CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — be it coffee makers or headphones — to find the absolute best in each respective category.
Our testing process is rigorous, consisting of hours of research (consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings) to find the top products in each category. Once we settle on a testing pool, we spend weeks — if not months — testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings. All this in an effort to settle on the absolute best products.
Right now for Black Friday, a number of the best products we tested in 2020 are seeing steep discounts.
While not the steepest discount of 11%, this is the first time we’re seeing the Steelcase Series 1 office chair on sale since we named it the best overall office chair back in July. It’s now $319.99, down from its original price of $395. In our testing, it stood out as one of the most customizable, high-quality, comfortable office chairs on the market. The Steelcase Series 1 beat out most of its pricier competitors across testing categories, scoring less than a single point lower than our highest-rated chair, the $1,036 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair overall.
Our best overall earbuds, Apple’s AirPods Pro ($169, originally $249) hit all the marks. They deliver a wide soundstage, thanks to on-the-fly equalizing tech that produces playback that seemingly brings you inside the studio with the artist. They have the best noise-canceling ability of all the earbuds we tested, which, aside from stiff-arming distractions, creates a truly immersive experience. To sum it up, you’re getting a comfortable design, a wide soundstage, easy connectivity and long battery life.
We loved these cans during our testing — so much so they took top-honors in both our noise-canceling headphones and over-ear headphones testing. Not only do the WH-1000XM4s boast class-leading sound, but they have phenomenal noise-canceling ability as well. Whether it was noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, the XM4s proved impenetrable. And you can get them today at an all-time low price of $278, down from their usual $349.99.
Two of the best linen sheet sets we tested, Parachute and Brooklinen, are now 20% off
Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), the linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set of linen sheets we tested. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury. During the brand’s Black Friday sale, the sheets are now starting at $119, down from their usual $149 starting price.
Truly the absolute softest sheets we tested, the Brooklinen sheets offered an immersive, delectable sleep experience. Simultaneously high-end and already perfectly worn in, these felt like a second skin from the first touch. For the brand’s Black Friday sale, you can get them for the discounted starting price of $207.20, down from the usual $259.
For those looking for earbuds to power their workouts, we found no better option in our testing than the Powerbeats Pro ($174.95, originally $249.95; amazon.com). The ear hooks are malleable and will conform to your ear after just a few wearings, so there’s no worry about these falling off even during the toughest of workouts. Additionally, these have an IPX4 resistance, which means neither rain nor sweat storm will kill these buds’ vibe, and a bass-heavy (but not overly heavy) sound performance to boost your workouts.
The eighth-generation iPad quickly stood out as the best overall tablet during our testing. With it, you can send emails, chat in a group FaceTime and multitask between two apps without so much as a hiccup. This do-it-all tablet screams efficiency, allowing users to seamlessly transition from work-centric tasks (like creating a presentation or working in spreadsheets) to boredom-busting activities (think crisp, TV-like Netflix binges). It’s all thanks to the A12 Bionic chip inside, and iPadOS runs swimmingly. Better yet, you can pair it with the Apple Pencil for note-taking, and an attachable keyboard can make this device suitable for work. Now at just $279.99 (originally $329.99), it’s friendlier on your wallet than most tablets this powerful.
Our pick for best overall streaming device, the Roku Ultra has support for Dolby Vision HDR support and improved Wi-Fi performance — and is the fastest streaming device Roku has released. The Roku Ultra can upscale content to deliver the best picture possible on your TV — even on older-model TVs that don’t offer the latest and greatest picture quality — and supports everything from HD to 4K. While all of our top picks meet the 4K threshold, the Ultra does so at a noticeably quicker rate, so you’ll never experience content that skips or appears blurry for a few frames. At $99.99 (now down to an all-time low price of $69), the Roku Ultra undercuts other big hitters like the Fire TV Cube and Apple TV 4K. While it’s not as full-featured as the latter (namely, Roku doesn’t offer HBO Max), you’re not sacrificing much, if anything, in terms of everyday streaming quality.
Our overall winner in our testing of single-serve coffee makers, the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus, which uses pods that deliver both espresso and “regular” coffee, could simply not be beat for its convenience. Intuitive and a snap to use right out of the box, it looks sleek on the counter, contains a detached 60-ounce water reservoir so you don’t have to refill it with each use and delivers perfectly hot, delicious coffee with a simple tap of a lever and press of a button. It’s on sale today for $125.97, down from $179.95.
A close runner up in our testing of drip coffee makers, the Cuisinart was, to our eye, the most handsome and minimally designed of the straightforward auto-brewers, delivering a clean, tasty cup. It lost first place only because the touchscreen may not be for every consumer, and brew time is significantly longer than the other machines we tried out — and for many users, especially on a busy morning, a faster cup is a better one. Right now, you can get it for just $103.99, down from its usual $235 price point.
Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription won us over during our testing of coffee subscriptions with its balance of variety, customizability and, most importantly, taste. We sampled both the single origin and blend assortments and loved the flavor of nearly every single cup we made. The flavors are complex and bold, but unmistakably delicious. Beyond its coffee, Blue Bottle’s subscription is simple and easy to use, with tons of options to tailor to your caffeine needs. First-time subscribers can also take an additional $5 off.
The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner (regularly $22) is a longtime customer favorite — hence its nearly 7,500 5-star reviews on Sephora — and for good reason. In our testing of liquid eyeliners, we found it requires little to no effort to create a precise wing, the liner has superior staying power and it didn’t irritate those of us with sensitive skin after full days of wear. As an added bonus, it’s available in a whopping 12 shades. The half-off discount will be reflected at checkout.
The Beats Solo 3s are a phenomenal pair of on-ear headphones. Their sound quality was among the top of those we tested, pumping out particularly clear vocals and instrumentals alike. We enjoyed the control scheme too, taking the form of buttons in a circular configuration that blend seamlessly into the left ear cup design. They are also light, comfortable and are no slouch in the looks department — more than you’d expect given their reasonable price tag, which is now down to $119.95, matching a previous all-time low price.
Winning the spot for best budget pick in our roundup of hand mixers, the Hamilton Beach 6-Speed Electric Hand Mixer is a simple, hard-working mixer that gets the job done for less. It’s very easy to maneuver and aptly tackles all of the basic functions — mixing, whisking, beating — though it does lack a kneading attachment and was a bit slower on certain tasks compared to the higher-end hand mixers we tested. It was also the only lower-priced mixer we tested that came with a storage case and attachments. It’s currently 50% off.
Named the best budget pick in our roundup of ergonomic keyboards, we found that the Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard compromises little despite its affordability. It’s a split keyboard, with a curvature that brings the center of the keyboard off your desk and a palm rest along the bottom edge. Not only is it heaps more comfortable than a traditional keyboard, you can customize function keys and create custom macros to simplify otherwise complex tasks as well. It’s currently $38.99, down from the original price of $53.99.
The most comfortable of all the true wireless earbuds we tested, these bean-shaped earbuds don’t protrude far into the ear like others we tested — instead sitting rather flush with the ear — so there was no added pressure to any part of the ear. Because they don’t seal the ear quite as much as AirPods Pro, though, you do give up a bit in terms of sound quality. But at such a discounted price (currently $119.99, originally $169.99), you’re getting earbuds that, in terms of comfort, you’ll forget are even in your ear, and ones that pack pretty hefty bass in a small package.
If you need headphones that can be worn on long walks, intercontinental flights or just around the house, the Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones 700 (now $299.95, down from $379.95) are our go-to for comfort. There’s some serious memory foam plush in both the ear cups and top headband. Imagine tucking your head into two mini-mattresses thatcu delightfully conform to your ears.
Our best overall matte lipstick, the Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($10, down from $22) has thousands of 5-star ratings across the internet, and it’s easy to see why. True to its name, this product clings to your lips for hours upon hours, burritos and messy breakfast sandwiches be damned. It’s also surprisingly moisturizing for such a superior stay-put formula, a combo that’s rare to come by.
At the relatively affordable price of $199.95 (now even lower at $99.95), JBL’s Live 650TNC shined as our value pick in our testing of over-ear headphones. They may not be the flashiest, but the JBL cans held our attention with clear playback of vocals (no artifacts like crackling), punchy drums and an impressive three-dimensional soundstage.
One of the first subscription-based razors solely for women, Billie The Razor Starter Kit took first place in our testing of women’s razors for its user-friendly design, close shave and overall durability. With built-in charcoal soap for easy lubrication and a rubbery grip for easy handling, it made for a quick, comfortable shaving experience. The blades are sharp but don’t irritate skin, and the magnetic holder ensures that the razor blades stay clean and dry. For Black Friday, Billie is taking 20% off of orders of $30 and more with code YES20.
The best Android tablet of any we tested, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S7 ($549.99, down from $649.99) offers long battery life and enough power to keep up with whatever you can throw at it. Android apps as a whole leave a lot to be desired when used on a tablet, but with Samsung DeX, you can turn the tablet into a laptop-like device, complete with trackpad support and windowed Android apps.
For the fitness fiend, the Jabra Elite 85h ($149.99, originally $249.99) were the best headphones for working out during our testing of over-ear headphones. Though they’re on the bulkier side, they have a great control scheme for exercise, featuring large, easy-to-locate buttons on the right cup. They also hold well on your head, which we confirmed during a 45-minute run — there was no slippage or shifting of the headphones.