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The Best and Biggest Gadgets of May 2021

A lot happened this May. Here are the highlights.

tech roundup
Gear Patrol

Spring is here, and so are the gadgets! Here are the highlights you should know about.

BenQ TK700STi 4K Projector

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BenQ

The BenQ TK700STi is a new 4K HDR projector that's a great fit for gamers who own latest-generation consoles, like the Xbox Series X or PS5. It can produce a native 4K picture — so there's no need for upscaling, which is what most so-called 4K projectors do — so that games designed for those next-gen consoles can be shown off in all their HDR glory. The catch is that the TK700STi supports HDMI 2.0 rather than HDMI 2.1, meaning that it can only produce a 4K picture at 60Hz rather than 4K at 120Hz (but very few games actually take advantage of that yet). Few people will care about that those when looking at this 100-inch (max) screen.

Price: $1,699

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Nebula R2-D2 Capsule II Portable Projector

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Nebula

Nebula (and its parent company, Anker) celebrated Star Wars Day by releasing a R2-D2-inspired version of its miniature portable projector. The Nebula R2-D2 Capsule II is exactly the same as the company's other Capsule II portable projectors — a max 100-inch picture, Android operating system, built-in speaker, 200 lumens of brightness and a bunch of connectivity options — but also has a R2-D2 paint job and makes some droid-like noises when you start it up. The catch is that the R2-D2 model costs $700, while the normal model costs $580. (However, if you order before May 9 you can get $80 off the special edition model by using the code: WSMAY4TH.)

Price: $700

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Toshiba C350 Series of Smart TVs

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Toshiba

Toshiba announced its new line of 4K smart TVs this week that promises a lot for every little. Each 4K TV supports HDR10 and Dolby Vision (but not HDR10+) and runs on Amazon's Fire TV operating system. The C350 Series comes in a range of sizes (43", 50", 55", 65" and 75"), but the kicker is the 43" model starts at $350, making it one of the cheapest 4K smart TVs that supports HDR that you can buy. These 4K TVs are available for preorder right now and will start shipping at the end of this month.

Price: $350+

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Hisense Dual-Cell LCD TV

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Hisense

Hisense gave us a first look at its upcoming TVs that are poised to rival OLEDs. They're called dual-cell LCD TVs and, by sandwiches two liquid crystal panels on top of each other, they're supposedly able to achieve OLED-esque levels of contrast, brightness and overall picture quality. The 75-inch TV will be available this summer and cost a cool $3,500. CNET's David Katzmaier has the full details, which you can read by clicking the link below.

Price: $3,500

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Google Pixel Buds A-Series

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Google

Google didn't officially announce new wireless earbuds this week, but one of its official Twitter accounts (@Android) briefly did. Yep, for about 10-minutes, the company's tweet announcing the all-new Pixel Buds A-Series was live. They look very similar to the company's existing Pixel Buds, but the "A-Series" designation suggests that they'll be more affordable than $179, which what the current Pixel Buds demand. The Pixel Buds A-Series will support fast pairing with Android devices and come in an all-white color — but that's really all we know so far.

You can read the full story on the leaked wireless earbuds on 9to5Google, below.

Price: TBD

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Bluesound Node and Powernode (3rd-gen)

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Bluesound

Bluesound announced new and refreshed versions of its Node and Powernode digital music streamers. They don't look drastically different, but Bluesound decked each new model with a more powerful processor and an improved DAC that supports high-resolution audio (up to 24-bit/192kHz and MQA files). They also have touch preset controls so you can quickly start playing music (from your choice of source) just by touching the device. As before, the updated Node is designed to work with powered or active speakers, while the Powernode has a built-in power amplifier so it can work with a pair of passive speakers.

Price: $549 (Node); $899 (Powernode)

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Wyze Buds Pro

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Wyze has just announced its first pair of truly wireless earbuds, the Wyze Buds Pro — and they look almost exactly like Apple's AirPods Pro, just in black. They also have many of the same features, such as active noise cancellation and wireless charging. The big difference is price. While Apple's AirPods Pro cost $249 (although they're often on sale for around $200), the Wyze Buds Pro are priced at just $60.

The Wyze Buds Pro are available for preorder right now. Wyze expects them to start shipping in late July.

Price: $60

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Naim Uniti Atom HE (Headphone Edition)

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Naim Audio

Naim is releasing a version of its beautiful all-in-one streamer, the Uniti Atom, that's optimized for audiophiles listening on headphones. It looks very much like the award winning streaming streamer — same LCD display and wonderfully large volume knob — but Naim engineered it with a new discrete headphone amplifier. It's compatible with a wide-variety of headphones and works with most streaming services, including Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and Qobuz. It supports AirPlay 2 and Chromecast streaming, too. If you want, the Uniti Atom HE can work as streaming preamp, as well, for those who pair it with a set of powered speakers or an integrated amplifier. It's available now.

