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Written By Nick Hilden

Updated Mar 20, 2023 4:58 PM

For many tech and health enthusiasts, Fitbit is the first brand that comes to mind when you say “fitness tracker.” It had, in some circles, briefly achieved that level of cultural ubiquity where people referred to all fitness trackers as “Fitbits.” The market is now saturated—with options from Garmin, Apple, Polar, and Amazfit, just to name a few—but there are still plenty of pros when it comes to devices made by Fitbit, or that use the company’s technology. These fitness trackers and watches deliver outstanding levels of functionality, and each one has its particular benefits. With six types of Fitbits—not to mention multiple generations of each version—it might not be readily apparent which one makes the most sense for you. To that end, we’re looking at the top options for a range of intentions, so you can work out (or swim, or even sleep) with confidence knowing that these are truly the best Fitbits.

How we chose the best Fitbits

I selected these Fitbits through first-hand testing and reviews from real buyers. I tested these alongside fitness trackers, both from Fitbit and other leading brands, such as the Polar Ignite 2 Plus and the Garmin Venu 2 Plus. I specifically tested to determine core functionality like tracker accuracy and battery, as well as the relative ease of use

The Fitbit versions that didn’t make the cut were not always significantly different from those included above, but our picks usually stood out for a reason. You can choose yours from these Fitbit reviews knowing that these truly are the best options available right now.

The best Fitbits: Reviews & Recommendations

While the features offered by the various models tend to overlap—most build up from a base of 20 health and fitness metrics—each individual package tailors itself to a specific set of needs or parameters. To that end, here are the best Fitbits for most people.

Best overall: Fitbit Versa 4

Why it made the cut: With its broad range of fitness tracking capabilities, smartwatch functions, and lower price, the Versa 4 is a balanced fitness watch that plays to Fitbit’s strengths.

Specs

Heart rate monitor? Yes

GPS? Yes

Battery life: 6 days

Premium membership: 6 months

Pros

Plenty of fitness tracking functions

Detailed sleep-tracking information

Wide range of smart features

Cons

Higher price than most Fitbits

Short premium membership window

Relatively short battery life

For all practical purposes, the Fitbit Versa 4 can do everything that most users want from their fitness tracker. It provides info about steps, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, calories burned, and sleep tracking. It’s also water-resistant down to 50 meters, in case you’re a swimmer. It even buzzes to let you know when you’ve entered your personalized target heart rate for exercise, which it refers to as your “active zone.”

At the same time, the Versa 4 includes plenty of smart functions. You can use it to take calls and receive notifications from your phone or ask Alexa about the weather. Fitbit also features an app ecosystem that’s smaller than iOS or Android but includes apps for music, payments, and more. The Versa 4 and more powerful Sense watch bring a lot of value to the table, but the Versa does so at a lower price, making it a slightly more accessible pick. If you’re looking for a less expensive version, read our review of the Fitbit Versa 3.

Best fitness tracker: Fitbit Charge 5

Why it made the cut: With its expansive suite of fitness trackers and detailed workout insights, the Charge 5 is a gym rat’s best friend.

Specs

Heart rate monitor? Yes

GPS? Yes

Battery life: 7 days

Premium membership: 6 months

Pros

Workout intensity map

Stress management tools

Provides recommendations for workouts, mindfulness, and challenges

Cons

Reply to calls and texts function for Android only

If you’re looking for the utmost in fitness-tracking power, the Fitbit Charge 5 delivers. With a full range of fitness and health trackers, it records all the stats you need. What makes it stand out, however, is its workout intensity map, which leverages GPS and various physical data points to highlight when you’re getting the most and least out of your workout. Between workouts, it sends guidance to maintain mindfulness and workout optimization.

Though it’s primarily fitness-focused, it also features a smattering of basic smart functions that allow you to manage payments, plus receive calls, texts, and calendar notifications. Some of these functions only work with Android phones, however.

The one drawback to the Charge 5 is its reliance on a subscription. Like the Whoop 4.0 and other recent high-end fitness trackers, Fitbit gates off many of its most detailed workout insights unless you pay for its Premium membership. You get six months of free access to see if it’s worth the $9.99 a month, but you should probably decide whether or not you’re even open to such an arrangement in the first place.

Best watch: Fitbit Sense 2

Specs

Heart rate monitor? Yes

GPS? Yes

Battery life: 6 days

Premium membership: 6 months

Pros

Fitbit’s largest suite of smart apps

Includes ECG monitoring and EDA Scan for tracking heart health and stress

Works with Alexa

Cons

The most expensive Fitbit

Relatively short battery life

Large

If you want a fitness tracker that really leans into smart features, the sleek Fitbit Sense 2 delivers. With the largest suite of smart apps on any Fitbit device, as well as most of the key fitness and health tracking functions, it is the most powerful Fitbit we recommend. Most notably, the Sense includes an ECG for detecting heart health, as well as an EDA Scan app that monitors electrodermal activity and then provides a graph of how your body responds to stress. It is also the only Fitbit to come with a 6-month free trial of the guided meditation app Calm to support any stress management goals you might have.

Given all that, it’s worth noting that the Sense is the most expensive device you can get from Fitbit right now. If you want all the features, the Sense may be the best choice, but it is bigger and more expensive than the rest of the pack.

Best for women: Fitbit Luxe

Why it made the cut: The Fitbit Luxe is a great option if you want a fitness tracker that can double as a piece of jewelry. 

Specs

Heart rate monitor? Yes

GPS? No

Battery life: 5 days

Premium membership: 6 months

Pros

Stylish design

Heart tracking

Stress management tools included

Cons

Need to connect to phone for GPS

Doesn’t let you play music

If you’re looking for a fitness tracker that looks more like a bracelet than a military-grade smartwatch, the Fitbit Luxe is a good option. The slim design, polished stainless steel case, and bands available in a range of hues make this an option that works for both work and working out, and one of the best Fitbit watches for women. The Luxe also tracks heart rate, sleep, and breathing rate, plus provides some stress management tools. You can also text and receive call notifications, but you can’t access music or make calls. 

This tracker is water-resistant up to 50 meters and has a battery life of up to five days. Unfortunately, you’ll need to connect to the GPS in your phone to see your pace in real-time.

Best for men: Google Pixel Watch

Why it made the cut: This sleek watch can double as a sophisticated timepiece and a high-end fitness tracker. 

Specs

Heart rate monitor? Yes

GPS? No

Battery life: 

Premium membership: 6 months

Pros

Tracks heart rhythms 

Comes with emergency SOS system

Sophisticated design

Cons

Only works for Android users

Google bought Fitbit in November 2023, and some of Fitbit’s fitness trackers feature the integration of the parent company’s features. Conversely, Google’s Pixel Watch uses Fitbit’s tracking technology to monitor activity, calories burned, and sleep patterns. It also provides in-depth tracking of the heart rhythm with the ECG feature and has an SOS feature that allows users to contact 911 in the case of an emergency. And the Android-compatible device pairs with Google’s Wear OS system, Pixel phones, and Pixel buds for running.

This Fitbit for men also allows users to get turn-by-turn guidance from Google Maps, make contactless payments, and get calendar alerts. Users can also make phone calls and check their inboxes. But beyond the device’s functionality, it’s also a timepiece that looks great on the wrist with its domed design, AMOLED display, case that comes in a range of colors, and an obsidian band the color of volcanic glass.

Best budget: Fitbit Inspire 3

Why it made the cut: With all the essential fitness tracking capabilities, the Inspire 3 gives you the features you need at a more affordable price.

