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2019 Lexus LC 500h review: Take ‘er easy – Roadshow

Some cars are like Balenciaga sneakers — covered in near-infinite amounts of garish, overwrought details that remind the world of one’s means by metaphorically shoving that money through everyone’s eye sockets. The Lexus LC occupies the other side of the fashion spectrum, though; its design is on the subtle side of artful, drawing looks through…

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2019 Lexus LC 500h review: Take ‘er easy     – Roadshow

Some cars are like Balenciaga sneakers — covered in near-infinite amounts of garish, overwrought details that remind the world of one’s means by metaphorically shoving that money through everyone’s eye sockets. The Lexus LC occupies the other side of the fashion spectrum, though; its design is on the subtle side of artful, drawing looks through attention to detail. And, as far as wheeled works of art go, it’s not too bad for a spin around town, either.
Lexus offers the LC in two flavors — the LC 500 wields a traditional V8, while the LC 500h makes do with a V6 and gas-electric hybrid setup. We reviewed the eight-cylinder variant late last year, and now it’s time to talk about the hybrid.
Eye-catching everything
Thanks largely to its comically oversized grilles, Lexus hasn’t exactly been at the forefront of vehicle design lately, but everything coalesces near perfectly on the LC. The hood is long and low, exuding lots of grand-tourer appeal as the bonnet and fenders converge on a pretty set of headlights and a grille that’s almost appropriately sized. Sharp creases are rare, the sides of the car instead opting for subtle curves that give way to flared rear fenders and a few interesting lines out back. The taillights have an “infinity mirror” look to them when lit, and they’re some of my favorite lights across the whole industry. Even though I’m not necessarily a fan of the chrome finish on my tester’s 20-inch wheels, it works well with the shiny bits sparsely scattered about the body.

And then there’s the interior. My heavens, this interior is so gorgeous and so rewarding from a tactile standpoint that it’s among the best interiors of any car currently offered, right up there with perennial favorites like Rolls-Royce and Bentley. Everything I see looks expensive, but more importantly, everything I touch feels expensive. The metal trim is cool to the touch, offsetting the warmth from the soft suede and leather. Even the passenger grab handles are rewarding to grip. The seats have some interesting stitching, and they provide just the right amount of protection from lateral movement.

Don’t get black leather in this car. It washes out some of the interesting details.
Andrew Krok/Roadshow

Fashion comes with a price, though. Livability is an issue, which chips away at the LC’s grand-tourer credentials. Thanks to its low stance, visibility isn’t a problem on long trips, but storage definitely is: Aside from one tiny cupholder and one slightly larger cubby ahead of the armrest, there’s not much space for one’s stuff. The door panels can’t hold much more than a single item each, the glove compartment is barely large enough for the owner’s manual and the under-armrest storage won’t handle more than a small e-reader. I advise using the second row as a parcel shelf, because as long as there are two adults up front, it’s not like humans are capable of fitting back there.
The trunk space is another sore spot for the LC 500h. Its 4.7 cubic feet of trunk space is 0.7 cubes smaller than the non-hybrid variant, but they’re both on the small side, coming in well behind competitors like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe (14.1 cu.ft.), BMW 8 Series (14.8). Hell, my tester’s cargo capacity is only 0.1 cubic feet better than the Porsche 911’s frunk. Yikes. Considering the long weekend trip is at the heart of grand touring, this is a bummer.
Slow and steady wins the race
If you’re looking for sports-car kinds of thrills, you’re better off opting for the LC 500 and its 471-horsepower, 5.0-liter V8. My LC 500h, on the other hand, is best enjoyed at a less lively pace, making the most of its hybrid system while glossing over the frustrating stuff that only becomes apparent with a bit of flogging.
Under my tester’s hood lies a hybrid-electric powertrain that combines two electric motors with a 3.5-liter V6 running the Atkinson cycle. This produces a net 354 hp, enough for a manufacturer-estimated 4.7-second sprint to 60 miles per hour. It’s quick enough in a bubble, offering enough low-down torque to feel somewhat engaging, but power delivery gets a little weird thanks to its transmission.
The LC 500h runs a freaky-deaky setup that is essentially two transmissions — a continuously variable unit and an Aisin four-speed automatic — Megazorded into a single gearbox. This uncommon cog-swapper pretends to have 10 distinct “gears,” yet the car is continually caught off-guard when I give the right pedal a push, taking its sweet time to decide which of those 10 ratios is best and then eventually making its way there. On the way back up, the tachometer needle barely stays still, dropping about 500 rpm every couple of seconds as the transmission tries its best to get to the highest gear in a hurry. The power feels delayed as a result, and it acts a little jumpy at low speeds no matter the throttle position. Moving to sportier modes helps, but it doesn’t eliminate my gremlins.

