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Best 360 Camera [2019]

Best 360 Camera [2019]

Best Overall: Insta360 One X
The One X from Insta360 tops our list as the best overall pick. While not 8K, it still packs a punch with 5.7K video quality and 18MP image quality. Plus, they packed in so many extra features like FlowState stabilization, TimeShift, and DriftMode that it’s hard to look anywhere else. And finally, it’s priced right!

Budget Pick: Ricoh Theta SC
While the Ricoh Theta SC doesn’t boast 4K video resolutions, it still produces a quality video. However, it’s best suited for image still and can capture stills at an amazing 14.4MP resolution. If you’re more interested in still captures, this is the absolute best option at a GREAT price.

Best 360 Action Cam: GoPro Fusion
Everything GoPro is like gold … not really, but GoPro has done a great job of creating action cameras. Most of them aren’t 360-degree cameras, but this is their 360 option. While it can’t reach above 30 FPS, it’ll capture most action sequences with crisp clarity and minimized seamlines.

How We Picked

A picture is worth a thousand words, but most pictures are only facing one direction. What if you could take a picture and/or video of everything around you including behind you?

360-degree cameras have greatly increased in popularity over the past few years, almost becoming the norm. And while they’ll never truly replace front-facing cameras, they do have a special niche. Now, they are definitely a niche product, but they can produce amazing panoramic shots and other special effects. In fact, they’re being accepted so much, that professionals such as realtors, automotive manufacturers, and even virtual reality creators have jumped on board.

Image and video platforms (i.e. Facebook and YouTube) have even started embracing 360 videos. So, what’s holding you back from buying one?

There are a TON of 360-degree cameras on the market right now, and trying to figure out which one is worth your money and which one isn’t can be hard. But today, that’s going to change. We’ve put together a list of the ten best 360 cameras that we could find. All of these have high ratings and users have loved them more than they’ve hated them. And to help you understand what we’re looking at, we’ve even included a buyer’s guide below and answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.

So, are you ready to see the top ten best 360 cameras for 2019?
The Top 10 Best 360 Cameras For 2019

#1 Insta360 One X

Insta360 One X

Specs:

  • 5.7K Video Resolution
  • 18MP Image Resolution
  • FlowState Image/Video Stabilization
  • Dual Lens System

We’re going to start our list off today with the “Best Overall” pick.

The Insta360 One X has two lenses (one front / one rear) that give you a truly immersive 360-degree experience. Combined, these two lenses record in 5.7K video resolution and can still take 18MP images too. The stitching lines are almost invisible (you REALLY have to look for them).

Insta360 One X invisible selfie stick

The video quality is amazing, with very little blur even in FAST scenes due in part to the 50 FPS record-rate in 5.7K video quality. You can actually get 100 FPS record-rates in 3K video quality which is absurd!

Insta360 One X unboxed

Where the Insta360 One X shines is the added features such as FlowState, TimeShift, and DriftShot. The FlowState stabilization feature keeps everything focused without all the jittering and bounce that you see on other action cameras. Next, the TimeShift feature allows you to use slo-mo recording with standard speed movements to create unique, motion perspectives that are unreal. And finally, the DriftShot feature allows this to be used in motion shots while being thrown and/or dropped without fear of breaking. Where before you had to use a drone, now you can use the One X to do some of the same features (for a LOT less).

Insta360 One X App

What We Like

For starters, the One X is more than just a camera … the DriftShot feature actually takes the camera out of your hand and allows you to capture scenes from any angle (it’s a mini-drone). Next, when paired with the selfie-stick from Insta360, it becomes invisible. The camera lenses are high up on the camera, and the selfie-stick mounts at the very bottom – it’s a great design and makes the selfie-stick literally disappear.

Overall

The Insta360 One X is a full-featured 360-degree camera that packs a PUNCH! The video quality is astounding at 5.7K at 50 FPS while you can still take 18MP still when needed. Where the One X really separates itself is with the 6-axis, FlowState video stabilization that is on par with more expensive cameras with fewer features. For the price, the One X is nearly unmatchable.

Insta360 One X

Insta360 One X

  • FlowState Stabilization
  • TimeShift Video Manipulation
  • DriftShot Video Capture for Unreal Scenes From A Camera

#2 Samsung Gear 360

Samsung Gear 360

Specs:

  • 4K Video Resolution
  • 15MP Image Resolution
  • 180-Degree Dual Lens System

Next up, we’re going to discuss the Samsung Gear 360. Samsung has been working with VR headsets and 360-video captures for several years now, and they’ve become a force to be reckoned with.

Getting started, the Gear 360 is another hand-held camera that is easy to hold. It’s not very big at all, measuring in at 3.9 inches tall, by 1.8 inches width/height (round). And it only weighs 4.6 ounces (barely more than one-quarter of a pound). The bottom of the camera has a screw-type base for easy mount and/or tripod options.

The Gear 360 is IP53 rated which means it’ll work in the rain, but it should not be submersed EVER. The camera has a sealed battery which is charged by using the supplied USB-C charging cable. The battery tends to last for up to 90 minutes when recording in 4K (if you lower the resolution the battery life will be longer).

Samsung Gear 360 without stand

Video quality is 4K (4096 x 2048) at 24 frames per second (there are no other FPS options in 4K mode). If you want more high-speed, action shots, you’ll need a camera with a higher FPS rate. Because of the 180-degree, dual-lenses, stitching is greatly reduced with almost seamless transitions between images. If you want to make the stitchlines disappear, then you’ll need to use the desktop software from Samsung as it has more resources to work with. And finally, you can live stream (Facebook Live and YouTube) your video when paired with the Gear 360 app from Samsung. One thing we want to point out is that when you use the live stream option, the video quality cuts down from 4096 x 2048 at 24 FPS to 1920 x 960 at 15 FPS.

What We Like

The 4K video resolution, paired with the dual-lens system looks great. Stitching is still visible, but not by much. It’s small and lightweight, making it easy to hold for long periods of time and it’s fairly unobtrusive so it’ll look good in most any decor (when used inside).

Overall

The Samsung Gear 360 is a high-quality, affordable option that works great with Samsung products well. And while the Gear 360 is designed to work with the Samsung app, it can be used on its own too. However, it does lack the FPS rate for action scenes and it’s not waterproof, but for the price, you could get a protective case/cover if needed.

Samsung Gear 360

Samsung Gear 360

  • Small and Lightweight
  • Supports Live Stream Options
  • 15MP Still Image Quality And 4K Video Quality

#3 GoPro Fusion

GoPro Fusion

Specs:

  • 5.2K Video Resolution
  • 18MP Image Resolution
  • 180-Degree Dual Lens System
  • Gimbal Image Stabilization

GoPro has been around for quite some time, especially in the action-capture circuit. They’ve created a plethora of products that are durable and produce amazing results. So, we’re not surprised that they made the cut.

Starting out, the Fusion is a wider, hand-held camera measuring out at 3.5 inches high, by 3.0 inches wide, and 1.0 inch deep. It weighs in at 8.0 ounces or one-half of a pound. The Fusion has a tabbed base that allows for an ultra-secure mounting platform that’s built for lots of G’s and abuse.

GoPro Fusion outdoors

The Fusion is waterproof up to 5 meters or 16 feet in total. And even though the unit is submersible, the battery can still be removed; and there’s plenty of power from the included Lithium-Ion 2620mAh battery. Under full load, you should expect about 90 minutes on a single charge.

Video quality is 5.2K (5228 x 2624) at 30 frames per second NTSC or 25 frames per second in PAL mode. This can be used in high-speed, action shots, but will still have some fluidity issues with ultra-high speed action modes. The camera uses dual-offset lenses to create the 360-degree experience, but the offset design actually helps with stitchline issues. One thing that we want to point out is that this requires two memory cards (one for each lens). As such, you’ll need to make sure that they are Class 10 or UHS-II/III rated so they can keep up with the data read/write requirements of the Fusion.

GoPro Fusion example shot of kayak in ice cave

One feature that the Fusion has that’s absolutely mind-boggling is the OverCapture feature. OverCapture works by letting you record the video without focusing in on ANY target. Then, when the recording is complete, you can use your phone and/or software to refocus the target as if you were recording it in person. Now, you don’t have to have someone else with you to keep everything in frame and in focus.

For the action shots, the Fusion uses a gimbal-designed image stabilization system that’s similar to the technology found on drones and other high-end cameras. It does a great job of keeping everything in place, no matter how bad the bumps get.

What We Like

The OverCapture feature looks like a gimmick at first glance, but it absolutely makes this worth the money. You don’t have to bring your friends out to keep up with you as you try your latest adventure, and if you fall out of the frame, you can easily adjust the video so that everything is back in frame and in focus.

Overall

The GoPro Fusion is a worthy competitor, especially with the high 5.2K video quality and durable body design. If you have the computer for it, you can definitely create some eye-popping videos that’ll impress everyone. The added OverCapture feature makes this one you can’t skip over, especially if you like seeing everything after the fact.

GoPro Fusion

GoPro Fusion

  • Small and Lightweight
  • OverCapture Video System
  • Dual Lens + Dual Memory Card System

#4 Kodak PixPro SP360 4K

Kodak PixPro SP360 4K

Specs:

  • 4K Video Resolution
  • 235-Degree Field of View System

Kodak has been around since … FOREVER! And they even designed one of the first 360-degree video cameras. And now, they’ve got a 4K option that we’re sure you’ll appreciate.

The SP360 measures out at a paltry 1.9 inches high, by 2.0 inches wide, by 2.1 inches deep; basically, it’s a cube with a half-globe on top. It’s extremely lightweight at only 4.5 ounces and it can be set on any flat surface. It does have the standard tripod screw-mount system located on the bottom of the unit for easy compatibility with most mounts and/or tripods.

The SP360 is not waterproof on its own but requires an additional case to protect it from falls and water. If you choose to use the protective case, you’ll be able to submerge the camera up to 30 meters! Also, the battery is removable and can last around 55 minutes on a single charge.

Kodak PixPro SP360 4K On table

Video quality is 4K (3840 x 1920) at 30 frames per second, but its native video resolution is 2880 x 2880 at 30 frames per second. If you need a higher FPS rate, you’ll have to lower the resolution down to 1440 x 1440 (effectively 2K). The image is stretched out to meet the 4K numbers reported above (this does create some odd stitchlines). Part of this can be attributed to the 235-degree single camera lens system. Kodak does offer an option where you can put another SP360 back-to-back to create a true 360-degree camera, but again, you still have some odd artifacts that show up in the stitchlines. Plus, you can live stream your 360 videos using the smartphone control app for both Android and iOS.

