Moto Z Review: The Modular Compromise
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Moto Z Review: The Modular Compromise

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With the Moto Z from Lenovo buyers will get a premium Android smartphone with a big screen, plenty to offer and great performance, but at a compromise. The days of a $400 Moto X with dozens of colors and custom designs to choose from are long gone. Now we have two: the Moto Z and then the Moto Z Force DROID, which is exclusive to Verizon Wireless.

Everything that made the Moto X successful these past few years has been ditched for a modular design that makes the phone more capable, but at nearly twice the cost. The high price tag, poor battery life and lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack are a few of many compromises that were required to make this modular phone become a reality.

Read: Moto Z Release: 5 Things You Need to Know

What makes the Moto Z different is Moto Mods, snap-on magnetic accessories that transform it into a phone with better battery life, a boombox, or even a projector for movies and presentations.

Are the mods worth it and does this phone live up to the hype? Read on to find out. This is our Moto Z review.

Moto-Z-mods

Motorola sent over the Moto Z and Moto Z Force DROID for Verizon Wireless, which are available now starting at $624 at $720. It’s the best modular smartphone yet, but still has a long way to go. Below we’ll explain everything these phones have to offer, what makes them unique, where the mods fall short, and everything else in-between.

What We Like:

  • Big and beautiful 5.5-inch Quad-HD AMOLED display
  • Better camera than any other Moto
  • Premium metal design and lots of customization
  • Fast and accurate fingerprint scanner
  • Smooth nearly stock version of Android

What We Don’t Like:

  • Poor battery life without Moto Mods
  • Moto Z Force is good where the Moto Z fails, but exclusive to Verizon
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack, and a USB adapter we’ll surely lose
  • Moto Mods are great but not practical

Bottom Line: In the end the Moto Z has a beautiful 5.5-inch display, a fast and clean version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, a premium unibody metal design, and finally performance and cameras that can live up to the competition.

However where it falls short is the important part. The Moto Z doesn’t have very good battery life, the Moto Mods don’t make enough sense and are extremely impractical, yet it’s priced nearly as high as other flagships like the Galaxy S7. The opposite of what we’ve come to love from the company in the Moto X. It’s nice to see Lenovo try something different while all other phones are the same slab of metal and glass, but we’re not sure it’s worth all the trade-offs. If you don’t plan on using the Moto Mods, this probably isn’t the phone for you.

As a reminder the Moto Z will be available in the near future unlocked from Motorola. While the better of the two, the Moto Z Force DROID is exclusive to Verizon. What’s the difference between the two? The Moto Z Force has a bigger 3,500 mAh battery, a better 21 megapixel camera (vs 13MP on the Moto Z) and a shatterproof display. It’s available now from Verizon for $720.

Moto Z Display

This year Motorola may have the perfect screen. It’s the right size coming in at 5.5-inches, and they went back to using a high quality AMOLED display with a 2560 x 1440 Quad HD resolution. It gets extremely bright, has vivid colors, crisp text and dark blacks. It’s one of the best screens we’ve used (although the title for best screen still belongs to Samsung).

Moto-Z-front

Over the past few years Motorola has offered a slew of screen sizes, never the same as the previous year. The first Moto X was 4.7-inches and then it went up to 5.2, followed by a huge 5.7-inch screen last year. Now Lenovo is in charge, it’s called the Moto Z and it’s the perfect middle ground sitting at 5.5-inches.

We consider this to be the perfect screen size, and using an AMOLED display pairs perfectly with Motorola’s hands-free always on software. A quick swipe of your hand over the screen will turn it on in a low power state, displaying missed calls or texts, notifications for emails, battery life and more. It’s a nice touch that Motorola owners have come to love and it works perfectly on the Moto Z.

Screen size aside the phone is quite large, with big bezels on the top and bottom. In fact, the phone is taller and wider than the similarly sized Galaxy S7 Edge. Part of that is due to a new fingerprint scanner below the screen, a first for Motorola, along with a front-facing speaker in the earpiece up top.

Moto Z Design

The Moto Z is one of the thinnest flagship phones we’ve ever used, coming in at 5.2mm thick. The display blends right into the curved and chamfered metal edge and sides, making it comfortable and easy to hold.

It’s a shiny all-metal phone with a huge protruding camera on back, and gold metal pins that have a beautiful contrast. I like how it looks, although those pins will likely be covered up by a case, Moto Mod accessory, or one of the leather or wood shells that Motorola is offering. It’s clear the design had to be a certain way for the mods to work.

Moto-Z-thin

Adding a Motorola Style Shell cover makes the camera sit flush with the rest of the body, but then that’s another purchase for the user. Without it the camera will be exposed and is somewhat of an eye-sore.

On the front we have a dedicated flash for selfies, the earpiece and front-facing speaker, and the new fingerprint scanner. It looks like a home bottom similar to Samsung devices, but it isn’t and that might take some getting used to.

There’s a micro-SD slot on top for expanding storage, and three buttons on the right side. The volume up, down and power button are all the same size and next to each other, which could be frustrating for some. We’d prefer them to be separated on each side of the phone.

The worst part of the design is the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack. This phone doesn’t have one. That’s likely due to how thin the phone is, but the thicker Moto Z Force doesn’t have one either. Instead, Motorola included a USB Type-C to 3.5mm adapter in the box. Meaning in order to use headphones owners need to bring an adapter, and users can’t charge the phone and listen to music at the same time.