I feel like some of the excitement is lost on account of the hybrid lacking the V8’s aural profile.
Andrew Krok/Roadshow

That’s why I feel like my tester is at its best when it’s at its slowest. Keep the speed low and cruise around with the gas-burning bits completely off, emanating silent luxury at velocities where people can actually appreciate the car’s looks. There’s an EV mode that attempts to maximize electric-only operation, but its small battery means the function only works for a few miles at a time.
Yet, the occasional V6 shutoff produces some impressive fuel economy figures — on paper, at least. The EPA estimates the LC 500h will achieve 27 miles per gallon city and 35 mpg highway, some impressive numbers for the segment. I am not able to meet those figures, coming in between 3 and 5 mpg short in both city and highway driving, but even then, it’s still leagues ahead of its competitors (and the LC 500).

Lexus’ cars are generally two things, soft and quiet, and my tester is no exception. The suspension in particular deserves some commendation. The dampers are adaptive, loosening or stiffening up depending on vehicle mode, and while they lack the pillowy nature of air-based systems, they still soak up mostly everything Michigan’s roads have to offer. The suspension stays just firm enough to remain communicative to the driver, though, in line with many European GT cars.
Ugh, this tech
Lexus Remote Touch is, in my opinion, the worst infotainment system currently available across the industry, the only exceptions being those rinky-dink screens for ants that come on base-trim American cars.
While it was slightly usable with its mouse-based interface, the latest iteration uses a touchpad to awful effect. This flat expanse of gray is one of the hardest systems to use while driving, and its haptic detents do nothing to stop me from continually drifting past the icon I want to select. Activating the heated and ventilated seats requires a multi-click trip through Remote Touch Land, perhaps the most infuriating dance of all.

The 10.3-inch display itself is fine, packing suitable resolution and enough real estate to show a few different things at once, including the embedded navigation map and media playback. But it’s all wrapped in aging visuals that aren’t befitting of the LC’s posh nature. Apple CarPlay is standard, but Android Auto is still regrettably absent, although I do appreciate the Amazon Alexa compatibility tucked into the system. The shifting gauge cluster was a clever trick when it debuted on the RC coupe several years ago, but its parts-bin nature detracts from the otherwise unique interior.
Despite all that, there is likable tech in here. My tester has the $1,220 Mark Levinson Reference surround-sound system. Its 13-speaker, 915-watt setup is one of my favorites in any car, offering up crisp audio at any volume. There’s also a bevy of standard safety systems in here, including automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist. This car comes with a $1,000 optional package that adds parking sensors and blind spot monitors, which are nice to have, but you’d think that kit would be standard on a car cresting the $100,000 mark.
How I’d spec it
To be honest, I’d avoid the hybrid altogether and opt for the V8-equipped LC 500, saving me more than $4,000 in the process. But if I had to pick the hybrid, which starts at $96,810 before destination, here’s how I’d spec it.
None of the paint colors cost extra, so I’ll opt for Autumn Shimmer because browns and oranges are my jam. Inside, I’ll take the no-cost upgrade from black leather to brown, because it better showcases the interior’s artfulness. In terms of options, I’ll drop $1,000 for blind spot monitors and parking sensors, because the LC’s nose is not easy to place in a parking spot. Throw in $250 for a heated steering wheel and $1,220 for the Mark Levinson audio system, and that’s all I need. That brings the out-the-door total to $100,305, including $1,025 for destination and handling.
Down to brass tacks
The 2019 Lexus LC rides a fine line between sports coupe and grand tourer, with the V8 erring toward the former while the hybrid leans latter. That puts it up against other, similarly positioned cars like the BMW 8 Series, Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe and Porsche 911. However, each has certain benefits over the LC. The 8 Series is angrier looking and better to drive with more cargo capacity, while the S-Class rocks a level of luxury that’s very hard to top. The 911 is the top of the driving-dynamics pops, but its limited storage options are an issue.
At its core, the Lexus LC 500h is a high-art flagship coupe that epitomizes Lexus’ penchant for big, comfy cruisers, although its delightful form eats into areas that could prove useful from a grand touring perspective. The tech is bad, but the rest of it is oh so good.