Price: $3,290

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Fluance A-Series Bookshelf Speakers

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Fluance is a Canadian-based audio company that's best known for its line of affordable yet high-end turntables. This week, it announced two new pairs of powered bookshelf speakers that can partner those turntables. There's the Ai41 and Ai61, the latter being the slightly larger, more powerful and better-sounding of the two — but besides that, they're basically identical. Both speakers can be connected to any turntable with a built-in preamp. They have built-in Bluetooth so you can stream directly from your smartphone or computer. And you can even use them as TV speakers via an optical or RCA connection. The best part? Both pairs cost less than $300.

Price: $249/pair (Ai41); $299 (Ai61)

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SteelSeries Rival 5

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The Rival 5 is SteelSeries's newest gaming mouse. It's affordable and versatile, and should be a good fit for most gamers, whether they're playing Valheim, Fortnite or Minecraft. It has a number of primary and thumb buttons, toggle bars, an RGB-backlit scroll wheel and a DPI switcher. It also has a TrueMove Air optical sensor for accuracy. Its lightweight and ergonomic design should make it comfortable, too. And at just $60, it's a good chunk cheaper than a lot of other gaming and standard mice (like Apple's $79 Magic Mouse).

The Rival 5 is available now.

Price: $60

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Bose SoundControl Hearing Aids

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Bose announced its first-ever pair of hearing aids, the SoundControl Hearing Aids, this week, and they're designed to help adults with perceived mild to moderate hearing loss. There are two really cool things about the SoundControl Hearing Aids. First, you can buy them and get them up and running without going to the doctor, getting a hearing test or prescription. And secondly, they cost $850, which is actually very affordable compared to most other hearing aids. According to Bose, the SoundControl Hearing Aids were "optimized, conceptualized, developed, and tested solely to improve hearing and does not stream music or calls."

Price: $850

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Amazon Echo Show 8 and Echo Show 5 (Updated)

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Amazon quietly announced slightly refreshed models of its Echo Show 8 and Echo Show 5 this week. The larger of the two, the refreshed Echo Show 8, has been outfitted with a camera system with a wider field of view; this allows it to pan, zoom and track a subject as they walk around the frame (this is the same thing that the Echo Show 10 has been able to do). The Echo Show 5 has a slightly better camera, too, (but can't do track the subject around the frame like the refreshed Echo Show 8); more significantly, Amazon dropped the price by $5.

Price: $85 (Echo Show 5); $130 ( Echo Show 8)

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Syng Cell Alpha

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The Cell Alpha is a high-end spaceship-looking wireless speaker that's been designed by an ex-Apple engineer who worked on the HomePod (as well as a vast number of other Apple products). According to the company, it's the world’s first “Triphonic” speaker, meaning it's able to play spatial dynamic audio that's way more immersive than traditional stereo. It supposedly sounds great on its own, but the company actually recommends pairing three together in a room for the best possible sound — which is a very expensive proposition. The speaker supports Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2, and it has dual USB-C ports for analog connections. It's available for purchase now.

Price: $1,799

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Grado Labs Prestige "X" Headphones

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For years, Grado's Prestige line of headphones have been some of our favorite affordable hi-fi headphones — and this week it's released upgraded versions of every headphone in that line. They've been upgraded with the company's new "X Driver," which promises superior soundstage. They also come with more durable cables and thicker, comfier headphones, too. The new headphones, which are marked by the "x" at the end of their name, include the SR60x, SR80x, SR125x, SR225x and SR325. As for price, well, they're still very reasonable.

Price: $99 - $295

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Amazon Echo Frames

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Amazon first released the Echo Frames, its first pair of Alexa-compatible audio eyeglasses, back in December. Fast forward to this week and the e-commerce giant is giving people new options to choose from. There are two sunglass options to choose from, with either classic and blue mirror polarized lenses. Or, if you're looking for eyeglasses, you can now get Echo Frames with blue-light-filtering lenses. Every one of these new options costs $270.

Price: $270

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Apple Watch Pride Edition One Loop

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Apple launched a special Pride Edition version of its Braided Solo Loop for Apple Watch to celebrate and support the LGBTQ+ movement. You can also download a free Pride Woven watch face for your Apple Watch, so your watch and watch strap can match. Like the company's other Braided Solo Loop, the watch strap costs $99 and has a unique stretchable design that allows you to quickly slip on and take off your Apple Watch.

Price: $99

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McIntosh MB20 Bluetooth Transceiver

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The McIntosh MB20 is the company's latest accessory that's designed to quickly and easily bring Bluetooth streaming to your current high-end audio system. It's made by McIntosh, so it's obviously a little nicer (and more expensive) than your standard Bluetooth receiver. It has ten times the range of a standard Bluetooth device and it's one of the few Bluetooth receivers with a number of different analog and digital inputs and outputs. It also supports a number of digital codecs, such as AAC and aptX HD, for high-resolution streaming.

