The Best and Biggest Gadgets of September 2021
September means fall is here, and that doesn’t just mean cooler weather and a new school year. It also means a deluge of new consumer gadgets. This September brought not only a new iPhone, but a new suite of Microsoft Surface devices, a smattering of new cameras, some great audio gear and more.
Here’s what you need to know about from this month.
Meze Audio Elite
Meze Audio announced its new flagship headphones, the Elite, which have the company’s most advanced planar magnetic drivers to date. They’ve been in the works for the last three years and take advantage of a partnership with Rinaro Isodynamics, a specialist in planar-magnetic drivers. Apparently, the Elite are supposed to produce a better, more realistic and more vibrant sound than the Empyrean, Meze’s old flagship pair of cans. Audiophiles, take note.
Fujifilm GFX 50S II
The Fujifilm GFX 50S II is the company newest medium-format camera — and starting at $3,999 (body only), it’s also the most affordable medium-format camera ever. In a nutshell, the GFX 50S II is essentially a less-nice version of the GFX 100S, which starts $5,999. It has a large 51.4-megapixel sensor and a similar-sized body, but it lacks the GFX 100S’s much adored phase-detect autofocus system, opting instead for a contrast-detection autofocus system. It also has a smaller and lower-mag viewfinder. (DPReview has a nice early review, for those who want to learn more.)
Bose QuietComfort 45
Bose officially the QuietComfort 45. They are the direct successors to the QuietComfort 35 II (last updated in 2017), and Bose basically updated everything about them — except the design, which remains mostly the same. The QuietComfort 45 have a new active noise cancellation system. They have an improved mic array to help with calls. And they charge via USB-C. You can preorder the QuietComfort 45 today and they’ll be available everywhere on September 23. They will come in Bose’s familiar black or white finishes.
Twelve South StayGo mini
The StayGo mini is a USB-C hub for Apple’s latest iPad Air and iPad Pro, as well as any one of its latest MacBook. It adds USB-A, HDMI (supports one 4K external display) and USB-C ports, the latter for passthrough power, as well as a dedicated headphone jack. It’s essentially a smaller and more affordable version of the company’s StayGo.
The Wyze Buds are the company’s second pair of true wireless earbuds, following the Wyze Buds Pro that were also just recently released. The non-Pro models ditch the stemmed look of their Pro siblings and adopt a more traditional earbud design. They also are $16 cheaper than the Pros, but lack their active noise-cancellation and support for wireless charging.
Jabra Elite 3, Elite 7 Active and Elite 7 Pro
Jabra introduced the next-generation of its wireless earbud line. There are three new models. The Elite 3 are company’s new affordable option, costing just $79. The Elite 7 Active are the company’s newest rugged earbuds designed for runners and athletes; they’ll cost $179. And the Elite 7 Pro (pictured), which will cost $199, are the company’s new flagship option with active noise-cancellation. As for its old Elite 65t and Elite 75t earbuds, those are getting phased out.
Price: $79 — $199
Polaroid’s newest instant film camera, the Now+, is an updated version of the company’s Now. The “Plus” model is unique because it comes with five different physical lens filters that attach to lens and bring color and effects to the final image; there are four color filters (red, yellow, orange and blue) as well as a “startburst” filter. It also works with a companion smartphone app that allows you to adjust settings like aperture, bokeh, shutter speed and flash before you take the shot.
JBL Flip 6
JBL announced several new portable speakers and wireless earbuds this week, with the standout being the new Flip 6. It’s a new and improved version of the fan-favorite Flip 5 portable speaker. It has a more rugged design (IP67 vs the Flip 5’s IPX7), some updated internals and a redesigned JBL logo on its side. It’ll be available this December.
Bose Smart Soundbar 900
This week, Bose introduced its latest flagship soundbar, the Smart Soundbar 900, and it’s exciting because it’s the company’s first ever soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos (finally!). The new soundbar — which replaces the Bose Smart Soundbar 700 in the company’s lineup — has a HDMI eARC connection, supports multiple streaming methods over Wi-Fi (including AirPlay 2) and Bluetooth, and it can be integrated to support Alexa and Google Assistant so you can summon music with your voice. At $900, this is very much a competitor to the Sonos Arc.
The Bose Smart Soundbar 900 is available everywhere on September 23, but you can preorder it now.