Specs

Heart rate monitor? Yes

GPS? No

Battery life: Up to 10 days

Premium membership: 1 year

Pros

20 fitness functions

Long battery life

Long premium trial

Cons

Limited smartphone notifications

Small, hard-to-read screen

That said, this cheap Fitbit is very much an essentialist fitness tracker. It has some smartwatch functionality, including notifications for calls, text, and social media. It also offers stress management features and menstrual health tracking. These features require looking at the Inspire 3’s tiny screen, which isn’t ideal for anything beyond the quickest of glances. This is definitely a tracker for people who actively want to avoid the “smart features” and stay focused on working out. Looking to save a few dollars with an older version? Read our review of the Fitbit Inspire 2.

Best for kids: Fitbit Ace 3

Why it made the cut: Arguably the most feature-rich fitness tracker designed specifically for kids, the Ace 3 helps keep your little one moving.

Specs

Heart rate monitor? No

GPS? No

Battery life: Up to 8 days

Premium membership: Not included

Pros

Parent View safety feature

Incentivizes fitness in kids

Bedtime reminders and sleep tracking

Cons

Single wristband size doesn’t fit all wrists

Some users have reported durability issues with the buckle

There aren’t too many quality fitness trackers designed specifically for kids, so the Fitbit Ace 3 is incredibly useful and the best Fitbit for kids. It primarily tracks steps and sleep but can also set challenges to keep kids motivated and active. You can also set reminders to prompt children to get up, move, stretch, or sleep at specific times. Its features are comparatively very limited beyond the basics, but it is water-resistant for up to 50 meters, so it is durable and can stay on in the pool.

The Ace 3 supports the Fitbit app, which features separate viewing modes for parents and kids when you activate the Family Account mode. In Parent View mode, parents can monitor their kid’s activity and approve any connections in the Fitbit social community. Meanwhile, Kid View presents a child-friendly version of the fitness tracker experience, with access to stats, badges, personalized avatars, and challenges. 

What to consider before buying a Fitbit

Each Fitbit variety offers its unique features and benefits, so it’s important to keep a few things in mind when choosing which is the best one for you and if that’s the latest Fitbit or old Fitbit models. These are, for the most part, the same considerations to keep in mind when picking any fitness tracker or fitness watch. 

Health goals

To judge any fitness tracker, you must know how you plan to use it. Are you looking to track your high-impact workouts or simply ensure you get your steps in? Monitor heart health or blood oxygen levels? Or maybe sleep tracking and monitoring mindfulness? Different Fitbits come with varying feature sets that will accommodate different goals. Often, more complex trackers will be larger, more complicated, and more expensive. Finding the right balance among those three factors will set you up to use your Fitbit to the fullest.

Cost

Fitbits come in many shapes and sizes, meaning some are more expensive than others. Some models cost as little as $60. Others get as high as $400. Again, you want to find a balance between feature-set and price that works for you, but it’s also generally important to keep your budget in mind as you shop.

Smart functions

While some Fitbits act as fairly basic fitness trackers, others are much more elaborate smartwatches. Which is right for you depends on whether or not you need all those smarts.

FAQs Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

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The Best Voice Changer Apps For Android In 2023

The Best Voice Changer Apps For Android in 2023

Also Read: Cool And Harmless WhatsApp Pranks

Best Voice Changer Apps During Call For Android 1. Voice changer with effects by Baviux

On number one we have Voice Changer with effects by Baviux. The Android application holds strong potential to help users change their voice and have fun listening to the modified version. Using this best voice modulation app, you can change the recorded voice in more than 40 effects.

Highlighted Features: Voice changer with effects by Baviux

You can enjoy a plethora of effects with this application, ranging from Helium, Robot Monster, Zombie, Alien, Squirrel & so on.

Once you are done modulating the voice, you can share the audio file via WhatsApp, Email and on other platforms.

Unlike most of the best voice changing applications for Android, it supports importing pre-recorded sounds or further editing.

You can set the new voice file as ringtone or notification sound as well.

Get this Tool Here

2. Best Voice Changer – MeiHillMan

Highlighted Features :

Record or choose an existing file to play a prank on your family or friends.

Additionally, sharing is easy with this voice changer for Android. Share funny voice on Whatsapp, Twitter, Line, and Facebook.

Select from Drunk, Hexafluoride, God of Death, Robot, Chorus, The Smurfs, Diving, Bathroom, Old Radio, Helium, Bee, Astronaut, Monster, Squirrel, Fan, Kid, Cave, and Alien voices to play mischievous act on your friends or families.

Get this amazing tool from here

Also Read- Best Visual Voicemail Apps for Android and iOS

3. MagicCall – Voice Changer App

This is another good example of a voice changer app for phone calls. This smart app takes 36 MB space and requires a 5.0 or upper Android version to run. Additionally, this app claims as a voice changer during a call in real-time.

Highlighted Features :

You can easily swap voices during the call.

Moreover, with the help of this voice changer app for Android, you can choose from various background effects such as music Raining noise, Concert, Happy Birthday Background, and Traffic Noise.

And yes, if you are looking for a voice changer male to female, you are at the right place. Download this Magic Call, and start prank on your friends.

Download this voice changer for Android from here

4. Voice Changer by AndroidRock

As the name suggests itself, this app as a voice changer for Android is there for you to allot so many funny experiences. This app takes 6.3 MB, and requires 4.1 Android and above. There is a simple and funny UI, which will help you to convert your voice in a more fun way.

Highlighted Features:

Unlike others, this app helps you to record and enjoy the voices from different effects such as Twisted tongue, Creepy movie, Foreigner and so on.

Can edit and view the saved audio files in this app.

A great source of entertainment to share your funny voices with your friends through social media platforms and yes, even with Bluetooth.

Get This Amazing App Here

5. Funcalls – Voice Changer & Call Recording

Here come the Funcalls, the voice changer app for phone calls. You can play a prank on anyone with the help of this app. This app weighs 25 MB and requires a 4.0 Android version and more.

Highlighted Features:

You can use various sound effects during the call.

Furthermore, you can even record the calls and share them with your friends and families.

Additionally, international phone calls in more than 150 countries are possible with this voice changer app for phone calls.

6. Voice Changer Voice Recorder – Editor & Effect

Designed & developed by Handy Tools Studio, Voice Changer is an ultimate option if you want to change your voice to a smooth & appealing one to sing songs. The application is a great choice if you want to become a super voice maker. The Android app is best-known for improving voice & altering it with funny sound effects.

Highlighted Features: Voice Changer Voice Recorder – Editor & Effect

Support voice effects such as Alien, Robot, Bee, Device, Female, Child, Chipmunk, Old Man and so on, which makes it the best voice changing app for Android.

Additionally, you can enjoy voice effects for singing, including Karaoke Reverb, Studio Reverb, Theatre Reverb, Concert Reverb and more.

The voice changer app is even compatible with superhero voice effects: for Transformers, Star War, Minions and more.

Get This Amazing App Here

7. VoiceFX – Voice Changer with voice effects

Installed by Millions of users worldwide, VoiceFX is undoubtedly a powerful voice recording and changing application for Android users. You can add and tweak your voice with music and audio effects. It even gives users the ability to live playback your voice with added effects.

Highlighted Features: VoiceFX – Voice Changer with voice effects

Using this best voice changer app for Android you can change voice using the effects such as Chipmunk, Male, Female, Robot, Monster, Sheep, Kid, and more.

With the built-in sound recorder, users can record their voices and apply multiple audio effects until they get a unique voice for themselves.

