Corsair K60 RGB Pro SE review: A higher-quality entry-level gaming keyboard – CNET

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The K60 RGB Pro SE includes a wrist rest and PBT double-shot keycaps. 

Corsair

Corsair’s K60 RGB Pro delivers what few if any other gaming keyboards can: a full-size mechanical gaming keyboard experience complete with per-key RGB lighting for less than $100. When you dip below this price, you’ll typically find flat- and dome-membrane gaming keyboards. Or you’ll find keyboards with mechanical switches but you’ll get a single-color backlight or build quality that might not hold up over time.

But because Corsair used a new lower-cost Cherry Viola mechanical switch, it was able to go a little higher-end on the rest. And really, you want mechanical switches because they’re faster, last longer and have N-key rollover with 100% anti-ghosting so your individual keypresses register no matter how fast your fingers are moving. 

Like

  • Good features and build quality for the price
  • Cherry mechanical switches

Don’t Like

  • Heavy typists might need time to adjust to the feel
  • Echoey spring sound from keys

The Viola switch is a two-stage linear switch that Cherry calls CrossLinear. It has a 45-gram actuation force and 2-millimeter actuation distance and a total travel distance of 4mm. This is essentially the same as the company’s classic MX Red linear switches. However, the force required to go from 2mm to 4mm increases to 75g.

If you’re a fast-fingered gamer and typist with a light touch, you’re getting approximately the same feel as the MX Reds but without the cost. I typically bottom out when I’m typing, though, so they feel stiff compared with a traditional linear switch. In general, they’re quiet but there is a soft plastic-on-plastic sound to them as well as an echoing spring sound, most noticeably from the spacebar. 

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Cherry’s Viola is a hot-swappable mechanical switch. 

Josh Goldman/CNET

Below $100, my personal preference for a mechanical keyboard would be the loud, clicky Outemu Blue switches in Aukey’s KM-G12 keyboard or the tactile Romer-G switches on Logitech’s G413 Carbon. Then again, neither of these lives up to the rest of what the Corsair K60 RGB Pro offers and, again, those with a light touch should like these switches. 

There are four versions of the K60 Pro, starting at $80 with ABS low-profile keycaps and per-key red backlighting. For another $10 you can get it with per-key RGB lighting. Then there’s the $100 model (£77, or about AU$140) I tested, the K60 RGB Pro SE, which adds wear- and shine-resistant PBT double-shot, full-height keycaps and a cushy wrist rest that attaches magnetically. Lastly, for $110, you can get the K60 RGB Pro Low Profile, which has ABS low-profile keycaps but underneath them are Cherry MX RGB Low Profile Speed switches. 

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Bright lights, big keyboard. 

Corsair

The build quality is solid here, with a plastic base topped with black brushed aluminum. There’s no flex to the keyboard and there’s no wobble to the keys. Plus, the switch design lets the LED lights below really shine through and there are 10 levels of brightness. The switches are hot-swappable, too, so they’re easily replaceable should one break or if Cherry makes another type of switch with the Viola’s design.

There are no media control labels on the function row keys, but the controls are there. You’ll just have to do a bit of memorization. Otherwise, the key legends are legible — not always the case with gaming keyboards — and the secondary functions light up with the primary ones, so you won’t be struggling to see them in the dark. 

It’s also worth mentioning that the K60 Pro is completely compatible with Corsair’s iCue software. It’s available for Windows and Mac and gives you control over programming its lights and remapping keys and setting up macros. When you go lower in price, you don’t always get this level of control or a polished app to go with it.

Basically, the Corsair K60 RGB Pro lets you save some money on a mechanical gaming keyboard without sacrificing things like per-key RGB lighting, build quality, good control software and a cushy wrist rest. However, it would be easier to recommend if it were $10 to $20 less expensive, just because there are more and potentially better options for your needs for just over $100

2021 Lexus IS first drive review: Sufficiently satisfying – Roadshow

2021 Lexus IS

In full-on F Sport Dynamic Handling Package guise, the 2021 IS looks downright mean.

Lexus

Time and attention can revive a car that perhaps never really rose above the level of underwhelming. The Lexus IS always felt like an also-ran that never received the attention it may have deserved. Now, there’s a new (OK, facelifted) IS for 2021, and after some time behind the wheel, I think this compact luxury sedan is ready for reconsideration.

A more cohesive look

The outgoing Lexus IS has largely the same design as when it debuted in early 2013, and boy, was that look getting old. Other Lexus models came, adopted similar pieces of the design language and made them better while the IS just kinda… hung out. A major freshening for the 2021 model year gives the IS a more cohesive and contemporary look. Pre-’21 elements are still there, like the checkmark-style running lights, but now they’re integrated into a single-piece headlight that looks pretty slick — and yes, you can still see the DRLs from a mile down the road.

The rear end went through a pretty dramatic shift, too. Gone are the melting taillights of yore that practically stretched to the asphalt. The new taillights better integrate with the all-new bodywork, blending into character lines more seamlessly. F Sport models like my tester get more aggressive bumpers and larger 19-inch alloy wheels, and an optional Dynamic Handling Package ramps that up even further with BBS wheels and a carbon fiber rear spoiler. Both F Sport getups look pretty swell, so you won’t miss out on too much if you don’t want to spring for the performance pack ($4,200 with rear-wheel drive, $3,800 with AWD).

