-inch MacBook Pro, Apple’s powerful laptops are especially ideal for creative tasks such as photo and video editing.

But if you need something more affordable — or more niche — a Windows laptop might be for you. Windows notebooks start at much cheaper prices than MacBooks, and power users and serious gamers have plenty of great options on the premium side of things.

There’s no wrong option; whether you swear allegiance to Apple or decide to wade into the world of Windows, you’ll have your pick of some of the absolute best laptops on the market right now.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers’ listed price at the time of publication.

iPhone VS Android

Apple iPhone XS Max

If you have invested in Apple’s ecosystem. This might seem like a shallow reason, but Apple obviously makes a wide breadth of tech products, and if you already own a Mac, iPad or Apple Watch, getting an iPhone makes a lot of sense.

Apple has designed a multitude of continuity features that allow you to carry over work and data from one of its devices to another, and these features can certainly save you time. Take Handoff, for example, where calls on your iPhone and web pages in Safari can move seamlessly between iOS and macOS. Universal Clipboard makes text copied on one platform usable on the other. Another one of our favorites is Continuity Camera, which allows you to take pictures and scan documents using your iPhone’s camera, and then view and edit them on your Mac. You can even complete purchases on your Mac by using biometric authentication features on your iPhone via Apple Pay.

Only a handful of Android phone makers have hardware ecosystems that approach Apple’s, and even for some that come close, like Samsung, you won’t get the depth of integration possible between the iPhone and other Apple-built devices. Microsoft is helping Google close the gap somewhat with its new Your Phone app for Windows, which allows Android users to respond to texts and notifications on their PCs, though the experience is a little clunky and there is still work to be done.

There are many other great examples of continuity across iOS, iPadOS, watchOS and macOS — and the iPhone is a critical component in that puzzle, especially now that iPhone apps can be seamlessly ported to macOS. Power users already immersed in Apple’s ecosystem can stand to gain a lot by adding an iPhone to their repertoire. And that’s to say nothing of friends and family members who prefer to use iMessage and FaceTime to keep in touch.

Additionally, Apple has added yet another opportunity for lock-in with the new iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro: MagSafe accessories. These magnet-based chargers, cases and products will work only with the latest iPhones, so if you invest in the platform, it’s going to cause some friction should you try to leave. 

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The third-party apps are just better. This one is definitely down to personal preference, but as someone who has jumped back and forth between IOS and Android  as long as both platforms have existed, I’ve been consistently blown away by the quality of apps built by iOS developers, and mostly disappointed in their Android counterparts.

Don’t get me wrong — there’s great software and developers on Android, but they’re harder to find, in my experience. My favorite Twitter app, Tweetbot 5, is an iOS exclusive, for example; by contrast, the best third-party Twitter app I’ve encountered on Android, Fenix 2, strongly pales in comparison. My colleague Henry T. Casey and I love using Bear to compose blog posts on our Macs and iPhones, but we’ve struggled to find a note-taking app on Android as comprehensive and slick. 

You may even find that apps from established companies, ranging from banks to airlines, are a bit smoother and cleaner on iOS than Android, with better integration with the phone’s core services, like Wallet. (Google Pay is only now starting to catch on with many airlines.) And don’t even get me started on how slow and buggy Snapchat is on Android.

There’s a bigger selection of accessories. Walk into any Best Buy or Target, and you’ll find aisles of cases for every iPhone that Apple makes — something that certainly cannot be said for the Android contingent outside of flagship devices from the biggest companies. Once you get past the semi-healthy selection of products made for the latest Galaxy S device, you’re out of luck. Don’t bother expecting a choice of accessories for your new Pixel or LG handset at any brick-and-mortar retailer. Sure, you could go online and snag a $4 case off of Amazon, but then you’re guaranteed to get what you pay for.

The selection and availability of iPhone cases, screen protectors, car mounts and other goodies is simply far greater than you’ll find for any other phone, and that’s more important than most people realize. Recently, I used a Pixel 3 and then Pixel 4 as my daily driver. As someone who likes to regularly switch up my phone’s case to keep it feeling fresh, I’ve been extremely disappointed with the lack of options for Google’s handsets. iPhone owners will never have that problem.

There’s no bloatware. No matter how you buy your iPhone, where you buy it from or what iPhone you buy, you won’t see any bloatware preinstalled when you boot it up for the first time. That means it’s clean from the very start, with no power- or data-siphoning apps you didn’t ask for sabotaging things behind the scenes.

That’s a relief if you’ve ever seen the way a new Android phone arrives out of the box — particularly one that you’ve bought through a carrier. Even spending $2,000 on a Galaxy Z Fold 2 doesn’t spare AT&T customers from the affront of seeing software like CNN and DirecTV Now cluttering their app drawers. And it can be even worse if you buy a budget handset that has been heavily subsidized by a discount carrier. 