You can save the new voice files as MPR and share it on Social Media.

Get this App Here

8. Voice Changer Prank Calls

Last, but not the least in consideration, Voice Changer Prank Calls ins an amazing audio modulation application for Android that allows you to change your voice and make free prank calls to anyone you wish. You can instantly change voice and preview the new one before calling someone.

Highlighted Features: Voice Changer Prank Calls

The voice changer app works well even without WIFI.

Using this Android application, you can alter your voice as many times as you want during the call.

Offers a vast selection of voice effects.

Comes with a quick voice modification process!

Get This App Here

9. Change My Voice

Next on our list of Top 10 Voice Changing Applications for Android (2023) is Change My Voice. It presents a straightforward UI and easy to navigate buttons. To use the application, all you have to do is: Install the voice modulator app from Google Play Store, record yourself in real-time and change the voice with multiple effects.

Highlighted Features: Change My Voice

Simple & easy to use voice changing application for Android users.

Offers multiple tools and sliders to create voice medications. You can even alter the pitch and speed of your voice.

What makes Change My Voice the Best Sound Changing App? It’s their ability to control numerous voice changing options, adding echo and so on.

10. Scary Voice Changer – Horror Sounds Voice Recorder

Modulating voices in scary & horror audios is indeed a straightforward and fun process with Scary Voice Changer app for Android. It just needs a few taps and you can modulate the voice without any hassles. The speech changing application allows you to record yourself for free and add horror noises to scare people.

Highlighted Features:

The voice changer app is best known for its brilliant set of sound effects for editing.

The built-in audio editor is straightforward and easy to use. Suitable for both novice and pro smartphone users.

Once you are satisfied by modulating the voices, you can share the audio files directly with your friends within the app.

Final Words

This new year prank anyone with voice changer apps. These above-mentioned funny apps can become your partner in crime in mischievous acts. Don’t troll much to anyone!

We‘re Listening!

Recommended Readings:

Best Compass Apps For Android and iOS

How to Change Google Assistant Voice On Android

Best 10 Free Android Apps for VOIP & VIDEO Calling

Quick Reaction:

About the author

Harshita Singh

The Best Free & Cheap Photo Editing Software For 2023

Phones have certainly made the process a lot more painless and their built-in photo apps have reasonably good editing facilities. But when you need to go further and do more than applying filters, adjusting contrast and cropping, you’ll almost certainly want to switch to your laptop or PC and use a dedicated photo editing app.

The obvious one is Adobe Photoshop or perhaps Lightroom, but unless you’re prepared to take out a subscription for the full version or buy Photoshop Elements for a still-considerable one-time fee, you’ll be searching for alternatives that offer a similar range of tools but without the cost.

You don’t have to install anything at all: there are lots of online apps which you can use in a web browser.

We’re focusing mainly on Windows apps here, but there are lots of great photo editing apps for iPhone and Android. We’ve already mentioned the built-in apps (Photos on iPhone, for example) but you get even more control from Camera+, if you don’t mind paying a few dollars / pounds for an app. Google Photos is available for iPhones as well as Android and offers great editing capabilites, but the Google-owned Snapseed is even more powerful and is, again, available on both platforms.

If you want to cut and edit video, then we also have a round up of the best free video editing software.

1. GIMP

Pros

Photoshop alternative for free

Cons

Not the most user-friendly option

GIMP (which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, and nothing remotely dodgy) has basically been around forever, at least in internet terms. You can trace its origins way back to 1995 when it was created as an open source equivalent to Photoshop.

These days you can get it for Windows, macOS and Linux, and it’s entirely free. While it lacks some polish compared to some of the others here, you can’t really fault GIMP for its selection of features, which is about as comprehensive as you can get without laying down some money.

It helps that the layout is pretty close to Photoshop’s, making it immediately familiar to anyone who’s dabbled with Adobe’s editor.

It doesn’t replicate every last feature in Photoshop, and some tools don’t perform to quite the same high standard, but you can’t complain when it’s free.

2. Paint.NET

Pros

Supports layers, filters, levels and curves

Cons

Not as many tools as Photoshop

The name might bring to mind MS Paint (which this began as a replacement for), but chúng tôi does an awful lot that Microsoft’s simplistic editor can’t, with support for layers, effects, and a variety of other tools.

Still, it hasn’t entirely lost Paint’s simplicity, which is one of Paint.NET’s greatest strengths. It’s fast and lightweight, making it ideal for quick, simple edits. It’s also great for users who want something with more oomph than Paint, but don’t need all the daunting bells and whistles of Photoshop.

It’s worth noting that Windows 10 and 11 have a new version of Paint which lets you create and play with 3D objects, but it’s not for editing photos. Instead, you can play with the built-in Photos app.

3. Pixlr

Pros

Runs in a web browser

Good range of tools

Cons

Some features only available in paid-for Premium version

Pixlr has one giant benefit over most of the other apps on this list: it runs entirely in your browser, meaning you can access it on any PC or Mac, with no need to install anything.

There are two versions, Pixlr E, a full-featured photo editor aimed at Pros and Pixlr X which is the ‘quick & easy’ option for everyone else.

Of course you can’t quite get the full power of a photo editor in a browser, but Pixlr packs plenty of features in, and the ‘E’ version is surprisingly comprehensive – especially considering how smoothly it runs.

You can download desktop apps for Windows and Mac, as well as mobile apps for Android and iOS, which can be found respectively on the Google Play Store and the App Store.

There’s a Premium version that offers more tools, including AI Cutout, and supports larger images up to 8196×8196 pixels.

4. PhotoScape

Pros

Can convert RAW files

Selection of filters

Cons

Divisive tools menu

PhotoScape is a solid free photo editor that also offers a little more besides – you can also use it to create animated GIFs, convert RAW images to JPG, create slideshows, and more.

When it comes to the actual editing tools, PhotoScape can’t beat the most fully featured entries on this list, but it does have all the core functionality you’re likely to need.

The default circular tool menu is a bit divisive, but you can opt for a more traditional grid if you prefer, and you have access to the usual array of editing and re-touching tools, including a variety of effects and filters.

Read our full

5. Fotor

Pros

Ideal for quick fixes

Lots of filters

Cons

No support for plugins

Fotor isn’t trying to be a fully-fledged photo editor, so if you’re looking for a full suite of functionality then you might be better off elsewhere.

What it does offer is a great selection of photo enhancement tools – directly through your browser like Pixlr – letting you quickly apply filters and do some basic re-touching. It also has an HDR option that lets you merge multiple photos with different exposures to create a single image that captures the ideal amount of colour and detail.

You can install Fotor for Windows (or macOS) separately, again for free, if you prefer. The desktop application offers a batch processing tool too, so you can apply the same changes to a huge number of images at once, a feature sadly missing in a lot of equivalent applications.

Read our full

6. Krita

Pros

Open source

Good range of brushes and filters

Cons

Lack of tutorials and community support

Krita is as notable for its creators as it is for its functionality. Developed by artists for artists, the free cross-platform app is designed to give artists all of the tools they need, with a focus on concept artists, illustrators, matte and texture artists, and the VFX industry.

It’s not strictly a photo editor (though you can certainly use it for basic retouching), and the focus is more on digital painting and creating artwork from scratch.

It has a variety of brush engines (along with a handy brush stabilizer feature), and you can also import brush and texture packs. The recently added support for HDR monitors in Windows is a welcome addition, and it even supports PSDs, so it’s fully compatible with anything you’ve worked on in Photoshop.

