TIME housing

Here Are the 3 Least Expensive Places to Buy a House in America

2013 Getty Images

And the 5 most expensive places, too

Getting restless in your current state? Check your bank balance before you move. We compiled data on over 100 million homes to find the three priciest (and least pricey) states for buying a house.

Note that we used final sales prices—not list prices—and that all numbers are from February, 2014.

Least Expensive

48. West Virginia – $95,000

While West Virginia’s Jefferson County includes several high-priced properties, Nicholas and Wood County are home to some of the most affordable houses in the nation, with median selling prices of $55,000 and $60,000, respectively. As a general rule, houses in West Virginia tend to get more expensive to the north and east (nearer to Washington DC) and less expensive to the south and west.

49. Ohio – $91,450

West Virginia’s northern neighbor, Ohio, earns the second-to-last spot on the list, with a median home selling price of just $91,450. The two counties most responsible for Ohio’s depressed market include Adams ($25,750), which lies just north of the Kentucky border, and Paulding ($33,675), which sits just south of #50 on this list.

50. Michigan – $82,000

Despite the auto industry’s resurgence, Michigan houses remain the cheapest in America, particularly near Flint and Detroit. During the 2007/2008 downturn, homes in Michigan’s largest county, Wayne, dropped from over $100,000 to under $15,000 in a matter of months. Recovery has been slow. Today, those same houses sell for a median price of only ~$25,000. (Note that Michigan home selling prices are particularly volatile from month to month—depending on sales, median values can jump up and down $50,000 every 30 days.)

Most Expensive

1. Hawaii – $412,400

The country’s youngest state is also the most expensive, with a median home selling price of $412,400. The biggest offender is Honolulu County, which includes the state’s capital and many of the priciest oceanfront properties—most houses in Honolulu sell for over $450,000. Popular tourist destination Maui is Hawaii’s next most-expensive county, with the median house going for $426,000.

2. California – $355,000

California is home to some of the priciest individual counties in America, including San Francisco ($960,000), Marin ($760,000), and San Mateo ($762,000). Silicon Valley might house some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world, but for the rest of us, it’s quickly becoming impossible to afford. Those determined to live in The Golden State at a reasonable price should prospect north and east of the Bay Area in countries like Modoc, Lassen, and Del Norte, each of which offer houses at prices well under $100,000.

3. New York – $314,000

An international business center and perennial tourist favorite, New York City and its surrounding counties make New York state a particularly pricey region. Manhattan ($830,000) features New York’s most expensive properties, while Westchester County ($550,000) and Brooklyn ($525,000) also clock in far higher than national averages. Even with more affordable houses along the outskirts of the state, the median home selling price remains $314,000, good enough for third in the nation.


Here Are the 10 Richest Towns in America

More than a few surprises on the list

See correction below.

Where do the richest Americans live? Short answer: the Northeast. Six out of 10 of the nation’s wealthiest zip codes come from Connecticut, Maryland, New York and New Jersey, while three more lie just to the south, in Virginia. Only one zip code west of the Mississippi—76092 in Southlake, Texas—cracks the top 10.

Using 5 year averages from the US Census Bureau, the data was compiled and visualized by FindTheBest, a research engine. (Note that this study was limited to zip codes with at least 10,000 residents.)

Here’s a heat map showing the nation’s richest zip codes, where darker is wealthier.


A few characteristics common to the top 10 (and most of the top 50):

Well-educated: about 80% of residents in the 10 wealthiest zip codes have at least a Bachelor’s degree, compared to only about 30% in the average American zip code.
Costly: at least 87% of residents in the 10 wealthiest zip codes pay more than $2,000 per month on their mortgage.
Married: approximately 70% of residents in each of the wealthiest zip codes are married, compared to only about 50% nationally.
Caucasian: the wealthiest zip codes in the nation are overwhelmingly white, with one exception (see below).
Employed: none of the top 10 wealthiest zip codes have unemployment rates above 6.5%, and most are well under 5%.

#10: 22101
McLean, Virginia
57.8% of households make more than $150k

Human Trafficking Probe
This house owned by the government of Saudi Arabia, was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs (ICE) officials on a report of human trafficking in McLean, Va., Thursday, May 2, 2013, Alex Brandon—AP

McLean is the most expensive suburb in the Washington metro area, home to many government officials and wealthy politicians.

McLean’s 22101 zip code isn’t just wealthy: it’s smart. Students in 22101 boast the best overall performance on the SAT, ACT, and AP exam compared to every other zip code on this list.

#9: 76092
Southlake, Texas
58.7% of households make more than $150k

Paul Moseley
Kelly McGuire Lynch poses at her soon-to-be ex-home in Southlake, Texas, with her son Patrick, June 24, 2009. MCT—Getty Images

Southlake is a wealthy suburb near Dallas-Fort Worth, home to Sabre Holdings, an S&P 500 company that owns Travelocity.

Southlake’s 76092 zip code is distinctive for several reasons. Besides being the only top finisher out West, the zip code is tied for the most modern of the 10, with a median home construction year of 1995 (compare that to the national median, 1974). It’s also the least educated of the top 10, with just 23.8% of residents holding advanced degrees (though that’s still over twice the national percentage of 10.6%).

#8: 06820
Darien, Connecticut
59.7% of households make more than $150k

The home of Morgan Stanley investment banker, William Bryan Jennings, is seen at 39 Knollwood Lane in Darien
The home of Morgan Stanley investment banker, William Bryan Jennings, is seen in Darien, Connecticut on March 6, 2012. Adam Hunger—Reuters

Darien is a quiet town in southwest Connecticut made up of wealthy professionals, most of whom commute to Manhattan or other nearby cities.

Darien’s 06820 zip code is both very wealthy and very white. With 95% of residents identifying as caucasian, it’s the least diverse of the top 10.

#7: 21029
Clarksville, Maryland
62.2% of households make more than $150k

hx-house3 07-28-2006 #182535 Mark Gail_TWP House at 5918 Clifton Oaks in Clarksville.  (Photo by Mar
Mark Gail’s TWP House at in Clarksville, MD on July 28, 2006. The Washington Post/Getty Images

Clarksville is a wealthy community between Baltimore and Washington DC, home to some of the most expensive properties in the nation.