LG Xboom 360 RP4
The Xboom 360 RP4 is LG’s newest portable party speaker. It’s not a small speaker, weighing nearly 13, but it’s able true 360-degree audio and output a hefty 120-watts of power. It has an integrated handle and, most conspicuously, a lantern that can be customized (via a companion app) to shine whatever color you want the party vibe to be. The speaker will be available this month.
DJI OM 5
The DJI OM 5 is the company’s newest smartphone gimbal and the successor to the OM 4. (FYI: “OM” is the new name for rebranded Osmo line.”) The new model has basically the same foldable design, but it’s slightly smaller and more compact. It has improved gimbal motors and an upgraded magnetic clamp (so it should be easier to attach and detach your smartphone). And, most significantly, the OM 5 has a telescoping selfie stick that’s built right into the handle — to help make getting the perfect shot a little bit easier.
The Sony HT-A5000 is the company’s newest Dolby Atmos soundbar, and it’s essentially a smaller and $400-cheaper version of the company’s HT-A7000 soundbar, which was recently announced in July. The HT-A5000 is a 5.1.2-channel soundbar (instead of a HT-A7000’s 7.1.2) and supports all the same technologies, including Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and 360 Reality Audio. It has one HDMI 2.1 (eARC) connection (instead of HT-A7000’s two), making it a great option for people with new TVs and next-generation consoles.
The Logi Dock is Logitech’s newest all-in-one hub for your home workstation. It’s decked out with multiple ports — USB-C (3x), USB-A (2x), DisplayPort and HDMI — and it supports up to 100-watts of passthrough power, which allows it to power up to two external monitors and charge your laptop. However, what makes the Logi Dock really unique is its built-in speaker (along with excellent mics) that are designed to elevate your video conferencing experience. It’s compatible with both Macs and Windows PCs, as well as popular video conferencing services like Zoom, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams. It’s also available in two colors: white or graphite (shown).
Amazon Fire TV Omni Series
After years of licensing its Fire TV operating system to TV manufacturers like Toshiba and Insignia, Amazon is finally making its own hardware to pair with its software. That’s right, Amazon is getting into the TV business. The company announced this week that it’s going to make two lines of “Amazon-built” 4K TVs. There will be the higher-end Omni Series, which will range from a 43-inch model ($410) to a 75-inch model ($1,100), and a more budget-friendly 4-Series, which will range from a 43-inch model ($370) to a 55-inch model ($520). The biggest difference between the two lines is that the Omni Series will have Alexa integrated right into the TV, so you’ll be able to summon shows or adjust volume without touching the remote.
Both lines of “Amazon-built” TVs will start shipping in October and are available for preorder now.
Price: $410 — $1,100
The Ray-Ban Stories is a pair of smart glasses that were developed in tandem with Facebook. They have built-in cameras that allow you to record 30-second videos and take photos (which are intended to be easily shareable on Facebook or Instagram), as well as built-in speakers to listen to music from your smartphone or answer calls. In this way, the Ray-Ban Stories are kind of a mix between Snap’s Spectacles and Bose’s Frames, with the big difference being that they look disarmingly like regular Ray-Ban sunglasses. They are available in three different frames (including Wayfarers) and five different colored lenses.
The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini
The iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini have pretty much the same design as the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 mini, but Apple aligned the dual rear-camera system diagonally (instead of right on top of each other) and made the notch a little bit smaller. Apple has given the iPhone 13 its brand-new A15 Bionic chipset to give it a number of gains in performance and efficiency. Both new iPhones have bigger and longer-lasting batteries, as well as a screen that’s 20-percent brighter. The biggest improvement has been with the cameras, as Apple has integrated both iPhone 13 models with a new custom 12-megapixel ultrawide sensor, so they’re able to take better lowlight photos and it enables a new Cinematic mode to shoot far superior video (it detects who is in frame and automatically changes focus). Each new iPhone 13 now has a starting storage capacity of 128GB.