Price: $500

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Bang & Olufsen Beosound Explore

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Bang & Olufsen announced a new ultra-portable Bluetooth speaker called the Beosound Explore. The speaker is designed to be super rugged and drop resistant, and it is thanks to its hard anodised aluminium shell. It also comes with a small carabiner so you can attach to your backpack. Other than its unique design, the Beosound Explore's standout feature is battery life — it promises 27 hours playtime, which is pretty incredible given its size. The speaker is available in three different beautiful finishes, including black, green and gray. Available now.

Price: $199

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Belkin Soundform Connect

belkin soundform connect audio adapter
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Belkin's newest audio adapter, the Soundform Connect, connects to any traditional sound system or powered speaker — via an optical or 3.5mm audio jack — and adds AirPlay 2 support. With AirPlay 2 support, you can integrate the connected speaker or receiver system into a multi-room audio system with other AirPlay 2 speakers. It also lets you control your music with "Hey Siri" commands. If you think about it, this little $100 adapter does effectively the same job as the $449 Sonos Port (only the Soundform Connect can't integrate your speaker or receiver into a Sonos multi-room system, obviously), making it a pretty good deal for anybody with an iPhone who subscribes to Apple Music.

Price: $100

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Anker Nano II Wall Adapters

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Released in 2018, Anker's Nano wall adapters were the first to feature GaN (gallium nitride), a material that is significantly more energy-efficient and space-efficient than silicon, which allowed the wall adapters to be smaller, lighter and still really powerful. Three years later, Anker has released a line of Nano II wall adapters featuring GaN II, a next-generation material that helps the wall adapters be even more energy efficient and better regulate its temperature. Basically, Anker's new wall adapters are still tiny, but even more powerful. The Anker Nano II lineup consists of three wall adapters: a 30-watt model ($30), a 45-watt model ($36) and a 65-watt model ($40). All three wall adapters have a single USB-C port and come with PowerIQ 3.0 technology, which helps manage/control the wattage.

All three new wall adapters are available for preorder and are scheduled to ship in June.

Price: $30 — $40

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JLab JBuds Frames

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The JLab JBuds Frames are neat because they are essentially clip-speakers; they allow you to turn any pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses that you already own into a pair of audio glasses akin to Bose Frames. The kicker is that the JBuds Frames cost just $49, which is a much cheaper proposition than the Bose Frames, which can cost 3x to 4x that amount.

Price: $49

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Sony SRS-XB13

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The Sony SRS-XB13 is the company's smallest portable Bluetooth speaker — it's effectively half the size of a soda can. It's the next-generation version of the SRS-XB12, which looked identical, but the SRS-XB13 now charges via USB-C and delivers true 360-degree sound. Other than that, the SRS-XB13 is still a good portable speaker for people looking for a small and affordable option. If you're looking for more room-filling sound, we recommend spending a little more on Sony's SRS-XB23, which you can pick up for just below $100.

Price: $59

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Wyze Night Light

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The Wyze Night Light is the company's newest affordable smart light — you can get a 3-pack for $20. The Wyze Night Light is unique for a few reasons. First, each light is battery-powered that you recharge via USB-C; Wyze claims the each light can last 128 days by itself or 85 days when it's linked with other Wyze Night Lights. Second, each light can be placed wherever you want thanks to an included mounting system — no need to worry about wires or the location of an outlet. And third, each Wyze Night Light has a built-in light and motion sensors, so they'll automatically turn on when it's dark and/or motion is detected.

Price: $20 (3-pack)

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Sonos One SL (Updated)

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Sonos didn't give us an entirely new speaker this week, but it did update the One SL, which is a One without built-in microphones . That said, you won't notice the update. The refreshed One SL looks exactly the same and has the same functionality as before. Sonos gave the speaker a new wireless radio to make it more power efficient. It also removed some excess plastic from the speaker's base to make the product more recyclable. The price of the new One SL remains the same.

Price: $179

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Native Union Rise Dock

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The Rise Dock isn't a MagSafe charging stand on its own. It's a stand that requires you to own Apple's MagSafe Charger, which Apple sells for $39, to work. That said, the weighed stand is able to house Apple's wireless charger in such a way that it elevates your iPhone 12, which is pretty cool. Plus, its dark finish will match perfectly with anybody who has any of Apple's space gray accessories.

Price: $50

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Kanto YU Passive Bookshelf Speakers

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Kanto launched two new sets of passive bookshelf speakers, both of which cost less than $200. There's the YU Passive 5.25" ($199/pair), which features a 5.25-inch Kevlar woofer and 1-inch silk dome tweeter, and the YU Passive 4" ($159/pair), a 4-inch woofer and 1-inch silk-dome tweeter. The two sets of speakers look basically identical, other than the YU Passive 5.25" being slightly larger, and being passive bookshelf speakers, they're also very flexible. You can use them as desktop speakers if you a DAC/amplifier, or you can use them as TV or stereo speakers with a receiver. Available now.

Price: $159 (4"); $199 (5.25")

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