Only the eagle-eyed among you will pick up on the changes inside. There are some new circular vents and a redesigned center console, as well as a new screen slapped atop the dashboard. I have to dig a little deeper to find other changes, but as with the previous generations, I like the IS’ unique design. There’s some clever markings in the leather on the door panels, which in my tester are painted in an obscenely sporty shade of red. It’s not for me, but I do appreciate Lexus’ use of bold interior colors.

From a livability perspective, the IS’ innards are a little tight, but they’re good overall. The front seats are supportive and offer sufficient room and visibility, while the back seats are spacious enough for 6-foot passengers, but only barely. The door panel cubbies offer up a good amount of storage, but the large center tunnel means there isn’t much space on offer under the armrest.

A more cohesive driving experience

Since this is more of a comprehensive refresh than anything, it’s not necessarily a surprise that Lexus carried the powertrains over unchanged. Base rear-wheel-drive models make do with a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with 241 horsepower, and adding all-wheel drive also adds a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 with 260 hp. I’m packing the most potent powertrain in my IS 350 AWD tester, which turns the V6’s wick up to 311 hp and 280 pound-feet of torque.

A naturally aspirated V6 sounds a bit anachronistic in 2020, and it is. The sound is nice, and power delivery is linear, but a torque peak of 4,800 rpm means there’s a lot of time spent waiting for forward motion to accumulate, and it never really feels peppy despite all that power. Further dragging out the experience is an antiquated six-speed automatic transmission (eight-speeds are standard on RWD models). The ol’ slushbox does a superb job holding gears in sportier drive modes, but the fact that it’s one tenth slower to 60 mph than the RWD IS 350 leads me to believe that Lexus treats AWD IS variants more like cars born of a need for bad-weather peace of mind rather than additional performance. 

The cabin hasn’t changed much, but what’s new is very much appreciated — especially the touchscreen.

Lexus

While older IS models left me feeling tepid after a brisk drive, I think Lexus is finally hitting its stride with the 2021 model. Engineers increased body rigidity, reduced unsprung weight and replaced suspension components in order to enhance the car’s agility, and they nailed it. The steering is more responsive and the body feels much closer to that of Lexus’ European counterparts when the going gets twisty. Yet, the IS still plays very nicely on the highway, with my tester’s adaptive suspension soaking up nearly every bad bit of road and returning next to no noise. Sport is my preferred drive mode, as it retains just a smidge of body roll to keep things more interesting at lower speeds, but swapping to Sport S Plus flattens everything out in the name of hugging the concrete. No matter what the suspension’s doing, I am having more fun (and experiencing a better ride) than I have in any IS that came before.

It’s worth noting that my experience won’t be 100% the same as yours, dear consumer. My tester is a prototype, so it’s a bit of a Frankenstein. Sport S Plus mode and the adjustable suspension are only available with the Dynamic Handling Package, but this silver sedan lacks the interior trim, lighter BBS wheels and carbon fiber exterior add-ons that are also mandated. This should mean that a properly kitted IS will handle even better than mine here, given a decrease in unsprung mass, but who’s to say for sure.

Forgettable tech

Just in case you thought it was all good news, don’t fret, because the 2021 Lexus IS sticks with the same awful infotainment system it’s had for years. The screen is positioned closer to the driver and picks up honest-to-goodness touch capabilities, thank god, but there’s still a trackpad-style manipulator on the center console, and it remains as janky and unintuitive to use as it’s always been. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both on offer, which is another pinprick of light shining through the darkness, but I wish Lexus would spend the money to take a look at iDrive and MBUX and see what the Germans are doing so much better.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are the best ways to forget about Lexus’ own system entirely… until you have to dig into the menus to change stuff.

Lexus

When it comes time to charge, there are two USB-A ports under the center armrest, and… that’s it. If you want ports for the rear seats, either bring an obscenely long cable or pick a different car.

Safety systems are everywhere in the 2021 Lexus IS. All variants come with forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, radar-based adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning. The adaptive cruise is nice and smooth, and I like that it now accelerates when I signal for a lane change, but the lane-keeping aid is weird. It seems to think the driver’s position should be in the middle of the lane, so the passenger side tends to hang too close to the dashed white line for my taste, and convincing the car to deviate from that position takes a surprising amount of conscious steering effort. It’s one of those rare systems that is worth turning off and keeping off.

Down to brass tacks

The 2021 Lexus IS has some work to do. Its German competitors — the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class — offer up compelling driving dynamics and some of the latest and greatest tech. Heck, even the Americans are stepping their game up as Cadillac reinvents its portfolio. It’ll be an uphill battle for this compact Japanese luxury sedan, but with newfound handling prowess and aesthetics, the fight is closer than it’s been in years.

Apple’s HomePod will soon support Dolby Atmos with the Apple TV 4K

Apple’s HomePod is getting a lot more useful as a home cinema speaker for Apple TV 4K owners. Apple has confirmed to The Verge that an upcoming software update will let the speaker output Dolby Atmos audio as well as 5.1 and 7.1 channel audio from Apple’s streaming box. The feature will work best when you have two HomePod speakers paired up, but also works with just one. The new $99 HomePod mini, though, will not support the new home cinema functionality.

