The Best and Biggest Gadgets of October 2021
October brought a whole ton of new products this year, including drops from Apple like the redesigned MacBook Pros and new AirPods, plus things like Google's next flagship phone, the Pixel 6.
Here's what you need to know about from this month.
14- and 16- MacBook ProsApple
Without a doubt, the biggest new product announcement was Apple's new 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pros. They're decked out with features that Pro users have been asking for years, such as more ports, a physical row of function keys, the return of MagSafe charging, an even more beautiful display and a better webcam. More importantly, they can be configured with Apple's new higher-end silicone chipsets, the M1 Pro and M1 Max, which promise to put even last year's much-lauded M1 chipset to shame in terms of power, graphics and efficiency.
The new MacBook Pros are available for preorder now and start shipping next week (October 26).
After months of rumors, Apple finally announced its third-generation AirPods and they are the new middle child of Apple's AirPods lineup. They are priced between the AirPods (now just $129) and the AirPods Pro, and they look and work like a mix of the two as well. They have the shorter stem of the AirPods Pro, but also lack the in-ear design and silicone eartips — so they fit in your ears more similarly to the original AirPods. And they lack the active-noise cancellation and transparency modes modes of the Pro, but still support spatial audio and adaptive EQ. That said, Apple did these new AirPods some unique features, such as a magnetic charging case that can stick to a MagSafe charger (although there's no charging speed advantage) and the best battery life (up to 6 hours per earbud) of any AirPods to date.The third-generation AirPods are available for preorder now and start shipping next week (October 26).
Google Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 ProGoogle
Google announced its much-anticipated flagship smartphones, the Pixel 6 and the Pixel Pro. Not only do they have the most "Pro" displays and camera systems that Google has ever put in its smartphones, but they also are the first Pixels to feature Google's new custom processor called Tensor. This new custom processor was specifically designed for Pixels (similar to how Apple designs its own iPhone chipsets) and it will help them really excellent battery life and power some of the fancy AI features (such as real-time language translations and new computational photography skills) that Pixels have become known for. As far as differences between the Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, there aren't many. The Pro has a bigger better display, an extra telephoto lens, and a better selfie camera.
The Pixel 6 starts at $599 and the Pixel 6 Pro starts at $899. Both be preordered right now and will hit shelves October 28.
The Nikon Z9 is the company's long-awaited new flagship full-frame mirrorless camera — and it's fast, really fast.It has an all-new high-speed sensor (45.7-megapixel stacked CMOS) and a new processor (EXPEED 7) that powers a super-fast and super-intelligent auto-focus system that can capture photos at up to 120fps. It's also capable of recording 8K (at 30fps) and 4K (up to 120fps) videos. It's designed as a true weapon for professional photographers, especially those capturing action sports or fast-moving wildlife.
Master & Dynamic MG20Master & Dynamic
Master & Dynamic has brought its love of premium materials and hi-fi sound into the gaming world. The MG20 is the company's first-ever gaming headset. It has magnesium earcups, anodized aluminum arms, lambskin leather earpads and an Alcantara headband. Inside, it packs 50mm Beryllium drivers that support aptX HD and 7.1 surround sound. The headset is really designed for PlayStation and PC gamers, as there's a USB adapter to establish a low-latency connection, but it supportsaptX Low-Latency for smartphone gamers as well. The other neat thing is that it's technically a "hybrid" gaming headset because, thanks to a detachable boom mic, you can use it as regular wireless over-ear headphones when you're not gaming.
The MG20 will be available in two colors (white or black) starting November 16.
Wyze Switch and Wyze Bulb WhiteWyze
Wyze announced a number of new smart home gadgets this week, including a new solar panel and new smart bulbs, but the Wyze Switch is probably the most interesting of the bunch. It's the company's first smart switch, which replaces an existing light switch in your home and then allows you to control those traditional lights with voice commands (compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri) or via the Wyze app. The only real downside is that the smart switch doesn't allow you to dim your lights.
A 3-pack of these smart switches costs $33. They're available for preorder now, with shipping set to start in December.
Price: $33 (3-pack)
Plugable's newest docking station, the UD-3900C, is both powerful and movable. It's designed for hybrid workers who are used to "hot-desking," or sitting in a different area of the office each day. The UD-3900C can connect to your laptop via a USB-C or USB-A connection, and it adds a number of ports for your peripherals:HDMI (2x), USB-A 3.0 (2x), USB-A 2.0 (4x), two 3.5mm audio jacks (for a microphone and headphones) and a Gigabit Ethernet port for a wired connection.