Kodak PixPro SP360 4K accessories

What We Like

While it doesn’t produce a true 360-degree experience (up/down + left/right), it does a great job of capturing everything surrounding the subject of focus. The 235-degree lens captures a lot of detail for a single-lens system.

Overall

Kodak knows the camera market better than most, and the PixPro 360 4K is a step in the right direction. While they aren’t keeping up with Insta360 and GoPro, they’ve got a great camera that can definitely handle most of your 360-degree needs. If you don’t need the spherical 360-degree camera angles, this is a great choice.

Kodak PixPro SP360 4K

Kodak PixPro SP360 4K

  • 235-Degree Camera Lens
  • WiFi + NFC Connection Options
  • Back-to-Back Mounting System For Dual-Camera / Dual-Lens System

#5 Nikon KeyMission 360

Nikon KeyMission 360

Specs:

  • 4K Video Resolution
  • 30MP Image Resolution
  • 180-Degree Dual Lens System
  • Electronic Image Stabilization

Here’s another company that’s been around FOREVER. As such, they should know how to create a camera that captures amazing images. And the KeyMission 360 can definitely produce some stunning video captures.

The KeyMission 360 measures out a 2.4 inches high, by 2.4 inches wide, by 2.6 inches deep (it’s a box). It weighs in at 7.0 ounces or a little less than one-half of a pound. However, it is durable, able to withstand a drop of 6 feet using the included protective rubber cover. And, it can even be submerged up to 100 feet without failure. The mounting system is built into the bottom of the camera and uses the standard threaded-base for mounts and/or tripods. The battery is removable and lasts for about 50 minutes on a single charge. Access to the microSD card and the HDMI/USB ports are behind the same door that protects the battery.

Nikon KeyMission 360 on rock

Video quality is 4K (4096 x 2160) at 24 frames per second NTSC and PAL. While this is good, for high-speed action videos, this might struggle to produce a fluid video. Image quality is a staggering 30MP (7744 x 3872). The camera does seem to produce some overexposed (overblown) videos when in heavy-lighting situations. Even so, the image quality is amazing with similar results from other cameras like the GoPro Fusion and Insta360 One X. While the camera does have electronic image stabilization, it’s not near as effective as gimbal and/or multi-axis gyro systems. It’ll reduce some jitters, but constant jitters will show up in the video.

Nikon KeyMission 360 side

The biggest plus for the KeyMission 360 is the fact that everything is pre-stitched before it comes off of the camera. You don’t have to use additional software to create stitched videos. Instead, you can download/upload the video to your desired source and it’s ready to go. As such, the video files are MASSIVE so make sure you have a BIG memory card.

What We Like

If you want a camera that makes 360-degree capture easy, then you’ll love the KeyMission 360. It’s almost a point-and-record solution. With the built-in pre-stitching software, everything is done before you do anything.

Overall

For a beginner, this is a great option. It takes all the overhead and guesswork out and lets you focus more on capturing the moment. When you’re done recording, just save it or upload it where you want it and it’s ready. It’s very durable and waterproof so you can drop it a few times without freaking out and if it starts raining, you’ll be good.

Sale

Nikon KeyMission 360

Nikon KeyMission 360

  • Protected Dual Lenses
  • Waterproof Up To 100 Feet
  • Web-Ready Pre-Stitched Videos

#6 Ricoh Theta SC

Ricoh Theta SC

Specs:

  • 1080p Video Resolution
  • 14.4MP Image Resolution
  • 180-Degree Dual Lens System

The Theta SC measures out a 5.1 inches in height, 1.8 inches in width, and 1.9 inches in depth; similar in size to a Wii controller. It’s extremely light, weighing in at 3.6 ounces. It comes in four different colors (white, pink, blue, and beige). Ricoh doesn’t claim any type of waterproof rating for the Theta SC so don’t get it wet. Also, it’s not designed for drops and will dent and/or crack if not handled carefully. It uses the standard threaded-base mounting system for tripods, mounts, and/or selfie sticks. The battery and memory are both internal and non-removable.

Ricoh Theta SC without stand

Video quality is 1080p or 1K, so it’s fairly basic. And when stretched out to 1920 x 960, there’s a definite distortion on the edges and stitching. However, more effort was put into the image capturing system as it has a 14.4MP rating.

Ricoh Theta SC on stand

The Theta SC is great for selfie shots and surround photos, but not everyone wants a selfie. For those who want to disconnect a little, you can use the Theta S app which gives you the ability to control the Theta SC remotely. You can see what the camera sees from the smartphone or tablet and even move around the frame before taking the PERFECT picture. One caveat, the internal memory is only 16GB which equates to around 1,000 pictures.

Ricoh Theta SC packaging

What We Like

The photo quality is great for the price. 14.4MP is crazy when you consider how inexpensive this 360-degree camera is. It’s extremely lightweight and it looks great.

Overall

For the budget minded, this is a great option. For videos, this isn’t that great, but for stills it’s awesome! Unfortunately, it only has 16GB of internal memory (not expandable) so it’s not going to take a lot of high-quality videos before running out of space. Again, if you wanted to get a great 360-degree still camera, this is a great option at a budget-friendly price.

Ricoh Theta SC

Ricoh Theta SC

  • Candy Bar Design
  • Multiple Color Options
  • Budget-Friendly Pricing

#7 Ricoh Theta V 4K

Ricoh Theta V 4K

Specs:

  • 4K Video Resolution
  • 14.5MP Image Resolution
  • 180-Degree Dual Lens System

The last Ricoh was a little basic, but here’s the upgraded version that’ll definitely do more to please the video purists.

The Theta V is almost the same size as the Theta SC measuring in a 5.1 inches high, by 1.8 inches wide, by 0.9 inches. However, it does gain a little weight at 4.3 ounces versus 3.6 ounces for the Theta SC. Again, the Theta V is not waterproof on its own but can become waterproof by using the TW-1 protective case which is sold separately. With the protective case, it can be dropped once or twice without any MAJOR damage (still, don’t drop it). The mounting system is the same as the Theta SC with the threaded-base located at the bottom of the Theta V.

Ricoh Theta V 4K in pocket

Video quality gets a BIG improvement from the Theta SC, going from 1K (1080p) to 4K (3840 x 1920) at 30 frames per second. However, image quality is almost identical moving from 14.4MP to 14.5MP. For videos, the 4K resolution will work to create good, non-production videos. During video recording, there’s no image stabilization system so you’ll need to be still if you want it to look great. Also, it should be noted that the Theta SC stops all video clips after five minutes of use. If you want longer videos, you’ll need to restart another capture or use a different device altogether.

One major caveat is that the Theta V still uses non-removable batteries and memory. And the memory is capped at 19GB which isn’t that much. The battery will last around 80 minutes on a single charge. And recordings in 4K will fill up the memory in about 40 minutes (tops).

What We Like

It’s extremely compact and easy to hold. The upgraded 4K video quality is definitely an improvement from the Theta SC. It records at 30 frames per second, which adds to a nice, fluid video output.

Overall

Price wise, this is not for a beginner, but it’s built more for the beginner and/or novice. Everything is built-in so you don’t have to buy too many extras (just a waterproof case). It’s slim, compact, and lightweight with more than enough features to keep most 360’ers happy.

Sale

Ricoh Theta V 4K

Ricoh Theta V 4K

  • Added 4K Video Quality
  • External Microphone Support
  • WiFi and Bluetooth Connections

#8 Rylo 360 5.8K

Rylo 360 5.8K

Specs:

  • 5.8K Video Resolution
  • 180-Degree Dual Lens System

The Rylo 360 measures in at 2.9 inches high, by 1.7 inches wide, by 1.4 inches deep. It only weighs 3.84 ounces. While it’s not waterproof itself, it does come with a waterproof housing that can be used to give some protection. The selfie-stick wraps around the unit and that’s how you can carry it as it’s extremely small (easy to cover the lens when holding it without the selfie-stick).

Rylo 360 5.8K unboxed

The Rylo 360 is all about video and can record in 5.8K resolution. We’re not sure of the frames per second rating as it isn’t mentioned on the manufacturer’s website. Panoramic photos can be taken at up to 6.0K resolution. And, the Rylo 360 has a built-in image stabilization system (where they put it …?) for clear video and/or pictures. Plus, they include the 16GB storage card so you won’t have to buy anything to get started.

Rylo 360 5.8K on mount

After your video has been recorded, you can use their Dynamic Speed Control to alter the speed up to 16x to create unique, time-lapse videos. And, their app gives you even more editing controls such as contrast, cropping, motion effects, and more so you’ll be able to create a masterpiece after all the recording has stopped.

Rylo 360 5.8K close-up for lense

What We Like

It’s so small! The Rylo 360 packs a serious punch with the ability to take 5.8K videos with image stabilization. Being that it’s so small, you’ll need the image stabilization system too.

Overall

The Rylo 360 5.8K camera is built to be a true spherical 360-degree camera. It comes with everything you’ll need to get started, to edit and manipulate, and even push out to the web. It’s so small, you’ll forget you have it with you if you aren’t careful.

Sale

Rylo 360 5.8K

Rylo 360 5.8K

  • Everyday Essentials Package
  • Included Editing Software
  • Image Stabilization

#9 Vuze 3D 4K VR 360-Degree Camera

Vuze 3D 4K VR 360-Degree Camera

Specs:

  • 4K Video Resolution
  • Multiple Color Options
  • 360-Degree Eight Lens System

Vuze 3D 4K VR 360-Degree Camera on stand

The Vuze measures in at 1.2 inches high, by 4.7 inches wide, by 4.7 inches deep and it weighs 14.4 ounces (almost one pound). It does have some waterproofing and dust protection (not much; it’ll handle raindrops). It can be mounted on a tripod with the standard thread-base located on the bottom of the unit.

Vuze 3D 4K VR 360-Degree Camera smartphone setup

What We Like

8 cameras are COOL! It’s a unique product that will definitely get everyone’s attention. It does a good job of capturing 360 views, but it still leaves some heavy seamlines.

Overall

For someone looking to step up to a production quality camera, this could be a good option. Though it would have been better if the quality was closer to the 5.8K+ range.

#10 YI 360 VR Camera

YI 360 VR Camera

Specs:

  • 5.7K Video Resolution
  • 4K Live Streaming

The YI 360 measures in at 4.0 inches high, by 2.1 inches wide, by 1.2 inches deep and only weighs 6 ounces. It does not come with any waterproof ratings so keep it dry (including the rain).

