TIME Smartphones

The State of the Smartphone War in 8 Charts

Apple And Samsung Agree To End Legal Disputes Outside The US
Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images A Samsung and Apple smartphone are displayed on August 6, 2014 in London, England.

Ranking Apple, Samsung and others on weight, screen size and more

We keep a close eye on smartphone trends at FindTheBest, from changing screen sizes to dropping prices. Over the last few years, the smartphone landscape has shifted significantly, so we set out to rank the most popular manufacturers on key metrics like weight, battery life and expert review scores.

This is a trickier task than you might think, given that hundreds of phones are released each year, though only a handful of them truly end up selling in huge numbers and shaping the future of the industry.

With this in mind, we’re going to make two caveats up front. First, the trends we identify will only be based on modern phones—for our purposes, anything released since January 1st, 2014. Second, we’re focusing only on phones that were widely reviewed by the tech press.

You can find the full list of phones that qualified in the table below:

With our list in place, let’s rank each manufacturer in eight key categories:


Lightest: Motorola
Heaviest: BlackBerry

Motorola turned in the lightest 2014, at least among their widely-reviewed phones. Critically, the company did not release a giant-screen clunker, which contributed to its sub-150-gram average.*

*For the record, we’re not counting the Nexus 6 in this analysis, which is marketed more as a Google device, even if it is constructed by Motorola.

Thanks to the beefy iPhone 6 Plus, Apple is no longer the lightest manufacturer of the bunch, but it still came close.

On the other end of the spectrum, BlackBerry edged HTC for the heaviest phone maker, despite the BlackBerry Passport’s diminutive 4.5-inch screen. Blame the physical keyboard.


Thinnest: Apple
Thickest: Motorola

Apple has been obsessed with thinness for years, and the latest data bears out that trend. As usual, iPhones are the thinnest handsets on the market, and it’s not close.

On the thicker side, we see that feather-light manufacturer Motorola counterintuitively also makes the thickest devices. This is likely yet another consequence of releasing more small-screen phones, on average, than competitors. A smaller display often means less room to squeeze in a battery, and as a result, the need for thicker internals.

Screen Size

Biggest: LG
Smallest: BlackBerry

Here, we see that LG—not Samsung—now releases the largest phones on average, at least among the most widely reviewed devices. On the smaller side, we see Motorola (as expected), Amazon (which lacks a big-screen, flagship phone), and BlackBerry (where the Passport’s physical keyboard takes up significant phone real estate).

Perhaps the more notable screen size trend is simply how big the average flagship phone has become—now at least five inches for eight top manufacturers.

Talk Time (battery life)

Longest: Samsung
Shortest: Motorola

Battery life is a notoriously misleading statistic, as manufacturers can manipulate their in-house tests to produce better numbers. Even so, the above chart is likely still helpful as a general guide, with popular brands like Samsung and HTC leading the pack, and brands like Nokia and Motorola lagging well behind.

Pixel Density

Most crisp: BlackBerry
Least crisp: Huawei

A glamor stat among tech geeks, pixel density describes the number of pixels per diagonal inch of screen size, or more simply, how crisp the phone’s display will appear. BlackBerry wins this round, but it’s mostly due to the Passport’s tiny, 4.5-inch screen. It’s easier to achieve a high pixel density with a smaller screen.

Instead, the most impressive manufacturer might be runner-up Samsung, who packs millions upon millions of pixels across a variety of five- to six-inch phones—technically speaking, a much more difficult feat.

On the flip side, we see that budget manufacturers like ZTE and Huawei trail the pack, but keep in mind that each brand had only one phone widely reviewed in America last year, and that neither of these are officially available in the U.S.

Megapixels (in rear camera)

Most: Sony
Least: HTC

The megapixel march has subsided in recent years, but that hasn’t stopped Sony and Samsung from releasing a handful of smartphones with high-resolution cameras. In 2014, the average flagship Sony and Samsung phone clocked in at over 15 megapixels.

Meanwhile, Apple and HTC sit (predictably) at the opposite end of the chart, two premium brands known for disregarding megapixel counts. Instead, they focus on sensor size, image stability, and low-light effects. We can’t really declare a winner here (who’s to say what the right approach is?), but we can speculate that consumers are no longer falling for megapixel marketing, leading most manufacturers to focus on different specs.

Price (w/contract)

Least expensive: Amazon
Most expensive: Apple

Note: The above chart shows only the eight brands where we have enough pricing data to calculate an overall average.

