{"feed":"Wirecutter-Reviews-for-the-Real-World","feedTitle":"Wirecutter: Reviews for the Real World","feedLink":"/feed/Wirecutter-Reviews-for-the-Real-World","catTitle":"Technology","catLink":"/cat/technology"}

After researching all of the new sub-$500 soundbars available and extensively testing the seven most promising models, we think the Vizio SB3651-E6 5.1 is the right soundbar with sub for most people. Its performance-to-price ratio is off the charts, and its connectivity options, including Bluetooth, Google Cast, coaxial, optical and HDMI (with Audio Return Channel), are great for a soundbar at this price.

After putting in 41 hours to do research and interview experts over the past two years and brewing hundreds of cups of coffee in 12 machines, we think the OXO On 9-Cup Coffee Maker is the best. The OXO makes better-tasting coffee than the vast majority of drip coffee makers, and it’s much easier to use than the other high-end machines we tested.

After researching dozens of blenders, talking with five experts, and testing 22 models over the course of five years, we’re confident that the Oster Versa Pro Performance Blender offers the best value for most people. It performs as well as some blenders that cost twice as much, and it blows cheaper blenders out of the water. With both variable speed and preset options for things like soup and smoothies, it has one of the most user-friendly and versatile control panels we’ve seen.

Last January, I needed to get rid of two car seats that my girls had outgrown. Safety experts caution against giving them away unless they’re in near-perfect condition (most charities won’t even take them), and finding recycling programs specific to car seats is rare. What could I do to keep the seats from going straight to a landfill?

At a loss for better options, my husband and I tore our car seats apart, as best we could, and put the exoskeleton-like shells out with the recycling bags on the curb, hoping for the best. Next recycling day, the truck didn’t pick up the shells, and I spent a week anxiously imagining them decomposing right there on the sidewalk, weathering a millennium of snowstorms and humid New York City heat waves. Although the seats were eventually picked up, I couldn’t shake my guilt. I wondered if the seats were really recycled, and if I should have tried harder to pass them on.

The problem of getting rid of big, bulky gear (or other similar home goods) isn’t unique to car seats. But considering that most kids will go through three...

For many people, the image of someone cooking Chinese food usually has the person deftly tossing stir-fry ingredients in a gigantic wok as dramatic flames leap beneath it. But as someone who grew up regularly eating delicious stir-fries that my Taiwanese mom cooked in a beat-up nonstick frying pan on an electric range, I’ve always felt that woks were unnecessary.

We’ve tested more than 20 of the best budget Android phones since 2015, carrying each one for multiple days of hands-on testing, and the Motorola Moto G5 Plus currently offers the best combination of features for the price. It performs better than most other budget Android devices, works on every major US carrier, and has easy-to-use software. But everyone’s budget is different, so we also have a pick for shoppers who can spend a little more as well as for those who need a decent smartphone for $100.

After spending two weeks researching 34 cat scratchers and testing 13 of them with 74 cats and kittens at the Little Wanderers rescue group in New York City, we found that Pioneer Pet’s SmartCat The Ultimate Scratching Post is the best because it’s sturdy, time-tested, and tall enough for even large cats to get a good stretch.

After a combined 200 hours of testing over the course of nearly two-and-a-half years, including listening to 10 new models this year, we still think Kingston’s original HyperX Cloud is the best gaming headset for serious PC gamers. The HyperX Cloud offers the best mix of audio performance and comfort for the money. It’s beautifully built and comfortable on a wide variety of heads, and its sound quality holds up against some of the best dedicated headphones in its price range. You won’t find a more neutral-sounding and versatile gaming headset unless you’re willing to spend at least $40 or $50 more.

After considering nearly 30 litter boxes, we chose 10 and had 12 cats use them and three humans clean them. The Nature’s Miracle High Sided Litter Box is the best. It’s a simple, open box that’s big enough for most cats, with higher sides and a lower entry than other open boxes, so it contains mess yet is still easy for your cat to get into. Its smooth finish makes it easier to clean than other boxes with divots, hard angles, and seams, and it’s dirt cheap.

After researching 31 different gaming monitors and testing six finalists, we recommend the Asus ROG Swift PG279Q for gamers with Nvidia graphics cards and the Asus MG279Q for AMD cards. Both monitors have large, high-resolution screens and offer adaptive synchronization at high refresh rates for smooth, fluid gameplay without tearing or stuttering.