The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max
Apple has introduced two new “Pro” models of its iPhone 13. The iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max have the same flat-edged design as last year’s predecessors, but Apple has upgraded them with a smaller notch, a more durable body, its A15 Bionic chipset — now with a 5-core GPU — and a Super Retina Display with a 120Hz refresh rate (which Apple calls “ProMotion”). They have a vastly improved camera system with a new telephoto lens (with 3x optical), a new ultra-wide lens with a larger sensor, and a wide lens with f.15 aperture. The camera system will allow you to take more cinematic videos and better macro photography thanks to a new Macro mode. And they’re the first iPhones to ever be available in a 1TB storage option.
The Apple Watch Series 7
Apple introduced the Apple Watch Series 7 today. It has smaller bezels and a 20-percent bigger screen than the Series 6, but keeps the same curved edges (there were rumors that they were going to be flat). It’s has a more durable design, with an IPX6 rating, making it the most rugged Apple Watch yet. Apple says that it is also shipping the Series 7 with a faster charging puck that will charge it up to 33-percent faster.
The Series 7 will be available later this fall and will start at $399. Apple will continue to sell the Apple Watch SE and Series 3. It will not continue to sell the Series 6.
A Completely Redesigned iPad mini
Apple introduced a new and redesigned iPad mini that looks very similar to the previous iPad Air. It has flat edges, thinner bezels, a larger display (now 8.3-inches) and Touch ID integrated right into the power button. It has new and improved front and rear camera systems, and charges via USB-C — a big deal! — which opens it up to faster changer and support for new accessories. Additionally, the new mini thankfully works with the second-generation Apple Pencil, which will magnetically clips and charges to your new iPad mini, and supports 5G connectivity.
A New Entry-Level iPad
Apple introduced a new entry-level iPad. It looks very similar to the previous 10.2-inch iPad, but Apple gave it an upgraded A13 Bionic chipset, a much improved selfie camera (now a 12-megapixel, ultra-wide lens that supports CenterStage), support for True Tone, and it starts at 64GB of storage. It still only supports the first-generation Apple Pencil, unfortunately.
Sonos Beam (Gen 2)
On Tuesday, Sonos announced the second generation of its Sonos Beam soundbar, notable for being a Dolby Atmos capable soundbar that comes in under the $500 mark at just $449. At half the price of the flagship Sonos Arc (which is now $900 after a price hike that affected a number of Sonos speakers), the Beam makes for a relatively affordable entry into Dolby Atmos for the relatively budget conscious, or those with small rooms to fill. Without the upward-firing drivers of the Arc, it won’t have quite the same quality (or quantity) of sound, but it’s definitely a worthwhile addition to many a Sonos system for its size and price.
LG’s 325-inch DVLED TV
If you’re looking for a home theater without restraint, look no further than LG’s latest behemoth display that really puts the “theater” in home theater. Less a series of discrete products and more of an option to order custom displays, LG’s Direct View LED Extreme Home Cinema Displays range in resolution from 2K to 8K and size from 108 inches to 325 inches — that is to say, 9 feet to just over 27. How much does it cost? Well, if you have to ask…. (A little over a mil and a half.)
Price: Honestly, too much.
Xiaomi 11T Pro
You won’t have an easy time putting your hands on Xiaomi’s latest flagship if you live here in the States, but it’s worth highlighting if for no other reason than to talk about the way it charges. The 11T Pro comes with a 120W charger that Xiaomi says can charge the phone’s 5,000 mAh battery from 0-100 in about 17 minutes. For reference, Apple’s MagSafe chargers pump power at a rate less than a tenth of that: 15W, at the high end.
Now, do you need your battery to go from 0-100 in 17 minutes? Probably not. Is it good for the battery? Also probably no. Is it impressive as hell? Well duh.
Canon EOS R3
No, it’s not for normies, but Canon’s new sports-focused not-quite-flagship EOS R3 is one impressive bit of specialist photography kit. The high-end full-frame mirrorless EOS R3 sports a 24MP CMOS sensor, but its main attraction is probably Canon’s Dual Pixel AF system with automatic tracking for humans, animals and more paired with the ability to shoot up to 30 frames per second (RAW!) with the electronic shutter.