Moto Mods

Now for the exciting part: Moto Mods. The entire idea around this phone is owners can add accessories in seconds that transform the phone into much more. Motorola did an amazing job here, too. Well, at least in the delivery and function.

There are no menus, no bluetooth connections to confuse your parents, no need to eject the battery like the LG G5. Nothing. Simply snap a JBL Soundboost speaker, portable battery pack or even the Motorola InstaShare Projector on the back and it just works. The pins make the connection, magnets secure them in place, and instantly users have longer battery life, loud crisp music, or a movie beaming on the wall. It works, and it works well. Here’s a quick video with more details.

These aren’t loose, they don’t wobble, and users won’t feel like it’s going to fall off. The magnets are extremely strong. The entire thing is quite brilliant and by far the most impressive part of this phone.

Read: 14 Exciting Moto Mods for the Moto Z

Motorola and their partners have designed some awesome accessories for this phone, but at a cost. Here’s the breakdown for those curious.

  •  JBL SoundBoost is available for $79.99
  • Moto Insta-Share Projector is available for $299.99
  • TUMI, Kate Spade New York, and Incipio Power Packs are available from $59.99 to $89.99

It’s also worth noting that the Motorola “Style Shells” that add genuine leather, real wood backs, carbon fiber, ballistic nylon and other styles and textures to the back of the phone are on Motorola.com for $19.99-$25.

Moto-mods

This is where my love-hate relationship with the Moto Z arrives. The mods are so easy that a 5-year old could use them, but they aren’t practical. By itself this phone is sleek, thin, lightweight and quite nice. Add on a battery pack and it becomes heavier than any phone on the market, thick and clunky.

The Moto Z has a tiny 2,600 mAh battery and a large 5.5-inch display. As a comparison the Galaxy S7 is 5.1-inches and has a large 3,000 mAh battery. In order to get the Moto Z to last an entire day users need to buy a $60 battery pack that adds 2,200 mAh. This gets us plenty of battery life, but it’s a big compromise. It makes the phone too heavy to use, uncomfortable to hold, and it charges extremely slow. It took over two hours, and only got me to 60%. That isn’t enough. The charger in the box will fully recharge the phone from 0-100% in less than 80 minutes. See the problem?

Moto-Z-unbox

The JBL Soundboost for $79 is pretty awesome. It snaps on and transmits sound in seconds, and even has a little kickstand. It has a built-in 1,000 mAh battery and once dead it will use the phone battery to keep the tunes playing. It gets plenty loud, to the point I found myself turning it down at times. There are little rubber feet on the kickstand too, so it doesn’t slide around on the table. Those little fine touches are nice to see.

Last and certainly least, has to be the Instashare projector. It’s extremely big, heavy, only lasts about an hour, and outputs video at only 480p resolution. Not even HD. Using the projector mod battery and the phone battery users can get through a 2-hour movie, but that’s pushing it. For $299 there are comparable stand-alone projectors, and the same can be said about the speaker. It’s a nice thought, but the compromise on everything else just outweighs the convenience for me, but others might enjoy it more.

shells

The only Moto Mods I see actually being useful that buyers would want to consider are the cheap Style Shells for customization, and the battery packs. Especially considering the Moto Z doesn’t have very good battery life compared to other phones on the market. Below is a picture of the phone and the Incipio 2,200 mAh battery attached, sitting next to a Galaxy S7 Edge. It’s big, heavy and not very practical.

Moto-z-thickmod

Moto Z Specs & Fast Charging

Users and potential buyers should know this phone is as fast and powerful as anything else on the market. It has top-tier specs for 2016, a fast processor, a good camera and more. Basically matching the Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and LG G5 in everything but battery life.

Moto Z Specs

  • 5.5-inch 2560 x 1440 Quad-HD Display
  • Quad-Core Snapdragon 820 processor with 4GB of RAM
  • 32/64GB storage with micro-SD expansion
  • Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow
  • 13 Megapixel Rear Camera with Dual LED Flash, auto focus, OIS
  • 5 Megapixel Front Camera with auto-focus, LED flash, wide angle
  • Metal Design with MotoMaker customization and MotoMods
  • USB Type-C Port with Fast Charging, and USB-C Headphones (no 3.5mm port)
  • 2,600 mAh battery
  • 3.5mm to USB Type-C adapter for headphones
  • Water repellent nano-coating

It isn’t waterproof like the Galaxy S7, but there is a nano-coating that will save it from accidental splashes, so that’s a plus.

One thing we do really love about the Moto Z is the fast charging. The USB Type-C port is reversible and can be plugged in both ways, and supports rapid charging that’s faster than most older phones. Motorola claims users can get 8 hours of battery after just 15 minutes on the included “TurboPower” charger, which takes it from 0-50% very quick. This is a growing trend in smartphones and most flagship devices in 2016 have it too, but it’s still worth mentioning. A quick drive home while charging is usually all it takes to get enough battery for the rest of the night.

Moto Z Camera

The camera has always been a weak link in Motorola phones, but not this year. While it might not be quite as fast or capable as the Galaxy S7, especially in low light, it’s their best yet. The Moto Z has a 13 Megapixel camera with an f/1.8 aperture lens. It features image stabilization, 4k recording, HDR mode and everything you’d expect from a high end device. The Moto Z Force DROID however, has an even better 21 megapixel camera with phase-detection auto focus. We used the Moto Z Force for the photos below.

