Throughout the year, CNN Underscored is constantly testing products — from coffee makers to computers to sheets to shower heads — to help our readers find the absolute best things.
Our testing process is rigorous. We spend countless hours of research, consulting experts, reading editorial reviews and perusing user ratings to identify the products we want to bring in for testing, be they things that have stood the test of time or the most promising new contenders. Then we spend weeks or months testing and retesting each product multiple times in real-world settings, putting everything through the sort of use and abuse it’s likely to encounter in your home. We’re confident that our process lets us identify the very best things so you can quickly and easily buy what you need.
Here, we round up all the products that took the top spot in our tests throughout the year.
Best budget earbuds: EarFun Air ($54.99, originally $69.99; amazon.com)
We’ll make this really simple for you: If you want to spend less than $100 on wireless earbuds, you won’t find a better pair than the EarFun Air.
Best noise-canceling headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($248, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
The Beats Solo 3 headphones were released back in 2016, which in headphones years means they’re basically living their golden years. But despite their age, they consistently held their own during our testing. They were often neck-and-neck with headphones twice their price, if not flat-out surpassing them. The Beat Solo 3 produced sound you’d expect from a much more expensive pair of headphones. Instrumental and vocal clarity were among the best we’ve heard.
Best on-ear headphones: Beats Solo 3 ($169.99, originally 199.95; amazon.com)
The Beat Solo 3s were released back in 2016, which in headphones years means they’re basically living their golden years. But despite their age, they consistently held their own during our testing. They were often neck-and-neck with headphones twice their price, if not flat-out surpassing them.
Best over-ear headphones: Sony WH-1000XM4 ($248, originally $349.99; amazon.com)
The Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones boast class-leading sound and phenomenal noise-canceling ability, so much so that they ousted our former top overall pick, the Beats Solo Pro, in terms of ANC quality, as the over-ear WH-1000XM4 better seals the ear from outside noise. Whether it was a noise from a dryer, loud neighbors down the hall or high-pitched sirens, these headphones proved impenetrable. This is a feat that other headphones, notably the Solo Pro, could not compete with.
Best record player: Fluance RT82 ($299.99; amazon.com)
Overall, Fluance is a brand that cares deeply about providing the best possible listening experience to consumers. Out of the box, you get everything you need to establish high-quality sound at a premium.
Best soundbar: Roku Streambar Pro ($149.99, originally $179.99; amazon.com)
While the Streambar Pro didn’t feature the best sound quality of the soundbars we tested, you would have to spend more than double the price to get something more than nominally better.
Best wireless earbuds for Apple users: AirPods Pro ($197, originally $249; amazon.com)
Apple’s AirPods Pro 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.
Best work-from-home earbuds: Galaxy Buds Pro ($147.99, originally $199.99; amazon.com)
If you’re willing to splurge on a more premium set of earbuds that will help you quiet the chaos happening around you at home, then the Galaxy Buds Pro are worth the premium. Whether it’s a barking dog, a crying baby or a blaring jackhammer from the street below you, the Buds Pro’s dependable active noise cancellation (ANC) works to block it out, leaving you with a little white noise and room to think.
Beauty and Grooming
Best beard trimmer: Remington Smart Beard Trimmer ($69.99; amazon.com)
Remington’s Smart Beard Trimmer scored exceptionally well in all of our tests. What sets this trimmer apart from the rest we tested is all of its “smart” abilities. But this isn’t just the dream trimmer for tech nerds; there’s also real substance to it. It was our most durable trimmer, coming out unscathed from our drop test, where we dropped each trimmer from a shaving position three times.
Best dry shampoo: DryBar Detox Dry Shampoo ($26; nordstrom.com and ulta.com)
DryBar Detox Dry Shampoo was the best at absorbing oil, aptly removed sweat and dirt and had the most pleasing scent, leaving our panelists’ hair feeling cleaner and smelling better than any other dry shampoo we tried. Think of it as a sort of oil-absorbing sheet for your hair — a sponge that, even when applied in a fine, veil-like mist, sops up oil, sweat and dirt for even the greasier-haired among us.
Best face moisturizer: Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream ($28.99; ulta.com)
Through our tests, we found that the best face moisturizer overall is dermatologist favorite Olay Regenerist. The brand describes it as “an anti-aging moisturizer that hydrates skin and helps retain skin’s youthful surface contours.” Essentially, it’s meant to diminish the look of fine lines while improving skin’s elasticity and firmness. What sets it apart is the formula.
Best high-end hair dryer: Dyson Supersonic ($399; amazon.com)
The Dyson Supersonic is expensive. Like, $400 expensive. But, man, does it live up to its hype. It dries hair at warp speed, blasts out heat at a whopping 70 mph, is much, much quieter than other models we tested, and is just futuristic and cool all around.
Best everyday liquid eyeliner: Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner ($22; amazon.com)
The Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner excels at many things: It applies smoothly and precisely, and its firm felt marker-like tip allows you to create a perfectly sharp wing with minimal effort. While firm enough to apply with accuracy, though, it does not snag or pull on the eyelid, and its staying power is top-notch — one of the most long wearing of the liners we tested.
Best makeup sponge: Beautyblender Original Makeup Sponge ($20; amazon.com)
The Beautyblender claimed our top spot, thanks to its versatility, effectiveness and overall comfortable feel. It’s a rounded sponge with a teardrop shape, designed to be used while moist.