GoPro Hero 10 Black
GoPro’s latest action cam packs a new, homegrown GP2 processor which is the follow up to the GP1 chip the company rolled out in 2017. GoPro credits that upgrade for the Hero 10 Black’s ability to shoot 5.3K at 60 frames per second, 4K at 120 frames per second and 2.7K at 240 frames per second. Another key part of the release is the Hero 10 Black’s cloud capabilities: when connected to power, the GoPro can automatically upload your footage to a cloud account — if you’re paying $5 per month or $50 a year for a subscription. If you buy it from GoPro, you can get it for $400 with an included one-year subscription to get you hooked. Or you can go without a sub and get it for…$100 more. Yeah, it’s weird.
Price: $400 with subscription, $500 without
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Amazon announced an all-new Kindle Paperwhite this week. Compared to the previous Paperwhite — which was three years old — the new model has a bigger display (jumping from 6″ to 6.8″) that also gets brighter and allows you to adjust its color temperature (just like the Kindle Oasis). It has a faster processor, significantly longer-lasting battery (up to 10 weeks on a single charge) and now charges via USB-C. Amazon also announced a “Signature Edition” of this new Paperwhite, which adds Qi-wireless charging, more storage (32GB vs 8GB) and a sensor that automatically adjusts display brightness — but it costs an extra $50.
Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio
The Surface Laptop Studio is a completely new device for Microsoft. It’s essentially a laptop version of the company’s all-in-one desktop, the Surface Studio, as its display folds flat — over the keyboard — making it a form-factor that’s easier for creators and illustrators to draw on. It packs Intel’s latest processor and can be configured with NVIDIA’s high-end graphics card.
The Microsoft Surface Laptop Studio will be available on October 5.
Microsoft Surface Pro 8
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 is the company’s newest “Pro” 2-in-1 laptop that comes decked out with a couple new-age upgrades, including Intel’s newest 11th-generation processor, an near edge-to-edge display with a 120Hz refresh rate, and USB-C charging with support for Thunderbolt 4. There’s also a new stylus, the Slim Pen 2, with haptic feedback, so it feels more like your writing/drawing (but it costs an extra $130).
The Microsoft Surface Pro 8 will be available on October 5 (the same release date as Windows 11).
Microsoft Surface Duo 2
The Surface Duo 2 is the second-generation version of the company’s folding phone with a hinge — and it’s quite the upgrade. Microsoft gave it larger and better displays (now with a 90Hz refresh rate). It added a slender display on the outside hinge of the Surface Duo 2, so that you can see things like time and notifications without opening the smartphone up. It also upgraded the rear-camera system so that it’s actually flagship quality; it has ultra-wide, wide and telephoto lenses.
The Microsoft Surface Duo 2 is available for pre-order now and will hit stores on October 21.
HP Spectre x360 16 Laptop
HP announced its newest 2-in-1 laptop in its Spectre x360 line. The brand-new Spectre x360 16 is the first in the line with a 16-inch display. It’s also the first that you can configure with an OLED display, which will give you a more beautiful picture with far superior contrast. The new 16-inch model comes with a few more obvious upgrades, like Intel’s latest 11-generation chipsets, improved battery performance and a large port selection (including Thunderbolt 4).
Audeze is a California audio company that specializes in planar magnetic headphones. This week, it announced its newest pair flagship headphones, the LCD-5 (replacing the 2015-released LCD-4), which have a newly-designed driver, a new sloped leather earpads and improved carbon fibre headband. According to company, the LCD-5 set a new standard for accuracy when it comes to planar magnetic headphones. As you’d probably expect, this “new standard” comes with a true audiophile price tag.
Roku Streaming Stick 4K
Roku announced a new $50 streaming stick that replaces the company’s old Streaming Stick Plus. The big upgrade with the new Streaming Stick 4K is that it has a faster processor and now supports Dolby Vision HDR, which most new-age 4K TVs now also support. Like previous streaming dongles, the Streaming Stick 4K plugs directly into your TV’s HDMI port and works with the major smart home ecosystems (Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple’s HomeKit). It also comes with the Roku’s voice remote.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K will be available in October.
Plugable Thunderbolt 4 Hub
Plugable announced a neat new hub for USB-C laptops. It adds a number of useful ports and is compatible with many of today’s most popular USB-C standards — most significantly being Thunderbolt 4. The big thing with Thunderbolt 4 is that allows for faster data transfer (up to 40Gpbs), 60-watts of power deliver and support for up to two 4K displays (both over USB-C).
The nicely named “TBT4-HUB3C” hub is available now and is compatible with both Mac and Windows computers.
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