YI 360 VR Camera close-up

It can be mounted on a tripod using the standard thread-base mounting system located at the bottom of the camera (some other similar cameras don’t offer this).

YI 360 VR Camera next to window

Video quality is great at 5.7K (5760 x 2880) and 4K (3840 x 1920) at 30 frames per second. The 5.7K resolution makes it easy to cut the video down to the preferred 16:9 aspect ratio without sacrificing quality. If you want to live stream, you can use the 4K recording option as this will handle all the stitching in real time.

YI 360 VR Camera display

What We Like

The video quality is great, but the live streaming in true 4K is awesome. There aren’t many cameras that offer 4K live streaming.

Overall

The YI 360 is a great camera that can record up to 5.7K video resolutions. While it can’t handle the stitching on camera above 4K, it’s a great camera that’ll impress. For the price, it’s hard to beat, especially for what you get.

Buyer’s Guide To Find The Best 360 Camera

Not sure where to start?

Here are the most important factors to consider when purchasing a 360 camera.

Image And Video Quality/Resolution

Cameras have long been judged simply on their ability to pack in the megapixels. And while the best “stills” can be taken with an ultra-high resolution, they take up a LOT of space. In most cases, a camera that can take 4K (3840 x 2160 or 4096 x 2160) is more than enough. For reference, almost all of the 360 cameras we’re looking at are 4K-capable.

But there is a LOT more to image and video quality when it comes to 360 cameras. For instance, the number of lenses that are being used, the dynamic range of the lenses and/or the camera itself, and even the stitching software can affect the final output dramatically.

Features like HDR (High-Dynamic Range) can alter the final output from MEH to WOW! HDR helps to fix errors such as washed out images and/or images that are too dark to be seen. It does this by taking multiple images using different light settings and then overlaying them together (that’s the basic premise; it’s a lot more complicated than that). And that’s just ONE feature. As a matter of fact, we’ll discuss another feature a little further down that really affects the quality of your recording.

While most companies tout 4K as the “be-all and end-all” for image resolution, there are other cameras that are pushing out 8K+ resolutions. If resolution we’re the ONLY thing that matters, this would be all that you would need to consider; but it isn’t. Image resolution is a great start, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that you consider.

Let’s look at some of the other factors you need to consider when purchasing a 360 camera.

Field Of View

The field of view (FOV) is what you see in front of a camera. For still-imaging cameras, this was not an issue as it was focused on ONE point. However, 360 cameras aren’t focused on one point only, but many points at ALL times. That being said, 360 cameras with a wide field of view tend to perform better than those with a lower field of view.

A wider field of view can be manipulated based on a number of factors, but the most important being the number of lenses in use at one time. To give you an example, look at the room your in right now. Focus on a picture on the wall. Now, close one eye but stay focused on the picture. Did you notice that some of the room “disappeared” when you closed one of your eyes? Your field of view was diminished. The same principle works with 360 cameras; the more lenses it has, the greater the field of view.

But why does a wider field of view matter? Well, if you wanted to stitch all the different images together to make one 360 image, a wider field of view would leave fewer stitch lines to work with. For instance, if you had a field of view of 90 degrees, you would need FOUR images to make ONE picture. If the field of view was 180 degrees, you would only need TWO images to make ONE picture. Stitching two images together make it easier to avoid “stitch-line distortion” which can affect your video output.

Video Stabilization

Next, some cameras have video stabilization built into them. Video stabilization helps to reduce the “bounce” that you see in videos. That bounce can literally cause motion sickness to the viewer if it’s bad enough.

Video stabilization can be accomplished both mechanically and through special software (either built-in or through an editor). Mechanical video stabilization is done by suspending the camera lens so that it doesn’t respond to jitter and/or shaking as much as if it were directly attached to the frame of the camera. Software video stabilization uses special algorithms to “reduce” the shake by altering the video itself. Used in conjunction, this can help to make amateur videos like “professional” and help to keep the focus on the subject rather than the poor video quality.

As most 360 cameras are used in motion capture situations, video stabilization is absolutely necessary. If a camera doesn’t have some form of video stabilization in it, then you need to look elsewhere. Simply put, this is almost more important than image quality and/or resolution.

Stitching

So, we’ve already touched on stitching briefly, but what exactly is stitching and why does it matter?

Image stitching is where multiple photos are taken and then “stitched” or merged together where the images are “the same”. Going back to the field of view, the wider the field of view, the less the need for stitching. In the early days of 360 cameras, it wasn’t uncommon to see nine or more images to create one image. The equipment costs were astronomical and the quality was lackluster.

Now, we have better cameras with wider FOVs that makes stitching a whole lot simpler. Not to mention, the software we use is more intuitive and has better algorithms to reduce distortion and/or skewing.

Some cameras actually handle the stitching themselves (internally) while others allow you to manage the stitching using specialized software. Is one better than the other? Software tends to have more resources to work with so handling it onboard isn’t always the best. But, with the advancements we’ve made over the years, even a video that has been stitched together on the camera itself will still look great; the biggest difference would be production quality versus viewing quality.

If you’re doing this for a professional situation (i.e. real estate, production video), then use software to handle the stitching.

Cost

And finally, we can’t leave out the cost aspect. We won’t stay here long, but you need to figure out your budget upfront. Some cameras can be bought for less than $100 and some cameras can be bought for a LOT more than $1000.

Depending on your needs and/or application of the camera, you can adjust your budget accordingly. One thing we really want to point out is … be willing to adjust up if necessary to get ALL of the features that you need and want. Purchasing a 360 camera is most likely going to be a one-time purchase. Therefore, don’t skimp on the quality and/or features only to be upset with the final product.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is 4K resolution?
A: 4K resolution generally represents either 3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall (4K UHD) or 4096 pixels by 2160 pixels tall (DCI 4K). Both are considered 4K resolutions as they are “close” to the 4000 pixels wide mark.

Q: What is 5.7K resolution?
A: 5.7K resolution generally represents 5760 pixels wide by 2880 pixels tall. Again, the resolution number refers to the width of the image more than the height of the image.

Q: What is 8K resolution?
A: 8K resolution generally represents 7680 pixels wide by 4320 pixels tall.

Q: With 8K resolution being the best, why aren’t all cameras equipped to record in 8K?
A: Cost! The best equipment ALWAYS costs the most. Right now, 8K is the “gold standard” when it comes to image and/or video capture. But, it also requires higher quality lenses and components. As such, it will cost more until a newer, better technology replaces it.

Even so, most 4K images and/or videos will be more than sufficient for your needs. If you can afford a higher resolution such as a 5.7K or even an 8K device, then get it.

Q: What is FPS?
A: FPS stands for frames per second. A higher FPS (framerate) helps to reduce the time between the video images. Most television broadcasts have an FPS of 24. However, some broadcasts are sent out using a higher FPS which helps the video look more natural and flowing. Some cameras are capable of recording at 100+ FPS.

A higher FPS is more likely to be used for slow-motion capture as it can be slowed down without degrading the video quality. In this case, a 100 FPS video could be slowed down up to four times without causing any lagging or glitching issues.

Q: What is an “invisible selfie-stick”?
A: No, it’s not actually invisible. Instead, it’s a selfie-stick that is small enough to fit between the lenses of your 360 camera. In some instances, this is VERY small, which means you’ll need a super-strong, but thin selfie stick. Otherwise, the stick will show up in the video which takes away from the 360 effect somewhat.

Q: Why are some of my videos “laggy”?
A: This could be for a number of reasons, but most of the time it is because your computer does not have the resources necessary to handle the size of the images and/or videos. Another issue could be the quality of your memory card. If your memory card is not designed for high-transfer speeds, it could be the actual bottleneck.

Most of the time, lagging issues are from a bottleneck that is created from a lack of resources and/or an inability to match the speed required for the transfer (i.e. USB 1.0, USB 2.0, Older Memory Cards).

Q: How much video can be recorded on a 360 camera?
A: This depends on your record quality, your framerate, and the amount of memory that you have to work with. In order to maximize your record time, you would need to adjust the recording quality to the lowest acceptable setting, the framerate to the lowest acceptable setting, and buy the biggest (fastest) memory card that you can find for your device.

  • Note: The lowest acceptable rate is where you are still happy with the output of the image and/or video.
  • Q: Couldn’t I just use a normal camera with the right software to make 360 videos?
    A: You could … But, it requires a lot more work, effort, time, and specialized software. Not to mention, you have to have everything “near perfect” for it to work. A 360 camera is built to record everything properly so that there aren’t any issues with stitching so that the imaging looks crisp and fluid.

    Conclusion

    There are PLENTY of 360 cameras on the market, but not all of them are worth your time and/or money. Today, we’ve given you ten cameras that we feel are the best based on price, image and/or video quality, durability, ease of use, and other minor factors. Hopefully, we helped you find the perfect 360 camera. If not, you can use the buyer’s guide to help you narrow down your search time.

    360 cameras can be used for SO MANY different purposes. What used to be a gimmick is now a worthwhile feature. Realtors use it for 3D and full-home video walkthroughs. Automotive manufacturers use it for in-car viewing to help sell their cars. Virtual reality companies use it to help immerse the viewer deeper into the scenes. And home users can use it to show off their vacation on a completely different level. There’s no end to what a 360 camera can be used for.

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STEM kits that don’t look like STEM kits

STEM kits that don’t look like STEM kits

LittleBits Base Inventor Kit (8+)

Amazon

$60

This might be one of the best introductions to electronics for budding inventors, with plenty of options to “think outside the box” — though the “box” itself is pretty cool too. Kids can build and customize a voice-activated robotic arm and innovate from there or just invent whatever they’d like. In addition to the robotic arm, the kit comes with a power supply, slide dimmer, sound trigger, proximity sensor, LED, buzzer and other goodies for hours of play and learning. The littleBits app has some good ideas, too, if your kids need some suggestions.

Don’t let the recommended age of 8+ limit you: You can guide much younger kids with this one. I play with my five-year-old, and older kids get just as much joy out of it as their younger counterparts.

Kiwi Crate (All ages)

Kiwi Co.

$16.95/mth

Every month, my kids leap for joy when they see that the green box has arrived. Kiwi Crate excites them — they can’t wait to bust it open and get to work.

There are a bevy of STEM subscription-box options out there. Here’s what’s great about Kiwi Crate: It offers a line of accessible and exciting STEM and STEAM (that’s STEM with “a” for “art”) projects for infants through high school students. It’s won a bunch of awards too.

