TIME ces 2015

The 15 Best Props at CES 2015

A model displays the LG G Watch R during the 2015 International CES on Jan. 6, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
A model displays the LG G Watch R during the 2015 International CES on Jan. 6, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. David Becker—Getty Images

#1 will surprise you

No CES booth is complete without props—people or things companies use to grab your attention, whether it’s a giant puppet, celebrity guest, or larger-than-life cardboard blow-up of the product itself.

We stomped around CES for a full day in order to crown a winner. Which booth would feature the most awesome, crafty, or ridiculous visual aide? Before we run down the list, a few rules:

1) Props are props, not products. If your company sells cars, and the car is parked at your booth, that’s cool, but that’s not a prop.

2) Props that say something important about the product or brand beat out products that simply caught our attention. Smarter is better.

With that out of the way, here are the best props we found at CES 2015, from number 15 to the very best.

15. Samsung’s SUHDTV Helix

Samsung’s SUHDTV is the company’s new flagship TV, and it’s got a bizarre, DNA-like helix right behind the displays. We still don’t know what the “S” stands for, and we’re clueless about what the helix means, but we can’t deny we’re intrigued.

14. ZTE’s Basketball Trampoline Setup

Basketball hoops are pretty common at CES, so ZTE loses a few originality points, but give them credit for the ball rack, runway, and trampoline, an ambitious setup that beats out every other ball-related CES exhibit.

13. Qualcomm’s Wheeled Dragon Robot

Semiconductor-maker Qualcomm couldn’t be more important to the industry, even if most casual consumers have never heard of them. So what better way to capture that unique combination of obscurity and importance than in a dragon robot with wheels? We can’t explain it, but we love it.

12. Panasonic’s Giant Headphones

Panasonic has all kinds of things going on at this year’s CES, from scooters to Blu-ray players to connected homes. But their biggest prop of all is a giant pair of headphones, which provides an appropriate nod to the company’s classic products.

11. LG’s Massive G Watch R

With the explosion of smartwatches, gadget displays are getting smaller, but LG wants to remind us that they’re excited about wearable tech. Really excited. And so we get a massive blow-up of the new LG G Watch R.

10. Ecovacs Robotics’ Solar Panel Cleaner

Robo-vaccuum displays tend to be small and understated, featuring simple household devices a few unimposing dust bunnies. Not so for Ecovacs. The robotics company plopped a full-sized solar panel in the middle of the show floor, complete with an always-running Raybot cleaner. Bold but effective.

9. 3D Systems’ Drum Set and Warrior

3D printing companies tend to make small products, like necklaces, keychain fobs, and display shelf trinkets. 3D Systems goes the other way, featuring a massive 3D alien warrior and a slickly designed guitar-drum set combo.

8. Sony’s Train Set

It’s easy to dismiss Sony’s train set at a glance, but the prop—located near the middle of Sony’s show floor—is smart for several reasons. For tinkerers and gadget enthusiasts, the set might spark a bit of train set nostalgia, the sort of toy you might have built in your basement or garage. What’s more, the prop helps illustrate how Sony’s cameras can capture the passage of time. It’s a neat display that works even better the longer you spend with it.

7. Mo-Fi Headphones’ Microphones

While many of Mo-Fi’s competitors are focusing on the modern-day (think hip hop and celebrities), Mo-Fi looks back. Their classy display of old-school microphones sets the tone for a booth that oozes retro jazz and classic radio.

6. Sage’s Magician

It may not match the product perfectly, but when you’ve got a real-life magician shuffling a deck of cards in Vegas, what more can you ask for? Bonus points for his uncanny ability to slip Sage talking points between shuffles.

5. WowWee’s Fighting Ring

Most robotics and drone companies simply feature a large playpen for flying, fighting, and driving around their products. WowWee presents a fighting ring, with robotic dragons and a game balls to spar over. The added narrative helps sell the robots’ best features.

4. A Treadmill in a Fitbit

While Fitbit’s overall booth was a bit underwhelming, their central prop was spot-on, a treadmill housed inside an oversized Fitbit device. Fitbit is becoming the face of the industry, and reinforcing their iconic design with an eye-catching prop was a smart move.

3. DisplayPort’s Iron Throne

DisplayPort offers the very definition of a prop: their cable-constructed throne sits apart from the rest of their products, but it tells the company’s whole story in a single glance. Well done. (Though we do feel they are conflating Game of Throne’s Iron Throne and Lord of the Ring’s familiar slogan, which is a bit odd.)

2. Onkyo’s Iron Maiden Action Figure

The Japanese consumer electronics maker takes the CES prop a step further by centering their entire exhibit around it. Featuring an enormous action figure inspired by the British rock band Iron Maiden, the company encourages guests to take a snapshot and share the results. It’s a prop, product, and marketing play, all in one.

1. Canon’s Baller

Canon’s exhibit would still have worked without it, but their basketball-spinning baller ties the whole booth together. With this dynamic, human prop, Canon can show their image quality, motion capture, PC connectivity, and even printing capabilities, all in one seamless process. It’s visually arresting and it demonstrates multiple Canon products, earning Canon the honor of CES 2015 Best Prop.

This article originally appeared on FindTheBest.

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TIME ces 2015

The 20 Most Eye-Catching Booths at CES 2015

Attendees take a break at the 2015 International CES on Jan. 6, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Attendees take a break at the 2015 International CES on Jan. 6, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Ethan Miller—Getty Images

We looked at the big-picture vibe, not any one feature or prop

Standing out at CES is a nightmare. With over 3,500 separate exhibitors and two million net square feet of presentation space, you need much more than a big sign and friendly representatives.