Best matte lipstick: Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($22; amazon.com)
The Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick 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.
Best men’s razor: Gillette SkinGuard ($8, originally $9.99; amazon.com)
Out of all the razors we tested, the Gillette SkinGuard gave us the easiest, most comfortable shave by far, mainly due to its specialized blades. The razor has little bumpers in between the SkinGuard’s two blades to minimize skin irritation. While Gillette says this causes a shave that isn’t as close as its five-blade razors, we didn’t notice much of a difference between the SkinGuard and the other cartridge blades we tested.
Best sunscreen: Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Sunscreen Spray ($8.92, originally $9.69; amazon.com)
The Hawaiian Tropic Island Sport Sunscreen Spray scored miles above every other sunscreen we tested. An SPF 30, broad-spectrum, chemical formulation, this spray sunscreen applied super light, rubbed into the skin right away and smelled deliciously of coconut.
Best women’s razor: Billie The Razor Starter Kit ($9; mybillie.com)
We loved the Billie razor, from the way it looks, with a cool, colorblocked design and curved cartridge, to its super-sharp blades that removed hairs in a single swipe. The razor is also comfortable to use — the handle has a rubber backing to provide a firm but comfortable grip so there’s no slipping.
Best coffee grinder: Baratza Virtuoso+ Conical Burr Grinder With Digital Timer Display ($249.95; amazon.com)
The Baratza Virtuoso+ has a sleek, intuitive design. It also has 40 settings from which to choose. Having more options lets you micro-customize the grind size to your liking, so you get the exact taste you want from the beans. It was easy to quickly customize our grinds, from espresso and Turkish coffee to French press or cold brew.
Best coffee subscription: Blue Bottle (starting at $11 per shipment; bluebottle.com)
Blue Bottle’s coffee subscription hit all of our marks during the testing process. It has multiple kinds of subscriptions perfect for all kinds of coffee drinkers. With its solid customizability, variety and — above all — outstanding taste, Blue Bottle beat out every other coffee subscription we tested. No matter what you want from a coffee subscription, Blue Bottle tailors an experience that will always provide you with freshly roasted, delicious coffee right at your doorstep.
Best cold brew coffee maker: Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew Coffee Pot ($22.55, originally $24.50; amazon.com)
The Hario Mizudashi Cold Brew coffee pot is a sleek, sophisticated and streamlined carafe that produces 1 liter (about 4.25 cups) of rich, robust brew in just eight hours. It was among the simplest to assemble, it executed an exemplary brew in about the shortest time span and it looked snazzy doing it. Plus, it rang up as the second-most affordable of our inventory.
Best drip coffee maker: Braun KF6050WH BrewSense Drip Coffee Maker ($89.95, originally $120.95; amazon.com)
We brewed countless pots of coffee with the Braun KF6050WH BrewSense drip coffee maker, ranging from light to dark roast, and each one yielded a strong, delicious cup with no sediment, thanks to the gold tone filter, designed to remove the bitterness from coffee as well as reduce single-use paper-filter waste. The machine we tested was white, but it also comes in black, and it’s compact enough to fit under the cabinets in a smaller space compared to some of the more cumbersome machines we tested.
Best pour-over coffee maker: Kalita Wave 185 Pour-Over Coffee Dripper ($24.22; amazon.com)
The Kalita Wave 185 Pour-Over Coffee Dripper features a flat bottom with three drip holes, which enables more easily and evenly saturated coffee grounds. The flat-bottom shape and its larger surface resulted in a rich and robust single cup of coffee, and it was also the most user-friendly of the drippers that required a swirled pour, producing between 16 and 26 ounces at a time.
Best single-serve coffee maker: Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus ($147.99; amazon.com)
If you’re in the market for a coffee machine that can brew a consistently great cup that’s piping hot, makes espresso, is extremely easy to use and looks great on your counter, then you need the Breville-Nespresso VertuoPlus. This single-cup coffee maker stood out from the pack in nearly every category. It produced the hottest coffee of the bunch, delivered the same great taste with every cup, allowed for a variety of brewing options and truly could not be easier to use.
Best gaming headset: Razer Kraken X ($39.99, originally $49.99; amazon.com)
The Razer Kraken X delivers some of the best comfort and sound quality out of all of the affordable wired headsets we tested. It also works well with nearly every platform, thanks to its versatile 3.5mm wired headphone connection.
Best gaming keyboard: SteelSeries Apex Pro ($199.99; amazon.com)
When it comes to a keyboard that checks all of the possible boxes and then some, the Apex Pro shines bright, delivering extreme value with adjustable switches, individual key lighting and an OLED display that makes quickly changing settings a breeze.
Best gaming laptop: Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition ($1,649.99; bestbuy.com)
The Asus ROG Strix G15 Advantage Edition offers the best combination of performance, battery life and features for the price, all packed into an attractive and highly customizable design.
Best gaming mouse: Corsair Dark Core RGB Pro Wireless Gaming Mouse ($79.99; bestbuy.com)
The Corsair Dark Core RGB does it all. It’s a gaming mouse that offers wired and wireless connectivity, a comfortable and adjustable grip, and eight programmable buttons.
Best gaming PC: MSI Aegis RS ($2,499; officedepot.com)
The MSI Aegis RS delivers high-end performance in blockbuster games for an affordable price, and has plenty of space for future upgrades.