My kids currently share the Kiwi Crate, designed for ages five through eight, and they work on it together without my help. Every month, they receive a themed box of three STEM activities that require them to follow directions, build a project and use it. Kiwi Crates also come with a supplementary magazine, which they enjoy. Their favorite so far? Kiwi Crate’s rocket launcher. They’ve already worked out the perfect launch angle best suited to hitting me with projectiles while I make dinner.

If you’re not ready to commit to a subscription service, you can test out its products by buying one kit at a time too. It also offers chemistry sets, electronics projects and other options for onetime purchase.

Wonder Dash and Wonder Dot (6+)

Amazon (Dot Creativity)

$80

Amazon (Dash Workshop)

$150

Both of these coding robots from Wonder Workshop deserve a place on this list, despite the fact that they’re screen dependent. They’re that awesome.

My seven-year-old son came home from school the other day and said, “I can’t wait to write a story about Dash and Dot. I want to make them sing!”

“Who are Dash and Dot?” I asked.

“Robots!” he shouted. “I play with robots at school!”

“Awesome,” I said and immediately emailed the tech coordinator, who confirmed that yes, indeed, Dash and Dot are making a splash across the K-8 spectrum.

In addition to being a playful introduction to coding and robotics, Wonder Workshop’s two robots offer myriad possibilities for storytelling and creative play. While they require tablets, mobile devices or laptops for coding, the opportunities for collaboration outweigh their reliance on screens. My son loves making Dot and Dash carry objects, draw and even play the xylophone! They’re also Lego compatible, which makes them even more spectacular.

Lego Education WeDo 2.0 Core (6+)

Amazon

$198

Speaking of Lego, its WeDo 2.0 Core kit takes a discovery-based approach to design, building and coding, and it’s perfect for little kids through the end of middle school. While older kids may prefer something from Lego’s Mindstorms line, the WeDo 2.0’s ample possibilities for building outside “the box” make it a good investment for all ages. The set comes with 280 building elements including a SmartHub and motor. As Lego does brilliantly, there are opportunities both to re-create pre-made projects using its app and to free build, which I heartily encourage. Whatever kids build, there’s always the chance to code some part of the project using an app similar to ScratchJr, MIT’s lauded coding program for kids ages five through eight.

Lego Education’s lesson-plan page is super helpful for parents, too, as you can filter ideas by kit and approximate age and grade.

My kids have enjoyed re-creating some of the 50+ projects that Lego recommends and then tweaking them. I love hearing my favorite kid-scientist question: “What happens if I do this?”

Makedo Toolkit (6+)

Amazon

$13

There’s just something about a cardboard box.

The most innovative of this lineup, the Makedo toolkit is also the lowest tech and least expensive. It allows kids to amp up their cardboard-box play by designing, creating and building worlds from the recycling pile.
Its starter kit includes one “scru-driver,” 28 “scrus” in two sizes and a safe-saw. Makedo offers some project suggestions and an iPad app, but you don’t need any of it. All you need is a splash of imagination and a kid with the desire to transform cardboard into a space pod or an ice cream truck or a playground or a windball or a…

Tech Will Save Us Synth Kit (12+)

Amazon

$16

Have a kid into music, electronics and building? Check out one of the coolest electronics kits ever: the Tech Will Save Us Synth Kit! Tech Will Save Us offers great STEM kits for kids ages four and up. Its goal? To “empower kids through open-ended play.” I’m all about it. I love its kits, and its age ranges are spot on.
With a focus on coding and electronics, Tech Will Save Us’ Synth Kit, designed for kids ages 12 and older, offers middle schoolers the chance to build a synth that actually works. While kids can use a tablet to follow the directions, they don’t need to interact with screens at all. The kit comes with enough pieces to build three synths — a Dub Siren, Stutter and Atari. Three potentiometers control volume, pitch and frequency, and kids can create the most wonderful of noises… I mean music. Rock on.

Elenco Snap Circuits Basic Electricity Kit (8+)

Amazon

$18

This has been a hit in my house since my son got it for his third birthday. My daughter, now five, plays with it regularly by starting with her favorite circuit — the loop — and then tweaking it by messing with lamps and meters.

The kit comes with nine projects, a snap-on base and the opportunity to expand from there. Elenco’s Snap Circuits Basic Electricity Kit is simpler than some of the other kits and toys on this list, but it offers an accessible, easy introduction to the concept of circuits and electricity. Plus there’s plenty of room to grow, no screens required. It’s worth taking a look at its DIY and maker kits and electronic instruments for older kids too!

Thames and Kosmos CHEM C3000 (12+)

Amazon

$200

This list is incomplete without a good old-fashioned chemistry set, the kind you can use to blow things up in the bathtub. With more than 300 experiments, this fun approach to high school chemistry includes an alcohol burner, multiple test tubes and liquids, and powders of varying colors, textures and viscosity. What’s not to love? Kids get a chance to play with molecules and atoms, the stuff of life. No screens required, although Thames and Kosmos offers apps for its equally impressive robotics kits.

We’re not quite here with this in my house yet, but as it is with most things, I suspect it’s only a matter of time.


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Best Outdoor TV Antenna [2019]

Best Outdoor TV Antenna [2019]

How We Picked

Have you been looking into cord-cutting options recently?

Well, we’ve got some good news for you. Cutting the cord can save you tons of money on your bills (though that much should also be obvious).

Most cord-cutters look into two options:

  1. Video streaming boxes (i.e. Roku)
  2. Outdoor TV Antennas

Today, we’re going to talk about outdoor TV antennas.

An outdoor TV antenna can receive free channels that are broadcasted over the airwaves (OTA). And these aren’t just your local PBS channels. These are your local broadcast stations, news channels, and entertainment channels. While the OTA channels won’t include paid programming and/or pay-per-view, it’s a great way to enjoy your TV without spending a fortune.

Below is a list of our favorite outdoor TV antennas. We’ll explain some of the technical mumbo-jumbo and then we’ll explain why we like them (and why others do and/or don’t).

So, are you ready to see which outdoor antennas made the list?

#1 Tree New Bee TNB-WA2608

Tree New Bee TNB-WA2608

Specs:

  • Range: 120 Miles
  • Type: Directional
  • Frequency: UHF/VHF/FM
  • Video: 720p, 1080i, 1080p

If you want to maximize your chances of picking up ALL the channels available via OTA, then the TNB-WA2608 should be on the top of your list. It has an amazing range, covers a huge frequency spectrum, looks good, and even comes with a few accessories to make life more convenient.

It used to be that you wanted to see Magnavox or RCA when you were looking for an antenna, but those days are gone! Now, there are some “new kids on the block” that are looking to change everything – for the better. While Tree New Bee sounds like a funny name, there’s nothing funny about the TNB-WA2608 – it’s all business.

Tree New Bee TNB-WA2608 installed on roof

First thing’s first, the TNB-WA2608 is built for distance. Under the right circumstances, it can pick up a signal from over 120 miles away. It is amplified to help with any noise in your setup and/or connections.

It is a directional antenna, so it has the common and almost bland look that almost all directional antennas have. Still, it does look pretty cool (the x-crosses give it a nice touch).

Tree New Bee TNB-WA2608 and accessories

When you buy the TNB-WA2608, you will get:

  • Antenna
  • Amplifier
  • Rotor Control Box
  • IR Remote Control
  • Power Supply
  • 40ft of Coaxial Cable

It does not come with any mounting hardware, so you’ll need to purchase a mounting kit separately.

What we like about the TNB-WA2608 is that it’s not a big as some of the other 120-mile outdoor antennas we’ve seen, but it performs as good, if not better. Plus, it comes with a lot of “extras” that make having an outdoor antenna enjoyable. The included rotor control box with remote control makes it easier to adjust the direction of the antenna without having to go outside in bad weather or after it’s dark.

Tree New Bee TNB-WA2608 mounted

When looking through what others think about the TNB-WA2608, the consensus is the same. This is one of the best outdoor antennas you can find that isn’t MASSIVE. In fact, some users have even installed theirs in the attic and it still outperformed others that were installed outside.

One negative that we can vouch for is the remote control and controlling the direction of the antenna. It seems that you can’t choose which direction you want to turn. Instead, the antenna will turn one direction until it hit the 0-degree mark, then it will reverse course until it hits the 0-degree mark again. It seems that Tree New Bee anticipated this because the unit does spin rather quickly.

Overall, if you want a GREAT long-distance antenna with some extra perks included, then the TNB-WA2608 from Tree New Bee should be on the top of your list (and your home).

#2 Tree New Bee TNB-WA2805

Tree New Bee TNB-WA2805

Specs:

  • Range: 150 Miles
  • Type: Directional
  • Frequency: UHF/VHF/FM
  • Video: 720p, 1080i, 1080p

Almost everyone knows what it’s like to have a BIGGER brother who just seems to be stronger, faster, better looking, etc. Well our first pick- the TNB-WA2608- has a bigger brother who seems to always show and he’s stronger, better looking, and has even more range.

As you can see, Tree New Bee isn’t playing when it comes to their outdoor antenna lineup. And for the money, there isn’t much left to talk about – but we will.

The TNB-WA2805 adds to what it’s little brother could do by another 30 miles, bumping total distance to a WHOPPING 150 miles in the right conditions. As with the TNB-WA2608, it is amplified to help reduce noise and signal degradation. But, the TNB-WA2805 also adds in a filtering technology called Pure Vertex Technology that helps to reduce signal interference from cell phones, microwaves, other electronic devices, and even AM/FM transmissions.

In the styling department, the bigger brother looks more refined with fewer extras like the x-cross bracing of the TNB-WA2608. But, it still looks pretty gnarly nonetheless. If we were picking based on looks, the little brother would win.

Tree New Bee TNB-WA2805 and accessories

When you buy the TNB-WA2805, you will get:

  • Antenna
  • Amplifier
  • Rotor Control Box
  • IR Remote Control
  • Power Supply
  • 40ft of Coaxial Cable

Again, there isn’t any mounting hardware included so you’ll need to buy that separately.

The TNB-WA6805 is a little bit bigger than the TNB-WA6208, but not by much (a few inches maybe). Installed outside, with a clear line of sight, it can reach up to 150 miles away. When compared to other larger, directional antennas – well, there’s no comparison. We love the fact that Tree New Bee throws in so many extras such as the remote-controlled rotor box, amplifier, and coaxial cable.

Tree New Bee TNB-WA2805 outdoor

What we don’t like is the fact that no mounting hardware was included. This was the same problem that the TNB-WA2608 had as well. Hopefully, they’ll fix this at some point in the future. The only other negative we had was the fact the remote still only turns the rotor until it hits the 0-degree mark. Surely this could be fixed for a few more dollars …

Even so, the TNB-WA2805 proves that the BIG brother is always better! If you live in a REMOTE place where life doesn’t exist, this is the antenna you’ll need.