Clarksville’s 21029 zip code is the most diverse of the top 10, with a population 61% caucasian, 28% Asian and 7% African American. (The next most diverse—20854—is 74% caucasian, essentially the same as the nation as a whole.)

#6: 20854
Potomac, Maryland
62.4% of households make more than $150k

Magazine  Cover Story on Linda and Jim Hobbins for Fall Home and Design Issue (September 30th, 2012)
Linda Hobbins waters the mums on the front steps of her 18th century farmhouse in Potomac, Maryland on August 29, 2012. The Washington Post/Getty Images

Sitting on the east bank of the Potomac River, Potomac is home to wealthy DC professionals and several nationally-ranked schools.

With 17.3% residents over 65, the 20854 zip code has more retirees than any other top 10 finisher. It’s also the largest (nearly 50,000 residents) and the most female (51.7%).

#5: 10514
Chappaqua, New York
63.7% of households make more than $150k

The new home of President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillar
The home of President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton on Old House Lane in Chappaqua, N.Y on Sept. 3, 1999. NY Daily News/Getty Images

Once a modest farming town, Chappaqua is now a wealthy hamlet north of New York City containing wealthy professionals and Ivy League-bound students.

Chappaqua’s 10514 zip code, like much of New York, is less car-dependant than the rest of America. More than one in three 10514 residents take public transportation to work, the highest proportion of the wealthiest 10 zip codes.

#4: 22066
Great Falls, Virginia
67% of households make more than $150k

The Baker's home in Great Falls VA,
Front exterior of the Baker’s home in Great Falls VA on October 2, 2013. The Washington Post/Getty Images

While many Great Falls residents spend their days working in DC, their homes sit along the pricey desirable west bank of the Potomac River.

Among the top 10 wealthiest zip codes, Great Falls’ 22066 has the second highest percentage of homeowners (94.3% of residents own a house), as well as the second highest average number of cars (nearly 60% own at least three cars). Compare those figures to the national averages, where just 66% of Americans own a home and just 35% own three or more cars.

#3: 06883
Weston, Connecticut
67.3% of households make more than $150k

OfficeMaxÕs "A Day Made Better" Presentation In Connecticut
Students in a pre-kindergartner class enjoy reading a book by children’s author Alan Katz during OfficeMax’s “A Day Made Better” presentation at Hurlbutt Elementary School in Weston, Connecticut on April 26, 2010. Wendy Carlson—Getty Images

Weston is one of several wealthy towns in southwestern Connecticut, each known for affluence, low crime, great schools, big properties, and lots of open space.

The smallest of the 10 wealthiest zip codes, 06883 is home to 10,203 residents, just large enough to earn a spot in this study.

- rent over $1,500

#2: 22039
Fairfax Station, Virginia
67.8% of households make more than $150k

SLUG: FX_COVER21 DATE: May 18, 2009 PLACE: Fairfax, VA. PHOT
Metro trains move to and from the Vienna Metro Station alongside I-66 traffic in Fairfax, VA. on May 18, 2009. Washington Post/Getty Images

Fairfax Station lies just to the southwest of Washington DC, and like several of the other zip codes on this list, is home to many DC professionals.

22039 is rich, old, and traffic-clogged. The zip code houses more middle-aged and elderly combined than the other nine cities on this list, while its average commute time—38.9 minutes—is the worst of the group. Car ownership may have something to do with this: over 10% of 22039 residents have 5 or more cars, the highest percentage of the bunch.

#1: 07078
Short Hills, New Jersey
69.4% of households make more than $150k

A view of the home of former JP Morgan chief investment officer Ina Drew in Short Hills, New Jersey
A view of the home of former JP Morgan chief investment officer Ina Drew in Short Hills, New Jersey, on May 14, 2012. Eduardo Munoz—Reuters

West of New York City, Short Hills is a quiet, affluent town, popular among wealthy NYC commuters.

A closer view of East Coast zip codes by household income:



Correction: The original version of this article contained inaccurate information about standardized test performance in the the 07078 zip code. Student test scores in and around the Shorts Hills area are in fact among the best in the nation, not below the national average. Upon further review, the low Public Schools Rating was a result of missing data from NJ’s Department of Education, not poor test performance. This portion of the article has been removed.


Here Are the Absolute Best (and Worst) Jobs of the Future

It hits everyone eventually. Whether it’s two years into a sketch comedy program or after a half-decade bet on a failed food truck business. At some point, it’s time to get serious about a lifelong career.

We looked at data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics to pick the industries most likely to grow (and die) over the next ten years. Here’s what we found:

Top Growth Industries

If you just look at raw percentages—that is, the percent the government expects industries to grow from 2012 to 2022—you’ve got a future in any of the above fields.

Topping the list is industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologists, the most business-minded of the various psychology career tracks. While the broader psychology field will likely grow marginally, Uncle Sam forecasts careers for I-O psychology professionals to grow by over 50% over the next decade. The key here is that I-O psychology focuses on the workplace—optimizing teamwork, satisfaction, and employee well-being.

Personal care and home health aides should also see near 50% growth, while insulation workers and translators can expect to see gains in the mid-40s.

Highest Paid Careers

Still, none of the above jobs are particularly high-paying. If you want some serious cash (and you’re still young enough for a decade of medical school), set your professional sights on these top-dollar careers:

Each of the above jobs report median wages north of $185,000, the highest figures in the study. Don’t have the stomach (or money, or time, or test scores) for medicine? Consider becoming a chief executive (median salary: $168,140), petroleum engineer ($130,280), or air traffic controller ($122,530).

Top Growth Industries with Lots of Jobs and Decent Pay

Let’s go a level deeper. While it’s nice to know which industries are growing and which others pay a handsome salary, you’d ideally want a combination of promising factors: growth, good pay, and millions of openings.

Data-driven marketers—like market research analysts and marketing specialists—make a respectable $60,300 per year, and the industry will likely grow over 30 percent by 2022. Better yet, that’s 30 percent growth in a gigantic industry, an increase of 1.3 million new positions over the next decade.