Moto-Z-cam

A quick double twist of your wrist instantly turns on the camera, even while the phone is off, and it quickly snaps photos. The auto focus isn’t as fast as we’d like, and often times the screen would tell us to hold still while it captured the photo.

The results weren’t the best we’ve ever seen, and the Galaxy S7 is still probably the best camera on Android, but the Moto X is certainly good enough for just about everyone. As an added bonus, this year the camera app received a major overhaul. It isn’t plain and lacking in features like before. We have a nice clean interface, tons of controls, a full-out professional mode, auto mode and more. It essentially gives users great photos with ease, or complete control of everything for those who need it. The focus wasn’t as fast as I’d like, and low light scenarios aren’t the best we’ve seen either. Here are a few samples.

Those looking for an excellent camera experience should consider Samsung or the HTC 10. Not to say the Moto Z is bad, it just isn’t as consistent as some other options. It also added multiple photos to the gallery as part of a burst “best shot” mode, which make digging through photos even more confusing, and wasted space.

Moto Z Battery Life & Performance

We’ll start with the good news first, which is performance. The Moto Z has a powerful quad-core processor and 4GB of RAM, and runs nearly stock Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow. It’s one of the fastest and smoothest phones I’ve ever used to date. The fingerprint scanner is fast and easy to setup. Everything about this phone is fast and a joy to use. It’s like a Nexus experience, without all the software changes we often see from Samsung, LG or HTC. It’s Android the way Google envisioned it, with a few helpful additions from Motorola.

Moto-Z-fingerprint

Things like Moto Display for at-a-glance information, quick launch for the camera, hands-free voice controls and more. All of that is neatly integrated into stock Android. This means we should get quicker software updates, less bloatware, and a smooth experience across the board. Motorola hasn’t been the best lately with software updates, so we’ll have to wait and see.

We do have a lot of Verizon bloatware, but that won’t be an issue on the unlocked model being released in the near future.

The bad part, though, is battery life. In an effort to make this phone extremely thin, and flat for the mods, battery life suffers. Thankfully it features quick charging because you’re going to need it, and often.

Moto-z-battery

Under the hood we have a small 2,600 mAh battery. That simply isn’t big enough for a phone with a 5.5-inch screen. As a comparison both the Galaxy S7 and HTC 10 have a smaller display with a bigger 3,000 mAh battery. They both last a lot longer too.

Long story short, the Moto Z barely lasts an entire day at best, and typically only had enough battery for about 3 hours of the all important “screen-on time.” One day I managed to go 11 hours on a single charge with 2 hours of usage, but another day it was dead by 1:30 in the afternoon. Which left me searching for a Moto Mod battery pack. Then when I found one, it charged so slowly that by the time I got home the phone was only at 29%. The battery backs don’t offer the same fast charging, and it felt more like a band-aid than anything. I still needed to use my wall outlet and charger.

The battery packs will still come in handy, and users will want fast chargers at home, in the car, and at work if you don’t want to get caught with a dead battery. The Moto Z Force DROID has a bigger 3,500 mAh battery, however, which is comparable to the Galaxy S7 Edge. This lasted over 24 hours on a single charge, all day at work and overnight, and typically received a solid 5 hours of screen on time. It’s a much better route, but only available on Verizon Wireless.

Final Thoughts

In closing, it’s hard to recommend the Moto Z to anyone unless they plan to buy the Moto Mods, or are on Verizon and can get the Moto Z Force DROID. While it has a lot to offer, great performance, clean software and a decent camera, the design and battery life all had to be compromised to make the modular accessories come to life.

Moto-Z-cover

In a market with tough competition from Apple with the iPhone, a better phone across the board with stellar battery life, or the Galaxy S7 with one of the best cameras, or even the sleek HTC 10, the Moto Z falls short in a few areas for the price. Sure $624 is a little less than other phones on the market, but after buying some Moto Mods those savings go out the window.

The entire idea behind Moto Mods is wonderful, they work amazingly well and are dead simple to use. Aside from showing them off and having a little fun the compromises far outweigh any benefits. On the other hand, Motorola claims these mods will work with the next Moto Z in 2017, so at least potential users are buying into a platform with future support.

At the end of the day the Moto Z isn’t a bad phone, it just isn’t one of the best either. If buyers can live with average battery life or love the idea of buying a bunch of mods, accessories, style shells and more, it’s still a plenty capable smartphone with some potential upside.

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Best MacBook Pro 16 Cases, Covers & Skins

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Here are the best MacBook Pro 16 cases, covers, and skins that you can buy. Apple’s new MacBook Pro with a 16-inch display is larger and thicker than the 15-inch model, so you will need to buy a new case or sleeve, but it should fit in most bags and backpacks.

With a thicker and heavier MacBook Pro, your choice of case or sleeve is even more important. The initial selection of MacBook Pro 16 cases is slim, but we expect to see this change quickly.

I’m a huge fan of using a MacBook Pro 16 skin and then putting it into a bag or a sleeve depending where I am going. The skin keeps the MacBook Pro looking pristine, which is great when you upgrade and sell it. A skin also makes it easier to customize the look and to easily add stickers to the MacBook Pro without leaving residue behind.