After more than 20 hours considering 32 grinders and testing 12 of them, we found that the Santa Cruz Shredder Medium 3-Piece grinds smoothly and evenly, producing results that work equally well whether destined for a pipe, vaporizer, or recipe. This grinder’s uniquely shaped teeth make quick work of the densest flowers and should stay sharp for years. Its extra-deep collection chamber holds more material than the competition and is easy to empty.

If you’ve fantasized about getting rid of your smartphone, you are not alone. An entire genre of Internet writing is devoted to the experiment. Fed up with smartphone dependency, the writer tries a dumb phone (or no phone) for a week, increases their attention span and the number of in-person interactions they experience, then almost always concludes that modern life without a smartphone—and the maps, music, and mobile boarding passes they enable—is just too difficult. Having recently found myself checking Instagram while waiting to cross the street, and sometimes even mid-stride, I decided it was time to try my own hand at this trope, but from a different angle.

A less drastic and more sustainable solution to smartphone fatigue could lie in getting a second device that does many of the important things, but makes engaging with the biggest distractions, like social media and other bottomless scrolling experiences, more difficult. I spent two weeks with the Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE to see if it could be that device for me.

The Watch substitutes well enough as a basic phone: For a $10-per-month service charge (in addition to your monthly phone plan), you can use it to send texts (although doing so is a little cumbersome—no keypad) and place calls. It doesn’t quite have all the...

After spending 10 hours on research and interviews and more than five hours on testing the grip, heat, and performance of 11 hair straighteners on four different people with different hair textures, the GVP Digital stood out from the competition with its adjustable temperature in 10-degree increments, and an easy-to-read digital display that updates in real time so you know when it’s ready, unlike like the rest of the straighteners we tested.

After considering 35 vaporizers, testing 13, interviewing expert reviewers, digging through enthusiast forums, and using several models for more than a year, the Grenco Science G Pen Elite is the best portable vaporizer for most people. It delivers key features we wanted in a portable vaporizer—foremost, vapor quality good enough that you’d never think of smoking instead—along with a reasonable price, good battery life, convenient charging, smooth draws, and quick heat-up times.

After researching wiper blades for more than 60 hours, scouring user reviews, talking to auto-service shops in such weather-challenged regions as Chicago, Illinois and Portland, Oregon, and testing top competitors on a handful of cars, our findings show that the Bosch Icon is a good bet for most drivers, as long as it fits your car. Bosch wiper blades are recommended by the shops we interviewed more than any other brand, and the Icon is consistently among the highest-rated models by users on websites that sell a wide range of wipers. It’s also earned among the highest ratings of any top-selling blade on Amazon with relatively few complaints.

If you love quizzing Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa on obscure facts or asking it to tell you jokes, you might also be interested in the Jibo, a home robot that combines the speaking abilities of an AI assistant like Alexa with an expressive hardware “body” and screen. The Jibo is one of the first social robots sold for home use, and it has a big job: to teach people what to expect from a social home robot and then deliver on those expectations. It doesn’t quite get there.

The Sony VPL-HW45ES is the best projector for a dedicated home theater because it offers superb contrast ratios, accurate colors, plenty of light output, low input lag for gaming, and flexible setup options to help it fit almost any location. Typically selling for around $2,000, it costs about $1,000 less than anything else offering comparable performance.

Whether you’re packing chili for lunch or oatmeal to eat after your morning commute, a great food thermos will keep hot foods at safe temperatures for hours and won’t leak into your bag. After comparing 22 food thermoses and testing 10, we’re confident that the Zojirushi Stainless Steel Food Jar is the best for most people. It has excellent heat retention, is durable and easy to clean, and comes in three sizes ranging from 12 to 25 ounces. We like the 10-ounce Thermos Funtainer Food Jar for packing kids’ lunches or for people who prefer smaller portions.

After spending over 100 hours testing 18 routers, we think the Netgear R7000P is the best wireless router for most people. It’s fast and reliable at both short and long ranges, it balances the demands of connected devices automatically to avoid congestion, and it works well right out of the box, with no arcane tweaking required.

After 95 hours of research, including tests of more than three dozen heaters and comparisons of nearly 100 different competitors over the past six years, we still think the Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater is the best space heater for most people. While most space heaters work fine, the Lasko hits a great balance of heating performance, safety, and a low price.