Unsurprisingly, technical jobs like computer systems analysts and application software developers will see significant gains over the next decade as well (with median salaries in the $80,000 to $90,000 range). Nursing also promises to grow nearly 20 percent, which translates to over 5.2 million new RNs.

The biggest surprise, however, is construction supervisors, a $59,700 per year career forecasted to grow by nearly 1.3 million jobs by 2022. Even with recent struggles, construction is still a critical profession with good growth prospects.

Other notable careers in this category include accountants and auditors ($63,550) and elementary school teachers ($53,400), each predicted to add roughly 1.7 million new jobs.

Worst Industries

It’s not all good news. The following industries not only provide low pay, but will be declining significantly over the next 10 years.

Other notable gloomy careers include door-to-door sales workers and just about any career with “U.S. Postal Service” in its title. Despite $50,000+ median salaries, U.S. Postal Service clerks, carriers, and sorters will likely all see losses in the hundreds of thousands over the next decade.

TIME FindTheBest

Best Android Phone: Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. HTC One M8

The decision used to be clear. If you wanted Android, you got the latest Samsung Galaxy. Now, with HTC’s latest release winning critics’ hearts, editors’ awards, and even some Apple loyalists, there’s a real debate now: the Samsung Galaxy S5 or the HTC One M8?

Time to break this down in an eight-round, mini boxing match. Let’s get ready to rumble…er…vibrate.

Round 1: Hardware Design – Look, Build and Feel

The HTC One M8 has a talent for first impressions. Smooth to the touch, pleasantly metallic, and more charming than Barack Obama at an election-year fundraiser, the M8 is the most elegant device on the market.

Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S5 remains defiantly plastic, a serviceable—but underwhelming—design choice. Samsung might try to pass this off as “modern glam,” but more accurate descriptions would involve phrases like “conveyor belt,” “cheap design” and “maximize profits.” Sorry, Samsung: you can’t fool us this time.

Big edge: HTC One M8

Round 2: Hardware Design – Intangibles

Before we get carried away, however, let’s acknowledge a few of the S5’s less tangible hardware advantages. The plastic might feel cheap, but the S5’s screen-size to weight ratio is pretty impressive (5.1-inch screen, 146 grams vs. the M8’s 5.0-inch screen, 160 grams). What’s more, among top-rated, 5-inch-plus phones, the S5 is one of thinnest devices out there (just a tad thicker than the Sony Xperia Z), while the HTC One M8 is thicker than average. Throw in the S5’s water- and dust-resistant features, and Samsung almost makes up for all that cheap plastic.

Slight edge: Samsung Galaxy S5

Round 3: Performance

You can pick your storyline depending on the type of user you are. On the one hand, the M8 and S5 are both industry-leading handsets, boasting top-tier processors, great benchmark scores, and overall snappy performance. For the casual user, that’s all you need to know.

But for the geeks out there, the S5 does edge out its HTC rival. Even if both phones are top performers, the S5 has a slight to moderate edge in just about every technical category. For now, the difference in real-world performance might seem negligible, but as each device sees OS updates and new, ambitious apps, the S5 has the opportunity to stand out over time.

Edge: Samsung Galaxy S5

Round 4: Battery Life

It’s one of the most important attributes, and also one of the hardest to measure. What constitutes typical use? How will battery life hold up over time? And which special power saving mode has the more ludicrous title (“Ultra Power Saving” on the S5 vs. “Extreme Power Saving Mode” on the M8)?

In the end, the M8 performs a bit better in most power-saving categories, particularly in standby mode. If your phone tends to sit in your pocket or purse for half the day, the M8 may be the better choice. It’s a closer call for power users, but unless you’re taking 20-hour phone calls on a daily basis, the M8 still tends to edge its Samsung alternative.

Finally, neither phone’s power saving name is truly absurd: “ultra” and “extreme” just don’t show the imagination of words like “mucho” and “über.” C’mon guys, get it together.

Slight edge: HTC One M8

Round 5: Display

The display battle is dead even. Both phones feature a 1,920 x 1,080 screen, though the S5’s screen size is 0.1 inches bigger (5.1″ vs. 5.0”). As a result, the M8’s screen is technically crisper (that’s 441 vs. 432 pixels per inch for you math nerds), but getting hung up on that difference would be almost as ridiculous as getting hung up on the name of each phone’s power saving mode. It comes to personal preference: marginally bigger (S5) or marginally crisper (M8).

Edge: Tie

Round 6: Camera – Pro User

With better clarity, many more pixels, and plenty of camera modes, the S5 beats the M8 in almost every camera category, and 4K video recording doesn’t hurt either. Real-world tests consistently confirm the specs. This one’s not close.

Big edge: Samsung Galaxy S5

Round 7: Camera – Beginner

The experts and tech snobs might be testing soft-focus, color-corrected shots at Niagra Falls, but we all know Joe and Jane 55-year-old-Android-buyer won’t touch 90% of either camera’s features. When you focus on amateur photographers, the M8-S5 comparison actually gets a lot closer.

Take low-light shots. Just about every mom in America will whip out her phone for those indoor, poorly-lit pics of family dinners and holiday gatherings. Here, the M8 tends to win. The so-called “ultra-pixels” (bigger than the S5’s standard pixels) are much better at capturing light in dark and drab conditions.

Then there’s the frequently-mocked front-facing camera — you know, the one Apple hasn’t updated in years and even spec-hungry Samsung won’t improve beyond 2.1 megapixels. The M8’s 5-megapixel front-facing camera is currently the best on the market. You might never touch the thing, but you know your video-chat-happy parents and selfie-obsessed co-worker will use it half a dozen times per day.

In fairness, Samsung did an admirable job scaling back all the clutter of its 30+ camera modes, making the S5’s camera interface much more beginner-friendly than the S4’s. Still, when it comes to casual-user camera features, the M8 actually scores a slight win.

Slight edge: HTC One M8

Round 8: Bonus Features

Now that we’ve covered the essentials, what about the bonus bells and gimmicky whistles? Each phone has a pet feature (or two) to help distinguish the device from its competition. HTC continues to promote Zoe, its insta-slideshow app that combines a tune and a handful of photos to make a cheesy, sharable video. Meanwhile, Samsung rides two mobile trends: security (fingerprint scanner) and fitness (a heart rate monitor). They all make for great demos and fun commercials, but which features will customers actually use?