The Plugable UD-3900C is available now.
The Vive Flow is the newest VR headset by HTC and it looks drastically different from pretty much every other VR headset out there. (In fact, it it looks kind of like an overgrown pair of sport sunglasses for Vuarnet.) It's a completely wireless headset — you're not tethered to anything —that's designed to be compact, more portable and comfortable. It also doesn't come with controllers (you'll have to have an Android smartphone, instead), which is why the Vive Flow is designed for more general entertainment, like watching 360-degree videos and interactive experiences, rather than intense VR gaming.
The Vive Flow will be available in November.
TCL Roku TV Wireless Sound BarTCL
TCL has been in the business of affordable 4k TVs for years and it has made various lines of soundbar-and-subwoofer systems to pair with those TVs, too. The company's newest soundbar, the Roku TV Wireless Soundbar, is its first "wireless" soundbar, meaning unlike its previous soundbars, the Roku TV Wireless Soundbar doesn't have any HDMI or other audio ports. You plug it, pair it to your Roku TV over Wi-Fi and it just works. It's designed as a simple solution for people who want to get better sound out of their Roku TV without having to pay too much.
Wyze Video Doorbell ProWyze
Wyze announced a "Pro" version of its $30 Video Doorbell (released in 2020). At $65, it's more than twice as expensive — which is still really affordable compared to other video doorbells — but it also comes with more features. The most significant thing is that you can use it wired or wirelessly, thanks to its built-in battery, but it also has a slightly better camera (in terms of resolution and field-of-view) and a wireless chime that you can place inside your home (so you can hear when somebody rings the doorbell). Like before, you'll need to pay a small subscription fee ($1.49/mon) to get some of its more advanced features, like people and package detection.
The Wyze Video Door Pro is available for preorder now, but you'll have to wait until December for it to ship.
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip3 Bespoke EditionSamsung
Samsung didn't exactly any new hardware at its Unpacked event this week, but it did announce a customizable version of its foldable smartphone. You can now order the Galaxy Z Flip3 with its front and back panels in a variety of different color, and you also have the choice of a black or silver frame. (There are apparently 49 different color combinations, according to Engadget.) This "Bespoke Edition" will cost you an extra $100 from the regular Galaxy Z Flip3.
PhoneSoap SurfaceSoap UV WandPhone Soap
PhoneSoap specializes in making gadgets that use blue light clean your other gadgets, and the SurfaceSoap UV is its latest travel-friendly entry. It's a UV wand that you turn on and wave over personal items, be it your car keys or your iPad, and it kills 99.9% of harmful bacteria and pathogens. There's also a built-in hand guard to prevent your hand from rubbing up against something you haven't cleaned yet.
The SurfaceSoap UV Wand is available for preorder now and is expected to ship in mid-November.
Apple 140-Watt USB-C Power AdapterApple
One thing that Apple didn't really talk about at its Mac event is its new adapter ever, which is the most powerful one it's ever made. The 140-watt USB-C wall adapter ships with the new 16-inch MacBook Pro and uses gallium nitride (GaN) technology, which it to fit more power in a smaller package; when paired with the new USB-C to MagSafe 3 cable, it can give the new MacBook Pro a 50-percent charge in just 30 minutes. For those interested, Apple is going to also sell this wall adapter separately for $99.
Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin (2021 Model)Bowers & Wilkins
Bowers & Wilkins released a new and improved version of its iconic Zeppelin speaker. The last iteration of the speaker, the Zeppelin Wireless, was released in 2015 and this new version keeps mostly the same look and feel, with the difference being that the new version is completely wireless — there are no analog connections — and it supports AirPlay 2 and comes integrated with Alexa (just like an Echo) for voice controls. It supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (AptX) streaming, and it's able to be integrated in a multi-room system with other new Zeppelin speakers, B&W's existing line of Formation speakers, as well as other AirPlay 2 speakers.
The new B&W Zeppelin is available today in either light or dark grey.
Bose SoundLink FlexBose
Bose announced a new affordable, rugged and ultra-portable Bluetooth speaker called the SoundLink Flex. It's really water-resistant and durable — IP67 rated — and it'll even float, in the event you drop it in the pool or tub. Bose promises incredible sound compared to other similarly-sized speakers, thanks to a custom transducer and dual-opposing passive radiators, too. It lacks Wi-Fi connectivity, meaning there's no voice assistant, but you can sync it with other Bose speakers and soundbars that you have in your house (via a companion app) to give you the multi-room effect.