#3 1ByOne High Performance

1ByOne High Performance

Specs:

  • Range: 85 Miles
  • Type: Directional
  • Frequency: UHF/VHF
  • Video: 720p, 1080i, 1080p, 4K, 3D

1ByOne is fairly new, but obviously they knew something that we didn’t. Their high-performance outdoor antenna is pretty strong! Plus it’s ready for some super-high resolutions with support for 4K and 3D signals. It’s got a small footprint and it’s not very obtrusive, which is just a few of the reasons why it’s on our list.

1ByOne High Performance mounted outdoors

The 1ByOne High Performance antenna is strong. While it doesn’t break the 100-mile range, it does comfortably stay in the 85-mile range which is great considering its size. It is amplified to help with signal quality and noise reduction (up to 23db on VHF and up to 28db on UHF).

Stylewise, the antenna is pretty muted. It’s another directional antenna so it still looks like a toy from Star Wars, but it’s not nearly as gnarly as the ones from Tree New Bee. For the most part, it is black with just a little bit of chrome and/or gray coloring on the ribs and fins.

When you buy the 1ByOne High Performance Antenna, you will get:

  • Antenna
  • Power Supply
  • 1.5m Coaxial Cable
  • Mounting Kit
  • 21-Inch J-Shaped Pole
  • Mounting Base
  • Mounting Hardware
  • User Manual

While this antenna does come with mounting hardware, it does not appear to come with a rotor box to help turn the antenna. If you can’t get all the channels you want, you may need to purchase an additional rotor box that can be controlled via remote to access all the available OTA channels around you.

1ByOne High Performance mounted on wall

What we like about the antenna is the fact that it is not very big at all. It is a good bit smaller than the Tree New Bee antennas, but it still performs well. We also like the fact that mounting hardware is included with the antenna so you don’t have to buy other equipment just to get it “up and running”.

1ByOne High Performance mounted indoors

What we didn’t like about the antenna was the fact that it did not come with a rotor to help turn the antenna. Since this is a directional antenna, it will pick up channels it is facing better than the ones it’s not facing. Therefore, you may have to turn your antenna from time to time. An option to add a rotor would have been nice. Also, you aren’t going to enjoy this much if you try to hide it in your attic. While it will still work, the number of available channels will drop.

If you are looking for a good, reliable outdoor antenna that blends in with its surrounding, then the 1ByOne High Performance antenna is a great option. It’s a very cost effective antenna that comes with a few features such as 3D and 4K support.

#4 1ByOne Outdoor TV Antenna – New Concept

1ByOne Outdoor TV Antenna – New Concept

Specs:

  • Range: 80 Miles
  • Type: OmniDirectional
  • Frequency: UHF/VHF
  • Video: 720p, 1080i, 1080p

And here’s another outdoor antenna from 1ByOne, but this one is a little different. If you’ve got drinking buddies, you may want to keep them away from this at night (don’t say we didn’t warn you). This omnidirectional antenna has some serious range for such a small antenna and it looks great. All that could make it better would be a great price – oh wait!

1ByOne Outdoor TV Antenna – New Concept packaging

Omnidirectional antennas are good, but their range generally suffers. However, the new omnidirectional antenna from 1ByOne is trying to prove all the “haters” wrong with their New Concept antenna.

1ByOne Outdoor TV Antenna – New Concept mounted

The 1ByOne New Concept antenna can reach out a staggering 80 miles, which is only 5 miles less than the previous directional antenna we just talked about from them. It does get a little help from a stronger amplifier (32db vs 28db).

1ByOne Outdoor TV Antenna – New Concept mounted

Stylewise, it looks like a UFO floating next to your house. Earlier we alluded to keeping your drinking buddies away, this is why. While it probably won’t be mistaken for a UFO, it’s ready to reach out and touch someone – in this case, OTA channels. It’s white, with a rubberized anti-UV covering to protect it from the elements and should look great for years to come.

1ByOne Outdoor TV Antenna – New Concept accessories

When you buy the 1ByOne New Concept antenna, you will get:

  • Antenna
  • Power Supply
  • USB Power Cable
  • Optional Power Adapter
  • Mounting Kit
  • 20ft of Coaxial Cable
  • Instruction Manual

This comes with everything you need to get up and running. You won’t need a rotor because this has a 360-degree sight radius.

What we like about the 1ByOne New Concept antenna is the fact that it comes pre-assembled, minus the hardware. It’s literally just a matter of minutes from opening your package to be connected and ready to go. Something else we really like about the antenna is that you can install it in the attic and you only lose about 25% efficiency (performance drops down to around 60 miles).

1ByOne Outdoor TV Antenna – New Concept setup

Some users reported that the antenna mounting kit is not built for high winds as it flexes some. If this is an issue where you are, you might want to invest in some longer bolts and install it directly to a mounting stud.

For someone looking to get away from the raygun-styled antennas, this is a great option. For an omnidirectional antenna, the range is phenomenal. Not to mention, you can tuck it away in the attic and still do pretty good for signal reception.

#5 Channel Master CM-4228HD

Channel Master CM-4228HD

Specs:

  • Range: 80 Miles
  • Type: Directional
  • Frequency: UHF/VHF
  • Video: 720p, 1080i, 1080p

Well, with a name like Channel Master, you’d expect them to pick up some channels, right? And with a name like EXTREMEtenna 80, you’d expect it to be extreme, right? Well, it can pick up channels and it’s EXTREME, extremely big. But it’s another outdoor antenna that will work great for you.

So, we’ve finally got to one of the BIG boys! The EXTREMEtenna 80 is big, but it works amazing. While the manufacturer only claims a range of 80 miles, we believe they are being “humble” (so rare these days). What they meant to say was 80 miles of range with flawless reception. It does get a little help, with just 12db of amplification. Unfortunately, it’s still a directional antenna with 180-degrees of signal reception so you may need to use a rotor (we hope not) to turn this beast.

Channel Master CM-4228HD front

Stylewise, this looks like a giant bug zapper on steroids! But, it definitely looks like an antenna and that’s the point. Since it’s BIG, it does attract attention. How big … it’s almost four feet tall and three feet wide.

Channel Master CM-4228HD mounting

When you buy the EXTREMEtenna 80, you will get:

  • Antenna
  • Hardware Kit
  • Instruction Manual

This will not come with a mount … and you’re going to need a mount, a STRONG mount at this weight; a whopping 10lbs!

What we like about the EXTREMEtenna 80 is the ability to pick up flawless signals from the longest of distances. Like we said, we think they underreported their maximum distance to be “safe”. The image quality is amazing and if it sees a signal, it picks it up clean (HD-clean).

Channel Master CM-4228HD mounted

What we don’t like, and what other users reported too, is that the EXTREMEtenna 80 is heavy – it weighs 10 pounds! You will need a strong mount, on a strong support wall or pole. With this much weight, enough wind can create some problems. The other issue we wanted to address is that it does not come with mounting hardware or a rotor. While it does have a 180-degree signal radius, you may still have to turn this and without a rotor, that’s going to be hard.

But, the EXTREMEtenna 80 by Channel Master is very reminiscent of the old antennas that worked for years. If you believe that bigger is better, this is the perfect antenna for you.

#6 Antennas Direct DB8e

Antennas Direct DB8e

Specs:

  • Range: 70 Miles
  • Type: MultiDirectional
  • Frequency: UHF
  • Video: 720p, 1080i, 1080p, 4K

So, you thought we couldn’t find a bigger antenna? Well, you thought wrong … The DB8e is big, equipped with multi-point axis rotation so you can adjust your antennas for better signal pickup. And it doesn’t look like a giant bug zapper, but you will look like you’re trying to establish contact with another planet.

Antennas Direct DB8e rotated

So, let’s be direct … the DB8e from Antennas Direct is what the “old guys” would have foamed at the mouth from. It’s big, it’s got a lot of metal, it has a lot of reception elements, and it has that space-age look that reminds us of the ‘80s and ‘90s. But it has some new equipment that they never would have had, so it’s a big deal.

The DB8e claims a paltry distance of 70 miles of crystal-clear reception, which is hard to believe based on what we’ve seen. This is another one of those cases where they underclaim in order to overdeliver. And the DB8e overdelivers! It does have a 17.4db amplifier to help clean up some of the weaker signals and reduce overall noise. And while it’s multi-directional, it’s still directional which means you’ll need a rotor to help point it if you can’t capture the signal in the direction your facing.

Antennas Direct DB8e mounted outdoors

Stylewise, this is another form of the bug zapper mentioned above. But it’s not identical. Instead, this one looks more like the antennas you see on the naval ships in the Gulf of Mexico. It has four separate antenna boards, attached to a pivoting axis to give you a wider reception spread. It is mostly gray, with highlights of black and red. And it’s absolutely massive – it’s 4ft wide by 3ft tall!

When you buy the DB8e, you will get:

  • Antenna
  • 2 28-Inch Coaxial Cables

And that’s it! You will need mounting hardware and/or a rotor to help turn this beast. And the mounting hardware better be strong as this weighs over 12 pounds.

Antennas Direct DB8e mounted indoors

What we like about the DB8e is the picture is absolutely crystal-clear. Just like the EXTREMEtenna 80 above, it doesn’t seem to have a distance issue. It also reminds us of the old-school styled antennas that we have learned to love.

What we didn’t like about the DB8e is that it’s HEAVY. At 12+ pounds, mounting it can be difficult (you’ll need a buddy to help). Plus, it has a lot of surface area for the winds and other factors (i.e. birds) to affect its positioning. If you do need to turn it, you’re going to want a rotor to help as it’s very heavy.

Again, if you want a BIG antenna that will do the job well, this is an antenna you should buy. Antennas Direct has built a quality antenna that gets to the point – directly!

#7 RCA ANT751E

RCA ANT751E Mounted indoors

Specs:

  • Range: 70 Miles
  • Type: Directional
  • Frequency: UHF/VHF
  • Video: 720p, 1080i, 1080p

Just when you thought we had forgotten about the raygun-styled antennas…

Remember when we were talking about Magnavox and RCA? Well, here’s one from the originators and signal reception and quality. The ANT751E is a compacted antenna that can work inside and/or outside, though you’ll want to use it outside for the best performance.

The ANT751E is built to pick up channels as far away as 70 miles. It does not have an amplifier of any type to help with the signal, so a preamp may be required, if your signal is not perfect. It is directional, so if it’s locked on, it’s locked on! You will need a rotor to help you lock in on signals not in the sight-line.