Regrettably, probably none. Popular apps like Vine make Zoe somewhat redundant, and users tend to stop using the feature faster than you can say “Siri.” Meanwhile, neither the heart rate monitor nor the fingerprint scanner on the S5 work as well as advertised. Syncing with the heart rate monitor takes too much effort, particularly compared to the seamless, industry-leading fitness trackers. And as for the fingerprint scanner: even the most devoted Android loyalists are admitting the feature isn’t as reliable as the iPhone’s.

Still, the S5 secures a narrow win based solely on future potential. Zoe might be neat, but it’s doing nothing to reinvent the way we use our phones. In contrast, Samsung deserves a few points for its continued innovative intentions. We’ve seen Samsung play this game before: a half-baked feature in one phone typically leads to a mature feature in the next.

Slight edge: Samsung Galaxy S5

Overall Winner

In the end, the Samsung Galaxy S5 earns a victory over the HTC One M8 by the narrowest of margins, though the hardware design alone is enough to keep the M8 in contention. Even with the close loss, HTC has to be happy: For once, its flagship product can compete shoulder-to-shoulder with the perennial Android favorite.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME FindTheBest

The 10 Best Small-Screen Smartphones Not Named ‘iPhone’

Here are 10 fun-sized smartphones with great reviews and happy customers, none of which were designed by Apple in California

You may not realize it, but one of your closest friends has a secret. Run down your list of buddies and see if you can spot him.

He’s probably a simple man with simple tastes. When the rest of the boys order pitchers of beer, he’ll order a lowball glass of cheap whiskey, neat. When you head to the shooting range, he prefers pistols to rifles. He’s always liked Steve Nash and Tyrion Lannister. His hands are a tad smaller, his fingers shorter, his preferred pocket style a little more snug.

His secret? He prefers smartphones with smaller screens.

Today, this sort of preference is technological sacrilege. The manufacturers have decreed that bigger is, in fact, better. Even Apple seems poised to follow the herd.

It didn’t have to be this way. Take a look at the top-rated phones from 2010, then compare them to today’s favorites.

Keep in mind: that low bar is the 3.5-inch iPhone, and it’s barely behind the pack. Even the big bad Motorola DROID X — the largest of the bunch — clocks in at a mere 4.3 inches: puny by today’s standards. The average of the 10? 3.96 inches.

Jump ahead to 2014. Except for the iPhone, not one popular device drops below 4.5 inches. Samsung’s flagship Galaxy line has crept from 4.8 inches (the S3) to 5 inches (the S4) to 5.1 inches (the S5). Even HTC has abandoned modesty with its HTC One (M8) announcement, leaving behind its familiar 4.7-inch waters (the 2013 HTC One) for the raging sea of 5-inch-plus seamonsters (the M8).

So is the iPhone the last, best choice for the whiskey-sippers and small-pocket-wearers? Are there no other options for those who believe that the best things come in the smallest packages?

There’s still hope. Here are 10 fun-sized smartphones with great reviews and happy customers, none of which were designed by Apple in California.

10. LG Optimus F3

Available through Sprint and MetroPCS, the LG Optimus is compact, affordable, and lightweight — the second lightest of this bunch. The camera’s nothing special, but the battery life is well above above average, particularly for a phone at this price.

9. Nokia Lumia 620

If you love the Windows Phone interface but don’t need* 41 megapixels, the Lumia 620 is your small, inexpensive solution. It also sports the smallest screen of the lot, ideal for users with particularly tiny hands.

*hint: you don’t

8. HTC First

Available through AT&T, the HTC First comes with Facebook functionality built right into the OS. You can post status updates, swipe your friends’ message baubles around the home screen, and cry silently as your social network reminds you how much more fun everyone else is having. Better yet, a buck or two of your $200 purchase might one day go to Facebook’s next fire-by-the-hip, multi-billion-dollar acquisition.

7. HTC 8XT

The HTC 8XT is a phone for the misfits. It’s got a small screen (4.3 inches), runs on the third-place OS (Windows), and is only available with the third-place carrier (Sprint). Still, with a new contract, you can swipe this bronze-medal-rebel for free. Here’s to the crazy ones.

6. HTC One Mini

If you like HTC, but lost us at “Windows,” the obvious choice is the HTC One Mini, an AT&T exclusive more modest (and less pricey) than its famous older brother.

5. LG Enact

While we’ve got our qualms with the name (note to LG: we’re sending texts, not enacting a declaration of war), the phone itself is solid. With a physical, slide-out keyboard and compact design, the LG Enact is an excellent choice for QWERTY loyalists.

4. Casio G’zOne Commando 4G LTE

The Casio G’zOne Commando is a bit of a paradox: rugged, heavy, and full of hard consonants, yet small, cheap, and modestly-featured. If you spend more time scaling actual rock faces than playing Minecraft – Pocket Edition, this is your phone.

3. Motorola DROID Mini

The once-proud DROID line still deserves a look, particularly if you like small screens. The DROID Mini is one of the more fully-featured fun-sized phones, with decent CPU performance and a 10-megapixel camera. And even if Motorola’s bleeding money while Apple slurps up profits, at least they have that one snarky ad. DROID does.

2. Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini

Perhaps the most obvious — and best — Android choice, the Galaxy S4 Mini is a can’t-go-wrong pick for shoppers who like Samsung products but worry the company’s best phones are turning into tablets. Just keep in mind that the specs, like the screen itself, will be scaled down from its more popular parent.

1. BlackBerry Z10

The best of the tiny bunch, the BlackBerry Z10 is the perfect undersized mobile device, with a focus on productivity over chart-bursting specs or millions of apps. Yes, your friend might tease you with a few BlackBerry-based barbs, but let him laugh as he taps away at his Galaxy Mega 6.3. Chances are that giant phablet is compensating for a secret of his own.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME FindTheBest

20 Devices with the Sharpest Screens

Unlike MSRP or megapixels, there are as many ways to calculate screen sharpness as ways to eat a Reese’s. Do you factor in viewing distance? Does a larger screen make up for a slightly lower pixel density? Perhaps the safest comparison is pixels per inch (PPI), which requires precisely zero subjectivity. Here, for example, are 10 of the most popular phones ranked by PPI.