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Black Friday Fire tablet deals: Savings on the Amazon Fire 7, Fire HD 8, Fire 7, all Fire Kids tablets and more – CNET

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family. Black Friday is in full swing and at Amazon that means the full range of the company’s hardware devices are on sale. Case in point: Every Fire…

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Black Friday Fire tablet deals: Savings on the Amazon Fire 7, Fire HD 8, Fire 7, all Fire Kids tablets and more     – CNET

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.

Black Friday is in full swing and at Amazon that means the full range of the company’s hardware devices are on sale. Case in point: Every Fire tablet in the lineup can now be purchased at a deep discount. This effectively brings back the Prime Day deals from October, with some new ones thrown in for good measure for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Here’s a full breakdown of the deals, including one that just went live yesterday.The Fire HD 10 (10-inch tablet) is now $80 ($70 off)The Fire HD 10 Kids Edition is now $130 ($70 off)The Fire HD 8 Plus (8-inch tablet) is now $75 ($35 off)The Fire HD 8 is now $55 ($35 off)The Fire HD 8 Kids Edition is now $80 ($60 off)The Fire 7 (7-inch tablet) is now $40 ($10 off)  The Fire 7 Kids Edition is now $60 ($40 off)Note that the Fire Kids Editions include a case and a year of Amazon’s Kids Plus subscription service, a $36 value. Many tablets have been unavailable or temporarily out of stock, so if you find that, keep checking back as we update this page regularly.

Black Friday 2020 sales and deals

David Carnoy/CNET

Amazon has come a long way from the first Kindle Fire tablet. The Amazon Fire HD 10 is Amazon’s biggest tablet with a 10-inch screen size and powerful speakers (and it now charges via USB-C). Just like its smaller 8-inch sibling, the Fire HD 8, the tablet is packed with benefits for Prime subscribers, making it easy for members to stream and download movies, TV shows and games. The Fire tablets don’t use a pure version of Android, but instead Amazon’s Android-based Fire operating system, and pull apps from the Amazon App Store. You can still get apps from Google Play, but you’ll have to install the store yourself — meaning gaming enthusiasts have access to all of their favorite mobile games for an excellent gaming tablet experience.

Read more.

César Salza/CNET

The Fire HD 8 was updated earlier this year with a faster processor, USB-C charging, better Wi-Fi performance, 2GB of RAM (up from 1.5GB) and a bump from 16GB to 32GB of storage in the base model. Its HD screen is sharper than the entry-level Fire 7, but it’s not nearly as sharp as iPad displays. The HD 8 Plus adds wireless charging and slightly better performance, thanks to 3GB of RAM.

Read our Amazon Fire HD 8 (2020) review.

David Carnoy/CNET

The Fire HD 8 Plus adds wireless charging and more RAM (3GB instead of 2GB), with performance that improves on the standard Fire HD 8. The tablet should charge just fine on most wireless charging pads.