Dolby Atmos support arrives as Apple is overhauling how the HomePod works with its streaming box. For starters, tvOS 14.2 beta 3 allows Apple TV 4K owners to set the HomePod as their streaming box’s default speaker output, according to 9to5Mac, meaning it shouldn’t constantly force users to re-select it as their audio output as it previously did when connected over AirPlay 2. For now this functionality appears to require access to a non-public beta version of the HomePod’s operating system, however.

Apple’s site confirms the home cinema features are exclusive to the HomePod.
Screenshot: Apple.com

The HomePod is also getting new surround sound functionality, using its spatial awareness features to offer virtual surround sound audio. As noted on Apple’s website, the “home cinema with Apple TV 4K” feature is only supported by the more expensive HomePod since the $99 HomePod mini lacks its spatial awareness or beam-forming technologies. The HomePod mini can still be used with the Apple TV 4K using AirPlay 2, however.

Apple’s forthcoming update means the HomePod will catch up to the Amazon Studio, which has been able to provide Dolby Atmos audio for Fire TV streaming devices since its release last year. If Amazon’s implementation of the feature is anything to go by, however, then HomePod and Apple TV 4K owners could be in for a treat. When my colleague Dan Seifert tried out the feature last year he found that Amazon’s speaker offered sound quality that was comparable to a larger and more expensive Dolby Atmos soundbar.

Update October 15th, 6:49AM ET: Updated to clarify that setting the HomePod as a default Apple TV 4K speaker currently requires a non-public beta.

Microsoft extends Xbox Elite 2 controller warranty after hardware issues emerge

Microsoft is extending the warranty on its Xbox Elite 2 controller following complaints over hardware issues. “We’ve received claims that a small percentage of our customers are experiencing mechanical issues when using their Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2,” explains a Microsoft support article. “To ensure your satisfaction, we’re extending the warranty coverage period on Elite Series 2 controllers from 90 days to 1 year from the date of purchase.”

The warranty extension applies retroactively, meaning anyone who incurred repair costs for the Xbox Elite 2 controller will be issued a refund by Microsoft before October 31st. The extended warranty is a welcome change from the measly 90 days, but it comes after a series of complaints from owners of the new Elite controller have emerged.

It’s not clear from Microsoft’s support note the exact “mechanical issues” people have been facing, but The Verge has received reports of the face buttons getting stuck, or the Elite 2 not registering button presses. Some have also raised issues with the left and right sticks, complaining of a drift. Windows Central reports that the Elite 2 was recently added to a list of controllers suffering from “drifting joysticks” in a lawsuit seeking class action status.

Microsoft told The Verge earlier this year that it was investigating Elite 2 controller problems, as these issues have been occurring since the launch a year ago. “We are aware that a small number of users may be experiencing issues with the Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 and are actively investigating with our engineering teams,” said a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement issued in April, 2020.

The original Elite controller was plagued with quality issues, which originally appeared to have been addressed with this second model. We were concerned whether hardware issues would appear again on the Elite 2 during a review of the controller last year, and it’s now clear some are having problems.

Best air fryer of 2020: Cosori, Ninja, Dash, Philips and more – CNET

Fried food is crispy, crunchy and delicious. Sadly, it contains lots of oil too. It doesn’t have to be this way though. Air fryers though can cook food that tastes deep fried without the need to add oil or grease. That also means when you’re using them to prepare meals, cleaning up is a snap.

Here we explore what to look for in a quality air fryer if you’re itching to try that air-fried recipe you found on Pinterest. We’ve also taken into consideration things like counter real estate and whether or not you’re feeding an army. This list will help you find the best air fryer, so grab some frozen french fries and chicken nuggets and prepare to fry up a storm.

In recent years, the number of air fryer brands has exploded, since demand for the products is at an all-time high. You can choose from personal fryers, large family-size models and every size in between. There are air fryers with basic mechanical dials and controls, while others have fancy cooking options and presets — some even have smarts and app connections.

Our test cohort.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Unlike previous air fryers we liked from from DeLonghiKrupsT-Fal and Black & Decker, today’s modern fryers are more powerful, meaning quicker access to crispy fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets or anything else that you might typically make in a deep fryer that you can fit in its cooking basket. They also have higher capacity to cook more food, are lighter, quieter and easier to clean.

No matter how simple or complex though, what truly counts is how well they deliver the fried goodies. When it comes to air fryers, that can vary widely. Here’s what I learned after putting several top-rated models through their paces to find the best air fryer out there. I update this periodically.

Brian Bennett/CNET

When it comes to turning ingredients into delicious food, it’s tough to beat this air fry model from Cosori. Incredibly sophisticated, the air fryer boasts 11 preset cooking modes for preparing a wide array of food types. It also looks sleek and compact despite offering close to 6 quarts of capacity.

I put the Smart Air Fryer’s presets to good use too. Everything from frozen food like chicken nuggets and french fries, to onion rings, to mozzarella sticks tuned out golden brown and delicious. It even tackled Brussels sprouts with gusto, thanks to its dedicated root vegetable mode. You can also link the air fryer to your phone via mobile app. The software provides cooking alerts, plus reminds you to shake the frying basket (and its contents) if necessary.