For comparing within a given product category, PPI is great. But what if we were to compare across product categories, like an HTC One next to a MacBook Pro, or a Kindle Fire HDX against a 4K TV? Given the sizable gap in viewing distances and screen sizes, a straight-up PPI comparison is no longer fair.

Instead, we calculated pixels per degree (PPD), the geeky, misunderstood cousin of PPI, which attempts to factor in viewing distance. If you picture a long, skinny triangle running from your eye (with an angle of exactly one degree) down to the screen you’re looking at, the PPD of that device is the number of pixels making up the base of that triangle.

PPD Explained
Ben Taylor for TIME

Of course, the triangle’s base will grow larger if you move back from the screen, so this is where subjectivity comes into play. How do we know what the “standard viewing distance” is for an iPhone vs. an iPad vs. a MacBook Pro? In order to calculate PPD across product categories, we’ll need to make some assumptions about the optimal viewing distance for using each device.

When Steve Jobs first introduced the Retina iPad (early 2012), his team rather casually claimed that the standard viewing distance was 10 inches for a phone and 15 inches for a tablet. This is probably close, but it’s pretty unscientific. We weren’t satisfied with these numbers. In order to make a fair comparison, we looked at a variety of viewing charts from TV manufacturers, averaged the optimal viewing distances together, and came up with a best fit line to match their recommendations. We ended up with this:

Device screen size Ideal viewing distance
5 inches 15.9 inches
10 inches 26.7 inches
15 inches 37.5 inches
20 inches 48.3 inches
25 inches 59.2 inches
30 inches 70 inches

This is clearly the most subjective part of the exercise—naturally, some people hold even their 6-inch phablets a mere 8 inches from their nose. Putting aside future eye surgery patients, we wanted to keep things simple. Yes, there is probably some fuzziness on the low and high end of this spectrum, but for today’s ranking, we assumed the ideal viewing distance would increase linearly alongside an increase in screen size.


20. iPad 2 – 60 PPD

19. iPad Mini – 63 PPD

18. Kindle Fire HD – 76 PPD

17. iPhone 5s – 78 PPD

It’s no surprise to see the iPad 2 and iPad Mini so low on this list: they’re older products sporting outdated display technology. The latest iPhone, however, doesn’t do much better. It may have the classic Retina Display, but the 5s ranks behind just about every other top-shelf competitor when it comes to screen sharpness.

Note that Apple’s popular 53 PPD threshold for the Retina Display won’t match our numbers, because Apple assumes customers view their iPhones from 10 inches away, while our model pegs it at 13.7 inches.

A Little Blurry

16. Nokia Lumia 1020 – 84 PPD

15. Microsoft Surface 2 – 102 PPD

14. Nexus 7 – 114 PPD

Less interested in the pixel arms race, these products prefer to focus on camera quality (Lumia), portability (Nexus), or kickstands that sound like luxury car doors (Surface).

Pixel Ambivalent

13. Galaxy Note 3 – 117 PPD

12. iPad Air – 120 PPD

11. Galaxy S4 – 121 PPD

10. Galaxy S5 – 121 PPD

9. Sony Xperia Z – 122 PPD

8. LG Nexus 5 – 122 PPD

Sharp enough to avoid any criticism, these products hit the industry sweet-spot—they look great, but don’t push it. Note that the three latest Samsung flagship phones fall into this category. The Galaxy phone line takes a lot of grief for chasing meaningless specs, but with screen sharpness, Samsung seems to have made a thoroughly reasonable, level-headed choice.

Pixel Pushers

7. HTC One – 124 PPD

6. iPad Mini with Retina Display – 125 PPD

5. MacBook Pro with Retina Display -130 PPD

The HTC One leads all other top selling smartphones in both standard PPI and PPD, an impressive feat for a phone nearly a year old.

Meanwhile, the iPad Mini with Retina Display virtually maintains the iPhone 5s’s pixel density on a screen nearly twice the size (7.85 inches vs. 4 inches), giving the latest Mini a particularly impressive 125 PPD. But it still can’t quite match the Retina MacBook, which boasts a 232 PPI display across 13 full inches of screen real estate. Until the company releases a 4K monitor, that’s as impressive as Apple’s screens get.

Pixel Perfect

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – 140 PPD

3. Kindle Fire HDX – 144 PPD

With a 299 PPI over 10.1 inches of screen, the Galaxy Note 10.1 bests almost every other popular tablet in PPD. Surprisingly, the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX sneaks ahead, with a crazy 339 PPI over 8.9 inches of screen, which makes for a stunning 144 PPD. Those who have mentally categorized the Kindle as “just a device for reading books” may want to take a second look.

Pixel Pretentious

2. 55” 4K TV – 174 PPD

1. 31.5” 4K Computer Monitor – 181 PPD

So-called 4K resolution devices get their name for having a horizontal pixel count of 3,840 pixels—just shy of 4,000 (hence, 4K). That ends up being four times as many pixels as required to run 1080p high definition video, but that won’t stop TV and monitor manufacturers from setting the new standard in sharpness.

A 55” 4K TV—when viewed from over 10 feet away—achieves an impeccable 174 PPD, enough to beat out any smartphone or tablet on the market. A 31.5” 4K computer monitor, however, presents a whole new level of insane. With a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution packed into just 31.5 inches, the screen is both giant and incredibly sharp, earning a ridiculous 181 PPD.

Granted, there are a few caveats here. First, that 181 PPD assumes you’re sitting back about six feet from the screen—say, to watch a movie or view photos as a group. When you’re at your desk working away, that PPD will decrease. Second, 4K monitors might be a little too good to buy today—most of the web hasn’t optimized for that kind of resolution yet, and 4K monitors aren’t smart enough to scale low-res content the way 4K TVs do.