Read our Amazon Fire HD 8 Plus review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Fair warning: We really think you should pay up for a Fire HD 8, which is a much better, faster tablet than the entry-level Fire 7. But at $40, this non-HD 7-inch model is going to be tempting for a lot of folks. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

This child-friendly version of the Fire HD 8 tablet adds a padded case, parental controls, a two-year warranty and a one-year subscription to Kids Plus (formerly known as FreeTime Unlimited), which normally costs $3 a month and gives you access to a bunch of kid-friendly content. It’s not really suitable for remote learning, but it’s a much more affordable option than giving a young child a full-on iPad.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This has all of the same extras as the HD 8 above, but it’s the childproof version of the smaller, more affordable Amazon Fire 7. You’re getting a 7-inch screen instead of 8, and a less robust processor.

Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020

Discover the latest news and best reviews in smartphones and carriers from CNET’s mobile experts.

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Galaxy S20 5G review: Top-shelf specs, but plenty of room for refinement – CNET

Of Samsung’s three new Galaxy S20 5G phones, the smallest, cheapest Galaxy S20 is my favorite. It’s just as stuffed with top-shelf features as the Galaxy S20 Plus and S20 Ultra, from its tack-sharp screen to advanced camera skills. But apart from screen and body size, the differences between S20 models are almost negligible. Of…

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Galaxy S20 5G review: Top-shelf specs, but plenty of room for refinement     – CNET

Of Samsung’s three new Galaxy S20 5G phones, the smallest, cheapest Galaxy S20 is my favorite. It’s just as stuffed with top-shelf features as the Galaxy S20 Plus and S20 Ultra, from its tack-sharp screen to advanced camera skills. But apart from screen and body size, the differences between S20 models are almost negligible. Of course, there are people who will want the S20 Plus and even Ultra instead, but for specific, personal reasons, and not out of a marked advantage in tools or performance. And yes, I do mean the Ultra’s 108-megapixel camera and 100x zoom. (Wait for it…)

LikeSmall enough to use one-handedExcellent cameraTop-notch features and performance

Don’t LikeExpensiveThick, heavy, unrefinedSupports slower 5G only (except Verizon)

Read more: Motorola Edge Plus is a worthy Samsung Galaxy S20 alternativeHonestly, the Galaxy S20’s $999, £799 and AU$1,349 starting prices are expensive enough for what the phone offers that buying one of the pricier models feels like a waste. Unlike last year, there is no cheaper Galaxy S20E to make the smallest model appear like a value play that justifies the jump in cost as you move up the line. The S20 Plus begins at $1,199, while the unwieldy S20 Ultra will set you back $1,399 for the 128GB version that has disappointing battery life and 95% of the same specs. (The S20 Plus and Ultra also sell in 512GB variants.)

And if you want a “cheaper” high-end Samsung phone? That’s now what the newly discounted Galaxy S10 Plus ($850 at Amazon) and Note 10 Plus are for. 

To me, the S20 pricing is right on the edge of acceptable. Samsung is overreaching. Maybe I’d be less hung up on price if I truly loved these phones. But the S20’s legitimately knockout features and specs never really come together for me the way they do on the Galaxy Note 10 and 10 Plus, and that’s a shame.I’m a big fan of the Cloud Blue color of my review unit, the way its 6.2-inch edge-to-edge display makes the phone feel pocketable, maneuverable and easy to use one-handed. I mostly love the camera results, although I wish I could get closer to my subject, and there are some issues with autofocus that Samsung is addressing. Processing speeds are great, battery life does it job, and bonus features such as ultrafast wired charging, reverse wireless charging and a 120Hz screen refresh rate give me the warm fuzzies.