With this in mind, we set out to highlight the most eye-catching booths across all of CES. In order to pick—and rank—the final 20, we walked a combined five miles, snapped hundreds of photos and took between 12 and 15 water breaks.

In order to prevent the big guns from snapping up all the awards, we had a few basic rules.

1) Cleverness is more important than size. Just because you purchased tens of thousands of square feet doesn’t mean you earned a spot on this list.

2) The product or brand should come through. Bright lights and loud music are only good ideas if they match the personality of the company. No easy outs here.

3) We’re looking at the big-picture vibe, not any one feature or prop. How does the whole booth come together?

We’ll start with number 20 and count all the way down to the most eye-catching of all.

20. Vievu

Sure, they might be a wearable camera company for law enforcement and private professionals, but that didn’t stop Vievu from committing to a theme. The checkered green golf attire contrasts pleasantly with the boring gray and black found throughout the show, while the putting green provides the perfect final touch.

19. Objecto

Objecto’s nifty air humidifiers sit quietly near the louder, larger displays from Samsung and Monster, but the tricolor simplicity proves a visual winner. Clever. Plus, it’s nice to get a break from that stuffy Las Vegas convention air.

18. Makerbot

The 3D printing section of CES 2015 is technically impressive in miniature, but predictably, visually underwhelming from a distance. The lone exception this year is Makerbot, whose sleek, backlit display cases make their printers seem more like Louis Vuitton handbags than geeky niche products.

17. Blisslights

Blisslights provides nightclub-esque lighting effects for the home. We’re not sure we’re sold on every use case (they showcase a family Christmas with red twinkles dancing around the room), but they sure have a sense of spectacle.

16. United States Postal Service

What? The United States Postal Service at CES? We were surprised too. But perhaps the biggest shock is the booth’s tasteful, boxy design, which perfectly captures the essence of packaging and shipping. No one can accuse the USPS of mailing it in.

15. 808

A Voxx headphone brand, 808 tries to recreate the modern nightclub, with mood lighting, pumping bass, and yes, go-go dancers. Three for three.

14. Glide

Glide is a mobile video messaging app, and so, naturally, they featured a DJ and beatboxer (he’s a dead-ringer at impersonating Michael Jackson, incidentally). Okay, so it’s not a perfect product-theme match, but Glide knows its target demographic, and they sure know how to create a scene.

13. Go Groove

For most booths at CES, you can avoid a smiley sales rep if you give the stall a 10-foot berth. Not Go Groove. The company’s chatty employees will find you in the crowd, reel you in, and enter you for a free pair of earbuds before you can say “marketing gimmick.” Whatever they’re doing, it’s working.

12. LG

Massive, shimmering, and beautiful, LG’s space (the word “booth” doesn’t do it justice) is a study in contrast: deep blacks next to bright, gorgeous displays. The only reason they’re not higher is because we thought they could have done just a bit more with all that space.

11. ooVoo

The intelligent video chat company sports the most fascinating display at the show, a giant wall made up of tiny flaps, black on one side, white on the other. The whole thing looks and sounds just like the old school flight displays at the airport, but can change images in an instant. A visual marvel.

10. Lowe’s

Of the dozen or so Smart Home mock-ups, the Lowe’s Iris Smart Home felt the most alive, a full, multi-room house plopped right in the middle of Tech West. Props for the chimney logo.

9. Samsung

We’re docking Samsung just slightly for their space’s boring exterior (just a big white wall), but the interior is as colorful and vibrant as you would expect from the Korean electronics manufacturer. Bonus points for the visual allusion to old-school slide projectors.

8. Monster

Monster’s marketing strategy is timeless: take a product, then throw celebrities and popular music at it until it becomes cool. Even if you tend to roll your eyes at modern music videos, the space works. We felt more hip just walking by.

7. iFit

At CES 2015, the only thing more popular than fitness is athlete-models doing fitness. For hours. In hopes of catching the attention of out-of-shape geeks walking by. Among the 30 or so versions of this we saw, iFit made the strongest commitment, featuring an elevated stage and a dozen happy (hapless?) participants running, biking, and weight-lifting.

6. Snail

Snail’s gaming booth—filled with couches, controllers, and gaming demos—has a pitch-perfect green glow that seems emanate from the space and the walls of the center, hundreds of feet away. One of the best mood-setting booths at the show.

5. Sleep Number

By far the most economical display we saw at CES, Sleep Number keeps things simple, but tremendously effective. The hanging mobile of numbers captures the companies brand of precise adjustment, while the simple statement below (“Too Hot? Too Cool?”) tells all the story we need. Smart, clean, efficient.

4. Parrot

We saw nearly a dozen different drone demo areas, each surrounded with netting, most commanding a small crowd of curious onlookers. But no one put on as good a show as Parrot. With a countdown timer, red curtain, and circus-like presentation, Parrot puts on a 10-drone show several times per hour, with a combination of flying, driving, and bouncing robots.

3. Oculus

The most impressive part about Oculus’ booth? You don’t even have to try their virtual reality product to appreciate their CES display. Multi-storied, polygonal, and tastefully shaded, the booth is a design achievement, recalling old-school video games and classic Calvin & Hobbes cartoons. When the architecture is this good, the booth doesn’t have to be flashy.