Best alarm clock: Jall Wooden Digital Alarm Clock ($23.99; walmart.com)
The Jall Wooden Digital Alarm Clock has everything you need and more in an alarm clock. It’s simple to set, easy to read in the dark and has an alarm that is loud but won’t scare you awake. It’s got a polished feel to it, and its wooden design gives it a look unlike any other clocks we tested.
Best plush bath towel: Frontgate Resort Cotton Bath Towel ($38; frontgate.com)
Fresh out of the box, Frontgate’s Resort Cotton Bath Towel was among the most luxurious-feeling in our testing pool. Thick, soft and snuggly, this product truly feels like a fine hotel bathing experience. At a generous 58 inches by 30 inches, it looks the part too, with a lush surface punctuated by a nice 2-inch-long trim near each towel end.
Best bug repellent and spray: Proven Mosquito and Tick Spray ($16.97; homedepot.com)
The Proven’s Mosquito and Tick Spray proved to be a winner during our user testing. Proven was nice and light to the point we barely felt it on our skin. While you might forget you’re wearing it, though, bugs won’t.
Best charcoal grill: Weber Original Premium Kettle Grill ($166.25; amazon.com)
The 22-inch Weber Original Premium Kettle Grill was the easiest grill to control temperature on during our testing, with the flames inside the kettle responding expertly to any tap of the vents. Our hamburgers cooked to a medium rare temperature, and our chicken ended up juicy, with a solid sear on the outside. The grill includes Weber’s One-Touch cleaning system, meaning that it comes with a large enclosed ash pan for easy cleanup, and it also boasts a built-in thermometer and lid hook.
Best cooling fan: Honeywell Quietset Whole Room HYF290B tower fan ($63.34; amazon.com)
The Honeywell Quietset Whole Room tower fan is well built, quiet and affordable, with a solid, stable build and a beautiful, colorfully laid out control panel that was simpler to figure out and use than the competition. It was easier to assemble than the other tower fans we tested, with tool-free construction and a simple connection to the base that was a lot easier to deal with than the other tower models we looked at.
Best dehumidifier: Frigidaire FFAP5033W1 ($299; walmart.com)
The Frigidaire dehumidifier was among the best performers in our testing, tying for first place in removing moisture from the air in our test space, but it also stood out because of its superior interface and usability. Its control panel is better thought out than the other dehumidifiers we looked at, with comfortable buttons clearly labeled with both easy-to-understand graphical icons as well as text, something missing in some of the other contenders.
Best down comforter: Brooklinen Down Comforter ($143.10, originally $159; brooklinen.com)
With the Brooklinen Down Comforter, we truly felt like we were sleeping on a cloud and never wanted to get out of bed. Between the softness of the outer material and the fluffiness of the fill, it’s one of those comforters that make you want to stay in bed all day — 12 months a year.
Best duvet cover: Casper Sateen Duvet Cover ($338 for queen size; casper.com)
The Casper Sateen Duvet Cove checked all the boxes for us: For starters, it’s 100% cotton with a smooth, sateen feel that’s soft, not silky. During our testing, washing the cover was a breeze, and it dried completely with one cycle.
Best fitness tracker: Fitbit Inspire 2 ($99.95; amazon.com)
The Fitbit Inspire 2 is the best choice for anyone who wants better clarity and more robust data about their health, fitness and wellness lifestyle.
Best flannel sheets: Garnet Hill Hemstitched Supima Flannel Bedding ($99 for a queen set; garnethill.com)
From straight out of the packaging through to waking up on a chilly morning, Garnet Hill’s Hemstitched Supima Flannel Sheets were our best overall. Garnet Hill’s sheets offered a warm, restful night of sleep without feeling overheated, which was a factor with some of the other sets. The design of the Garnet Hill sheets is simple and pretty, with a stitched hem on the top of the top sheet and on the pillowcases, and they’re available in 11 tasteful colors, more than any other brand we tested.
Best home security system: Ring Alarm Second Gen ($199.99; amazon.com)
The Ring Alarm is a budget-conscious system that doesn’t sacrifice the necessary feature set, all while giving you the ability to customize to your specific needs.
Best humidifier: TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier ($59.99; amazon.com)
The TaoTronics Cool Mist Humidifier was a breeze to use from the start. It was packaged so that the unit was easy to remove and assemble, and it was filled and misting quickly. The bulk of this humidifier is the tank, so it takes up minimal space, which is just one reason this humidifier ranked as our top choice. It was also a standout when it came to cleaning, which is huge if you’ve ever dealt with a gross, moldy humidifier filter or tank.
Best iron: Maytag M400 Steam Iron ($44.99; amazon.com)
Lightweight, super-steamy, able to get rid of even the stubbornest of wrinkles and priced affordably, Maytag’s M400 practically had us looking forward to laundry day. Heating up in a lightning-fast 39 seconds, the quickest of all irons we tested, it also features a handy indicator light that turns green to alert you it’s ready.
Best leggings: Athleta Salutation Stash Pocket II 7/8 Tight ($98; athleta.com)
Featuring, as its name suggests, pockets big enough to stash things like your phone or wallet, we loved this pair for its comfort during workouts and everyday activities alike, high-quality construction, secure waistband and chic aesthetic.
Best linen sheets: Parachute (starting at $149; parachute.com)
Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), these linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury
Best rain jacket: Patagonia Torrentshell 3L ($149; patagonia.com)
Well made, luxurious to the touch and with the most versatile shopping options (six sizes, nine colors and the ability to order individual sheets), these linen sheets from Parachute were, by a narrow margin, our favorite set. From the satisfying unboxing to a sumptuous sleep, with a la carte availability, Parachute set the gold standard in linen luxury.