Unsurprisingly, average price tracks popularity very closely. Amazon is now practically giving away its poorly reviewed Fire Phone. And routinely overlooked phone brands like Sony and Motorola are offering bargain prices to convert sales. Meanwhile, Samsung and Apple can get away with charging top-shelf prices for their popular, flagship phones. In the end, it’s all about supply and demand.

Smart Rating

Best: Samsung
Worst: Motorola

Finally, we get to arguably the most important number of all. FindTheBest’s Smart Rating combines benchmark performance, specifications and expert reviews for each phone to form one score out of 100, meant to give users a general indication of the phone’s overall quality.

Given the fact that Samsung only topped one other category (talk time), it might come as a surprise that the manufacturer has the best-rated phones of the bunch. The secret is that Samsung phones do very well across most metrics, even if they don’t win many outright. Apple finishes second overall, largely on the strength of glowing reviews from the experts.

The bottom third of the rankings includes a couple of budget Chinese phone makers—Xiaomi and Huawei—whose low prices more than justify their low review scores and middling performance benchmarks. Instead, it’s Amazon and Motorola whose performances are most disappointing. Time will tell whether the two companies are able to bounce back.

TIME Gadgets

5 Reasons Why Most People Don’t Want a Fitness Tracker

Toshiba President Hisao Tanaka News Conference On Health Care Business
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Docomo Healthcare Inc.'s Moveband, a wearable technology device for easy recording and tracking of health data, manufactured by Toshiba Corp., are displayed during a news conference in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan, on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014.

Staying fit just shouldn't be this complicated

Fitness trackers are the darling of the tech press, but the data say consumers don’t care. Sales are sluggish. A recent Robert W. Baird & Co. survey found that 85% of Americans have “no plans” to buy a fitness band. But if the technology is there, and the press loves the product, what’s the overriding problem?

Here are the five most likely issues:

1. Fitness isn’t this complicated

When it comes to staying fit, there are two basic approaches.

The first method: Buy a fitness tracker. Perform a week of workouts. Sync the data to your smartphone or computer. Review over two dozen categories of results, from steps taken to calories burned. Plot your performance in a scatterplot. Chart your progress over time. Set new fitness goals across seven metrics, then fiddle with your charts and analyze your exercise trajectory in search of firm conclusions. Recharge your device.

The second method: Eat healthy and do something active a few times a week.

It’s really that simple. Knowing that we took 1,017 steps on Monday isn’t going to undo two pizzas and a six-pack of beer.

2. Fitness isn’t fun

Basketball is fun. Snowboarding is fun. Fitness is not fun. To date, the fitness tracker is great for measuring everyone’s least favorite activities (running and stair-stepping), and worthless for measuring fun, meaningful things, like the quality of a jump shot or the fluidity of a golf swing.

A few people will still buy the things in a half-baked attempt to feel good about themselves. The rest of us will spend the money on a round of golf.

3. Fitness isn’t comfortable

Consider that most hit consumer tech products of the last 20 years have only made things more comfortable and convenient. The mp3 player let us listen to anything without getting up. Online streaming services (ex: Netflix) made the movie rental process easier and lazier. The smartphone allowed us to play games and YouTube videos from bed. Steve Jobs even spent the entire iPad announcement sitting on a couch and browsing the web.

As humans, we’re lazy by default, which presents a problem for the fitness tracker. The smartphone, mp3 player and tablet embraced this fact; the fitness tracker is trying to fight it.

4. Fitness isn’t fashion

Today’s fitness trackers range from “gaudy” to “understated,” but there’s nothing so far that qualifies as “fashionable.” (Nice try, Swarovski.) Logistically, this is terrible news for the fitness tracker, which wants to measure everything you do, but only works when you’ve got the thing strapped, stuck, or wrapped on your body. Until the fitness tracker can convince us to keep the thing on, we won’t be experiencing the product’s full potential.

5. Fitness shouldn’t be creepy

We already know that fitness trackers make things unnecessarily complicated. But isn’t all that data collection also a little bit…creepy? Simple goals (“I’d like to run three miles today”) are fine, but why do we need exact step counts, numerical ratings for sleep quality, and automated data transfers to the company’s servers?

Add in the new patch-style trackers (which will just sit on your abdomen and track you all day), and we’ve moved from “tracking” to “stalking.”

At a certain point, enough is enough. We don’t need a fitness tracker to tell us that.

TIME Music

Why Taylor Swift Drama Is The Real Story of Katy Perry’s Halftime Show

Katy Perry attends the 'Fashion Los Angeles Awards' Show on Jan. 22, 2015 in West Hollywood, California.
Charley Gallay—Getty Images/2015 Charley Gallay Katy Perry attends the 'Fashion Los Angeles Awards' Show on Jan. 22, 2015 in West Hollywood, California.

