HP Envy 17 review: A home laptop that’s sleek and satisfying, but not a standout


Sarah Tew/CNET

It’s not particularly cheap, or particularly fast, or particularly light or particularly… anything. But the HP Envy 17 is a stylish everyday workhorse laptop that I like with a large, 17-inch screen that gives it a little extra productivity oomph for remote work or school. You end up paying extra for a discrete Nvidia GeForce MX330 graphics processor that you don’t really need, which bumps it out of “good deal” territory, but it’s certainly still a good laptop for the money.

Like

  • Sleek-looking and well constructed
  • Good keyboard, albeit with poorly placed power button

Don’t Like

  • 4K screen is very reflective
  • Could use another USB-C connection or two

Now that I don’t have to schlep a laptop between home and the office, I’ve become quite a fan of 17-inch models. If you’re working or remote schooling with just a single laptop screen, then opting for 17 inches can help quite a bit. Even if you can’t effectively quantify the advantages — you can fit three more worksheet columns on the screen! — for some reason the slightly bigger screen goes a long way to making it feel less cramped. 

Prices for the Envy 17 range from around $1,000

Read More View More HP Envy 17 review: A home laptop that’s sleek and satisfying, but not a standout

Nanoleaf’s Hexagons made me like being at home a little more

In 2016, I tested out Nanoleaf’s smart, color-changing LED wall panels at the CNET Smart Home. That was the original, triangular version, originally called Nanoleaf Aurora — two years later, I was testing out the square-shaped, touch-enabled Nanoleaf Canvas panels that followed them, this time at the CNET Smart Apartment in downtown Louisville.

Like

  • Great-looking design
  • Detachable mounting plates
  • Endless options for animated effects
  • Smart lighting’s best music-syncing mode
  • Supports screen mirroring effect via Razer Synapse
  • Seamless integration with Apple HomeKit, supports Google Assistant, too

Don’t Like

  • Overcomplicated app
  • Unreliable integration with Alexa

Now, Nanoleaf has another new set of wall panels set to launch online in early September, with retail availability expected by October. They’re six-sided this time — rebranded as “Nanoleaf Shapes – Hexagons” — and they sell in a seven-panel starter kit that costs $199. Thanks to the ongoing pandemic, I’m finally testing them out in my own home. 

I say “finally” because, as much as I’ve come to appreciate the bold novelty of Nanoleaf’s lights, I’ve never quite been tempted to buy in myself. The Toronto-based company’s plucky panels make plenty of sense as a high-tech decoration for a kids room or

Read More View More Nanoleaf’s Hexagons made me like being at home a little more

2020 Volkswagen Jetta review: Spacious and mature, but hardly exciting

The Jetta’s styling is clean and simple.


Craig Cole/Roadshow

Cars don’t get much more middle-of-the-road than the Volkswagen Jetta. Mature looking and spacious inside, it’s as sensible as a pair of sweatpants, if not quite as comfortable. 

Like

  • Excellent real-world fuel economy
  • Spacious backseat and trunk
  • Solid infotainment system

Don’t Like

  • Occasional low-speed stumble
  • Engine gets winded easily
  • Park-bench front seats

The Jetta migrated to VW’s ubiquitous MQB architecture last year, a platform that underpins a huge range of vehicles in the Volkswagen Group automotive empire, from the Golf hatchback to various Audis, Seats, Škodas and more. This foundational shift allowed engineers to give the car a longer wheelbase, plus increase its width and height, all while reducing the front overhang for more attractive proportions, though the grille… yeah, it’s got a lot of grille.

Aside from better looks, these changes also increased cabin space. Passenger volume now clocks in at 94.7 cubic feet, while the trunk measures a generous 14.1. This means the Jetta is roomier than the Toyota Corolla and Mazda3 sedan, though the Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra are slightly more capacious according to the spec sheets, but in normal use you’re not likely to notice

Read More View More 2020 Volkswagen Jetta review: Spacious and mature, but hardly exciting

Ring’s second-gen Video Doorbell delivers better image quality and costs just $100

Ring has finally updated its original Video Doorbell with 1080p HD live streaming (up from 720p in the original model), crisper night vision and more customizable motion zones. It *is* better than the 2014 doorbell, but this $100 second-gen Ring Video Doorbell retains the most annoying thing about the original — you have to remove the entire doorbell to charge it. 

Like

  • It costs $100
  • Improved specs and performance

Don’t Like

  • The battery isn’t removable

Fortunately, you can hardwire this model, too, and if that’s your plan, this new Ring doorbell is a reasonable option. If you need to go the battery-powered route, you’ll have to decide whether it’s worth having a several-hour gap in video monitoring while your doorbell charges inside — or make clever use of extension cables so the doorbell can charge outside and continue to keep an eye on things. Ring sells a $50 Solar Charger if your doorbell is installed in a place with direct light, to mitigate some of the limitations of the battery. 

While Ring’s second-gen Video Doorbell is a clear improvement over the original, it isn’t enough to appeal broadly to potential buyers. Folks looking for an affordable hardwired doorbell should consider

Read More View More Ring’s second-gen Video Doorbell delivers better image quality and costs just $100

iPhone SE review: Classic iPhone design, but with 2020 processing power

There are a lot of ways to think about Apple’s new $399 iPhone SE. One is that it’s a more affordable option than the iPhone 11 ($699 at Apple), with surprisingly similar camera specs, which it is. Or that it’s the 2020 sequel to the original SE from 2016, which it also is. Or, at 4.7 inches, that it’s the smallest and cheapest iPhone you can currently buy (though it’s not that small). Or — and this is my favorite way to think about it — that it’s an iPhone 8 with the brains and power of an iPhone 11. In fact, the new iPhone SE is all these things and that’s why I’m enamored with it.

Like

  • Affordable price
  • Long battery life so far
  • Great rear camera
  • iPhone 11 Pro-level performance

Don’t Like

  • Old iPhone design
  • Selfie camera is mediocre

The new iPhone SE has the classic design that defined the iPhone for its first 10 years. The design, the body and the camera lenses are all the same as 2017’s iPhone 8. But Apple performed a clever brain transplant, replacing the nearly 3-year-old processor with the A13 Bionic processor used

Read More View More iPhone SE review: Classic iPhone design, but with 2020 processing power

Peacock review: A ton of free, ad-supported NBC content, but it doesn’t work on every device


Sarah Tew/CNET

Peacock, the new streaming service from Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, is an experiment of sorts: Its tiled interface and big-name network make it look on the surface like a Netflix or Hulu competitor. But its content, which includes live news and sports, new original series and a large back catalog of TV shows and movies — and the fact that it has a free tier — actually makes it more of a top-of-the-line free streaming service, like Pluto TV, Tubi and Roku Channels. (Editor’s note: Pluto TV is owned by ViacomCBS, the parent company of CNET, as are CBS, Showtime and Peacock competitor CBS All Access.)

Like

  • Strong free version available
  • Large back catalog of shows and movies
  • Live news and next-day access to some NBC shows

Don’t Like

  • Missing many marquee catalog titles like The Office, and others may be leaving soon
  • Few originals at launch, and few movies from the past decade
  • Confusing Channels and Trending sections
  • Missing key features like user profiles, mobile downloads, 4K HDR and Roku/Amazon device support

Peacock’s free tier — which rivals Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus and HBO Max currently lack — offers about 13,000 hours

Read More View More Peacock review: A ton of free, ad-supported NBC content, but it doesn’t work on every device