Soundcore, the audio division of Anker, announced its first pair of audio glasses: the Soundcore Frames. They're more similar to the Bose Frames, as opposed to the Facebook x Ray-Ban Stories, because they don't have any kind of built-in cameras or social component — they're strictly sunglasses and eyeglasses with speakers built into each arm so they work like any pair of Bluetooth headphones. The difference with the Soundcore Frames (compared to the Bose Frames) is that the arms are detachable and you can swap them with different frames (there are 10 different styles) to get a different look.
Jabra Evolve2 75Jabra
The Evolve2 75 is what Jabra is calling a "hybrid headset," meaning it is designed as a work headset with excellent call clarity (thanks to it boom microphone) and compatibility with Zoom and Microsoft Teams (and others). The boom microphone folds up into the right earcup so that they can be disguised as a regular pair of noise-canceling wireless headphones, too. Basically, they'll designed for both work and play.
The Jabra Evolve2 75 is available now.
Tile Mate, Pro, Slim, and Sticker (Updated Models)Tile
Tile announced next-generation versions of several of its Bluetooth trackers — specifically the Mate (keychain fob), Slim (card), Pro (smaller keychain fob) and Sticker (attachable button) — all of which are getting improved range and water-resistance, as well as updated designs. All of them (save for the Sticker) are gaining a new Lost and Found feature, which allows strangers to scan a QR code on the back of the tracker, get your contact information and thus return your item (and tracker) back to you.
All these next-generation Bluetooth trackers are available now.
Price: $25 — $35
V-Moda Hexamove Lite and ProV-Moda
V-Moda, the audio company best known for its DJ-approved Crossfade headphones, announced its first two pairs of wireless earbuds. There's the Hexamove Lite ($130) and the Hexamove Pro ($180). Both pairs of wireless earbuds are basically the identical — same hexagonal shape and same sound — and allow you to customize them with different "shields," so you can make them look how you want. The difference is that the "Pro" version come with swappable silicone earhooks and an optional wire neck strap, to give you a better fit and prevent you from losing them. The Pro versions also work with a companion that lets you tweak the EQ. Neither earbuds support wireless charging or have ANC.
Price: $130 — $180
Q Acoustics Concept SeriesQ Acoustics
The British audio company Q Acoustics is best known for its high performing yet affordable bookshelf speakers, and it has brought that same mantra over to its home theater range. The new set of Concept speakers — Concept 30 (standmount, $1,299/pair), Concept 50 (floorstander, $2,999/pair) and Concept 90 (center channel, $999/ea) — bring over technologies from its high-end Concept 300 and 500 speakers, and put them in a more affordable package.
The new Concept home theater speakers will be available at the end of October.
Price: $999 — $2,999
Soundcore Liberty 3 ProAnker
Soundcore's latest flagship wireless earbuds, the Liberty 3 Pro, aim to deliver high-end sound and premium features at a reasonable price. They are the successor to the Liberty 2 Pro (released in 2019) and have a similar earwing design, but they are 30-percent smaller. They have active-noise cancellation and support high-resolution audio (including Sony's LDAC, whichenables them to stream higher-quality audio than most other wireless earbuds), which their predecessors lacked. And the charging case supports wireless charging.
The Liberty 3 Pro are available right now and come in four colors: black, white, purple or gray.
Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro X and 900 Pro XBeyerdynamic
Beyerdynamic announced the latest studio quality headphones in its hugely popular Pro X line. There's the DT 700 Pro X (closed back, pictured) and the DT 900 Pro X (open-backed), both of which feature the company's famed cushy velour earpads, along with a brand-new driver that promise to deliver a neutral, realistic sound. The headphones also have a low impedance (48 ohms), meaning they're easy to drive and plug-and-play ready — no separate headphone amp required.
Both headphones cost $299 and are available now.
Sony SRS-NS7 Wireless Neckband SpeakerSony
The category of "wearable speaker" is a little bit of a weird one. They are speakers designed for people who work in a solitary environment and don't risk disturbing other people in the room, or people who don't like wearing headphones for long periods of time. Sony's newest wearable speaker, the SRS-NS7, is unique because it's the first to support Dolby Atmos as well as Sony's 360 Reality Audio, so it's able to deliver a more immersive listening experience. And if you pair to one of Sony's latest Bravia TVs, the SRS-NS7 turns into a wearable surround sound system for your home theater.