RCA ANT751E mounted indoors

Stylewise, it’s not that pretty (but it’s functional). Since it is compact, it’s not nearly as much of an eyesore as some of the other directional antennas on our list. It is basic, with exposed metal on the whole antenna. If looks matter too much, you can hide it away in the attic, but your signal reception will suffer badly.

When you buy the ANT751E, you will get:

  • Antenna
  • Mounting Hardware
  • Mast
  • Locking Clamp
  • Instruction Manual

You will still need coaxial cable and a rotor to control it during bad weather and/or just to make it easier to adjust.

What we like about the ANT751E is the fact that it works so well. While it only claims a 70-mile signal range, it’s a little more powerful than that. Again, RCA doesn’t like to overclaim so this is expected. The signal quality is nearly flawless and the HD is truly HD. It is compact, and isn’t that obtrusive, which is good as it doesn’t draw too much attention to itself.

RCA ANT751E

What we didn’t like about it was the fact that once it hits the signal range limit, it’s done. There is no maybe it’ll pick it up – it doesn’t. There were some channels that this one couldn’t reach that others would at least “draw in”. Also, we wish they would have included some coaxial cable so it would be ready to go out of the box.

Ultimately, RCA has always been a trustworthy brand, and the ANT751E is a great option if you need something basic, small, and cost friendly.

#8 GE 33692

GE 33692

Specs:

  • Range: 60 Miles
  • Type: Directional
  • Frequency: UHF/VHF
  • Video: 720p, 1080i, 1080p, 4K

GE is another of those reputable companies that have proven themselves in the antenna market. The GE 33692 is another great example of that commitment to quality and design. Its multi-element design paired with a directional antenna works great in such a small package.

GE 33692 side

The GE 33692 is strong enough to pick up channels over 60 miles away. GE also didn’t include an amplifier with it, but they rated it for use both indoors and outdoors so the 60 miles is a GOOD rating. It is directional so it will work best when it’s pointed towards the broadcasting station you want to see.

Stylewise, it’s not ugly at all. Honestly, we were a little surprised as it uses a rounded-type look for the main elements along with a directional raygun-styled pointer. They did a great job of using black and gray elements to really give it a contemporary look. It’s not something you’ll want to hide away, but you could if you needed to.

When you buy the GE 33692, you will get:

  • Antenna
  • Mounting Hardware
  • Instruction Manual

Again, GE leaves out extra coaxial cables and a rotor to help with pointing your antenna.

GE 33692 install

What we like about the GE 33692 is the fact that it is small, looks good, and actually performs well both inside and outside. The 60-mile radius seems correct, even inside of the attic.

GE 33692 mounted

What we didn’t like about it is the fact that the directional antenna works great as long as it is pointing right at the broadcasting station (other users felt the same way). It seems that they worked on getting a lot of distance out of a small package by reducing the spread radius.

As long as you know right where you want to pull signal from, this is an excellent option. If you aren’t turning it too much, you’ll love it. If you’re turning it a lot, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

Sale

GE 33692

GE 33692

  • Compact
  • Looks Great
  • Locks Onto Signal Well

#9 Mohu Sky MH-110585

Mohu Sky MH-110585

Specs:

  • Range: 60 Miles
  • Type: OmniDirectional
  • Frequency: UHF/VHF
  • Video: 720p, 1080i, 1080p

Mohu has changed the look of outdoor antennas completely, using naval technologies to help increase their effective range. What they produced with a cool looking, super-small, powerhouse.

The MH-110585 is able to pick up channels from over 60 miles away, using unique technologies from naval studies and the Mohu research team, paired with a 15db amplifier. In fact, there are times where everything lines up and it can reach past 60 miles pretty well. Since it is omnidirectional, it doesn’t have to be turned which makes the 60-mile radius that much more impressive.

Mohu Sky MH-110585 mounted outdoors

Stylewise, it looks like two boomerangs glued together in the middle (forms a rounded “x”). It looks cool, and it’s definitely something you would want to show off to your friends. It is coated in a cool grayish color that looks modern and contemporary at the same time.

When you buy the MH-110585, you will get:

  • Antenna
  • Mounting Hardware
  • 30ft High Performance Cable
  • Power Supply
  • Instruction Manual

It’s an absolute all-in-one package and we love that!

Since we’re talking about what we like, we love that it comes with everything you need to be “up and running” in just a few minutes. Plus, the omnidirectional antenna works better than we expected, even with the “naval” technology. As far as image quality, it’s true HD even on some of the further channels.

Mohu Sky MH-110585 mounted indoors

What we didn’t like about it is that it feels cheap. It’s very light and feels like the elements are covered in plastic. If it were to be hit by flying debris or an animal, it might end up damaged.

Mohu Sky MH-110585 packaging

Even so, this is a great antenna that looks pretty cool. All of your friends will definitely want to talk about your new antenna, which is crazy when you think about it.

 

#10 Antop UFO

Antop UFO packaging

Specs:

  • Range: 65 Miles
  • Type: OmniDirectional
  • Frequency: UHF/VHF
  • Video: 720p, 1080i, 1080p

And finishing out our list is a UFO … literally! Antop absolutely decided to be direct about it, this looks like a UFO. But it works well, for your home and/or RV.

The Antop UFO is able to pick up channels at over 65 miles away, while still being an omnidirectional antenna. It uses an amplifier paired with a smartpass filter to help reduce signal noise and block out interference from 3G/4G devices. Stylewise, it looks like a UFO from the movies. No, it doesn’t have LEDs glowing all around, though that would look cool, but it’s white, round, and floats in the sky.

Antop UFO

When you buy the Antop UFO, you will get:

  • Antenna
  • Power Adapter
  • Mounting Hardware
  • Instruction Manual

You will still need some coaxial cable to finish out the package, but that’s nothing.

What we like about the Antop UFO besides the fact that it looks like a UFO is that it can be set up in less than five minutes. Everything comes pre-assembled and ready to go, except for the mounting aspect. The signal quality is great and it picks up channels in any direction as it should.

Antop UFO mounting

What we didn’t like was that they couldn’t include the coaxial cable (for real). As it is omnidirectional, it does suffer from high trees and/or building. If it doesn’t have a clear line of sight, it does struggle a little bit.

The Antop UFO is a great omnidirectional antenna that will work for most homes, but best for homes just outside of the city. It’s a great antenna to put on your RV and travel, but it’s not going to pick up a lot of channels from the far-away broadcasting towers.

Buyer’s Guide To Finding The Best Outdoor TV Antenna

There are a lot of options to look through, and picking the BEST one for you can be difficult, but using this buyer’s guide, you should be able to narrow down your options quickly. Of course, we believe one of the ten options above are great and will work for you, but if not, here’s what you need to look for in your next outdoor TV antenna.

Size

When it comes to antennas, size really does matter. Understandably, the larger the antenna, the more “unsightly” it is as it’s a little hard to miss. But, if you really want to pick up the far away channels, or lock in on the weaker signals, you’ll need the biggest antenna you can find (in most cases).

While it may look like you’re trying to conjure aliens from another planet, the larger the footprint, the better the performance (generally).

Style

Remember those old rabbit-eared antennas that your mom and dad used to have on top of that old TV – who are we kidding, you’re not that old!

Getting past that, these look nothing like the old antennas that your parents and/or grandparents used. Instead, most of these either look like a UFO or like a raygun designed to shoot the UFOs out of the sky.

The best antennas tend to look like a raygun (these are directional). They tend to focus their reception/signal in one direction with a small spread radius. The next type tends to look like UFOs but are omnidirectional – they receive signal in a full 360-degree spread.

If you are worried about looks, the UFO-styled antennas tend to look less obtrusive, but not nearly as gnarly as the directional antennas.

Omnidirectional Or Directional?

Getting beyond looks, let’s talk about where you’re pointing.

As we briefly discussed, a directional antenna points in one specific direction (i.e. North). In doing so, they increase their ability to receive signal significantly. Omnidirectional antennas, on the other hand, get their signal from all sides, but they sacrifice the ability to receive from far distances.

If you live in the city, an omnidirectional antenna makes the most sense as you’re surrounded by a lot of broadcasting signals. But if you live in the country and/or a remote area, you’ll most likely want to get a directional antenna.

On a side note, a directional antenna can be converted in a semi-omnidirectional antenna using a rotator which can be remotely controlled and used to turn your directional antenna wherever you want on command. So you can “get the best of both worlds” with a directional antenna and a remote-controlled rotator.

Gain

This determines how “strong” the antenna is, but really it helps to identify how sensitive the antenna is.

The higher the gain (dBi) rating, the more likely you can pick up those far away signals and/or weaker signals that your neighbors can’t seem to lock in on. This is not a “boost” that makes it easier to go further out, but it can detect weaker signals that are broadcasting from a longer distance. This should not be confused with amplifier gain which is used to mitigate noise from your connections, splitters, cable length, and other electronics.

Outdoor TV Antenna on house

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I Install An Outdoor Antenna In The Attic?
A: You can, but installing an outdoor antenna in your attic will reduce the effective range quite dramatically. In order to compensate for the signal degradation, you should find an outdoor antenna that is designed to work at longer distances and/or looking into purchasing a pre-amplifier to help improve the signal reception.

One big downside to installing an antenna in the attic is the limited space. If you have a LARGE antenna, there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to use a rotator with it to pick up other channels easily.

Q: Can I Use One Antenna For Multiple TVs?
A: Yes, you can use one antenna to provide signal to multiple TVs. To do this, you’ll need to use a splitter. But, depending on how many TVs you are sending signal to, you may want to use a powered splitter to maintain a high-quality signal.

Q: My TV Is Old, Will It Work With An Outdoor Antenna?
A: Well, that depends. Most TVs have an ASTC digital tuner built into them and can work without any extra parts to make them work. In the past, an ASTC digital tuner was not necessary because OTA signals were analog only. Now, OTA signals are digital only.

If you try to use your outdoor antenna and it does not work, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to purchase an OTA digital converter box. Older, tube-style TVs don’t have ASTC digital tuners so you’ll need an OTA digital converter box if you want to use an outdoor antenna.

Q: Why Is My Picture Bad For Some Channels And Not For Others?
A: This can be caused by any number of reasons, but we will address the two primary reasons.

  1. The antenna is pointed in the wrong direction. If your antenna is pointed North, it will pick up OTA signals coming from that direction the best. Which mean that signal coming from the South will be very weak and/or non-existent. If you were to point the Antenna south, the OTA signals from the South would be very strong while the signals from the North would now be weak.
  2. The antenna is not strong enough to pick up weaker signals that are farther away. This can be affected by a number of factors including mounting location, antenna position, clear line of sight, weather, distance, and more. In general, if a channel you know is in your area isn’t clear and/or consistent, you may not to upgrade to a bigger, more powerful antenna or install a pre-amplifier.