7. Adobe Photoshop Elements

Pros

Powerful set of tools

Guided Edits mode

Best Prices Today:

As powerful as many of these free photo editors are, sometimes you just need something with a little more oomph.

Photoshop Elements is the more beginner-friendly version of full Photoshop, offering most of the same features for less than the price of a year’s subscription to Photoshop. And, to be clear, you don’t subscribe to Elements: you buy it outright. It’s available for both macOS and Windows.

As well as all the photo editing options you’d expect, Elements provides some powerful tools including content-aware removing of objects. That means you can erase unwanted people or other things from photos extremely easily.

Better still, a lot of the core tools are ‘smart’ which means, for example, that the crop tool will offer you a selection of crops based its analysis of your image. And unlike others here, you can resize (or indeed crop) images to a specific pixel size, which makes it much more suited to power users that just don’t want to pay for Photoshop CC.

(But do see our Adobe Creative Cloud buying guide for all details on trials, prices, plans, student discounts and more.)

8. CyberLink PhotoDirector 13 Ultra

Pros

Lots of powerful tools and effects

Cons

Some features restricted to subscribers

PhotoDirector used to be an Adobe Lightroom clone, but these days it also has tools from Photoshop as well as ‘Guided Edit’ features from Elements.

It offers AI-powered tools for replacing skies, and you can remove people from photos as well. It’ll make animated GIFs as well.

There are plenty of easy-to-use retouching tools too, plus handy extras including content-aware object removal which lets you erase that unwanted wooden post or whatever else is ruining your otherwise perfect shot.

There’s also support for layer masks, layer grouping and adjustment layers, non-destructive editing and content-aware clone and move tools. You can see all the new features here.

Following Adobe, CyberLink now pushes you towards a monthly subscription to a version called PhotoDirector 365. This includes a range of benefits over the non-subscription version including more cloud storage and extra tools. It can also work out cheaper if you’ll only need it for a year or less (there are options to pay monthly or annually, but the monthly price isn’t great value unless you need access for a few weeks only.)

If you’re willing to spend money on a photo editor, PhotoDirector 13 Ultra and PhotoDirector 365 are good value – especially as it’s almost always discounted from its full price.

9. Affinity Photo

Pros

Supports both raster and vector images

Cons

Interface can be confusing

No photo manager

Best Prices Today:

Built to offer professional features at a budget price, Affinity Photo is a step up from the free editing software listed here.

The layout will be mostly familiar to anyone who’s used Photoshop in the past, though Affinity has a few of its own idiosyncrasies and quirks, most obviously the ‘Personas’, a selection of operating modes you switch between depending on what you want to do, giving you access to different tools and options.

It’s available for desktop ( £48.99/$49.99 – Windows and MacOS) and mobile ( £19.99/ $19.99 – iOS only).

The Best Smart Locks Of 2023

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Written By Jenna Glatzer

Updated May 5, 2023 2:50 PM

Smart locks are one of the best home security products of the last decade. Some of the best smart door locks fit over your regular manual door lock and some of them replace it, but instead of using a key to lock and unlock your door, you’ll use your smartphone or a special keyfob. Why would someone want such a thing? Well, for one thing, you can lock and unlock your door from anywhere. Instead of standing outside fumbling with your keys in the cold or rain, you can sit in your car and unlock the door before you get out. Some even have automated door-unlocking features that sense when you’ve arrived home—the best smart lock for you will fit the functions you want.

Another selling point is the fact that you can double-check to make sure your door is locked at any time. Ever been in line at the grocery store and wondered if your teenager remembered to lock the door after leaving on a bike ride? Your phone can tell you … and fix it if the door is open. In addition, you can use the best smart locks to let people in and out of your house when you’re not home. If you’re at work, but need the services of a plumber or housekeeping service, or you’re running late and your child just got off the bus, you can unlock your door for them from wherever you are and lock it up again when you’re ready. And even better, they may even get you a reduced home insurance rate.

Best smart locks: Reviews and Recommendations Best compact: Level Touch Keyless Entry Best for ease of installation: August WiFi Smart Lock

August is one of the forerunners of smart-lock manufacturing, and this is now their fourth-generation model. The August WiFi Smart Lock’s auto-unlock feature still gets mixed reviews (it sometimes stops working unexpectedly), but it works reliably to lock and unlock from your phone, and to provide access to guests.

Best with an alarm: Schlage Connect Smart Deadbolt

First things first, it’s imperative to mention you’ll need a Z-Wave hub (a mesh network for home automation) in order to use this Schlage smart lock; it doesn’t work on direct WiFi. The benefit to that is less interference and no competition with other devices on a WiFi network, so it should be more reliable. You can pair it with the Ring Alarm, Samsung SmartThings, Wink, Iris, Nexia, and others, and the built-in alarm sounds when someone tries to force open the door or tamper with the lock.

Best budget: Kwikset Halo WiFi Smart Lock

Remote lock and unlock from anywhere with WiFi access with this Kwikset Halo option, which can be programmed with up to 250 guest codes. It integrates with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The Kwikset Halo notifies you each time your door lock is triggered and stores lock activity in the app, and you can also temporarily disable the Kwikset Halo keypad in secure mode. 

How do the best smart locks work?

The best smart locks will function as intended, which is to make life easier. Keyless door locks work using WiFi: When you set up your lock, you’ll connect it to your home network by following the included directions, either directly connecting or through a hub. You should only need to connect it one time and the authentication stays in memory. Then your lock can “communicate” with you via your smartphone or a special keyfob designed for the lock. Many can also be integrated with your smart hub to communicate with Amazon Alexa devices or Google Assistant. It is important to note, however, that smart lock deadbolts run on batteries, and most will last for about six months before needing replacement. 

Many smart locks also come with a keypad with numbers rather than a keyhole. Others allow you the ability to do both—just in case your batteries die or you have issues communicating with the smart lock, you can always go back to your tried-and-true physical key until you solve the problem. Still, others offer a fingerprint sensor in addition to a keypad. In any case, it’s always best to have more than one option just in case anything malfunctions—you don’t want to get stuck outside because your smart lock wasn’t smart enough!

Related: Break-ins happen. Here are products to secure your prized possessions.

Simple guest access to your keyless door locks

Most keyless door locks will allow you to provide access to guests on a temporary or ongoing basis. Depending on the model, you may text a link to your guests that allows them to open and lock your door with their smartphones the same way you do, you may assign them a temporary code, or you may provide a password. 

Smart locks get you the W: Who, What, When, Where, and maybe even Why

One of the coolest features of a smart lock deadbolt is that you can usually customize exactly how you want this guest access to work: You may allow each guest access to your keyless door locks indefinitely, or you may set up specific parameters (the code may expire in four hours, four weeks, or whatever time period you specify; it may be cyclic so that someone with a standing appointment—like a housekeeper—can access it every Monday morning but no other times; or it may be for one-time use). You may revoke access early if someone cancels, or remove someone’s code even if you had set it up originally for permanent access. And you can normally issue several guest codes at once.

Smart locks deliver convenience Budget doesn’t mean you can budge it

Going for a budget smart lock doesn’t mean a less reliable deadbolt, just fewer bells, and whistles. As it’s a budget pick, don’t expect fingerprint sensors or a touchscreen, and be aware that may be more complaints about short battery life and buggy software.