Best SAD light therapy lamp: Happy Light Luxe by Verilux ($69.99, originally $99.95; amazon.com)
The Happy Light Luxe by Verilux is sleek, slim, packable and stable, and its well-thought-out controls — which were missing from almost every other light that we tested — made customizing the experience a pleasure.
Best shower head: Kohler Forte Shower Head ($81.08, originally $109.20; amazon.com)
The Kohler Forte Shower Head topped our list because of the immersive shower experience it provides. Delivering a powerful rainfall spray composed of big, full droplets of water, the shower head’s main “full coverage” setting is all-encompassing and perfect for daily use. The intense pressure makes washing shampoo and conditioner out of your hair a quick process, and it’s super helpful when rinsing off soaped-up little ones who are much shorter and farther away from the head.
Best silk pillowcase: Fishers Finery 25mm 100% Pure Mulberry Silk ($46.99; amazon.com)
Fishers Finery — made from the finest silk available — felt luxuriously silky, fit our pillows perfectly, offered beautiful nights of sleep and were easy to wash and dry both by hand and in the machine.
Best sleep mask: Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask ($9.98; amazon.com)
Our favorite thing about this mask is its adjustable nose wire, which lets you get the perfect light-blocking, lock-in-place fit. Many masks we tested had a slight crack of light around the nose bridge. This mask, though, formed the best seal around the edges, blocking out more light than any other mask we tested.
Best thermometer: Braun Digital No-Touch Forehead Thermometer ($49.57, originally $59.99; amazon.com)
This thermometer can be held up to 2 inches away, and there’s a positioning sensor that shines a light on your forehead to ensure you’re on the right point of the head when taking temperature. With an option to silence any noise and an LED display that can be seen in the dark, the Braun No-Touch thermometer offers everything you need — plus some — in a thermometer.
Best video doorbell camera: Ring Video Doorbell 2 Pro ($249.99; amazon.com)
Ring’s Video Doorbell 2 Pro uses radar to give you highly accurate motion alerts, has stellar looking video with a wide, tall field of view and crisp audio, and can even show you on a map the route someone took as they made their way to your door.
Best waterproof shoe for women: Geox New Aneko B Abx Woman ($175; zappos.com)
Functional, breathable and incredibly comfortable, the Geox New Aneko B Abx Woman kept our feet dry through puddles, rainfall and spills. We ordered a half size up for a great fit.
Best white noise machine: Sound+Sleep Mini ($65.43; amazon.com)
The Sound+Sleep Mini contains 48 different sounds, like rain, brooks, fans, ocean sounds, white noise, and many more. The other devices we tested feature some of these soundscapes, but the Mini is one of the only ones that has them all.
Best window AC: Midea U-Shaped Window AC ($355; amazon.com)
Midea’s U-shaped design makes installation a cinch and keeps the compressor outside with the window acting as a noise barrier, so it’s much quieter compared to other ACs. It cooled the room not only more quickly, but also more effectively thanks to a motorized vent that automatically moves to waft cold air throughout the room.
Best workout leggings: Lululemon Align Pant (starting at $98; lululemon.com)
The Lululemon brand is practically synonymous with the word “athleisure,” and whether you love it or love to hate it, one thing is certain: Lululemon makes some seriously fantastic leggings. Yes, $98 may seem like a steep price to pay, but if you’re serious about your fitness and/or yoga gear, you won’t be able to find anything better than the Lululemon Align Pant.
Best yoga mat: Lululemon Reversible Mat 5MM ($88; lululemon.com)
Hands down our favorite feature of the mat is the fact that it’s dual-sided, with a smooth and sticky polyurethane-coated top side and a textured natural rubber bottom side that provides loads of traction. Beyond that, though, we also loved that the mat is slightly oversized and provides an ample cushion given its 5-millimeter thickness.
Best blender: Breville Super Q ($471, originally $499.95; amazon.com)
With 1,800 watts of motor power, the Breville Super Q blender features a slew of preset buttons, comes in multiple colors, includes key accessories and is touted for being quieter than other models. It does carry a steep price tag, but for those who can’t imagine a smoothie-less morning, what breaks down to less than $2 per day over one year seems like a bargain.
Best bread machine: Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Plus Bread Maker ($339.95; wayfair.com)
The Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus is expensive for sure, but in this case, you get what you pay for. Each loaf we baked turned out beautifully, as if it came straight from our favorite bakery, with a crisp, golden-brown crust; soft, even crumb; perfect rise; airy, fluffy texture; and delicious taste.
Best cast-iron skillet: Lodge Chef Collection 12-Inch Skillet ($39.95; williams-sonoma.com)
The Lodge Chef Collection 12-Inch Skillet rose to the top of our rankings for not only delivering great results across all of our testing criteria but also for its affordable price. Weighing just 6.5 pounds, the Chef Collection comes pre-seasoned with 100% natural vegetable oil and has two slightly larger pour spouts that allowed us to deftly remove oil from the pan without a dribble in sight. It outperformed most of its much higher-priced competitors at nearly every test we threw at it.
