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The Gadgets We’re Testing This Week

Including the Essential Phone, an extremely rugged Bluetooth speaker, and a smart ring that can track sleep.


Welcome to the latest installment of Staff Picks. Each week, we’ll tell you about the tech we’re currently testing — everything from cameras to hi-fi headphones, extremely large desktop monitors to smart home appliances — as well as the grail items we wish we could buy. For last week’s last selections, click here.

Kicker Bullfrog BF200 Bluetooth Speaker

Most Bluetooth speakers are great — except they lack power, have a short battery life and aren’t at all rugged. The Bullfrog line of speakers from Kicker solves all those issues. The BF200, for example, is waterproof, drop-proof, has 20 hours of battery life and features speakers on both sides of the device to create essentially 360 degrees of sound.

If for some reason you want to go old school, there is also a FM tuner and, of course, ports for charging the device (2.5 hours to full charge), juicing up your phone and an aux port. Available in grey/white or black/green it’s been keeping my apartment full of tunes the past few weeks and comes into the kitchen without me worrying about “messing it up” with an errant sauteed onion or splash of water. — Bradley Hasemeyer, Contributor

Buy Now: $300

Essential Phone

The Essential Phone was my primary smartphone for the better part of ten days, and while it obviously didn’t have iMessage, part of me adored it. That “pure” Android OS experience reminded me of last year’s Google Pixel, which I loved, and it’s also a beautiful device.

It’s nicely weighted, thanks to titanium and ceramic construction, and has a huge edge-to-edge display. The camera is good, not amazing, though, and its modular 360-degree camera add-on wasn’t practical — I never wanted to bring it with me anywhere. The main selling point for this phone is its price. It’s a $499 smartphone that has nearly all of the high-end specs you’d find in the best Android smartphones, like the Galaxy S8 or Google Pixel 2. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer

Read the review, here.

Buy Now: $499

Motiv Ring Fitness Tracker

The Motiv Ring has been something of a mirage for the past year. It won an innovation award at CES in January and people got excited about it — then it went away without word on availability. Now it’s out (for iOS) and I’ve finally gotten my finger on one. The idea is the ring counts steps and calories and also monitors sleep. I’ll withhold final judegment for my final review, but after a few days, I can say that the Motiv Ring does work as advertised. It won’t replace a dedicated fitness tracker, like an Apple Watch, but for somebody who doesn’t want to charge a device every night, or wants a device that’s not uncomfortable wearing to bed, this looks to be a good option. There’s also nothing like it out there. — Tucker Bowe, Staff Writer

Buy Now: $199

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