Still, a 30+ inch screen with that kind of pixel density (~120 PPI) is nuts, and it’s enough to make the 4K computer monitor the most impressive display on the market…for now.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

TIME Congress

Spotlight: The 3 Richest (And Poorest) Members of Congress

Darrell Issa
House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. makes an opening statement as his panel holds its first public hearing on problems implementing the Obamacare healthcare program, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

This coming fall, you may want to consider donating to preschools instead of politicians. With $174,000 salaries and a median net worth just north of $1 million, your Representative or Senator already is doing much better than most Americans. It might take Congress months to pass a simple national budget, but rest assured: their personal finances are just fine.

We took a closer look at data from the Center for Responsive Politics (OpenSecrets) to rank the most (and least) wealthy individuals in the House and Senate—and see how they got there.

Note: Because members of Congress are required to report only a range of assets in a variety of categories, the figures below are based on an “average” net worth estimate, instead of an exact amount.

1. Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA)

The entrepreneur-turned-congressman, Issa is famously the wealthiest member of Congress. He made his fortune investing in car alarm technology and starting Directed Electronics, Inc., where he recorded his own voice to scare off would-be car thieves in a security product called Viper. Today, he is worth roughly $450 million.

2. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA)

The wealthiest senator in America, Warner has invested in hundreds of technology companies, as well as co-founding Capital Cellular Corporation, which eventually became Nextel. Although extravagantly rich, he’s perhaps better known for his guest appearance on Top Chef, where he served as a celebrity judge. Unfortunately, his palate didn’t quite measure up to his politics. “Worst judge ever,” said fellow Top Chef guest star Joe Scarborough. Today, Warner’s net worth hovers in the neighborhood of $257 million.

3. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)

Proving that sentimentality can make you rich, Polis has amassed around $200 million, first through a greeting cards website, and subsequently through starting and selling his flower delivery service, ProFlowers. Polis’ fortune has come in handy not just for winning elections, but also for his education philanthropy through the Jared Polis Foundation.

1. Rep. David G. Valadao (R-CA)

With an estimated net worth of negative $12.2 million, give or take, it’s tempting to imagine that Valadao’s financial woes came from gambling debts, scandal cover-ups, and backroom political deals gone wrong. In reality, Valadao’s poor standing is a simple matter of debt from a few dairy farm loans—more House of Cows than House of Cards.

2. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL)

Even as fellow members of Congress dip in and out of debt with new loans and business ventures, Hastings is a perennially poor representative, still paying off legal debts from a 1980s scandal. Then a circuit court judge, Hastings was accused of accepting a $150,000 bribe to go easy on defendants charged with racketeering. Though he was acquitted of the crime in court, the House impeached him and the Senate removed him from his judicial office. That said, he has served in the House dutifully since 1992. His net worth is estimated to be negative $4.73 million.

3. Rep. Rubin Hinojosa (D-TX)

Hinojosa is currently recovering from a 2010 bankruptcy, which he incurred after guaranteeing a loan made to H&H Foods, a family food processing company. H&H Foods had itself declared bankruptcy in 2008, and Hinojosa had secured the loan in an effort to rescue the business, a company for which he had served as president and chief financial officer for 20 years. The representative has since emerged from bankruptcy. Today, his net worth is estimated to be negative $2.3 million.

Wealth by Party, Gender and House

Across all members of Congress, Democrats (median net worth: $1,048,000) edge Republicans ($1,000,510) by a mere $47,500—or put another way, a few thousand shy of one American household’s average annual income. However, the GOP wins when you combine all assets: $2.06 billion (among 276 members) to the Democrats’ $1.85 billion (among 259 members).

A few other takeaways:

  • Among all members of Congress, the median net worth for women is $177,000 higher than for men ($1.18 million vs. $1 million).
  • The Senate is by far the richer chamber, with a median net worth of $2.7 million, well above the House’s $896,000.
  • The wealthiest religious denomination?* Episcopalian, with a median net worth of $2.4 million. The poorest? Roman Catholic, at $516,000. *We only considered denominations with ten or more members in Congress.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest. Check out Taylor’s past columns here

TIME Smartphones

4 Things the Galaxy S5 Should Do (But Probably Won’t)

Samsung has the potential to make the best all-around smartphone on the market, but its priorities still aren’t in the right place.

On February 24th, it’s believed that Samsung will officially unveil the Galaxy S5. The screen will reportedly be a little bigger (5.2 inches), the camera nicer (probably 16 MPs), the presentation more polished, and the pastries in the lobby between 10-20% tastier than those served during Samsung’s last Galaxy reveal.

(MORE: Samsung Galaxy S5 Rumor Roundup: Taking Our Best Guesses)

The company will hopefully confirm the device’s rumored 560 pixels-per-inch display. “That’s over 70% more pixels per inch than the iPhone 5s,” a smiling Ryan Bidan (director of product marketing) should say, “and 1,000% higher than my best score on Flappy Bird.” A polite ripple of applause and tweets would surely follow.

Regrettably, Samsung will likely forget to do four things, all of which are more important than megapixels, croissants, and pixelated birds. Here’s what the Galaxy S5 should do…but probably won’t.

1. Improve Touch Response Time

Ask any longtime iPhone user why she hasn’t switched to Android, and you’ll get a vague justification. “I just like the way Apple does it.” Most iPhone users can’t explain why exactly they prefer the iPhone user experience, but there’s a simple explanation: touch response time. According to a 2013 touch latency test, Android-powered phones take up to 2.5x longer than iPhones to register actions. Never mind that Galaxy screens have several other advantages (ex: bigger, more accurate): those milliseconds matter. The experience just feels smoother on an iPhone, and that difference—however slight—is worth 8 megapixels to the mass market of Mom, Dad, and Grandpa Joe.

Granted, Samsung needs Google’s help to solve this problem: no matter how much Samsung streamlines its TouchWiz interface, it’s the hardware-software integration that ultimately matters. Samsung could work more closely with the Android team—perhaps push for tighter harmony between OS and device—Samsung certainly has the leverage. Unfortunately, it would rather cram in megapixels than shave off milliseconds.

2. Embrace Google

Samsung and Google are like a dysfunctional couple. They fell hard for each other in 2009, moved in together (some say too quickly), then quarreled for the next four years. On multiple occasions, Samsung has threatened to move out, only to quietly apologize the next day, citing pressure from work. Lately, Google has demanded more attention from its on-again, off-again lover, insisting that Samsung treats it in public the same way it’s treated in private. Just last month, it got so bad, they had to sign a legal document over shared property.