The Cosori fryer is enjoyable to operate as well and isn’t too loud. All that adds up to a compelling air fryer pal if you’re on the hunt for one.

Amazon average rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars (6,868 ratings) 

Walmart average rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (12 ratings) Read more.

Brian Bennett/CNET

It’s hard to pass up a plate of chicken wings. That’s especially so if they’re made by the Ninja Air Fryer. This air fry machine transformed humble frozen wings into something magical. They came out evenly cooked, with crispy skin, and were a real crowd pleaser. My kids snapped them up in no time.

The Ninja also whipped up batches of mozzarella sticks that were nicely done. They started out frozen and were transformed into crispy, crunchy and gooey cheese bombs in 8 minutes flat. If you’re into fries, the Ninja won’t disappoint either. Frozen french fries were golden brown and delicious in 10 minutes.

The only time the air fryer stumbled was when I cooked Brussels sprouts. The Ninja lacks a special mode for vegetables so my fresh sprouts emerged overdone, even burnt in spots. 

Amazon average rating: 4.7 out of 5 stars (11,656 ratings)

Walmart average rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars (1,138 ratings)

Best Buy average rating: 4.8 out of 5 stars (1,631 ratings) Read more.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Here’s an air fryer that’s easy on the eyes. While the Dash Deluxe is large and has a massive 6 quart capacity, its design is striking. The appliance I tested was colored in aqua, though it also comes in red, black and white. Its controls are also all manual (no presets), but they’re simple to operate. The fryer even has an interestingly textured, patterned top. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

The air fry machine also fried up batches of wings, Brussels sprouts and french fries that were all evenly and well cooked. That said, it’s easy to overshoot when air frying a mozzarella stick if you’re not careful. I did which resulted in a cheesy explosion after just 6 minutes at 350 Fahrenheit. That said, the fryer’s cooking basket has a non-stick coating that’s a cinch to clean.

Amazon average rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars (2,518 ratings) Read more.

Others we tested


Brian Bennett/CNET

Instant Vortex

One popular option is the Instant Vortex. It’s priced in line with the other air fryers in this group. The Vortex is made by the same company that created the groundbreaking Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. Despite that though, I wasn’t blown away by the food I fried in this air fry machine.

Using the recommended settings, mozzarella sticks came out a tad soggy with exteriors not quite crispy enough. Chicken wings and fried chicken were acceptable, not incredible, and less juicy than what other fryers served. My Brussels sprouts ended up overdone too. And frozen fries were done but cooked unevenly.

Walmart review average: 4.6 out of 5 stars (907 ratings)

Target review average: 4.5 out of 5 stars (253 ratings)

Best Buy review average 4.7 out of 5 stars (146 ratings)

Brian Bennett/CNET


Dash Compact Airfryer

The Dash Compact Airfryer is everything its bigger sibling isn’t. Specifically the cooker is small, underpowered and comes with a rock-bottom price tag. While the Dash Deluxe is a powerhouse, the Dash Compact struggled while air frying almost everything I put inside it. Both french fries and Brussels sprouts were underdone and unevenly cooked.

Mozzarella sticks emerged from the air fryer basket hot, but weren’t all that crispy. The only bright spot was chicken wings. They took 30 minutes but I was treated to skin with some crunch. 

Amazon review average: 4.4 out of 5 stars (6,956 ratings)

Target review average: 4.3 out of 5 stars (572 ratings)


Brian Bennett/CNET

GoWise USA 8-in-1 Digital Air Fryer

You may not have heard of this brand but this offering from GoWise is a solid choice. It didn’t cook the skin of my chicken wings evenly. That said, french fries came out crispy, crunchy, with creamy interiors. The fryer also roasted Brussels sprouts well, no mean feat for this group of appliances. 

Amazon review average:4.6 out of 5 stars (398 ratings)

Walmart review average: 4.1 out 5 stars (266 ratings) 

Home Depot review average: 4.5 out of 5 stars (681 ratings)


Brian Bennett/CNET

Chefman 2.1 qt. Analog Air Fryer

Another relatively affordable choice is the Chefman Analog Air Fryer. It’s tiny too, offering just 2.1 quarts of food frying capacity. The appliance did deliver tasty mozzarella sticks and decent chicken wings. However, it undercooked my test Brussels sprouts and frozen french fries. I also found the Chefman’s timer control confusing. This dial is labelled in numerical increases of 10. The numbers though are mysteriously separated by groups of four dots, not nine as you would expect.

Target review average:4.6 out of 5 stars (375 ratings)


Brian Bennett/CNET

PowerXL Vortex Air Fryer

You might consider purchasing the PowerXL Vortex. I recommend against it though due to its steep price and mediocre frying ability. I had satisfactory results cooking chicken wings in it. However, the machine exploded my mozzarella sticks when I fried them as directed by the product manual. It also overcooked Brussels sprouts and the french fries it prepared were merely OK, not outstanding. 

Amazon review average: 4.6 out of 5 stars (181 ratings)

Target review average: 4.1 out of 5 stars (196 ratings)


Philips Avance Airfryer with TurboStar

Even with a significant drop in price, the Philips Avance Airfryer isn’t worth your money. Sure, this appliance does a decent job of heating frozen convenience food like mozzarella sticks and pizza rolls. When it comes to fresh food like chicken wings, the results were on par with what you’d expect from a conventional oven.