The public isn't focusing on her singing

The media has been abuzz with excitement for Super Bowl Sunday, and, more specifically, the halftime show.

This year, pop singer Katy Perry has snagged the coveted halftime performance slot, which, if the game sets another viewership record, will equate to playing for an audience of more than 112 million people. Rumors are flying back and forth about Perry and the upcoming show, as is to be expected with such a high-profile performance–but with one important difference.

Instead of focusing on her singing, the public is focusing on who she might sing about.

Ever since country-turned-pop star Taylor Swift revealed the inspiration of her new song “Bad Blood,” which describes a feud between her and a fellow female artist who she refused to name, speculation was thrown in all directions about the woman in question. Swift accused her of “sabotaging her area tour” and stealing dancers out from under her.

“She did something so horrible,” Swift told Rolling Stone. “I was like, ‘Oh, we’re just straight-up enemies.’”

Soon after, Perry tweeted, “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep’s clothing,” which confirmed the public’s suspicion that Perry and Swift were the women with “bad blood” between them.

Now that Perry will have America’s attention for 12 solid minutes, the media is expecting a rebuttal. And besides a headline here or there about her many costume changes and special guests, that’s all anyone can talk about. HollywoodLife.com writes, “Now that Taylor has taken over the music scene with huge success from1989, Katy wants to ‘show she is the biggest female act,’ while performing at the 2015 Super Bowl.” “Katy Perry Wants To Get Back At Taylor Swift During The Super Bowl,” reads a Refinery29 headline.

The problem isn’t so much that they’re fighting in the first place, but rather that the public is feeding into this notion that women can’t revel in each others successes–they have to compete against each other. From rappers Nicki Minaj and Lil’ Kim to directors Jane Campion and Kathryn Bigelow, we constantly pit powerful women against each other, which encourages a culture in which women are made to feel like they can’t be allies.

This internalized female competitiveness is socially driven, not biologically. As Sarah MacDonald of Feminspire puts it, “Why are little girls told that if a girl is mean to them, they should avoid her, but if a boy is mean to her, it means he likes her?” And as the girl grows up, she’s surrounded by shows such as “The Real Housewives of….” and “Bad Girls Club,” which completely revolve around watching women fight.

According to Julie Frechette of Worcester State University, “this pattern of pitting women against each other for their personal and professional choices exemplifies the feminine-feminist conflict at the core of media stories about women’s identity and search for fulfillment in the realms of work, sex, and motherhood.” As women consider being prized by others (especially men) as their ultimate goal, they feel as though they need to compete against each other in order to win.

In terms of the media’s coverage of this year’s Super Bowl, this sexism is apparent when compared to the coverage of a male artist . If you look at the headlines surrounding Bruno Mars’ halftime performance last year, they are devoid of gossip or talk about Mars’ personal life. Instead, they have to do with his career.

“Bruno Mars Isn’t a Superstar Like Other Super Bowl Alumni, and That’s Why He’s the Perfect Choice,” said Adweek, praising his talent and ‘70s influences later in the article.

“Bruno Mars Super Bowl Music: What Songs Will The Artist Perform?” wrote Examiner.com. The only thing approaching scandal seemed to be Bruno Mars’ fear of the New Jersey cold.

The fact that Perry’s feud with Swift seems to be more important than her performance shows a fundamental lack of respect for Perry’s work and achievements as an artist. But the fact that the two singers have taken whatever disagreements they may or may not have to social media and interviews certainly doesn’t help. As women in positions of power, they both have a unique opportunity to change the conversation and be models of female empowerment. Hopefully, Perry will take the high road on Sunday and show those 112 million people that she is more than a gossip column.

This article originally appeared on FindTheBest.

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TIME Tablets

Here’s How to Pick the Best Tablet For You

Apple Unveils New Versions Of Popular iPad
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images An attendee looks at the new iPad Air during an Apple announcement at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on October 22, 2013 in San Francisco, California.

What to look for—and what to avoid

Five years ago, no one knew quite what to make of the tablet. Was it the future of the laptop? Was it made for creation or consumption? And in the end, was it just a bigger version of the smartphone? For the next several years, we saw almost every device you could imagine, from a 2.8-inch micro-tablet (the Archos 28) to a 27-inch beast (the Planar Helium). A few new ideas stuck. Most flopped.

Jump ahead to 2015, and the market has largely settled. Customers seem to want one of three kinds of tablets, and the best devices almost all fit neatly into one of these categories.