2. Polaroid

Polaroid nails a combination of modern technology and nostalgic design better than anyone at CES. With walls of classic Polaroids, bright displays with modern photography, and product models hanging from the ceiling, the Polaroid space is a visual treat. Just like a good photograph, Polaroid’s space draws your attention from display to display, intentionally leaving a gap here, a space there. Superb.

1. Intel

Only one space in all of CES is both foreign and inviting, like a time capsule from the future that instantly feels right at home. Intel’s chic space sets the mood with soft blue lighting, then throws in comfortable seats, a pillow-like carpet, and so much open space that for once, you won’t feel crowded. To walk through Intel’s corner is to experience the very best version of the show—the most eye-catching booth at CES.

This article originally appeared on FindTheBest.

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TIME headphones

These Are the 4 Best Headphones for the Holidays

ATH-M50x
Audio-Technica ATH-M50x Audio-Technica

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x are the best under $200

Few gifts are safer than a pair of headphones. Unless you’re shopping for DJs or recording artists, chances are your recipient is still limping along with two-year-old Apple earbuds. Just about any pair will provide some improvement.

And then there’s you. Once you’ve given up on your new fitness tracker, why not trade it in for a decent pair of headphones? You may not lose any weight, but your ears will thank you.

With this in mind, we set out to pick a handful of headphones with a good mix of price and quality. We compiled expert reviews from across the industry, gathered specifications for each pair, and tracked customer reviews. We ended up with four final pairs, each best for a particular kind of shopper. Yes, you can break headphones into a dozen more categories, but in our experience, most consumers just want one of these four types.

The Dirt Cheap Pick

Koss KSC75 ($15)

Officially, we advise against picking something dirt cheap (aka under $30), but if you must—and based on our user behavior, many people must—the Koss KSC75 are a pretty reasonable pair. With decent lows and crisp highs, the KSC75 headphones sound like they should cost $100, not $15.

Before you buy, keep in mind that these are clip-on style headphones, so while they’re good for running or biking, they’re not as sleek looking or as comfortable as a pair of (worse-sounding) Beats. The KSC75 also use an open-air operating principle, which is a fancy way of saying that music will sound more natural (like you’re at a concert) but that a bit of sound will leak—making them less ideal for a study session at the library.

The Sporty Pick

Sony XBA-S65 ($90)

Already a solid pair of headphones, the Sony XBA-S65’s design helped cement its spot. Light but secure, simple-looking but sweatproof, these in-ear headphones the perfect choice for a runner, cyclist or gym rat.

Sound-wise, the XBA-S65 are solid across the board, with good detail and a clear, pleasant mid-range. They do show some restraint with the bass, but we like how this keeps the listening experience balanced. If you need a pounding, aggressive low-end to drive your workout, you may want to look elsewhere. For everyone else, grab this pair and head to the gym.

The ‘Affordable Luxury’ Pick

Audio-Technica ATH-M50x ($169)

The most popular model at our office, the Audio-Technica ATH-M50x sound like $300 but clock in at nearly the half the price. The headphones have a balanced, accurate sound overall, with a classy kick in the bass that’s sharp but not overpowering.

The pair is also notable for its design, with detachable cords, cans that can swivel and some of the comfier earcups on the market.

If there’s one thing to criticize, it’s the bulk. Even for an over-ear pair, all the design frills make for a hefty product, particularly for anyone who’s spent time with a light pair, like the Bose Quietcomfort 15s.

The Premium Pick

Sennheiser HD 650 ($396)

It’s not the newest pair on the market, but in this case, it doesn’t matter: the Sennheiser HD 650s are still among the finest headphones you can buy, even eight years since their release. They pull off the rare feat of combining accurate, detailed audio with a warm overall ambience, making them a gratifying listen for both audiophiles and casual listeners alike.

Like our dirt cheap pick, the Sennheiser HD 650s have an open-air operating principle, so some sound will leak to classmates or coworkers. The only other problem, of course, is the price. If you’re simply squeezing in half a podcast in the evenings, you won’t notice what all that extra money is getting you. If, however, you want a transcendent audio experience, the Sennheiser HD 650s are an excellent choice.

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TIME Money

This MLB Team Has the Most Expensive Beer in Baseball

Red Sox Beer
Red Sox Pitcher Curt Schilling holds a beer to the crowd, mostly Red Sox fans after the Sox won the series 4-0. Andy Cross—Denver Post via Getty Images

In 2014, Fenway supplied the most expensive beer per ounce in the MLB

Fenway Park is representative of how the game used to be played and how it probably always will be: the sound made when a wooden bat connects with the ball; the crescendo of noise as the ball arches toward center field; and mildly cold draft beer, spilled or unspilled, but likely mildly cold in either case.

While the Red Sox couldn’t quite pull it together in 2014, finishing the season at well under .500 and last in the AL East, there’s one leading metric Red Sox fans can hold onto until next season. In 2014, Fenway supplied the most expensive beer per ounce served in Major League Baseball.

Using our MLB Teams topic with data supplied by Chicago-based Team Marketing Report, FindTheBest set out to determine and then visualize the cost of brews served at big league ballparks. With the price of the smallest size of beer available in a ballpark as one input in TMR’s Fan Cost Index, here was the outlook for the 2014 season on a per-ounce basis. Tap into the visual to take an in-depth dive into any team:

In March 2014, the release date of the TMR report, the Red Sox reported that 12 ounces of beer would cost $7.75, or $0.65 an ounce. This likely relates to small domestic drafts, with craft brews presumably commanding a premium.