Amazon review average: 4.6 stars out of 5 (980 ratings)


How we evaluated them

It’s certainly a surreal feeling to test multiple air fryers while a pandemic silently rages around the globe. Just like my colleague Ry Crist found with waffle makers, I found the busy work of cooking quite soothing. Perhaps that’s why so many people have embraced bread-making and baking during this time of uncertainty. 

At four runs per machine and eight air fryers in all, I performed a minimum of 32 separate test fries. I also washed each appliance thoroughly between each batch of food. That’s a lot of hand washing too, which is a good thing.

At the recommended settings, my mozzarella sticks resulted in a cheese explosion. Thankfully the Dash Deluxe air fryer has a non-stick basket that’s easy to clean. 

Brian Bennett/CNET

Ease of use

When frying items with each appliance, I made sure to record how my experience went. I paid attention to things like the labels, controls and displays or buttons if these machines had them. I also took note of how loud, or not, the air fryers were while they operated.

Chicken wings cooked in the Ninja air fryer were very tasty.

Brian Bennett/CNET

How they cook

To get a sense for how each air fryer in this test group handles, I ran a battery of four anecdotal tests on each product. Each test centered around one food ingredient. These were mozzarella sticks, chicken wings, Brussels sprouts and frozen french fries. 

Frozen french fries made in the Cosori air fryer were gold brown and delicious.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Before I began, I consulted each model’s manual and supplied documentation for relevant cooking directions. If the manual didn’t provide specific instructions, I applied uniform procedures to each air fryer depending on the type of food I was preparing. For fries, I set the fryer for 380 F. After a five minute preheat, I cooked them for 12 minutes. I also give the fries a shake every 5 minutes.

For chicken wings, I preheat to 400 F then fry them for 30 minutes. I also make sure to flip them with tongs every ten minutes. For mozzarella sticks, I preheat to 350 F and cook for 6 minutes. For Brussels sprouts, I preheat to 375 F and cook for 15 minutes. Before cooking, however,I rinse and cut the sprouts in half, then toss them with 1 tbsp of olive oil.

At the end of each test I looked for several criteria. These included how evenly each item was cooked, how well (or not) they were in terms of doneness and, of course, whether they had a sufficient level of crispy, crunchy, fried deliciousness comparable to deep frying.

Roasting Brussels sprouts well is tricky for an air fryer.

Brian Bennett/CNET

More cooking coverage at CNET and Chowhound

Best coffee grinder for 2020: Cuisinart, Oxo, Breville and more – CNET

Sure, your coffee maker may have the SCA’s seal of approval but you won’t get far using a bad grinder. A good grinder will process coffee beans consistently. One that doesn’t ultimately leads to uneven flavor extraction and likely a cup of coffee that could have tasted much better.  

Don’t let this happen to you. Get a serious coffee grinder that delivers the goods, cup after cup. I’ve chosen my three favorites below, followed by a list of the other electric grinders that I’ve put through their paces. The ultimate coffee-grinding machines deliver a consistent grind (be it fine or coarse, depending on the grind setting), with powerful motors and useful grinding features and settings, and they’re easy to use and to clean. 

Yes, this buyers’ guide list starts at $100, which is by no means cheap, but that’s because I personally tested all of these coffee grinders and I just didn’t like the results from the budget set. (See the testing details below, along with the pros and cons of each and a full list of other models that didn’t make the cut.) I’ll follow up to see if any other bargain grinding machine is worth the trade-off in the future and update the story accordingly.

Also, be sure to read our guide to the best home espresso machines for sale right now

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you’re a coffee drinker who needs a solid, all-purpose (relatively) inexpensive coffee grinding machine, I recommend the $100 Oxo Brew Conical Burr Grinder as the best coffee grinder overall. In terms of grind consistency, the Oxo Conical Burr Coffee Grinder placed second within my test group. That’s behind the $200 Breville Smart Grinder Pro, which ranked first in grinding but also costs twice as much. The Oxo Brew Conical Burr Grinder, however, can grind beans faster. And while it has fewer coarse grind settings, Oxo’s stainless steel machine is more versatile. The Oxo burr coffee grinder can grind fine enough to be used as an espresso grinder in a pinch. The stainless steel Oxo coffee grinding machine can also produce coffee grounds coarse enough for brewing a cup of siphon, French press and cold brew. Other pros are that the Oxo Brew is easy to clean and creates less of a mess when grinding than other grinders. $100 might sound like a lot, but keep in mind a quality coffee and espresso grinder should grind for a long time.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

You can’t get much simpler than Baratza’s $149 Encore. The Encore Conical Burr Grinder has just one control: a switch that turns the grinder on and off. That’s not just easy — that’s easy easy. Continually pressing a button on the Encore’s front activates the grind, too. Grounds from the machine were relatively consistent in particle size. The machine is also simple to clean and less noisy when grinding than many other coffee grinders we’ve tested. Read our Baratza Encore review.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If you want a cup of espresso, here’s an espresso maker to look at. You’ll pay a little more for grinding with the $200 brushed stainless steel Smart Grinder Pro. But if you’ve got your heart set on pulling espresso shots at home, the Smart Grinder Pro is the best coffee grinder for espresso, cup after cup. This Smart Grinder with stainless steel burrs can produce extremely fine coffee grounds, the sort necessary for brewing quality espresso or Turkish coffee. The machine also created the most consistently sized grounds of all the machines I tested. The Breville boasts 60 settings, and it comes with adapters for espresso machine portafilters. If you like brewing siphon, French press or cold brew though, consider looking elsewhere. Even at its most coarse, this coffee bean grinder’s grounds are too fine for those methods. Read our Breville Smart Grinder Pro review.