Best wooden cutting board: Teakhaus Professional Cutting Board ($94.90; amazon.com)
The Teakhaus Professional is a cutting board made from teak, a wood that stands up to heavy use, is resistant to stains and knife cuts, cleans up easily, is heavy enough to stay in place while you work and is reasonably priced compared to other wooden cutting boards of similar quality. Plus, it’s beautiful enough to earn a permanent spot on your kitchen countertop.
Best Dutch oven: Lodge Enameled 6-Quart Cast Iron Dutch Oven ($79.90; amazon.com)
The Lodge Enameled 6-Quart Cast-Iron Dutch Oven’s shiny, smooth finish had zero flaws out of the box, and the ombre blue hue was just plain pretty. Its 6-quart size was just right for all sorts of tasks. Its large handles and the lid’s amply sized metal knob are both features that make using a heavy pan easier. And its slightly sloped sides allowed a spatula to scrape up everything along the edges.
Best grill brush: Kona BBQ Grill Brush ($19.95; amazon.com)
The Kona BBQ Grill Brush features a durable, stainless steel brush head that, according to the manufacturer, works best when dipped in water. This proved true in our testing, and the wet brush melts away any leftover food or gunk on the grill. The solid brush head ensures that no bristles, wire bits, food or residue from the tool is left behind on your grill.
Best hand mixer: Cuisinart Power Advantage Plus 9-Speed Handheld Mixer ($79.95; amazon.com)
This Cuisinart mixer caught our eye right out of the box, with a sleek design and sturdy build that felt stable in the hand. Testing confirmed our initial impression, with the appliance scoring top marks across the board for function — easily mixing, whisking, beating and kneading — as well as ease of use and storage.
Best ice cream maker: Cuisinart 1.5-Quart Frozen Yogurt ICE-21P1 ($69.95; amazon.com)
The Cuisinart 1.5-Quart Frozen Yogurt ICE-21P1 is incredibly easy to use, and made one of the smoothest ice creams, with only a little iciness, of all the ice cream makers we tested. While it was one of the loudest machines we tested, it also churned ice cream faster than many of its competitors (it only took about 15 minutes for both of the recipes we tested), so you won’t have to suffer through the noise for too long.
Best instant-read meat thermometer: ThermoWorks Thermapen One ($105; thermoworks.com)
The price of the ThermoWorks Thermapen One may make you raise an eyebrow, but based on our testing, it’s worth every penny. The backlit display is easy to read, and the digits automatically adjust their orientation when holding the thermometer vertically — something that was exclusive to this model.
Best kitchen knife set: Chicago Cutlery Fusion 17-Piece Knife Block Set ($199.95; amazon.com)
This knife block set lets you easily take on almost any cutting jobl. Not only did the core knives included (chef’s, paring, utility and serrated) perform admirably, but the set included a bevy of extras, including a full set of steak knives. We were blown away by their solid construction and reliable execution for such an incredible value. The knives stayed sharp through our multitude of tests, and we were big fans of the cushion-grip handles that kept them from slipping.
Best kitchen scale: Ozeri ZK14-S Pronto Digital Multifunction Kitchen and Food Scale (starting at $9.84, originally $14.95; amazon.com)
Simplicity and reliability is what you’ll get with this scale. It can measure grams, pounds, ounces and milliliters, all the way up to 11.24 pounds. Of all the options we tested under $20, this one handled the most weight. When measuring the same item several times and/or comparing it to other scales, its accuracy was dependable.
Best nonstick pan: T-fal E76597 Ultimate Hard Anodized Nonstick Fry Pan with Lid ($42.99; amazon.com)
If you’re a minimalist and prefer to have just a single pan in your kitchen, then you’d be set with the T-fal E76597. This pan’s depth gives it multipurpose functionality: It cooks standard frying pan foods like eggs and meats, and its 2.5-inch sides are tall enough to prepare recipes you’d usually reserve for pots, like rices and stews. It’s a high-quality and affordable pan that outperformed some of the more expensive ones in our testing field.
Best spiralizer: Spiralizer 7-Blade Spiral Slicer ($25.97, originally $27.99; amazon.com)
The Spiralizer 7-Blade Spiral Slicer impressed us with the fact that every veggie we tested — on all seven provided blades — turned out perfect spirals, with almost all requiring barely any exertion on our part. There are blades for vermicelli, spaghetti, fettuccine, curly fry, chips/ribbons, fine groovy chips and coarse groovy chips, and they’re all clearly labeled by name. The spiralizer is dishwasher-safe and comes with a lifetime warranty.
Best slow cooker: Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central Multicooker ($159.95; amazon.com)
The Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central Multicooker gave us perfectly cooked meals, and while it’s very easy to use, it offers the best range of useful functions — browning, sautéing and steaming — of all the slow cookers we tested.
Best waffle maker: Cuisinart Double Belgian Waffle Maker ($119.95; amazon.com)
If you need a machine that makes great waffles, doesn’t take up too much of your precious counter space and still lets you make multiple waffles per batch, then this waffle maker may be the perfect waffle maker for you. This model goes a step beyond most flip waffle makers, featuring two sets of waffle grills, one on each side of the flip mechanism, so you can make two rounds of waffles at once — a real bonus for a hungry breakfast crowd.
Best water bottle: Yeti Rambler 26 Ounces (starting at $39.99; yeti.com)
While the Yeti Rambler is a bit on the pricier side, this 26-ounce water bottle is easily the best one we tested. Not only does it keep your drinks hot or cold for many hours, it’s solidly durable and has the best lid we’ve ever tested. The Yeti Rambler is also customizable, available in 14 colors and five sizes ranging from 12 ounces to 46 ounces, and it’s dishwasher-safe as well.