Read: Best MacBook Pro 16-inch Accessories 

Apple sells an official leather MacBook Pro 16 sleeve, which looks very nice, but there will be other options out there soon as companies test fit and start shipping new cases, sleeves and skins.

  1. dbrand MacBook Pro 16 Skin – $24.95 and up
  2. Incase Compact Sleeve with BIONIC – $49.95
  3. Skinit MacBook Pro 16 Skins – $29.99
  4. i-Blason Halo Case – $24.99
  5. Woolnut Leather Sleeve for MacBook Pro 16 – €90 (~$99 USD)
  6. Moshi Codex MacBook Pro 16 Sleeve – $84.95
  7. Waterfield Vero Leather Sleeve for MacBook Pro 16 – $129
  8. Pad & Quill Cartella Slim Case – $101.96
  9. tomtoc MacBook Pro 16-inch Sleeve – $22
  10. i-Blason Rugged MacBook Pro 16 Case – $35.99
  11. Waterfield Suede Jacket Sleeve – $29
  12. STM Blazer MacBook Pro 16 Sleeve – $39.95

There are also plenty of great bags to put your MacBook Pro 16 in. I’m currently a fan of the SF Bags Pro Executive Backpack, but they also have a new Executive Leather briefcase made with the 16-inch Macbook Pro in mind.

dbrand MacBook Pro 16 Skin – $24.95 and up

Customize the look and protect your new device with a dbrand MacBook Pro 16 skin.

Customize the look and protect your new device with a dbrand MacBook Pro 16 skin.

dbrand makes great skins for the MacBook Pro and they have a version for the MacBook Pro 16-inch. they offer a range of materials including Matrix, Swarm, Camo, Dragon, Carbon Fiber, Stone, Leather, Matte, Metal, Wood, and True Color. You can choose to get the skin with or without an Apple Cutout. I normally choose without and go for Carbon Fiber. I like that the materials have some grip to them, which makes holding your Macbook Pro as you carry it around your house or an office much easier.

You can also pick an optional Trackpad, Palmrest, and Bottom skin. You can match these or you can choose different colors and textures to customize the look of your Macbook Pro.

The top skin is $24.95 and you can choose the other skins if you want them, bringing a full skin price up to $62.80.

Incase Compact Sleeve with BIONIC – $49.95

This MacBook Pro sleeve is made from BIONIC thread, created from marine plastic waste.

This is a great MacBook Pro 16 case that is created from BIONIC yarn that is a material made from recovered plastic pollution in the marine and coastal environments. This makes it a sustainable option, and it is a really nice option.

You get a decent amount of padding, a very nice zipper with a pull tab, and a zippered storage compartment for chargers and adapters. This sleeve is slim enough that you can still put it in a bag.

Skinit MacBook Pro 16 Skins – $29.99

Skinit offers textures and tons of licensed skins for the MacBook Pro 16 as well as a custom one with your design.

Skinit offers textures and tons of licensed skins for the MacBook Pro 16 as well as a custom one with your design.

Skinit offers an amazing array of MacBook Pro 16 skins that cover the back of your new MacBook. They sell Carbon Fiber and other textures as well as loads of licensed skins from Marvel, DC, the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA, colleges, Disney anime and more.

This is an awesome way to customize the look of your MacBook Pro. You can even upload your own artwork or photo to be on the back of the MacBook Pro. Make a design you love or add a logo for your business.

The cases are $29.99 and you can often find discounts and deals on their homepage.

i-Blason Halo Case – $24.99

i-Blason Halo Case for MacBook Pro 16 inch (2019 Release), Ultra Slim Translucent Hard Case Protective Clear Cover for New MacBook Pro 16" with Touch Bar and Touch ID (Frost/Clear)
  • Designed for New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inch (2019 Release), (Model Number: A2141)
  • Flexible Hard Shell translucent cover with matte finish allows Apple logo to show through the case, yet provides protection from scratches and drops
  • Bottom of case features elevated rubberized corners and is vented for safe heat disbursement
  • Precise construction allows complete access to all ports, features, buttons, Touch Bar and Touch ID function
  • iBlason offers a one-year warranty and 100% satisfaction guarantee

The i-Blason Halos MacBook Pro 16 case is a slim hard case that is clear and that will keep your MacBook Pro safe from scratches as well as help protect from drops and dings. The case is designed specifically for the new MacBook Pro, and there is ventilation and rubber feet on the bottom.

Woolnut Leather Sleeve for MacBook Pro 16 – €90 (~$99 USD)

The Woolnut Leather Sleeve is made of soft vegetable tanned leather from Scandinavia and it is one of the best leather sleeves you can buy. There is a 100% wool felt interior that keeps your MacBook Pro 16 safe from scratches and the seams add a lot of protection while looking beautiful.

Available in Cognac and Black, this is an amazing case that’s great for carrying your MacBook Pro 16 around, or for sliding into a bag for added protection.

€76.50 (~$84 USD) at Woolnut

Moshi Codex MacBook Pro 16-inch Sleeve

The Moshi Codex is a MacBook Pro sleeve that protects your MacBook Pro on the go and while you use it.

The Moshi Codex is a MacBook Pro sleeve that protects your MacBook Pro on the go and while you use it.

The Moshi Codex is a sleeve for the MacBook Pro 16-inch with a beautiful vegan leather finish in Onyx Black or Burgundy Red with a light leather tan accent. The interior is coated in Viscotex memory foam for protection.

