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Instagram test helps you choose people to unfollow

Instagram test helps you choose people to unfollow

As with many tests, there’s no guarantee this will be ready for widespread use in the near future, if at all. It’s easy to see Instagram rolling this into a future release, though. It’ll help you focus your feed on those people you care about, but it could also help on those days when you’d rather not wade through your regular feed just to find your favorites. That, in turn, could keep users coming back even if their follow lists become overwhelming.

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The Morning After: Bosch’s electric stroller technology helps push

The Morning After: Bosch’s electric stroller technology helps push

It will affect cameras, flash storage and other common tech items.
Tariffs hit Apple and other tech companies

Some of the tech you like is about to get more expensive. Sticking to its earlier plans, the Trump administration has formally enacted a new round of tariffs against China-made products, which will take effect September 1st. The measures will hit tech companies with 15 percent tariffs on a range of goods, with Apple potentially feeling the pinch harder than most. The hikes will affect AirPods, the Apple Watch, some Beats earphones, the HomePod and iMacs — notably, not iPhones.

Beside ‘core’ consumer tech companies, the tariffs will also affect components including cameras, flash storage, optical discs (like Blu-ray and DVD) and lithium-ion batteries. A further wave of tariffs affecting prices for phones, laptops, consoles and other tech is due on December 15th, unless something suddenly changes.


The Dark Pictures Anthology is off to a rocky start.
Co-op doesn’t change Man of Medan’s horror imperfections

The spiritual sequel to 2015’s Until Dawn, a playable slasher horror flick, has landed across PS4, Xbox and PC. Man of Medan is the first instalment of a proposed series called The Dark Pictures Anthology, which is being released on multiple platforms and published by Bandai Namco, rather than long-time partner Sony. But it’s a shaky start…


You know, the smaller one.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 review: The right size at the wrong price

The Galaxy Note 10 squeezes a 6.3-inch screen into a phone that’s about the same size as an iPhone XS. And it’s much easier to use with one hand than any other entry in the Note line.

The Note 10 is largely the same as the 10+. That means the same powerful performance and basically the same cameras. But, it does make tradeoffs to shave off those millimeters: Most notably it has a lower-res screen, less RAM and Samsung ditched the microSD slot. Sadly, the price didn’t get the same treatment and remains as huge as ever.


It’s connected to your phone, too.
Bosch’s electric stroller tech helps carry your baby uphill

Bosch has unveiled an “e-stroller” system that uses dual electric motors and sensors to not only reduce the effort involved in carting your young one around but prevent the stroller from going in unexpected directions. It’ll automatically study the road surface to help you push uphill, brake on the descent and keep it on track during lateral slopes. The technology will also bring the stroller to a halt if you lose control or battle fierce winds. Bosch won’t sell a model itself, though. Instead, it’ll work with partners who’ll use the platform for their own baby carriers. Swedish firm Emmaljunga will be first, with a stroller due in early 2020, but you can expect more companies to follow suit.

 

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Two more unannounced iPads turn up in Apple filings

Two more unannounced iPads turn up in Apple filings

There appear to be three families in the mix: one A2000-series iPad (A2068), two A2100-series variants (A2197 and A2198) and four A2200 editions (A2200, A2228, A2230 and A2232). This doesn’t mean Apple will announce three completely different iPads, but it does suggest there will be some distinctions. At present, the most likely candidates may be a revamp of the base iPad (possibly due for a larger 10.2-inch screen) as well as refreshes of the 11- and 12.9-inch iPad Pros.

Such an overhaul wouldn’t be surprising. Apple has been aggressively updating its iPads in 2019, with new versions of the iPad Air and iPad mini as well as plans for more powerful iPadOS software. More hardware could both keep buyers coming and serve as a showcase for what iPadOS can do.

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Toyota’s 2020 Olympics robots will include a javelin-carrying cart

Toyota’s 2020 Olympics robots will include a javelin-carrying cart

Most of the other bots were already known, such as the Human Support Robot (for guiding people to their seats), the Delivery Support Robot (drinks and other orders) and the T-HR3 humanoid robot (remote interactions with athletes).

However, there will be one more Olympics-specific bot. The Mascot Robot in Miraitowa and Someity variants (you’re looking at Someity below) will welcome people to venues through object detection and remote-controlled limbs. Toyota is also “considering” a way to enhance the games for Japanese kids through the mascot machines.

The robots serve as marketing material for Toyota and Japan’s technology industry as a whole. Like other Japanese worker robots, though, they’re also an acknowledgment of the country’s labor shortages. With a declining population and a reluctance to invite foreign workers, the country can’t always count on having enough people to fill jobs. The Field Support Robot and its peers could ensure that Tokyo 2020 proceeds without a hitch, even if there aren’t as many human staffers as the organizers would like.

Toyota's Mascot Robot Someity

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The Morning After: That’s what quantum entanglement looks like

The Morning After: That’s what quantum entanglement looks like

Yeah, we don’t understand it either.Scientists unveil image of quantum entanglement for the first time ever

In a paper published in the journal of Scientific Advances, scientists from the University of Glasglow shared the first known image of a Bell entanglement. The photo depicts two photons interacting and sharing physical states for a brief instant — an event that occurs regardless of the actual distance between the particles.


And you can win an Xbox One.Microsoft’s Windows 1.0 announcement was about ‘Stranger Things’

To celebrate the return of the show — set in 1985, Microsoft’s banner year — the company is launching the Windows 1.11 app. It features classic Paint and Terminal programs, as well as Stranger Things­-themed puzzles and exclusive content. No floppy disk required.


Competition with AMD’s new Radeon hardware is good for gamers.NVIDIA RTX 2060 Super and 2070 Super review

NVIDIA’s RTX 2060 Super is pretty much the ideal mid-range GPU, while its 2070 Super offers a similar amount of performance as last year’s RTX 2080 for hundreds less. Of course, these cards aren’t really for people who made upgrades last year — they’re more like a reward for those who waited.


Here’s your next retro game system.TurboGrafx-16 mini arrives next March with nearly 50 games

Konami has revealed that the TurboGrafx-16 mini will be available exclusively through Amazon on March 19th, 2020, with pre-orders starting July 15th. The US lineup includes already-teased games like R-Type and Ys Book I & II, not to mention other top titles like Bonk’s Revenge and Space Harrier.


If it only does one thing, then why is it still called a Switch? Nintendo’s Switch Lite is a $200 handheld-only console

The Switch Lite is a slightly different console that’s intended purely for handheld play, and it will arrive September 20th in three colors, priced at $200. The lower price comes with a smaller screen 720p screen, non-removable Joy-Con controls, no TV-out support and no HD Rumble.

While it justifies its name by weighing less than the original, it also should have better battery life by about a half-hour, and it has swapped the four-button D-pad for an old-school Nintendo cross.


The Starhopper will go up about 20m and sideways.SpaceX’s Starship test vehicle will attempt a ‘hover test’ next week

The Starhopper has already undergone two previous hop tests and shown that it can lift a few inches off a launchpad. Now the Raptor engine has been mounted to the Starhopper again so the next stage of testing can begin, with a hover test scheduled for Tuesday, July 16th.

 

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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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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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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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