FAQs The final word on selecting the best door locks for your home

The best smart door lock for you will make your life simpler because it will allow you to lock and unlock your door from anywhere, even if you’re stuck at work or at a doctor’s appointment and someone needs access to your home (or needs to leave and doesn’t have a key to lock up). It can give you peace of mind to know that your house is locked up, and it can save you from having to rekey your door in case of a breakup or end of a friendship. Technology has already moved forward in the few short years since they’ve been introduced, so look at all your smart-lock options to see how they have evolved and get more reliable. 

Why trust us

Popular Science started writing about technology more than 150 years ago. There was no such thing as “gadget writing” when we published our first issue in 1872, but if there was, our mission to demystify the world of innovation for everyday readers means we would have been all over it. Here in the present, PopSci is fully committed to helping readers navigate the increasingly intimidating array of devices on the market right now.

Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

The Best Extension Cords Of 2023

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Written By Tony Carrick

Published Feb 8, 2023 1:00 PM

Whether you’re operating a table saw or setting up outdoor lights, extension cords are vital for a variety of electrical needs. These power cables often offer the only means to extend the range of an electric device or lamp inside or outside the home. And though they may look very similar, not all extension cords are the same. In this piece, we’ll go over the factors you should consider when shopping for one and recommend the best extension cords on the market.

How we chose the best extension cords

Though extension cords may look the same, they aren’t. There are quite a few important factors that separate them. I’m a longtime tool user and reviewer and I looked at five crucial characteristics when making my selections:

Gauge: Perhaps the most crucial attribute of an extension cord is its ability to carry electricity. A cord’s gauge determines its ability to do that.

Length: Length is a critical aspect of an extension cord. Too long and the cord becomes cumbersome and begins to lose its ability to carry electricity. Too short and the extension cord fails to fulfill its purpose. For outdoor cords, the sweet spot was 50 feet, while 20 feet was ideal for indoor cords.

Construction: Extension cords take abuse. We drag them across the ground, step on them, pull them, trip on them, and drive over them. With this in mind, I only chose options constructed with thick jacketing, substantial rubber coatings around the plug ends, and reinforced collars on the connections between the plugs and cord.

Functionality: Features that make them more functional or easier to use, such as multiple female plugs or LED power lights, also affected my selections.

Value: Keeping in mind that few people expect to spend a large amount of money on one of these cords, I looked for models that offered quality construction and good maximum load capacities at a reasonable price.

The best extension cords: Reviews & Recommendations

Extension cords come in varying lengths, colors, and gauges. Light-duty extension cords are ideal for extending power to a lamp or computer, while high-wattage power tools and appliances require beefier heavy-duty cords. The following are our picks for the best of each.

Best overall: Clear Power Outdoor Extension Cord

Why it made the cut: Clear Power’s 50-foot cord is moderately priced and features 12-gauge wires that can deliver up to 15 amps, giving it the ability to serve power-hungry appliances and tools.

Specs

Length: 50 feet

Size: 12 gauge

Capacity: 15 amps

Pros

Stays flexible in extreme temperatures

LED power light

Cons

Only one female plug

LED light may seem too bright

Clear Power’s heavy-duty extension power cord sets itself apart from the rest thanks to its durable construction and heavy-gauge wiring. With its 12-gauge thickness, it’s capable of handling up to 15 amps—the maximum load offered by most household circuit breakers—making it usable with almost all household appliances and power tools.

This plug can endure being dragged across a garage floor or through a wet yard thanks to thick jacketing, which protects the internal wires, and corrosion-resistant nickel-plated brass prongs on the male plug. At 50 feet long, the cord can stretch well into a yard, across a two-car garage, or from room to room while remaining short enough to be manageable. In case that length isn’t optimal for your needs, Clear Power also makes this option in a more nimble 25-foot length, as well as a rangy 100-foot option.

In addition to coming in three different sizes, Clear Power also makes its cords in eight color options, many of which reduce tripping hazards by improving the cord’s visibility. An orange LED light in the female socket that illuminates when power is running through the cord is a nice additional safety feature. Though this cord is one of the best all-around extension cords on the market, it lacks the multiple female outlets that other extension cords offer, limiting its functionality in a workshop.

Best heavy-duty: Iron Forge Cable Extension Cord

Why it made the cut: With its 10-gauge construction, Iron Forge’s 50-foot extension cord can carry enough current for higher-wattage devices and tools, making it our top choice for heavy-duty needs.

Specs

Length: 50 feet

Size: 10 gauge

Capacity: 15 amps

Pros

Reinforced prongs add durability

LED power light

Cons

Thicker cord is heavier and less flexible than thinner gauges

Only one female plug

With its large gauge wiring, the Iron Forge 50-foot cable is an excellent pick for those bridging a gap between a 15-amp outlet and high-wattage appliances, such as an air compressor or rotary drill. Its thicker 10-gauge wiring will carry the maximum 15-amp residential electrical circuit with less resistance than thinner 12-gauge cords. This high output makes it a great option for connecting a generator to large home appliances such as a refrigerator or space heater.

Most heavy-gauge extension cords are pulled and dragged around workshops, garages, and yards. With heavy jacketing that protects its internal wires, ample collars around the joints between the plugs and the cord, and reinforced prongs, Iron Forge’s 10-gauge version is one of the more rugged options on the market. The Iron Forge Outdoor Extension Card is also water-resistant and has a grounded plug as an extra safety measure.

Best for indoors: Cordinate Designer 3-Outlet Power Strip

Why it made the cut: An attractive braided fabric cover, among other thoughtful design features, makes this a more attractive cord to use in a living space and one of the best indoor extension cords.

Specs

Length: 10 feet

Size: 16 gauge

Capacity: 13 amps

Pros

More stylish than a standard extension cord

Three plugs add capacity for multiple devices

Built-in surge protection

Cons

Thinner gauge cord can only handle a max of 13 amps

While there may be no such thing as an extension cord that complements a room’s decor, this cord from Cordinate certainly does less to detract from a room’s aesthetics than other options, which is why it’s on this list. While most indoor options come in either white or black vinyl, Cordinate wraps its cords in a braided fabric that comes in six different colored patterns.

In addition to being one of the more attractive indoor cords one can buy, this pick includes thoughtful design features. At 10 feet, it’s long enough to reach distant outlets while still short enough to maintain a tidy appearance. Three female sockets allow one to keep their collection of smart devices charged up without sacrificing the bedside lamp. A flat plug head fits flush to the wall, making it ideal for outlets located behind furniture, while the angled cord prevents it from blocking other outlets.

Cordinate’s extension cord also has something most others don’t, built-in surge protection that shields your smart devices in the event of a power surge.

Best design: Goodyear Extension Cord Reel

Why it made the cut: This retractable extension cord’s 40-foot, 12-gauge cord provides enough capacity to handle the higher-wattage tools found in a garage workshop.

Specs

Length: 40 feet

Size: 12 gauge

Capacity: 15 amps

Pros

12-gauge cord can handle 15 amps

Retractable case mounts to a wall or ceiling

Triple-outlet head

Cons

40-foot length may be too short for some applications

CostTriple-outlet head

Though more expensive than other retractable models, we like the Goodyear Extension Cord Reel because of its 12-gauge line. Cord reels are commonly used in home workshops and garages, so chances are it’s providing power for tools that need more juice than a house lamp or holiday lighting. With its 15-amp rating, the max power one can get out of a standard household outlet, the Goodyear extension cord reel will work with most power tools.

A thermoplastic jacket that’s oil-resistant, plus a swivel mount that attaches to a wall or ceiling, means this cord is tailor-made for garages. Its three female outlets are also ideal for a workshop, eliminating the need to plug and unplug while switching from tool to tool. Other thoughtful features include an LED light in the plug head that lets the user know when the cord is receiving power.