It’ll feel too small for some, which is the S20 Plus’ main benefit. You also can’t get a 512GB configuration, and most carriers “only” support the slower 5G bands known as Sub-6. (Verizon is a notable exception. Its faster mmWave S20 5G will arrive in Q2.) In some countries, including the UK and Australia, the S20 is the only variant with a cheaper 4G-only option.I’m loving the Galaxy S20 in Cloud Blue.
Angela Lang/CNET
I genuinely enjoy using the Galaxy S20 and its camera. But it’s not the slam dunk for me I was hoping for. If you need a new Android phone now, the S20 is my pick. If you’re sold on its features but can afford to wait, keep an eye out for the most aggressive trade-in deals and discounts, especially around holidays. If you can hold out until summer or fall, I’m also interested in what the Galaxy Note 20 and iPhone 12 will bring. For details on 8k video, Single Take photo mode, and the processor, read my Galaxy S20 Ultra review (these are identical across the S20 family).

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Galaxy S20 vs. S20 Plus: What’s the difference?Size: The jump from the S20’s 6.2-inch screen to the Plus’ 6.7-inch screen makes a difference for me. The Plus absolutely feels larger, and when I have both phones in front of me, I reach for the Plus to watch videos on Netflix and YouTube. Naturally, the Plus is heavier, too (full specs below).Battery: 4,000 mAh (S20) versus 4,500 mAh (Plus). Our lab tests are still running, but both phones lasted from day to night on a single charge. All-day use of the 120Hz screen refresh rate instead of the default 60Hz setting will decrease battery life, so you may find you need to top up before going out for the night.A larger screen on the S20 Plus makes a difference.
Angela Lang/CNET
Camera: The S20 Plus has a time-of-flight sensor that’s meant to help with clearer low-light shots. It doesn’t make a meaningful difference in feature set.5G technology: This one might matter to you. With the exception of an unreleased Verizon model, the Galaxy S20 will support the type of 5G known as Sub-6, which results in slower peak speeds. Download speed will still be faster than 4G, but not as fast as the (theoretical) peak speeds of the approaching tech known as millimeter wave, or mmWave. There are pros and cons to both methods, but if you care about connecting to the fastest 5G on a carrier outside of Verizon, then the S20 Plus will get you there. Your real-world results depend entirely on the network quality where you live.One more thing: The S20 Plus has a 512GB option.Despite thin bezels and an edge-to-edge display, the S20 still feels rather bulky.
Angela Lang/CNET
Galaxy S20 camera is nearly as good as the S20 UltraSamsung earned oohs and aahs for the S20 Ultra’s 108-megapixel camera and 100x zoom features. These are unique to the Ultra, but I found that the times I benefited from them were few and far between. These are features that are cool to have, but entirely easy to live without.This street scene was taken with the 64-megapixel camera setting.
Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Here’s a deep crop into the image. The picture looks grainy after being processed through our image tool, but it’s good enough to send casually through social media and in a text to friends. 
Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
The same clock face, at 30x zoom. In this case, 4x zoom would have been enough to see the entire clock face.
Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
It doesn’t hurt that the S20 and S20 Plus have their own camera tricks that are slightly diminished on paper, but almost entirely as useful in practice. For example, you can turn on a 64-megapixel setting to capture more detail in a scene and crop into it. That’s the real purpose of this feature — take a photo of something in the near distance, and crop in to retain the detail, as an alternative to zoom.I was happy with photos that I took this way. It was hard finding the sweet spot with the 108-megapixel camera where a deep crop didn’t sacrifice more detail than I wanted. For me, the purpose is still satisfied with 64-megapixel. In other words, it isn’t worth paying $400 more for, while also sacrificing nimbleness.This is as close as I could get to these spring blooms in automatic mode before losing focus.
Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Here’s a different attempt, cropped in from a 64-megapixel shot. The deeper you crop in, the less detail you retain.
Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
Likewise, Samsung gifted the S20 and Plus with 30x zoom, which is about as far as I wanted to go before image quality took a nosedive. Unless I was taking a picture of something on top of a building or an object in the distance, 4x and 10x zoom typically worked for me, or else a crop from a 64-megapixel shot.The S20 Ultra also has a 40-megapixel front-facing camera, but for me, image quality isn’t especially better than the S20’s 10-megapixel selfie shooter. There’s a limit to how much detail I really want to see of my own face.See our Galaxy S20 Ultra versus iPhone 11 Pro camera comparison for more eye candy.Wonderful colors, detail, and brightness, shot in the London Underground with automatic settings.
Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
A crisp, colorful low light shot of an amusing store window, shot with automatic settings.
Jessica Dolcourt/CNET
This review originally posted earlier this week.Galaxy S20 vs. S20 Plus vs. S20 Ultra specs