Q: Some Outdoor Antennas Are BIG! Is Bigger Actually Better?
A: In almost every case, the bigger the antenna, the better the reception. Bigger antennas are able to gather more signal when compared to their smaller counterparts. Smaller antennas tend to be limited in range. If you are in a remote area, you’ll most likely need a BIG outdoor antenna.

Q: What Equipment Will I Need With My Antenna?
A: In general, you’ll need a mounting kit to install your antenna to your roof and/or house. Next, you’ll need a LOT of coaxial cable to connect your outdoor antenna to your TV and/or splitter.

After that, you might need a pre-amplifier to help fix any signal issues. Plus, you might need a powered splitter for distributing your signal to multiple TVs. And, if your TV is older, you might need to purchase a digital OTA converter box to convert the digital signal into an analog signal (not too likely if your TV is newer).

Q: Should My Outdoor Antenna Be Grounded For Lightning Prevention?
A: Yes! While grounding your antenna will not keep it from being struck by lightning, it will help to protect your home and/or connected devices from being fried. Remember, lightning tends to strike at the highest point – your antenna will be pretty high.

While grounding will help to protect your home and/or wiring, you should still use surge protectors on all your connected devices as another means of protection. The more protection you have, the better off you’ll be.

Q: How Many Channels Will I Get With My Outdoor Antenna?
A: This is totally dependent on your area, the number of available channels, the distance you are from the signal, the size of your antenna. We cannot tell you that you’ll get 50+ channels as we don’t know about your area. But, if there is a signal available, you should be able to pick it up with the right outdoor antenna and the proper installation.

Conclusion

A lot of cord cutters are looking to streaming digital boxes and outdoor antennas to stay connected without paying “out the nose” for their favorite shows and/or channels.

An outdoor antenna is the best way to receive OTA signals that are FREE. While they can’t pick up paid programming and/or pay-per-view events, they can give you enough options that you won’t feel like you are missing out.

Remember, an outdoor antenna is a one-time investment that doesn’t continue to cost you month-to-month like cable and/or satellite subscriptions.

So, did you find the perfect outdoor antenna?

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The best USB headset for your computer

The best USB headset for your computer

Why you should trust us

Ray Aguilera, who wrote the original version of this guide, has been reviewing and writing about consumer gadgets since 2007. He previously worked as Reviews Editor at Mac|Life, where one of his major beats was audio products, and he has continued to write about audio for a range of publications.

Daniel Varghese, who wrote the latest update, has used many different kinds of microphone and headphone configurations in amateur and professional capacities as a college radio DJ, podcast producer, and musician.

For each version of this guide, we spent several hours each week using phone and meeting software like Skype and Zoom to collaborate remotely with colleagues—a process that is improved by a good-sounding, reliable headset.

While researching this guide, Ray interviewed Forrest Guest, an indirect tax automation implementation consultant with Thomson Reuters, who spends “all day in conference calls. Some are pretty short and some are several-hour marathons.” His perspective as a heavy user helped shape the criteria we looked for in choosing headsets and how we evaluated their performance.

Who should buy this

Pretty much everyone already has a headset, whether it’s the earbuds that came with your phone or wireless headphones that you bought as an upgrade. As long as your headphones have a microphone, they’ll work when you’re making calls on your computer. So why spend the extra money for a USB headset designed specifically for such calls?

The main reasons come down to improved sound quality—both incoming and outgoing—and comfort. If you’re using a headset for more than the occasional call, or for more than 20 minutes or so at a time, having one that’s comfortable to wear means you can focus on your call instead of constantly being distracted by your headset—possibly to the point of actual pain.

The microphone on a good headset will be much better than a built-in mic, so callers will be able to hear you more clearly. You should also consider upgrading if you work in a noisy office and your current headset doesn’t offer noise cancellation so you can hear better over ambient noise; similarly, a headset with a microphone that filters out background noise will make your calls clearer and more professional-sounding to people on the other end.

Conveniences like inline volume and mute controls make it easier to adjust call volume on the fly and let you quickly mute your microphone if you need to talk to someone who isn’t on your call, though if you don’t think you’d get much use out of these controls and don’t want to deal with cords, you might prefer our wireless office headset recommendations. For a significantly higher price, you’ll get the comfort and sound quality of our wired recommendations in a headset you can wear as you pace around your office or home.

(There’s nothing about USB audio that makes it inherently better than what you’d get from an analog headset that uses traditional headphone/microphone jacks. USB headsets were initially introduced because few computers supported audio input and output from a single 3.5 mm port—you needed separate headphone and microphone jacks. Though this issue feels almost alien in a world full of wireless and Bluetooth options, a great wired USB headset still provides an elegant, one-connector solution—and one that doesn’t introduce potential new issues.)

How we picked

Because few editorial reviews of USB headsets exist, we relied on our expert interviews and user reviews to hone our list of characteristics that all good USB headsets should have:

  • Comfort: A USB headset should be pleasant to wear for extended periods. This means that it should have an adjustable headband (so that it doesn’t squeeze your head too hard) and ear pads that don’t feel too scratchy. Ideally, the headset should be light enough that you can comfortably wear it for an entire workday.
  • Microphone quality: The primary purpose of a USB headset is to improve the clarity of your voice during calls compared to your computer’s built-in mic. You don’t want to sound too distant or sunken or too loud and bright; either can make you hard to understand. The best headsets pick up and transmit your voice clearly (usually by positioning the microphone at the end of an easily adjustable boom) without transmitting the sounds of normal breathing.
  • Speaker quality: Nearly as important as microphone quality is that the headset improves your ability to comprehend what is being said by others during a call or what you choose to listen to when off a call. We did not expect USB headsets to compete with the audio quality of standalone headphones three times their price, but since calls conducted over Wi-Fi or cellular signals tend to have more noise and audio issues than calls over physical lines, it’s imperative that the headphones on your USB headset do not make the sound coming in even worse.
  • Inline controls: We considered only models with an inline controller on the cord with at least a mute button and volume controls. Those controls should be large enough to use easily and arranged logically, and any buttons that toggle a setting such as a mute button should provide some sort of visual cue when engaged. Additional controls to activate calls or a busy-ness indicator were a bonus, considering that those types of buttons typically require specific third-party call software.
  • Mute feedback: Knowing when and if you’re muted is vital when you’re on calls with clients or coworkers. Some headsets provide audible feedback in your headset whenever you hit the mute button by playing either ascending or descending chimes or a vocal recording that says “mute on” or “mute off.” Since this is an addition to the visual feedback we required, we considered audible feedback to be a cherry on top.

Based on these criteria, we tested 11 headsets for the initial version of this guide. For our 2018 update, we found six new models—the Jabra Evolve 40, the Jabra Biz 1500, the Sennheiser SC 75, and the PlantronicsBlackwire 5200—which we tested against our previous runner-up pick, the Microsoft’s LifeChat LX-6000.

How we tested

Before conducting real-world tests, we used the meeting software Zoom to record ourselves speaking with each headset in a quiet room to establish baseline expectations for how each microphone would perform. Since each of the headsets recorded audio that was at least clear enough to understand in this controlled environment, we proceeded to wear each for at least one day to see how well it would fit into a typical 8-hour workday that includes a few conference calls.

USB headset

Models from our original round of testing, from left to right: Jabra UC Voice 150 Duo, Jabra UC Voice 550 Duo, Plantronics Audio 648, Sennheiser PC36, Andrea NC-185VM USB, Logitech H390, iMicro IM320, Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000, Microsoft LifeChat LX-6000, Logitech H540, and Sennheiser SC 60 USB ML. Photo: Michael Hession
As we wore each of the headsets during work days, we focused largely on comfort. Daniel, who wears glasses, was particularly attuned to whether the headset felt like it was pinching his head too tightly, but we also evaluated the general headband comfort and whether or not the fabric on the ear pads was too scratchy. This allowed us to quickly eliminate headsets like the Jabra Biz 1500 which were very uncomfortable.

During video calls with coworkers, we solicited feedback about mic quality, and we noted whether anyone asked us to repeat ourselves; we also tested the inline mute and volume controls. Doing so allowed us to dismiss headsets like the Plantronics Blackwire 5200 because of poor mic performance. When we were not on a call or meeting, we listened to a rotation of music from several genres, as well as stand-up comedy, to assess the general quality of the headphone components.

Our pick: Jabra Evolve 40

USB headset

Photo: Michael Hession
The Jabra Evolve 40 is the best USB headset for people who take a lot of calls at their computer. Due to its light weight and well-designed headband and ear pads, it’s the only headset we tested that was comfortable enough to wear for an entire work day. Its boom microphone collects sound as well as any microphone we tested, and its headphones sound good for both voice and music.

The Evolve 40 is comfortable enough to wear continuously while switching between calls and other tasks, thanks to its construction and design. The entire headset is light, and its wide headband is easily adjustable. The ear pads are soft, plush, and not covered in a scratchy fabric like those on many of the other headsets we tested.

The Evolve 40 was also the the clear standout in our sound-quality evaluations. Once we figured out how to position the microphone (which rotates 270 degrees so that you can position it for left-side or right-side use), it picked up crystal-clear audio without broadcasting regular breathing sounds or ambient noise. Our test mixture of music, stand-up comedy recordings, and conference calls all sounded good through the Evolve, not tinny or distorted like it did on some models. No other headset sounded as good without compromises in other areas.

The Evolve 40 has one of the better inline controllers on the headsets we considered. The buttons are arranged simply, located at four equidistant points around the edges to form a kind of compass rose. Other controllers have buttons placed closer together, making it harder to find the exact button you want without taking your eyes off your screen. When you press the mute button (at the “north”), it turns red and an ascending-beep tone plays through the headphones to indicate that the mic is muted; press it again and the light turns off and a descending tone plays. The volume controls are on the east and west points; the south button can be used to activate a call, but only with some third-party software (you can use Jabra’s compatibility guide to see if your software is supported). The button in the center is a busy indicator, which also works only with some software.

USB headset

The inline remote of the Jabra Evolve 40 is laid out clearly so that you can easily mute yourself (or adjust the volume of music or whoever is on the line) without taking your eyes off your screen. Photo: Michael Hession
The remote also has a slight grip on the bottom to keep it from moving around much once you set it on your desk. And if you want to use the Evolve 40 with your smartphone rather than through your computer’s USB-A port, you can unplug the headset’s 3.5 mm plug from the remote and plug it directly into the headphone jack (assuming your phone still has one).