The zipper wraps all around and the clamshell design keeps it on your MacBook Pro while you are using the computer. There are small rubber feet inside to keep your MacBook in place.

$84.85 at Moshi

Waterfield Vero Leather Sleeve for MacBook Pro 16 – $129

The Waterfield Designs VERO Leather Sleeve is an amazing MacBook Pro sleeve that fits nicely and offers a good deal of protection if you like to carry your MacBook in just a sleeve.

The reinforced grip area makes it easy to hold onto and the corners are very tough to add protection. The stitching looks great and has held up nicely. This also wears over time, picking up a patina and scratches that only add to the look of this case. There is an opening near the top so you can still charge the MacBook Pro while it is in this sleeve.

$129 at SFBags

Pad & Quill Cartella Slim Case – $101.96

The Pad & Quill Cartella slim MacBook Pro case looks like a book, and it’s made using the same binding techniques that bookmakers have used for years. This is a slim option that looks impressive, is hand made and comes with a 1-year warranty. There is a 3M adhesive technology to lock the MacBook Pro in place, but you can take it out and put it back in many times with no residue. There are three color options, Linen Gray, Charcoal and Cranberry. The Moleskin inspired design inclides an elastic strap to keep it closed.

$101.96 at Pad & Quill

tomtoc MacBook Pro 16-inch Sleeve – $22

tomtoc 360 Protective Laptop Sleeve for 16-inch MacBook Pro 2019-2020 A2141, 15-inch Old MacBook Pro Retina 2012-2015, Surface Book 3/2 15 Inch, Ultrabook Notebook Bag Case with Accessory Pocket
  • CornerArmor Patent: Compared with other similar laptop sleeve, tomtoc sleeve comes with original CornerArmor patent design at the bottom protects your device from drops and bumps, like the car airbag
  • 360° Protection: Thick internal plush lining cushioning provides shock absorption; 360° protective padding around the zipper prevents potential scratches
  • Durable & Compact: Specially made with YKK zipper for secure and long-lasting usage; Compact design, easy to carry alone or fit inside another Messenger Bag or backpack
  • Accessory Pocket: Comes with a front pocket for accessories, such as iPad, charger, cable, smartphone, etc.
  • Custom Made for Perfect Fit: Internal Dimensions - 14.13" x 9.73" x 0.71", Designed for 16-inch New MacBook Pro 2019-2020 (A2141) | 15-inch Old MacBook Pro Retina 2012-2015 (A1398); Also fit: 15 inch Microsoft Surface Book 3/2 | ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 (15”)

For users looking for an affordable sleeve that offers padded protection and that is spill-resistant, the tomtoc MacBook Pro 16 sleeve is a nice option. This includes re-inforced corners for added protection, an outer pocket to carry a charger or accessories and uses YKK zippers.

i-Blason Rugged MacBook Pro 16 Case – $35.99

Users that need more protection will appreciate the i-Blason rugged case that is designed to protect the MacBook Pro 16 from drops up to 48 inches repeatedly. The corners are designed to absorb a lot of shocks and keep your MacBook Pro safe. This snaps on and includes openings for ventilation. You also get raised rubber feet and the top of the lid is clear so you can show off the Apple logo.

Waterfield Suede Jacket Sleeve – $29

The Suede Jacket Macbook Pro sleeve is custom fit for the MacBook Pro 16-inch.

The Suede Jacket Macbook Pro sleeve is custom fit for the MacBook Pro 16-inch.

The Waterfield Suede Jacket MacBook Pro 16 sleeve is a super slim sleeve that is perfect for putting your MacBook Pro in and then putting it in a bag. This is incredibly thin and light, so it’s perfect for short trips or for keeping your MacBook Pro safe on a plane when your bag is in the overhead. This s my favorite super-slim MacBook Pro sleeve.

$29 at SFBags

STM Blazer MacBook Pro 16 Sleeve – $39.95

The best MacBook Pro 16 sleeve with a shoulder strap.

The best MacBook Pro 16 sleeve with a shoulder strap.

STM offers the Blazer MacBook Pro 16 sleeve with a sharp-looking design, four color options, and an accent color, plus you also get a strap to carry the sleeve with if you want to travel light. The material is water repellent to keep rain and spills off your MacBook Pro. There is an external pocket for storing items and the sleeve uses 8mm foam for added protection.

$39.95 at STM

Last update on 2020-09-19. This post may contain affiliate links. Click here to read our disclosure policy for more details. Images via Amazon API

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Accessories

Nimble Disc Case Review: Recycled CD iPhone Case

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This plastic case is made from recycled CDs.

The Nimble Disc Case is an iPhone case made from 100% recycled compact discs. Yes, there is a chance that this awesome clear case is made from parts of the N’Sync,  Britney Spears, or Sublime CDs you carried from your car to your bedroom back in high school. Or whatever your favorite CD is.

Made from REPLAY post-consumer compact discs, these cases are available for the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, and iPhone SE 2020 models for $39.95 at Nimble and Verizon.

I’ve been testing the Nimble Disc Case on the iPhone 11 Pro Max for a few weeks and I’m impressed with the quality and excited about the sustainability factor that this case offers.