Samsung Galaxy S20

Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

Display size, resolution

6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED 2X

Pixel density

563 ppi

525 ppi

511 ppi

Dimensions (inches)

2.72×5.97×0.311 inches

2.9×6.37×0.30 inches

2.99×6.57×0.35 inches

Dimensions (millimeters)

69.1×151.7×7.9 mm

73.7×161.9×7.8mm

76.0×166.9×8.8mm

Weight (ounces, grams)

5.75 oz.; 163g

6.56 oz.; 186g

7.76 oz.; 220g

Mobile software

Android 10

Android 10

Android 10

Camera

12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide)

12-megapixel (wide-angle), 64-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), time-of-flight camera

108-megapixel (wide-angle), 48-megapixel (telephoto), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), time-of-flight camera

Front-facing camera

10-megapixel

10-megapixel

40-megapixel

Video capture

8K

8K

8K

Processor

64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)

64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)

64-bit octa-core processor (Max 2.7GHz + 2.5 GHz + 2.0 GHz)

Storage

128GB

128GB, 512GB

128GB, 512GB

RAM

12GB

12GB

12GB, 16GB

Expandable storage

Up to 1TB

Up to 1TB

Up to 1TB

Battery

4,000 mAh

4,500 mAh

5,000 mAh

Fingerprint sensor

In-screen

In-screen

In-screen

Connector

USB-C

USB-C

USB-C

Headphone jack

No

No

No

Special features

5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; water resistant (IP68)

5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; water resistant (IP68)

5G enabled; 120Hz refresh rate; 100x zoom; water resistant (IP68)

Price off-contract (USD)

$999

$1,199

$1,399 (128GB), $1,599 (512GB)

Price (GBP)

£799, £899 (5G)

£999 (5G)

£1,199 (128GB), £1,399 (512GB)

Price (AUD)

AU$1349 (4G), AU$1,499 (5G),

AU$1,499 (4G), AU$1,649 (128GB), AU$1,899 (512GB)

AU$1,999 (128GB), AU$2,249 (512GB)

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Best holiday gifts under $250 for 2020 – CNET

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family. Just like everything else in 2020, the holidays are going to be weird and different this year — and a lot of us will be avoiding trips to…

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Best holiday gifts under $250 for 2020     – CNET

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.

Just like everything else in 2020, the holidays are going to be weird and different this year — and a lot of us will be avoiding trips to the store and instead looking online for the perfect gift for friends and family.The $100 to $250 range could be a sweet spot to find a thoughtful present for your loved ones that sparks joy without wreaking havoc on your gift budget this holiday season. Whether it’s a cool new device or gadget, or a sweet accessory, there’s some good stuff here — even for that difficult-to-shop-for-person in your life (everyone’s got one, and that person is the bane of their Christmas gift list). In this holiday gift guide, you’ll find a wide range of ideas in our picks for the best gifts under $250 for any holiday occasion.

Solo Stove

Backyard fire pits have been a keystone for social activity during the COVID-19 era — and this is the best of them, hands-down. Built from durable stainless steel, and with a vented design that promotes air flow, the Solo Stove produces a beautiful and deeply warming fire with very little smoke or airborne ash. (Perhaps best of all, your clothes do not reek of smoke the morning after.) Available in three sizes and prices, this is a slam dunk holiday gift for any fire pit enthusiast. 