Acer Aspire VeroAcer
Acer announced a handful of Windows 11-ready laptops this week, with the Aspire Vero arguably being the most interesting because it's an "eco-friendly" laptop. It's made from recycled plastic and other sustainable materials, but it's also a powerful machine running the Intel's latest 11th-generation processors. The 15-inch laptop will start as low as $700 and should be available for purchase in early November.
YubiKey Bio SeriesYubiKey
Yubico is one of the best-known makers of physical security keys that plug into your device via USB — you can think of them as a type of two-step verification, but instead of a getting a text message or email with a code you have to plug in the physical security key into your device. The company's newest series of physical security keys, the YibuKey Bio, take that a step further by integrated another layer of security: an integrated fingerprint reader.
Price: $80 (USB-A model); $85 (USB-C model)
Sonos x Ikea Symfonisk Table Lamp Speaker (Gen 2)Ikea
Sonos and Ikea announced the second-generation of their table lamp speaker. It's different from the previous model in that Ikea is now giving you to the option to buy one of two lamp bases (in either white or black) and then you can pair it with one of two lampshades: one glass and one a see-through textile. The lamp base will cost $140, while the glass and textile lampshades will cost $39 and $29, respectively, putting the total cost right around the $179 of the original. Just like before, the base of the table lamp will work just like a Sonos One SL speaker (no built-in voice assistant).
You'll be able to purchase the new table lamp speaker on October 12.
Price: $169 - $179
Sony WF-C500 Wireless EarbudsSony
Sony announced a new pair of wireless earbuds and the big selling point: they cost just $100. TheWF-C500 are smaller earbuds than the company's flagship 1000XM4, and lack active noise-cancellation as well as the same sound quality. They do have support for the company's 360 Reality Audio and are compatible with Headphones app so you can tweak the EQ settings, however. They also charge via USB-C and support quick-charging; a 10-min charge will get you roughly an hour of playtime.
The Sony WF-C500 are available for preorder today with general shipping set to start
Sony WH-XB910N ANC HeadphonesSony
The Sony WH-XB910N are the company's newest pair of budget noise-canceling over-ear headphones. They take the place of the WH-XB900N in the company's lineup, but have a much sleeker design that's more akin to its flagship WH-1000XM4 headphones. They are set to have improved sound, noise-cancellation and call quality compared to their predecessors — just don't expect them to be quite at the level of its flagship cans.
Skullcandy Grind Fuel and Push ActiveSkullcandy
Skullcandy announced two new pairs of wireless earbuds this week: the Grind Fuel (pictured) and the Push Active. The Grind Fuel are the slightly higher-end of the two. They have a traditional earbud design, an IP55 water-resistance rating and work with the company's companion app so you can adjust your sound preferences. The Push Active are more fitness focused and have an earhook design. The big thing with both sets of wireless earbuds is that they work with "Hey Skullcandy" voice commands, which allow you to hands-free adjust volume, skip sounds and answer calls. These voice commands are neat for two other specific reasons; they are compatible with Spotify and they work offline, so you can request songs and playlists if they are downloaded on your phone.
Price: $80 — $100
Wyze Scale SWyze
Wyze announced new smart scale that costs $15. It's "smart" because it sends all your metrics to a companion app, which then allows you track your fitness and set goals. It also is compatible with Fitbit, Google Fit and Apple Health, meaning it will sync with the fitness app you already use. The Scale S capable of tracking 10 different metrics in addition to weight, including body fat, body mass, bone mass and body water percentage.
The Wyze Scale S is available for preorder, with shipping set to start in November.
At this week's big hardware event, the standout announcement was Astro, a tiny Alexa robot on wheels. It has built-in speakers and a built-in display, so it can follow you around and play music, movies/shows, and help with video calls. It also has a pop-up camera, meaning that Astro can work as a moveable smart home camera to monitor your home, pets or people who need extra care (like elderly) when you aren't there.
Price: $999 (introductory price)
Blink Video DoorbellAmazon
The Blink Video Doorbell is a simple smart video doorbell that's designed to work with an Alexa smart home. It comes in wired or wire-free models and delivers a lot features you'd expect in a smart doorbell, like HD video, night vision, motion detection and two-way audio. Of course, the big thing is that it costs just $50, which is substantially cheaper than most other options currently out there.