Samsung may want to succeed on its own, but the general public loves Samsung-and-Google, the couple. People want a slick device with seamless integration of Google services. Apple users love to complain about iCloud, Apple Maps, and jumbled mail services on iPhone, so why can’t Samsung promote its baby-cheek-smooth integration of Google services? Sure, reliable contact- and calendar-syncing doesn’t sound as sexy as “Snapdragon 800 processor,” but it’s exactly what jaded iOS users are looking for.

Samsung shouldn’t hide Android’s simplest, most elegant advantages. It should go back to the basics, and remind us why it fell in love with Google in the first place.

3. Improve Design (Significantly)

Browse expert reviews for the S3 and S4, and you’ll find the Galaxy line’s “cheap, plasticky design” mentioned every time. For a company that admits it’s better at hardware than software, it’s ironic that it can’t seem to nail the physical feel of the device.

There’s some hope here. Rumor has it Samsung will improve the quality of the Galaxy’s plastic shell, or even offer a premium metal version alongside its base model. Still, I expect the improvements to be more reactionary than revolutionary. Reviewers will tick the “improved quality” box, but the Galaxy S5’s exterior architecture probably won’t win any headlines. The iPhone and HTC One not only feel premium, they make stylistic statements—the sort of innovative construction that earns new customers.

As a leading smartphone manufacturer, Samsung should release a handset as beautiful as it is technically advanced. I’d love to be proven wrong, but for the S5? I don’t see it.

4. Focus On Real-World Battery Life

Samsung’s always gone big with power: Rumors point to a massive 3,200 mAh battery and possibly, new “rapid charging” technology. No doubt, Samsung will boast record-breaking talk time and days upon days of standby time, based on “stringent tests” in the lab (read: Wi-Fi off, airplane mode, display dimmed). The problem is that these numbers rarely translate to real-world use. The average consumer jacks up the brightness, watches HD Sochi videos over LTE, and wouldn’t know how to find a power saving settings screen if his Candy Crush Saga high score depended on it.

If the S5 manages to hold a charge about as long as its competitors, that will be an achievement, given that the screen must power 3,686,400 separate pixels (approximately five times as many as on an iPhone). But consumers won’t know that. When grandma is nursing 3% battery life at four in the afternoon, she won’t care how technically impressive Samsung’s display technology is—she’ll wish she had a few more hours of juice.

The 560 PPI headline will likely net Samsung a few more sales from enthusiasts, but at the cost of thousands more everyday users who don’t want to bother charging the device every night.

Samsung has the potential to make the best all-around smartphone on the market, but its priorities still aren’t in the right place. Oh well: at least we’ll get those pastries.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest. Check out Taylor’s past columns here.

TIME Apple

Relax: Apple Innovation Is Fine

We looked at four of the most common Apple criticisms, specifically those for the iPhone. Has innovation really leveled off in Cupertino?

These days, it’s just common knowledge: Apple innovation has tanked since Steve Jobs’ death, while Samsung’s parade of split-screen apps, touchless gestures, and sexy smartwatches has propelled the Korean tech giant into the lead. Not convinced? Simply gaze upon Apple’s last three iPhones — underpowered, featureless, stuck in the past — and you too will see that Apple CEO Tim Cook is cooked.

Or is he?

We looked at four of the most common Apple criticisms, specifically those for the iPhone. Has innovation really leveled off in Cupertino?

1. Performance

The Criticism

The iPhone is underpowered. While Samsung reinvents the stat sheet with each new phone, Apple makes routine updates a year later. It just can’t compete on specs anymore.

The Reality

In recent years, Apple has done some of its best innovation under the iPhone’s airbrushed hood. When consumers see a new iPhone of identical shape and size, they assume nothing’s changed. In reality, Apple’s biggest accomplishment is maintaining its lauded design while keeping pace with Samsung’s powerful, shape-shifting phones.

Granted, we can’t conclude that Apple is winning the spec war, but it’s certainly not losing either. We plotted Geekbench multi-core scores for Apple and Samsung phones over the last few years to see how they stacked up over time.

Apple and Samsung have both maintained a dizzying pace, nearly doubling performance with each new release. Apple’s 2x leap from the iPhone 5 to 5s is particularly impressive, perhaps even more so than the all-new Touch ID.

2. Features

The Criticism

Apple hasn’t added any innovative features since 2010. Samsung adds 2,010 new features in every phone.

The Reality

This one’s partially true. Whether it’s air gestures, tilt scrolling, or companion watches that let you take secret, creepy photos, Samsung is the indisputable King of Features. Meanwhile, Apple’s biggest feature forays have seen mixed results. (Siri? So-so. Touch ID? Great when it works. FaceTime? Neat, but who actually uses it?)

Still, who says “number of features” is synonymous with “innovation?” It all depends on the problem you’re trying to solve. From a marketing standpoint, features like Samsung’s Smart Pause — where videos start and stop as your eyes move on and off the screen — are genius. They’ll grab a dozen headlines, generate thousands of YouTube views, and do wonders for on-stage demos. But that doesn’t mean people will actually use them. In the end, most Samsung features are like mail-in rebates: fun, enticing, and ultimately forgettable.

Meanwhile, many of Apple’s so-called features are designed so that nobody will notice them in the first place. A tap on the home screen camera icon causes the screen to bounce slightly — indicating that the user must swipe up to snap a photo. Dates and times don’t clog up the message screen, unless you happen to swipe to the side, where all that info is cleverly stored. There’s nothing revolutionary here — but these are the “features” Apple focuses on instead, features made for users — not for tech headlines.

3. Display

The Criticism

The Retina Display (326 pixels per inch) is now the Retro Display — Apple’s top rivals have crisper screens.

The Reality

Apple hasn’t budged from 326 pixels per inch (PPI) because it hasn’t needed to. Steve Jobs was ultimately right (even if the math was a little funky): at a viewing distance of 10 inches, the human eye can no longer discern individual pixels. The HTC One’s 468 PPI might sound impressive, but it comes at a cost. For an indiscernible increase in sharpness, the phone ends up wasting precious resources to power all those pixels.