So, how exactly do we test coffee grinders?

An ideal coffee grinder produces ground particles that are of a consistent and correct size. By that, we mean that the size of ground coffee particles should match its grinder’s coarseness setting, fine or not. The size of grounds produced should also be fit for the intended brewing method, as outlined within the product manual.

To test each grinder for our coffee grinder reviews, we first hand-wash and dry all parts recommended by the manufacturer. We then set each machine to the appropriate level for grinding drip coffee or automatic coffee brewers (again, as indicated by the manual). Sometimes the manual lacks specific directions. In this case, we select the middle coarse setting for grinding coffee, then bump it up by one more coarse level (from fine grind, such as an espresso grind, to coarse grind). For example, if a grinder has 16 total coarse grind settings (assuming 16 is its most coarse grinding option and 1 is fine), we’ll set it for coarse level 9.

Now playing: Watch this: Five things to know before buying a coffee grinder


1:59

Next we weigh out 10 grams of whole coffee beans to grind. By default our test beans are Kirkland Colombian roast. It’s the same beans we use for our coffee maker tests. (No judgments, please.) When you grind as much coffee and espresso as we do, it pays to be frugal.

Then we run our sample beans through the grinder. We also make note of how long the grinder takes to grind coffee beans. Next, we carefully collect the grounds, then sift them with a two-screen sieve for 60 seconds. For that we use the Kruve Sifter system. Our original Kruve Two unit came with two mesh screens of different aperture sizes (800 and 400 microns). This step lets us measure the grind size and grind consistency of our sample. The Kruve Base has now replaced the Kruve Two, and offers five mesh screens (300, 500, 800, 1,100, and 1,400 microns).

We used a Kruve coffee sieve system to confirm grind size consistency. 

Brian Bennett/CNET

A superior electric coffee grinder or hand grinder will produce grounds, preferably with stainless steel blades, that are mostly between 400 and 800 microns in particle size (at our chosen grind setting). Finally, we weigh the grounds that collect between the two screens (800 microns top, 400 microns bottom).

A bad grinder will grind particles of varying sizes, from large to small. Blade grinders are notorious for this issue. Unlike a blade coffee grinder, a coffee grinder with steel or ceramic burrs typically yields grounds that are much more uniform in size.

Additionally, we grind at least two more times. From there, we can record an average optimal yield for each grinder.

Want more? Whether you prefer a cup of espresso, coffee or Turkish coffee, here’s a list of coffee grinders I’ve put through their paces for this evaluation, in addition to the ones above. And below that, you’ll find a chart that displays their grinding pros and cons and how well they stack up against each other. Now enjoy a cup!

Coffee grinders compared

Baratza Encore Bodum Bistro coffee grinder Breville Smart Grinder Pro Capresso Infinity Conical Burr grinder Cuisinart Supreme Grind Automatic Burr Mill Krups GX5000 Mr. Coffee Electric 12-cup coffee grinder Oxo Brew Conical Burr coffee grinder
Average optimal yield (grams) 2.6 3.9 6.5 2.9 1.8 1.9 1.8 3.2
Percent optimal yield 26.3% 38.7% 64.7% 28.7% 18.0% 19.0% 18.3% 32.3%
Average grind time (seconds) 26 9 10 10 33 19 12 7
Price $149 $100 $200 $99 $54 $60 $19 $100

More coffee recommendations 

Vivaldi browser gets cyberpunk side-scroller to rival Google Chrome’s dinosaur game

Chromium-based browser Vivaldi now comes with a built-in game called Vivaldia, a retro side-scroller set in a cyberpunk universe. The game is available with version 3.4 of the browser, and can be played both online and offline across Windows, Max, Linux, and Android. You get to it by visiting “vivaldi://game” using Vivaldi’s address bar, but it can also be accessed via a link on the browser’s start page on desktop and Android.

Vivaldia’s gameplay follows a very similar template to Google Chrome’s famous Dinosaur Game, an easter egg which can be accessed whenever the browser can’t connect to the internet. Vivaldia doesn’t automatically appear when you can’t connect to the internet, however, and also features more detailed pixel art graphics as well as enemies that you’re able to shoot at (Vivaldi has a separate game that appears when your connection goes down). If you’re looking to add weapons to Chrome’s dinosaur game, meanwhile, then why not give Dino Swords a try.

Vivaldi’s 3.4 release also comes with a couple of new browser features including configurable context menus and the option to set pages to reload automatically. You can grab it on desktop by downloading it directly from Vivaldi’s site, or on Android from the Google Play Store.