Best water filter pitcher: Brita Standard Everyday Water Filter Pitcher ($26.98, originally $34.99; amazon.com)
The Brita Standard Everyday Water Filter Pitcher was a cinch to set up, left water free of any odd flavoring, features a simple pouring mechanism and is ideally designed for storage within a fridge.
Best wine opener: OXO Steel Double Lever Waiter’s Corkscrew ($16.99; amazon.com)
Lever-style wine openers are meant to be stable and easy to use, and the Rabbit Wine Corkscrew With Foil Cutter satisfies this most important requirement. During our testing, we got the cork out of our bottle in three seconds, as advertised. There was no setup or assembly required prior to use, and the silicone-lined exterior of this opener felt immediately comfortable in-hand upon unboxing.
Best smart bulb: Wyze Bulb Color ($15.89; amazon.com)
The Wyze Bulb Color ticks all the boxes you want from a smart bulb, outpacing all other bulbs we tested — no matter their price point. If you prefer a white light, you have the option to adjust the temperature, changing the resulting light from warmer, orange glows to cooler, more natural white light.
Best smart display: Amazon Echo Show 8 ($99.99, originally $129.99; amazon.com)
The Echo Show 8 is the best smart display we tested, with a versatile 8-inch screen in a build that really fits anywhere. It can do everything you’d expect from a smart display, and Alexa can respond to your queries both vocally and visually.
Best smart exercise bike: Peloton Bike+ ($2,495; onepeloton.com)
The Peloton Bike+ came out on top (but honestly, just barely) due to its sturdy construction, variety of knowledgeable, inspiring instructors and many high-quality off-the-bike classes. It’s a great something-for-everyone buy.
Best smart garage door opener controller: Chamberlain MyQ-G0401 ($23.99, originally 29.98; amazon.com)
The Chamberlain MyQ can manage up to two garage doors, and the wireless hub makes it easy to install. With a price tag of only $29.99, it’s also an excellent value for a basic smart garage controller.
Best smartphone: Apple iPhone 13 (starting at $829; amazon.com)
Apple’s iPhone 13 has a modern build with an immersive display, and is one of the best cameras of all the phones we’ve ever tested. The iPhone 13, equipped with Apple’s latest mobile processor, the A15 Bionic, shone in performance, as FaceTime calls, browsing the web, posting on social media, playing games and even doing work all happened promptly and without hiccups.
Best smart plug: Wyze Plug ($11.65; amazon.com)
The Wyze Plug has everything a smart plug needs —- a plug to go into your current outlet, an outlet on the front to plug other devices in and connectivity to make it controllable —- and excels at the overall experience.
Best smart scale: Wyze Smart Scale ($33.98, originally $39.99; amazon.com)
Pulling this thin, elegant glass scale out of the box, we were immediately sold on its simple good looks. The design of this scale is on par with several we tested that were far more expensive. It’s sleek and lightweight, and it fits in places most people like to stash a scale — like under the bed, a dresser or a very slim bathroom vanity.
Best smart thermostat: Nest Learning Thermostat ($223, originally $229; amazon.com)
The Nest Learning Thermostat studies your habits and controls the temperature in your home automatically. These smarts, along with the simple interface, make it best in class.
Best smart speaker: 4th-Gen Echo ($59.99, originally $99.99; amazon.com)
Amazon’s fourth-gen Echo is the biggest redesign to the original smart speaker; Amazon swapped the tall cylinder design for a spherical one. Not only does this give it a more appealing aesthetic than most competing speakers, but the form factor also aids in delivering richer and clearer sound with ample access to Alexa smarts.
Best smartwatch: Apple Watch Series 6 (starting at $349.99, originally $399.99; amazon.com)
The Apple Watch Series 6 isn’t just the best smartwatch for the iPhone; it’s the best smartwatch period. It’s the fastest smartwatch we’ve ever tested and it not only tracks countless activities but can also take an electrocardiogram (ECG), measure heart rate, track blood oxygen levels and detect if you’ve fallen.
Best carry-on luggage: Away Carry-On ($225; awaytravel.com)
The Away Carry-On has everything you want in a suitcase: durability, thoughtful organization, smart features and chic design, all at a fair price point to boot. It stood up very well to our abuse, handling being kicked, jumped on and dropped down stairs with only minor scuffing and zero lasting dents. It also utilizes smooth YKK zippers, an aluminum telescopic handle and four double Hinomoto spinner wheels, which in our testing glided seamlessly on pavement, hardwood and grass alike.
Best checked luggage: Away Medium ($295; awaytravel.com)
The Away Medium suitcase was the most well-rounded piece of luggage we tested, outdoing the other bags in many of our most important tests. It’s solidly durable, with only a few scuffs from its trip down the stairs. It also has an incredible interior compression system, is easily maneuverable and is even comfortable to carry for those times you need to lift it in and out of the car.
Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 13000 ($49.99; amazon.com)
The Anker PowerCore 13000 packs a ton of value. You can quickly charge a lot with the PowerCore 13000; it can bring an iPhone 11 to full charge two and a half times, or two Samsung Galaxy S20s from empty to more than 90%. And you won’t be sitting by idly for too long, either, as the PowerCore 13000 takes just 41 minutes to charge an iPhone 11 to 50%, tying for fastest charging in our testing.