Apple’s decision to stick to 326 pixels isn’t one of laziness, inability, or lack of innovation—it’s a conscious decision to keep battery life up and thickness down.

Note: The iPhone’s smaller screen size helps keep the weight off, but Apple wins on thickness too.

4. Screen Size

The Criticism

Apple has only changed the iPhone’s screen size once. This proves the company doesn’t care about innovation.

The Reality

This is one of the most bizarre knocks on Apple. The company may indeed benefit from producing a larger iPhone, but this is a matter of business, not of innovation. The question for Apple is not, “How do we make a bigger iPhone?” but instead, “Among non-iPhone users, who will be convinced to buy one if we add a bigger screen, and will it be worth the production cost?” If Apple does indeed make a bigger iPhone, expect small splashes of creativity throughout, with a close eye on design, simplicity, and user experience. But don’t insult Apple by praising the new dimensions — the new screen size will be the least innovative thing about it.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest. Check out Taylor’s past columns here.

TIME FindTheBest

4 Things Microsoft Still Does Well

It’s easy (and popular) to predict further disaster for the once-proud tech titan. But quietly, Microsoft is doing several things well—better than we give it credit for.

With a struggling product line, shrinking PC sales, and a comical CEO search that seemed to lurch in three directions a day, Microsoft has become the punchline of every tech industry joke. Oh, how the geeky have fallen. As Steve Ballmer paddles away in a lifeboat made of $100 bills, newly-minted CEO Satya Nadella must right the company’s sinking ship and fix all the broken Windows. It’s easy (and popular) to predict further disaster for the once-proud tech titan. But quietly, Microsoft is doing several things well—better than we give it credit for.

Here are four things Microsoft still does well, and how it can capitalize going forward.

1. Mobile OS Design


The world hasn’t been fair to Windows Phone, a mobile OS with a design that’s fresh, tasteful, and functional. We forget just how innovative the metro-style interface was—and still is—which was flat before iOS and dynamic before Android’s home screen widgets became popular. We tend to dismiss Windows Phone in the face of its two most powerful rivals, but compare Microsoft’s mobile OS to the ghosts of Symbian, Palm, and Brew, or even to BlackBerry, who just last year realized we’d all moved on from 2005. It’s fun to tease Microsoft for stealing ideas, but Windows Phone deserves praise for its persistence and originality.

More importantly, everyday users love the Windows Phone interface. Yes, the experts’ top lists are filled with the latest iOS and Android hits, but when you look at users’ top-rated phones, Windows devices perform far better. Now if only more people would buy them…

Going forward: Flashy design alone can’t save a scant app ecosystem and paltry sales. Freshman CEO Nadella must find a way to attract mobile developers and win consumers raised on Android and iOS.

2. Office Suite Software

It’s kept Microsoft alive for the last five years, and it’s for good reason. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are still industry standards, with deep functionality and an extremely loyal user base. Meanwhile, cloud-based Office 365 has produced solid revenue for the company over its first year.

Sure, they’ve got a variety of competitors, but each rival seems content to nibble off corners of the market rather than compete for the main course. Naturally, Apple has prettier software in Keynote and Numbers, but instead of ratcheting up features, they’ve been simplified in favor of inter-device compatibility. Casual users have turned to Google’s cloud-based documents, but let’s be honest: no one’s building revenue reports from scratch in Google Drive. Meanwhile, programmers, tech tinkerers, and Linux developers might swear by OpenOffice, but a well-meaning community of geeks simply can’t compete with Microsoft’s billion-dollar marketing campaigns.

Going forward: Nadella will need to reexamine the Microsoft Office licensing strategy. As it stands, support is sporadic on third-party mobile devices, and many non-Windows versions are half-baked. Microsoft may want to commit one way or the other: full support across multiple devices and operating systems, or Windows-only support to coax new users back to the Microsoft fold.

3. Gaming Consoles

It’s true: the PS4 has an early sales lead against the Xbox One (4.2 vs. 3.0 million through 2013). But this is a distraction. From its 2000 acquisition of Halo-developer Bungie to its present-day Xbox-TV integration, Microsoft has made sound game industry decisions and weathered all the inevitable setbacks. Since the first Xbox, the company has doubled-down on first-person shooters, improved its online infrastructure, and focused on living room functionality. The controller-free, motion-sensing Kinect lured mainstream players tired of Wii Sports, and the 2011 Skype acquisition improved communication clarity across online services. These were all classic Microsoft moves: a little boring, but businesslike and effective.

The video game purist might prefer Sony’s commitment to indie games, or Nintendo’s focus on core gameplay, but Microsoft has made the wider play for the mass-market of young adult U.S. males, and it’s paid off. It’s even won the branding war among American moms. “Stop playing Xbox,” they say, even when it’s a Wii U or PS4.

Going forward: As the console gaming industry evolves (dies?), Nadella needs to convince America that the Xbox is truly a living room feature, not simply a gaming device. If he can sell that concept, Microsoft will leapfrog Sony and recapture the lead.

4. Internet Explorer

Okay: that’s a joke.

4. Secrecy

For all the buzz about Apple “doubling down on secrecy,” Microsoft might actually be the more clandestine company. It kept the Surface undercover for almost all of its three-year development, and the CEO search was shrouded in a colorful, Windows 8-haze of misinformation until Nadella’s name was finally announced Tuesday morning. Granted, we don’t know what Microsoft is up to partly because neither does Microsoft. But while the tech press showers Apple and Google with rapid attention more invasive than that old, it-looks-like-you’re-writing-a-letter paper clip, Microsoft can quietly reinvent its mobile presence and build better consumer-facing products, all in semi-stealth mode.

Going forward: After the Nadella hype fades, the press will flock back to Apple, Google, and Amazon. Microsoft should enjoy the peace and quiet while it focuses on its 2014 priorities, like mobile and the cloud. The company should keep expectations low, then surprise us when the moment is right. A little time as an underdog might be just what Microsoft needs. Your move, Nadella.

This article was written for TIME by Ben Taylor of FindTheBest.

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