Best facial recognition security cameras to buy in 2020 – CNET

Select home security cameras have facial recognition, an advanced option that lets you make a database of friends and family members who regularly come to your house. Then, when the camera sees a face, it determines whether or not it’s someone in your list of known faces. 

The software can be hit or miss, based on a variety of factors, from lighting to changing hairstyles, wearing glasses one day but not the next — and more.

But one thing we know for sure is that this feature is becoming increasingly popular in our devices, not just in home security cameras, but also our phones and as efficiency tools helping to automate airport check-ins. As law enforcement becomes more invested in facial recognition technology, it’s already raising serious questions about privacy and civil rights across the board, and bringing calls for governmental regulation.

But let’s step back a bit to the consumer realm. Your home is your castle, and the option of having facial recognition devices therein is still a compelling option for those who want to be on the cutting edge of smart home innovation. Let’s take a look at the facial recognition cameras we’ve tested recently, to see which models are the best and to help you determine if one would work for you.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

If we’re talking about sheer facial recognition capabilities, the Nest Hello, the Nest Cam IQ Indoor and the Nest Cam IQ Outdoor (all of which are essentially the same camera), win by far. Of those models, the Nest Hello is my top pick for facial recognition because it’s the least expensive of the three and has the most opportunity to give you important information about who’s at your front door. 

Nest’s IQ Indoor can tell you who’s already inside your house, but the Hello, as well as the IQ Outdoor Cam, tell you who’s outside your house. The Hello doorbell’s eye-level location has the best chance of monitoring and seeing the most visitors, too (although I suppose you could install the $349 IQ Outdoor cam at eye level if you wanted). 

The snag with the Hello and other face-tracking Nest cams is that you do have to pay for the facial recognition feature. That means for facial identification, you have to subscribe to the Nest Aware cloud subscription service. Learn more about Nest Aware.

Still, the Nest Hello is also a pick for best overall video doorbell. So it’s a win/win, whether or not you want to enable facial recognition. Read the Nest Hello review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The Tend Secure Lynx only costs $60. Given that, I was skeptical that this camera would deliver, but it does. Not only does the camera itself perform well and offer multiple nice features like free seven-day event-based video clip storage, but it also has facial recognition free of charge (unlike the optional Nest Aware service).

Create your database of familiar faces, and the Lynx takes over. There is a bit of a learning curve as it becomes familiar with each face, but it’s a very good option if you want an inexpensive indoor home security camera with decent facial recognition. Read the Tend Secure Lynx review.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The $299 Nest Cam IQ Indoor is similar to the Nest Hello doorbell. It has facial recognition (if you sign up for a Nest Aware subscription) and lets you know who walks in front of the camera’s field of view with consistent accuracy. 

But it also has a number of additional benefits. Because it is an indoor camera, Nest gave it an integrated Google Assistant speaker. That means the camera essentially doubles as a Google Home speaker and can answer basic questions like what the current weather or traffic is in your area — and control a variety of Google-Assistant-enabled smart home devices. It also works with Amazon Alexa. Read the Nest Cam IQ Indoor review.

Facial recognition cameras: Every one we tested

Here’s a recap of the facial recognition cameras we’ve installed and tested recently.

Recommend above: 

Worth considering, but not as good as the top picks above:

  • Nest Cam IQ Outdoor: The IQ Outdoor camera is similar to the $229 Nest Hello and the $299 IQ Indoor when it comes to specs and performance, but it offers a worse value at a whopping $349 per camera.
  • Netatmo Welcome: Netatmo’s Welcome indoor camera did a fair job detecting faces, but the feature ultimately wasn’t quite as reliable as we’d like. 
  • Wisenet SmartCam N1: The $150 SmartCam N1 smart security camera and app did a good job detecting faces, and it comes with a built-in microSD card slot for local storage, but the $60 Tend Secure Lynx performs just as well for much less. 

Not recommended:

  • Honeywell Smart Home Security: Unreliable performance, including its facial recognition tech, seriously hurts this all-in-one system’s appeal. 
  • Tend Secure Lynx Pro: While the indoor-outdoor Lynx Pro is technically the high-end version of the indoor-only Lynx, its improved specs didn’t translate to better facial recognition. 

Note that the recommendations above were at the time of testing, and could change based on later software updates. We’ll periodically update this list as such changes warrant. 

How we tested

When setting up a camera with a facial recognition function, you create profiles of individual people, by either taking their picture in real time and adding it, or using an existing photo that you have of them. From there, The face recognition camera should be able to distinguish human faces from every other type of motion activity and single out the ones it recognizes from your database of familiar faces. When it’s working optimally, you will get an alert that says the camera saw “Chris,” “Molly” or whoever is in your database.

There are many use cases for this type of functionality, but some common ones include getting an alert when your kids get home from school, or if a dog walker or a family caregiver shows up. It creates peace of mind when you’re expecting someone to show up and you want an automated alert telling you they have (especially when you aren’t home to greet them). 

But it also helps in security scenarios, since the camera is essentially distinguishing between faces it recognizes and those it doesn’t. That way, if your camera sends you an alert that it saw someone on your front porch or walking into your house, but you don’t recognize them, you can more quickly send the information to police officers in the event of an actual break-in or theft, instead of having to sift through dozens of generic motion alerts to find the activity.