Best travel pillow: Cabeau Evolution S3 ($39.99; amazon.com)
The Cabeau Evolution S3 updates the standard U-shaped travel pillow design with raised sides that gently cradled our head and neck when we used it. The S3’s flat back also rested relatively flush against our seat, preventing our head from uncomfortably jutting forward, while an adjustable front clasp let us slightly tighten or loosen the neck opening to our liking, which makes it possible to tailor the pillow to travelers of different sizes.
Best smart TV: TCL 6-Series ($699, originally $825; amazon.com)
No matter what content you’re watching, the 55-inch TCL 6-Series TV makes it look good. It zooms past the 5-Series with better color accuracy and holds up better at various viewing angles. The 6-Series features Mini LEDs, meaning it packs more LEDs behind the panel to allow the TV to illuminate more specific details when creating an image. The result is a strong image with vibrant colors and strong contrast points.
Best streaming stick and device: Roku Ultra ($89.50, originally $99.99; amazon.com)
We previously named the 2019 version of the Roku Ultra CNN Underscored’s best overall streaming device. With the 2020 version of the Ultra, Roku took another winning approach and made it even more attractive. From the moment you switch it on, the Roku Ultra presents one of the most seamless experiences of any streaming device we tested.
Best budget app: PocketGuard (free to $4.99/month; pocketguard.com)
Without question, PocketGuard is our favorite budget app. It’s easy to set up an account and straightforward to use. The app is available from the Apple Store and Google Play, and there’s a desktop version if you get sick of the tiny screen on your phone.
Best budget gaming monitor: Acer XF243Y ($209.99; walmart.com)
The Acer XF243Y is one of the least expensive monitors we tested, which was surprising given its high refresh rate, FreeSync and G-Sync compatibility, total lack of screen tearing and overall ease of use. It features a fairly standard 1920 x 1080 23.8-inch IPS panel, but its support for HDR10 makes it a standout option at this price.
Best computer microphone: Blue Yeti ($122.99, originally $129.99; amazon.com)
The Yeti consistently delivered warm, bright voice recordings, preserving every detail of our voice without any distortion or crackling. It sounded nearly identical to its more expensive sibling (the $169 Yeti X, which offers more sound customization and LED lighting), and was just a bit richer and crisper than premium rivals like the HyperX QuadCast S.
Best computer monitor: Lenovo L24q-30 Monitor ($244.99; amazon.com)
After many hours of testing with a multitude of content and workflows, the Lenovo L24q-30 monitor stood out as the best overall option. This 23.8-inch QHD monitor has the chops to handle whatever you need it to, from Word docs to gaming. The Lenovo’s super-slim bezels don’t distract the eye from its vibrant panel, and its relatively small footprint will fit into any workspace. A blue-light filter also helps decrease eye strain, making it ideal for longer workdays.
Best computer mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; logitech.com)
The Logitech MX Master 3 mouse supports three devices over Bluetooth and lets you switch between them with a single button on the mouse’s underside. It’s also compatible with Logitech’s Flow software, which lets you control multiple computers and drag and drop files between them. It even works cross-platform; in our testing, we used a Windows desktop and a MacBook Air.
Best computer speaker: Logitech Z407 ($79.99; logitech.com)
The Logitech Z407 computer speakers leverage the company’s years of experience in building computer peripherals, delivering a versatile, high-quality pair of speakers that doesn’t break the bank. Perhaps the best thing about these speakers is how great they sound for the price, boasting relatively crisp highs with a well-tuned mid range.
Best ergonomic keyboard: Logitech Ergo K860 ($128.99; bestbuy.com)
We found the Logitech Ergo K860 to be a phenomenally comfortable keyboard. Its build, featuring a split keyboard coupled with a wave-like curvature across the body, allows both your shoulders and hands to rest in a more natural position. Add the cozy palm rest along the bottom edge and you’ll find yourself sitting pretty comfortably.
Best e-reader: Kindle Oasis ($249.99; amazon.com)
With access to Amazon’s vast library, a display that’s adjustable enough to let you read without fatigue in almost any light, easy-to-use controls and a comfortable design, the Kindle Oasis is the best e-reader we’ve tested.
Best ergonomic mouse: Logitech MX Master 3 ($99.99; amazon.com)
The Logitech MX Master 3 is an unequivocally comfortable mouse. It’s shaped to perfection, with special attention to the fingers that do the clicking. Using it felt like our fingers were lounging — with a sculpted ergonomic groove for nearly every finger.
Best external hard drive: WD My Passport SSD ($119.99, originally $199.99; amazon.com)
The WD My Passport solid-state drive is not the cheapest external drive on the market, but its somewhat lofty price brings big returns. Files transfer quickly: We were able to back up Word documents in just a few seconds, full photo albums in less than 20 seconds and even large video files in under a minute. The WD My Passport has enough space to store all your files, packing close to 100,000 photo files or, in our case, two backups of our entire library.
Best keyboard: Logitech MX Keys ($99.99; logitech.com)
The full-size, full-featured Logitech MX Keys keyboard offers a terrific typing experience, easy device switching, and simple customization.
Best laptop: MacBook Air ($899.99, originally $999; amazon.com)
The entry-level M1-powered MacBook Air keeps the same exact build of the previous Air, including the Magic Keyboard that’s truly a treat to type on. But this new model removes the fan and swaps out the Intel chip for the M1, the first Apple Silicon processor. Apple’s M1 chip sets a new standard with blazing performance, and it’s so energy efficient that it stays cool enough that the new Air doesn’t need a cooling fan. That’s something we haven’t encountered on a Mac before.
