Newsweek’s products of the month
Each month, we round up the best products we’ve tested at Newsweek to make sure they get the attention they deserve. In May, we tested new trail running shoes, several new audio products from Sony, and Ecobee’s new line of smart home thermostats, along with plenty of other tech-related gadgets.
Along with recapping notable products, there are also new mini reviews and products we liked but were complicated in some form or fashion. Sometimes there are other product stories that aren’t quite traditional reviews. Don’t miss the one on why you might want to take your iPhone out of a case, or what a 9-year-old looks for in a bottle of water. As always, prices shown may fluctuate over time.
Ecobee Premium Smart Thermostat
Ecobee has just unveiled two new thermostats, including its top-of-the-line Smart Thermostat Premium model. Although Ecobee didn’t make any drastic changes, it added a high level of refinement to make its Premium Thermostat look better and easier to use. It even included an indoor air quality sensor. Because this thermostat works with the most popular smart home platforms, including Apple’s HomeKit, it’s the one most people should buy. If you want to save a few bucks without sacrificing all the basics, choose the Ecobee Enhanced model.
Buy from Ecobee for $249.99.
Electric XP Lite
The Lectric XP Lite combines functionality, comfort and cost in one compelling package. The foldable e-bike has a full-speed battery range of around 15 miles, but even further if you work out more using a less powerful pedal-assist mode. Its easily adjustable seat and handlebars provide a comfortable ride for a wide range of people. The e-bike doesn’t break the bank either. It costs well under $1,000 assembled and ready to go.
Buy from Lectric for $799.
If you can afford to pay around $400 for a pair of wireless headphones, Sony’s new WH-1000XM5 is a great choice. The headphones incorporate eight microphones to achieve spectacular noise cancellation as well as great-sounding voice calls. The ear cups are soft and the sound is tight and crisp. Beyond the price, there is not much to complain about. Sony has even tweaked the design to give more style to its headphones.
Shop at Best Buy for $399.99.
Vari Upholstered Office Chair
While I was recently furnishing a new office space at home, one piece that slipped my mind was a desk chair. Since my office shares a common space in the house, I tried to find something that skirts the line between functional and understated. After spending a few weeks with the Vari upholstered office chair, I think this is a perfect compromise. It looks like a side chair but offers more support and comfort.
Before using the Vari office chair, I had a traditional office chair with plastic armrests. These constantly got in the way. On the Vari, however, the arms are tapered, which means I can turn more freely in the chair but still have somewhere to rest my elbows. Plus, it’s compact enough to fit under my 30-inch standing desk when I flipped it up.
Because this Vari is so different from other office chairs, I was initially concerned about its comfort. After a few weeks I found it easy to use for several hours at a time. The chair is firm but not hard. Despite its casual look, it’s just business. You’ll want to be aware that it doesn’t have the feel of a traditional office chair, so if that’s what you’re after I’d be on the safe side. If you’re looking for something a little different or more stylish, this one ticks the boxes.
Buy from Vari for $295.
Skull Candy Mod
Skullcandy is once again trying to bring typically more expensive features to a lower price point with its Mod wireless headphones. These headphones have multipoint pairing. It can connect to multiple devices at once and switch back and forth. The headphones cost around $60 and also have features like Stay-Aware, so you can hear your surroundings better if you’re in a busy place.
Although I’ve tried lots of different headphones with lots of different devices, I haven’t really found multipoint pairing to be critical. It’s nice to have, but I’m not sure if it’s the feature to base headphone sales on. Still, I find the Skullcandy Mod to be comfortable to wear and stays in place in my ears.
The headsets have a battery life of 7 hours and can go up to 34 hours with their rechargeable case. The case will also charge quickly for 2 hours of battery life after being plugged in for 10 minutes – another nice, but increasingly basic feature.
In terms of listening to music, the Mod sounds pretty much like $60 headphones. That is to say, the bass is good, while the headphones also resonate enough to give your music a boost. I really like the Skullcandy Mod, but there’s nothing really surprising here: you get a respectable set of features and a listening experience to easily justify their cost.
Buy from Skullcandy for $59.99.
The north face Vectiv Eminus
Are there good trail running shoes for people who don’t always run on trails? A valid solution is the North Face Vectiv Eminus. These shoes could be the next great hybrid running shoe to satisfy both types of terrain, without spending a fortune.
To provide some context, The North Face previously introduced the Vectiv line of trail running shoes with a high-end option that features a carbon fiber plate in the midsole. This year the Vectiv range has expanded to include many more choices, including these more affordable Vectiv Eminus.
While the Vectiv Eminus positions itself as a trail shoe, it uses smaller lugs (3.5 millimeters) than some other trail shoes, so running down the street doesn’t feel odd. I tend to only spend 50-60% of my track racing on dirt or off-road. The other time is spent running down the street to get to these more scenic roads. These shoes work great for this scenario.
The upper is comfortable and offers full support, but it didn’t feel too hot. The microsuede tongue sits well on top of my foot. I really like that the Vectiv Eminus expand the North Face line of shoes into more affordable territory without sacrificing functionality and usability.
Buy from North Face for $129.
It is complicated
Adidas Adizero x Allbirds 2.94kg CO2e
It’s a bit strange that Allbirds and Adidas have teamed up to produce a running shoe, but the end result of the Adidas Adizero x Allbirds 2.94 Kg CO2e is an intriguing product. It’s great that these shoes don’t require a lot of emissions to produce, but some of its materials and areas feel a little flimsy. I have now run over 30 miles in these shoes, and there have been no rips or tears, but I certainly feel like they might not hit the traditional 300 mile mark that many other running shoes do, at least not without some significant combat injuries.
Shop at Adidas for $120.
Soundboks Go is a robust Bluetooth party speaker. It is meant to make noise and get people moving. I think it achieves these goals brilliantly. There are a few quirks around its independent volume controls that I’m not crazy about – a compromise of stringing multiple Gos together – but they generally take time to get used to. I’m glad this premium portable Bluetooth speaker exists, but I’m not sure how many people will need the services it provides at its price point.
Buy from Soundboks for $699.
- When I stopped using a case on my iPhone, I found it surprising how many people commented on it. A case has unceremoniously become the norm for iPhones over the past decade, and now it’s a little shocking to see a phone without one. I would even go so far as to say that it even creates a little anxiety in some people. But there are a lot of benefits and reasons why I did it. Maybe you should think about that too?
- When my 9 year old daughter’s school water bottle broke, we went looking for a new one. And while it’s easy for me to evaluate a product for all of its pros and cons, I found it helpful and informative to look at vacuum insulated water bottles through my daughter’s eyes. After taking several bottles of water to school for real-world testing, she picked a winner. Even if you’re not buying a water bottle specifically for school, hearing the pros and cons from a different, younger perspective might help you decide on a new bottle to try.
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