Android buyers who purchase one of the best unlocked phones without a service agreement will have better luck avoiding bloatware. It also depends on the company. For example, unlocked Pixel phones aren’t mired down by any third-party apps; on the other hand, it’s not totally unheard of for some unlocked handsets to come with the odd unwelcome sponsored software.

You get quicker software updates. Android phones get fewer updates than iPhones, and when they do, they happen less frequently and are often delayed.

The number of updates an Android phone sees over the course of its lifetime depends largely on how expensive it is, what carrier you buy it from (or if it’s even purchased from a carrier at all) and what the phone maker’s software support policy is.

That’s a far cry from iPhones, which are supported with major software updates for many years, no matter what. Take the iPhone 6S, for example, which received iOS 14, even though it originally launched with iOS 9 back in 2015. For comparison, consider Samsung’s Galaxy S6, which launched the same year and started with Android 5.0 Lollipop. Not only does it lack the latest Android software, but it stopped getting updates years ago. It only made it as far as 7.0 Nougat when Samsung pulled the plug on support — and when the S6 did get Nougat, it arrived in March 2017, eight months after Google unveiled the update.

What’s more, when a new iOS version is released, it is available to everyone on the same day, at the same time, and can be installed on all models that support it instantaneously. By contrast, Android releases are rolled out in waves to individual phones, not just by model. 

It has better retail support. Let’s say something goes horribly wrong with your iPhone, and you need to get it serviced. Or perhaps you want a screen protector installed on it, and you’d rather have it handled by a professional, who will slap that film on with nary a bubble or speck of dust. Whatever your issue is, it’s nice to have a place to go — and what better place for iPhone users than the Apple Store. Yes, Covid restrictions can make this difficult, but at least you have the option.

Owners of Android phones don’t enjoy that luxury. If you need a new battery or a screen replacement and you didn’t purchase a protection plan from the retailer you bought it from, you’ll probably have to ship it back to the manufacturer. That’s quite a time-consuming hassle, given how much we all depend on our phones day in and day out.

iPhone vs Android: Why Android is better

There are phones at every price. The vast majority of the world’s smartphones run Android, and because so many companies build Android handsets, they’re available at every price range. There are cheap phones under the three-digit mark like the new Pixel 4a, as well as some of the best small phones and best big phones, and phablets and foldables far exceeding $1,000. No matter how much you can spend, chances are you can find an Android device that fits your budget or offers exclusive features.

The same cannot be said for iPhones, which historically have been expensive at launch, only to come down in price after successive generations. One of the most affordable new Apple handsets is the iPhone 12 mini for $699, but that comes with a small 5.4-inch display. The Galaxy S20 FE has the same price but comes with a bigger and smoother 120Hz 6.5-inch screen, a telephoto lens and a much larger battery.

The least-expensive iPhone that Apple offers is the iPhone SE, which is a fantastic device with phenomenal performance for just $400, though its design is dated, and its screen will be too small for some.

It’s more customizable. Though both iOS and Android have evolved over the years, Android has always had a reputation for being the platform for users who like to tinker and personalize their devices. That starts with the home screen launcher, which offers dynamic widgets and the ability to place apps anywhere on a page or in a drawer, out of sight — something the iPhone is only catching up to now with iOS 14. You can even swap out your Android phone’s launcher with an alternative downloaded from the Google Play store.

Android also lets you download third-party replacements for core services — like web browsers, keyboards and media players — and set them as the default versions if you prefer a third-party app to one that was preinstalled on your phone. iOS has improved in this regard over the years, though the implementation is still somewhat clnky.

Finally, we have to talk about manufacturer skins — bespoke user interfaces and Android system software that are customized by certain phone makers, offering extra features and, often, the ability to create themes for your experience from top to bottom. Some Android fans prefer Google’s “stock” interpretation of Android. However, but lots of users like phone makers’ custom software, like Samsung’s OneUI or OnePlus’ OxygenOS, because of their extra capabilities, such as the ability to take scrolling screenshots and hide photos and videos in password-protected folders.

You can (sometimes) expand the storage. Although expandable storage is somewhat less popular these days, many Android phones still offer it. This allows you to use a microSD card to keep photos, apps and other media that won’t fit on your device’s internal memory.

That’s an amazing benefit, given the exorbitant prices that Apple and other phone makers charge to double or quadruple storage when you buy your handset. Why tack on another $100 to $150 to the price of a new

Android also lets you download third-party replacements for core services — like web browsers, keyboards and media players — and set them as the default versions if you prefer a third-party app to one that was preinstalled on your phone. iOS has improved in this regard over the years, though the implementation is still somewhat clnky.