Best lightning cable: Anker Powerline II USB-C to Lightning ($14.99; amazon.com)
Anker’s Powerline II is a basic cable that does everything well, without any bells and whistles that increase the cost. The 6-foot cable does come in three colors, though: white, green and black — alongside a 3-foot version that comes in white and black. We stress tested the cables with some hard tugs and some tight bends, and it felt like it would hold up well over time, where other cables might break down and fray at the ends.
Best MacBook: MacBook Air ($899.99, originally $999; amazon.com)
The MacBook Air with M1 is a budget laptop that can take on any task — from web browsing to productivity to 4K video editing. And if you’re in the Apple ecosystem, it will work perfectly with other Apple devices.
Best mesh Wi-Fi router: Eero 6 and two extenders ($195, originally $279; amazon.com)
With its foolproof setup process, nearly unrivaled speeds and coverage areas, Eero 6 is your best bet when opting for a mesh router. It’s an investment but one that will last for several years, thanks to the latest standards being supported inside.
Best office chair: Steelcase Series 1 Chair ($436; amazon.com)
The Steelcase Series 1 chair scored among the highest overall, standing 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 Steelcase Leap, easily making it the best bang for the buck and a clear winner for our best office chair.
Best password manager: 1Password (starting at $2.99/month; 1password.com)
1Password offers the total package: security, usability, features and pricing. After signing up for your account, which includes the option for a free 14-day trial, you can download an app or a browser extension. The apps and extensions are used to create, fill and store your complex passwords so you don’t have to remember them.
Best portable Bluetooth speaker: UE Boom 3 ($149.99; amazon.com)
The UE Boom 3 gives you robust, 360-degree sound in a waterproof, dust-proof canister that you can take everywhere. It’s pretty much everything you could want in a Bluetooth speaker for the price.
Best printer: HP Envy Pro 6455 ($159.99; bestbuy.com)
The HP Envy Pro 6455 is a feature-filled and reliable unit that proves you don’t need to spend a ton for great performance. As an all-in-one unit it offers quality prints across text and visually heavy tasks alike, while also being able to scan and copy with ease.
Best ring light: EMart 10-inch Selfie Ring Light ($28.41; amazon.com)
The Emart 10-Inch Standing Ring Light comes with a tripod that’s fully adjustable — from 19 inches to 50 inches — making it a great option whether you’re setting it atop your desk for video calls or need some overhead lighting so no weird shadows creep into your photos. Its three light modes (warm, cool and a nice mix of the two), along with 11 brightness levels (among the most settings on any of the lights we tested), ensure you’re always framed in the right light.
Best standing desk: Branch Adjustable Standing Desk ($699; branchfurniture.com)
Branch’s standing desk comes in two sizes, a handful of colors, and shows a high level of craftsmanship. It has a sturdy build and a design that doesn’t distract. It starts with the desktop, which, as tested, is a 48-inch-wide by 30-inch-deep particle board laminate. You can also opt for white or a dark walnut finish. What’s lovely about this desk is that the depth is wider than the average desk, making it easy for it to hold multiple monitors, a laptop (maybe a tablet as well) and a notebook, with room to spare.
Best tablet: Apple 9th Gen iPad ($329.99; amazon.com)
The new ninth-generation Apple iPad keeps the classic design and a quality display but upgrades the front-facing camera and tosses in a faster chip, the A13 Bionic, which should keep this tablet working for many years to come. Most importantly, the price still starts at $329 with 64GB of internal storage. Last year that only got you 32GB, which filled up way too fast. It’s plenty of iPad for most users.
Best tax software: TurboTax (starting at $59.99; amazon.com)
Throughout the entire process, TurboTax is the easiest to use, helping you figure out which forms you need in a customer-friendly way and offering live customer support whenever you need it. From the moment you arrive at the TurboTax website, the company holds your hand to help you figure out the right software version to use for your specific taxes.
Best USB-C cable: Anker Powerline+ USB-C to USB-C cable ($16.99; amazon.com)
Anker’s Powerline + USB-C cable is durable and functional, with a braided jacket, robust connectors, and handles up to 60 watts of power for fast charging. And it’s backed by a lifetime warranty.
Best USB-C hub for 13-inch laptops: Satechi Multi-Port Adapter V2 ($79.99; amazon.com)
If you’re looking to expand the functionality of a 13-inch laptop (such as a MacBook Air or Dell XPS 13), the Satechi Multi-Port Adapter V2 is the best hub of its kind we tested in terms of overall speed and reliability. Satechi’s sleek “Space Gray” hub stands out against the rest of our testing pool, having one of the sleekest designs and some of the fastest data transfer speeds.
Best webcam: Logitech C920s ($69.99; logitech.com)
The Logitech C920S is the best webcam for most people, delivering excellent picture quality in both bright and dim lighting conditions. Its design is sturdy and versatile, and it has some handy companion software for customizing your shots.
Best Windows laptop: Dell XPS 13 ($969.99; dell.com)
The Dell XPS 13 packs a gorgeous, lightweight, slim and highly portable design for working anywhere, a nearly borderless display that makes content pop and a powerful 11th Gen Intel processor that can burn through most workloads with ease.