Viewing the facial recognition feature inside the SmartCam app.

Screenshots by Megan Wollerton/CNET

The best way to test these cameras is to create a database, which is what I do when I test a camera with facial recognition (see the screenshots above). I add people to my database and let the camera do the rest. It’s best to give these cameras at least a few days, because some improve significantly, even over a short period of time, as they see faces at different angles.

Then it’s a matter of doing an analysis of how well the camera actually recognized faces. How often did it correctly identify my face versus someone else’s face? How did it do when approached at different angles and changes to hairstyles and clothing accessories? Was the camera able to detect faces at all? Some occasionally struggle to detect any faces, even ones that claim to have facial recognition, and instead mark the activity as a basic motion alert (ahem, Tend Secure Lynx Pro). 

The future of facial recognition

Amazon’s doorbell and security camera company, Ring, filed two patents related to facial recognition in 2018. The patents suggest that future developed Ring products might be able to automatically detect and identify faces from “most wanted” lists or a watch list and automatically send notifications to law enforcement officers. Here’s an excerpt from one of the patent filings:

A video may be analyzed by an A/V recording and communication device that recorded the video (and/or by one or more backend servers) to determine whether the video contains a known criminal (e.g., convicted felon, sex offender, person on a “most wanted” list, etc.) or a suspicious person. Some of the present embodiments may automatically submit such video streams to the law enforcement agencies.

“Amazon is dreaming of a dangerous future,” ACLU attorney Jacob Snow said in a blog post.

“The history of discriminatory government surveillance makes clear that face surveillance will disproportionately harm people already targeted by the government and subjected to racial profiling and abuse — immigrants, people of color, and the formerly incarcerated,” Snow added. 

Right now, Ring cameras don’t offer facial recognition at all. Models that do, like the Nest Hello, are only designed to identify a person you add to your list of “familiar faces.” They won’t draw from a law enforcement list to determine if a convicted felon is nearby — or reach out to law enforcement if they spot a face that could match someone in a database. 

While we know of no ethical breaches associated with these cameras on the market right now, the reality is we have no way to verify how the biometric data is used. Even if we give the companies involved the benefit of the doubt regarding their analytics and data usage policies, those policies could change at any time. And when you consider that Ring is owned by Amazon and Nest is owned by Google, the potential for a Big Brother scenario is readily apparent.

We’ll continue to keep an eye on home security cameras, doorbells and other devices with built-in facial recognition tech, to follow along with any changes in industry trends — and to see if any new models come close to matching the smarts of Nest’s Hello buzzer. 

Now playing: Watch this: Nest Hello video doorbell: Smarter than your average…


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Originally published last year.

Microsoft’s new-look Xbox dashboard is rolling out this week

The October update for Xbox is arriving this week, bringing with it a taste of the next generation. Microsoft has announced that a new dashboard design is rolling out to Xbox consoles as part of the latest update, and it’ll also run on the Xbox Series X and Series S when they launch next month.

This new UX was first shown off back in August. Microsoft says the home screen loads 50 percent faster on boot and 30 percent faster when exiting a game, with 40 percent less memory required on the Series X. It’s not clear if owners of older consoles like the One S should expect performance improvements, though.

The layout isn’t hugely different, but there have been tweaks to elements like the Guide and the games library, and visually it’s now a closer match for other Xbox products like the Xbox app for Windows. You can now customize your profile with themes, too, and Microsoft has reshuffled the layout for new users to highlight features like Game Pass and the store.

The update isn’t a huge one, but then Microsoft’s last big overhaul was just this past February. Microsoft does have a penchant for radically redesigning its Xbox UI multiple times each generation, so who knows how long the Xbox Series X dashboard will end up looking like this. For now, though, you can get a head start on its interface by updating your old console.

Snapchat finally lets all iOS users put music in their snaps

Snap is making good on its word to bring music to Snapchat and setting itself up to compete even more so with TikTok and Instagram. The company announced today that iOS users around the world will be able to include popular music in their snaps. It already brought the feature to people in New Zealand and Australia and said in August it’d bring music to more regions this fall. Snap doesn’t mention when sounds might be available on Android devices.

The company also says today that it’ll test allowing people to make their own sounds, and that feature will roll out globally in the coming months. Snap still won’t have a feed like TikTok that pushes viral music content, like dances or memes, to users and is instead focused on its partnerships with big publishers and tighter social webs between users.

If a person receives a snap with sounds, they can swipe up to view the album art, song title, and name of the artist. They can also tap the “Play This Song” link to listen to the full song on other streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music, and SoundCloud.

Snap doesn’t say how big its music catalog is other than calling it “robust and curated.” It also says its licensing deals cover tracks from Warner Music Group, Universal Music Publishing Group, Warner Chappell Music, BMG Music Publishing, and others.

Overall, Snap is late to bringing music to its platform. Instagram introduced music stickers for Stories in 2019 and rolled out its direct TikTok competitor, Reels, in August. Meanwhile, TikTok has continued to gain traction with Snap’s loyal base of teen and young adult users, meaning Snap could lose its edge if these users stick to TikTok instead of checking or posting to Snapchat. Snap needed to at least bring music to its platform to keep pace with its competitors and stay relevant, even if only iOS users get access at first.