To put that into perspective, the second most expensive beer per ounce, found at the home of the St. Louis Cardinals, clocked in at $6.75 for the same 12 ounces, a much more palatable—but still pricey—$0.56 an ounce. Boston’s perennial rival, the New York Yankees, reported a price of $6 for 12 ounces (the smallest size available at Yankee Stadium), or $0.50 an ounce, the third highest per-ounce price for beer in baseball (a per-ounce price shared by the San Francisco Giants, Miami Marlins, and Seattle Mariners).

Looking at all 30 big league teams, the median smallest-size beer offering was 15 ounces, close to but not quite a proper 16-ounce pint. The league median per-ounce price was $0.41 for the smallest beer available in each stadium.

If we were to sort the price of beer at each stadium and ignore the size of the drink, the picture naturally changes somewhat. Still, the Red Sox are right there near the top. If you tap into the header for ‘Average Ticket Price,’ you can re-sort the list according to that metric.

Ignoring drink size, the Yankees would fall further down the list, and the Marlins would have the most expensive beer in baseball at $8.00. In a simplified sense, assuming you buy one small beer and pay the average ticket price, the best deal in baseball this season could be found in San Diego at $21.37.

Given the same assumptions, you also could attend a game at 11 major league stadiums and not pay more than $30 at each. Conservatively presented, the priciest deals in baseball were at Fenway and Yankee Stadium, where one small beer and the price of the average ticket would run you $60.07 and $57.55, respectively. Any way you cut the numbers, though, these prices are still by and large much more reasonable than the price of beers at NFL games this season.

This article was written for TIME by Ryan Chiles of FindTheBest.

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TIME Money

This Football Team Has the NFL’s Most Expensive Beer

Oakland Raiders
Marcel Reece #45 of the Oakland Raiders celebrates with fans in the Black Hole after the Raiders beat the Kansas City Chiefs at O.co Coliseum on November 20, 2014 in Oakland, California. Ezra Shaw—Getty Images

Catching a game in Oakland could really raid your wallet

If the price of a beer at an NFL game this season is any indication—and arguably it is—it’s little wonder the NFL is scrambling for ways to reverse a growing attendance problem in its stadiums. If you pair expansive, on-demand TV offerings with cheaper prices outside of stadiums, people will shy away from the vastly more expensive live experience.

Here at FindTheBest, we organized and connected data compiled by Team Marketing Report and Forbes to better illustrate a fan’s cost for attending an NFL game. We’ll start with beer before getting into the treacherous territory that is the total cost of attendance at an NFL game.

The below table is a snapshot of how NFL teams compare when it comes to the price of the cheapest draft beer at each stadium, independent of size. You can tap anywhere in the table to learn more about a given team or tap into the four headers to sort the list according to what you want to see:

The Oakland Raiders—who are just 1-11 on the year as of Sunday morning—have the most expensive beer independent of drink size, followed in short order by the somewhat-adjacent San Francisco 49ers, whose move to a new home at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. prompted a 40.1% increase in the price of an average ticket.

Although the league averages a 16-ounce pint across all stadiums, the above table only tells part of the story. Breaking out that last column—the price per ounce of beer—is perhaps more telling.

Considering just the price of beer by ounce, these are the 16 teams with the most expensive beers:

This reordering is important since the mere price of a given stadium’s beer doesn’t describe how much value you’re getting out of that beer. A 20-oz. beer at a Raiders game is still pricey at $0.54 per oz., but it’s suddenly a little more palatable than the $0.71 per oz. being charged at a Philadelphia Eagles game (for a 12-oz. beer, that amounts to $8.50 per beer for the cheapest beer in the house).

That’s particularly pricey when you consider that a full 16-ounce domestic pint at your average local watering hole rarely would run that high even with a tip for the barkeep. Yet, the effect a football game has on your wallet gets even worse — Let’s turn to the total cost of attendance to see why.

Here’s the picture for the top 16 teams when it comes to the total cost of attendance, with “total” conservatively representing fairly basic purchases such as a beer, parking, the average ticket price, and a hot dog:

Of the 16 teams depicted, 10 have per-ounce beer prices of more than $0.44—the median per-ounce price for the league. Of these 10 teams, eight are in the NFC, with representatives from each division, as seen in the chart below:

Assuming a fan attending a Dallas Cowboys game pays the average price for a ticket, buys one cheap beer, a hot dog, and parks one car, that fan can expect to drop almost $200 on seeing a game.

In fact, total costs using the above assumptions stubbornly stay above $100 for all but the four teams with the lowest total fan attendance costs (Miami, Detroit, Jacksonville, and Cleveland). Without the full range of ticket prices, we can only speculate as to how much pull outliers might be having on the average ticket price, which is easily the biggest component of the total cost. With that said, the average ticket prices give us a baseline for comparison purposes.

The average NFL fan pays top dollar just to watch a game and eat a meal, which speaks for itself. But these prices don’t even begin to factor in considerations like team brand premiums and the cost of new stadiums. Prices don’t exist in vacuums.

Looking at some of the clubs with the highest total fan costs, Dallas, New England, and Washington have the three highest-valued franchises in football ($3.2 billion, $2.6 billion, and $2.4 billion, respectively). While the 49ers are worth less from a valuation standpoint ($1.6 billion), they’ll be dealing with the debt from their new $1.31 billion (before interest) stadium in all sorts of ways for years to come.

This article was written for TIME by Ryan Chiles of FindTheBest.

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TIME Gadgets

Laptop or Tablet? 5 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself First

Apple MacBook Air; Microsoft Surface Pro 3 AP; Microsoft

Ask these questions to yourself or before buying a gift

By the way Microsoft is marketing the Surface Pro 3, you’d think tablets and laptops were practically interchangeable: just a matter of personal preference. We’re not convinced.