Kammok

It wasn’t until I discovered the opening in the center of the Bobcat backpacking quilt that its true potential was revealed. Yes, this 600-fill duck down insulated blanket is plenty warm and, weighing a mere 20 ounces, light enough for camping (or couch surfing). But it’s the quilt’s poncho mode that makes it the ideal accessory for hanging outside at the fire pit. This quilt will go on sale for 20% off on Dec. 1.

Grouphug

There are plenty of less expensive solar panels that serve the same purpose as this one — capturing (and storing) the sun’s energy and making it accessible to your phone, tablet or other device via a USB-C connection. But Grouphug’s version is worthy of display, with its tasteful bamboo frame, transparent design and handmade aesthetic. The integrated 3,400-mAh rechargeable battery takes a good long while to charge — about 10 hours in direct sunlight — but who’s in a rush these days, anyway? 

David Carnoy/CNET

If you’re looking to maximize your visibility while riding a bike, scooter or another personal transportation device, the Lumos Matrix certainly does a good job making sure you’re noticed. This smart helmet not only has a light on the front but an LED matrix on the back that’s fully customizable via a companion app. You can have everything from standard flashing red triangles to eye-catching patterns to short messages scroll across the back of your head in ticker-tape fashion. There’s even a PacMan animation (pictured), as well as a variety of color options.Additionally, the helmet includes a small remote that allows you to let you activate a turn signal (on the back display), letting those behind you know what your next move is. Available in black or white, the Matrix is a little heavier than your typical bike helmet. It fits head sizes from 22 to 24 inches (56 to 61cm) and has an impact-resistant EPS foam liner and ABS shell that offers decent protection. This is Lumos’ current flagship model. The Ultra, a new, more affordable smart helmet with more limited lighting is available for preorder now for $84 (it’s set to ship in April). It’s available in youth sizes.

Traxxas

If you’re looking to get your kids offline and out of the house — or want to feel like a kid yourself again — the Traxxas Stampede is cool (and fast) enough to get anyone to look up from their phone. With a top speed in the 30-mph range, this high-performance remote control monster truck can roll over a variety of terrain and, courtesy of its waterproof electronics, through any mud puddle. I laughed and howled like a 10-year-old during my first few test rides.Though there’s a little bit of a learning curve — you’ll need to bone up on lithium polymer batteries and recharging peripherals — it’s no more complicated than setting up a new smartphone. (An entry-level LiPo battery and charger combo will run you another $60 or so.) And beginners will benefit from the truck’s “training mode,” which cuts its considerable speed in half to help you cultivate your handling skills. I will admit to having crashed this car repeatedly — but it still performs flawlessly, with only a few cosmetic nicks to show for it. And if you do wreck your rig, it’s OK: Traxxas is known for its reasonably priced replacement parts and repair fees.

David Carnoy/CNET

New for 2020, Bose has just released its second-generation Frames. Yes, they are sunglasses with wireless headphones built-in. They also sound incredibly good. We really like the Tempo style shown here, but you can also opt for the Tenor or Soprano styles instead.

Read our Bose Frames review.

David Carnoy/CNET

Since dropping in price during Amazon Prime Day, the Apple AirPods are easier to recommend as a killer pair of wireless in-ear headphones. With a winning design and fit, solid sound quality and bass performance, and very effective noise canceling, they’re excellent for making calls and listening to music — even during a workout. They also now offer an amazing spatial audio feature when used with compatible Apple devices — something you won’t find on other true wireless headphones.

Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.

Casper

The Glow lamp is a highly portable, rechargeable nightlight that’s undeniably beautiful, easy to setup and pleasant to use. It’s become integral to my family’s bedtime routine, and we now have two of them. We use them every night and take them with us wherever we go. (And that’s another thing — they’re surprisingly tough.) Thanks to its built-in gyroscope, you flip the Glow over to turn it on and off, twist it to dim it up or down or shake it to trigger the low nightlight setting. The lamp produces a pleasant ambient glow — hence the name — that dims gradually over 15 to 60 minutes. You can control the span using Casper’s streamlined iOS and Android-compatible app, and set the light to come on in the morning — a reverse nightlight, of sorts.