The Nimble Disc Case offers a lot of grip, and the edges have the right amount of give to them. Many cases are too rigid on the edges, which makes it harder to hold. This case doesn’t add much thickness to the iPhone 11 Pro Max and it still offers six feet of drop protection. This is more than enough protection for my day-to-day needs and while I haven’t tossed this case to the ground with my phone in it, there are features to help keep the phone safe.

There is a nice lip on the front of the Nimble Disc case that keeps the iPhone screen off surfaces when you set it face down, and it helps protect the phone when you drop it. On each back corner is a small raised section that keeps the phone from sliding on smooth surfaces. Overall the case feels very solid and it features all the hallmarks of a protective case in this class.

The front lip protects the screen.

Even with the raised edges, I am still able to reliably use the gestures on the iPhone 11 Pro Max. This was a concern with many of the cases I originally tested that featured lips. The inward curve on the lip helps alleviate that, and possibly I am more adept at using the gestures. I still prefer a case with no lip on the bottom edge, but this one doesn’t hinder switching apps or going to the home screen.

The clear design shows off the color of your iPhone, which is a nice feature. The case is made with anti-yellowing technology so it should stay as clear and crisp looking as day one. After a lot of outdoor use and a day at the beach, the case looks as good as the day I put it on. There is a Nimble Recycle logo on the back, near the bottom of the case and on the right edge of the case is “MADE FROM RECYCLED COMPACT DISCS” text.

The case is scratch-resistant, and it does a decent job of holding up to scratches, but after a month of heavy use, there are a few scuffs and scratches on the outside. This is to be expected, especially since I took this case on multiple hikes where I leaned it up against rocks and trees and to a rocky beach.

There is an anti-microbial coating, which helps keep the case clean. The biggest downside to this case is that like most clear cases, it shows fingerprints. I find myself cleaning the case at least once a week to keep it looking fresh and clean. That’s fairly common though some cases do use an oleophobic coating to keep fingerprints at bay.

The power button was a little stiff at the start, but it flexed after some use on my iPhone 11 Pro Max.

When I first started using the case the power button, or what Apple calls the side button, on the iPhone 11 Pro Max was very stiff and the phone was taking screenshots and it was not easy to activate. I took the case off, flexed the power button 20-30 times and it was better. After a few days of use, the power button started to feel exactly as expected. I would prefer the functionality on day one. Be prepared to wear in the buttons before you put the case on, and then for the first few days of using the case. The iPhone SE case was perfect right out of the box with no flex needed to get a perfect feel for the buttons. The iPhone 11 Pro case we tested did not loosen up enough to use, after trying to flex the buttons the case routinely made the test phone take screenshots when we tried to power it on. It is a good idea to check this when you get your case.

With each purchase, you get a free shipping label to send any used plastic case in for recycling. When you recycle an old case, you get 15% off your next order. The packaging for the case is plastic-free for easy recycling.

Even with the short wear-in period for the iPhone 11 Pro Max case and the issue with the iPhone 11 Pro option, I still like the Nimble Disc Case. The amount of branding just right and it’s a big bonus to have a sustainable case option that doesn’t sacrifice protection. You can buy one at Nimble or from Verizon.

Last update on 2020-09-19. This post may contain affiliate links. Click here to read our disclosure policy for more details. Images via Amazon API

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Best AirPods Skins, Cases and Covers for 2020

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Apple only sells one AirPods color, but with the best AirPods skins, cases, and covers you can customize the look of your AirPods. These work with all AirPods models including the first generation and the current models. These also work on AirPods with wireless charging case.

For less than $20 you can add color or a design to your AirPods and to the AirPods charging case. You can also pick up shock-resistant and rugged AirPods cases that will protect your AirPods when they are in the charging case.

I’m not a huge fan or most AirPods accessories, since the ear loops and neckbands take away from the simplicity that makes AirPods so great, but a skin or a case is a great option to customize your AirPods. If you want to spend more, you can get custom painted AirPods in any color if you want to go that route.

Here are the best AirPods skins that cover each AirPod and skins and cases for the case.

Casetify AirPods Skin Case

Protect your AirPods with these colorful skins that slip on.

The Casetify Neon AirPods Skins are awesome, because they are almost as thin as a skin, but they slide on like a case. That means no lining up the 3M pieces like with most skins, and you still get bright colors and protection for your AirPods case.

I’m using the neon orange AirPods skin from Casetify that comes in a bundle with a red and an orange skin. You can share one color with a friend, or you can mix and match colors. It’s a really nice option and the price is right.

If you have the new wireless charging AirPods 2 case, you can still see the LED through the translucent material. While I still like the waterproof option from Catalyst, this is my new everyday favorite AirPods skin.

$24.95 for a two-pack at Casetify

Element Case Black Ops AirPods Case

An epic AirPods case.

The Element Case Black Ops AirPods Case works with the first and second-generation AirPods. It is made from anodized aluminum, polycarbonate, and silicone to protect your AirPods, offer excellent grip and hand-feel. This case is a match for the Element Case Black Ops case and is designed to withstand drops. You also get a strap to secure them to yourself while on the go. there is a latch to keep the case closed and the design is optimized to work with wireless or wired charging.

$49.99 at Element Case

dband AirPods Skins

dBrand offers a skin that sticks to your AirPods case.

You can get a dbrand AirPods skin or AirPods skin, including an option that works with the wireless charging case. These include some awesome texture and color options.