Using a mix of product testing and data crunching, we’ve come up with five key questions to ask yourself before you commit to one device over the other for yourself or for a holiday gift.

1. Precise control or display quality?

Unless you’re talking about tablet-specific apps (which we’ll get to below), the laptop is still the king of control. Whether you’re writing a document or crafting a presentation, the tablet has yet to beat the precision of a point-and-click mouse or the convenience of a shortcut-rich keyboard. Don’t fool yourself with a flashy tablet demo; even the simplest spreadsheet will become a chore after weeks of taps and swipes.

On the flip side, however, tablets have a sneaky advantage: display quality. Typically measured in pixels per inch (PPI), a device’s pixel density determines how sharp your content looks, and after several hours of use, how much your eyes will (or won’t) hurt.

According to our data, the average 2014 tablet has a pixel density of about 260 ppi (pixels per inch)—fairly solid for a 10-inch device. That’s not to mention flagship models like the Galaxy Tab S 8.4, Amazon Kindle Fire HDX and iPad Mini 3, which each have pixel densities well over 300.

For laptops, the 2014 average drops below 200 PPI, barely better than the pixel density on the original iPhone (163 PPI). Yes, top models like the Yoga 3 Pro (276 PPI) and 2014 Razer Blade (262 PPI) are notable standouts, but even these products don’t match the best tablets on the market.

The bottom line is that most tablets will be easier on the eyes, and thus, better for extended viewing.* The question is just whether you’ll have enough control to get everything done.

*If you want to get technical, you can factor in “typical viewing distance” to make the comparison more apples-to-apples. On average, tablets still win handily.

2. Screen size or portability?

Yes, you can find just about any screen size on either device these days. The Planar Helium (a tablet) has a 27-inch display. The Acer Aspire One (a laptop) sports a diminutive 10.1-inch display.

But these are the outliers. Generally speaking, tablets are 7-11 inches, while laptops are 12-16 inches. Within each device category, if you wander outside those ranges, your selection tends to drop fast.

So let’s concede that the laptop will usually get you more screen real estate. Instead, consider portability, a feature that both tablets and laptops like to advertise. Once again, we crunched the numbers to see just how thin and heavy the average device in each category tends to be.

The average 2014 tablet is less than half the thickness (0.42 inches) of the average 2014 laptop (1.09 inches, folded). What’s more, with Sony and Apple shaving off inches on the iPad and Xperia every year, the gap may grow even wider.

The comparison looks even worse for laptops when you turn to weight. The average 2014 laptop still weighs about five pounds (4.99 lbs), over five times as much as the average 2014 tablet (0.95 lbs). Those extra inches and pounds will add up during commutes, presentations and vacations, so choose carefully.

3. Performance or simplicity?

Glance at a tablet’s spec sheet and you’ll see a few misleading numbers, like processor cores and clock speeds. Numbers like these tend to look comparable next to today’s mid-to-high range laptops, but they don’t tell the full story.

Take Geekbench, which stress tests all sorts of products to give you a fair comparison between device categories—a better reflection of real-world performance. Here, even some three-year-old laptops outperform today’s most powerful tablets. When looking at the table below, consider that the late 2011 MacBook Pro (13-inch) scored a 5,119. (The latest 13-inch MacBook Pro scored a 6,373.)

The silver lining for tablet buyers is that they may not need any of that power to begin with. If you’re just browsing the web, checking email, and downloading Angry Bird spinoffs, you’ll never need the processing power to edit a video or run a high-end video game. In fact, most tablets are built from the ground up to do one simple thing at a time, and do it well. If this is all you need, the simplicity of a tablet will more than make up for its lack of power.

4. Web browsing or apps?

Both laptops and tablets can browse the web. Both laptops and tablets can run apps. But each device excels where the other is merely satisfactory.

Take web browsing. To this day, tapping your way around the mobile Internet is an inconsistent experience. Flash is still buggy, text sizes unpredictable, and menus sometimes unusable. Granted, most modern websites work fine on a tablet, but there are still enough unpleasant surprises to send users back to their laptops, particularly with activities like buying gifts, managing finances or updating professional profiles.

On the other hand, the laptop often falls short in the world of apps. Sure, there are the old standbys like Word, Excel and Photoshop, but the laptop tends to miss out on new content from young, agile development teams. With a tablet, you can pick from dozens of polished photo-editing apps, half of them available for free. On a laptop, it’s often an extreme choice: either a $300 application from Adobe or a risky download for a clunky, limited editor from 2009.

In the end, it comes down to where you prefer spending your time. Love apps? Grab a tablet. Prefer to do everything in a browser? Stick with a laptop.

5. High-performance games or time-wasters (or neither)?

This won’t apply to everyone. For the gaming-indifferent, there’s no need to obsess over a laptop’s graphics card or a tablet’s selection of games.

For the rest of us, however, the situation gets a bit more complicated. Today’s best tablets are reasonably powerful, but traditional developers have yet to launch a truly incredible title on tablets (sorry, Infinity Blade). The device is still best for clever puzzles and fun time-wasters, like Angry Birds or Monument Valley (and we mean this as a compliment).

Meanwhile, the best gaming laptops can play just about anything, often outperforming the latest game consoles in performance and graphical prowess. The problem is that you’ll need to drop at least $1,500 to get the power you need.