Flaws but not dealbreakers

We don’t love the Evolve 40’s mic boom. Though it’s nice to be able to choose on which side of your head the mic should be, we found it a bit difficult to find the best position for the mic to maximize vocal clarity and minimize pops and breathing. We’ve seen a few reviews on Amazon that mention people’s frustration with finding this balance, one indicating that the mic’s noise-reduction feature was blocking their voice—when they moved the mic away from their mouth to reduce breathing sounds, the Evolve 40 seemed to consider their voice “ambient sound.” We were able to adjust the boom to prevent this (by positioning it as far away from our nostrils as we could, while still being close to our lips), but it took a little bit of trial and error.

Budget pick: Microsoft LifeChat LX-6000

USB headset

Photo: Michael Hession
The Microsoft LifeChat LX-6000 has been a pick of ours in some form or another for years, and for good reason—it’s a really solid headset. Though its microphone and headphones are not as good as those on the Jabra Evolve 40, they’re competitive with some headsets we tested that cost twice as much. But unlike our top pick, the LX-6000 isn’t comfortable: The design of its ear pads make the LifeChat painful to wear for anything longer than a 30-minute meeting. If you want a headset you could easily wear all day, our top pick is worth its price premium. If you just need something to wear for the occasional call, the LifeChat will do the trick.

USB headset

It’s not comfortable enough to wear throughout the day, but the Microsoft LifeChat LX-6000 is a good, affordable option for occasional 30-minute calls. Photo: Michael Hession
The LifeChat’s sound quality is good, but not excellent. Vocals played through its headphones and transmitted from its microphone sounded clear and full in our testing, but not as crisp as those from our top pick. Despite its inflexible boom, it’s easy to position the LifeChat’s microphone in a place where it doesn’t transmit normal breathing sounds. But because of its small ear pads and relatively short headband, we couldn’t comfortably wear the headset for much more than half and hour at a time—the pinching against our head was too painful.

USB headset

The inline remote of the LifeChat is designed to clip to your shirt. We found that this made it more difficult to use than the remote on the Jabra Evolve 40, which can sit on a desk without sliding around. Photo: Michael Hession
We also didn’t like the headset’s inline remote, which, in addition to being designed to be clipped to your clothes instead of left on a desk where it’s easier to reach while typing, has a tiny mute button, an even tinier rocker volume switch, and buttons laid out on different sides. The layout of the Evolve 40’s remote is much easier to use.

The competition

The Andrea NC-185 VM USB looked promising, with an aggregate Amazon rating of 4.3, but this headset sounded tinny compared to our picks, and a slight hum was present in the background during our testing.

The iMicro IM320’s terrible sound quality and annoying background buzz had us quickly tossing this headset aside for any of the others, which are all significantly better options.

The Jabra Biz 1500 has a surprisingly great microphone. Unfortunately, the speaker quality is abysmal, the headset is very uncomfortable to wear, and the inline mute button feels flimsy and unresponsive.

The Jabra Evolve 20 is a lower-end version of our top pick. It has decent sounding headphones and a good inline remote, and it is pretty comfortable. But it has a worse-sounding microphone than the similarly priced Microsoft LifeChat LX-6000. We think most people looking for something to use occasionally will want the better microphone of the LifeChat.

The Jabra UC Voice 150 Duo is a less-expensive sibling of our previous main pick. Audio has a slight-but-noticeable background hiss, and incoming voices are lightly muffled.

We liked the Jabra UC Voice 550 Duo’s sound quality, comfortable design, and hyper-adjustable mic boom enough to make it a previous top pick, but it’s since been discontinued. It’s still a good headset if you can find it.

The Logitech H390 has mediocre sound quality and occasional significant background hum.

The Logitech H540 is on the bulky side, so it’s less comfortable for longer sessions. In our testing, it also had an intermittent background noise that was distracting, and muting and unmuting the microphone produces ticks that are audible to callers.

The Microsoft LifeChat LX-2000 had few professional reviews and mediocre user reviews at a similar price as the LX-3000.

The Microsoft LifeChat LX-3000’s flexible boom allows for precise placement of the mic, but the bulkiness of the headset, coupled with the overall muffled sound of voices, kept it out of the running.

The Plantronics Audio 648 offers decent sound quality and noise reduction, but its behind-the-head design puts pressure on the ears and gets uncomfortable after moderate stretches of use.

The Plantronics Blackwire 725, a previous upgrade pick, offers several Windows-exclusive features that we’ve since determined most people will not need at a price that’s simply too high.

The Plantronics Blackwire 5200 was almost our top pick based on its excellent speaker quality, plush ear pads, and well designed inline remote. Unfortunately, its microphone performed poorly; one person on the other end of a call remarked that it sounded like we were in a wind tunnel.

The Sennheiser PC 36 is comfortable and has good sound quality. Its downfall is the mechanical mute switch on the inline control, which causes a loud “thump” whenever it’s toggled on or off.

The Sennheiser SC 60 USB ML is light and comfortable to wear, but its audio has a light background hiss that’s distracting, and incoming callers sound slightly muffled.

The Sennheiser SC 75 has an excellent microphone and inline mute button, but its speaker quality is middling, and scratchy ear pads make it uncomfortable to wear.

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The ‘Fortnite’ World Cup will include a big-money event for creatives

The ‘Fortnite’ World Cup will include a big-money event for creatives

The company has announced a new mode for its upcoming competition: World Cup Creative. Between April 29th and June 7th, Fortnite will host “five showcase events” that will invite players to complete unique Creative trials — courses built by inventive designers — and submit their best attempts by way of a YouTube video. Epic’s dedicated Fortnite captains — most of which haven’t been announced yet — will choose the best submissions and select fifteen participants to battle it out for a $3 million prize pool in New York City.

The first trial will be built and judged by Cizzorz, a top-level Fortnite player known for building incredibly difficult “Death Run” courses inside the game’s Creative mode. A new area will be added every week for five weeks, requiring players to master challenging environments and show off their accuracy. Epic says more information on the trials and who it has chosen to be its captains will be made available via its social channels before things officially kick off.

With $100 million put aside purely for in-game competitions, Epic is ensuring that Fortnite can become an esports hit in its own right. The game already counts over 200 million players and aspiring pro gamers don’t need to be part of an esports organization to make a name for themselves. However, you can bet that professional teams will be watching the World Cup qualifiers and Finals to scout new talent.

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Trifo reveals Ironpie smart robot vacuum

Trifo reveals Ironpie smart robot vacuum

It is an inescapable fact of life where we all need to maintain the cleanliness of our homes and workspaces, otherwise time and dust will find a way to make a mess of things if left all by themselves. With many of us already having a challenging time at work, returning home would mean decompressing, and the thought of additional housework can prove to be overwhelming. Why not let the wonders of home automation help you out with the Ironpie smart robot vacuum from Trifo?

A robotic vacuum cleaner is not something that is new or groundbreaking in the market as they have been around for quite a number of years already, but it does seem as though there is still much room for improvement in this area. Trifo’s effort with the Ironpie underlines such a distinction: by introducing additional AI-enabled capabilities that go beyond cleaning while helping lower the cost of entry in order to make it more affordable to the masses.

What makes the Ironpie smart robot vacuum different from the rest of the market? For starters, it has an elevated degree of intelligence. The Ironpie will rely on proprietary TIRVS (Trifo Intelligent Robotics Vision System) that has been paired with the world’s smallest, lowest power and most efficient Armv8-A quad-core processor. This unique tag team effort delivers high performance levels alongside cost efficiency when it comes to sensing, perception, and decision.

In addition, it is able to achieve 10% more efficiency compared to competing robot vacuums by using a zig zag cleaning mode and optimized cleaning route. The Ironpie is able to identify different areas that have not been cleaned yet, repositioning itself in order to clean other areas without having to go through redundancy. Fully capable of sensing obstacles as well, the Ironpie’s multi-sensory system will help keep your fine furniture safe from knocks, while you can also use it as a camera to check out what’s going on at home via the Ironpie app. All of this for $299 apiece surely makes the Ironpie smart robot vacuum a decent gamble for the overworked homeowner who would like some respite from housework!

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Google’s VR painting app is coming to Oculus Quest

Google’s VR painting app is coming to Oculus Quest

Most notably, some of the whiz-bang effects are going away. You won’t see the same outline effect, and the bloom effect fades out as your project becomes more complex. Google is also chopping PC-specific features such as the Audio Reactive mode. The aim is to create as smooth an experience as possible — you don’t want stuttering when you’re creating art.

Tilt Brush will be available sometime later in the spring, roughly dovetailing with the launch of the Quest itself. Along with games like Beat Saber and Vader Immortal, this gives Oculus’ stand-alone headset a fairly compelling early software lineup — if one that largely depends on familiar names to reel you in.

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Nubia Alpha pushes the boundaries with flexible wearable device

Nubia Alpha pushes the boundaries with flexible wearable device

Nubia has come up with some decent smartphones in the past (although those never really managed to shake the world quite like other more notable brands), and most recently they have shaken things up with the introduction of the Nubia Alpha. The Nubia Alpha is much more than a concept: in fact, it is going to go on sale sometime before the curtains fall on 2019. What makes the Nubia Alpha so special? The striking massive, flexible display is what makes it so impressive at first glance, wrapping close to half of its segmented band, while offering all of the essential functions of a smartphone to the user right at their fingertips.

In order to ensure that the Nubia Alpha remains relevant, it comes with an integrated 4G modem that ensures true standalone wireless connectivity. In order to keep up with the selfie-loving times, there is also an onboard 5MP camera that can be used for making video calls and snapping photos of yourself.

Nubia boasts that the Alpha carries the largest wearable flexible screen in the industry and is further protected via a strong, heat-resistant polymer known as Polyimide. Being water-resistant, there was no mention of the rating although I would think that it can withstand a couple of splashes from the tap, but it does not look tough enough to handle swimming on a regular basis.

Powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 chipset, the Nubia Alpha is accompanied by 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal memory with a 500mAH battery keeping it going. Connectivity options apart from 4G eSIM include Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. To make sure it appeals across the board even more, the Nubia Alpha will be able to function as a fitness tracker by offering basic sleep, exercise and heart rate monitoring. Needless to say, all of such data can be accessed through a custom-made wearable OS which will support voice commands, multi-touch and air gestures. There will be three different versions sold: a black, Bluetooth-only model for €449, a black 4G eSim variant that will cost €100 more, and the high-end 4G eSim model that looks a wee bit gaudy in 18-karat gold for €649.

 

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