Pick from 11 different textures and a wide range of colors and patterns. This includes the new swarm option as well as matrix, camo, carbon fiber and some cool natural color options.

These cover just the case, but they cover the full case.

$12.95 at dbrand for AirPods and AirPods 2

DecalGirl AirPods Skins

Change the look of each AirPod as well with DecalGirl.

The DecalGirl AirPods skins come in a wide range of art, designs, logos and patterns. If you are looking for something more than colors and carbon, this is your go to place.

There are artistic designs as well as cool logos from the USAF and other organizations. There are nearly 1,000 AirPods skins to choose from at DecalGirl, which is the largest set of options we’ve found.

DecalGirl is a well known skin maker and these cover the AirPods as well as the case, leaving the corners of the case uncovered.

Most reviews are good, though some users report problems lining up all the holes on the skin with the AirPods.

$9.99 at DecalGirl

AirPods Skins & Stickers on Etsy

Change the look of your AirPods with stickers.

Etsy is home to a ton of AirPods skins and AirPods stickers that style up your AirPods case. Most of the AirPods skins on Etsy cover the case and are fun stickers rather than full-on skins.

Some of the best examples are;

These stickers add a little bit of humor to your AirPods and can help you pick yours out easily if you share them with other people in your house or if half of the office has AirPods too.

$2 and up at Etsy

Catalyst Waterpoof AirPods Case

Catalyst Airpods Case Protective Silicon Cover, Compatible with Airpods Charging Case for Airpods 2, LED Light Visible, Compatible with Wireless Charging, Carabiner, Waterproof - Slate Gray
5,650 Reviews
Catalyst Airpods Case Protective Silicon Cover, Compatible with Airpods Charging Case for Airpods 2, LED Light Visible, Compatible with Wireless Charging, Carabiner, Waterproof - Slate Gray
  • ✅ BETTER BE SAFE THAN SORRY: Protect your AirPods, it worth every penny. It keeps your AirPods safe at all times. A great protection to protect your investment. No elements with get your AirPods down, unless you get striked by the thunder. The Catalyst AirPods case is waterproof 3.3ft and will protect your device against
  • ✅ PEACE OF MIND WITH MILITARY GRADE SHOCK RESISTANCE PROTECTION: Catalyst Case for AirPods exceeds MIL-STD 810G military standard for shocks and drops up to 4ft (1 meter). It is made of impact resistant, scratch proof, rugged polycarbonate with a light premium silicone case.
  • ✅ ENJOY THE OUTDOORS: Rain – Water – Snow – Smudge – Seawater – Dust – the elements don’t hold back the Catalyst Case for AirPods, you can adventure with assurance and without damaging or scratching your case (or Air Pods!).
  • ✅ PORTABLE & PRACTICAL: The detachable carabiner makes the Catalyst Case for Apple AirPods accessible and secure against loss and thefts. Not compatible with AirPods Pro.
  • ✅ IMPRESSIVE DESIGN & QUALITY: The Catalyst Case for AirPods is made of premium silicone, which is robust and designed to last. The smart design gives you easy access to the Lightning port.

The Catalyst waterproof AirPods case is an epic accessory if you want to take your AirPods anywhere without worrying about water damage.

This silicon case is open at the top so you can easily take your AirPods out, but when closed it seals the opening flap as well as the Lightning port so you don’t need to worry about your AirPods getting wet while fishing, hiking or at the pool.

The Catalyst AirPods case is available in many colors and comes with a carabiner clip to attach it to your backpack or a belt loop.

$24.99 at Amazon

Silicone AirPods Case

elago Premium Silicone AirPods Case Designed for Apple AirPods 1 and 2, Front LED Visible [Lovely Pink]
3,002 Reviews
elago Premium Silicone AirPods Case Designed for Apple AirPods 1 and 2, Front LED Visible [Lovely Pink]
  • AT ELAGO ALL CASES ARE DESIGNED JUST FOR YOU with a simple and functional design in mind. These cases support BOTH WIRED AND WIRELESS charging for AirPods 2 & 1. We want to make your life SIMPLE AND HASSLE FREE!
  • THE PROBLEM WITH MOST CASES ARE that they don’t fit correctly and don’t protect from drops well. ELAGO CASES ARE MADE WITH premium silicone and a special coating applied inside the cap to PREVENT IT FROM FALLING OFF to give you the BEST DROP PROTECTION!
  • THE CASE ALWAYS STAYS on with the hinge design - NEVER HAVE TO WORRY about losing the cap or it falling off. Since the case was MADE SPECIFICALLY FOR AIRPODS, FULL ACCESS TO ALL FEATURES and functions are a given!
  • PERFECT GIFT FOR any AirPods user! Great for BIRTHDAY PRESENTS for loved ones and gifts during the holiday season – ESPECIALLY CHRISTMAS FOR STOCKING STUFFERS!
  • elago is a DESIGN COMPANY FIRST AND FOREMOST. Our motto is SIMPLE SOPHISTICATION because we create products that are USEFUL AND AWESOME! WE ALWAYS CREATE products that WE OURSELVES USE, so we know YOU WILL LOVE IT!

If you don’t need a waterproof case, you can get a more affordable silicone AirPods case from Elago.

Unlike some of the other AirPods cases, there is no branding on the back, it’s just a simple silicone case that protects your AirPods charging case from scratches and adds a little impact protection.