Either device can scratch your gaming itch, it just depends upon the kind of game you’re into. Keep in mind, however, that a ~$500 laptop is probably the worst of both worlds: it’s not optimized for simple tap-and-swipe games, yet not powerful enough for top PC games. So if you like gaming, and you prefer PCs, start saving. Strapped for cash? There’s a big, angry bird waiting with your name on it.

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TIME Gadgets

Thanksgiving Survival Guide: 8 Gadgets to Keep the Family at Bay

879105-008
Thanksgiving dinner Bruce Ayres—Getty Images

Remember to bring a nice pair of headphones

We all know what Thanksgiving is supposed to look like: cute grandkids, fond memories and turkey dinners as polished as a Pinterest board. But let’s be honest: Even if we love grandpa, we’ve heard the same story every year since 2003. We’d rather talk movies than aunt Mildred’s political platform. And maybe it’s time uncle Larry laid off the Merlot.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a Thanksgiving survival guide: eight gadgets for putting up with eight troublesome family members.

The relative: Grandpa

The problem: Tells the same story 13 times in a row

The solution: Headphones

We’ll admit: this is a delicate one. After more than 80 years of hard work, tough luck and thankless children, the least grandpa deserves is a glass of scotch and some listening ears. It’s just that you already know exactly when he thinks the country “took a wrong turn” and precisely “how things were at your age.” So instead of telling your gramps to keep quiet, wait for the right moment and throw on a pair of discrete noise-cancelling headphones.

Our recommendation:

The Audio Technica ATH ANC23BK’s are low-profile, affordable and well-reviewed—the perfect pair to slip in once grandpa rounds the country’s-gone-to-pot bend for the sixth straight time.

The relative: Aunt

The problem: Can’t stop talking about politics

The solution: A lightweight laptop

There’s one aunt in every family who has a knack—even talent—for turning every conversation back to politics. Your body armor? A light, inconspicuous laptop. Each time your aunt raises her finger with another opinion, calmly perform a search to confirm or refute her claims. The key here is de-escalation: you’re simply the keeper of a small fact-checking tool, not a worthy antagonist.

Our recommendation:

With a sleek frame and 12 hours of battery life, the MacBook Air 13-inch is the ideal device—small enough not to threaten your aunt but efficient enough to outlast even the most tireless debater. Problem solved.

The relative: Grandma

The problem: Assumes command of the entire house

The solution: A vacuum cleaner

It’s a familiar story. Grandma arrives, the family members hug, and after two quiet beats, the power shifts, imperceptibly, from hosts to matriarch. Grandma is now in charge. Get caught watching football, and you’ll be summoned to wash the potatoes. Flip on your phone, and you’ll be lectured for ignoring the family. The answer is a luxury vacuum—the sort of device that simultaneously says “I’m working” and “don’t bother me.” Even grandma can’t blame you for checking Twitter while hunting for dust bunnies.

Our recommendation:

More tech marvel than classic vacuum, the Dyson DC40-Origin handles like a dream and maneuvers like butter. After two minutes, you’ll volunteer for full-time vacuum duty. And besides: that carpet in front of the Cowboys-Eagles game isn’t going to vacuum itself.

The relative: Dad

The problem: Just a little too protective of the turkey

The solution: An outdoor grill

If there’s one thing men do well, it’s internalizing stress from work and taking it out on loved ones. For dads, this means demanding complete control over all turkey-related matters, from cook time to temperature to presentation. Our advice? Double-down. Buy dad a BBQ grill so he can have his own private workspace. Instead of grumbling from two feet away while you mash the potatoes, he’ll be standing outside, manning the grill and ignoring suppressed feelings of incompetence. But don’t worry about the weather: dads thrive in the cold.

Our recommendation:

With seven separate burners and gobs of space, dad can prepare the whole meal on a single Napoleon Mirage 7-Burner. If nothing else, it’ll help him forget how cramped he is in his work cubicle.

The relative: Nephew

The problem: Just a little too proud of his new job

The solution: A big tablet built for productivity

You’re 15 minutes into dinner when your nephew finally rolls in, loudly ending a phone call while running his hand through a $300 haircut. He drags a chair up to an empty slot at the table, noisily removes his coat, then tells the family he doesn’t “mean to interrupt.” Five minutes later, he launches into a 30-minute treatise on his new company’s “sales philosophy.”

Our recommendation:

You can’t beat him, so play into his unbridled enthusiasm with a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Casually leave the device on the coffee table, preferably open to a PowerPoint presentation or Excel spreadsheet. With any luck, he’ll spot the device and snap into corporate mode, critiquing the slides or reviewing the balance sheet. Meanwhile, the rest of the family can get back to arguing about The Voice.

The relative: Niece

The problem: Obnoxiously smart

The solution: A pre-loaded e-reader

Smart, industrious and impossibly successful, the Ivy League-educated niece is a staple at Thanksgiving. Publicly, everyone applauds her achievements, but privately, you’re just sick of all the one-upping. Your son passed his high school biology class; your niece just got into Harvard Medical School. Your daughter wrote an op-ed for your town’s dying newspaper; your niece is already a syndicated columnist for The New York Times. The best defense? Load up a few academic journals—or better yet, her textbooks—on an e-reader, then see that she finds it shortly after dinner. The overachiever in her will spend the rest of the evening reviewing biochemistry and less time reminding everyone how average they are.

Our recommendation:

The Kindle Voyage is the company’s latest e-reader, and still the class of the market, with better lighting, an improved screen and the best e-ink tech in the business.

The relative: Uncle

The problem: Three bottles deep by 2 p.m.