In that spirit, we’ve broken down these three tablet groups, then picked a handful of products we would recommend for each. We’ll let you know what to look for—and what to avoid—depending on your preferences. Finally, we’ll highlight a few trailblazing tablets that don’t belong in any of these categories.

1. The General-Purpose Tablet

Pros: Can do a little of everything
Cons: No obvious strengths
Typical screen size: 9-11”
Typical starting price: $400-500

The most popular category for tablets, these models are jack-of-all-trade devices, designed to do a little bit of everything. Want to snap family photos? Each of these models comes with a decent camera. Need to give an off-site presentation to a client? You’re getting a nice mix of lightness and screen size. Just want to share status updates and YouTube comments? Post away.

The only problem: none of these tablets truly excel at any one thing. Products in this category tend to be just a bit too big for a purse or coat pocket, but a little too small for completing serious work.

So grab a general-purpose tablet if you plan to use it for all sorts of tasks, but consider another category if you have one or two particular uses in mind.

(Read more: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review)

2. The Mini Tablet

Pros: Extremely portable, great for reading
Cons: Underpowered and bad at productivity
Typical screen size: 7-8.5”
Typical starting price: $200-400

The mini tablet is the ultimate travel and leisure device. Pop it in your backpack, slide it out for some poolside browsing, or place it on your nightstand for some bedtime reading. They’re so light you’ll forget you’re holding a tablet, and thin enough to squeeze in almost any nook, pocket, closet or cranny.

Better yet, they’re the cheapest tablets on the market. The iPad Mini 3 is Apple’s least expensive new tablet, while Amazon’s Kindle Fire HD 7 has a price tag under $150.

But you also get what you pay for. Miniature tablets tend to be the least powerful models, less capable of running high-end mobile games with a smooth, consistent experience. And forget about productivity. Trying to update a spreadsheet or compose a presentation on a mini tablet is frustrating and time-consuming.

Finally, consider that smartphones are getting bigger every year. Do you really need a 7-inch tablet if you plan to buy a 6-inch phone next year? The biggest phones and smallest tablets are practically becoming the same device, and you certainly don’t need both.

So consider a mini tablet if you want something leisurely and affordable, but make sure that’s all you want — or else you’ll wish you purchased something bigger and more capable.

(Read more: Hands-on with Apple’s new iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3)

3. The Productivity Tablet

Pros: Gets work done
Cons: Expensive and bulky
Typical screen size: More than 11”
Typical starting price: $600-1,000

The answer to the mini tablet is the productivity tablet—a device built for getting work done. Typically equipped with massive screens and sold with optional accessories (ex: keyboard and stylus), tablets in this category are designed to replace your laptop.

The best customer for these tablets is the on-the-go professional. You can work up a client presentation at your desk, slide the tablet into your briefcase, then travel to an off-site presentation, all with just a couple pounds of technology in tow.

On the flip side, are these devices really good enough to replace a laptop? Sure, they might be the most productive tablets available, but most laptops still do the same tasks just a bit better, making the productivity tablet a hard sell for seasoned business people.

And then consider leisure activities. Even if you don’t plan to use your tablet for fun very often, those few moments will quickly become obnoxious as you attempt to hold up a 900-gram device through all 58 minutes of Game of Thrones.

So buy a productivity tablet if you’re serious about getting work done (and don’t need or want a laptop), but save the fun and games for another device.

Bonus: The Trail Blazers

Pros: Creative, outside-the-box
Cons: Unproven

Microsoft Surface Hub
Nvidia Shield Tablet

You might say the tablet market has matured, but Microsoft and Nvidia aren’t convinced. Microsoft’s freshly announced Surface Hub comes in two massive sizes—55- and 84-inches—an office touchscreen designed to reinvent brainstorms, conference calls and collaborative meetings. We’ve never seen anything quite like it, complete with Skype integration and stylus compatibility. The device is set for release sometime later this year.

Meanwhile, Nvidia isn’t satisfied with angry birds and crushed candy: the company’s Shield Tablet wants to bring the power of expensive, modern gaming to a tablet device. As such, the tablet comes packed with a 2.2 GHz, quad core processor—the sort of internals you’d normally expect only on a laptop. While it’ll be tough to lure PC and console gamers from their keyboards and Dualshock controllers, Nvidia is committed to the cause.

It’s entirely possible that both Microsoft’s and Nvidia’s pioneering devices will flop. But if either hits, we’ll be looking not at three, but four tablet categories in 2016.

This article originally appeared on FindTheBest.

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

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

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

Audio-Technica Audio-Technica ATH-M50x

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

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
Ezra Shaw—Getty Images 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.

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

AP; Microsoft Apple MacBook Air; Microsoft Surface Pro 3

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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