Elago offers the AirPods silicon case in white, black, dark gray, lovely pink, and glow in the dark blue. That last option actually glows slightly in the dark.

$7.99 at Amazon

Last update on 2020-09-19. This post may contain affiliate links. Click here to read our disclosure policy for more details. Images via Amazon API

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3 Reasons to Wait for the AirPods 3 & 4 Reasons Not To

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“Should I wait for the 2020 AirPods?” That is something I am hearing more and more from friends and readers who want to know if it is worth waiting for AirPods 3. This is what you need to know and if you should wait. In reality, these may not be the 2020 AirPods after all.

We’ve been hearing about AirPods 3 in some form for all of 2020, and as the September release season approaches, there is still a lot of interest. Rumors pointed to an AirPods 3 release date any moment for much of the year, but here we are at the end of August with no new AirPods.

I’ve been monitoring the rumors to stay on top of what may be coming, and what you may want to wait for. Whether you are using the original AirPods, AirPods 2, or AirPods Pro, this is what you need to know about waiting for the new AirPods this year — whatever they are called.

If you buy AirPods right now, your options are to get the AirPods (2019) model or AirPods Pro. You can still find the original AirPods on sale, but they aren’t worth buying in 2020 unless you find an amazing deal on them.

Here are the reasons you should wait for the AirPods 3 before you buy;

  1. Wait For New AirPods Features
  2. Wait If You Want Over the Ear AirPods
  3. Wait for Better Water Resistance

While it does make sense for many shoppers to wait, it will be a while before we see new models, so there are also a good number of reasons not to wait for the 2020 AirPods including;

  1. Don’t Wait if You Can’t Wait for 2021
  2. Don’t Wait If You Need New Headphones Now
  3. Don’t Wait for Deals
  4. Don’t Wait If You Find a Good Alternative

Despite multiple reports of 2020 AirPods being ready to roll out at any moment, the latest rumors suggest that you may need to wait until 2021.

We had heard that Apple pushed back the release due to COVID back in May, and plenty of chatter about a summer release, but the latest report from a trusted source indicates that we will likely not see 2020 AirPods. Ming-Chi Kou reports that AirPods 3 will launch in the first half of 2021 with a style similar to AirPods Pro. Kou specifically says that Apple will likely sell AirPods 2 through the holiday season.

A rumor about future AirPods states that Apple could add ambient light sensors to the AirPods, but this is for AirPods coming in the next year or two. We don’t expect that this will come to the 2020 AirPods.

Read below for more on each of these reasons. I will update the rumors section above as we learn more about what you can expect from 2020 AirPods.

Wait For New AirPods Features

Wait For New AirPods Features

Are you intrigued by AirPods, but you want something new? If you are on the fence, you should wait and see what the 2020 AirPods features are. We could see standard wireless charging or a new ear tip style design that takes some cues from the AirPods Pro, but without active noise canceling. 

While rumors are very light, these represent some of the trends we are seeing and what could happen with the new models. 

Ultimately if there is something you wish the current models had, it is a good idea to hold off and see if it comes to a new set of AirPods in 2021. 

Last update on 2020-09-19. This post may contain affiliate links. Click here to read our disclosure policy for more details. Images via Amazon API

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New InvisibleShield Screen Protectors Kill Coronavirus

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New InvisibleShield screen protectors kill human coronavirus.

You can add a layer of protection to your phone and your health with the new InvisibleShield Screen Protection with Kastus Anti-Microbial technology. This screen treatment is confirmed effective against human coronavirus and 99.99% of the most common surface bacteria.

These screen protectors were tested to ISO standards to kill up to 95% of human coronavirus in 30 minutes. You can buy these at Zagg for new iPhone and iPad models. Prices start at $44.99.

This is a potentially helpful tool to add to your phone, but it is important to note that this is not tested specifically against COVID 19, as there is no Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 consumer product testing available yet. The Invisibleshield screen protector can help keep your phone screen safe from human coronavirus and other common surface bacteria, but it does not directly protect you from exposure.

While not specific to Coronavirus, the CDC estimates that 80% of all infections are transmitted by hands, and another study found that up to 82% if common bacteria on a person’s fingers were present on their phones.

The InvisibleShield screen protectors bake in Kastus technology that lasts the life of the screen protector, so buyers don’t need to worry about the effect wearing off. This is done with a ” unique Photo-physical coating process fueled by ambient air moisture and light,” which means it never runs out of fuel. The surface disrupts the cell wall until it is eliminated. Kastus states that “bacteria cannot build up a resistance or immunity to Kastus coating technology and as the fuel source is unlimited, the protective antimicrobial power is ‘always on’ through the lifetime of the product.”

“At InvisibleShield, we are driven by our mission to deliver industry-leading screen protection products for mobile devices that also protect our customers’ well-being,” said Patrick Keenan, vice president, global product for ZAGG Brands. “There has never been a stronger need to protect against bacteria and viruses that are known to accumulate on our mobile device screens. Through our partnership with Kastus, our anti-microbial products not only provide the ultimate in digital wellness, but now also protect consumers against the human coronavirus.”

You can find these screen protectors at Zagg and soon at carriers and retailers. The screen protectors include a lifetime warranty that replaces it if it is worn or damaged during the life of your device, you just need to pay for shipping.

Last update on 2020-09-19. This post may contain affiliate links. Click here to read our disclosure policy for more details. Images via Amazon API

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