Best budget: Amazon Basics Extension Cord

Why it made the cut: This simple, well-built cord is affordable and offers ample length for indoor use at 20 feet long.

Specs

Length: 20 feet

Size: 16 gauge

Capacity: 13 amps

Pros

Sturdy construction

20-foot length ideal for indoor use

Budget-friendly

Cons

16-gauge cord can only handle a max 13 amps

Only one female end

This affordable extension cord from the Amazon Basics line of products is a good choice for those in need of a well-made extension cord for light-duty use. At 20 feet long, it can cover most indoor extension cord needs. This 16-gauge cord can carry a maximum of 13 amps, which is plenty of juice to power lamps or small appliances. Its jacket feels sturdy and substantial, with thick rubber molding around the end plugs that firmly hold its three prongs in place. The inflexible cord does make it a little tougher to go around corners or under objects. While it lacks additional features, such as multiple female outlets or a built-in surge protector, it’s hard to argue with its price. It’s less than half the cost of fancier extension cords.

Things to consider before buying an extension cord Power

Extension cords come in a variety of gauges. Choosing the right one depends almost entirely on how you will use it. For extension cords that will be supplying power to such high-wattage tools as a miter saw, table saw, or router, you’ll need at least a 14-gauge extension cord to handle the load. For lighter-duty jobs, such as powering a lamp or string of LED Christmas lights, a thinner 16-gauge extension cord will suffice. Extension cords that connect to heavy-duty appliances, such as an air compressor or generator, require a thick, 12-gauge extension cord.

Length

While a longer extension cord may seem better, that’s often not the case. For indoor use, a longer cord can be unwieldy and unsightly, forcing you to find a place to hide all that unattractive and potentially hazardous excess cord. Also, as a cord gets longer, its ability to carry current gets weaker. A 16-gauge 50-foot cord can carry 1,625 watts, while a 16-gauge cord greater than 50 feet can only power appliances up to 1,250 watts.

Of course, an extension cord that’s too short won’t offer the range you need to trim the hedges or operate a sprayer to paint a backyard fence. An extension cord should be 10 to 20 feet long for indoor use. For a garage workshop, go with a 40- to 50-foot cord. For outdoor electric yard tools, such as a chainsaw or trimmer, purchase a 100-foot cord.

Outlets

While standard extension cords have single female outlets, some feature two or three outlets. Whereas a single outlet may suffice for operating one tool or light fixture, consider purchasing an extension cord with multiple outlets for a workshop with numerous power tools. This will eliminate the need to constantly plug and unplug as you move from tool to tool. When using a cord with multiple female outlets, be aware of the cord’s load limits, which may not allow you to operate more than one power tool connected to the same cord at once without popping a circuit breaker.

FAQs Q: Can you use an extension cord permanently?

No. Extension cords are not designed to withstand constant use. An extension cord can deteriorate with continuous use, creating a fire hazard. Only use an extension cord temporarily. Install permanent wiring for connections that are not temporary.

Q: Which is better: a 10-gauge or 12-gauge extension cord?

A 10-gauge cord can carry more load than a 12-gauge cord. While a 12-gauge cord is adequate for most devices, some electric lawn mowers, power tools, and large machinery require a 10-gauge cord. Keep in mind that a 10-gauge cord will be thicker and, therefore, heavier and less flexible.

Q: What are the three wires in an extension cord?

Extension cords have green, white, and black wires that run through them. The black wire is the hot wire, the white wire is the neutral wire, and the green wire is the ground wire. Light-duty interior-use extension cords sometimes lack the green grounding wire, which is why they have only two prongs. Always try to use an extension cord with a ground wire, which serves as a means of safely discharging excess electricity, reducing the risk of electric shock or fire.

Final thoughts on the best extension cords

Whether you’re charging a smartphone on your nightstand or powering a 15-amp table saw in your garage workshop, choosing the right extension cord is key to safely getting the power you need to the device you’re using. While smaller 16-gauge cords are suitable for powering lights and smaller devices, use at least a 14-gauge extension cord and preferably a 12-gauge cord if you’re using power tools that require a higher wattage of 1,500 watts or more.

The Best Cpu Coolers Of 2023

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Written By Chris Coke

Updated Apr 23, 2023 8:31 AM

A CPU cooler can stop heat, the age-old nemesis of CPUs, in its tracks. If you don’t keep your computer cool, the heat it generates can put your hardware in an early grave. And your processor, the heart of your PC, is more susceptible to the lasting impact of overheating than any other component. High temperatures can shorten its lifespan and reduce its performance, even in day-to-day tasks. Whether you’re a hardcore gamer, building your own home theater PC, or just want to protect the system you’re working on every day, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of adding one of the best CPU coolers to your system.

If you’re building or upgrading your PC, then you should consider buying a great CPU cooler to keep your system alive and running well. The best CPU coolers span a wide range of cooling systems and price ranges, so any builder can find something that fits their system and their budget.

How we chose the best CPU coolers

I’ve been building PCs since the early 2000s and have been professionally reviewing computer tech since 2024. During that time, I’ve researched and installed everything from affordable, single-fan heatsinks and cheap gaming PCs to showpiece liquid coolers with RGB lighting and LCD displays. As technology and hardware editor at chúng tôi I’ve professionally tested and retested coolers to see exactly how they stack up. I understand what it takes for a cooler to work well with different types of processors and just how much cooling you need for different computing tasks.

To pick the best CPU coolers, I sorted through dozens of potential coolers, picking parts that offered the best balance of cooling performance, price, and reliability. I created a long list of potential options across six categories, listing those that I was personally familiar with along with those that featured great on-paper specs and stellar reputations. I then compared that list with hard data from professional reviews and the impressions from real users, finding the best balance of price, performance, and reliability for each.

The best CPU coolers: Reviews & Recommendations

You have the basics of selecting and installing both air and liquid coolers, but now you need to apply that knowledge and check out some spec sheets for CPUs, coolers, and other components to figure out what to install in your system. If that sounds like a lot of work, we’re here to help you with a head start: These are the best CPU coolers to give you a good range of options that deliver strong performance and great value.

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Noctua NH-D15S is a powerful air cooler that’s capable of taming even the most demanding CPUs.

Specs

Cooler type: Air cooler

Performance class: High performance

Size: Large

Additional features: Dual-tower design, two fans for efficient cooling, black instead of Noctua brown

Pros

High-performance cooling 

Quiet operation

Two fans for impressive cooling potential

Competes with liquid coolers

Cons

Potential memory interference

Very bulky

The Noctua NH-D15 may just be the best air cooler you can buy for your CPU. Its massive design allows it to shed an impressive amount of heat, making it competitive with many liquid coolers, while offering exceptional reliability and Noctua’s six-year warranty guarantee. It comes with everything you’ll need, including thermal paste, and uses a novel mounting system that’s both easy to install and works with just about any CPU released in the last decades. That includes Intel’s latest 12th-generation CPUs and even AMD’s upcoming Ryzen 7000 series.

Unlike older Noctua coolers, the NH-D15 is designed to fade into the background of your PC—as much as it can at its size. The all-black colorway looks much sleeker than the company’s usual beige and brown look, and it uses a dual-fan design so each can run quietly and not be a distraction while gaming or working from home. 

The biggest challenge facing this outstanding air cooler is its size. Measuring 150mm x 135mm x 160mm (WDH), it’s almost certainly big enough to block the nearest memory slot in most builds. If your memory is taller than 32mm, you can remove the outside fan to give yourself some more room. Without the second fan, you’ll still get incredible cooling, but your PC will be a bit louder.

