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Did you score a pile of gift cards this holiday season but don't know what you should use them to buy? From TVs to headphones, we have some top-performing product picks from CR's tests that will help you treat yourself to the very best electronics.
Go to Consumer Reports' 2019 Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.
CR's take: Make every day #ThrowbackThursday with a fun instant camera. The Canon Ivy Cliq nails the basic promise of instant cameras: You point, you shoot, and a few minutes later a photo emerges. Not just any photo, but an image with great dynamic range. It's also the easiest camera to use among the three Zero ink models we tried. You can choose whether to print a photo in a 2-inch square with a white border beneath it or in the more elongated 2x3-inch format. The model also gives you the option to reprint the last photo taken in case someone else wants a copy.
For more options: Best Instant Cameras: How Six Would-Be Polaroid Replacements Stack Up
JBL LIVE 650BTNC
CR's take: It’s getting easier to find great noise-canceling headphones on a budget, and this option from JBL is one of our top picks. They deliver outstanding noise cancellation and great audio quality. And while they don’t sound quite as good as top-scoring models like the Bose 700, that’s a sacrifice worth considering, given that they can be purchased for less than half the price. JBL hasn’t skimped on features, either. The 650BTNC earphones come with a detachable audio cable for use with wired devices, a quick-charge function, the ability to simultaneously pair with multiple devices, and a generous 20-hour battery life, according to JBL. A free app adds functionality.
For more options: Best Noise-Canceling Headphones to Buy Right Now
CR's take: The Sony WF-SP700N delivers dependable noise-canceling and audio quality. They feature controls to turn noise-canceling on and off, and to activate a monitoring mode that amplifies sound from your environment for situations such as a train ride, where you might want to hear announcements. The controls also let you access digital assistants, accept calls, skip tracks, and play or pause music playback, though there’s no integrated option for volume adjustment. The advertised 3-hour battery life is short but not unusual for true wireless models, and this one has a quick-charging function as well as a carrying/charging case with a built-in battery that can recharge the earphones twice before you need an outlet.
For more options: Noise-Canceling Headphones on a Budget
Grado Prestige SR325e
CR's take: The Grado Prestige SR325e is the company's flagship model, and it's a sound-quality champ, according to our testers. Keep in mind that the open-back ear cups—a design choice intended to add clarity to the audio and give it a more natural feel—aren't meant to block sound from bleeding in or out. That means they’re best for quiet environments where you won't bother your neighbors and they won't bother you.
For more options: Best Over-Ear Headphones
1MORE E1001 Triple Driver
CR’s take: These small, sleek 1MORE E1001 Triple Driver earphones have an earplug-like design that limits extraneous noise, and they deliver excellent sound, beating out models that cost hundreds more. The audio cable has inline volume and smartphone controls with an integrated microphone. To ensure a proper fit, the device comes with nine pairs of earpieces in various sizes and types.
For more options: Best Headphones for Every Activity
Google Home Max
CR's take: The Google Home Max was the first really good-sounding smart speaker, and it remains the best-sounding model on the market. Our testers like its solid bass and clean midrange—that all-important sonic window where most instruments and vocals lie—along with plenty of volume. The Home Max’s smart functions work seamlessly with Google Assistant. It doesn’t have the same number of skills as Amazon’s Alexa and doesn’t work with as many smart home devices, but some users find Google’s interface to be more user-friendly. You can also integrate several Home Max speakers throughout your home, either singly or in stereo pairs, and supplement them with smaller and less expensive Google Home speakers or other speakers with Chromecast capability as part of a multiroom system.
For more options: Best Smart Speakers of 2019
Denon Heos 7 HS2
CR's take: The versatile Heos 7 makes it easy to set up a flexible multiroom speaker system so that you can play a podcast in the kitchen while your kids blast Billie Eilish in their bedroom. The Denon features a Bluetooth connection that allows users to, say, quickly pair a guest's smartphone to share a playlist during an impromptu listening session. Sonically, the Heos 7 is a winner. It pumps out more than enough volume to fill a room. The bass is deep, and you can hear all the detail in the trebles. And the Heos 7 does a credible job of re-creating the ambiance of the room in which the music was recorded.
For more options: Best Wireless Speakers of 2019
Apple Watch Series 5 (40mm) Stainless Steel case GPS + Cellular
CR’s take: Apple’s Series 5 watches get top ratings from our testers for basics such as ease of use, step counting, and heart rate tracking. They offer built-in GPS for tracking distance workouts and oodles of apps to help you customize your device. Pay for the version with cellular service and you can field calls and stream music from your favorite app—all without lugging your smartphone. The watch’s microphone will let you dictate replies to text messages, as well as summon Apple’s digital assistant, Siri.
For more options, check our buying guide and ratings for smartwatches.
CR’s take: The 55-inch 2019 LG OLED55C9PUA earns top scores for HD and UHD picture quality and does great when it comes to HDR, or high dynamic range, performance. (LG 4K TVs support several HDR formats used by content creators: HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG, and Advanced HDR by Technicolor.) Like all OLED TVs, this model has an almost unlimited viewing angle, and the sound is also top-notch, among the best we’ve tested. LG’s updated smart TV platform includes its own voice-enabled ThinQ artificial intelligence platform, as well as built-in support for the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa digital voice assistants.
For more options: Best TVs of 2019
Microsoft Surface Pro 7 (Core i5)
CR's take: This 12.3-inch, 2-in-1 detachable laptop is new to CR's ratings as of November. Compared with the previous year's Surface Pro model, its updated Core i5 processor shows faster speeds in our tests, suitable for complex school or office work; however, you might notice a lag when performing media editing or playing video games. The display is bright, has wide viewing angles, and shows lifelike colors. Battery life is reasonably long at 10.5 hours in web-browsing tests, and at just 2.4 pounds, it's lighter than typical laptops of this size category. And, of course, there’s something to be said about the versatility of being able to remove the keyboard to use it like a tablet.
For more options: Best Laptops of 2019
Apple iPad Pro 11 (64GB) - 2018
CR’s take: One of our highest-scoring tablets, the iPad Pro is a top-tier machine for power users. Thanks to a design with slim bezels and no Home button, it tucks an 11-inch screen into a body barely larger than a base iPad with a 9.7-inch screen. The battery life is also impressive. The iPad Pro provides 12.5 hours of web-browsing and 15.6 hours of movie playback. Thanks to a switch from Lightning to USB-C charging, the iPad Pro can also juice up faster than earlier models—our testers found that 30 minutes of charge in a partially drained iPad Pro added 3.8 hours of battery life.
For more options: Best Tablets of 2019
Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G
CR's take: One of the highest-rated phones tested by CR, this Samsung model is a 5G-capable phone that features a very sharp AMOLED display that reviewers rated an Excellent. It also does well with stills and video, too. It has a unique feature that allows you to zoom in the mic in conjunction with the video. It features five camera lenses, and it can shoot video at 4K UHD. The Note10+ survived CR's durability tests, too. It works with both Verizon and T-Mobile's 5G networks.
For more options: Fabulous Phablets: Best Large-Screen Smartphones
CR’s take: This all-in-one inkjet printer sits near the top of our ratings, thanks in large part to outstanding versatility and high marks for text and graphics quality. The MFC-J895DW wastes very little ink to maintain the print heads, and based on our estimates of typical use, its yearly ink costs come to about $100—which falls in the lower range for an inkjet model. Features include scan and copy functions, an automatic document feeder, built-in faxing, WiFi networking, and wireless printing with Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print.
For more options: Great Printers for Under $150
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