Read our Casper Glow preview.

Sarah Tew/CNET

When it comes to gaming consoles, your entry point for the new, cool stuff is basically $300 — that’s the price tag for the Xbox Series S, the Oculus Quest 2 or a full-featured Nintendo Switch. But you can get in on our sub-$250 budget here with the Nintendo Switch Lite, which drops the detachable controllers and the TV-out functionality of its older sibling in exchange for a more wallet-friendly $200 price point. You’ll still be able to play nearly all the same games, including Nintendo-only exclusives from the Animal Crossing, Zelda and Mario series. After disappearing from (virtual) store shelves early on in the pandemic, the Switch Lite is increasingly, though still intermittently, available from multiple national retailers.

Read our Switch Lite review.

With a lot of families working, learning and streaming from home, household wireless networks are being tested like never before. We installed a Google Nest Wifi system at our house this spring and have been impressed with its speedy performance. The connection is perceptibly faster, more expansive and more robust than our prior setup, and the $169 router will likely be sufficient for most homes. That said, the range-extending Wifi point — which doubles as a Google Assistant smart speaker — may be worth the extra dough. Also keep an eye on the Eero mesh networking set. The older three-node version sometimes drops as low as $200, with a freebie Echo speaker thrown in, and the company just debuted a new model for 2020 that folds in support for the Zigbee home automation wireless standard.

Read our Nest Wifi review.

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The most affordable Apple Watch ever released, the Apple Watch SE boasts a more powerful processor, a Retina display that’s 30% larger than the Series 3’s display and support for Apple’s new Family Setup plan. Currently, the watch is going for $230, but its price tends to fluctuate this time of year. If the SE is a little too pricey for you, the Apple Watch Series 3 is currently selling for $169, making it the least expensive option in the current lineup. Read our Apple Watch SE review.Strike price: Any discount of $30 or more

Read our Apple Watch SE review.

Monos

Having spent hundreds of dollars on lousy suitcases over the years, I can say that the Monos Carry On is worth the money, and it’s the perfect gift for travel lovers. With a similar aesthetic and price point as Away’s lineup of modern suitcases (which you may have seen on Instagram), Monos delivers everything you want in a roller bag: a lightweight but durable shell, a nice variety of compartments, pockets and straps and a well-engineered retractable handle. Plus, it comes with a 100-day free trial and lifetime warranty.

Nixon

Made from recycled ocean-bound plastic bottles, this fantastic duffle bag has exactly the right amount of storage capacity, with handles on every surface, and it can be worn on the shoulder or as a backpack. Personally, I love the Olive Dot Camo design.

Swiss Army

I’ve been using this beautiful Victorinox chef’s knife for the past year and it’s become one of my indispensable kitchen tools. The blade is fluted, so it won’t stick to what you’re cutting, and the elegant wooden handle gives it the perfect amount of heft. It’s sharp enough to make cutting meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and cheeses an absolute pleasure.

Williams Sonoma

Having gone through a series of overcomplicated food processors, the simplicity of this Cuisinart model is appealing. There are two paddle buttons — on and off, which doubles as a “pulse” option — and the large 14-cup bowl is sturdy and easy to clean. It comes with three blades and discs — do you really need more than that? — and the 720-watt motor is strong enough to power through whatever you throw at it.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

I have a small, simple one-zone home, where the thermostat controls only the furnace. Last year, I bought several different top-rated smart thermostats and, with the assistance of my neighborhood electrician, installed and tested them one at a time. The Nest was the one I kept. It’s a snap to set up and it totally delivers on the few features I wanted: scheduled temperature adjustment, appealing aesthetics, an intuitive interface and absolute control via iPhone or Android. That noted, CNET’s current top pick for best smart thermostat, the slightly pricier Ecobee Smart Thermostat is definitely worth a look.

Read our Nest Learning Thermostat Third Generation review.

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