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Be Quiet! Pure Loop 240mm is a quiet cooler that’s made to last and won’t distract you from your game.

Specs

Cooler type: All-in-one

Performance class: Mid-to-high performance

Size: 240mm

Additional features: Quiet, minimalist design

Pros

Efficient cooling

Minimalist design

Replaceable coolant

Great cost-to-performance

Cons

Not large enough for Core-i9 and Ryzen 9 processors 

The Be Quiet! BW006 Pure Loop 240mm is the best cooler for gamers that want to focus on their game and not their PC. At 240mm, it’s big enough to chill up to Intel Core-i7 and Ryzen 7 CPUs with ease and won’t distract you while it does its thing. Its understated design is all black and uses a subtle white LED around the processor to let you know it has power. More importantly, it’s just as quiet as its name would imply. As a company, Be Quiet! focuses on building cases and components that fade into the background, and that’s certainly true of the Pure Loop 240mm. You’ll need to step up to a larger size for 9-series processors, but this will keep your CPU running at peak performance with any mid-high-tier processor.

The Pure Loop stands apart from other elite liquid cooling systems because it’s very easy to maintain. Most liquid coolers are completely closed systems, which means they can’t be maintained and will eventually fail. One of the biggest reasons this happens is by air making its way into the pump. The BW006 is one of the few all-in-one coolers that allows you to add coolant over time, increasing its lifespan. All you have to do is unscrew a fill port on the radiator and add coolant to ensure your system is always full and running its best. Do this once every two years, and your cooler should last as long as the CPU it cools.

Best high-end: Corsair iCUE H150i Elite LCD Liquid CPU Cooler

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Corsair iCUE H150i Elite LCD is a high-performance cooler than brings the bling and is perfect for a showpiece PC build.

Specs

Cooler type: All-in-One

Performance class: High performance

Size: 360mm

Additional features: High-pressure RGB fans, built-in LCD screen, Commander Core lighting controller

Pros

Excellent cooling performance

Customizable LCD screen

Stellar, high-pressure RGB fans

Included fan and RGB controller

Outstanding software customization

Cons

Very expensive

Difficult installation

The Corsair iCUE H150i Elite LCD is the liquid cooler you turn to when only the best will do. Its stunning looks are rivaled only by its incredible performance. At 360mm, it has enough cooling ability to handle even the most demanding Intel Core-i9 and Ryzen 9 processors, even if you overclock them and turn up the heat. (Depending on what you need, Corsair also makes a less powerful version with a 240mm radiator and an ultra-powerful 420mm model.)

The iCUE H150i Elite features a gorgeous 2.1-inch LCD screen that you can customize to show everything from your current temperatures to custom animations. That colorful display is flanked by three high-performance fans with their own set of 48 customizable LEDs. You can set both performance and aesthetic settings via Corsair’s iCue configuration software. Customizing the system is for new builders, thanks to easy-to-select presets, but also offers deep customization for steady hands with particular tastes.

The H150i comes from a long line of highly regarded Corsair coolers but may just be its hardest to set up. The RGB lighting and LCD screen require extra wiring for power: They hook into the included Commander Core control box, which makes it easier, but it’s still a complicated process. We’d suggest watching and re-watching Corsair’s in-depth installation video before attempting it for yourself. The box includes extra ports for adding additional RGB fans and light strips, however, so you get the benefit of easier upgradability in the future.

Best low profile: Noctua NH-L12S

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: With enough cooling potential for Intel Core i7 and Ryzen 7 CPUs, the Noctua NH-L12S proves that big things come in small packages.

Specs

Cooler type: Air cooler

Performance class: Low

Size: Small

Additional features: Low noise adapter for automatic speed control, wide compatibility

Pros

Great for small form factor PCs

Low noise

Effectively cools a wide range of CPUs

Cost-effective

Cons

Not great for intensive tasks

Limited cooling potential with newer, higher-performance CPUs

If you’re building a small form factor PC, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option than the Noctua NH-L12S. A perfect fit for home theater PCs, this tiny cooler has a surprising amount of cooling potential. Noctua said the NH-L12S is compatible and effective with many of Intel’s 12th-gen and Ryzen 5000 series CPUs. It also includes everything you’ll need for installation right in the box and even allows you to change which side the fan is mounted on for wider memory compatibility.

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: When silence is an absolute must, the NoFan CR-80EH can keep your processor cool without any noise. 

Specs

Cooler type: Passive

Performance class: Low

Size: Medium

Additional features: Copper heatpipes

Pros

Patented, effective thermal design

Supports AMD and Intel CPUs

Completely silent

Designed to not interfere with memory or expansion slots

Cons

Potential case and motherboard compatibility issues

Limited heat dissipation (80 watts)

The NoFan CR80-EH is the go-to choice for completely silent PC builds. A fanless “passive” cooler, it uses a system of dozens of heat-absorbing pipes to pull warmth up and away from your CPU where it can dissipate into the air. NoFan’s proprietary copper “IcePipes” have liquid sealed within each arm to draw heat away from your processor and into its copper arms. 

Without any fan at all, the NoFan CR80-EH is able to dissipate up to 80 watts of heat. NoFan hasn’t updated its official compatibility chart in some time, so its recommendations (“Ryzen” and Intel “7th, 6th, 5th” generation) are a bit out of date. Lower spec CPUs, like Intel’s 11th generation or earlier Core-i3 and Core-i5 processors and AMD Ryzen 3 or Ryzen 5s, should be safe, but be sure to check that their required power won’t exceed the 80-watt limit before pairing them with this cooler.

You should keep a few things in mind if you decide to go with a passive cooler. The NoFan CR80-EH is necessarily large, and its circular design won’t play nice with some small form factor PC cases. You’ll need to compare the dimensions of the cooler to your motherboard to ensure it will fit, and also be sure there’s enough ventilation for warm air to escape. An 80W will work well with lower spec processors, like an 11th-gen Core-i5, or Ryzen 3 to Ryzen 5 series CPUs. If you need more cooling, the company also makes a 95-watt version, though it can be hard to find in stores.

Best budget: Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo V2 Black Edition

Buy it used or refurbished: eBay

Why it made the cut: The Cooler Master Hyper 212 has been a staple of budget PC building for years. Its balance of price to performance cements its place as a solid budget CPU cooler.

Specs

Cooler type: Air cooler

Performance class: Low-to-medium

Size: Medium

Additional features: None 

Pros

Affordable price

Effective cooling

Easily fits in most PCs

Easy installation

Cons

Not flashy

Not great for high-performance CPUs

Requires a special at-cost bracket for Intel 12th-gen processors

The Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is a classic recommendation for PC builders on a budget, and an easy upgrade if you need more cooling for your processor. It’s a medium-sized cooler and won’t win any awards for flashy aesthetics, but it gets the job done and easily cools everything from current-generation Intel Core-i7s to AMD’s Ryzen 7 5000 series. It’s best reserved for low- or mid-range PC processors though, as it doesn’t quite mitigate enough heat to keep a high-performance CPU cool. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, you can upgrade to the Black Edition RGB, which adds an RGB fan for significantly more flair, or you can save a dollar and go with the basic silver version. 

No matter which option you choose, installation isn’t difficult following the included instructions. The cooler has been around for a long time, so there are also numerous free videos to guide you through every step of the process. Things get a little complicated with Intel’s 12th-gen processors, however, as you’ll need a special bracket that only comes with the Black Edition. (It’s only $5 to purchase separately, though.) With a little care, this is an excellent, budget-friendly air cooler.

