This week we put Managing Editor Terrence O’Brien and Senior Editor Devindra Hardawar to work reviewing a variety of new devices. Terrence, along with Senior Video Producer Brian Oh, tested the Sleepbuds 2 from Bose to see if they could help them get better rest at night. He also picked up Fender’s innovative Acoustasonic hybrid guitar, which can produce both electric and acoustic sounds. Meanwhile, Devindra found a lot to like about Dell’s 40-inch ultrawide monitor, with the exception of its performance during gaming. He also tested AMD’s Radeon RX 6700 XT and found it to be ideal for gamers running at 1080p or 1440p (that is, assuming you can get your hands on one). And for those of you who have your own podcasts, James Trew listed a number of ways to up your recording skills with microphones, mixers and kits.
Bose’s Sleepbuds 2 try to soothe you to sleep
Bose’s Sleepbuds 2 are soft-touch plastic earbuds designed to improve your sleep by playing soothing sounds and audio tracks. However, they don’t stream music or podcasts and they can’t answer calls — in short, the $250 buds are a single-use gadget. Terrence O’Brien and Brian Oh both tested the Sleepbuds 2 over a period of a few weeks and both reported them to be generally comfortable to wear overnight, although they both experienced issues with the buds staying in place. They also said that it could be difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position so the buds didn’t dig into their ears.
The Sleepbuds 2 can play any of 50 sounds from Bose’s library in the companion mobile app, ranging from nature sounds to white noise to ambient tracks. Again though, it doesn’t stream so all the tracks have to be transferred onto the device before you hit the sack. Terrence said that while the app is simple and functional, it also is missing a master list or a preview option so you can see which sounds are already on your buds. He also had issues with the alerts, which would ring if a call was being received but didn’t ring if he had alarms set on his phone. Overall, Terrence felt the Sleepbuds could be a great investment — if they were at least $100 cheaper.
Fender’s Acoustasonic guitar provides a blend of acoustic and electric sounds
Terrence O’Brien admits he was skeptical when it came to Fender’s hybrid Acoustasonic guitar. But after approaching the instrument with an open mind, he says he’s got a better appreciation for what the company is trying to accomplish. Terrence reports that the design won him over quickly and the materials are clearly premium. He adds that it’s best to think of the $2,000 guitar as an acoustic first, which can occasionally pinch-hit as an electric.
When playing it unplugged, Terrence said the Acoustasonic was quieter than a true acoustic and lacked some of the depth, but it made for a great coach guitar. It has three different electric pickups, which can be combined with the onboard DSP to create different acoustic and electric tones. Because the Acoustasonic comes with acoustic strings, Terrence reports it doesn’t play quite like an electric though it does pair with big reverbs and delays. He still felt the guitar was a remarkably versatile instrument, and that Fender is succeeding in pushing boundaries.
The AMD Radeon RX 6700 XT is a return to mid-range GPUs
In uncertain times for GPU production, Devindra Hardawar admits it’s difficult to review a component that could swing in price and availability. However, he calls AMD’s Radeon RX 6700 XT a capable new entry. The card has 12GB of RAM, a gaming clock speed of 2.4GHz and is capable of solid 1440p speeds. At $479, RX 6700 XT can compete with NVIDIA’s RTX 3070 and RTX 3060 Ti.
While the RX 6700 XT can handle a bit of 4K, it doesn’t do so well with ray tracing performance. Also, because it’s a shorter GPU, it only has two cooling fans which results in it being on the noisy side — loud enough to interfere with Devindra’s podcast recording. During testing, he managed Destiny 2 in 1440p between 75 and 100fps but the GPU struggled while playing Control. Nevertheless, he deemed it a sensible choice for gamers running 1080p or 1440p displays with high refresh rates — as long as you don’t care about ray tracing.
Dell’s 40-inch ultrawide monitor offers incredible color accuracy
After using Dell’s new, $2,100, 40-inch ultrawide monitor for a few months, Devindra Hardawar was impressed with the stunning color accuracy, the generous screen real estate and the sharp 5K2K resolution. The display can render 1.07 billion colors with a 140ppi pixel density, supports 100% of the SRGB gamut and tops out at 300 nits of brightness. Devindra found it ideal for full-screen video editing, prepping long podcast recordings and full-screen videos.
However, he was less impressed with the game performance in cases when the resolution was too much for his system to natively render modern games (despite an RTX 3080 GPU). He was at times forced to play at lower settings with black bars on the screen. And the screen size occasionally made things awkward, like while recording podcasts or balancing a webcam on one side during video calls. Despite that, Devindra still felt that the UltraSharp 40 is ideal for professionals who can put its vast screen space and impeccable color accuracy to good use.