Finally, we have to talk about manufacturer skins — bespoke user interfaces and Android system software that are customized by certain phone makers, offering extra features and, often, the ability to create themes for your experience from top to bottom. Some Android fans prefer Google’s “stock” interpretation of Android. However, but lots of users like phone makers’ custom software, like Samsung’s OneUI or OnePlus’ OxygenOS, because of their extra capabilities, such as the ability to take scrolling screenshots and hide photos and videos in password-protected folders.

You can (sometimes) expand the storage. Although expandable storage is somewhat less popular these days, many Android phones still offer it. This allows you to use a microSD card to keep photos, apps and other media that won’t fit on your device’s internal memory.

That’s an amazing benefit, given the exorbitant prices that Apple and other phone makers charge to double or quadruple storage when you buy your handset. Why tack on another $100 to $150 to the price of a new

phone just for an extra 128GB or 256GB of storage (that you’re not even sure you’ll need) when you can just drop $70 on a 512GB card later?

Additionally, while it’s certainly becoming more of a rarity on high-end phones these days, many Android devices still come with headphone jacks — a hotly requested feature Apple retired from its phones in 2016. That’s a big deal to people who still love to use their trusty old wired headphones.

USB-C is universal. Android phones largely rely on USB-C ports for charging and data transfer these days, which is super convenient if you’re one of those people who really likes to pack light and carry only one cable. USB-C is also on many PCs these days, as well as on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a beautiful thing.

Whereas Apple’s Lightning cable is a relic of the days when every tech company felt compelled to develop its own proprietary connector, USB-C represents the ideal single-port solution the industry is working toward. It also opens doors to faster charging technologies.

The OnePlus 8T, for example, can charge from zero to 55 percent battery capacity in a mere 15 minutes. Wait for 30 minutes and you’ll have a battery that’s 93 percent full.  Compare that to the iPhone 12, which continues to stick with Lightning. And Apple no longer even includes a charger in the box.

There’s an actual file system (with drag-and-drop support on PC). Most people don’t need to get their hands dirty with their smartphone’s file system. Still, it’s good to know that Android gives you that option, if you desire it. Even better, when you plug an Android handset into a Windows PC, you can very easily drag and drop files into folders, as if the device were just another drive.

That means your media libraries and documents are a snap to carry over and store locally, and you don’t have to subscribe to a monthly cloud service if you have an especially large library. iPhones obscure the file system from the user for everything except photos, which can be very frustrating for dealing with music, documents and other forms of media.

Some Android phones, like the Galaxy Note 20, even have special PC or display projection features, that let you use view and use your device in a desktop capacity. Samsung’s DeX interface is one such example of this. With such versatility, a high-end Android phone could legitimately function as a replacement for one of the best Chromebooks or similarly ultraportable laptops.

Innovative features usually land on Android phones first. Sure, Apple’s coffers are pretty stacked. However, it is just one company, with one philosophy. As a result, iOS can be slow — or at least slower than the Android community — to adapt to emerging technologies.

With so many companies building Android phones, it’s little surprise that Android partners tend to beat Apple to the market with innovations in the mobile space. Wireless charging, fast charging, NFC, 4G LTE, 5G, OLED displays, in-screen fingerprint sensors, water resistance and multilens cameras all landed on Android devices before iPhones, as well as software breakthroughs like true multitasking, copy and paste and multiwindow support.

Of course, this isn’t to say Apple hasn’t delivered breakthroughs of its own. The iPhone X wasn’t the first phone with face recognition, but it was the first with one that worked reliably and securely. However, far more Android phones are released from a variety of vendors every year, so it’s just a matter of scale that hardware running Google’s platform is swifter to adapt.

Which should you choose?

So then, iPhone or Android: Which should you choose? Both platforms have pros and cons, and, as with many purchase decisions, your choice will depend on what you value most.

Owning an iPhone is a simpler, more convenient experience. There’s less to think about, and because Apple’s iPhone represents the single most popular brand of smartphone, there’s an abundance of support everywhere you go whether you need your battery replaced or you’re just trying to pick up a new case. 

Android-device ownership is a bit harder in those respects. Yet it’s simultaneously more freeing, because it offers more choice — choice of how much you want to spend, choice of hardware and software features, and choice in how you organize and personalize your experience. If you’re extremely particular about the technology you use, you might find Android more liberating — dare I say, fun — though you’ll also likely lament the relative lack of high-quality apps and accessories.

If you’re wondering which particular device you should switch to, there’s no better place to start than our lists of the best iPhones and best Android phones. Whichever device you pick, just make sure it fits with your operating system preferences.