What to consider when buying the best CPU coolers

Every computer upgrade or modification requires some planning. When it comes to cooling your CPU, you’ll need to find the right style of cooler, the right size for your system, and make sure that your choice will be compatible with the rest of your PC. Here are the most important things to consider when shopping for the best CPU cooler:

Do you actually need to upgrade your CPU cooler?

If you’re thinking of upgrading an existing PC, you should actually make sure you need a new cooling system before investing in one. If you notice your computer slowing down midway through a processing-intensive task, or even shutting down, there’s a good chance you could use a more powerful CPU cooler. (If you are building a new PC from scratch, you can skip this part as you will definitely need a cooling solution.)

That said, you can (and should) use temperature monitoring software to see whether your PC is running hot. We recommend MSI Afterburner, which is free and graphs your temperatures over several minutes. To get the best results, open the program and use your computer as you normally would for roughly an hour so it has time to heat up. Focus on the most intensive tasks your PC handles regularly—play a game, edit some video, etc. Switch to Afterburner mid-task and make note of your current CPU temperature. The graph you’ll get represents how hot your CPU runs at peak output and when using the computer normally.

Next, you should check your peak CPU temperature to see how hot it can get using your current cooler. Download Cinebench, one of our top CPU recommendations for the best benchmarking software. Allow this program to run completely, then check in with Afterburner again. This represents your peak CPU temperature. 

With those figures in hand, it’s time to see how those compare with the temperature guidelines for the processor you’re using. If you have an Intel CPU, locate your chip on this list of Intel desktop processors. For AMD, find it on this collection of personal desktop CPUs. Both companies list their maximum temperatures as T-Junction (TJMax) or Maximum Operating Temperature. If your CPU is approaching or reaching this figure, you may be in need of an upgrade.

Air or water?

One of the first questions many new upgraders ask is whether they should buy an air cooler or a liquid cooler. Both styles of cooler have their benefits, as well as a few drawbacks. Here’s what you need to know about each kind:

Air coolers: Air coolers are the most common type of cooler for desktop PCs, offering tried and true cooling since we people started building computers at home. An air cooler features two components: A large metal heatsink that draws heat away from your processor, and a fan that disperses that heat out into the air so your case fans can blow it out. They are the simplest solution, the most reliable. They’re usually more affordable than a liquid cooling system and, at their biggest and best, offer similar cooling potential. 

The downside to air coolers is that they can be bulky, especially if you have a high-performance CPU. Their size can be an issue if you’re building in a smaller case, and may even block memory slots on your motherboard. If you care about aesthetics, an air cooler may not be the best choice either as their bulk can often become the center of attention in an otherwise great-looking PC. They also tend to run a bit louder than liquid coolers during normal use.

Liquid coolers: Liquid coolers have become a popular choice for gaming PCs and systems with high-performance processors. These coolers, sometimes called all-in-one coolers (AiO) or closed-loop coolers (CLCs), combine a water pump, radiator, and fans to absorb heat and quickly whisk it away from the CPU for efficient cooling. They come in more sizes than air coolers, allowing them to better adapt to the size constraints of various PC builds. They also better balance cooling with fan noise, and usually result in lower temperatures (with rare exceptions like the top-of-the-line Noctua NH-D15). Because of their efficiency, liquid coolers often run quietly on standard settings. The RGB-laden tubing that weaves through your system looks very sharp in a showpiece gaming PC with glass or mesh side panels.

Liquid cooling is definitely the fancier choice and offers some nice perks, but a liquid cooler is much harder to install than an air cooler. You’ll need to ensure your computer case supports the radiator in the cooler you’re interested in installing. They’re also often more expensive, and more likely to fail over time as the water pump ages and deteriorates. (That said, the best of them come with 3-5 year warranties.) 

The biggest risk, of course, is the liquid itself: It’s possible for a liquid cooler to leak and damage your system. Of course, this rarely happens—people would not buy liquid coolers if it were a major concern—but it’s worth keeping in mind, especially if you aren’t updating your PC regularly.

How much cooling do you actually need?

It can be tempting to buy the biggest, highest-performance cooler you can find, but that’s usually not necessary. The easiest way to determine how much cooling power you need is to look at how much heat your processor will give off and find a cooler with a similar rating. All Intel and AMD processors feature a spec called Thermal Design Power (TDP), which indicates how much heat it will give at maximum output. Ideally, you want a cooler rated to handle slightly more than the heat your CPU gives off. (You can find the product specifications for your processor using Intel or AMD’s database and note the wattage listed.)

Sadly, it isn’t always so simple. Not all manufacturer’s actually list the TDP for their coolers. If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll have to estimate based on your processor’s performance. Higher performance parts usually generate more heat, which means a larger cooler is often necessary.

With air coolers, you simply scale the size of the cooler with the power of your processor. From Intel Core i3 and Ryzen 3, the lowest performing processors, through Core i9 and Ryzen 9, the highest performing ones. If you plan to overclock your system, pushing your CPU harder for better graphics in games or other performance boosts, consider buying a more powerful cooler than you technically need.

Liquid coolers also scale by size but it pays to be a little more precise. We recommend opting for at least a 120mm radiator for Core-i3 and Ryzen 3 CPUs; a 240mm radiator for Core-i5, Core-i7, Ryzen 5, and Ryzen 7 processors; or a 360mm radiator for Core-i9 and Ryzen 9 CPUs. That said, there is more wiggle room with liquid coolers and a 240mm radiator should cover most bases. Opting for a larger cooler doesn’t hurt anything more than your wallet, so if you’re on the fence, go one size up.

Will it fit or block your other components?

The final thing to consider is whether your new cooler will physically fit in your system. There are three things to consider here: Your CPU socket, case compatibility, and, for the largest air coolers, memory clearance.

CPU socket: Your processor plugs into your PC’s motherboard via a specific, square-shaped socket. Your CPU cooler must also be compatible with your motherboard’s CPU socket to attach to the processor.

The current CPU sockets are the Intel LGA1700 and the AMD AM4. These sockets change regularly. (Case in point, Ryzen 7000 processors will use a new AM5 socket later this year.) Most liquid and air coolers include compatibility brackets to match a wide array of sockets, but some require you to request a compatibility kit from the manufacturer. Be sure to make sure your new cooler matches your current CPU. 

Case compatibility: Case compatibility is an important factor for both air and liquid coolers. Larger air coolers can be quite large. If it’s too big, you may not be able to close the side panel of your case. Likewise, you’ll need to be sure that your case supports mounting the liquid cooling radiator size you’re currently considering. Be sure to check the specifications for your computer case, as well as any potential cooler, before making a purchase.

Memory clearance: With large air coolers, you may also find that the heatsink prevents you from installing RAM in some of your motherboard’s memory slots. If you’re considering a towering cooler like the Noctua DH-15S, look carefully at its dimensions and measure the height of the memory sticks installed in your system. If the slot directly under the heatsink is being used by a stick that’s too tall for its clearance, you’ll need to remove it in order to install the cooler, which can slow down your PC’s performance. 

FAQs

PCs don’t come cheap, so maintaining them is an important step to ensuring they live a long, useful life. If your CPU’s getting too hot, it will perform poorly and you will need to buy a new computer. Whether you’re looking for a quick and easy air cooler to hide inside your case or a high-performance AiO with RGB to spare, adding or upgrading your CPU cooler is usually a wise investment.

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