The solution: Wine chiller

You wouldn’t say your uncle has a problem, but there’s just something about turkey, family and the holidays that brings about an overly festive spirit. Without a proper plan, he’ll be drunk by lunch and asleep by dinner. The answer: buy a wine chiller. With a pane of glass and semblance of order, your uncle’s consumption will slow just enough to keep him in the “silly” zone before he spills over to “slob.”

Our recommendation:

With two temperature zones and a surprisingly affordable price for its features, the Winter WC-212BD is a solid choice for any wine enthusiast. As a backup plan, tell your uncle he can “manage the temperature zones:” he’ll be so excited about dividing Pinot Noir from Pinot Grigio that he might just skip a glass.

The relative: Mom

The problem: Wants five full family photos on the hour, every hour

The solution: A wide-angle camera lens

They might be terrible shots by any objective photographic standard, but it’s just a fact: Moms love staged family photos. Humor her by supplying her with a wide angle camera lens. Instead of the usual 15-minute circus (step closer; okay, turn your shoulders; I still can’t see you), she’ll be able to snap the pic in 10 seconds flat, even if your tipsy uncle is still trudging over from the opposite side of the room.

Our recommendation:

With a minimum focal length of 10mm, the Tamron SP 10-24mm is an extremely wide-angle lens, perfect for family photo efficiency. It’s got plenty of space to fit everyone in the frame, while it’s acceptable to Mom and respectful of personal space: a win-win.

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People Are Naming Their Babies Katniss Thanks to The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 Murray Close—Lionsgate

See the history of franchise-inspired baby naming

The first Hunger Games scorched its way to the top of the box office.

Its $152.5 million opening weekend in North America made it the fifth-highest-grossing debut of all time. The release of the second film—The Hunger Games: Catching Fire—didn’t disappoint either, grossing $161 million in its first weekend, overtaking The Dark Knight Rises as the fourth-best debut as well as securing its spot as the highest-grossing debut starring a female lead in history.

Nor did theater-goers lose their luster for the films after opening weekend. Together, they’ve raked in about $1.5 billion globally. And with the release of MockingjayPart 1 this Thursday and the last installment still to come, the franchise stands to make a lot more.

The movies owe much of their smashing success to Katniss Everdeen, a character all audiences, not just teenage females, have fallen in love with. In fact, crowds over 25 and under 25 were evenly split during Catching Fire’s opening weekend. And while there were more women than men in attendance—59 percent female vs. 41 percent male—crowds were more evenly split by weekend number two, comprised of 51 percent females and 49 percent males. Compare that to an 80 percent female audience for Twilight.

So why does Katniss have so much appeal?

According to Jennifer Lawrence in an interview with NPR, “She’s not a hero…she’s just a girl who’s standing up for what’s right when something is wrong, when it’s hard – and when it’s scary.”

Whatever the attraction is that’s driving voracious appetites at the box office, it’s not only in record-breaking sales where Katniss Everdeen is leaving a mark. She’s also left a mark—a very permanent mark—in the lives of dozens of baby girls across the U.S.

Why? They’ve been given her name. That’s right, 29 girls have been named Katniss since the release of the first Hunger Games in 2012, according to an analysis by research engine FindTheBest. That’s up from a grand total of zero baby girls given the name Katniss every year prior.

It’s not only Katniss who’s inspiring a baby name trend. Strong female characters in popular literature turned film have influenced the names of hundreds of baby girls. Take Harry Potter’s leading lady, Hermione Granger. Her name stayed flat in the single digits from 1932 to 2001, but jumped to 17 occurrences in 2002, the year after the first Harry Potter movie was released. And it didn’t stop there; more than 500 girls have been named Hermione since.

HBO’s Game of Thrones is another big name influencer, with Khaleesi (which means queen) leading the way. Like Katniss, the name Khaleesi was virtually nonexistent before Game of Thrones aired in 2011, but it’s been climbing rapidly ever since.

Even Khaleesi’s real name, Daenerys, saw a spike that hasn’t stopped climbing in popularity since Game of Thrones aired.

And of course, the Twilight saga has influenced names as well. We can’t say for sure if Bella Swan is to credit for the recent uptick in her name—the first Twilight book was published in 2005 and the name has been rising since the 1990s—but we can see the effect other characters have had. Rosalie for example, was a popular name in the 1930s, but didn’t make a comeback until the first Twilight movie was released in 2008.

Even Renesmee, a mashup of the names Renée and Esme—two other female characters in the series—sprung into existence in 2008. Although Renesmee’s character wasn’t in the first Twilight movie, she was in the fourth book, Breaking Dawn, which was published in 2008.

So what’s next on the baby name front? Maybe parents will take a liking to the name Tris, from the latest book series turned 2014 blockbuster film, Divergent. It’s a name that went out of style in the 1970s, but could be due for a comeback.

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These Cities Have the Highest Rents in the Country

Liverpool FC Training At Fenway Park
General view of Fenway Park during a training session at Fenway Park on July 22, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. Andrew Powell—Liverpool FC via Getty Images

Rent in Boston is a real green monster

In addition to the price of a beer at Fenway Park, Bostonians—and esteemed guests of Fenway alike—now have something else to complain about: Boston has the highest rents in the country.

Here at FindTheBest, we’re on a mission to collect, structure, and connect the world’s data. Taking the most recent Five-Year American Community Survey (ACS) data released by the U.S. Census Bureau in late 2013, we set ourselves the task of determining which U.S. cities have the highest rents. Defining a high rent conservatively to be a contract rent (i.e., excluding utilities) of more than $1,500 per month, we identified where rents are more likely to take a big bite out of your paycheck.

These major U.S. cities—all with more than 500,000 residents—have the greatest proportions of high rents in the country. You can tap anywhere on the table to explore a given city in more detail.

The West Coast has been supplanted in at least one regard. Although four of the five richest cities in America—and six of the top ten here—are on the West Coast, Boston has the most expensive rents. Moreover, it’s also the only East Coast city in which more than 30 percent of rents are over $1,500 (48.8 percent).

A list of the top ten cities for highest rents reads like a rap sheet of the usual suspects, with perennially expensive West Coast metropolises San Francisco, San Diego and Seattle interspersed with East Coast behemoths like Washington D.C. and New York City.

In general, cities with greater population densities tend to have higher rents, as seen in the scatter plot below. The precise reality, however, is more complicated.

Among the ten cities where rents are highest (again defined as the percentage of contract rents over $1,500), New York is both the most densely populated city (27,308 people/sq. mi) and the one with the highest proportion of renter-occupied dwellings (68.3 percent). Yet it’s not even in the top five for greatest proportion of rents over $1,500. Boston, on the other hand, has a 66.8 percent rental rate—the second highest on the list—along with the third-highest figure for population density (13,007 people/sq. mile). So cities with higher densities and renter occupancies tend to have higher rents, but it’s not gospel truth.

While Boston may be the most expensive place to rent based on our working definition, there’s a fair bit of nuance to the list. Denver and Baltimore, for example, have a relatively low percentage of rents over $1,500 (8.1 and 6.3 percent, respectively). In the next tier down ($1,001-$1,500), however, these two cities have percentages high enough to launch them into the top ten within that next tier (19.6 and 19.5 percent, respectively).

In fact, by adding the two rental buckets together (“$1,001-$1,500 + “$1,500+”), San Jose has the highest percentage of rents over the $1,000 mark (80.7 percent compared with Boston’s 80.5 percent). And $1,000 or more per month is nothing to scoff at.

With a mean of 12.7 percent and a median of 5.3 percent (the middle point in the data set), the percentages of rents over $1,500 are skewed upward toward Boston, San Jose, and San Francisco (the top three in that category).

Using $1,500 as a proxy for cities with the most expensive rents allows uncapped extremes to factor into the comparison. While considering the next-highest tier of rents ($1,001-$1,500) changes the picture somewhat, one thing is for sure: Boston wins out when it comes to extreme rents. And in Beantown, neither the beer nor the price of admission at a Red Sox game is cheap enough to get over that.

This article was written for TIME by Ryan Chiles of FindTheBest.

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These Are the Poorest Cities in America

Chicago Blackhawks v Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit city skyline viewed from Windsor after the Detroit Red Wings NHL game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena on March 31, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. Tom Szczerbowski—Getty Images

Detroit tops the list

Poverty—like the creation of wealth—is a fact of city life.

Here at FindTheBest, we recently examined the most current Five-Year American Community Survey (ACS) data released by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2013 to find the wealthiest cities in America. To fill out the picture of many of these cities, we picked apart the same data set and turned our lens on the places with the highest percentages of households making less than $25,000 a year.

Listed in descending order by the percentage of households with annual incomes below $25,000, here are how the 34 American cities with more than 500,000 residents compare. You can explore each city in greater detail by clicking into the table:

As of 2012—the last year considered in the most recent five-year ACS data—the poverty threshold for a four-person household was $23,492. This amount is a weighted average based on the range of income increases each additional related child necessitates (for a household of four, that’s a maximum of three children). This is according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the six major U.S. cities with the highest percentages of poverty, at least one in three households make less than $25,000 per year. In Milwaukee and Philadelphia, the proportion is higher at 37.8 percent and 37.6 percent, respectively, and in Detroit, it approaches one in two (49.2 percent). The average across all 34 cities is 28.6 percent.

What’s remarkable is that San Jose is the only city profiled where less than 20 percent of households have a yearly income below $25,000 (in San Jose, 15.6 percent of households make less than $25,000). San Diego and Seattle come close at 20.2 percent each. Put another way: in 33 of America’s 34 biggest cities, at least one in five households makes less than $25,000 per year.

Taking a step back, Detroit—which is getting ready to emerge from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history—has by far the highest percentage of households earning less than $25,000 per year (49.2 percent).

Moving down the list, cities in the west tend to have fewer households under this $25,000 threshold compared with cities in the midwest and east. Four of the five cities with the lowest percentages of households making under $25,000 per year are on the west coast.

One potential reason for this geographic split could be the role public transportation plays in bringing poorer people to city centers, which is exactly what Edward Glaeser, Matthew Kahn, and Jordan Rappaport argued in 2000 in a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research. (the paper was later published in The Journal of Urban Economics in January 2008.) In their view, it isn’t the city itself that creates poverty. Rather, increased levels of mobility and opportunity provided by the central city encourage poorer people to congregate there. Cities in the east and midwest tend to have more public transit options, whereas the car is a central part of sprawling cities in the west — a situation that could lead more poorer people to eastern cities than their western counterparts. More favorable city governments also could play a role.

Municipal management aside, once again, it’s also hard to discount the role of education in creating wealth through information spillovers. While Boston’s 30.8 percent clearly complicates this notion, given that it has solid bachelor’s and graduate degree metrics, the observation remains largely the same — cities situated near world-class research institutions or else with larger numbers of bachelor’s or graduate degree holders tend to fare better.

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